I think creating strong, believable characters for a short story or novel is one of the most important aspects of writing a fictional piece. The greatest action-oriented or plot-heavy tale can fall flat if the readers find the characters too one-dimensional or can’t relate to any of them in some way.
It’s not always easy to create interesting fictional personalities but the term “composite” comes to mind when I think of how I’ve developed my own characters. They’re a combination of real people I’ve known, certain personality “types,” with a little dollop of myself thrown in.
In my novel, THE SIXTH PRECEPT, there are basically three main characters and several supporting characters. The primary protagonists are Kim Yoshima--Pittsburgh police officer, Wayne Brewster--IT professional and super-hero wannabe and the nameless female shadow-tracker--an animal/human hybrid.
I originally created Kim for a series of four short stories I’d written before I was inspired to expand her adventures into a novel. The idea of a female Japanese-American heroine in modern day Pittsburgh, PA, came out of an interest I’ve had in ancient Japanese history and myth. I felt Kim’s ethnicity would be an intriguing change-of-pace in the SF/Fantasy tales I started to write. Oddly enough, the ancient Japanese history and myth I so enjoyed was barely present in the short stories but came out full-blown later on in the novel.
I found that I liked Kim a lot. I imbued her with a keen intelligence and deductive skill, a strong and compassionate heart and the ability to kick major butt! A couple of my personality traits found their way into her makeup as well--the desire to make a difference and tolerance and respect for our fellow humans, no matter how different they might be. She took off on her own from there. That’s not to say she’s perfect. She has her flaws like any of us--she’s a workaholic and tends to keep most people at a distance, among others.
Wayne is a little different. He’s an IT guy like me and finds himself being drawn into another reality where comic book and super-heroes really exist (I was a big comic book fan growing up). He’s connected to this strange world not by any physical means but through his dreams. He begins to start acting like the super-hero ArcNight (one of my own making). Since Batman was always my favorite hero, the name Wayne Brewster is a takeoff of Bruce Wayne and ArcNight is taken from the Dark Knight. I’ve made Brewster a really confused gentleman as far as his dreams and latent hero antics are concerned as it would be to anyone. He has to adapt and he does, accepting the strange circumstances he finds himself in, taking on all comers. On top of that, he starts to have feelings for Kim (who wouldn’t?) and that allows another level of conflict to enter into his characterization.
The character of the female shadow-tracker is one that took on a life of its own. I didn’t intend to have her role become as big as it turned out to be in the novel but I’m glad it did. She’s part of a human/dog hybrid pack that’s been bred over the centuries to track down the eventual descendant of the Yomitsu, the Great Enemy of their master, the Eminent Lord of sixteenth-century Japan. It was interesting to write a point-of-view from someone who wasn’t entirely human. I had to dig into my dark side but also was careful to keep some of the shadow-tracker’s humanity present, a trait that ultimately defines her in the end, making her more sympathetic.
So, even though a novel or story might be one of big ideas or themes, it really all boils down to the characters in the end. They’re the plot device the ideas will revolve around and will make the readers care.
Or not. It’s all up to the author. Or, in some cases, how the characters will force the author to write them!
Genre – Urban Fantasy
Publisher – IFWG Publishing
Release Date – November, 2011
Giveaway – 12 Signed printed copies