Summer Author Blitz: Guest Post by Krissi Dallas

Hi Guys!! So today, I have for you a guest post by Krissi Dallas! She will help you on how to help your characters become people!! Take it away Krissi!!


When Characters Become Friends

Characters make the magic in a story.
If I can care about them, fall in love with them, cry or laugh with them, get angry at them or with them, then I’m sold. But if I never make that emotional connection with a main character, the book just becomes…forgettable.
For example, when I read Little Women, I totally understood Jo March. (What individualistic, female aspiring writer didn’t?) I got her priorities. I related to her dreams. I felt her heartaches. I asked myself the same questions when it came to my relationships and berated myself for the same seemingly dominating personality traits. I don’t remember ever really admiring Meg and her overwhelming desire to jump into marriage and motherhood. Amy seemed so self-centered and spoiled to me (though, in all honesty, she was the girl I would’ve wanted to be) and Beth… oh, dear sweet Beth. I could NEVER relate to the meek, little angel that was Beth.

Different characters grab different people for all sorts of unique reasons. That’s the fun thing about reading and writing. I think a lot of YA authors out there today get this characterization thing right. But I also feel like the pressure to create stories with more fast action and less reflection within characters sometimes comes at a cost… How well do we get to know and love these characters? And if we’re not rooting for them, do we really care what happens in the end? The story loses appeal when we lose the characterization. Don’t get me wrong. I like action. I like adventure. But I like to throw a book across the freaking room when the action and adventure stress me out so much that I am worried for that character. There have been many books brutally thrown across my room over the years for a number of reasons… to name some that I’m sure most of you have read: Catching Fire (the very end…Peeeeeeeta…Noooo…*sob, sob*), Breaking Dawn (Really, Jacob?! You imprinted on Bella’s baby?! What the WHAT!), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (NO. Not HEDWIG. I will hunt down EVERY LAST DEATH EATER if it’s the LAST thing I do.) Point being, if your book gets thrown across my room, you touched something inside me that is so volatile, so delightfully uncomfortable that I can’t read it, nor can I look away from it. It’s that part of me that genuinely LOVES those characters.

This is why, as a writer, my first priority when I sit down to pen a book is to create characters. To create LIVES. People that readers will care about. Whether you’re a young, beginner, or even longtime writer, I believe these characterization tips are always good to consider about your little creations. Keep in mind, this is totally based on my own writing and reading experience. It’s not formulaic, because PEOPLE are not products of formulas. Therefore, characters shouldn’t be either. (I could go all day on this, but these are just starting points. Ha.)

1. Keep your characters consistent!
If she is naturally a hothead, keep her that way through the whole story. She can still grow as a character, but she shouldn’t suddenly become all patient and kind and mushy over things. Keep her snarky. Keep her volatile—even as she learns to control it. If he’s rough, tough, and mysterious, don’t let him suddenly give all his secrets away and totally change his personality just for that One Girl He Loves. He should still struggle to change… I don’t know about yall, but even after 10 years of marriage, my husband and I will still default to the same struggles and personality conflicts if given the right circumstances. Responses to things can change, but personalities do not.
2. Give your characters individual traits that are unique to them.

Sometimes it’s the small, quirky things that make a character so believable. In my Phantom Island series, I have three main characters who drive the story—Whitnee, Morgan, and Caleb. I keep a list of their little quirks and I make sure they stay consistent through the series. Whitnee paces, Morgan smacks her gum, Caleb runs his hands through his hair. Whitnee has a fish phobia, Morgan always needs the bathroom, Caleb has a scar over his right eyebrow from a childhood accident brought on by a disobedient run from punishment for stealing cookies—which symbolically says that even though he acts like a Boy Scout, he has a naughty side. (SIDE NOTE: I really loooooved writing more of Caleb’s naughty side in Watercrossing. *wink, wink*) Whitnee is the Drama Queen, Morgan is the Peacemaker, Caleb is the Thinker. Decide the instincts that you want your characters to have and then go with that throughout your story. EVERY time something is happening in my story, I think of the individual traits of my three main characters and decide exactly how they would react to the event based on their histories, their personalities, and their motives. Which brings me to…
3. Write believable dialogue!
Please make your characters talk like real people. Unfortunately, I’ve read YA books that made me think, “Wow. When was the last time this person TALKED to a teenager?” As someone who primarily talks to teens every day of my life, this especially irks me. If you don’t engage in teenage conversations very much and are just writing off your own teenage recollections, you need to understand that A LOT has changed in the last twenty years, folks. Not that writing from experience is a bad thing… we all do that to a certain degree whether we like it or not. In fact, the best writing is usually when you WRITE what you KNOW. But dialogue is tricky. If you’re an adult writing teen characters, go to the movie theater and just listen in on how teens are engaging one another. (Try not to get annoyed.) Do NOT rely on stereotypes or even what TV shows and movies are displaying about teenagers. It’s just not always accurate to real life. Spend some time just listening to the ebb and flow of other people’s conversation. If you’re a teen and you need to write adult characters, listen to your parents talk to each other or how your teachers interact with one another or with you. And always remember… Dialogue should NOT be used to repeat what has already been narrated. Dialogue should offer insight to characterization or bring out new information. Don’t bore your reader with repetition.
4. Remember that characters are real people too!                                    
Well, sort of. If they are mimicking human life, then they should act like humans. I always tell my students that characterization should be about more than just physical traits and personality. I only get one side of my students when they walk in my room once a day. Based on that, I could tell you what they wore, how they acted around others that day…I could make inferences about their mood or tell you if they’re introverted or extroverted. But I don’t see what happens when they go to their locker, how they respond when someone comes up to them with a juicy tidbit of gossip
, what they feel when a kid makes a snide remark to them about how they look that day, how many times they get yelled at or in trouble for the SAME THING every class period. I don’t follow them on the bus home and see how they act around their families or what they do for fun in their spare time. I don’t know the thoughts that run through their head when they’re away from me… But an author does. An author should see the whole scope. And an author should build characterization to show what makes that character happy, mad, sad, scared… what motivates them to get up every morning, what events in their past either make them stronger or tear them to shreds. If each of us is more than just what people see on the outside, then our characters must be more than just a stereotype. They must go deeper. They must reveal weakness AND strength. They must fail and they must conquer. They must be more than just a name on a page. Otherwise, characters will never become a reader’s friend.

And, well, life is always better with friends.

Learn more about MY friends, Whitnee, Caleb, and Morgan this summer when they break one camp rule and end up on a magical Island! Yes, of course, there’s a hot island boy, superpowers, and secrets… lots of secrets. See you on the other side of that mysterious portal. www.KrissiDallas.com

About Krissi:
Krissi Dallas loves pop music, mismatched socks, and fried chicken. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her youth minister husband, Sam, and enjoys hanging out with her quirky middle school students and building the magical, and mysterious world that makes up the Phantom Island series. Be sure to check out Windchaser, Windfall, and Watercrossing before the next dramatic installment, Watermark, releases in late 2013. Krissi loves connecting with teens, as well as readers and writers of all ages! You can stalk her online at www.KrissiDallas.com.

That was an awesome post, right!!!!! So, now I have a giveaway for the first two books in Krissi's Phantom Island Series!! Also for a T-shirt! There will be two different winners for each contest!!!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Go over at Books and Broomsticks to see the schedule of THE SUMMER AUTHOR BLITZ.
 Oh and here!
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Peace, Love and Fangirl,

Alex

8 comments:

  1. What a FANTASTIC post! I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was great to get to know Krissi! <3
    ~Belle

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  2. I had a 3-way tie, but I suppose I'm mostly a Pyradorian.

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  3. "Characters are real people too," I love that! That kind of thinking is no doubt part of why I love Krissi's books so much!

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