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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Character Building

Building characters that make the reader feel something is an important task for an author. Readers don't get attached to flat characters. As a reader if the story and character's don't grip me and make me feel a spectrum of emotions than I lose interest in the book. I expect nothing else from readers of my books.

Not long ago I received a review for one of my books and the reviewer went on and on about hating the protagonist. I had to laugh. Love or hate she felt strong emotions. As an author I felt success. 

Months ago when Eye of The Storm was on jukepopserials I had a reader tell me how much he hated Sunshine and why he didn't like her. To me it was a huge compliment. He felt strong emotions for my character. Recently, I had a conversation with a reader who informed me after beta reading a copy how much she loved, despised certain characters as well as felt emotion for co-protagonist Eilida. She made my day. I want my characters to come to life in the reader's head.

Click here to read her review as well as others.

Here is a piece of Sunshine who is perfect, maybe a little too perfect. That is her place in the story sharing the spotlight as co-protagonist.

Today, though had not been a typical day, so let’s rewind, when Sunshine walked into the office at eight forty five, the office swarmed with activity; breaking news didn’t manage on a nine-to-five schedule, as Sunshine did. The past weekend had been one of those times. Sunshine’s foolproof life was fashionably distorted from reality, making her feel out of sorts with the extensive buzz and commotion surrounding her. A constant flow of discussion, vigorous fingers tapping across keyboards, rivaled only by the swoosh, and the beeping of printers filling the air, while her colleagues bustled around. 

She composed herself, running her palms down her impeccably ironed pin skirt and flipping her hair back. She maneuvered to the coffee pot. The current pot emptied, except for a brown sludge jiggling at the bottom. The table it sat on covered in sugar, dribbles of creamer, and used coffee stirs lined the trash can. She busied herself with a new pot, and cleaning the mess left behind from her coworkers. Unsure how her associates managed without her, she imagined most of them lived in messy homes.

“Sunshine, you’re a dream, what would we do without you?”

Déjà vu, she thought as the words spilled from Joe's mouth. 

As the story progresses she begins to notice a slow change inside her.

Samantha, dressed in a dark blue dress suit and three inch heels, clacked her way over to me. “You’ve been falling behind. Look at the amount of files on your desk,” she leaned in running her fingers across their open edges. “I understand it’s been busy, but that doesn’t mean you neglect your work.” She ridiculed in a sweet tone undercut with daggers. Her temple pulsed rapidly behind her thin ghostly white skin. At that moment I felt a deep hatred for her consume me. Considering I had undergone two accidents in less than twenty four hours and my body felt like a Mac truck had hit it repeatedly, I thought I was making great progress. 

I painted on my best smile and used my most syrupy voice, “Samantha, can I help you?” 

“Since you’ve been so interested in that woman,” she said in a buttery voice, planting her skinny ass on my desk, “I thought you would want to know they think they’ve identified her. A police report had been filed and the description matched. The police are on their way now to talk with the sheriff. ” 

“Thanks, I appreciate that bit of information. The files really aren’t as bad as they look. I’ve organized them and now I’ve started putting them away.” 

“Uhh… make sure you have that completed before you go home and...” her eyes radiating a hole inside my noggin, “Why are you walking like a geriatric mishap today?” 

Embarrassed to say since I’d always been very graceful, but with no choice I responded. “I tripped yesterday at the hospital.” 

“You,” she almost chuckled, “Maybe you should get your ears checked, your equilibrium could be off.” She had never been my favorite person but I had never hated her either. At this moment, it became official, yup, I hated her. I couldn’t believe my own thoughts stemming from an unknown part of my temporal lobe.

Her change has caused conflict with her fiance. 

I approached with caution, “Jerry, I love you,” my eyes pleaded for his understanding, “I need your opinion on something.” I searched his face for understanding. “Recently, I have seen this image, a person; she even knocked me over one day. At first, I didn’t pay attention. Then, I thought maybe I had a brain tumor. I even contemplated that I was seeing a ghost.”

Jerry firmly replied, “I think honey that you have been working too hard. You spent last week in Chesterville where you met some strange characters and found out some disturbing news about a horrible murder. You were a reporter for a couple days and chose not to write up what you had. You gave that to Joe.” He searched my eyes. “You’ve been on the computer trying to find information haven’t you?” He asked. 

“Yes, I have...” I chose to be somewhat honest hoping for his support.

Without allowing me to finish he interjected, “There is a lot of false information out there. It’s most likely a coincidence that you keep seeing this person. The story about Eilida Riley has been boggling your mind since the day you heard about it. Maybe your mind is looking for her so you notice her now when before you never did; like if I told you I want a red sports cars, you would probably start seeing them everywhere, right?”

So much for support! Jerry was twisting my thoughts with male trickery. “Not exactly, I started seeing this woman right away but it’s more than that. How did I know the entire gruesome crime scene? She’s in my head.”

“In your head?” he questioned raising one eyebrow higher than the other. I had decided to appeal to another side of him. “Have you noticed anything different about me lately?”

“Since you’ve returned from Chesterville, no. You’ve been very normal,” he said matter of factly. 

“Before my trip?”  

His eyes rolled to the top as they did when he was deep in thought. “OK yeah, you fell at the hospital, made a trip out of town without telling me, ate Chinese food without chopsticks, and have a whole new taste in clothing.” 

There we go; he finally got it out. “You see, you’ve noticed it too.”
Something else suddenly struck me and maybe it meant nothing but since I was on a roll I blurted it out. “Remember that first night I came home from Chesterville alone.” He started to speak but I cut him off. “Don’t speak; allow me to finish. I had gone to her house, Eilida’s, but I didn’t know then that it was hers. I was driving and before I knew it, I was there. My legs turned to mush and the scene in front of me shifted dimensions or something. It was like watching a TV with bad reception. Then lightning hit the ground beside me. It came within inches of me along with a massive rain storm. I made it to my car and off the mountain. That’s not the first time the rains have come when I remember her thoughts or saw her. It’s sporadic but it happens. 

He contemplated everything I told him then chuckling softly he said, “People don’t control weather and just because it doesn’t rain around my Sunshine, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t rain. 

Sunshine is only half the story. Eilida is the other half. She see's something that scares her from the inside out.

Silently, she stole across the street, but instead of going to the front door, she put her ear up to the wall and listened. From somewhere buried inside her a primordial instinct welled up, which frightened her more than the storm brewing overhead. With her body close to the Turnwell’s house and her chest facing out, she advanced to the back. Trembling sobs alternated with short, shallow breaths told her ears that a small child was wailing inside. Her eyes caught sight of a dim light shining from the door which had been left open a crack. As she slid along the wall of the house. The back deck steps unfolded in front of her deck. She cocked her head, glancing towards the window and slowly progressed up the steps without a creak, something like a cat stalking its prey. As she reached the final step, she melted along the wall until her head became flush against the door frame. Taking a deep and silent breath; her guts inside wrenching and twisting, she peered inside the cracked door, gasping at the scene before her eyes. Eilida tore down the steps at warp speed, descending the tree stuffed mountain, while tears cascaded violently down her cheeks. 

Thoughts raged through her brain churning and contorting. Her legs charged down the mountain as if on auto-pilot. The horrific scene inside the house played like a broken record in her head. Tree branches tore at her clothes and scratched at her flesh as she dashed down the ridge. She barely felt them stinging as her mind was too consumed by the vivid spectacle she had witnessed inside the Turnwell’s home. Bleeding gashes covered her arms, face, and legs. Gnarled tree branches grew arms jutting into the path before her eyes. The rain began to pour across her forehead, leaving flowing rivulets washing away her tears and blood. Chunks of hair plastered against her face. 

The solid earth had become bombarded with water rushing hard under her feet, causing her to slip in its wetness. Eilida reached her hand out for something to grab hold of but the trees curled in their disfigured appendages while her feet slipped further beneath; digging into the wet savage ground. Desperate mud covered hands penetrated the sludge groping for a large tree root. Her feet sank further into the ooze until they hit a large rock, sending Eilida flying  like an unwanted toy, down the ridge. Tree trunks and small rocks got their licks in bouncing her to and fro. The inertia of her body halted by a large boulder nestled beside the river, leaving her petite frame motionless against the flooding rains. A mess of blood curled and flowed from her head, leaving tributaries along her cheek. Shreds of fabric that used to be clothing clung to her bloody skin as the shadowy moonlight bathed her immobile and unconscious body.

She "wakes" up in the hospital with no memories and starts her own transformation as the memories slowly come back.

Bits and pieces glistened through my head, yearning to break the surface. My body felt as though I was gliding weightless through a vast space. Fluorescent lights flickered above me and distorted voices hovered close, their faces long and misshapen as if I were looking at them through carnival funhouse mirrors.

A new image begins to form within the cobwebs of my mind; it fights vehemently to take hold. Through the fuzziness the form of a person struggles to exist, but instantaneously vanishes, leaving a warm, melty feeling inside me. I focus, once more and I can see a smile with straight teeth. Teeth that make me want to climb my tongue inside and feel around. I explore further and can taste sweetness and spice at the same time. Music plays in the background. 

A man coalesced before me, his face ambiguous, and his voice that of demon spawn. It mocked my existence. My feet took hold and pounded the saturated earth until a wooden chest manifested before my eyes, it represented safety from the beast. 

Oh my head! Static reverberated against the walls of my skull leaving lacerations across the folds of my brain. A familiar warm feeling squeezed my hand. It was that of my mother. I recognized her face from the pictures but the warmth of her hand native to my existence. She was indeed my mother and comfort washed over me.

My memories have been pouring into my mind at an exponential rate. It’s like my subconscious has been dormant and now has awoken. The beast from within aches to free itself from the chains that tie me. The chains that keep me posted to this bed where my family and friends take vigilant watch over me. 

When Sunshine and Eilida come together.

Sunshine- I stood up and took her hand in mine; the electrical impulses had a heyday inside me. It’s OK now I whispered into her ear. The very same words the tall elevator man had said to me. Her eyes flashed open again and stared straight into mine.

Eilida-  An electrifying jolt pulsed through my body. I fluttered my lids and a blond me was staring back at me whispering, “It’s OK now”. For that split second, my entire memory overwhelmed my brain but then the connection was severed and all my memories receded to their hiding places.

As the reader you are the expert. I love to hear when my characters provoke emotions inside you because that is one of my goals as an author and gives me feedback to become a continually improving author. I'm always available for contact through my contact through email button or can be found on goodreads. Don't hesitate, send me a message :-)



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