Thank you, Fresh Fiction, for hosting me on your blog. While coming up with a topic for this blog, I asked myself what is it about books that captivate me. The answer is Characters.
So often when I think about books I’ve read and loved, I remember the characters.
When I first started writing I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t understand craft, but I knew I had stories to tell. My mother-in-law encouraged me to ‘just’ start writing. I did, but my characters were flat. It took me many sets of revisions to the stories before I was really able to know and understand my characters.
It was painstaking work, hence why it took me ten years to sell my first full-length novel to Harlequin. Now, nearly three decades since writing that first story, I finally feel like I have a grasp on characterization. But it required many classes and workshops, learning from authors whose work I admired and wanted to emulate.
As authors, we want our characters to be likable, relatable, sympathetic and fictional people the reader can root for from page one to the end. I embarked all those years ago on a quest to learn how to make my characters more three-dimensional and I discovered there is no ‘one right way’ to develop a character.
There are many different ways, taught by many different instructors. What works for one author may not gel for another. This is a good thing because authors are so diverse in their character development that readers have so many choices and a variety of stories to read.
For my work, I decided that combining several different methods of character development really helped me and I continue to learn all the time, constantly adding in new ways to make my characters even more memorable.
Here are my top three character development methods that I pull from to use in my own writing.
(1) Early on I discovered a book called Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon. This book was eye-opening for me. Every character has a goal, both an internal and an external one. There is something motivating the character to want that goal and there is something that prevents the character from obtaining that goal. This was very helpful in both plotting and character development. Thank you, Debra!
(2) About 10 years ago I discovered Michael Hauge Story Mastery. I went to one of his workshops and he really helped me to dig into the character’s psyche by asking the questions: what is the character afraid of? What are the character’s hopes and dreams? What is the lie that the character believes about themselves and about the world? These questions really helped to flush out my characters on a deeper level. Thank you, Michael!
(3) My favorite tool and the one that I’ve been using the most the past five years is the Enneagrams. I took an online class with Laurie Schnebly Campbell and bought her book Believable Characters: Creating with the Enneagrams. Also, on Instagram there are many enneagram sites from which to pull information. My favorites are Enneagram Enthusiast and the Enneagram Coach. You can find them by putting in enneagram in the search bar on Instagram. There are many others as well. There is also a book that I recommend titled The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.
The basics of the enneagram are there are nine personality types. I wanted to know more so I took a free online enneagram test and what I learned was so helpful for me personally. As a strong type five, the investigator/thinker, I was able to understand myself better and started a quest for personal growth. I’m learning how to turn my weaknesses into strengths, how to play up my strengths and how to be more self-accepting. Maturity might have something to do with that, as well.
The first book that I applied the Enneagram to was my 2016 Love Inspired Suspense book titled, Ransom, that became a National Reader’s Choice Award finalist and a Fresh Pick here on Fresh Fiction. I’ve been using the enneagrams on every book since that time and I think that it has really helped me to deepen my characterization and make my characters memorable.
In my most recent book, Secret Mountain Hideout, which is also my 45th publication with Harlequin and has hit Publisher’s Weekly’s mass market bestseller list at #22, Ashley Willis is a number Four type enneagram, the creative/individualist/romantic. Discovering this helped me to know how she would respond to any given situation. And also, showed me where she had to grow and learn from the hero, Chase, who is a One type enneagram, the perfectionist/reformer. The fun part is learning where Ashley and Chase would bump up against each other’s personality type to create compelling internal struggles as they both navigated the danger that was threatening their lives.
COMMENT TO WIN: What do you find the most interesting in books? The characters, plot, or something else? Comment below, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Terri Reed’s book RANSOM and a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card. Open internationally (if an international winner is chosen, the book will be an e-copy); Good Luck!
Staying hidden has kept her alive. . .
But now she’s been found.
A remote Colorado mountain town and a fake identity have been Ashley Willis’s safe haven since fleeing after she witnessed a murder–but now the killer has found her trail. Desperate and terrified, she’s prepared to run again…but Deputy Sheriff Chase Fredrick won’t let her. With the lawman by her side, can she face danger head-on. . . and live long enough to bring a murderer to justice?
Buy SECRET MOUNTAIN HIDEOUT: Amazon.com | Kindle
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About Terri Reed
Award winning multi-published author Terri Reed discovered the wonderful world of fiction at an early age and declared she would one day write a book. Now she is fulfilling that dream writing full-time. Her romance and romantic suspense novels have appeared on Publisher’s Weekly top 25, Nielsen’s Bookscan top 100 and featured in USA Today, Christian Fiction Magazine and Romantic Times Magazine. Her books have finaled in Romance Writers of America’s RITA contest, National Reader’s Choice Award contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers The Carol Award contest. She resides in the Pacific Northwest with her college-sweetheart husband, two wonderful children, and two dogs. When not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, gardening and playing tennis.