Saturday, August 15, 2015

Forbidden Release and Guest Post By Cathy Clamp

Ten years have passed since the war that destroyed the Sazi Council and inflicted a horrible "cure" on thousands of Sazi, robbing them of their ability to shapeshift.
Luna Lake, isolated in Washington State, started as a refugee camp for Sazi orphans. Now it's a small town and those refugees are young adults, chafing at the limits set by their still-fearful guardians.
There's reason to fear: Sazi children are being kidnapped. Claire, a red wolf shifter, is sent to investigate. Held prisoner by the Snakes during childhood, Claire is distrusted by those who call Luna Lake home.
Before the war, Alek was part of a wolf pack in Chicago. In Luna Lake he was adopted by a parliament of Owls, defying Sazi tradition. The kidnappings are a painful reminder that his little sister disappeared a decade ago.
When Claire and Alek meet, sparks fly--but the desperate race to find the missing children forces them to set aside their mutual attraction and focus on the future of their people.

Guest post by Cathy Clamp

A lot of people ask me how I create such unusual characters, like those in FORBIDDEN. Claire and Alek and the rest come from very different places, but there’s a common thread of loss and pain in their backgrounds that make them support each other. While a lot of authors out there are fortunate that “people” drop into their heads, fully formed, I’m not as lucky. I have to actually work to create a well rounded character. Over the course of the last thirty books and short stories, I’ve perfected a “character chart” that I use to make each person. It’s a series of questions about the character that I answer as though I’m them, or at least, a close friend of their’s. Think about your best friend. If you’ve known them for any length of time, you could probably answer these same questions about them. Feel free to give it a try!

1. Character Name.

I usually use a Baby Name book to pick an interesting name for the character. Sometimes, ordinary is interesting.

2. Where did character grow up?

While this might not show up in the text, it’s important to me to know whether the character was raised in a city or in a rural area, or even in a different country.

3. Choose three clubs/sports the character was involved in in high school.

This is HUGE! Someone who was a jock, or a creative person or on the debate team really tells me how a person is going to respond when pressed by an antagonist.

4. What is a quirk (such as spinning hair around a finger when nervous, etc.?)

People remember quirks. Even tapping a pencil that gets on people’s nerves is remembered by readers.

5. When decorating an apartment, where would your character shop?

Big thing! This and the next few questions about shopping really hones a personality.

6. What role does money play in your character's life (is a 20" b/w television just as good as a 50" flat screen?)

Does a character chase money across jobs, or work for the sheer pleasure. That can really grab a reader’s attention.

7. Inspiration for Character (i.e., character from a movie, fairy tale, story, etc.)

Sometimes, I like to draw inspiration from a visual. A photo of an actor, model or fairy tale really helps me get my head into the character.

8. Possible physical features

This isn’t always important, because people don’t really think about their own appearance all that much unless something changes. If a person’s clothes still fit and they like their hairstyle, looking in the mirror seldom happens unless brushing teeth or putting on makeup. You might think about the color of eye shadow for the day, but unless your skin is breaking out, you’re not going to think about your skin tone or nose width. It just is. But changes are always interesting, because changes come with emotional baggage.

9. How do you see the character (i.e., sterotype, caricature)

Is the character prejudiced against something or someone? It’s not always bad to have a preference about liking blonde girls, or thinking a smooth chest on a man is hot. Thinking about what the character likes gives him or her depth.

10. Possible conflicts in personality (i.e., likes to watch sports, but hates to PLAY them.)

Conflicts are GOLD in writing. Most people are in denial about something or have conflicts. For example, a woman who claims she doesn’t care what she wears, but owns a hundred pair of shoes has a conflict.

11. Possible need for change.

Maybe if that same woman is constantly broke and asking for handouts, buying less shoes might be a future change of personality.

12. Values and beliefs (church-going, would the character steal if starving, etc.)

A person’s moral character has a big impact on how they will react to the plot, so it’s very important to me.

13. How beliefs and values clash (would the character steal if sufficient reason? What is that reason?)

This is self-explanatory. What will make the character break? How much pain can I heap on them? Heh... [insert evil laugh]

14. What do they need in a mate?

Even if I’m not writing a romance, this is important. What do they find attractive in a person?

15. Who is the worst person for them to fall in love with?

Haven’t we all picked the wrong person to fall for? Why? Great character growth in this question!

16. What makes the character emotionally dangerous (seeing someone strike a child, etc.?)

This and the next question are very plot related. What cause will the person fight for?

17. What is it about the character that makes it impossible for him/her to simply "walk away" from the crisis of the plot?

Blackmail? Fear? Nobility? These are very different character traits.

18. What does the character most admire about their best friend?

Why hang out with a person? What makes a “best” friend?

19. What drives the character insane about their best friend?

Think about The Big Bang Theory. If you’ve seen it, why does Leonard consider Sheldon his best friend, even though he drives him crazy sometimes? Character conflict gold!

All of the rest of the questions are about character growth throughout the book (or series.) I won’t go into each one of them, but you can see how the answers will create an interesting character.

20. How does the plot help the character learn a lesson or grow?

21. What is the error in thinking during the plot (i.e., thought they could trust someone untrustable, so didn't spot the danger, etc.?)

22. Why do they hold this belief?

23. As a result of this belief, what do they need to learn?

24. What is keeping them from learning it?

25. What are the ways the character tries to "cheat" to keep from having to grow?

26. What event in the external plot forces the character to either grow or change?

27. Pinpoint your character's greatest fear.

28. What is your character's greatest secret?

29. What is your character's best childhood memory?

30. What is your character's WORST childhood memory?

I’ve learned to shorthand a lot of these questions by starting with the memories first. The memories of their best and worst days will reveal a ton about their upbringing and why they believe the things they do.

Character development is one of the most fun parts of the writing process. Even more than the plot! But the plot does shape who the people are. Sometimes, I have to change the character’s personality to have it fit neatly into the plot. Not every person can handle every plot, after all!

I hope you’ll enjoy FORBIDDEN and the characters who live there. You can look at them and see how I fit in the answers to a bunch of these questions. :)

I want to thank Cathy for coming to my blog and leaving an awesome guest post. I love the world of the Sazi and am so happy that she is rebooting this series.

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