Lindsay Downs: In A Body in the Attic there is one scene where Emily and one of the other technicians are slowly making their way through a dark passage. I had to make sure there was the right amount of tension going so the reader would be scared for them.
Sherry, was there a most difficult scene you had to write for one of your characters?
Sherry Gloag: In The Brat there are two scenes which make me cry. One when Trudi’s soul mate and best friend, Bella, passes away; and the second when Bella’s daughter discovers the relationship between her best friend, eleven year old Rachel, and the hero, Rafe, and is afraid of the consequences.
Lynette, as your characters tell you their stories, do you find yourself rooting for them to find that happy ending or are you an omniscient neutral party?
Lynette Sofras: Absolutely! I can’t be neutral when it comes to my characters and the ones who’ve been good friends to me and played nicely deserve to be rewarded! That’s why I felt guilty when some readers said I’d not been kind enough to Adam (a secondary character in Wishful Thinking) and that he should have his own story and happy ending.
Tara, what was the most difficult scene you had to write for one of your characters—it was gut-wrenching for both you and your character(s) and why?
Tara Manderino: One of the most difficult scenes was when Tyler performs in Taking Chances. By now, everyone (the readers and the characters) knows the reason he is reluctant. He has a horrid time facing the audience and loses his voice over it. Abie is feeling remorseful for having put him in the situation and by this point there is no way out but through.
Ruth, have you created a character that had a tragic past which adversely affected his or her future? How did it affect you writing that scene(s)/book?
Ruth J. Hartman: In “Better Than Catnip” the hero’s son, Derek, had an abusive past with his mother. It influenced his whole view of cats and the world around him.
Joselyn, was there a most difficult scene you had to write for one of your characters?
Joselyn Vaughn: It was a scene where Minnie remembers something absolutely awful from her past. I kept putting off writing it because I didn’t want to think about the details and I didn’t want to relive it with her. I had a hard time editing it and revising it yet. I don’t like to revisit the sad parts of books or movies. If I watch Moulin Rouge, I stop it before Satine collapses. I don’t watch Return to Me because the dog watching the door is too sad.
I can relate to how difficult it is to write such emotionally draining scenes for our characters. Brea, if you could tell your readers a one sentence answer why you write books, what would you say to them?
Brea Essex: I got tired of all the pushover girls who couldn't do anything for themselves, and all the sex in YA, so I decided to write something without either of those things.
An admirable reason for writing. When I had to kill off a secondary character in one of my new releases, it affected me and I admit, I was upset—true, she was only a character in one of my books…and a secondary one at that…, but I get truly attached to my characters. I’d love to know who else shares such attachments to their characters.
Chynna Laird: I had the same thing happen in Out Of Sync when I killed off one of my main character’s wife. It was part of the whole story but it was so sad. I get very attached to them all too. It takes so much work bringing them to life that it’s so hard to let them go, especially when they have to die. (That doesn’t sound good but you know what I mean. LOL!)
I totally get your point! Patricia, have you created a character that had a tragic past which adversely affected his or her future? How did it affect you writing that scene(s)/book?
Jake (The Christmas Phoenix) was wounded in Iraq. What happened after that caused him to withdraw from society, determined to do everything on his own. It nearly destroyed his relationship with Jess. I had a difficult time writing the scene in which he finally related the story, because I haven't experienced that kind of pain myself. But I remember my dad telling me about his wartime experiences in Korea, and his feelings watching the people around him die. It made me especially proud of him for putting his life back together once he was physically healed, and giving me empathy for our veterans returning from war.
Thank you for sharing. I can see how that would be difficult to write that scene. Have you ever gotten offended when a reviewer or reader criticized one of your characters? Of course, we don’t want to hear all the horrid details; just the generalities would be fine. ;)
J.F. Jenkins: For the most part, the characters I don't like are the ones the reviewers don't like too. That might be why they dont' like them. I have a hard time with a number of my female characters. Mostly because they do things I would never do and are generally more stupid, lol. They lack a certain kind of common sense, but it's just how they are. So I don't get offended much when reviewers don't like those characters. I've yet to hear anything bad about one of my “babies” though.
J.F. Jenkins: I once had an editor tell me I had to completely rewrite my male lead because he was “annoying” and too passive for her preferences. Some of her stuff I ignored, but I ended up fixing him all the same. It was not an easy thing to do though.
I love the finished product after editing, but it’s never easy taking apart your treasured manuscript only to put it back to together, hopefully in better shape. ;) Anyone else want to share?
Chynna Laird: Yes. I’ve had to dig deeper with emotions. You can’t get upset with the constructive criticism because the editor truly (usually anyway) has the same end goal: to make your story the best it can be. You can take everything with a grain of salt, taking what you need then letting the rest go. I haven’t accepted all the suggestions I’ve been given but I’ve been fortunate to have had editors who work with me…bouncing ideas back and forth…until it all melds together.
Patricia, what was the most difficult situation any of your characters were ever put through as you wrote the storyline?
Patricia Kiyono: This would be difficult for me to explain without including a spoiler! Let's just say Leigh (The Legacy) deals with a very difficult situation involving her stepfather.
Brea, what was the most difficult scene you had to write for one of your characters—it was gut-wrenching for both you and your character(s) and why?
Brea Essex: A scene near the end of Overshadow, which is releasing soon. I won't spoil it, but I'll just say I was sobbing along with my character as I was typing.
Anyone else want to share in regard to my previous statement about dealing with “killing off” a secondary character?
Joselyn Vaughn: I had to talk about a character dying and that was hard enough. I’m not ready to tackle the death of a character on the actual page.
Ruth, what was the most difficult situation any of your characters were ever put through as you wrote the storyline?
Ruth J. Hartman: When Derek is attacked by a cat, I could feel his terror, hear his screams.
Definitely a difficult situation for your character. Anyone else want to share?
Tara Manderino: On an emotional level, Luke ( Heart Quest) went through some pretty nasty stuff. Just how bad it was came to fruition when he had to watch Maj, the heroine, and Rain Dancing, a friend of his, getting along so well. When he sees them together at the rail road station, he is convinced Maj has made her decision, and it doesn’t include him.
Sherry, is it worth it to go through writing the emotionally tough scenes to create truly well-rounded, dramatic, unforgettable characters?
Sherry Gloag: A story without emotion is unlikely to captivate a reader, so going through the emotional wringer with every book is well worth it.
I couldn’t agree more. Lindsay, what do you think about this?
Lindsay Downs: I think it is. Without the tough scenes that character(s) don’t become real to the reader, just names in a story.
Lindsay Downs: Emily Dahill and her fear of helicopters. You can read about her dread of them in Emily Dahill, CID Part1.
Sherry, what about for your characters?
Sherry Gloag: Although her background is implied, Gina, the heroine in The Brat was sold into child prostitution by her mother.
Tara, have you ever gotten offended when a reviewer or reader criticized one of your characters?
Tara Manderino: Yes. It really only happened once, but I wondered if they had really read the book. Couldn’t they see that Abie (Taking Chances) had changed drastically from the beginning of the book to the end? From thinking church was an acceptable place to tracking Tyler down to fully understanding what he hoped to accomplish and being a partner in that?
Ruth, how have your dealt with editing advise from your editors regarding more fully fleshing out a character?
Ruth J. Hartman: I handle it better than I used to, because now I can see it from a more unemotional point of view. But criticism is never easy, and no one likes it.
Agreed. Joselyn, what has your experience been?
Joselyn Vaughn: I had to revise a scene in Courting Sparks. I initially had the ex-boyfriend quite drunk and that didn’t fit with the publisher’s guidelines, so they asked me to revise it. In the revision I changed it so the heroine couldn’t tell whether he was drunk or faking it. It ended up showing his manipulative qualities to greater advantage. I’m pretty good about criticism, constructive or otherwise, so I’ve usually been okay with suggestion or changes from an editor where I can see a benefit to them. When they are suggesting changes solely for making changes, then I have a harder time.
Very true. If I’m agreeing to a change, I want it to be for the improvement of my book. Brea, have you created a character that had a tragic past which adversely affected his or her future?
Brea Essex: In the beginning of Foreshadow, Rae's mother dies. She's uprooted from her home. That affects her whole story.
Chynna, what were the deepest emotional scars/issues any of your characters had to deal with?
Chynna Laird: All of my characters have emotional scars/issues. LOL! I’d have to say that Payton has had the most, so far. He was raised by a mother with untreated bipolar and used alcohol and drugs to cope with it. He spent his childhood taking care of her and cleaning up her messes then one day, she died in her sleep. He never got over his childhood and never had a way to purge the negative emotions he’d built up. It was tough breaking through to him. It took a very special group of people to break down his walls. And he always had his grandparents and his music.
Patricia, is it worth it to go through writing the emotionally tough scenes to create truly well-rounded, dramatic, unforgettable characters?
Patricia Kiyono: I think it's necessary to show why our characters behave the way they do. Their belief systems often stems from painful events in their pasts, and showing them helps readers to be able to empathize with them. So yes, it's definitely worth it.
Anyone else want to share an answer to this question that Patricia just answered?
J.F. Jenkins: Only if the story calls for it. Characters can be just as interesting without them too. Don't force a lot of drama on your character if you don't have to. Some people don't live dramatic lives. That doesn't make them uninteresting in personality you know?
I agree with your sentiments. Once again, I thank everyone for chatting and we’ll be taking another break.
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