Guest Post: Brianna West on Character Development

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Joining us today for a humour packed guest post on the importance of character develoment is the wonderfully talented author, Brianna West.


The Joys of Authorhood: Raising Fully Developed Characters

Hello all aspiring and current authors desperate to figure out how to fully raise your characters into complex, well-developed, functioning-in-plot characters! I’ve come here because I was once like you: scared, unsure, slightly crazier than normal people and talking to all the voices in my head. The characters whose names you need to figure out, whose personalities aren’t complex enough, aren’t realistic enough to be featured in your current or maybe not even your future work.

Don’t be discouraged! I’ve come to give you my experience with how to raise fully functioning, story-ready characters and how to develop them over the course of your work in progress.

First things first, whether you plot your story out, outlining every detail, or you just write where your characters lead you, guiding when need be, characters that aren’t fully developed can sometimes cause a story not to feel real or read as well as one that has characters fully realized.

  1. Aw, he’s got your morbid sense of humor—get to know what their personality is. This is something I tend to do when I’m “imagining” how I want interactions to go. Whether or not the two characters would fit together with certain aspects of their personality. It’s a good time to figure out what characteristics you might want from them. Are they quirky, broody, moody, playful, quiet, and so on so forth. It’s important to get to know them and figure out where their personality needs improvement or adjustment.
  2. Playdates are fun until someone’s kid gets killed—there’s been a time or two where I’ve been unable to fully grasp an interaction between two, mostly because I haven’t really written them before or it’s been a while. So, giving them a test run in a small written interaction might help tighten up some of the aspects you were hoping to achieve or where they could change when dealing with other characters.
  3. Scarred for life—backstory is something you can get away with not knowing much of to begin with, having it develop over the course of a story and getting to know their history as the story unfolds. But it’s a good idea to have some sort of idea where you want your character to have come from, even if just that their daddy was a drunk and their mommy a drug-dealer.
  4. Growing up sucks, but it’s great for plot—the most important is the growing and changing of a character over the course of a story or series. Seeing them change as it goes along, reacting and transforming due to encounters, other characters etc., it gives the reader a sense of knowing them and real-time movement that builds a relationship with the readers that all the above doesn’t build in such an intense way.

These are just a few things to think about when dealing with character development, but in the course of my authorhood, the most important. Hopefully these help you raise well-developed, happy characters and not angry, superficial serial killer characters that spend their life blaming their author (unless that’s what you were going for).

Happy Writing!

Brianna West.


71zctz9tEAL._UX250_.jpgBrianna West lives in beautiful Northern California with her wonderful husband and four adorable children. She writes funny, real stories that are accompanied by humor and supernatural elements. Recently published in October 2015, Brianna has gone on to add several books to her main series and spin-off series since then.

Week One: Fictional Flashback February 2017

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This month, I am taking part in #FictFBFeb17 hosted by Faith Rivens. You can find Faith and this challenge on Twitter and Instagram~ @faith_therivens.

This challenge allows us to take an indepth look at our characters, and offers readers insight into their stories. I have chosen to feature Teddie Leason from the EVO Nation series, and Dagger, the protagonist from a novella I am currently working on, Zombie Playlist. Each day is a different theme, so for the next month, keep your eyes peeled for my contributions.

I shall do a weekly summary of my posts on my blog, so if you miss my Twitter/ Insta posts, you can always find them here.

Day #1: Introduce your characters

Day #2: First

Day #3: Fire

Day #4: Fix

Day #5: Fair

Day #6: Fade

Day #7: Finally


Content belongs to K.J. Chapman

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10 Weeks, 10 Prompts, 10 Minutes #8 (Prompt Me Special)

The purpose of these writing exercises is to take a prompt a week for ten weeks and allow myself ten minutes to expand on it. All the prompts are taken from my writing prompt eBook: Prompt Me.

To check out my list of ten prompts, and maybe have a go yourself, follow this link.  Go with the flow, take the prompt literally, or just allow elements to inspire a totally different story. It is up to you. Link back to me, so I can have a read of your creations.

The Prompt:

They said that I was insane and that I never had a sister. They even went as far as to edit her out of my photographs. I know they did because they missed one- the one I keep in my locket.

They hold us in some kind of secure facility with hundreds of others. We aren’t treated badly, but we aren’t free either. Words such as cure, hope, and future are continuously brandished about, as if words can persuade us to cooperate. If you take away a person’s freedom, you take away their basic human right. Once that’s gone, then it’s a one way street- we’re prisoners and they’re our captors. Cure, hope, and future, feel very very far away.

Every day I ask for Georgina. Every day they say the same thing- ‘she is a figmant of your imagination. An imaginary friend you created as a way to get through the fifteen months you spent on the outside without another soul to talk to.’ Georgina is real. She is not my friend. She is my older sister, and they know more than they’re letting on. Why are these people trying to make me believe I’m crazy?

Jenson, the big boss, enters in his full military get-up; combat clothes, black shiny boots, and cap. He glances around us all like we’re nothing more than rats in his elaborate test, and then he waves his hand to beckon someone into our tent. A teenage boy, similar in age to me, steps into the tent. His hair looks filthy, he has cuts on his knuckles, and his eyes are sunken.

“Tent 98, this is your newest occupant- Harry Mave.” Jenson pushes Harry further into the tent, before leaving without so much as a goodbye.

Harry grips his rucksack to his chest and glances around all of our faces. This isn’t the friendliest tent, and the majority of the occupants are middle aged and have an adversion to kids and teenagers. Finally, after eyeing every inch of him, I call him over to me. The bunk above mine is empty, and hell, it’ll be nice to have someone my age to talk to.

“I’m Nell,” I say, holding out my hand. He looks at it, but doesn’t shake it. “You can have the top bunk.”

“I’m not staying,” he mumbles. “Where are the showers?”

I came in with the same fighting spirit, but that was quickly sucked out of me. “The shower tent is directly behind here. If you have anything of value take it with you.”

Gregory, our resident kleptomaniac growls at me. I just glare back, inviting him to say something. Go on, you scummy thief, so I can make a scene and search your collection for my shoelaces and hair scrunchie.

“I’d stay away from ‘Crazy Baby’ if you want to fit in here,” Gregory warns Harry. The tent gave me that nickname because of Georgina. “Sees things. Hears voices. Fucking nutjob.”

I give Gregory the bird in response. Harry grunts in acknowledgement and heads straight out of the tent. Not missing a beat, I follow him.

“This place is a fortress. You won’t get out,” I call after him. Harry doesn’t even turn back. “I should know. I tried…and tried…and tried.”

“I have people on the outside who need me. Staying here isn’t an option.”

“If they left people behind when they picked you up, it’s because they are infected.”

Now, he spins to face me, anger written all over his face. “Bullshit! My sister was not infected, and they still left her behind. We’re here because we have something they need.”

My heart pangs at the mention of his sister. “What do we have?” I ask.

He shrugs. “Something… I don’t know. Something so important that they tell me that Hannah isn’t real. They’re trying to make me think I’m crazy.”

“They said it to you too?” I grasp my locket, stepping away instinctively.

An arm encloses around my shoulders. “Nell, are you pestering the new boy?” asks Jenson. “Harry, you were placed in the wrong tent- clerical error. Bring your stuff and I’ll take you to Tent 23. It’s the other side of the camp.”

“Away from me you mean?” I ask Jenson. His eyes bore into my soul. “Harry, she’s real. Hannah’s real.” Jenson lifts me from my feet, but I fight with every ounce of my being. “She’s real, Harry. Don’t let them make you forget! Never forget!”

Jenson’s hand encloses over my mouth. “You see why her tent call her ‘Crazy Baby’?” He half laughs, squeezing the air out of my lungs as I kick and wiggle against his torso. “Stop this, Nell. Have you been taking your meds?” More military staff race over, helping Jenson to restrain me. I’m pinned to the floor and injected in the neck with a sedative. Instantly, my body feels heavy.

As Harry is escorted away, he looks over his shoulder at me. “Don’t forget,” I mouth before my eyes close.

***

Someone shakes me awake. My mouth is dry, and my limbs feel stuffed with lead weights. From the musky, body odour stench, I know I’m back in my tent. Gregory snores in the bunk beside mine, and someone farts.

“Nell, wake up,” whispers Harry. I jump fully awake in shock. He covers my mouth with his hand and shakes his head. “Stay quiet.”

I can’t move; the sedation hasn’t fully worn off yet. Harry stuffs my few belongings into my tatty rucksack and swings it onto his shoulder with his own. Then, taking me under the thighs and arms, he lifts me.

The air outside is bitterly cold, and it brings me to my senses a little. Harry skims around the side of the tent, coming to a stop behind our shower tent, and lowers me onto the damp ground. It is a dark night without moonlight, and my eyes have to adjust to see his face in front of mine.

“How?” I ask.

“I’m good at what I do.” He pulls me to sitting, and brushes my tangled hair out of my face. “They call you ‘Crazy Baby’ because Jenson has made you look crazy?”

I nod. “And they’ll do the same to you if you’re not careful.”

“How can I be sure that you’re not just crazy?”

“Why’d you come and steal me from my bed if you thought I was making it up?”

He rolls his eyes. “I need something, Nell. Before I risk my life to get us both out of here, you need to give me something to believe in.”

Pulling my pendant from under my t-shirt, I hold it in my clenched fist. “They edited her out of my photographs. They didn’t just destroy them. I suppose that would make it look like they had something to hide. This way, they can make it look like I just made her up. I didn’t make her up, Harry.”

“Who?”

Taking off my necklace, I hold it out to him. “Everyone thinks this is a pendant, but it’s a locket. They never thought to check it.” Harry feels around for the minute clasp, and opens the delicate locket. He shines his torch over the small picture inside of me and Georgina. “That’s my sister. Her name is–”

“Georgina,” he interrupts. My heart skips a beat. “You are the one I’m here for. Can you walk? We have to get to the back fence by 3am.”

“Wait? What? You know my sister?”

He smiles at me. “You could say that. Georgie is my boss- the leader of the resistance- and we’re getting you out of here.”

“What about your sister? Hannah?”

Harry takes my face in his hands. “I’m an only child. I needed to make sure you were who I thought you were. This is all for you, Helena.” My breath catches in my throat at his use of my full name; a name not even Jenson knows. “Georgie says, ‘sorry she took so long.'”

 


Content belongs to K.J. Chapman

 

 

Thrown to The Blue Update

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This past week, I have been on a one woman editing mission! My proof reader has already got the first half of my manuscript, and is almost ready for the second half, and my Betas are currently reading as I type this. I’m getting fantastic feedback, and some brilliantly constructive suggestions. I’m excited now, really excited.

So, what does this mean? It means that I have a release date *drum roll please*…

Copy of Foretellings have no place for goodness, only greatness. Princess Ezrahli is far from good, but she is a great woman in a conventional Kingdom followed by whispers and scorn. However, across the waters is un-co-2.png

Keep an eye out for my promo ads.

I shall be sending out ARCs from October 11th. If you would like to be an ARC reader, please comment below.

I have some amendments to make, so it’s back to the editing grindstone for me.


Content belongs to KJ.Chapman

 

September Reads Round Up

MONTHLY READS ROUNDUP

A round up of my September reads with links to the full reviews:

Thirst for the Hunt by A.C.Wentwood

14182339_1260611360656945_2041632876_nFull Review: Thirst for the Hunt

I gave this book 2/5. I think the author read Twilight before writing this book.Character decisions were unbelievable, but I did like the weird group dynamics of the lost boys, and in particular, the highly jealous, slightly insane lost girl.

The Last Orphans by N.W.Harris

14012220_1245851038799644_1955197727_nFull Review: The Last Orphans

I gave this book 5/5. Well written, perfectly paced, and action packed. A unique take on the infection outbreak storyline. I was fully submerged into Shane’s new reality and the dynamics of the whole gang.

 

Feyland by Anthea Sharp

14269639_1264856833565731_1283666633_nFull Review: Feyland

I gave this book 2.5/5. Vivid descriptions and detailing of Feyland, but an old concept with little character development. I would have liked to have had more conclusion. This prequel felt more like a long prologue.

 

Grey by Kade Cook

14341454_1270502796334468_2041794031_nFull Review: Grey

I gave this book 3/5. Detailed world building and a vast array of unique characters. The pacing felt a little off, and there were lots of info dumps, but a good fantasy story interwoven with the present day.

Burn the Dead: Quarantine by Steven Jenkins

14328879_1269538459764235_641140964_nFull Review: Burn the Dead: Quarantine

I gave this book 4/5. Some ‘oh my god’ moments within the first few chapters, and it was refreshing to be stunned by simple narrative twists and not just by the gore.

Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

14459917_1281062005278547_317153572_nFull Review: Hollowland

I gave this book 3.5/5. Interesting plot line with some well devloped characters. Some character choices didn’t add up, but overall an enjoyable read. Will definitely be reading the next book in the series.

 

Nano Contestant #1 by Leif Sterling

14348962_1275830002468414_512785584_nFull Review: Nano Contestant

I gave this book 4/5. Fans of the Hunger Games will like this book. Brilliant concept with motivated, rounded characters. Part of a large series. There isn’t a conclusion, more of a cliffhanger to lead onto the next installment, and that is what cost it that final 5th star for me.


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Finally Accepted the Proofs

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After having trouble with createspace, I have finally received the proofs of EVO Nation series books one and two. There were some production issues with shoddy glue and loose pages which, fingers crossed, has been rectified. Createspace were quick to offer refunds and send new proofs, but it was a big worry. What if customers received books in such conditions? It can happen and has happened to people, but if anyone receives any less than perfect books from createspace, complain and you get sparkly new ones.

Anyway, on to the exciting bit. I have just approved the proofs. My paperbacks should appear on Amazon within 3-7 days. Here’s a little sneak peek of mine:

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If you haven’t seen my update posts, then you may not have noticed that the covers have a different design. There were numerous factors involved in my decision to change the design, and after doing some research, I opted for the change. The eBooks also have been changed to match the paperbacks.

The cover for book three, EVO Ghost, is also complete and matches with the first two, but I am nowhere near release for that one. I shall share the cover nearer the time.

Now, I can feel like the series is fully completed when I publish EVO Ghost. The e-copies and paperbacks will be available, and I can be proud that I have a completed series on the market; something I never imagined!


Content is the property of KJ.Chapman

Another One!

After I finished my ‘What’s Your Name?’ posts, I felt a little stuck for writing exercise inspiration. I am still doing my ’10 Weeks, 10 Prompts, 10 Minutes’ posts, but as the title says, it only lasts for 10 weeks and I am coming to the end of these posts. So, there was only one option, right? To buy another naming book and start another writing exercise using new names.

My new name book has such a different variety of names to my old book, so it was definitely worth the buy. The layout of this book is a little different to the old one too. There are separate girl and boy name sections and this gave me an idea for a unique spin to these writing exercises. Rather than pick the one name each week, I shall pick two (one from each section) and have to use them both in the one exercise. It’ll be fun to have the characters interact with each other.

The first exercise will be posted in two weeks, when my current writing exercise posts are finished. So, keep your eyes peeled for my ‘It Takes Two’ posts.


Content belongs to KJ.Chapman

GIF sourced from Giphy.com

2nd Redraft Complete

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The second and final redraft is now complete. It has taken a little over two weeks to work my way through the necessary changes. Of course, this was much easier than the first redraft and should have been completed within a week, but September has seen both myself and my hubby turn 30, so I havent been able to slog away and get it done. No matter-it is done now.

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What’s Next?

It has been over a month of redrafts, so now it’s fine tooth comb time. The plan is to get a week’s worth of editing done before I send the first half of the book for proof reading. It’ll be a game of cat and mouse; I shall try to finish editing the second half of the book before the proof-reader gets back to me with the first half changes. Yeah, because plans like that always work out for me- HA! I have to try and stick to the plan that has been arranged, but there is a little wiggle room. I need it, considering I have been having one of these weeks:

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I shall not be adding any more excerpts from here on in. I think I have been pretty generous thus far. As soon as my betas have their copies, I will have more of an idea of a release date, so I will update when I know more.

Can those who have mentioned being an ARC reader leave a comment, and I’ll add you to the list and get back to you- thank you.


Content belongs to K.J.Chapman

GIFs sourced from giphy.com

Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

Hollowland by Amanda Hocking 3.5/5

14459917_1281062005278547_317153572_n“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.”

Nineteen-year-old Remy King is on a mission to get across the wasteland left of America, and nothing will stand in her way – not violent marauders, a spoiled rock star, or an army of flesh-eating zombies.

Review:

The world has fallen to Zombies, but small communities and quarantines are fighting back. Remy’s quarantine is over-run, but she escapes on a mission to track her little brother who is ‘sick’ and was evacuated before the zombies took over the quarantine. The narrative introduces a famous band idol, a cult, a gang of psychopaths, and a lion. Yep, a lion.

To kick off, I wanted to talk about characters. I loved Lazlo. The ex-super star is well rounded with healthy doses of flaws. At first he comes across as a loveable rogue, but you get to the truth of Lazlo as the story progresses. However, I couldn’t warm too Harlow. She was younger then the others and irritating. Remy, the main character, was totally kick ass, but far from my favourite. Don’t get me wrong, I understood Remy’s motives to find her brother, but some of her actions felt forced.

I enjoyed the plot line. I wanted a little more explanation as to why the others flocked after Remy. Just because she is brave enough to punch a zombie in the face, doesn’t mean people would follow her blindly and leave safe havens to go with her. Lazlo had his reasons, but Harlow and Blue left me a little stumped.

The zombies were not the usual shuffling and ambling sort, but the fast paced, hungry sort. They even start evolving- working together in packs with some kind of intellect. Intelligent zombies is just extra creepy to me.

I wanted to give this book 4*, but some narrative choices and character development held me back. That being said, it was an enjoyable read, and I want to read the next book in the series.


 

The opinions expressed here are those of K.J.Chapman and no other parties

All books reviewed on this blog have been read by K.J.Chapman

K.J.Chapman has not been paid for this review

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Crafting Chapter Titles

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Chapters don’t always need titles, but when they do, they can be tricky to craft. My first books, EVO Nation and EVO Shift, are sci-fi and urban fantasy novels and chapter titles didn’t match the tone of the books. However, my fantasy novel, Thrown to The Blue, is split into different POVs, and each chapter is defined by the character’s name and a title. I’ve never had to craft chapter titles before, and it has been a great writing experience for me.

Here are the top five lessons I have learnt as a first time chapter titler.

Write the chapter before you title it.

You can have an idea for the title, but after writing the chapter it may not exactly fit, and you don’t want to have to tailor the chapter to the title. Once you have read the chapter, you can capture the overall tone/ message. You may even find a phrase or quote from within the chapter that works.

Not every chapter title needs to follow the same style.

I noticed this a lot in books I have read of late. The titles follow a style of some sort- perhaps just three words: For example: Sugar and Spice, Gold and Silver, Hurt and Betrayal. If this works for your novel, then roll with it, but please don’t think this is a necessity. You can have some short and sweet titles, quotes, one word titles. As long as the title sums up the chapter, then I don’t think it affects the experience of the reader if the styles are different.

If you can’t think of a suitable chapter title, leave it, and return to it later.

Sometimes a title is glaringly obvious, other times it eludes us. Do not force a chapter title, let it simmer for a bit before setting it in stone. It may even be worth not titling your chapters until your final edit. You can read through the draft with fresh eyes and the titles may jump out at you.

Sum up, but do not give too much away.

This is where it can be particularly tricky to find a suitable title. Summing up the chapter doesn’t mean highlighting the key narrative point in the title. For example: If Freddie is going to die in this chapter, it is best not to title the chapter ‘Freddie’s Demise’ or ‘The Death of Freddie’. This may seem like common sense, but I have seen it done. The impact you may try to make with a certain scene will be dulled by the reader’s knowledge from the title. Finding the balance between summing up and keeping it vague is what I found difficult.

Think outside the box.

This ties in with all the above tips. Forget what you have read in other books. Your titles should be unique to your novel. Just because particular titles or styles worked for another book, chances are they won’t work for yours too. Forget about your preconceptions on titling chapters and work with what you have written within each chapter. It is the best way to craft memorable, interesting titles that are true to your novel.


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