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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Crystal Collier and Creating Deep Characters

Welcome Crystal Collier here today to share her new book and some writing tips!

In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

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5 Tools for Creating Deep Characters

Thank you Tonja for having me here today!

Do you have an epic story, but people aren't sold on your characters?

Characters are the music, and plot is what you see happening in a movie. Take a train wreck scene and put rock music behind it. Take the same scene and put a slow symphony underneath. We have the same action, but the mood is completely different.

The characters are the filter through which we see the story, and thus their view of the world is what establishes the reader's interpretation of what's happening.

So you've got your basic character. You know their name, appearance, history, place in the world, etc. But do you KNOW them?

To create intense characters, you have to be inside their heads. Deep inside. You have to walk the steps of their early childhood with them. You need to see what they fear. What they treasure. What makes them cry. When you know the answers to these, you know how they will react to different situations and why.

But sometimes you don't. Sometimes, although you've met a character, you can't quite understand what their deal is. They're still a mystery. In this case, you need to get to know them. How about some tools?

1. One of my favorites is the scenario game. Take a random situation, like being mugged in the streets of New York, and imagine step by step how your character would respond to the situation. But go beyond that. Figure out the WHY. What in their past or psychology prompts them to react that way? Do this with a number of situations and you'll get to the heart of your character. I did this with Alexia while getting to know her. She was born in the mid 1700's, but I placed her in modern day America to see what she'd do.

2. The personal essay. Your character is applying to college (or some similar institution), and has to write a personal essay about their favorite possession, or pet, or a situation that changed them forever. Sit down and write this essay for them. The prologue of SOULLESS (MoT book 2) is a letter from Alexia to her missing aunt. It was a fun way to sum up everything that had happened in book one, but to see it completely from Alexia's eyes.

3. Figure out who this character is based on in your life. You'll be surprised the insights this gives you into their psyche. I was shocked to learn Kiren's character was based on my father. Beyond shocked. Let me explain. My father was a doctor and at work 90% of the time. He was distant and mysterious all my growing up, but the most compassionate person I knew. I struggled after realizing Kiren possessed so much of him (because let's face it, that's my dad!) until I accepted that it made the character stronger and helped me understand how he responded to situations. Kiren is totally a creature of my imagination, but he shares my father's core values.

4. What's their culture, and how does that change perspective? I'm not talking about JUST their ancestry. Have you moved around much? I have. Language varies from location to location, even while speaking the same English. Etymology (the study of language) shows us that any language will place emphasis on aspects that are important to the daily life of a region. For instance, a mountain village where they raise sheep may have twenty terms for types of sheep and their young. They may have fifteen terms for wool. Their metaphors and thinking would evolve around their way of life--the raising of sheep, the seasons, the harvest, the weather. It would jade EVERYTHING. To be true to a character, immerse yourself in their culture. This was the biggest trick in switching between time periods & social standings for my latest release, TIMELESS. I had learned the culture of an aristocrat and the working class in the 1770's for the previous two books, but I had to acquire an understanding of a lord in the mid 1200's, along with knights, clergy, and the poor for this book.

5. Speaking patterns. You gave the character a stutter or accent. Pat yourself on the back. This isn't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about speech patterns. You have a way of formulating sentences. It's different from everyone else's. In order to really create an individual, try listening to YouTube videos and seeing how people structure their sentences. It's pretty eye-opening how different we all are. Now formulate your character's own way of speaking, and see if you can make it different from your own.

In the end, you can spend as much or little time on characters as you like, but it's to your advantage to make them so real that they live off the page in people's heads.

What tools have you found helpful for forming deep characters?

Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese.

Find her and her books online HERE.

(Email address is required for awarding prizes.)


  1. This is great stuff and a lot of it I haven't tried. Characters are like real people, we might not ever know them completely, but it's fun trying to find out!

    1. It's amazing too what we learn about ourselves while trying to get to know them. =)

  2. I used to create fancy charts for all of my characters. I've gotten lazy. Lol! But I will not ever again commit to writing a story until I know them well enough. I've run into so many problems with characterization over the years!

    1. I hear you there! Before I start writing a story I have to know the characters and the bones of the plot. Otherwise, wasted words on a page, eh?


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