Well, October is finally here and autumn has officially begun. The leaves are changing color, Halloween is just around the corner, and the air holds more of a chill with each passing day. Oh, and it’s character month here in Slushland! Today begins our month long study of what goes into a great character. We will learn how to identify what we love in our characters and what we should avoid by breaking them down. It is my hope that we all learn a little something by the end of the month.
I’m pleased to present YA author and poet, Tonia Marie Harris and an in-depth look at how she approaches characters. I asked ten questions on the subject of characters and Tonia was gracious enough to share some insight. Let’s jump right in like it was a giant pile of leaves.
Why don’t we start with a little bit about your WIP and how it came about?
What, in your opinion, makes a memorable character?
What makes your character unique?
We meet Evie, my main character, when she’s at her most vulnerable and tragic. It’s been a fine balance to write a girl who commits suicide yet make her someone to care about. I tried to back out of writing that part of her story, but she’s demanding. She shares her story of consequences and sacrifice in the afterlife. Evie compels me with the dichotomy of her personality. Here’s this interesting girl who loses her battle with grief and depression, yet her heart leads her throughout the story.
Who, or what, served as the inspiration behind your main character?
I love a good ghost story and when she followed me home from that little country cemetery, I knew it had to be shared. I won’t lie, it’s been a struggle. I know from experience that depression eats away at your sense of self and creates a void. Teen depression and suicide are on the rise. Darkness and fear exist everywhere we turn- politics, the media, divorce rates, etc. I’m close to a young woman who struggles with all of this. But her ability to see beauty and appreciate the weirdness of life inspired a lot of Evie’s character. Life is dark, and weird, and beautiful. To tell a teen “It gets better” is a half-lie. Sometimes, it doesn’t. But we’re human beings, and that means we know how to do more than survive. We find ways to dance, laugh, and be awestruck. That’s the “better” part.
How important are physical traits or quirks in the creation process?
This definitely varies from writer to writer, much like anything else. For me, I want to know everything I can about my characters. But then I won’t put that all in the story. I leave lots of details out or I take all the fun from the reader. I did describe my antagonist over the course of the story. His taste in apparel and physical movement express his personality. He’s crafted himself that way to keep the characters, and readers, guessing. I’m mad for the bad guys. All of my characters have their quirks. I suppose it’s how I see the world- interesting and odd. I’m getting old and I have yet to meet a “normal” person.
How much of yourself, if any, is in your main character?
I talked about the struggle of writing this novel earlier. It’s the truth. Writing Evie opened up old wounds and poured a little salt on them. But I had to crawl inside that darkness in order to empathize with Evie and lead her out of it. I do think I’ve given her a little bit of my soul. But, oddly, writing this book has been very therapeutic. By putting Evie’s ghost to rest, so to speak, I’ve let go of a few ghosts of my own.
How does your main character change by the end of their journey?
I don’t want to give the ending away but I will say that she became someone I’d want to hang out with by the end of the book.
What can we expect from your main character in the future? Will we see more of them or is their story finished?
Never say never, right? But I consider her story finished as much as a story can be. But that delicious, deviant antagonist I mentioned? I have this feeling he’s not done with me yet. He’s the kind that doesn’t give up or let go.
Name a character who most closely resembles your main character and tell us why?
If I were to compare her to another literary character, it would be Dolores Price from Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone. It’s a rare book about a young woman’s depression and recovery. Both Evie and Dolores convince themselves the world would be better off without them.
How would your main character respond if they knew this post had been written about them? (A response from your main character.)
I assumed that when I made my choice and stepped into Lake Caroline that no part of me would walk back out. But it wasn’t over. It was the end of one story and the beginning of another. I came back out a ghost. All I wanted was to be with Ben again. And if I couldn’t have him, then I wanted to stop being aware, stop hurting. Pain doesn’t end after you die. Not for me. But Ben deserves better, and I can give it to him. All it takes is one sacrifice.
We all know how much I love music. Can you share a song which best represents Evie?
I’d like to thank Tonia for stopping by and giving us a glimpse into her creative process. I’ll be sure to share all the glorious details about her book before it hits shelves, title and all. Please stop by and show some love for Tonia at the links below. Come back next Monday when another writer steps in character.