Jamie Gold provides us with an interesting post about our characters taking on a life of their own. Thanks for your insight on this, Jamie.
Ever get one of those injuries where you wish you had a better story to go with it? *sigh*
When a bundle of bamboo sticks I was trying to separate slipped, one punctured the tip of my index finger, right by the curve of my nail. Three hours of pressure and paper-towel-wrapped ice cubes later, the bleeding stopped so I could apply a bandage, but typing is…not fun.
So let’s do a shorter, fun post today. *grin*
There’s no end to the variety of ways we can get to know our characters. That goes double when it comes to getting to know our characters well enough that they become three-dimensional and take on a life of their own.
As the author of ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series, I admit, I’m a bit proud of twelve quite impressive characters, if I may say so. Of course, even though, so far, only two books in the series have been published, there are many more to come. A series of books usually holds many more characters than a mere dozen.
During the progress of the series, things are changing, known characters stay, others leave, some have to go, and new ones are introducing themselves to us. And these characters not only need to look (which this one I’m writing about now, already does)… he also needs a name.
This time it’s different, I’m afraid. I picked many names – but only can have one… and I cannot decide. Would you please help me?
My character is a tall, muscular man with bronze-colored skin and long, straight black hair that reaches down to his waist, and dark eyes. He’s got a good, strong heart, is loyal, a little bit stubborn, and holds great dignity. He likes to smile, but he takes his calling seriously.
Name Meaning Origin
Admiel Land of God, a variant form of Adam Hebrew
Asariel God is my aid Hebrew
Ethanael God has given me strength English/American
Sariel Prince of God Hebrew
Immanuel God is with us Hebrew
Indraneel Sapphire Arabic
Jaromiel Strong, fierce, favor, grace Slavic
Jeremiel God lifts me up Hebrew
Kadmiel God is my East Hebrew
Nahuel Jaguar Mapuche
I’d really appreciate it if you could let me know what do you think. Which name would match the character I described? What name would you pick if you had that character in your book? Or what name would you like to read in one of the following books in the series?
I’m curious about what name you will decide on, and I can barely wait to see the results. Thank you for your help.
Below you will find an interview with Nathan. Read it and find out more about an Angel we only know by name – and by a perfectly tailored suit.
Excerpt from ‘Soul Taker’:
He looked over my shoulder, and I turned around, watching two beautiful looking men walking toward us. One of them was dressed in a suit and tie and looked elegant and chic like a businessman. The other one wore old jeans, cowboy boots, and a long-worn leather coat.
Joseph smiled. He introduced me to the business-like guy. “This is Nathaniel. He’s your replacement and will take your job over from here.”
The Guy shook my hand. “Please, call me Nate,” he said with a laugh.
Hello Nathan. It is great seeing you again. How are you doing?
Hello AJ. Nice to see you too. I’m doing okay. Unfortunately, I’m far too busy. Sometimes I wish I had more time off.
We know you took over from Katie when she wanted to become a Guardian and met Raphael.
Yes, I did. I was quite surprised to hear the two fell in love. I was invited to their wedding but unfortunately couldn’t go because of an emergency.
Why were you surprised? From what I hear, Katie is breathtakingly beautiful, and Raphael, from what I heard, has celebrated quite some success with the ladies.
Yes, but we were taught that it is almost impossible for an Archangel to find his consort. Raphael found his consort, and now we all are curious to see who of the Council Of Twelve is going to be next.
How about you? Is there someone special in your life?
I admit, there is someone I love. But I am not permitted to talk more about all that, remember? You told me to keep my mouth shut about that.
(Oh, yes. *AJ laughs* I forgot)
But now, tell us a little bit about you. Who is Nathan?
I am a Soul Taker, as you know. I have been one for about a millennium. I pick up souls and take them to their respective final destinations. Usually, it is Heaven, but occasionally I have to take them to the gates of Hell. Rarely we Soul Takers are attacked by the other side who try to steal the soul we are working with.
Now, we know Katie got tired of doing this job for three hundred years. Aren’t you tired out by that job?
Well, Katie and I are two completely different personalities. She is younger than I am, for one thing. Also, she is quite emotionally sensitive. I could easily imagine that a soul she takes to the portals of the Underworld is trashing, crying, regretting, screaming, is almost breaking her heart.
And we shouldn’t forget: We are taking all kinds of souls… not only bad ones, not only good ones, and in particular, we do have to pick up innocent souls too. That was very hard on Katie.
I had to harden my emotions and heart against this kind of compassion, or I could never have done that job to my satisfaction and the satisfaction of my bosses.
We met you briefly in Katie’s story. And now we learned a bit more about who you are. Are we going to meet you again?
Yes, you will meet me again. You will learn more about me. Just be a bit patient. I’ll be back.
Thank you so much for dropping in as my guest today, Nathan. We really appreciate it.
Today I was thinking about checking out my ‘Council Of Twelve’ characters a bit more carefully and more in detail. But where to start? (I’m not necessarily talking about the names). I have twelve amazing personalities. But one blog post about the characteristics of a dozen very unique natures would end up in me still typing next Thursday and you reading until Christmas. I tried to limit the number of my Council of Twelve members to the original four. and had to re-phrase my question: “What character has which character?” Who is Raphael, how is he? How different is he from, let’s say, Gabriel. What are their characteristics based on?
The last question was quite easy to answer, considering I’m a woman… The Zodiac signs!
Yeah – great!
The four oldest members of ‘The Council Of Twelve’ were not born, they were created. Therefore, they don’t have a Zodiac sign.
With a huge sigh, I left the Astrology up to the stars and tried to find out my own characteristics. How can I write about other characters if I don’t even understand my types of characteristics in a professional way?
And there, the first giggles started already. I started at the basics… how did personality, characteristics, and psychology even develop? Where did I start? I’m telling you, I had a good time starting with Hippocrates and his four-temperament-theory.
The four temperament theory is a proto-psychological theory which suggests that there are four fundamental personality types: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. Most formulations include the possibility of mixtures among the types where an individual’s personality types overlap, and they share two or more temperaments. The Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) described the four temperaments as part of the ancient medical concept of humorism that four bodily fluids affect human personality traits and behaviors. Modern medical science does not define a fixed relationship between internal secretions and personality, although some psychological personality type systems use categories similar to the Greek temperaments. (Source, Wikipedia)
After the history of Hippocrates and the blood-related psychology didn’t take me anywhere, I checked out different personality tests, which all ended up completely confusing. One tells me I’m an extrovert, the other tells me I’m an introvert, one tells me I’m an overcareful personality, while the other informs me that I should try to connect people. Otherwise, I could ‘end up in loneliness.’ I was about everything in between, from a hermit to a party-girl. I didn’t believe the one or other.
Then I read about the Meyers-Briggs Types. According to Meyers-Briggs, there are 16 personality types. I found that quite interesting and read a bit more about it. It seems in a way explainable and after studying the type indicator, which you can find here:
I took the free test because I was curious. I had considered myself an INFP Personality and turned out to be an INTP type, “The Thinker.” I was quite close, though.
In case you are curious, here is the personality type page I did the test on. It also shows you the type indicator and tells you exactly what the letters behind every personality means. – CONTINUE TO THE PERSONALITY TEST PAGE
Then I got one step further: since I am definitely not one of the founding members of ‘The Council Of Twelve,’ I do have a Zodiac sign. How well are the description of my Zodiac sign match the description of my ‘Meyer’s-Briggs’ personality test result? Let’s find out:
Not likely to place much value on traditional goals such as popularity and security
Spend a lot of time inside your own mind
Strong ability to analyze problems, identify patterns, and come up with logical explanations
Highly value intelligence and knowledge
Love new ideas and become very excited over abstractions and theories
The Capricorn woman might not be very confident, extrovert, and bold. Seduction and sexiness aren’t her favorite techniques. But she is very graceful, polished and well mannered. Capricorn nature is never overly emotional and dramatic. She will remain practical, emotionally stable, and sensible, even in the most sensitive situations. She is great at learning from mistakes. Unlike many women, she is open to constructive criticism. (Sorry, when it comes to me, that sentence is totally wrong. I just left it in the description because it made me laugh loudly.)
The Capricorn woman in marriage often keeps her own desires and needs behind for the happiness of the family. She is smart, hardworking, and capable of achieving the toughest goals in life. She also has a huge appetite for physical love and lust.
Capricorn females are often so fearful of the future that they become worriers before time. Small tensions and anxieties can make them gloomy, depressed, and pessimistic.
Now, according to these personality studies of myself (HAHA), there are, indeed, a few conformities which I had marked with colored text. These similarities might be a coincidence, or there is indeed something about Zodiac signs.
All this taught me that no personality test is going to tell me I can’t be grumpy when I’m in a bad mood, even though I’m the most balanced character on Earth.
It also taught me, that this particular analysis of myself has taken me about four and a half hours. If I have to analyze each of ‘The Council Of Twelve’ characters this way, you won’t be able to read another book in the series before Easter 2032!
I figure I will continue building my characters the way I’m used to and won’t try to make them more detailed that Hippocrates told me to. LOL
But if you had taken the Meyer-Briggs test please, let us know the results in the comments. I thought it a lot of fun.
While working on ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series, I built character by character, developed, considered their look, decided who they are and in what direction they would head within their story.
But also, I was ‘creating’ their look; dark hair, blue eyes, black hair, bronze eyes, tall, muscular, petite, almost ethereal. I will deliver many descriptions while ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series progresses.
In my head, the characters and their personality formed together with their look, and while creating them, I didn’t consider any consequences – like the book cover to the story.
Let me give you an example: Katie is a breathtaking beauty with caramel colored hair and brown eyes; her cream skin makes her look almost fragile.
To find ‘Katie’ I was busy looking through hundreds of pictures on several websites. In a way, it was an exciting task, and my excitement grew with every picture. But after a while I got slightly bored, my hope slowly dying that I would find “THE” Katie… the woman I had created in my head.
I wish I could say, ‘suddenly’ I found her, just as she was in my fantasy… but the fact is, I didn’t. Katie was not one of the models, but the Model I found has caramel colored hair and is stunningly beautiful. I set the first mark on her picture. Whenever I discovered a model who got close to her beauty or my description, I tagged her. In the end, I compared all the models and by process of elimination, I ‘rejected’ one model after the next until I got ‘my Katie.’
I took some time to get used to ‘combine’ my fantasy with the model and then went through the different pictures of the model. Finally, I picked the one that’s on the cover now.
By now that’s ‘my Katie’ on the cover.
I was talking with my cover designer about the cover. I could deliver her Katie, but what about the rest of the cover? The man, the background, the font? I’m lucky to have a cover designer who knows her stuff. I informed her that I couldn’t go through the model search again. I wanted some mystery, some secret.
Soul Taker isn’t a love-story-romance where a man and a woman are kissing on the cover…
I wanted something different; a man every reader can connect to, and has the chance to create the character’s look in their own fantasy. And my cover designer found the solution. I’m very proud of the ‘Soul Taker’ cover.
Since the second book in the series is completed and only needs to return from the Copyright Lawyer, we had to get together and discuss the next cover.
Believe it or not – I was sitting on the monitor and dully clicked through hundreds of pictures.
Let me tell you – the thought of ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series is planned to contain 13 books, scares me.
How are you designing your covers? At what point do you start considering what should be on the cover, and if you have cover models – how do you pick them? Let us know about it in the comments. We’re curious.
In only a few short days it will be 2019 and I decided today, that it might be time to look back to your life and maybe help you out living it by sending you some advice. You’re 16 years old and I think it’s time you get some hints.
Just in case you think someone plays a trick on you, believe me, nobody does! Look at your desk. The lowest drawer, in the very back, there is a little envelope, glued to the bottom of the drawer. You remember you hid a love letter, a dried red rose and a silver necklace with a heart from your very first ‘boyfriend’ ever? How would I know about that if I wasn’t you? Let me tell you: one day you will regret the decision to throw that envelope away, after keeping it for more than 15 years. One day the world will be drowning in so-called ‘cell phones’ where you can talk on the phone and send messages all over the world, anytime, at any place, and secret love letter such as this one will cease to exist. Keep it in your heart, him, who has made your first kiss an unforgettable experience and, despite the age gap, treated you with utmost romantic respect, making your ‘relationship’ one of childlike innocence with no pressure and no demands.
But that is not the reason why I’m writing to you. I would like to tell you that your life is not going to be as easy as you thought it would be. In many ways, you are too trusting and if you don’t quit to believe every story people tell you and try to help them with whatever you own, early enough, you will go through quite poor times. Be a little trustful, be a bit more careful and please, be the tiniest bit more selfish. You will always do everything for everyone and too often you will face broken promises, downright lies and a hell of an empty bank account. You know how you grew up – with the natural helpfulness your Dad gave you, the sense for the responsibility you were taught and sensitivity you will find out years later, you have. You’re strong, you’re a fighter, but your nature makes it easy for people to use you. Don’t let that happen and set a ‘stop’ early enough! It’s easier to stay strong and say stop than using your strength to fix later what others did to you. Remember: If you are making yourself a doormat, don’t be surprised if everyone keeps wiping their boots on you!
Remember that several of your teachers mentioned that you are a talented writer? You love writing, poems, and stories equally! Essays are easy for you to write, and you love to build stories, fairy tales, and fantasy worlds. Keep it up, girl! Use this gift and start writing early. One day you will be able to publish by yourself! I know you write regularly, but don’t hide what you are writing! Soon enough you will see it’s a good idea to start letting people see it! One day, I promise, you will publish a book. I only wish you would do that earlier!
Other than that, I refrain from going any deeper into your life. You are emotional, passionate and stubborn. Who says which one of these is a virtue or a weakness? I found out, each has its place in your future. Things are going to be the way they were planned for you. Everything happens for a reason, and there is rarely a bad situation that doesn’t result in something good.
Just one more thing: If you are offered a great chance, take it! It’s good to balance the pros and cons, but if you keep balancing you might miss the chance! Don’t be too scared. Take the step and see where the path leads you to! You must know, there is nothing worse in your life than the regret about the opportunities you didn’t take!
Now take care, be a good girl and keep smiling. Your humor is one of the things in your life and personality that make you who you are!
With love, hugs and the best wishes for your (our) future!
Lately, I met an Irish woman whose first name I simply love: Mairead. She told me it’s the Irish version of the name Margaret. I was fascinated. Margaret is a great name, but to my ear, Mairead sounds mysterious and a bit magic.
After a little bit of research, I found out that it’s believed the meaning of the name is ‘pearl.’ I’m convinced in one of my books a character called Mariead will show up.
That coincidence is one of the very few occasions so far that I met a person whose name I plan to use in one of my books.
Most of the time I have a ‘rough plan’ about a particular new character in my head already. Before the ‘fine tuning’ I most of the time need a name. In my head, I can only imagine a character as a person if he or she has a name.
XY is often in a fit of violent temper.
XY is well trained in controlling himself and playing a peaceful and prudent man.
XY occasionally twirls his beard when…
and so on. These things don’t work for me if I cannot address the person properly.
Erik is often in a fit of violent temper.
Wilbur Carstairs is well trained in controlling himself and playing a peaceful and prudent man.
Grandpa Ben occasionally twirls his beard when…
That’s much better. My head has a picture of Erik, Wilbur and Grandpa Ben now.
Imagine now I created a beautiful Irish woman with light skin, black hair and bright blue eyes. She’s filigree, but no matter how tender she looks, her magic makes her strong. Nobody knows what powers slumber inside of her.
Before going deeper into her character, find out her flaws, build her in detail, I want to be able to think about her as a person, not merely a ‘picture’ or a ‘draft.’ I have a good basic idea of how she will be. What I need now is her name. A name that in my opinion, matches her looks as well as her character (and what I have hidden inside of her).
My research will look like this. First names on the left, last names on the right. I researched the names and the meanings.
After taking notes of the basics, I’ll leave the paper for a while and later on I’m trying to figure out what I like about the names, how they match. I keep scribbling onto the note until it looks like this. (And of course my favorite is red).
And here we go: Welcome to my book, Aideen Brady.
Do you think this is too complicated? What is your process to find your character’s names? Are names really worth such efforts? Let me hear your thoughts, please.
Hello, welcome to ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest.’ I’m honored you took the time to visit us.
It’s my pleasure to be here. Thank you for the invitation. I am, however curious, how you found out about me. Only a handful of trusted people know who I am and where to find me.
Yes, I know, you are someone unique, and you were quite difficult to find. But we’ve got our connections. It seems you adjusted quite well to the human species. Please, tell us who you are.
My name is Eavan Delaney. Dr. Eavan Delaney. I studied at the university and work as a psychiatrist with patients who have PTSD. I am, what you would call a distinguished expert, being invited to many medical congresses, talking about my field of expertise and consulted by colleagues to assess their cases. I also teach as a guest lecturer at the university.
As I mentioned: you blend in excellently. But this isn’t your true nature, right?
No, it isn’t. I am, indeed a magical creature. When I was still little, my parents had to flee their hereditary court and duties. They left me with people they trusted and disappeared. I was brought up like a human, educated and developed and I am now trying to continue what I was left to do.
My people are at strife. I am supposed to unite them against our common enemy. It seems my time as a human being has taken its toll. I am delayed in what has to be done, and I need every help I can get.
Who is your enemy – or let’s say, the enemy of your people?
I am very sorry, but I cannot tell. I am the last guardian of our secrets and every word I speak about who I am, every single time I’m in danger to expose myself, is dangerous, not only for me but all of my people. I am our last hope.
Are your parents still alive?
I don’t know. I was told they disappeared and nobody has seen them ever since. The highest caretaker of our Nature is supporting me, and he told me he searched for my parents but had no chance of finding them. At one point their trace took him to nowhere and disappeared. He now tries to support me within his possibilities.
Do you have more relatives, siblings?
I got a half-brother. But we aren’t close. I was informed he too was hidden after my parents disappeared. He’s my father’s son, but I know him barely.
I like your hair. This rich, wonderful dark shiny brown. It’s beautiful.
Thank you, but I admit, it’s carefully colored. My hair color is quite unusual and would give me away immediately. I like this color too. It’s part of a mask I’m wearing to keep hiding and still working on my duties.
Now I’m curious: What happens if you’re too late – or you cannot fulfill your duties.
Oh, I don’t want to think about it. See, the conflicts between my people are that significant they forgot their original task, and we all suffer from this negligence. The storm is already raised. If we get any weaker, our enemy will be successful. If this happens, the war will annihilate our people, and the entire world is going to drown in fire and ice.
That is a grief-stricken prospect.
Nevertheless, it’s true. I would love to be positive about the outcome. Now that I got help the chances are better. But still, I need to hurry up before it’s too late. Better keep your fingers crossed, A.J.
Yes, I will. – You seem to be nervous. Do you need to go?
Yes, I’m afraid I have to. I will be picked up soon.
Thank you very much for being my guest Eavan. Please, take care, and I’d be happy to see you soon.
It was my pleasure. Thanks for the chance to visit you.
Portraying strong women authentically is tricky. Most of the time, I find strong female characters are caricatures of an extreme: the dim-witted blond, the stock-in-trade man with boobs, the femme fatale. These are stereotypes sure, but what they really are is extreme examples of real life. Can you find an example from history of a female warrior in a male-dominated society – sure, but she’s an outlier. If you want to write an outlier character that’s fine, but let the traits that make her an outlier be the source of her strength not her ability to wield a sword.
Let’s look at a real-world example, Malala Yousafzai. She’s a strong woman, but is she strong because she survived a bullet wound to the head? Yes, partly, but moreso she’s strong because of the choices that led to her being targeted, and the friends and family who empowered her to follow her heart.
Are you able to portray women without these extremes that’s both likable (or at least worthy of cheering for) and surprises readers? That’s the tricky part.