I’m beyond thrilled to get to introduce you to an author who is without the question one of my heroes. She’s not only crazy talented, but a dear friend and someone who’s cup is always half full. Her bright attitude and cleverly written stories have brought me so much joy, that I truly hope you will look into her marvelous works and perhaps find your next best read ever among her books. You won’t be disappointed, I can guarantee that!
BUT without extending your anticipation…I give you Joey Paul! Enjoy!
Creating Characters by Joey Paul
As a young adult author, the majority of my characters are teens, usually female and usually dysfunctional in some meaning of the word. I don’t want to create perfect people, because in real life there aren’t perfect people and the same should be true for fiction as well. The whole idea about creating a character is that it’s someone as flawed and well rounded as any person you can meet on the street. Which is what I aim for, and hopefully what I achieve.
When I began my writing career, I was a young adult. I was nineteen, newly diagnosed as chronically ill and facing a lifetime of not being able to do a more conventional office job. If you’ve read my bio, you know all of this, but when I first created that character, Tally from BLACKOUT, I was completely new at it. I had some idea of what went into creating a character and I made various notes that would later make me laugh because they were so bare bones. I literally have what she looked like, what subjects she did well at school in, and that was it.
It was only when I started to write more books that I realised I didn’t really know what I was doing. Tara, in the DYING THOUGHTS series, was another one of my first characters. The difference is that as I have now (almost) finished seven of her stories, I know so much about her that I don’t really need notes, but I still make them. I learnt from my mistakes with Tally; I made copious notes and as the majority of characters in Tara’s stories would be recurring, I learnt that it was best to record every character and every piece of important information to make sure there was continuity and ease of remembering what I’d said about them before.
Now, nearly fifteen years since that day, I am a lot better at making sure what I write down on those character note cards is what I need to know. Of course, those first impressions of your characters don’t always end up being the same impression you have when you finish telling their story. I know that some of my characters in the standalone books I have done since BLACKOUT and THE FRIENDSHIP TRIANGLE looked and acted one way in my notes, but took a completely different path in the final books. Take Lynne & Hope for example; their story was going to be a ghost story! I scrapped that idea after five chapters and put it away, planning to come back to it at another point. When I did revisit it a few years later, I kept the characters but changed the plot. The notes I made for ghost-Lynne could apply to actual-Lynne, but as I wrote, as I heard her voice in my head, I realised that some of it wasn’t going to work. The same applied to Hope.
It’s one of the fun parts of being an author, getting to mould people and watch them grow up on the page. It’s not always the fun part though, because sometimes you’ll get to a scene and you’ll think that actually, right now you don’t want to stop and make copious notes for these new characters, but you have to. I also struggle with names, naming a main character has always been easy for me, but for others? Need I mention Dr. Miffy who was literally called that because my friend’s Miffy pencil case was on the table as I wrote? I have other stories like that, and I’ve also searched so many baby name sites that people could be mistaken in thinking I was planning on having a huge family!
There have, of course, been those characters, whose story arc is supposed to go one way, and then actually they change their minds and it doesn’t fit. There are also the ones in finished works that start off flat and lifeless and will, I hope, after some serious editing and redrafting, become the better people they are at the end of the book. Sometimes you get the voices right straight away, other times you find that it’s all too formal and disjointed and you wonder if you’ve made a massive mistake in creating them. Eventually, or at least for me, I find myself on an even keel with them. I start to hear their correct voice and write it out. There’s the opposite too, those that have voices that flow from my fingertips with barely a thought, first words are perfect and matching the face in my head. Some days I wish for more of those, and others I wish for the stiff and formal ones because that way I get to play around with what their voice should sound like!
The long and short of it is simple, writing itself is a joy and the fact that I get to make people is one of the best bits of the job! I wish there were more jobs where you could sit there and look at someone and say “She feels like a Mary to me, yup, we’re gonna call her Mary! She’s gonna like art and reading and she’s gonna wanna cuddle with puppies and kittens!” and then have it happen! It’s one of the great parts of being an author because not only do you get to create these people, name them, shape them, force them to act out scenes just for your pleasure, but you get to share them with other people too! It’s a no-lose situation in my books and something that will keep me writing long after my fingers are numb from the keyboard and my eyes itch from fatigue.
As I look back through my files, I’ll find myself smiling at nineteen-year-old writer Joey because she wrote so few notes, and I wonder if fifteen years from now, I’ll be looking back at author me and thinking “why write so many notes?” There has to be a balance somewhere, but as far as I see it, if you have too much information that’s fine, but too little and you’re gonna get stuck. It works for me, so I’m just gonna keep on doing it.
Joey is 34, disabled, an indie author and a recent graduate with a BA (Hons) in Health & Social Care. She loves to write and is at the moment working on her thirteenth and fourteenth books, as well as preparing her ninth book for publication. She started writing when she was medically retired from her job at the age of 19. Her first book was released in 2005 and after a brief time away, her second one was released in 2011. In addition to writing books, she also enjoys reading them and can often be found resting in bed with a good book, with a cat or two on her lap.
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Thank you so much, Joey! It was a pleasure to have you here, as always, and you know you’re more than welcome to take over, visit, or just to stop by on my blog anytime you feel like it!