Tag Archives: guest post

Writing charismatic characters: Guest post by Elizabeth Corrigan

April 15th 2014

I am uberstoked to have my publishing sister, Elizabeth Corrigan write a guest post as a stop on her Raising Chaos blog tour. She is the author of the urban fantasy series, Earthbound Angels. In Oracle of Philadelphia (Book One), Elizabeth introduced us to Bedlam, a charming and unforgettable chaos demon. And I’m pleased to say that he’s the main attraction in Raising Chaos (Book Two). [With respect to Elizabeth, I think Bedlam would be the kind of guy you’d love to date, just not the guy you’d want to marry.] Elizabeth has written an insightful post on how Bedlam became this magnetic, alluring character despite his many flaws. Take notes because the best characters are the ones you wish you knew in real life and I’d really like to have some sangria with Bedlam.

Raising Chaos (Book Two) in the Earthbound Angels series

Raising Chaos (Book Two) in the Earthbound Angels series

Writing Charismatic Characters by Elizabeth Corrigan

I’ve gotten a variety of reviews of Oracle of Philadelpia. People love it, hate it, or fall somewhere in between. But the lovers and the middlers often have one thing in common: They adore Bedlam. People have told me they want to date him, or at least be his new best friend. I gave one friend a poster of the Raising Chaos poster, and she said it rendered her husband irrelevant in her affections. (She was kidding. I hope.)

On some level, I find this puzzling. For one thing, Bedlam would be really annoying in real life. The demon of chaos is lazy and irresponsible, and my editor insists on describing him as a “man-child.” Yet somehow his wit, good looks, and almost complete loyalty to Carrie win everyone over. But I’m still pretty sure no one would actually want to date him. Even Keziel, the woman who’s been in love with him for centuries, doesn’t want to spend much time with him. And Carrie wants him around, but she is infinitely patient and has had 3200 years to get used to his foibles.

The other reason I’m confused is that I never intended Bedlam to be such magnetic character, or for him to take over the book the way he did. I added him because Carrie need immortal friends, and I gave her an angel and a demon, for balance. I didn’t even think I was being all that imaginative when I made him. But somehow he grew into a character who’s taken over the whole series.

So how did that happen? How did Bedlam change from a flat character concept into a well-developed and beloved character? I think I used the same process with him that I do with a lot of my characters—trying to see the story from their points of view. Oracle started out as Carrie’s story, but at some point, that version felt incomplete. I needed to know what Bedlam was doing when he left Carrie in the diner, both when he was angry with her and when he was just wandering. At one point there was an extra chapter from Bedlam’s point of view—and one from Gabriel’s as well—but extraneous POVs were removed during editing. Looking at the story from Bedlam’s viewpoint really made me see Carrie’s actions from a different perspective and, I think, made the ending more poignant. A side occurrence was that Bedlam’s motivations and actions became more compelling to me than Carrie’s were, and he jumped into a central point in the narrative.

Thinking in Bedlam POV makes it easier to get into his headspace when I’m writing his dialogue. Bedlam doesn’t think before he speaks. His thoughts are tumbling over each other—in conversation with each other, as we find out in Raising Chaos—and he just lets them come out. Consequently, I let his words pour out of my fingers and into the computer. Much of this is blather that I need to go back and edit into meaningfulness, but it’s usually accompanied by crystals of insight into Bedlam that are often unintentionally humorous.

Some parts of Bedlam are very deliberate, though. Specifically, the randomness. Often when Bedlam says something truly bizarre or out of the blue, it’s not something that came to me. I have to tell myself, “Think of something random!” and hope something good comes up. Usually it does. After all, it’s not too hard to think of anything.

I use Bedlam as an example here, but I do the same thing with all my characters. I invent them as vague concepts, then try to see the world from their perspectives. Some, like Siren and Bedlam, are pretty easy. Carrie is a little harder but not too bad. Michael I have to pay a lot of attention to, and I’m still trying to get into Gabriel’s head space.  Does this then correlate with character charisma and likeability? I’m not sure. Certainly I like Siren and Bedlam best, but Gabriel and Carrie have their fans, and I’ve had people ship Carrie and Michael. (People have also hypothesized a relationship between Carrie and Lucifer. I’m not sure what that’s about.) Regardless, I hope I succeed in making the characters come as alive to the reader as they do to me.

Elizabeth CorriganElizabeth’s website 

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Follow Bedlam on Twitter @BedlamFTW !!

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @ercorrigan

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Guest post: NA & YA — A tale of two books

June 14th 2013

I’m fortunate to present a guest post by my friend and YA-Expert-on-Retainer, Jill Ratzan. I defer to her expertise on all things related to YA literature. These are her insightful comments on the difference between new adult and young adult as seen in actual literature. This is a post worth reading and referencing.

So my friend and colleague Kim — and lots of librarians, authors, publishers, and others in the book community — have been talking recently about something called new adult literature. As Kim’s written, misconceptions abound about what NA is and isn’t – and especially how it is or isn’t different from what’s (possibly deceptively) called young adult literature. My own opinion is the same as Kim’s — NA is a literature for and about newly independent adults, roughly ages 18-25. And while it may be a new topic of conversation,
it’s certainly not a new idea: Cynthia Voigt’s novel Seventeen Against the Dealer is a perfect example of NA . . . and it was published in 1989.

What I’d like to talk about specifically is a pair of recent books by Daria Snadowsky that, taken together, are a perfect example of the differences between YA and NA. In the first book, Anatomy of a Boyfriend (2007), we meet protagonist Dominique, a high school senior who’s about to enter into her first romantic relationship. Dominique meets Wesley; they date; they have several fumbling sexual encounters. They think they’ll be together for all time. But when Dom’s parents convince her to take a summer camp job far away from Wes, Dom meets someone new, and she and Wes part ways. (If this sounds like the plot
of Forever . . . by Judy Blume, that’s completely intentional: Snadowsky envisioned her story as an updated take on Blume’s YA classic.)

In the second book, Anatomy of a Single Girl (2013), Dom’s home for the summer after finishing her first year of college. She’s finally starting to pursue her dream career as a doctor by volunteering at a local hospital. She’s still smarting from her breakup with Wes…and then Guy comes into her life. Much sex ensues. But in between work
and hitting the hay with Guy, Dom has other things on her mind too. Her parents think she should have a curfew while she’s living at home, but Dom’s accustomed to making her own hours. She and her high school best friend Amy have to renegotiate what their friendship means now that they’ve been apart for the first time. In the end, a chance
encounter — and some unexpected news from Amy’s long-distance beau — force Dom to come to terms with yet another aspect of adulthood: what to do about the chain of exes one leaves behind.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend is a young adult book. In it, Dom’s encountering romance (and sex) for the first time. She’s also thinking about sports, friends, college applications, and the myriad of other topics that fill a high school senior’s days. But Anatomy of a Single Girl is a new adult book. Here, Dom’s comfortable with the idea of sex in general, and her focus is on how to find more pleasure in sexual interactions. She’s also grappling with how to balance her budding career with her love life, and is actively redefining what her newly-adult relationships with her parents and high school friends will be.

In terms of sheer word count, Single Girl features more sex than Boyfriend. The sex scenes in Single Girl are also more detailed, especially when Dom and Guy experiment with different sexual positions. But neither of these is the main point *on its own* — they’re both reflections of the situational differences between a high school senior and a rising college sophomore. Dom and Guy can have sex more often than Dom and Wes ever could . . . for the very practical reason that Guy has his own room at a local fraternity house. And since sex itself isn’t new to either Dom or Guy, they’re free to explore their own — and each others’ — bodies with more nuance.

Young adults grow into new adults. Their situations, concerns, and relationships are different from what they were as teens. At the same time, though, new adults are just that: new to adulthood. They’re not yet navigating marriage and children, full-time jobs, bills, or retirement savings accounts. Like Kim, I applaud the idea of a literature that lets 18-25 year olds see themselves . . . and their unique struggles and triumphs . . . reflected in fiction. And the corresponding idea that readers who aren’t necessarily new adults
themselves can use these stories as a window into a new adult world.

Jill Ratzan is still wondering when she herself will become a ‘real’ adult. She’s a school librarian at a small independent school and a reviewer of young adult and middle grade books for School Library Journal and BookPage magazine. Her passion is teaching and writing about children’s and YA lit. Visit her website at
https://sites.google.com/site/jratzan or follow her on Twitter @JillJYA.