Guest Post | Writing Believable Characters by Brenda Chapman

“Writing Believable Characters”

By Brenda Chapman

Human beings lead messy, complicated lives. To be believable, characters in novels need to mirror the conflicted personalities of very real people. Without ambiguities and nuances, a character runs the risk of becoming a one-dimensional caricature.

Creating believable characters can be accomplished by writing internal dialogue that shows the struggles going on inside. The reader is allowed into secret places that build understanding and often empathy even if the character chooses the wrong path. In the case of murder mysteries, the muddier the victim’s life, the more opportunity there is to reveal them as a fully formed and complicated person. This holds true for the killer as well. Skillful writing can lead readers into feeling sympathy for the villain while denouncing their actions.

Dialogue is a second tool in a writer’s kit that can make a character believable. A writer needs to be attuned to language patterns and expressions used by real people. The trick is giving enough dialogue to make a character come to life while writing concisely — distilling a conversation to information that moves a scene forward.

The decision to write a story in the first or third person has tremendous impact on revealing character. In the case of first person, the reader receives all the information filtered through the lens of the narrator. The character who is telling the story becomes like a friend confiding a narrative from their viewpoint. They can toy with the reader’s emotions and build a connection. This point of view is easiest for writing internal dialogue but can pose a challenge for developing secondary characters since readers do not have access to their thoughts and feelings in the same way.

Writing in third person lets the author into the internal lives of as many characters as they wish. Characters can give their thoughts and feelings about other characters and can give insight into their own motivations. This point of view can feel less intimate than first person, however. The reader is not privy to the internal workings of one character to the same degree.

Another way to make characters believable is to ground them in the routines and concerns common to everyone. A character might drink coffee in the morning, take the bus to work, eat tuna fish sandwiches for lunch, disagree with their boss. Every detail builds to create a whole person. The objective is to make readers believe the character is real and to care what happens to them.

I am always tickled to have readers talk about my characters as if they exist. Some tell me that they’ve stayed up all night reading because they need to know what happens to them. As a fiction writer, creating imaginary but believable people out of words alone and making readers feel something for them is nothing short of magical when all the pieces come together.



ABOUT BRENDA CHAPMAN
Brenda 1 publicity photo 2016Brenda Chapman is a Canadian crime writer who has penned three series and a few standalone novels. She currently has seventeen books published since her first release in 2004, entitled Running Scared, which was the first of four books in the Jennifer Bannon young adult mysteries.

Brenda is now writing two separate series for two different publishers— the Anna Sweet novellas for adult literacy with Grass Roots Press; and the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural series for Dundurn Press.

Her books have been shortlisted for several major awards including the 2006 Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award for Children (Hiding in Hawk’s Creek), two Golden Oak Awards for adult literacy (The Second Wife and The Hard Fall) and two Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards for novella and crime novel of the year respectively (My Sister’s Keeper and Cold Mourning).

The fifth in the Anna Sweet mysteries entitled No Trace was released in September 2016, with the sixth, Missing Her being released this fall. The fourth in the Stonechild and Rouleau series entitled Shallow End was published in March 2017. Watch for the fifth entitled Bleeding Darkness to be released in May 2018.

Brenda is a former special education teacher and senior communications advisor, now writing full time. She lives in Ottawa.

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Review | Passenger 19 by Ward Larsen

Passenger 19 (Jammer Davis, #3)

Title: Passenger 19
Series: Jammer Davis (Book 3)
Author: Ward Larsen
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing

Publishing date: 5th January, 2016
Pages: 368

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

*e-ARC received from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


Synopsis:

Jammer Davis has spent most of his life investigating aircraft accidents. When a small regional jet disappears over the jungles of Colombia, it is a tragedy like dozens of others he has seen…but for one terrible detail—his young daughter, who was enroute to a semester abroad in South America, is listed on the passenger manifest.

A distraught Davis rushes to Bogotá and bulls his way into the inquiry. When the wreckage is located, it becomes clear the crash was unsurvivable. As the investigation gains momentum, the facts go astray. Two pilots had been shot before the crash, along with one passenger. The possibility of a hijacking looms large as the search begins to focus on two passengers who boarded the plane, yet their remains cannot be found.

Davis uncovers an even more sinister plot behind the entire disaster—one that goes to the highest levels of the United States government. But how could it possibly involve his daughter?


My Take:

This was a tension filled and full of suspense ride, I was on the edge of my seat and the near end kept me pumped up for the ending. ❤

The only problem I seem to have with this book is that I don’t think in real life, Jammer would have been sent to investigate a crash site where one of the casualties is his daughter, what about the emotional side overriding the rational side of the mind. You can make some serious mistakes when emotional. Jammer slightly curves from making said stupid mistakes.

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I loved the knowledge I got from the book. I have never read anything about investigating aircraft accidents and this book was a really good introduction for me in the subject. 😀 😀

The book was fast-paced which added to the thrill of the story. In the start it was a bit slow but as the story progressed the pace picked up and it became more action packed and unputdownable.

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Even after having so much going on I loved how well the characters were written. I really appreciate when the characters aren’t neglected while making the thriller more thrilling.

I wanted to read it one sitting but it was late at night and apparently I fell asleep. The first thing I did in the morning after I woke up was finish reading this book and I sure was rewarded. 🙂

In a nutshell it is a very informative, interesting, thrilling and fast paced read.


Why would I pick it up?

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For the thrilling read. 😀

Review | Split the Sun by Tessa Elwood

Split the Sun (Inherit the Stars #2)

Title: Split the Sun
Series: Inherit the Stars (Book 2)
Author: Tessa Elwood
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Running Press

Publishing date: 6th December, 2016
Pages: 288

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

*e-copy received from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


Synopsis:

The Ruling Lord of the House of Galton is dead, and the nation is in shock—or celebrating, depending on the district. Kit Franks would be more than happy to join him.

Kit’s mother bombed the digital core of the House, killing several and upending the nation’s information structure. No one wants the daughter of a terrorist. Kit lost her job, her aunt wants her evicted, her father is using her as a shield against a drug lord, a group of political rebels need Kit to ignite an interplanetary war, and the boy two floors down keeps jacking up her suicide attempts—as if she has a life worth saving.

When Mom-the-terrorist starts showing up on feeds and causing planet-wide blackouts, everyone looks to Kit for an answer. The rebels want Mom on their side. The government needs to stop Mom’s digital virus from spreading before there’s no record of government left. Both sides will do anything, destroy anyone, to make Kit crack. They believe she’s the key to Mom’s agenda and the House’s future. Worst of all, they may be right.

Kit’s having dreams she can’t explain, remembering conversations that no longer seem innocent, understanding too much coded subtext in Mom’s universal feed messages. Everyone, from Mom to the rebels, has a vision of Kit’s fate—locked, sealed, and ready to roll. The question is, does Kit have a vision for herself?

Tessa Elwood’s final book in the Inherit the Stars series introduces readers to a strong, unique heroine who must chart her own destiny against a minefield of family ambitions and political agendas.


My Take:

Okay, now this is turning into a problem. When I picked this book up for review. It had nowhere written that this was a second book in the series. Neither on the cover nor in the description. It wasn’t even written in the BOOK!

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Now, as I look it up there’s this last line in the description on Netgalley that this is the final book in the series. It’s a duology. The way it was written, I didn’t pay much attention.

Tessa Elwood’s final book in the Inherit the Stars series introduces readers to a strong, unique heroine who must chart her own destiny against a minefield of family ambitions and political agendas.

FINAL BOOK?? :O

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If you check the summary on Netgalley it will sound far more interesting than the Goodreads descirption. Here’s the Goodreads version:

The Ruling Lord of the House of Galton is dead and the nation is divided. Kit Franks, a nobody escalated to infamy since her mother bombed the House capitol city, wishes she were dead, too. Then Mom-the-terrorist starts showing up on feeds and causing planet-wide blackouts and Kit becomes a target.
Kit’s inundated with half-truths, betrayals, and the coded subtext in Mom’s universal feed messages meant for her alone. Everyone from family to government enforcers seems to have a vision for Kit’s future. The question is, does Kit have a vision for herself?

I usually put the synopsis from Goodreads into my review but I will make an exception for this one.

Screenshot_2017-06-25-18-42-40-1This is how the book starts. How can you not be drawn in if this is how a book starts. I was immediately captivated by the lines. ❤

 

This book had so much potential and had so many subplots to choose from but neither is fully explored, even the main plot seems to be lacking in the terms of proper layout and planning. I am not actually impressed with the world building either.

It still was a good read but I think because of this being the second book in the series or final book, I didn’t know the back story and that might have helped a little. By no means is this a bad book, it is still very enjoyable but it doesn’t reach it’s potential growth.

When Mom-the-terrorist starts showing up on feeds and causing planet-wide blackouts, everyone looks to Kit for an answer.

This was the thing I was most excited about. This line seems sassy and that’s what I expected Kit to be but she might not be that. I didn’t find Kit much relatable, I think that’s because so much was happening that I didn’t actually get a chance to connect with her.

I am not sure where I stand with this book. The ending seems a bit rough to me and I think it can be explored more. Despite all the issues I enjoyed reading it.

Again, do check if the book is the part of a series. 😛


Why would I pick it up?

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For this line- When Mom-the-terrorist starts showing up on feeds and causing planet-wide blackouts, everyone looks to Kit for an answer. ❤ 

Review | Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs by Susan Schaefer Bernardo

Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs

Title: Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs
Author: Susan Schaefer Bernardo
Illustrator: Courtenay Fletcher

Genre: Children’s Fiction
Publisher: Inner Flower Child Books

Publishing date: 1st May, 2017
Pages: 32

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

*e-copy received from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


Synopsis:

Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs is a beautiful new book with a simple but powerful message: love last forever.

Lyrical writing and delightful illustrations provide perfect bedtime reading for any child. The book is also ideal for supporting children through grief, separation anxiety, divorce, illness or other traumatic situations, by wrapping them in a warm and comforting emotional security blanket and opening a dialogue on the nature of love.

Even when loved ones cannot be with us, we can feel their presence through our deep connections to the natural world.


My Take:

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All that I want to say about the book is already said in the summary. I loved the lyrical writing in this and the illustrations were very colorful and detailed.

 

 

The only reason I gave it 3 stars is because of the ARC copy I received. I usually am very thankful for the ARCs I receive and ignore few grammatical errors because it’s an uncorrected copy but sending out a book which is difficult to read is obviously going to alter the reading experience and will affect the review.

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This was the case with most of the book.

I don’t know if all the ARCs sent out were like this or it was just my copy’s problem but it was surely irritating enough for me to reduce the rating. If not for the format issue, it would have easily been a 4 or even 4.5.

I was so disappointed by my copy that I couldn’t enjoy the wonderful writing.

That being said it is a beautiful little lyrical tale about how distance doesn’t mean that you don’t love someone and there are ways to remind people of how much we love them even when they are far from us.

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Why would I pick it up?

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For the beautiful writing and the illustrations. ❤

Review | Escaping Camp Ravensbrook by R.T.Johnson

Escaping Camp Ravensbrook

Title: Escaping Camp Ravensbrook
Author: R.T. Johnson
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: CreateSpace

Publishing date: 16th October, 2015
Pages: 148

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

*Book received from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*


Synopsis:

Katrina is a girl who is caught and captured and is sent to Camp Ravensbrook after her parents die. She’s treated terrible there, but Katrina has a secret. She has witchcraft powers she uses for good, but Katrina wants to find a way out of there. When she meets Peter, she realizes that he’s the right man for her. But she’s worried about the fact that he might not accept her witchcraft powers. Will they be able to make it out in one piece despite the horrors of a war going on? Or will they be sentenced to this camp forever?


My Take:

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a smooth ride from the start to the end. No lows, no disappointments. ❤ ❤

Katrina is 16 years old when her parents are murdered and she is captured and sent to Camp Ravensbrook with her Aunt.

“Katrina looked out the small window at the very back of the truck and saw men lighting her home on fire. The place she grew up. The place she learned to walk, talk, read, and do magic, was slowly burning. Within moments, it turned into a pile of ash. Katrina felt tears form in the corner of her eyes. She bit her lip and held them back. Weakness could get her killed.”

Camp Ravensbrook is a women’s prison, the condition of the prison is horrible and the women are treated miserably. But, Katrina is no normal girl, she has witchcraft to help her. She uses this power to ease some situations in the camp. They are touching to read. Her encounters with the guards while using the powers are thrilling as well as funny to an extent.

She falls for one of the guards, Peter. I liked his character very much. She is scared to tell him about her powers, what if he turns her in or doesn’t want to escape with her or doesn’t want to help. She thinks of all sorts of what ifs.

“… Illness didn’t matter. Death didn’t matter. Chores had to be done. And, Katrina and Alice had to work on their plan to escape.”

The emotions are very well portrayed in this book. You can feel a pretty strong connection with the characters which you don’t find in many middle grade books.

The lesson that this book teaches is of love and friendship. Some people might find the mention of rape in a book meant for middle graders uncomfortable but that was the truth of concentration camps. There’s no way to sugar coat reality. The language used is suitable for children so I don’t see any problem with the talk of rape being one of the evil things happening to women in the camp.

I liked the ending very much. I have read another book by the author, which was very good. This exceeds that book, the writing is much more gripping or maybe I enjoyed this book more than that. I would recommend this book to introduce the kids to the harsh reality in a light manner. 🙂


Why would I pick it up?

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For the well written premise spun from reality and fantasy. ❤


My review of another book by the author:

 

Review | Rick and Jake Meet King Arthur by R.T.Johnson

Rick and Jake Meet King Arthur (Rick And Jake Series Book 1) by [Johnson, Richard]

 

Title: Rick and Jake Meet King Arthur
Author: R.T. Johnson 
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: CreateSpace

Publishing date: 12th March, 2016
Pages: 190

My Rating: 3.75/5 stars

 

*Book received from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*


Synopsis:

King Arthur and King Ralic battle fiercely for Cornwall. When Merlin the Wizard is captured, King Arthur and his men lose the kingdom to Ralic. The only way to redeem the kingdom and save King Arthur’s lineage from the dark side is through his 70th generation grandson, Rick. Rick must pass five tests of honor and bravery in order for the kingdom to return to its rightful owner. If he fails just one of the tests, King Arthur’s kingdom and lineage are lost forever. Present day Rick is thrown into a world of kings, knights, battles, and life and death. Will he be able to save the kingdom? Will he be able to save his lineage?


My Take:

This was a fun and easy read. The colorful cover caught my attention at first, then the summary had my interest piqued.

“The only way to redeem the kingdom and save King Arthur’s lineage from the dark side is through his 70th generation grandson, Rick.”

70th Generation?! Now, that sounds interesting. 😉 (In the book it’s 50th Generation)

It was kind of funny reading the *sound effects* 😛 😛

“King Arthur wielded his sword high. SWOOOCCCH.
THUMP. Down fell the Damonion soldier.”

THROOOOOWWWWP. An arrow shot passed the King’s head, almost grazing the skin.:

“Sir Simon sat straight up in his saddle. “I will give the order, Sire. Bugler, sound the horn.”
TOOT TOOT TOOT TOOT TOOT”

This is an educational book hidden under fantasy. This book teaches about kindness, patience, honesty, selflessness, and bravery. 😀

“While King Ralic spoke, King Arthur heard a voice travel through the air. “Tell him evil has prevailed this time. There is pure evil and there is pure good. Pure good cannot be tainted with evil.””

Despite the back story being historic, the scenarios used to test Rick of all these qualities, who is 13 years old, is of the modern day and pretty believable. Not some unrealistic situation but something anyone can face. What we choose is what makes us who we are.

“So, you think you and your line would never falter. Well, I decree that your grandson of 50 generations will be given five tests. Each of those tests will tempt his purity. The lineage will well be weakened by then. If he fails just one of those tests, I will be proven right. It will be that there is no pure good. And, your entire lineage will be doomed to misery and hardship. And, you will lose your Kingdom forever.”

I liked the way it was written. It won’t bore anyone reading and learning about right things in a story is always a plus when that book is intended for middle graders, or kids in general.

“Do not worry, Richard. It is not always the size of a man’s weapon that will determine victory or defeat. Just be on guard.”

Calling Rick with his real name, Richard, can be a hit or miss; a) miss for, he is called Rick in the title so it kind of breaks the link with the whole book where he is called Richard. b) hit for, even when the story is taking place in today’s world, him being called Richard gives a hold to the back story as Rick would sound too modern.

Overall, the premise for the story is interesting and the characters unique. This is a good read for children and a quick easy read for adults. 😀 😀 The illustrations, which are actually sketches are good too. You can use them to color, because why not? 😛


Why would I pick it up?

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For the easy read with life lessons. 😀 😀


My review of another book by the author: