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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Look Deep Into the Soul of Your Character

Please welcome guest blogger Susan Hanniford Crowley

I don’t create characters. I literally dream them up. I wake up in the morning and start writing as fast as I can to get everything down, before I leave for my day job as a webmaster at a college. But dreaming them up is never enough. I have to dig deeper to find out all the interesting quirks and expressions that makes them unique. Then I have to research further and write scenes where they react to each other in order to give them life. How do I do that? Here’s how.

In my paranormal adventure romance 90,000 word novel THE STORMY LOVE LIFE OF LAURA CORDELAIS, my hero is Vampire David Hilliard. For David, I awoke from a dream knowing this much about him.

  • Vampire, born a human in Manhattan and continues to live in Manhattan as a vampire

  • Died at the Battle of Gettysburg but not really. He was made a vampire by a savage (Nosferatu type of vampire), crawled off into the woods to avoid the daylight.

  • His name was David Hilliard. I actually got his name in the dream.

  • Tall, handsome, dark-haired, with fathomless dark eyes.

My next job was to make David unique. I did some research into the death records at Gettysburg and found two Hilliards from the New York 14th Infantry. I wrote a scene where in modern day New York City, David looks at the hotel across the street and remembers when his family’s home stood there instead When he returned after the war, his father threw him out for being a deserter and disgracing the family. David wasn’t given him the chance to explain. In the story, the two Hilliards that died in battle were David’s brothers. Do you see the blending of fact and fiction that makes him unique?

Now to go deeper into the character, I used two methods: reflection and interaction with others.

Reflection: Just prior to meeting Laura, David is lonely and despondent. He asks God to have mercy on his loneliness. David wants to find love.

Interaction: When he rescues Laura from the river, she refuses to go to the hospital. Dying, she is incoherent, gasping about ending her life. Something about her affects him so strongly, that David cannot bear to see her die. He makes her a vampire. When she awakens, she has different reactions to him—fear, uncertainly, attraction, anger, then attraction again. When she expresses her anger, David makes a remark that God has a sense of humor. Laura is surprised that a vampire believes in God. Throughout the book, I took every little detail about David and used them in his reactions to different situations.

Laura. Her name came in a lot of dreams for a long time. It took awhile to see her entire story with David. I heard a whisper of her last name, which is French, but wasn’t sure I’d gotten it right. I looked it up and found that Cordelais was a first person conjugation of the verb ‘corder’ which means to twist. Je cordelais means I twist. It seemed appropriate for what I knew about her.

  • Laura Cordelais, blonde, willowy, blue eyed, fragile looking, emotionally fragile

  • Lives in New York City and works as a graphic designer

  • Childhood in New Orleans, inducted into a supernatural secret society as an infant

  • In the same day, she gets a call from her fiancé dumping her a week before the wedding and a call from her aunt saying her mother has died in New Orleans

  • When she leaves her building to buy a plane ticket, she’s mugged and loses all her money and credit cards

When David rescues her, he thinks he has changed a human into a vampire. That’s not entirely the case.

I explored what made Laura unique. The Cordelais were of one of the oldest families in New Orleans. I researched obscure mythology to trace Laura’s ancestry. The Cordelais are descended from a race of people known as the Telkhines who could control the weather and at one time lived on the isle of Rhodes. All but one family offended the god Zeus, and he doomed the others to become dog-faced demons of the sea. Dexithea and her family were spared because they had shown hospitality to Zeus and Apollo who came disguised as travelers. To Dexithea, Zeus gave the gift of lightning. However, Laura doesn’t know most of this or that she also has a gift, until she and David return to New Orleans.

Now go deeper. As vampire lifemates, Laura and David can mindtalk when they are apart. I used this not only to give each of them time to reflect but to interact. When Laura is kidnapped by a powerful voodoo mambo, their connection to each other became intensified. Every outward action while they were apart became an act of despair or the courage to fight. Every inner action became a celebration of love, the unification of purpose, a fleeting precious dream. Together they are unique in the littlest of details: the way he always calls her darling, the ways she lays her head on his chest and listens to his barely beating heart, and a button.

Zak, a rather mysterious character in the book, says, “It’s the little things that keep us together.”

This is how I looked deep into the souls of my characters to be able to write their story well enough, to do their love justice. We might all start out with a first inkling of who a character is. We write down everything we know about them. Then we find the unique details of their lives that make them who they are with memories, opinions, and ideas. Finally we take it further allowing them to reflect on their lives and interact with others, testing their ideas, and even falling flat when it doesn’t work or getting up again. Through their choices and actions, the characters live.

Thank you and may your writing always be exciting to read.

Susan Hanniford Crowley is a science fiction, fantasy, and a paranormal romance author. She is married, has two grown children, two cats and dog. Susan is also the founder of Nights of Passion Blog. “My purpose for her writing is to provide fun for her readers.” http://www.susanhannifordcrowley.com http://nightsofpassion.wordpress.com

The Stormy Love Life of Laura Cordelais


Being descended from an ancient race blessed by Zeus doesn't help Telkhine Laura Cordelais, when she's desperate and standing between life and death. Her destiny looks bleak. Every choice leads to death, and there is no winning door. Or is there?


Begging God for love, Vampire David Hilliard finds his request answered in the form of the tormented and dying Laura. In saving her, he falls in love and dooms them both to a dark underworld of voodoo and sorcery from which nothing can escape.


Curses, Keres, demons, oh, my! And the unicorn's horn.

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