On Characters

Recently, someone commented to me that it was “amazing how I stay so true to my characters”. That comment was borne from the Mother’s Day short I posted, featuring Carter and Viv, who I haven’t revisited in …. a year and half? Something like that.

I appreciated this, (and promptly hit the like button and proceeded to act like it never happened because i’m awkward and bad at accepting compliments) because as i’ve blogged before, staying true to my characters is something that’s SUPER important to me.

But I don’t know that I would call it hard.

The difficulty is, I guess, in putting these people down on the page in a way that properly reflects their realness in my head. Like, it’s easy to “see” them, but conveying them…. is another thing all together.

Staying true is the easy part, because they’re real to me.

Jason and Reese are the princess and the mechanic. They’re smart, and smart-mouthed, Jason is a little gritty, Reese is a little sharp tongued. And they’re funny, and fun. Jason has real physical scars that don’t hold him back, has experienced the world at a pretty young age, and has developed a broader perspective from it. He uses “nigga” and drops “g’s”, but will talk literature and engineering with you. Reese is still dealing with a personal loss, that she may never be “over”, that she might always need to cope with. But she still has a desire to live, and help others live, and teach people how to authentically share their words.

Because nobody is any one way.

Devyn and Joseph, nurse and doctor. Career-driven, compassionate, bright. Joseph is a simple guy – a good balance for Devyn, who has a little more happening, and Devyn is warmer, almost bubbly. Compliments Joseph, who can be a touch uptight. Joseph doesn’t have any deep personal trauma that he’s still navigating – he channeled the loss of his mother into honoring her through his work…. and he still lusts after a fat ass and a cute smile. Devyn has internalized, normalized a certain treatment by men, and has to work through that. The two of them have to deal with an unexpected responsibility being thrust on them, and in turn… kinda rush into a relationship.

Because shit happens, and we deal.

Still says book 2.... cause it was supposed to be. Not finished working on this cover lol.
Still says book 2…. cause it was supposed to be. Not finished working on this cover lol.

Toni and Justin – this fall – are besties. Or, were. My author and my publishing professional. I’m still figuring them out, but I know their chemistry as friends is nuts. They love 90s R&B, and did a talent show together as “dark skinned baby girl” and “not quite Ginuwine.” I know they have a playful set of rules they’d developed together. I know they desperately want their friendship back… and might discover more. I know they both have to navigate their changing roles with their aging parents, and learn how to coparent, and all of that.

Because they’re human.

Fictional or not.

So, the characters do their jobs. They reveal themselves, their TRUE selves to me, and I take it seriously every time. I’m super serious about my craft, super serious about my work, super serious about my people. I may not write any certain way, or tackle certain topics, or do a certain word count, whatever, but i’m SERIOUS about these characters.

And I so, SO appreciate that it can be seen.

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Carolyn Jackson
Carolyn Jackson
5 years ago

You are hands down one of the best with character development. I am just so proud to take each journey with you.. Thank you..

5 years ago

What a great post, Christina! I love your characters and how honest and intense they are. I think we authors have lived with our characters for so long that they become second nature for us. We hear them, we see them in people on the street or in our friends. They are real for us. 🙂

Looking forward to reading more of your books! 🙂

Jada Butler
5 years ago

This is an amazing post. I’m a brand new reader of yours and really enjoying your work. Your character development is such a strength!!

A couple of random questions for you – where do you find your stock images for your cover art? I’m preparing to self publish very soon and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be to find great quality stock images with people of color and I love, love, love your covers…

Secondly, do you already or would you be willing to design covers for others?

5 years ago

It’s always fascinating to hear authors talk about their characters and how they interact with them. Love your characters and your book covers are always on point. Keep writing and we’ll keep reading.

Sharon Daniels
Sharon Daniels
5 years ago

Christina you are one of my favorite authors. I was introduced to your work at the beginning of 2015, and I read everything you wrote. I was at a period in my life where I was attempting to find things that interested me and I discovered reading. What I love about your work is the development of your characters, they are tangible, real people. In today’s society, we are portrayed in such a bad light, it’s great to see a positive portrayal. One where we are professional, successful and loving. Your gift is appreciated and thanks for sharing it.

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