Write Now Work Shop Brand Board logo

002I – Start With Characters: An Interview with Jacqueline Diamond

Our guest today is Jacqueline Diamond, author of over 100 novels as well as How to Write a Novel in One (Not-So-Easy) Lesson, a book of lessons and helpful tips to help writers create better stories.

A former Associated Press reporter and TV columnist, Jacqueline Diamond has won a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times magazine, has finaled twice for RWA’s prestigious Rita Award, and has hit bestseller lists including Waldenbooks and USA Today. She has written in genres from romantic suspense, romantic comedy, and Regency romance to mainstream mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. She offers monthly specials for your Kindle on her website, jacquelinediamond.com, and her Facebook page, JacquelineDiamondAuthor. You can also find her on Twitter at @JacqueDiamond, and follow her on Amazon.

The first thing you need to know about characters, Jacqueline says, is that they are the lynchpin of your book. They make people care about reading your story. Writers tend to start with characters like themselves, writing about their own adventures – but most of us are not that interesting. We don't develop over a short period of time like our characters must. So we need to think about who these people are, what their backgrounds are, what their motives are. Try to get to know them as real people.

Jacqueline has a checklist she uses as she develops her characters.

  • What was their childhood like?
  • What are their scars?
  • What are their fears?
  • What do they not know about themselves that they're going to discover over the course of the book?
  • When you get to a point where you don't know how the character is going to act, ask yourself what issues you haven't brought up yet?
  • What's their self-image? How do they picture themselves?
  • What's at stake for them in their story?
  • What mistaken beliefs do they have about themselves and others?
  • What is their greatest strength, even if they're not aware of it?
  • What is their greatest weakness, even if they're not aware of it?
  • How do they lie to themselves?

You don't have to overdo it. But as you develop as a writer, you'll learn to create deeper characters. You can create a character sketch as you develop the character, then go back and review it, maybe even make changes to make the story better. You'll make discoveries as you write – go with those! Don't force yourself to stick to your initial outline.

You can avoid being too predictable by having the character occasionally behave in a way that's unexpected, even unreasonable, maybe acting out of emotion. Or you might have a secondary character who always says or behaves unexpectedly.

Tension in a story doesn't have to be open conflict. Characters don't have to have opposite opinions, but they can come at it from different viewpoints or with different emotions.

You as the writer have to dig down past your comfort zone to write with real emotion. Take a chance. Sometimes it hurts.

The Case of the Desperate Doctor, the third book in the Safe Harbor Medical Mysteries series will be out in early 2018.

See the beautiful sculpture by Jacqueline's mother, Sylvia Hyman, if you watch this episode on YouTube. Sylvia has two pieces of art in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *