Tuesday, November 14, 2017


How Do Writers Build Authentic Characters? / Emma Hartley @theemmahartley

How Do Writers Build Authentic Characters?

How do writers build authentic characters?  How do we come up with our ideas?  These are the questions I am most often asked by aspiring writers and readers alike.  I will venture here to discuss some of the motivations and inspirations I use for story and character development, with the caveat that everyone does this differently.  These are my methods—they are not for everyone.

Most of my characters grow from seeds.  They might start out with a vague characteristic such as hair color or an unusual mannerism, then germinating into a more fully developed person as the story grows.  Elwyn, in THE NATURE OF ENTANGLED HEARTS, for instance, grew from the seed of my own insecurity.  She avoids mirrors and dreads her reflection.  Those simple characteristics allowed me to grow Elwyn into the dynamic, complex and nuanced character that she is.  Writing in her voice allowed me to show her feisty attitude, her temper and her creativity.  Her inner landscape is rich.  These characteristics blossomed as I wrote in her voice.  To continue this growth, I asked a million questions.  Who is she?  What does she love about life?  What bothers her?  Is she clumsy or graceful?  Is she smart?  Is she driven?  Does she question the world around her to the point of incapacity sometimes?  Why would she sabotage her relationships with men?  As I asked myself these questions, and as Elwyn grew into the character she is, I realized many things about her.  Her past was illuminated, her motivation to create her artwork became clear.  She grew out of that tiny seed into a person as real as you or me.

My plots grow in much the same way.  They germinate from small ideas – tiny moments from my own life that perplexed me or vexed me, moments that made me ask questions about the nature of love, of consciousness, of the universe around us.  These essential questions helped me grow my stories into fully formed plot lines.  I weave many threads together into riveting conclusions.  I don’t always see the endings until I am close to them.  It’s rare for me to see the ending of my story at the beginning.  My writing style is linear, and the story grows with my characters.  Once I get to the mid point of my work, I can start mapping out the trajectory of the plot and I will often make a rough outline for it. 

I love working in this organic manner.  Growing stories and characters from seed is a fulfilling and rewarding aspect of writing for me.  It’s like watching a child grow up – I am so proud of the people my characters become.  Even if they have made some iffy choices along the way, because let’s face it, who hasn’t?  Part of the fun is letting the characters’ lives unfold authentically, which, in turn, drives a riveting plot.

About the Author:

Emma Hartley is an author and artist living in picturesque Maine. She has been writing and making art since childhood and has been insatiably curious and industrious her whole life. Emma was a double major in English and Fine Arts and she received her Masters in Art and Design Education. She is a specialist in ceramics and includes much of this expertise in her novel The Nature of Entangled Hearts. Her other interests include playing drums, making art and exploring every square inch of the Maine coastline. The Nature of Entangled Hearts is her first novel.




About the Book:

The Nature of Entangled Hearts is a fast-paced, edgy, romantic thriller, with a subtly supernatural twist.  Enter the story of Elwyn and James, two strangers entangled by their past-life experiences,
who are mired in an unquantifiable present.  Throughout the novel they work to understand the bonds that hold them together, just as an unforeseen danger threatens to tear them apart.
Elwyn “Derrin” Derringer is a ceramic artist and a professor at the local college of art in Portland, Maine.  She has always felt insecure and disconnected, unsure of how or why she fits into the world, seeking through her art to fill in the missing pieces of herself.  When Elwyn’s eyes lock on those of a stranger across the market, everything she has taken for granted as reality is thrown into question.  Understanding blooms in fits and starts, interrupted by her fears of attachment and eventually by the unwanted attentions of an obsessed and disturbed art student.

Throughout the novel, Elwyn discovers reservoirs of strength and independence as she faces these challenges, endearing the reader with her feisty nature and her fierce desires to create authentically, to love intensely and to transcend the destructive links to her past.  “The Nature of Entangled Hearts” takes us on a thrilling ride through past and present, through love and dread, through loss and reclamation, leaving us thankful that we don’t understand all the mysteries of the universe just yet, and reminding us never to take our lives - or our loves - for granted.


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