Creating Fantastic Characters

As well as some really good strawberry frosting, more romance novel recs, and books that came out this month that I'm obsessed with!

Craft Talk!

You can’t please everyone as a writer, but you can create fantastic characters that even if they’re not liked by a reader (because characters don’t have to be likable) they’re compelling and feel real.

How do you do that? First, you have to know your characters. Yes, people change. Yes, you can show character growth over the course of a novel or series. But that still requires knowing your characters.

How do they present themselves to the world?

How do they present themselves to a close friend, a family member?

How do they talk about themselves when it’s just them… like imagine your character is writing in a private diary, what would they say?

What are their internal and external wants and needs?

Is there a difference between those wants and needs? Like maybe your character needs to go to this very important family thing, but they want to go instead to a concert of a band that they found out their crush also likes ie it’s their chance to really been seen by them outside of school etc. How might these wants and needs be at odds with each other? What sort of tension arises? How can you increase this conflict to make the stakes feel super personal to the character?

Yes, you need to know what your character looks like… that certainly affects character, too, but too often people focus on giving a list of characteristics instead of honing what’s REALLY important to the character and to others. Like how everybody knows that Harry Potter has his mother’s green eyes and how much that haunts/affects him knowing she gave her life to save him.

Maybe internally your character doesn’t have self-confidence, maybe they feel weak and wish they were strong. And maybe externally they now have to save the world, which for a character who feels weak is going to posses an extreme challenge. Internal and external wants and needs should compliment each other. Even if people tell said character, “you have the power to do this,” at the book’s beginning they’re not going to believe it… much like in my client Kwame Mbalia’s book, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (which just won a Coretta Scott King Honor!). Even if Tristan momentarily “wins” in the beginning and middle of the book, you know that he’s also going to get knocked down again and again because in order to make his external and internal believable, in order to fulfill that promise to the reader that this is a journey of forgiveness and acceptance, we have to see him bounce back again and again, each time overcoming larger internal/external obstacles, until we truly believe that he no longer sees himself as weak—he knows his “softness” is also a strength therefore now he can save the world.

You never want to force character moments in favor of plot moments that you think should happen. You want to let your characters be fully actualized people—after all, in their (fictional) worlds they are real!—who affect the plot, who get into messes because of character flaws and then have to realize their strengths and dig themselves out of it.


Okay so January brought forth some amazing books, here are six that I read early and LOVED.

Much like last year, I’m still reading a lot of romance. Here’s what I adored this month:

And then I also got sent three of my most anticipated first-half of 2020 novels…

…basically, I’m still forever obsessed with Berkley Romances’s contemporary list.

And then as a bonus title that’s not new but that I did read this month, Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. The Netflix TV show is out, I haven’t had a chance to watch but it looks fantastic. This book was SO GOOD. The audiobook is even better because the author narrates it and her voice is perfect. So atmospheric!!

And last but not least, make this chocolate covered strawberry cupcake… it’s THE BEST. But even if cupcakes aren’t your thing, you MUST make the strawberry frosting because OMG IT’S SO YUMMY (I used whole frozen strawberries, turned out perfectly).

I’m going on tour in March for A PHOENIX FIRST MUST BURN, see the stops here/let me know if I’ll see you!

I just revealed the full UK cover. Same artist + silver foil. It’s GORGEOUS!!

Leaving you with some links!!