UPDATE: The blog contest is now closed. Congratulations to the lucky winners! Mary McCoy is the winner of a $10 Amazon Gift Card, the FREE Secrets and Seduction E-Book Winner is Sherry Haut, and Instagram Readers’ Circle $10 Amazon Gift Card Winner is Renee Gilliam.
I’ll finally admit it. I’m having an affair with Will and Mariana, Charlie and Sandy, Jason and Penny, Oliver and Caroline, Ernest and Mac, the two Joes, and, oh, oh, oh, a whole pack of others!
This shocking promiscuity did not come easily. I fought all my characters, at first, but they’ve persisted and won my heart.
I first started working on what is today the Billionaire Spy Series ten years ago. I wrote it all in a fever, of sorts. I had just had a significant change in my life and wanted to get a few hundred thousand notions and emotions off my chest. But I had no clue where to start.
I took up Nanowrimo to get the juices flowing and finished the job with a dystopian novel that went nowhere. I was dissatisfied, but I knew I could do better. I wrote a second novel—utterly different genre and different characters—and that went nowhere too. It was a little better. There was a certain charm to the characters, but they were cut-out dolls, and I couldn’t feel the connection.
Then, I took a break to draw out all my thoughts and feelings in a rainbow Venn diagram of darkness and light, good and evil, and all the shades in between. I came up with some recurring themes and archetypes. I tried to write out their interactions by assigning a character to each of the complex rainbow colors. Then I asked them to get them to explain themselves. It did the trick.
Once I let the characters start talking themselves out, I couldn’t stop. There was a compelling story flowing through it, and the connections between the characters led in curious directions. I kept writing until I had two very long books, then entitled Take-off and Landing and Town and Country. It was quite a feat, but I lacked the confidence to turn those books into publishable novels. Some trusted friends read them and assured me that they couldn’t put the books down once they started. But I knew there was still a lot of work to be done before I could share this affair with the world.
Then, I put them all aside to focus on my non-fiction writing work. Meanwhile, I studied the fiction techniques that might help me unravel the knot I’d made with the two books.
Once-in-a-while, I’d start up on another creative writing project. Some of these projects are future series that I intend to finish. But Mariana and Will, and the others, kept calling me back to their beds. I’d learned so much about them already, and each time I went back to their stories, I kept learning more. This year, I figured out how to let them out of their little cage on my writing shelf, and we’re making love like wildfire. Thanks to the fine team at Blushing Books, these characters have finally become real to others, and I’m so grateful.
What I’ve learned from this long affair is that characters should drive their stories. Always.
When I think about the many books that I read that I enjoy in all genres, characters make their worlds come to life. They’re flawed and funny, strong and determined, frightening and raw, loving, and passionate. They’re real. They deserve to have their say.
After years of figuring out which camp I belong to, I’ve learned that I am neither a plotter nor a pantser. I’m a listener, an observer, a recorder, and a reporter. The same skills for hearing the words unsaid and understanding their implications, which I use in my non-fiction work, apply to my creative writing.
The only reason that I know the full arc of the story of the Billionaire Spy Series is that I listened to the characters until they led me there. Now, I’m just helping them flesh out the episodes a bit so that it all makes sense to the rest of the world. They still surprise me with twists and turns. They know how to keep me on my toes. But we’ve got an understanding and a map to keep us on course. It’s been quite a journey, and it’s been a struggle, but we’re all finally having fun with this fiery fling.
I look forward to sharing as many Will and Mariana’s adventures as readers would like to explore. I know that beyond all their drama and their Happy-For-Now moments, they also have a well-deserved Happily-Ever-After coming to them, and they will get that.
I will also want to spend more time with other characters living in different worlds, biding their time on my writing shelf. I’ve got room in my heart for all of them, and I’m hopeful that they will thrill readers as much as Mariana and Will.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE—A PRIZE! A PRIZE!
I’m giving away a chance to win a FREE copy of Secrets and Seduction for anyone interested in joining us all in bed! To enter, comment on this post and share what you love most about your favorite characters in fiction. I’m also giving out a chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift card if you subscribe for updates on my website at AmaryllisLanza.com and then contact me to confirm registration using the words Writerspace Contest. Both contests run through the end of November 2020. The winners will be picked at random and contacted directly. The results will be published on the AmaryllisLanza.com website on December first.