Valentines Blog Tour featuring Amy Corwin

Today is the last day in the Valentine's Day Blog Tour. I am so glad I participated. Not only did I get to read some pretty interesting, and informative, blog posts, I met some terrific and talented women. If you haven't stopped at any of the posts, you're missing out. Trust me.

And if the fabulous posts weren't enough, and they are, commenting on any of the posts enters you in a drawing to win $40 in gift certificates and a chance to win the  GRAND prize (it's so big I had to use all caps) worth $50.

Today, I have Amy Corwin on my blog talking about how to Develop unique characters. Amy is an award-winning author who published her first historical mystery, I Bid One American, in 2008 and has since published two more historical mysteries featuring the Archer family. In 2012, Amy’s first cozy contemporary mystery, Whacked, will be released. She writes for The Wild Rose Press and Five Star/Gale.

Without further ado, (love that word) here's Amy!

Developing Unique Characters

There is nothing easy about writing and one of the hardest things is developing characters that resonate with readers. The people who populate our fiction need to be memorable, larger than life, and real.

When I was first starting out, there was a lot of advice for creating unique characters circulating around the Internet that basically consisted of one or more of the following:

• Write up a biography or life history of your characters, including their past traumas, aspirations, and goals;

• Make him/her one of the standard archetypes like “optimistic cheerleader” type or “Fearless Leader” type;

• Give him/her some unexpected hobby or trait, like the Fearless Leader has an entire basement devoted to O-scale model trains; and

• And if you have problems making him/her sympathetic, give him a pet.

It almost sounds easy, doesn’t it? A regular four step plan. Unfortunately, while I do take the time to write out a brief history of each character so I know ages, schools, physical description, etc, none of these things is ever really enough. Not to mention that I’ve seen the “unexpected hobby/trait” abused in uber-obvious attempts by authors to make their characters different. They often end up picking a hobby that just doesn’t really go with the basic character they’ve built so it winds up creating a patchwork/hodgepodge effect that doesn’t really work.

What works for me is just…writing. The first three chapters of every book I write are the “getting to know you phase”. I can detail characters, plot out the personality traits, hobbies, facts of their life, and even give them a pet schnauzer, but until those first three chapters are down on paper, the character remains an amorphous blob without a true identity or personality.

But once I start writing, well… The characters take over. They develop their own patterns of speech and behavior and often simply refuse to “play along” with the hobbies I’ve tried to give them. They toss them out and seek out their own forms of entertainment. Unfortunately for me, this usually means that I have to delete or completely rewrite the first three chapters of every book because they are my idea of who the characters should be, before they show me who they really are.

This is not to say, however, that there aren’t techniques I use because there are. Once I finish the first three chapters ad have a pretty good idea who the characters are and how they interact with each other, I stop to note their personality quirks. Each one has pet phrases or a turn of speech that is habitual, and I make sure I annotate my information to ensure I keep those peculiarities straight. Each character interacts and learns from the world around him/her in a different manner. Some are thinkers and need to intellectualize events to learn. Others are more physical and need to “work through” things in a physical way. And those sensory patterns are often reflected in their speech. For example, someone who needs to work physically with something in order to learn about it, may use physically-oriented figures of speech, e.g. “I just can’t seem to get a grip today.” Someone who relies more on learning and interacting through their auditory senses may say, “I hear you.”

I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you. Suffice to say, building characters is a process of layering details that combined with create a character who readers can sympathize with and yet who stands out in some way that makes her stand out in a way that makes her worthy of the title: heroine.

Here is a blurb for Amy's book, THE BRICKLAYER'S HELPER

What would you do if you were a young girl, orphaned during the early years of the 19th century? Without a family and references, you’d find pitifully few jobs for women, leaving you to face a desperate life of thievery or prostitution.

Sarah faces this terrible situation in The Bricklayer’s Helper.

Her story was based on the actual life of Catherine Wilson, who was orphaned at fourteen and faced a bleak future. Catherine refused to accept the social restrictions of her day and donned her deceased brother’s clothes to find work under the name of John Thomson.

Just like Catherine, Sarah finds herself orphaned and alone when a suspicious fire burns down her home with her family trapped inside. All she can remember about the horrific event is the warning to “run and hide,” and hide she does. Sarah cuts her hair and dons the garb of a young boy, hoping to survive on her own. In this disguise, she’s obtains a job as a bricklayer’s helper and remains safe for thirteen years.

When work takes her to London, a man from her past recognizes her and arranges a meeting, only to be murdered before they can speak. Desperate that she may be vulnerable, Sarah hires an inquiry agent from the Second Sons Inquiry Agency.

However, the inquiry agent, William Trenchard, is far too frippery for Sarah’s taste. In her experience, attractive men can rarely do more than fumble their way beneath a lady’s skirt, but she fears he may be her last chance. And William is so sick of being labeled a “Bedroom Bantam” that the look of disdain in Sarah’s eyes drives him to prove his worth.

Unfortunately, their decisions may prove to be dangerous to their hearts…if not downright fatal.

"This first novel by Ms. Corwin revealed her abilities to grip the reader’s attention…” – The Romance Studio

Visit Amy Corwin on the web at or

And don't forget the other stops in the Valentine's Tour!

Meet author AJ Nuest at

Meet author Lynne Roberts at (that's me!)

Meet paranormal romance author Maeve Greyson at

Meet contemporary and paranormal romance author Jill James at

Meet romantic suspense author Kat Duncan at

Meet contemporary YA an adult romance author Linda Kage at

Meet paranormal, and historical romance author Caroline Clemmons at

Meet historical and paranormal romance writer Lilly Gayle at

Meet Amie Louellen, author of fun and whimsical contemporary romance at

Meet erotic western historical author Jennifer Jakes at


rbooth43 said...

Amy,I love hearing that when a writer starts writing, she lets the characters take over.I love reading a passionate love story with unique, memorable characters that stick with you and the author shows their strengths and weaknesses. That makes an amazing book!
Meeting you, I know that you write amazing books!

Linda Kage said...

I love that line: amorphous blob! But seriously, sometimes I wish it was that easy to follow a quick, 4-step plan to create a bestselling character. Sometimes I struggle with my characters, wanting them to do one thing, when they're all about doing something else.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Amy, great advice. Congratulations on your success.

Lilly Gayle said...

Great post Amy. And your characters are truly unique without crazy hobbies or pets. Ok, I think you did have a hero whose puppy piddled on the floor once. lol!

Amy said...

It's so good to see so many friends leaving comments! I had a blast writing this and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Thanks for dropping by!