October 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour
~ Guest Post ~
4 Ways To Build Memorable Characters
By Emily C. Whitson
At the crux of any good story is a memorable character. If the character falls flat, then so will the story. Here are five techniques I use to keep characters both interesting and realistic.
Names are important, which is why I change them approximately 7 times in the writing process. (My editor loves this.) It’s a nice touch if names, in some way, represent the character. For example, I chose the name “Reese Marigold” in Beneath the Marigolds because my character was vulnerable, romantic, and beautiful — much like a flower. Marigolds, in particular, are known as companion plants; they help surrounding flowers grow. My character, Reese, has a similar effect on Ann, the primary protagonist of the story.
Having some symbolism behind names will not only give your characters an added layer of depth, but it will also help readers remember your characters — which is particularly important if you have a large cast of players.
Some writers, like Stephen King, believe it’s best to keep physical characteristics vague. I disagree. When I’m reading, I want to be able to see the characters in my head. In my opinion, no one does this better than J. K. Rowling. Take this description of Mrs. Dursley:
“Mrs. Dursley…had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbours” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, p. 1).
Not only can I visualize Mrs. Dursley, but I also know everything I need to know about her personality.
The key here is uniqueness. Scars, tattoos, and bubblegum-pink hair stand out. An attractive, brunette woman? Not so much.
Accent, pitch, and speed are important aspects of characterization. Like names and physical characteristics, speech can also give readers an insight into the character’s personality and backstory. Does the character talk so fast it makes your head hurt? Does the character mumble? Is the character from the city, or the suburbs?
In addition to adding depth to the character, different speech patterns help readers differentiate between characters when reading dialogue.
This is one of the most important aspects to characterization, if not the most important aspect. Character goals are what drive the story — it’s what creates conflict and resolution. In fact, at its most basic, a story is a character overcoming obstacles to reach a goal. It’s a man trying to save his kidnapped daughter. It’s a scorned woman getting revenge on her adulterous husband. It’s a woman trying to find her missing friend on an isolated island.
It’s okay to write without a firm outline, but it’s essential to write with fully-formed characters — with their own unique goals and history — in mind. Otherwise, your story will be inconsistent, unbelievable, and unmemorable.
Playing on our universal fascination with reality TV, Emily C. Whitson’s Beneath the Marigolds is The Bachelor(ette) gone terribly wrong.
When her best friend, Reese Marigold, goes missing after attending Last Chance, an exclusive singles’ retreat on a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, no-nonsense lawyer Ann Stone infiltrates the retreat.
Ann quickly realizes there’s more to Last Chance than meets the eye. The extravagant clothes, never-ending interviews, and bizarre dates hint that the retreat is a front for a reality dating show. Could Reese be safe, keeping a low profile until the premier, or did something sinister occur after all?
Torn between the need to uncover the truth and her desperate desire to get off the island, Ann partakes in the unusual routines of the “journey to true love” and investigates the other attendees who all have something to hide. In a final attempt to find Reese on the compound, she realizes that she herself may never get off the island alive.
Praise for Beneath the Marigolds:
“Cleverly plotted…Whitson’s debut novel is an intriguing new entry in the women’s suspense genre, driven by dual first-person narrators and tension-filled parallel timelines.”— Carmen Amato, Silver Falchion Award Finalist and author of The Detective Emilia Cruz Mystery Series
“Exhilarating twists and turns…a fast-paced psychological thriller that mashes up the reality series The Bachelor with Gone Girl.” — Helen Power, author of The Ghosts of Thorwald Place
“A fun, propulsive read…this book cleverly combines the archetypes of “reality TV” and the “trapped-on-a-remote-island” mystery that will perpetually keep you guessing.” — Marcy McCreary, author of The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: September 21st 2021
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0744304202 (ISBN13: 9780744304206)
Read an excerpt:
Emily Whitson received a B.A. in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked as a marketing copywriter for six years before pursuing a career in fiction and education. She is currently getting her M.Ed. at Vanderbilt University, where she writes between classes. She is particularly passionate about women’s education and female stories. This interest stems from her time at Harpeth Hall, an all-girls college preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee. When she isn’t volunteering, writing, or in the classroom, Emily can usually be found with her dog, Hoss, in one of Nashville’s various parks. Beneath the Marigolds is her debut novel.
Catch Up With Emily C. Whitson:
BookBub – @emilycwhitson_author
Instagram – @emilycwhitson
Facebook – @emilycwhitson
Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!