Guest Post: Jeffrey Zweig II

I have a wonderful post about developing a character by Jeffrey Zweig II, author of The End Begins: The Nine. Be sure to see my other post for his blog tour as there’s a great excerpt in it. I’ve added this one to my TBR list – how about you?

Developing the Character – Cassarah Doneye Telmar

Thank you for having me Trish!

Developing a character can happen many different ways. It depends upon the author’s writing style. Do you start with the character and build the world around them? Or build the world and put a character in there? Do you start with a simple base for each and develop them simultaneously?

I normally start with the character – there is a characteristic or a trait that I like and I start there. I develop them separately at first, then I construct a world that fits that version. Then comes the simultaneous development. I’ll try to show my progressing for Cass in my post today. I’ll try to remain as specific as possible without being spoiler-riffic.

Cass was one of the few “original” characters that remained from the adoption of my story. Her backstory always made her the heart of the story, so I stuck with her as the main character because she has attachments to every important piece of the story. So I started with exiled sorceress in the “modern world”.

Her personality came second. How did she act at The Nine? How would she react to a new world? The character’s personality and train of thought has to come pretty early for her to be believable and somewhat predictable even if she is completely not so! I settled for a brainiac who would be a fish out of water, so she would be kind of cold and straightforward with some sass mixed in. I inevitably based Cass’s personality off of Emily Deschanel’s performance from the TV series Bones. I love that character and thought she was a perfect example of what I was looking for.

From here I stayed until I stripped everything down to an Urban Fantasy parallel world. Then I incorporated the Coalition and their science experiment to create soldiers for their army, using The Nine as a private field for harvesting their soldiers.

Cass was always an alchemist/sorceress with “magic” powers. However this aspect of her underwent a drastic change as I applied the science experiment aspect of her background. It was one of the things I had to change for my interpretation of the story to A. limit her powers and in turn B. help define the world she came from, who were people were before the Coalition, a weakness in their design, and clues to what her people are really supposed to be like uncorrupted by people with a war agenda. Her powers are inspired by my love of video games and anime (Final Fantasy 7 and Full Metal Alchemist in particular). Keeping her powers limited by making them technology bound was one aspect developed near the end of the last draft that adds a layer of complexity to that society.

Clothing was another important identifier to a character that came early on. It’s not just about her personally but to how she relates to the people around her. In the Nine, Cass is dress in very formal dress of a sorceress/a magical person. She wears braids of different colors representing the different sectors of the Nine. She is all about the community and does not deviate. Partly because her clothes are made to fit her, and she is committed to her community. When she leaves the Nine she has to fend for herself to dress herself and blend in, and does it poorly. The clothes she uses, a few bits from her old uniform and using vastly different articles of clothing showcases the chaos that’s going on inside herself as well how her life is when she leaves the Nine. Over time as she loses clothing or has to replace it, a new uniform emerges, representing a stability in her.

In the original story Cass left her school to find her father to find out her identity. Though elements of this personal motivation was used in the book, I needed her to have a deeper stake in the plot that was behind the scene, otherwise she had no reason to keep loyal to the group and we risk a 2D main character.. I think I fully realized Cass’s stake in my book after I integrated her fate with the Coalition’s program to create soldiers from the Nine. That subplot challenges her in ways she has to overcome not just physical battle but emotional ones too. She calls into question her viability as a person, her identity in the world, and what her future could hold if she took down the Coalition – the organization that, for better or worse, kept them alive and protected before things fell apart. That in turn motivates her to join the resistance movement to stop them, to change from a follower to a leader. It’s very important to have your character change throughout the book – as we do in life – we are changing depending on our experiences.

Relationships to other characters came after her place in the story was secured. Though she has relationships, I narrowed the focus of her main relationships to two other characters: James Kesumare and Caleb Knight. They would become the other halves of the Trinity for the trilogy of this series. Not only do they have a major stake in the story, through them Cass is able to learn to survive, to love, but also help keep her head and make the transition of being a victim to taking control of her own life.

Cassarah Telmar is by far one of the more complex characters I ever created. Being involved in almost every detail of her life – that involvement allowed her to become a fully rounded character of personality, living and breathing in the readers mind. Hopefully in my brief time today I have given you an inside look on what it can take to develop a character for your next book.

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