Thursday, March 24, 2011

CREATING MEMORABLE CHARACTERS - Alison Henderson

Please welcome Alison Henderson to the blog today.  Alison grew up in Kansas City on the edge of the prairie. One of her favorite memories is of the fringed turquoise cowgirl outfit she received for her fifth Christmas. She went off to New York to study art history at Vassar College but never lost her admiration for the fortitude of the pioneers who settled the American West. She began writing when her daughter entered pre-school and was quickly captivated by the creative process.


Although she has traveled the world from Japan to Tunisia, Alison has never strayed far from her Midwestern roots. She and her husband are empty-nesters living in Minnesota, and their daughter is a graduate student in Chicago. She invites you to visit her website at www.alisonhenderson.com.

Creating Memorable Characters


Fantasy or Reality?

Hi, Sue. Thanks so much for inviting me to join you today to talk about characters. Characters are the essence of fiction – any fiction. Think of your favorite books. What do you remember most? It’s always the characters. Evocative descriptions and clever plots enrich the story, but ultimately it’s the characters that burrow their way into readers’ hearts and refuse to leave.

Most writers develop their characters in a bubbling cauldron of imagination, observation, and life experience. In my first book, and current release, Harvest of Dreams, I based my heroine on a woman with whom I once worked. She was young, barely twenty-one, full of hope, and in love. While she was in the hospital after the birth of her first child, her husband came to visit and announced he was leaving her for another woman. I can’t imagine a more devastating blow, but she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and forged ahead. We lost touch, but I always wanted to write a happy ending for her. I altered the circumstances of the heroine of my book but pursued the theme of a young mother who, after suffering a series of losses, is determined to focus all her energies on creating a safe and stable life for her child.

The hero of Harvest of Dreams was more a creature of my imagination. The book is a Western historical, so I was looking for a cowboy. My visual image of Jared Tanner was based on Robert Urich’s character in the TV mini-series Lonesome Dove, but his personality is pure fantasy. One of the things I love most about writing romance is that I can make the men do and say anything I want. (What woman wouldn’t love that?) Jared is strong and a protector by nature, but he’s also extremely patient. I never realized how strong that trait was until several readers pointed it out. Even my (straight) male hairdresser commented on it. I guess we writers do reveal more of ourselves in our work than we think.

Here’s a blurb about the story:

Alone on her farm in the middle of a blizzard, young widow Lisa McAllister labors to give birth to her first child. Help arrives in the strong hands of a stranger wearing a six-gun. Lisa has no reason to trust this man who makes a living by violence, even if he is on the right side of the law. Men and their guns have already claimed the lives of her father, brother, and husband, and she’s determined to protect her son at any cost.

Jared Tanner, a security agent for the stagecoach, has been on his own since he was twelve. Against his better judgment, his feelings of protectiveness toward Lisa and her baby turn to something deeper, and he is tempted by the possibility of a family of his own. Can their tender new love survive when an act of ultimate violence threatens to tear them apart?

9 comments:

  1. Hello, Allison and Sue. Definitely interesting how you developed your characters. And I truly feel for the young woman you once worked with. She deserves an HEA.

    (BTW, my handsome hubby is from western Kansas and attended KU.)

    Thank you for the good post.

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  2. Thanks, Vicki. Rock, chock, Jayhawk!

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  3. Thanks, Alison, for a very thoughtful blog. You have guided me in the direction of really thinking where I "get" my characters. I've written three books and I don't know where they come from but, then again, I have never analyzed it. Now I think I should.

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  4. This sounds like a book I could get lost in, Alison. I love the characters you've created and the premise of the book.

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  5. Patricia,
    Sometimes I know where my characters come from, but sometimes it's a mystery to me, too.

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  6. Hi Sue! Thanks so much for having me as your guest. I'm glad you like the sound of Harvest of Dreams. The characters and story are close to my heart.

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  7. Another lovely interview. I enjoy seeing the creative process in other authors. Alison -- I love how you're giving a happy and satisfying ending to someone who passed through your life. :)

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  8. I'm a fan of those patient, protective types myself, Alison. Maybe b/c mine fits that bill (most days anyway ;)

    Joanna Aislinn
    Dream. Believe. Strive. Achieve!
    NO MATTER WHY
    The Wild Rose Press
    www.joannaaislinn.com
    www.joannaaislinn.wordpress.com

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  9. Alison, I agree that characters make the story. We tend to relate to them. That's why we writers have to create dynamic ones. Love the premise of your book!

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