#ThisIsHowINovel: Character Studies #MondayBlogs #mywana #amwriting

#thisishowInovelWith seven years and six self-published titles under my belt, I guess it’s safe to say that I’m an author. Whether I’m successful or not is debatable, but in these seven years, I have learned a lot about myself as a writer. I’ve figured out some things and chief among those is that I still don’t really know what the fuck I’m doing. Every time I sit down to begin a new book, I am plagued with blank page syndrome.

How do I start this thing? Where do I begin?

This stage can last for days, weeks or months. There might be tears of frustration and maybe (definitely) some booze and cuddles with my pup and maybe six months later I will have something close to a first chapter.

I’m done with that shit.

Well, not the with alcohol and the cuddles with the pup but I am done with feeling lost in those first days of starting a book. It’s time to sit down and figure out my process. Write down the bones, as they say. And when I’m done I hope to have a guide to refer back to when I find myself in the midst of a kicking fit.

So, for the purpose of this exercise, I’m gonna say that my stories are romances. I’m pretty sure that’s just one of the genre distinctions, but it’s the best and most easily recognizable distinction for my books.

I think most readers and writers of romance will agree that a good romance novel starts with great characters. I mean, boy-meets-girl is an age old tale and the first step to making that story fresh and interesting is to have a protagonist that a reader can care about.

This is my absolute favorite part of prewriting. Getting to know my characters is what makes the story take shape in my head. My character Yves Santiago sprung up fully formed in my mind. For months before I decided to write her, this bitch took up residence in my head. By the time I sat down to write her story I knew almost everything about her. Well, I knew everything she *wanted* to tell me if that makes sense. All she wanted to talk about was all the sex she was having. Heh. But to write a book about her I need to know the deep details. So what’s the best way to get to know your characters. A character interview of course.

There are literally hundreds of questions out there that will help you get to the heart of your character. Here is one of three that I did on Yves.

Also, I’d like to add that this process will also help you find your character’s voice. I really like to get into it with my interviews.

Yves Character Interview:

Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell me what you look like?

Hi, I’m Yves Alphonsa Santiago and I’m 25 years old. I’m about five foot four inches tall with, long curly dark brown hair and hazel eyes. Most people say I look like my father because I have his dark complexion but, I take after my mother’s side of the family with my curvy build. I have wide hips, an ample bottom and small breasts–just about a handful. I’ve been told that I have a naturally seductive walk. I don’t think there’s anything natural about it. It took me years to perfect it.

Where do you live?

I have a small one bedroom apartment in South Philly on 8th avenue between Washington and South Street.

Where are you from originally?

South Philadelphia born and raised. Never lived anywhere else and I’m not sure I want to.

Tell me about your family.

I am the middle child of three. My other brother is named Marcelo. He’s a firefighter across the bridge in Camden, NJ. We were really tight when we were younger but, we’ve grown apart some over the years. I think it’s because he’s forgotten how to have fun.

My younger sister is named Mercedes. She’s the goody two shoes of the family–the perfect mama’s girl. I try really hard to hate her for that but, I never succeed. She’s married to this guy named Desmond who is a huge douche bag. She just recently found out that he’s been cheating on her. How a guy could do that to someone like Mercedes is beyond me. She also has two beautiful daughters named Sasha and Tatiana. Love those little boogers.

My mother and my father have been divorced for fifteen years. It feels crazy to say that out loud. Even crazier that it’s hard for me to ever remember a time when my parents were together and loving each other. Mostly what I remember is how they would argue. My mother would cry and demand that my father stay at home more and spend time with the family. He moved to Jersey and started a small contracting company and does fairly well for himself. My brother says he has this whole other family over there but, I’ve never worried too much about that. If he does, I don’t want to know.

My mother never remarried after their divorce and as far as I know she’s never dated anyone very seriously either. It makes me sad to think about that. My mother is a beautiful woman but, she keeps to herself too much. She works at a produce shop in Italian Market. She’s the manager there and has been working there since the divorce. Most of her time is split between the produce shop and her catholic church where she is a very active member. Did I neglect to mention that my mother is a very devout catholic? Well, she is and let’s just say she does not approve of most of the things I do.

All and all, my mother, brother, sister and I are a fairly tight knit family. We eat dinner together frequently during the course of the week and lean on each in times of need. I’m trying to build a better relationship with my father but, it’s slow going. As far as I know, my siblings don’t have any contact with him.

What job do you do?

Right now I write the sex and lifestyle column SHE for the CityPaper but, I have a book coming out soon titled The Lust Diaries. Hopefully, it will be the start of my illustrious writing career. *fingers crossed* I’ll probably keep writing the column after it’s published, though. I love that job and I get to meet lots of new and interesting people because of it.

Did you graduate from college?

Sure did. Temple University class of ’99! I loved college. I found myself there. I miss the atmosphere and that feeling that there is so much to learn. I’m thinking of going back to get my masters.

What are your hobbies?

Heh, what are my hobbies? I don’t know that I really have any hobbies. At present, I spend a lot of time boozing and fucking, but I don’t think that’s what you mean.

Do you get angry easily?

Not easily but, I do have a temper.

Do you like animals and small children?

I have a cat so I guess it would be weird if I said that I don’t like animals. The truth is I’m not really sure if I do and I’m not entirely sure they like me.

I love kids. Can’t wait to have some of my own.

Any special diet?

Do chicken wings and beer count as a diet? What about Chinese food and beer? Beans and rice? No? Then I guess, I’m not on any special diet.

What habits do you revert to under stress?

I usually padlock myself in my apartment where I write and drink a lot and smoke a lot until the stressful time passes. I know. Bad bad bad.

What do your friends say about you?

I only have one friend. Her name is Ava. Ava and I are tight. She would probably gush and spew about my awesomeness. She’s my number one cheerleader, but she is also the voice of reason when I get too full of myself or have my head too far up my own ass to see that I’m doing something stupid. Ava rocks.

What’s the best thing that ever happened to you?

Well, getting published is the first best thing to happen in a long while. Hopefully, that’s the first of many. *eyes interviewer knowingly*

What’s the worst thing to happen to you?

I don’t like to dwell on negative shit, but Cesar Soares is easily the worst thing to *ever* happen to me. So glad to be done with that part of my life.

Do you want to say a bit more about that?

*Sighs* He was abusive and angry and he hurt me a lot. I loved him for a long time.

What would you confess to a stranger on a train?

There isn’t much I wouldn’t confess to a stranger on a train. Hell, there isn’t much I wouldn’t *do* with a stranger on a train. I mean, they’re a stranger and this is a big city. The likelihood that I will run into them again is slim to none so if space and opportunity presents itself then I’ll take it.

Do you go to church?

I did when I was younger. As I mentioned before, my mother is a devout catholic. I don’t go anymore.

What moral beliefs do you have?

*stares blankly for a moment*


Yeah, I’m thinking….

Take your time.

{several moments pass}

I guess…honestly and loyalty. I may sleep around but, I’m always honest about it. And I’m loyal to the ones I love. There are just certain things you *don’t* do to people you love.

What do you love?

*she smiles* I love writing. I love when I put that perfect phrase on the page and everything magically comes together.

I love music and I love to dance.

I love that moment two people share when they first meet each other and there’s that instant attraction. That inexplicable spark or sizzle of electricity that sets your skin on fire.

I love men. I love the scent of them–each has their own distinct scent that roars *man*. I love to have that scent on me in the morning. I love their sinewy muscles and their scruff, roughened jaws. I love their chests, smooth or hairy. I love how I fit against them no matter the size. I love their hungry mouths, their eager hands and their adoring eyes…*she stops talking and sighs*

Sheesh, somebody bring me a fan and a cool drink of water! *clears throat* Now, what do you hate?

I hate judgmental people. I hate stereotypes and people who approach every new relationship based on them. Not everybody fits in a box.

What scares you most?

*Laughs nervously* Do I have to answer this?

Well, you don’t have to but–

Okay, fine. What scares me most is being alone, but I’m also afraid of *not* being alone if that makes any sense.


Well, I think I’ve been scarred rather deeply by past experiences. I’m worried that it might affect how I function in future relationships.

Good answer.

What are your ambitions?

Well, I’ve always wanted to be a published writer and that dream is already coming to pass. Outside of that, I just want to be happy. Maybe get married one day. Have a couple of kids.

Is there a particular someone or something that would make you happy?

*shrugs* I don’t know yet.

What about your relationships in the past? Have they changed your attitude toward relationships?

In a word: yes. I’ve only really had one real relationship in my life and that was with Cesar. It was toxic and abusive and it made me distrustful of men. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over that. I don’t know if I’ll ever trust someone enough to let them get that close again.

What’s your philosophy on life?

Live life how you want and make yourself happy.

What would be your ideal holiday?

A holiday where I could have all of the people who love me at the same table, sharing a meal and nobody fights or feels left out.

What’s your favorite film/TV show?

My favorite film is West Side Story. I don’t watch TV. I don’t have cable because I’m never home.

Do you drink alcohol?


Irritating habits?

I smoke. I hear that’s irritating to others. *laughs*I also hear that it’s banned from a lot of public places. I’ve yet to encounter these places.

Star sign? What date is your birthday?

 My birthday is November 13th so that makes me a Scorpio. Not sure what relevance that bears to this interview but yeah, I’m Yves Santiago and I’m a Scorpio.

If you won the lottery what would you do and what would you buy? 

Well, first of all, I would tell no one. Especially not my mother. She would probably want me to give more than half to the church and, come on, I just can’t do that. Otherwise, I would continue to live life as I do now. I would probably move to a nicer place and my shopping habits would get borderline ridiculous but, I would live normally.

What’s your pet peeve?

People who don’t know the difference between your and you’re. Lay and lie. I know it’s stupid but, cut me some slack. I’m an English major.

What is your best asset?

*grins* Are you serious?

Of course, I’m serious. What’s your best asset?

Uhhh…my brain*giggles*

What’s your idea of a good night in?

Good Chinese, good beer, a good movie and good company.

What’s your idea of a good night out?

Good drinks, a man who can dance and fuck like a champion.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

*pauses thoughtfully* Give myself to him. No hang ups, restrictions or expectations or fear. Just let myself love him. Be his.

Why should I tell your story?

 Umm, hello? I don’t see anyone else begging you to write about them.

Okay, maybe there are others but none of them are as interesting as me! *wink*

Fun, right?

After I ask my characters these questions I apply their answers to what little bit I already know about the story I want to tell. Their personal goals are established at this point and I can craft some sort of emotional character arc with a conflict at the center that will work against their desired goal.

Character interviews are not the only one way to begin your character studies. You can write a vignette or a short story. My short, The Shame in You, sprouted from one of these, so never underestimate the importance of this exercise. Use whatever tools you need to get into your character’s head!

Happy writing!



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