About Once Upon a Word: We're a large group of multi-talented authors working together, to bring you the best romances. Please, stop by our websites and check out what we've been up to: Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery and Victory Tales Press.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Letting Your Characters Evolve



Writing a series of stories set in the same fictional universe and using the same cast of characters can pose problems, but it also has its rewards. One of the fun things about using an extended timeline is that you have more space to watch your creations grow and evolve. Let me give you an example from my series loosely set around the world of 1920s Appalachia at a place called Sherritt Holler, up the road a bit from the fictional town of Smithville, Tennessee. Let me introduce you to Seth Morgan.


“Seth Morgan, deputy by day and outhouse digger by night.” That’s how a friend describes our young Seth, the male lead character of my story, “Ring for a Lady”. This story appears in the anthology “Fated to be Yours” just published by Victory Tales Press. The story is about his struggle to marry his long-time sweetheart Jolene Smith while dealing with the crazy characters and problems that infest Sherritt Holler in 1920s Appalachia.

But this is not the first time Seth has appeared in my stories, not by a long shot. “Ring for a Lady” is the fourth in a series of supernatural romance adventures set in Sherritt Holler and our young man has played an increasingly important role in each one. He first appeared in “A Distant Call”, the story that introduced the series way back in 2010. Here’s the scene where he enters our story:

The sheriff banged on the side of the Model T. “Seth, get on out here.” A young man stepped out, wearing bib overalls two sizes too big, no shirt, pants rolled up, and barefooted. The freckled face, sandy hair, and ears that stuck straight out were definitely familiar. He couldn’t be older than sixteen. The boy stood with hands in his pockets, looking down.



Seth is a boy on the verge of becoming a young man, and in trouble. His father is an alcoholic and a moonshiner, he’s shunned by the people in town because he’s one of those no good hillbillies that live back on the mountain, and he’s already ran afoul of the law.

I have to admit that his role in the first story was only to hang out around the church and give our main character, Preacher Corman, someone to talk to besides himself or the mule. It’s the same reason the Lone Ranger has a sidekick. The mechanics of writing a story forces these sorts of decisions on an author. But even in this story, Seth came to life and became more than an abused boy that needed a good role model. He showed promise of becoming something more. When it came time for the next tale in the series, there was no doubt that I had a “coming of age” story that had to be told.

Seth became the focus of the second story in the series, “Deal with the Devil”. His sweetheart Jolene is introduced and a crisis involving both their families must be handled. Here Seth begins to show the courage under fire and stubborn insistence on doing what’s right that will define his character. That doesn’t mean he’s perfect. He’s a small man and a history of being bullied by his father and other kids growing up left their scars on his self-image. He’s also painfully aware that people judge him as poor white trash and he doesn’t have much of an education. It’s important to let your characters have faults and sometimes struggle with them, if you want them to come alive.

While young Seth does play a role in the third story of the Appalachia series, “Crazy Jack”, it’s mostly in the background. He continues to mature, is thrust into about the last job he would ever consider, that of deputy, and struggles to live up to people’s expectations of him.

 This brings him to the current anthology where his and Jolene’s romance is again center stage, in “Ring for a Lady”. It’s five or six years since we watched him step out of the old Model T. He’s living up to the potential that was hinted about in the very first story. The boy we first saw is somewhere inside the man, but he’s learned a lot since then and grown up some. So has Jolene. What does the future hold in store for Seth and Jolene? Will they appear in future stories? Well, as the deputy charged with riding herd over the wild bunch of Sherritt Holler, we can be assured of seeing him again.   


  

13 comments:

  1. Just letting everyone know I'll pick a comment or two from below and send them a copy of the latest anthology Seth appears in, "Fated to be Yours".

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your Appalachian series sounds intriguing...and unique. I don't think I know an author who uses this setting and time. You must have ancestors back there in time! Much luck on the series---I love to write such, but I'm always glad when I finish the last in the group.
    I have Fated To Be Yours, so don't add my name to the drawing hat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks and while I grew up in small town Ohio, my family roots are definitely from Appalachia. My mother and grandparents told me many stories growing up of what it was like to live back on the ridge and the trips back there for reunions and such are cherished memories.

      Delete
  3. You're absolutely right about character development in a series. It's an opportunity to give readers a real view into a character and how that character changes and grows. I love flawed characters. How boring it would be to have nothing but Mr. and Mrs. Goody Two Shoes and their perfect life. Where's the story in that?
    I wish you every success with your 1920s Appalachian series. It's my favorite time period and my favorite place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! If you're like me, you try to give even the villains in your stories a few redeeming qualities and believable motivations to offset their massive flaws. After all, nobody starts life as a child saying "I want to rob banks for a living!"

      Delete
  4. So very true! It's what I've always thought too. Flawed and bad people were once innocent babes. The choices they made took them down the dark road of destruction. The question is: Can they turn around and take another path? I think that's why my favorite show, when I was young, was Alias Smith and Jones. They were bad guys, but not that bad, and they really tried to be good. :) My kind of characters!

    I just love your Sherritt Holler tales! Great cast of characters! Keep on writing more!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! It always makes me feel good when great authors tell me they like my stories.

      Delete
  5. Gerald, this was a great blog post. I can relate to your setting as I was a school counselor in East TN for four years as well as having connections in East KY throught the years. And I, too, am writing a series of stories for the same anthologies that yours has appeared in. This is a perfect way to develop supporting characters from one story to become main characters in another. And sometimes, I just don't want to let some of then go after only one story. I hope we will be fellow-contributors to the next anthology released.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I"m writing a story for the next anthology now, the beginning adventures of Gran (Nancy Sherritt) back when she was a young woman in the 1850s. It was hinted before that she had some great adventures in her time and from the first story, she came across as being a bit on the wild side. So I had to do research on pre-Civil War life in and around Tennessee. Another fun thing about series is the spin-offs!

      Delete
  6. This series looks very intriguing. I'm definitely putting this on my read list! I love stories that continue on for more than one book, where you can follow the characters growth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All of my favorite authors involve series where I've fallen in love with the characters and can't wait to see what happens next. It harkens back to the old serials in the picture shows, doesn't it? "The continuing adventures of..."

      Delete
  7. Gerald, I admire anyone who can develop their characters through a series like this. I tend to want to "rush" the development, and series just scare the you know what out of me for some reason.

    My husband was born and raised in West Virginia. His dad was a coal miner for many years and died of Black Lung Disease. His family lived in a "holler"--Martin's Holler. My dad was transferred from Oklahoma to West Virginia my senior year in high school, and of course, that's where I met hubby--and we lived out there for several years. So I'm going to really enjoy these characters and stories of yours!

    Great post--I really enjoyed it!
    Cheryl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Biggest problem is giving your current story a good resolution yet finding characters and plots to carry over to the next one. I hate cliff-hanger endings or "story continued in next book of the trilogy" with the same intensity I love a good series.

      Delete

Comments relevant to the blog post are welcome as long as they are noninflammatory and appropriate for everyone of all ages to read.
Thank you for your interest and input.