Character Development

Character development is something that people have written many, many books about. However, I have learned some important lessons about character development in the writing of Lies of the Haven that I hope I can share with you.

First off, if you do the things I discuss in my previous blog post Writing Plot and Conflict you will be on your way to having some great character development! However, there is more you need to do in order to really bring your characters to life.

#1 Establish Sympathy

When I first started writing Lies of the Haven, I had many people tell me that Mina wasn’t a very sympathetic character, meaning they couldn’t relate to her and didn’t particularly like her. I ended up having to do a few things in order to fix the problem. First, I added a bit more to the beginning so that you know from the beginning why Mina is trying to destroy her Nana’s home. Although the reader knows her actions are misguided, at least they now understood why she was doing it. Sometimes if your character is doing something and you haven’t established why they are doing it, and it feels selfish, it can turn readers off.

Another thing I did was establish a moment (actually two moments) where Mina “saved the cat.” This is an expression in writing. In order to make your character more relatable and sympathetic, you show a moment where your character does something heroic or sympathetic (ie. saving the cat). This helps establish sympathy for your character. In Lies of the Haven, I establish two such moments. First, is when Mina stands up for a little kid against some bullies and the second is when she stands up for a faerie boy named Caelm who was being attacked by the unforgiving Thaya.

In writing, it is important that you don’t destroy sympathy for your character. Writers can do this mainly by having their characters do something the reader sees as selfish or lazy.

#2 Get To Know Your Characters

Of course, good character development includes knowing who your character is and how they would respond in different situations. For example, even though Mina struggles with her ability to lead and doubts herself, its not because she is a shy or doesn’t know how to stand up for herself (she does), but its because she is so pushy and over the top at times that she turns other people off. So I had to make this come across in Mina’s attitude where she engages in conflict rather than backing down, but also have her actions work against her in establishing her ability to lead–and thus she doubts herself.

#3 Be Consistent

Your readers will definitely notice if you try to make your characters do something outside of the personality you have established for them, so being consistent is important. If you are having your character do something they normally wouldn’t do, you usually need to make sure you establish why those particular circumstances are causing them to respond that way.

Sometimes you discover how your character would respond to different situations as you write and that’s actually a good sign. That means you know your character so well, the character’s response feels intuitive because of the personality you have established for them.

#4 Character Sketches

And of course, establishing backstory and character traits will help you to get to know the characters you are creating. That is why a lot of people do a character sketch for their main and sometimes side characters in order to get to know them before writing to ensure they are consistent in how they are presenting their characters. It also helps you establish well rounded characters so they don’t feel like a cardboard cutout.

Here are a couple of free online character sketches templates you can use to help you develop your characters 😉 Here and Here.

***Thanks again to Katelynn for submitting such awesome questions!

Writing Engaging Plot and Conflict

There have been whole books and classes written on this topic! I am going to highlight a few crucial points that I have learned and point you to a few resources where I have learned a lot about good plotting and conflict. Most of the information in this particular post, I learned by taking an online YA fiction class from my local community college. Today you can find the course at Writing Academy (Link below).

I also want to point out that while I hope I write engaging books that people enjoy, I am far from an expert in this area. I am still learning how to accurately apply the things I have learned and I definitely have more to learn! But despite that, I’m not going to let that fact stop me from writing and neither should you! The only way to get better is to keep writing!

No matter how many cool aspects or concepts you have in your book, readers generally care the most about the journey of other people. Whatever story you are writing, it is going to revolve around your main character. Your main character should have a flaw or weakness of some sort. Something they will overcome and some lesson they will learn by the end of the book.

In your book, your plot is your character’s physical journey and your character’s emotional journey is what we call the story. You need both for a good book. On your character’s physical journey, you are going to put your character into circumstances that is going to push them toward confronting their flaw. That creates conflict, which is part of your character’s emotional journey. For example, lets say that your character is painfully shy, putting them in social situations with increasing social expectations would place this person in increasingly painful situations that would create more and more conflict in that person’s life.

For example, lets say your main character, who is shy, hates speaking in front of people. Giving a presentation in front of a classroom full of kids could be terrifying. And by showing their terror and how miserably they fail this simple task ramps up the conflict when the main character eventually discovers they have to speak in front of a thousand professional adults at a conference. Or going to a party where the shy person causes a social disaster, could be the beginning of a book about a kid with social anxiety whose friends sign her up for running for student body president.

In Lies of the Haven, Mina wants to lead, but believes that she isn’t very good at it. She’s not very good at any of the tasks that the faeries expect of a good leader. Each time she tries to lead, she seems to turn everyone against her and so each step in the book is her trying but failing, even as the stakes in each situation rises. Its not until she learns some important things about what it means to be a good leader that she eventually gains the confidence necessary to become the leader that the faeries need.

By the end of your book, your character should have learned something new that will give them the strength to overcome their flaw and defeat the antagonist (usually the bad guy).

These ideas can be found in greater detail in many places on the web by doing a simple search, but I want to give a shoutout to where I officially learned it. You learn this and other important aspects about YA fiction writing from the Writing Academy.

Also I found this great source that summarizes the three act structure of story writing. Getting these parts down will create a story structure that will engage most readers.

Also, I’d recommend looking up the Hero’s journey as this is a standard story structure used very often in writing.

Again, I’d also recommend taking advantage of free writing sources such as Brandon Sanderson’s free online course on writing Sci-Fi/Fantasy.

***AND thanks to Katelynn for the awesome question! I hope you find this information useful!

The Courage To Share Your Writing

Let’s face it. Sharing your writing with others is hard. What if someone doesn’t like it? What if someone says something nasty about your writing? What if you get horrible reviews? What if you’re just not good enough to put your writing out there?

These are all fears that almost all writers, aspiring and even more experienced, deal with on a continual basis. So what is it? What is it that encourages writers to finally put their work out there?

For me, there were a few things that helped me build the courage to share my writing.

1. Realistic Expectations: Realizing that not everyone is going to like your writing, and that’s ok, is one of the biggest things that helped me build the courage to put my writing out there to read. While I would love to write something everyone likes, it is more important for me to write something that I and my fans like. Finding my fan base is more important to me than being the most beloved writer. Some will like it, some won’t and that’s ok. I write for myself and those who will end up loving my work. I write for those who can’t wait for the next book in the series, even if that is only a few people right now 🙂 Yes, poor reviews, and people not liking your writing hurts and you don’t ever get over that fear that people might hate something you put out there, but unless you put your writing out there, you can’t get better, and you will never experience the joy of sharing your work with someone who may love it.

2. Baby Steps: The next one is a bit more practical. Baby steps is also what helped me build the courage to finally publish my work and share it with others. I started by sharing my writing with “safe” people. People who I knew would support me and find good things about my writing no matter what. Throughout my life that has been different people, sometimes really close friends who have expressed an enthusiastic desire to read my writing. Most of the time it was family: My mom, my brother, my husband. Their encouragement and positive feedback gave me the courage to keep going.

After that, I took a huge leap. I felt like I was stuck in a box and I couldn’t go any further in my writing without an outsider’s point of view. That is when I started looking for critique groups and critique partners. This was the most terrifying part for putting my work out there for me. More than hitting the publish button on my book. This was the first time I was going to share my writing with complete strangers. But I knew it was necessary to my progress as a writer and that’s what encouraged me to take the leap. Swapping with other writers made the process a little less scary because you are both putting each other’s writing under scrutiny, so you know they are going through the same process you are. And I’ve found other writers to be super supportive and nice while also giving constructive feedback.

After the critique groups, I moved on to beta readers. This helped me know that what I was putting out there would be liked by at least some. If I got similar feedback by multiple beta readers, I knew that was something that probably wouldn’t work well with general audiences and I had time to fix it before publishing.

3. Learning the Process: The last thing that helped give me the courage to share my writing was doing everything I could to put out a quality product. I took a young adult creative writing class at the community college. I listen to free writing classes online. I’m currently listening to Brandon Sanderson’s free Fantasy and Science Fiction Creative Writing course online.

The beta readers were also a big part of this. Knowing that my betas liked my book was super helpful and in the process, I made some friends in the writing community and we are willing to help each other promote each other’s work. That makes me feel not as alone in the process and I have people to bounce ideas off of. Also, I hired an editor to edit and give feedback on my book. That was another step that helped me boost my confidence.

Building the courage to share your writing with others isn’t an event so much as a process. If you are scared of sharing your work, just know so is almost every other writer out there. Find other writers who understand the fear and work together. Or like I said, start easy by sharing with your family and friends who you know will support you no matter what. In the end remember, not everyone will like your work, but some will and that is what makes it worth it 🙂

*Last but not least, I’d like to say thank you to Katelynn who submitted the amazing questions that inspired this and the next couple of blog posts!

Free Download of Feud: Arius’s Story

Hey! Everyone! Great news! For the next three days I am offering a free downloadable copy of my novella Feud: Arius’s Story! No newsletter sign up required!

This novella is backstory to my debut novel, Lies of the Haven, Faerie Warriors Book 1. Get your free copy today! Check out the short blurb below.

Feud: Arius’s Story

Brothers will clash. Faeries will fall.

Find out how it all started…

Arius must lead the faeries of the Haven and protect them from the evil designs of the dark faeries who seek their destruction. But when he runs into a dark faerie who claims to be his brother, everything could change. Or it could be the beginning of a dangerous rivalry.

Feud: Arius’s Story Now Available For Free!

Hey! Today is the day! If you have signed up for my newsletter, make sure you check your inboxes! The link to download your free ecopy of Feud: Arius’s Story was just sent out in my last newsletter! If you have had trouble getting my newsletters, make sure you check your promotions or spam to make sure it didn’t accidentally wind up there!

For those who haven’t yet signed up for my newsletter, you still can, and still receive a free ecopy of the novella, Feud: Arius’s Story! You can sign up HERE.

Lies of the Haven Ebook is AVAILABLE NOW!!!

Hey everyone! My debut novel, Lies of the Haven is now available on ebook! You can purchase it or you can read it for free for those who have Kindle Unlimited! Of course, the paperback is also available for those who enjoy a good hard copy!

If you enjoyed reading Lies of the Haven and want more, you can receive a free enovella, Feud: Arius’s Story by signing up for my weekly newsletter! The story will be made available this Friday, September 4th to all who sign up!

Thanks so much for your support!

JA Curtis

P.S. Below is a quick blurb for Lies of the Haven:

Faerie Warriors Book 1, Lies of the Haven

They came from the Otherworld, living in the seclusion of the mountains. Somehow, they had managed to go undetected, despite their hatred for one another and their powerful faerie guardians occasionally locked in mortal combat…

Fifteen-year-old Mina didn’t ask to become the center of a feud between two tattoo bearing, near immortal brothers and their faerie followers. Nor did she ask to be a faerie for that matter. On the night a dragon sends her grandmother’s home up in flames, everything changes.

Mina is stolen from her human home and forced into a life of lies, monsters, and magic. But as she searches for answers that might end the fighting between the faerie factions, she uncovers an enemy who threatens everything she has begun to care for. In order to expose those plotting against the last remaining faeries, and unite the factions, Mina must leave her human life behind. But none of it will matter if she can’t prove her rightful place among them. And what about those back at home who still need her? Torn between two worlds with the fate of one on her shoulders, Mina must dig deep to find where she truly belongs.

Lies of the Haven Ebook Available Monday!

Lies of the Haven ebook goes live on Monday!

Yay! I am so excited! Have you pre-ordered your own copy yet? If not, you can do so Here.

Just a reminder, if you help me advertise on social media, you will be entered into a contest to receive a free copy of my novella ebook, Feud: Arius’s Story, which goes along with Lies of the Haven! Don’t forget to put #LiesoftheHaven and @jacurtisbooks!

So great news! I have been working hard on Rise of the Fomori, Faerie Warriors book 2! I actually wrote the last chapter of the book this last week! Now I have to go back and fill in all those parts that I skipped! Haha! But the first draft is coming along, and I hope to start getting the first chapters out to my critique partner and critique groups this coming month! 

Part of writing a believable story is doing research! This can include researching local flora and fauna, locations, weather, making sure travel times feel realistic, etc. But sometimes, you have to go to someone who is an expert in their field. This last week I was able to contact and email interview a local police department in Idaho. One of my characters get arrested in book 2 and I wanted to make sure that the experience feels realistic. 🙂

And even greater news!! One week from today my email subscribers will be receiving their free copy of Feud: Arius’s Story! To be able to receive your own free copy, all you have to do is sign up for my weekly newsletter! I’m almost as excited to share this story with you as I am to share Lies of the Haven! I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from betas and others and I can’t wait to expand the Faerie Warriors world with this great backstory!

You can subscribe to my newsletter here.

Also, reviews are always super helpful. If you enjoyed Lies of the Haven, you can leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble.

Faerie Warriors Book 2 Title Reveal

Amid all the excitement about my debut novel coming out, I wanted to let you all know, I am working hard on the sequel in the story! As those of you who have read my debut novel know, Lies of the Haven is just the beginning of the story! There are a lot more mysteries to unravel in book 2!

I hope to have book 2 out within a year or less! On that note, I wanted to announce the title for book 2! The title for book 2:

Faerie Warriors Book 2, Rise of the Fomori

I don’t have a book cover created for it yet. I hope to have a preliminary blurb written soon! You can check out updates either on this blog or on the page HERE.

Also, if you need more Lies of the Haven to read, be sure sign up for my newsletter where you will be able to get a free ecopy of the accompanying novella: Feud: Arius’s Story when it goes out to all subscribers on September 4th! You can sign up HERE.

What Readers Are Saying About Lies Of The Haven

Hey guys! Reviews are coming in and here are some of things readers are saying about Lies of the Haven!

“Lies of the Haven hooked me from the beginning.”-Goodreads

“Lies of the Haven is a fantastically well written YA fantasy adventure novel. This novel is filled with faeries and magical creatures that immerse you in the story.” -Goodreads

“I felt so connected to the characters, and the plot had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.” -Amazon

“This was so good I couldn’t put it down! I finished it all today!”-customer review on Facebook

“Got my copy yesterday. Couldn’t put it down until I finished it. Loved it!”-customer review on Facebook.

Get your copy of Lies of the Haven today!

Don’t forget to take a picture when you receive your copy and post it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #LiesoftheHaven and tagging JA Curtis @jacurtisbooks for a chance to win a free copy of my novella, Feud: Arius’s Story, which goes along with Lies of the Haven! Find out more about details HERE.

Ebook Novella Giveaway!

Hey everyone! Being a new author, any help getting my name out there so people can find my book is very much appreciated! And you can help!

How does it work?

  1. Purchase the paperback copy of Lies of the Haven.
  2. When your copy arrives, take a picture with the book and post it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  3. In your post use the hastag #LiesoftheHaven and tag JA Curtis at @jacurtisbooks on every social media platform

Prize

Those who participate will be entered into a drawing for a free ecopy of the novella, Feud: Arius’s Story which goes along with Lies of the Haven! There will be one winner on every social media platform so if you post on all three platforms, you will be entered into all three contests.

*For those who have subscribed for my newsletter, you will already be receiving a copy of Feud: Arius’s Story on Friday, September 4th. Please check your emails for the latest newsletter to see the extra prize for my subscribers who participate!

Winners

Winners of the drawing will be contacted on the platform for which they won on September 5th!

To order Lies of the Haven, click Here.

See the blurb and cover for the novella Feud: Arius’s Story below (prize is offered in ebook format only):

Brothers will clash. Faeries will fall.

Find out how it all started…

Arius must lead the faeries of the Haven and protect them from the evil designs of the dark faeries who seek their destruction. But when he runs into a dark faerie who claims to be his brother, everything could change. Or it could be the beginning of a dangerous rivalry.