CC James (aka. Clover Autrey) shares a secret

PJ Sharon here, and as promised, I have a wonderful guest today. CC James, author of the DEMON TRACKERS series is here to share her secret to writing compelling characters. She must be a bit psychic, because the first question I usually ask other authors is, “What are you reading?” She not only answered before I asked, she managed to segue into an excellent tip for characterization . Here’s what she had to say.

I’m currently reading Lily Dale: the true story of the town that talks to the dead. It’s written by journalist Christine Wicker, who went to investigate the quaint little town that claims to be the world’s largest community of Spiritualists and Mediums.

It’s a really interesting read, but I’m not here to talk about ghosts or spoon-bending or other psychic phenomenon, but about crafting realistic characters in fiction.

I know, large leap from spirits to writing craft, but hey, that’s how my mind works.

While interviewing a certain Medium, Christine Wicker writes:

[“When religious people tell me that they know, absolutely know the truth, I am never assured that they are telling the truth. They are showing me their public face. What convinces is the other face, the one that can only be glimpsed. When their eyes shift, when doubt widens their countenance into blank confusion and they fumble because words come hard, I know I’ve hit the right spot. This is what they worry about in the dead of night, when the sureties everyone believes seem far away and they are left with only their own thoughts. The questions they pose to themselves then, and how they answer them, are the heart of faith. When I see that look, I become very still and careful, as watchful as the voyeur standing outside the barn, peering between the slats.”]

And BAM, it hits me. That’s it. That’s what I need to draw out of my characters. When I write my character arcs, I ask questions about what my hero or heroine wants more than anything, the conflict to having it, and what they’re willing to sacrifice to get it.

 It never occurred to me to let the reader see a character’s doubts—to show that eye shifting moment when all is laid bare and the confidence of the heroine’s beliefs wavers—that face she doesn’t let anyone see. I want my readers to peer between the slats and think, “Oh, this is the true her. I’ve felt that way too, but no one will ever know.”

So now my character arcs will include getting to the heart of the hero’s doubts.

You can find CC James at her romance writer alter ego’s site. http://www.clovercheryl.blogspot

The first book in her action/adventure DEMON TRACKER series, THE ANOINTED is available at  Amazon link:

Her second book in the series, BANSHEE’S CRY is set to be released in August!

Thanks for being here, CC. Great tip. I’ll be looking at my characters in a new light.

What about you guys? Do you have any other tricks for making your characters leap off the page?


13 thoughts on “CC James (aka. Clover Autrey) shares a secret”

  1. You inspired me to check out Lily Dale: The Town that Talks to the Dead.

    Making characters real is a huge challenge. They have to have conflict, but it can’t be conflict just for the sake of conflict. It has to be real, deep-seated. Seeing where they’re not willing to tell the truth is a good place to start.

  2. Hi Catie, PJ
    Lily Dale is a great book. I just finished reading it and love how the author just told it like it is without trying to convince or otherwise sway believes about the town of mediums.

    As writers, we always hear about delving into a character’s goals and wants and strengths…so going opposite and digging out the fear and doubts was something that I hadn’t put a lot of thought into. Probably should have…

  3. My sister, a friend, and I have been planning to get ourselves to Lily Dale, which is located in upper state New York. A documentary was done on this area as well. And yes there’s quite a history. The mother of the founder (Mother Benedict) of the Abbey of Regina Laudis here in Bethlehem, CT lived in Lily Dale, and much of her spiritual connection probably originated from there. I myself have contacted the other side through two mediums (directly Suzanne Northrup) and indirectly (John Edward.) Many of my doubts by “the other side” have disappeared since the death of my late husband through means that I still have a difficult time expressing. Since then my characters have grown and I am more aware of that character arc where I know in my stories they should change in some definitive way.
    Another book which is fiction is Awakening, written by Wendy Corsi Staub that takes place in Lily Dale.

    Marie aka Collette

  4. Thanks for the book suggestion of The Awakening, Marie. I’ll check that out. I’ve always been fascinated by what happens after death.

    That must be an interesting story you have with the two mediums. Esp. John Edward. He fascinates me. When I watched his show I’d sit there thinking that he is either the real deal or such a fantastic con artist that even that is incredible. I kinda lean toward him being the real deal.

  5. I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Kate, Maggie and Leah Fox, the New York State sisters who made a huge name for themselves in the mid-1800s as mediums/spiritualists. Lily Dale (which is south of Buffalo NY) became a Mecca to spiritualists because the childhood home of the Fox sisters was moved there (and subsequently burned, I believe). This was an interesting time in America, and especially New York State where a number of new religions were born, including Mormonism and the Millerites (who became the Seventh Day Adventists). I will have to check out the Christine Wicker book. I have a historical paranormal novel featuring a medium cooking on a far, far back burner — I’ll get to writing it someday. And since my heroine starts out as a fraud, you can bet we’ll be looking through some slats at her! Thanks for a really thought-provoking post.

  6. Yes Susannah, the Fox sisters had an entire chapter devoted to them with pics of their home that was moved to Lily Dale until it burned down.

    Sounds like a fun premise~~fraud to an actual medium.
    This book actually shows some ways the mediums faked certain things as well so it’d be great research for your book.

  7. I actually meant the paranormal story was cooking on a back burner — not my poor heroine. That would be horror, not paranormal!

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