Friday, November 18, 2011

Anita Clenney: Building Memorable Characters

A chance for two commenters (US and Canada) on today's blog to win a copy of Embrace The Highland Warrior.

My guest is paranormal romance author, Anita Clenney. She writes about some really yummy Scots. The ones I've *met* are the unforgettable types, and not just because they take up a lot of space in a room. None are the type to fade into the woodwork even when they're just sitting in the group. You get vibes of who and what they are--a bit at a time. I like Sorcha, but who I really want to get to know better in Anna. There's just something about her that draws me. 

Another fascinating character, seems on the surface, to be a bad guy.  Let's just say there have been some suspicious actions on his part which make me wonder. I've read both books (definitely 5 star reads and stories I can read more than once--oh yeah, that's my keeper shelf) and his actions make me wonder if someone has some sort of hold over him, or if he's protecting someone dear to him. Just a feeling, and I could be totally off base with this. I do know he has an agenda which is beyond what he appears to be. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series to see if I'm right or wrong...  

And this is the thing I like about certain authors and Anita in particular. The characters are like icebergs. You see them clearly enough to identify who they are, but there's always a hint of what's below the surface.
Anita's topic is about building characters who aren't easy to forget.

It takes several elements to make a good book. A great plot, intriguing characters, strong writing. All of these are important, but I don’t think any surpass the need for compelling characters. If the reader doesn’t connect with your character, she won’t care if you have the most spectacular plot in the world, or if you can string phrase together a paragraph in a way that makes her sigh.  Think about some of your favorite books, those that have stuck with you throughout the years. I bet they had great characters.

How do we make memorable characters? Let’s start with something simple, but still important. The name. A name is like a first impression. It defines who you are until someone--the reader in this case--gets to know you. The name Reginald gives an entirely different feel than Zeke or Bart. How about Faelan, Ronan, and Cody? They’re all warriors in my Scottish paranormal series. Let’s meet some of them.


There’s Faelan, the only warrior who’s ever been assigned two ancient demons. Born in the 19th century, Faelan was most powerful warrior of his time. He was trapped in a time vault and slept for 150 years, waking to a strange world filled with modern technology and even stranger…modern females. Then there’s Ronan, 6’3 inches of raw, sexy warrior, better than Robin Hood with his bow, and equally at home with a sword or a bonny lass. Cody, the only other warrior who’s been assigned an ancient demon, might have pretended to be the tough boy next door, and he’s good at hiding secrets, but his world will never be the same after he finds out what’s been hidden from him. Shane is quiet but the fastest with a sword, and Niall is a one-man army, with legs like tree trunks. Tomas is a clan medic and Brodie’s the prankster of the bunch, always getting into trouble. Duncan is brooding and frustrated, and Sorcha likes flirting almost as much as killing demons. Anna, a stunning beauty, has chosen to remain a warrior forever, but destiny has some surprises in store. And my heroines Shay and Bree are more than just mates to these sexy warriors. They have talents that will shock even them.

I like my character’s names. They seem to fit their personalities. But sometimes the “final” name doesn’t come to you until you’ve gotten deeper into the character, seen his or her strengths and flaws. And if you have two protagonists, make sure their names work well together. They need good cadence just like the words in a book. Originally, Faelan and Bree were Faelan and Erin. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I can tell you that by the time I realized how horrible that sounded, she was Erin to me. I couldn’t think of her as anything else. But I forced myself to change her name to Bree. Faelan and Bree. Isn’t that much nicer? It took a while to get used it, and I had to do a “find and replace” (Erin with Bree) before I submitted it to my editor, but now I can’t imagine the character as anything but Bree.

But fleshing out a character goes way beyond their name. We need to feel these characters, see the way they dress, their stance, how they move. Little tics that give their emotions away. I always think of those guys who can take a corpse’s skull and use clay to recreate the face. Writers take a skeleton character and add on layers until we have a face, a body, a real flesh and blood person.  And that’s just the outside. What about the inside, where all that motivation is growing? Anger, pain, hope. That’s the really good stuff. What’s the character’s history? What was his family like? Did he have brothers? Get along or fight? Was he a bully or did he stand up for the underdog? Did lose his parents at a young age, get his heart broken by a girl? Maybe he lost a child, or lost part of himself in a war. Layer by layer, we build our characters, inside and out, filling them with hopes and dreams and fears, until we have someone the reader will hopefully fall in love with and never forget.

  • My question for you is, can you think of a character whose name perfectly fits?


When the powerful demon that left Shay for dead discovers her empty grave, he comes seeking retribution, believing she possesses an ancient book he has sought for centuries. 

Knowing she can’t fight the demon alone, Shay returns to her clan and the Scottish Warrior who betrayed her…the only man she’s ever loved, where she discovers that betrayal isn’t always what it seems.

Sometimes it’s far worse. Excerpt 

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Anita Clenney writes paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Before giving herself over to the writing bug, she worked in a pickle factory and a preschool, booked shows for Aztec Fire Dancers, and has been a secretary, executive assistant, and a real estate agent. She lives with her husband and two children in suburban Virginia. 

To find out more information, please visit, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook