Monday, November 23, 2015

The Challenge of Writing Different Types of Characters

Three weeks ago I pushed send on my second book to my editor. I've spent the time since holding my breath. 

When I signed my two-book contract my publishing team had read my debut novel, Close To You, and loved it. But there was no second book. Not a single word on a page. My contract stipulated five things I had to deliver - a genre, a location, a general theme, a word count and a due date. That was it. Everything else was up to me. My editor had pretty much no idea what was coming her way. Which was crazy brave on her part and a whole lot of scary on mine.

It would be fair to say a lot of these have been consumed in the last ten months...

I'm a character driven writer which means the main characters are always the first things that show up in my head. In Close To You it was a failed entrepreneur and a disgraced academic. In Book#2 it was an injured elite rower and a disillusioned journalist.

They could not be more different sets of people.

In Close To You, Jackson and Allie are both strong personalities. They aren't afraid to say exactly what they think, thrive on sparring with each other, and have a strong mutual dislike from their first meeting. Their chemistry fills the page as they constantly clash.

In my second book, Peter and Emelia are very different to Jackson and Allie. Both play their cards close to their chests, are guarded, polite, and go out of their way to avoid conflict. Their chemistry is more subtle, slipping through the cracks in their walls, simmering under the surface. 

I feel protective of them. The way a mother might when a firstborn outgoing, gregarious, social child is followed by an introverted, quiet, shy one. What if readers don't like them as much as the first two? What if my editor doesn't? What if I'm actually rubbish at this and can only write one type of character well? What if the manuscript gets rejected and I have to come up with a whole new story (yes, this does happen!).

A deaf person probably could have heard my sigh of relief when I got an email from my editor that she was in the process of reading it and enjoying it. Here's hoping readers do too once a whole lot of rewrites and edits get it shape (out of the five things in my contract, I failed at one right off the start - it's got to lose at least 5,000 words!).

So let's talk about different types of characters. Who are your favourite book characters who could not be more different from each other? 

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. It will be an April 2016 release from Howard Books. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac


  1. LOL. This fell close to home for me as I am in the process of writing book two of a two book contract. :) Though talking about characters, in this book my hero gets to see why the girl in the first book wasn't as well suited for him as the heroine in this one. In everything but political affiliation and sides of a war...Ok, they have their differences. ;)

  2. Kara, congratulations on finishing novel No 2. Incredible effort. I'd be interested to read more about how you worked under the 10 month deadline when by the sounds of it you started with a blank canvas. How was the process compared to you first one?

    Failed entrepreneur and academic - one might suggest they're diametrically opposed. The risk-taker vs the analytical type. But, hey, opposites attract. I'm definitely looking forward to reading this novel. I think the premise is fabulous.

    1. Thanks so much, Ian! Funnily enough tomorrow I'll be blogging at ACW a little about this process tomorrow. Let's just say I'm hoping not to have to sign up for another ten months from nothing to completed manuscript again anytime soon!

  3. Congrats on finishing book two! In the spirit of "fiction is conflict" having characters who are very different seems to be the norm. But sometimes an author is able to make magic happen through harmony, like Nicholas Sparks in The Notebook. I know most writing professionals don't like that book, but the story of Noah and Allie (who are basically the same person) will live forever in many hearts. The in medias res format and Allie's engagement give the story just enough tension to make its quietness work. Nowadays he's using characters who are completely different, like the bull rider and the sorority girl in The Longest Ride. It's fiction that works, but the magic is gone--for me. I keep reading Sparks, hoping that one day he will write another Noah and another Allie.

    1. Hi Patricia! I agree with you. I think The Notebook is one of those books that some writing purists may cast aspersions on but there is no question that it had a certain magic about it that captured imaginations. I would say that matters more :)