I was such a fan of Janice Hardy's first book, THE SHIFTER that I interviewed her after its release last year. Now it's time for Book 2: BLUE FIRE, and I can't wait! As part of Janice's blog tour, here she is talking about characters.
Wanted: One Character Willing to Work With No Questions Asked
first, then find someone whose life I can make miserable.
Because of this, my characters rarely start a story fully developed. I usually only know the bare bones of their past, how they got to be where they are, what they like and dislike. The plot is the crucible I toss them into to get to know them. How they react to problems is what tells me what I need to know to write them.
As you can imagine, my characters start out kinda flat in that first draft. They talk a lot, act a lot, but don’t think all that much until I figure them out. Then their internalization starts pouring out of them
and I discover that past they were hiding, those fears they never told me they had, and those dreams they think about when they aren’t running for their lives.
In my MG fantasy trilogy, The Healing Wars, the protag’s best friend is a great example of a character who just developed on her own. Aylin had almost no background at all when she first appeared on the page in The Shifter. I knew Nya (my protag) needed a best friend who had a job that put her in contact with lots of people. So Nya first encounters Aylin on the street in front of…
And I needed a place. What job could Aylin hold in this fantasy world that would put her on the street
talking to people? I made her a barker at a show house, a tavern/theater/concert hall mix where the rich
frequented. She danced outside (so now I learned she was graceful) and called to folks passing by, trying
to get them to come inside and spend their money. (so now I knew she was a people person, and a bit of
And that was it for a while.
I didn’t need more than that for Aylin to play her sidekick role. But as I wrote her, she developed into
the voice of reason for Nya. (and I learned Aylin was practical). It wasn’t a conscious choice, I just had
a very impulsive Nya getting into trouble, and I needed someone to play the other side to show the
options and consequences of the plot. Purely mechanical really. Nya needed someone to talk to and
bounce ideas off of. That was Aylin. Since I didn’t want to sound preachy, she was supportive (usually) of Nya’s plans, even when she was worried about them. (and thus I learned Aylin was non-judgmental and loyal).
Although I was getting a good sense of who she was by now, I really didn’t know anything about her
past. She was an orphan like Nya, but I didn’t know how her parents died or if she even had any other
family. Eventually, I reached a part of the story where Nya needed someone to confront her about
something she was doing in the book (can’t say or it’ll be a spoiler). That reason had to be personal so it
didn’t come off as preachy on my part.
Enter Aylin’s past.
Nya was dealing with the pain merchants in this scene (black-market healers who buy pain from people),
so Aylin’s issue had to come from there. In my world building, I’d already established that the pain
merchants are notorious for healing someone, but not fully healing them, so it’s dangerous to go to
them. Aylin’s mother died by going to a pain merchant and not being fully healed. (and now I knew
Aylin hated the pain merchants, that she watched her mother die and couldn’t do anything to stop it).
But I also learned more from that small bit of history. Aylin is a happy person. She’s upbeat, optimistic,
always sees the good in people. How could she have that outlook after what had happened to her?
And so I learned how Aylin’s practicality encompassed her entire life, and how she did what she had to
do to survive, and didn’t let anyone—or anything—bring her down. This core element of her character
allowed me to know her and how she’d react to anything I threw out her.
By the end of the trilogy, Aylin is a fully-formed and developed character. She’s stayed true to herself all
along, but has grown and changed same as Nya and the other characters.
Quite an accomplishment for a gal who was nothing more than “Nya’s best friend” when I first created
Blue Fire Blurb
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers.
Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can
find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve
isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out
of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.
Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever
thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering
the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might
have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.
Janice Hardy Bio
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her
fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.
Link to Blue Fire Online Retailers
The Other Side of the Story Blog