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Guest Post – Emma Hartley

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How Do Writers Build Authentic Characters?

EmmaHartley

How do writers build authentic characters? How do we come up with our ideas? These are the questions I am most often asked by aspiring writers and readers alike. I will venture here to discuss some of the motivations and inspirations I use for story and character development, with the caveat that everyone does this differently. These are my methods—they are not for everyone.

Most of my characters grow from seeds. They might start out with a vague characteristic such as hair color or an unusual mannerism, then germinating into a more fully developed person as the story grows. Elwyn, in THE NATURE OF ENTANGLED HEARTS, for instance, grew from the seed of my own insecurity. She avoids mirrors and dreads her reflection. Those simple characteristics allowed me to grow Elwyn into the dynamic, complex and nuanced character that she is. Writing in her voice allowed me to show her feisty attitude, her temper and her creativity. Her inner landscape is rich. These characteristics blossomed as I wrote in her voice. To continue this growth, I asked a million questions. Who is she? What does she love about life? What bothers her? Is she clumsy or graceful? Is she smart? Is she driven? Does she question the world around her to the point of incapacity sometimes? Why would she sabotage her relationships with men? As I asked myself these questions, and as Elwyn grew into the character she is, I realized many things about her. Her past was illuminated, her motivation to create her artwork became clear. She grew out of that tiny seed into a person as real as you or me.

My plots grow in much the same way. They germinate from small ideas – tiny moments from my own life that perplexed me or vexed me, moments that made me ask questions about the nature of love, of consciousness, of the universe around us. These essential questions helped me grow my stories into fully formed plot lines. I weave many threads together into riveting conclusions. I don’t always see the endings until I am close to them. It’s rare for me to see the ending of my story at the beginning. My writing style is linear, and the story grows with my characters. Once I get to the mid point of my work, I can start mapping out the trajectory of the plot and I will often make a rough outline for it.

I love working in this organic manner. Growing stories and characters from seed is a fulfilling and rewarding aspect of writing for me. It’s like watching a child grow up – I am so proud of the people my characters become. Even if they have made some iffy choices along the way, because let’s face it, who hasn’t? Part of the fun is letting the characters’ lives unfold authentically, which, in turn, drives a riveting plot.

The Nature of Entangled Hearts

 

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VBT – THE NATURE OF ENTANGLED HEARTS

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About the Author

Emma Hartley is an author and artist living in picturesque Maine. She has been writing and making art since childhood and has been insatiably curious and industrious her whole life. Emma was a double major in English and Fine Arts and she received her Masters in Art and Design Education. She is a specialist in ceramics and includes much of this expertise in her novel The Nature of Entangled Hearts. Her other interests include playing drums, making art and exploring every square inch of the Maine coastline. The Nature of Entangled Hearts is her first novel.

EmmaHartley

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About the Book:

Title: THE NATURE OF ENTANGLED HEARTS
Author: Emma Hartley
Publisher: Satin Romance
Pages: 277
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Paranormal Romance/Thriller/Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction
BOOK BLURB:

The Nature of Entangled Hearts is a fast-paced, edgy, romantic thriller, with a subtly supernatural twist.  Enter the story of Elwyn and James, two strangers entangled by their past-life experiences, who are mired in an unquantifiable present.  Throughout the novel they work to understand the bonds that hold them together, just as an unforeseen danger threatens to tear them apart.

Elwyn “Derrin” Derringer is a ceramic artist and a professor at the local college of art in Portland, Maine.  She has always felt insecure and disconnected, unsure of how or why she fits into the world, seeking through her art to fill in the missing pieces of herself.  When Elwyn’s eyes lock on those of a stranger across the market, everything she has taken for granted as reality is thrown into question.  Understanding blooms in fits and starts, interrupted by her fears of attachment and eventually by the unwanted attentions of an obsessed and disturbed art student.

Throughout the novel, Elwyn discovers reservoirs of strength and independence as she faces these challenges, endearing the reader with her feisty nature and her fierce desires to create authentically, to love intensely and to transcend the destructive links to her past.  “The Nature of Entangled Hearts” takes us on a thrilling ride through past and present, through love and dread, through loss and reclamation, leaving us thankful that we don’t understand all the mysteries of the universe just yet, and reminding us never to take our lives – or our loves – for granted.

The Nature of Entangled Hearts

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Book Excerpt:

“Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears

TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears –

To-morrow ? – Why, To-morrow I may be

Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand Years.”

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Translated by Edward FitzGerald

Prologue

Insecurity nestled in my breast like a needy child. I grew restless as it sucked something essential from me, thriving on my offering just as I, in turn, withdrew. I didn’t wish anymore, it seemed so pointless. I didn’t wait for some great epiphany. I existed, and that was enough, I told myself, for in contrast with the suffering of the rest of the world, it seemed only right to be thankful for the quietude of Maine.

I created relative to this insecurity, allowing it to flow into my work like water moistening clay. Without water, clay is dust. I thought that without my flaws—insecurity the reigning tyrant of lesser beasts—that my work would crumble under the weight of its own mediocrity. So, I let it govern my forms, my choices, my superficial acceptance of appreciative art collectors. Insecurity was the excuse that allowed me to embrace inferiority. With hope all but lost of finding any true meaning besides beauty in the world about me, I crept catatonic through my life, eyes barely open, heart nearly closed.

I’d spent most of my adult life in the great state of Maine. Portland drew me in after grad school and never let me go. There was always some new allure: The skeletal remains of an ancient pier ascending bleached from the ravages of low tide, exposed like the ribcage of a long extinct behemoth; verdigris copper edging along a crumbling slate roof, tattered like the lace on an old prom dress; the punishing crash of waves against the ferry’s bough, speeding undaunted through winter waters, as I enjoyed my own private cruise. This place had almost everything I needed to thrive. Almost.

Might not love play a part, I wondered in weak moments, in this deceptive spring landscape? Like a lupine seed blown from afar, rooting along the roadside, might it flourish? Then, how could this fragile shoot grow strong enough, fast enough, to outpace the onslaught of winter, or can love thaw the very air around it, creating a protective shield against the elements? Would time then corrupt it? Erode it like tiny drops of water on stone, wearing away elasticity and alacrity, making barren what would have borne fruit?

I had felt winter’s claws dig in, pinning me down like prey, waiting to crush my spirit. I had felt the rebirth of sunshine and growth, spilling into crevices nearly abandoned, a resurgence of breath to revive the long dead. The lost, the lonely, the artistically bereft, we have found ourselves drawn to Maine for an age, it’s the mercurial edge between civilization and wilderness. We flock here yearning to flourish, as a tree may cling to a forbidding cliff, rooting desperate between chinks in granite, gaining purchase against elemental odds: we grow despite ourselves, our rugged forms belying the improbable tenacity of our hidden will to thrive, of our frozen desire for love.
“Listen again. One evening at the Close

Of Ramazan, ere the better Moon arose,

In that old Potter’s Shop I stood alone

With the clay Population round in Rows.

And, strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot

Some could articulate, while others not:

And suddenly one more impatient cried-

Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?

Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,

“My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:

But, fill me with the old familiar juice,

Methinks I might recover by-and-by!”

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Translated by Edward FitzGerald

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