"How I develop characters in my writing"
by Kat Henry Doran
For me, a story begins with the picture—of a man, woman, perhaps an event. From there, I build characters based on facial gestures and body types which, for me, automatically predicts the occupation. I then complete a multi-page character outline which includes the character’s likes and dislikes in the clothes they wear, cars they drive, income and occupation, family of origin and friends or associates. By the time I've got the first under wraps, and there's always room for tweaking, I've got a pretty good idea about the opposite’s physical features, occupation [former , perhaps current], what they like to eat, read, watch on TV, clothes and car choices. It's important for both be the direct opposite of each other in almost every way, right down to their choices in restaurants and music. I find this process relaxing as well as stimulating; it helps me build the plot. Names and titles often come later in the process.
The hero of one of my earlier novellas is patterned after the English actor Daniel Craig whose face perfectly matches the taciturn county sheriff Rory McElroy from Embraceable You. I took the hero for my first full length novel, Captain Marvelous, from a cologne ad in Vogue Magazine.
My current release, Mad Dog and the Archangel, began with a picture of the actor Lou Diamond Phillips who I felt epitomized the look of the tortured hero, Rafael Archangeli. One of the secondary characters in Mad Dog, a pro hockey player turned attorney, came from an article about the NHL strike several years ago. The player had a don't-mess-with-me look in his eye that spoke to me.
I have on occasion based characters or incidents from my life as a nurse, later as a victim advocate. The core of Raising Kane, part of the Out of the Dark anthology for The Wild Rose Press, is based on a Take Back the Night march, protesting violence against women. The heroine, an investigative reporter covering the protest is arrested after the march evolves into a riot. The hero, a Public Information Officer for the local police department, has the job of putting a positive spin on things events and keep public pressure off the cops and onto the true criminals. I had a lot of fun with that story.
The premise for my second full length novel, Try Just Once More, arose out of a newspaper article about a local philanthropist who died in a seamy motel of a drug overdose after partying with paid escorts. The escorts were eventually tried and convicted of manslaughter claimed the philanthropist 'begged them to help him shoot up'. He may well have done that, beg them to give him the drug, but they always had the right to say no and walk away. They elected not to do that. I chose to focus my story on the family and how a crisis like this can have long lasting effects on the innocent wives and children.
And that's how I develop my characters.
Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog. You've made me think about things which in turn gave me some ideas for new stories.
Rafael Archangeli returns home to Summerville to bury an old friend, collect his inheritance, and then return to the only life he knows—conning wealthy women out of their money. In Rafe's world, money not only equals success, it goes a long way to obliterate the stigma of his past.
Grace Dunavan, former nun turned community activist, gave up worldly goods a long time ago with no regrets. But she's never known a man with the raw appeal of the Scourge of Summerville: Rafael Archangeli.
Their first meeting is like an errant strike of lightning, fierce and stunning in intensity, and takes both by surprise. Has Grace turned Rafe into a changed man? Or is he using his inheritance to pull off the biggest scam of his life?
A personal motto that served Grace Dunavan well for the past thirty-something years. She never picked up strange men. In fact, she rarely dated men, strange or otherwise. And wasn't she the first to preach the wisdom of obtaining a detailed history—family, medical and sexual before contemplating a walk on the wild side? With any man, including the brother of her best friend.
Especially one whose thick mop of jet colored hair, hooded black eyes and razor-sharp cheekbones, all of which held undeniable appeal for a good girl who always did what the nuns and her parents dictated. With a name like Archangeli he should be a protector, not a walking advertisement that proclaimed: I've Been There, Done That; Let Me Tell You All About It.
As he helped her into her coat, Grace heard Gaby murmur something about an attorney who was trying to track down Rafe. None of it made sense. What woman in her right mind could think straight when faced with a man who redefined potency?
It was a night of firsts for Grace: leaving a party with a man she'd never met before; admitting how and where she'd learned to drive; breaking the land speed record for contemplating her first one night stand.
“For the last time, Arch, how long do you plan on sticking around?”
It dawned on him that Rory was only doing his job. Christ only knew how this scene would have turned out if it was Dickhead standing here, though blood and gore likely would be involved.
More for dramatic effect, Rafe heaved a deep sigh. “For old time's sake, Sheriff, I'll answer your questions. I came back for Deege's funeral and to spend quality time with my sister. I saw Ryder Burke this morning who told me I was left something in the will. I'll be gone by the weekend.”
The sheriff nodded, just once. “A couple weeks ago, Burke asked me to run a list of names for wants and warrants. Your name took the top spot. Didn't take a rocket scientist to deduce it had something to do with Deege's will. I suggest you keep your word on your travel plans.”
“My record is clean.”
“Save that song for some other numb nuts, Arch. Just because the New York City courts haven't seen fit to convict your ass on grand larceny and other assorted grifts does not make you citizen of the year.”
That pretty much summed up the life and times of Rafael Archangeli. “As I said, Sheriff, I'll be out of your hair inside forty-eight hours.”
“After you’re gone, I'd hate to learn you've worked a scam on a fine woman like Grace Dunavan.”
“That a threat?”
“Leave it at a warning—for now.”
Over the years I've had the honor to work at a number of occupations: operating room nurse, malpractice insurance investigator, forensic nurse examiner, victim advocate, wife and mother. Five years ago I became Nana for the first time and, believe me, it’s the best job ever!
Even if I sometimes wish they'd remain in the closet, the years I spent in the OR and labor floor, and later advocating for victims of sexual violence, contribute significantly to the voice of my writing. You don’t spend thirty years playing loyal serving maid and mind reader to egotistical surgeons, then twelve years haunting police stations, Emergency Rooms, and criminal courts without developing an internal alarm system for covert misogyny, rampant apathy, and overwhelming bigotry.
I retired my stethoscope and speculum a few years ago but continue to advocate quietly for marginalized populations through Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders.
PLEASE MENTION THE PRIZE THAT THE AUTHOR WILL BE GIVING AWAY: a Funky Bag and a Toiletries Bag from Kats Kustom KarryAlls, filled with author swag to one random commenter on the tour as well as to the host with the most comments (excluding the host's and Kat's). US and Canada only, please.