Here is another post helping writers to write better characters. Today I am using the characters and getting inside the authors mind to help pinpoint how to write the best character possible.
Review of FERTS
The basic premise of the book is a post apocalyptic future where one man creates FERTS (Fertility Emigration Resource Training Supply) to basically control the supply of women to the surrounding communities of men. The man who created this is Pinnacle Officer Wilcox. His is the perfect antagonist or villain for this novel and that makes Beth 259201, or simply 201, the perfect protagonist. They are different sides of the same coin and are not that much different when you get down to the nitty gritty, but they complement each other well in the book. Ms. Hudson does not disappoint and she gives us nearly as much details on Wilcox as she does 201. The reader gets to understand the motivations for each character completely and it makes the action that much more compelling.
Since her novel is more character driven, there is not a plot twist in every chapter. Her twists are slower to develop and more subtle. I am a fan of this type of novel and prefer it to the clunk-you-over-the-head-with-action style novels. If you love great characters and love subtle plot twists, then you are going to love this novel.
To read the full review, check it out on Goodreads
201, the Character
Since this blog is about character and how to create real and vivid characters, I want to focus on 201. 201 is a female in FERTS and is likely nearing her death in about 2 years. The females have a lifespan of about 26 years in FERTS. 201 is the only one of the other women to figure this out and tries to tell the other women, but they are too caught up in the game that Wilcox has designed to see the hidden dangers. 201 is more intelligent than most other women and uses her intelligence as her strength to game the system. You see her slowly wake up to her intelligence and her abilities slowly over the book.
While 201 is an intriguing character, she is highlighted by the villain in this story, Pinnacle Officer Wilcox. Without him, she is not much of a protagonist. I especially love how she uses limited third person POV well letting the reader peak into both the protagonist’s and the antagonist’s minds. Being able to see and feel both characters increased the tension of the novel and allowed the reader to identify with both characters. Grace did an excellent job of simultaneously creating a villain and making him human enough that the readers could identify with at least part of his character. Very clever and effective.
Pinnacle Officer Wilcox
You want to hate the guy, but he is too crafty, too smart, and too conniving to really hate. He is a wonderful villain that matches wits with 201 quite well. They are both highly intelligent, but he uses his intelligence for his gain and at the expense of others. That is one way they are different, but 201 is not that different from Wilcox as one might first suspect. 201 is capable of using trickery and her intelligence to get what she wants even at the expense of others. It could be argued that both could have made their decisions in survival mode and to ensure their own survival. While Wilcox does have the added sinister factor that 201 lacks, they do make a perfect protagonist/antagonist pair. Two sides of the same coin if you will.
For more information about writing a great villain, check out this blog post
About the Author
Grace Hudson is an author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes dystopian, paranormal, urban fantasy and probably some other genres she hasn’t explored yet. FERTS is her first novel.
I am pleased to announce that for the first time on All Things Character It Is, I am able to share with you an author interview with Grace Hudson. I am so pleased to be able to share this with you! Here it is.
CD: How did you create the character, 201? Did she just come to you or was it an evolution or discovery of her?
GH: 201 just popped out of nowhere, I mean, I guess she had to come from somewhere but I can’t pinpoint where. And her name Beth 259201 just came to me as well. I thought it was bizarre at first, using numbers instead of a name. But after a while 201 became a name like “Jane” or “Mary”. She evolved and revealed herself along the way, which was exciting. I knew she was deep, right from the start, but I didn’t know how much there was to her character.
I love her strength, her sarcasm and wit and her unyielding devotion to friendship. I love how she cares so deeply for 232 and Titan, and later Raf and Cal. 201 is fiercely loyal. There is no “surface persona” with 201. 201 struggles with fitting in because she can’t always hide who she is and what she aspires to be.
I also knew that she was intelligent, but it is a different kind of intelligence to say, Wilcox. 201 has instinct, she is very raw and primal in many ways and she is tenacious and single-minded when it comes to what is important to her. She may not be the strongest fighter, but if she wants something, she will keep at it until she works out how to achieve her objectives.
She has shortcomings and works with them, but she plays on her strengths, such as her intelligence. She is also aware of her weaknesses, such as her lack of brute strength. What I love is her inner strength, her resilience, her determination and her sense of hope. She is kind of a reluctant hero, I guess. She doesn’t just do things for herself, she has a sense of the greater good.
CD: What is your process for developing new characters?
GH: My process is ridiculously simple. I’m writing a passage when a new character kind of pops in. I normally know what they look like and a few characteristics and I go “okay, what’s your name?” Sometimes I get it straight away, sometimes I come up with a name that sucks and have to change it. When the character is happy with their name, I’m happy. Sounds weird, I know, but that’s how it seems to go. Also, if I write something that is out of character I tend to get a sense that the character wouldn’t do or say something a certain way so I go and fix it to something more appropriate.
CD: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
GH: I am a pantser, it’s the way I always write. I start with a blank page (or screen) and just go from there. I have no idea what is going to happen next so I let the characters run the action and I just document everything, much like a war correspondent. In a particularly tense scene or a confrontation, I have no idea how it’s going to turn out.
Note, one of the other authors that I featured on this blog earlier, Sheryl Lee, is also a panster.
CD: What were the inspirations for your character(s)?
GH: The characters kind of just appeared, but I guess the inspiration had to come from somewhere. 201 is pretty unique, I can’t think of a lot of characters that are like her. Wilcox as well, he’s one of a kind.
Rafaella and Caltha are heroes in a more traditional sense, and the closeness that they share is unique. Their bond is unquestionable. I don’t know where they came from exactly, but I suppose they represent hope in the story. There are military inspirations, Rafaella is quite military-minded as a leader but she listens to her heart as well as her instincts. She’s kind of awesome, I don’t know how else to describe her. She’s someone to admire.
Wilcox also has military leanings but he is predominantly a scientist. Farrenlowe was an interesting one. He’s like the ringmaster at a circus or one of those ancient Greek narrators. Very theatrical, anyway. Reno’s inspiration is military too. Writing FERTS was a revelation in that I found that I know far more about military stuff and historical weapons than might be considered healthy.
Wilcox is such an interesting character, how did you get the idea for him? I love that you seemed to spend as much time letting the reader get to know Wilcox as you did 201.
He also came out of thin air, pretty much fully formed. He wasn’t based on any one particular person that I have met. He came from observations, interactions, a certain way of thinking. A certain perspective, taken to its n-th degree, was the inspiration for Pinnacle Officer Wilcox. His personality and ideas came from real-life examples, a jumble of vague and abstract concepts actualized in not just Pinnacle Officer Wilcox, but FERTS itself.
It was tough writing from his perspective, mostly because his beliefs are so strong and his logic is consistent. He is multi-layered, seemingly quiet and reserved, but so much going on in that mind. On the surface he seems placid, but even the Officers know not to mess with him, such is the force of his personality. His charisma, and his ability to sway popular opinion is his greatest strength, aside from his scientific and medical prowess. He is used to being the undisputed authority on all matters and his self-belief is unquestionable. His relentlessness and determination too. Wilcox has a brilliant mind, complex but consistent in reasoning. His desire to be understood is strong, most are not on the same level to even grasp most of the concepts, so that is a source of frustration for him. His vision, his scientific, military, engineering and medical concepts come together to create something functional that works towards an ideal. But his mind and his heart reside on different levels.
While writing the story, Wilcox revealed his vision along the way, adding layers to the mind behind FERTS. He was a bit quiet for a while and I thought I had him figured out. Then, late one night while I was writing a scene he revealed why they were all called Beth. That was a tough night.
You can find FERTS on Amazon.
Though this is Grace’s first novel, she has written like she has been writing for years. I love that we can tap into her and channel her writing style and learn from how she creates her characters. This is insightful and hopefully helpful. What I learned from Grace is that she got out of the way and let her characters become who they were going to become. She didn’t judge or have preconceived ideas about who she thought they should become. This can be difficult especially when your character wants to grow up to become something you don’t think they should, but it is important to trust the process and let each character find their own way through fiction land and your novel.