Making characters believable
by Bette Lee Crosby
For me, the most important part of a story is character development. As a reader, I have to feel a connection with the characters in a story, or I find myself quickly losing interest. I believe it’s the same for most people.
Before I start to write a novel, I spend weeks getting to know each and every one of the people in the story. I imagine their response to challenge. I dig down to find what makes them happy and what makes them sad. I also look back at the individuals who have crossed my pathway of life and allocate select personality traits to the certain characters.
I’ve been genuinely fond of all the characters I’ve created, but Ethan Allen Doyle of Spare Change is probably my favorite. He has a voice and an attitude that is uniquely his, so I thought I’d let you get to see him as I did. This is my interview with Ethan Allen Doyle…
Q: Who are you?
A: My name’s Ethan Allen Doyle, I’m an eleven-year old kid and I ain’t the hero of this story, but I got more troubles than any ten heroes ought to have. I suppose you could say Grandma Olivia is the hero, but it sure didn’t start out that way. Matter of fact, Grandma Olivia never even wanted kids, never mind an eleven-year-old boy with trouble dogging his heels.
Q: Where do you live?
A: Me, my Mama and Daddy lived on a farm smack in the middle of nowhere—folks claim it’s the Eastern Shore of Virginia, but Mama used to say it was the ass end of the earth. ‘Course I don’t where I’m gonna live now, guess that depends on whether or not Grandma Olivia changes her way of thinking about kids.
Q: Do you run from conflict?
A: I got no choice but to run; if I stay here Scooter Cobb is gonna blast my butt to kingdom come. And, telling the truth ain’t an option—whose gonna take the word of a kid over that of a policeman?
Q: How do you see yourself?
A: I see myself as the most unluckiest kid in the world; I got a dead Mama, a dead Daddy, and a policeman’s daddy looking to kill me. Is that unlucky enough for you?
Q: How do your enemies see you?
A: Right now, I ain’t all that sure who’s my enemy and who’s not. I know for sure Scooter Cobb is, he’s got a sneaky suspicion I know the truth of what happened to Daddy so he’d rather see me dead than alive. And, I got a notion his son Sam, feels the same; with Sam being a policeman things are just gonna get worse. That other detective, Jack Mahoney, I’m not too sure about him.
Q: What do you think of yourself?
A: I’m nobody’s fool; I know trouble when I see it and I can generally figure my way around it. Mama says I’m a lot like her, but there’s one difference—when Daddy gets ugly, she eggs him on, me, I just up and disappear.
Q: Do you have a hero?
A: Yeah, I reckon my hero is Grandma Olivia; she had guts enough to stand up the Cobbs. She told me not to worry ‘cause we got God on our side, ‘course the Cobbs got guns and meanness on their side, but Grandma Olivia didn’t seem to let that bother her none.
Q: Do you have a goal?
A: ‘Course I got a goal—stayin’ alive! When Mama was alive we was thinking we’d go to New York City so she could be a singing star, but that plan’s shot to hell, so stayin’ alive is the next best thing.
Q: What are your achievements?
A: Getting outta Scooter Cobb’s house for one thing. I come up with that plan by myself, nobody was slipping me some good escaping suggestions that’s for sure. Okay, I was scared when my foot missed and I started sliding off the roof, but I didn’t give in to screaming or anything; a lot of kids would’ve been yelling for their mama, but not me—yelling for Mama wouldn’t of done me no good anyway.
Q: What makes you happy?
A: I like when the Orioles win; ‘course they don’t win much so I ain’t got a lot to be happy about. I used to be happy when Mama talked about me n’ her going to New York City. I figured if we ever got there, I was gonna see a New York Yankees game. The Yankees, now that’s a team you can be happy about.
Q: What makes you sad?
A: Thinking about Mama lying in the driveway like she was taking a nap and thinking about Daddy with his head squashed open; and of course knowing I ain’t never gonna see that Yankee game I was counting on.
Q: Are you lucky?
A: You gotta be kidding me! I done told you, I’m the most unlucky kid in the world! If I was lucky, me and Mama would be in New York eating a bunch of hot dogs and watching a Yankee game.
Q: Did you get along with your parents?
A: Yeah, we got along okay. With Daddy I mostly stayed outta his way, but Mama and me, we had ourselves some good times talking about all the stuff we was gonna do. Mama wasn’t like most mamas, she didn’t like cooking and cleaning, she said life was too short for such nonsense, she said we was put on earth to be happy and that’s what she was trying to do. I felt real good when Mama said I took after her and was not like Daddy; I never wanted to be like Daddy.
Q: Was there ever a defining moment in your life?
A: Yeah, when I found Mister Porter’s shotgun in the basement, if it wasn’t for that rusted old shotgun Grandma Olivia and me would both be dead. I would’ve preferred finding some shells for the Browning ‘cause a rifle’s a lot more accurate than a shotgun, but luckily things worked out okay anyway.
Q: What is your most prized possession?
A: Is a dog a possession? ‘Cause if he is, then I’d say Dog. If a dog ain’t a possession, then I guess it’s a toss-up between my catcher’s mitt and those birthday cards I got from the grandpa I ain’t ever met. If I didn’t have those cards, I’d of never found Grandma Olivia.
Q: How do you envision your future?
A: That’s a funny question. Anyway, I done seen the story of how I growed up, so I know what I become; but I ain’t saying. If you really wanna know, then you gotta read Grandma Olivia’s story—‘cause that’s the God’s honest truth of how it happened.
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Genre – Literary Fiction
Rating – PG13
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