This week on Mystery Mondays we welcome Kelley Kaye (also known as Kelley Bowles), The exciting news…Her second novel Poison by Punctuation (Chalkboard Outlines Book 2) is being released tomorrow! If you’ve read Death By Diploma, you won’t want to miss Poison by Punctuation.
My ideas for Character Development.
by Kelley Kaye
I’ve been told my strengths as far as writing fly in voice and character. So I wanted to take a minute to kind of examine a couple of neat things I’ve been finding out about, and trying for myself, as far as character development. Do they work? I can only go back to comments I’ve heard about my strength as a writer being in voice and characterization… So here we go:
As far as character goes, I think small is big. While it’s great if you have a big idea for the trigger that shapes your character’s basic personality, like a traumatic event from his youth or a colorful uncle from her present, that’s important. But I think it’s in the idiosyncrasies—the little habits or the minuscule events, all combined in to one big personality that make the character most memorable.
Does your character press her left toe into her shoe all the time? Left toe only? Why does she do that? My character was stung by a bee on that toe when she was four, and there’s a little scar there. Maybe it tingles when the phone is going to ring, if you’re looking for a small paranormal bent, or maybe she has to take off her shoe to rub the scar as the only way she knows to calm herself down. If she takes off her shoe to rub the scar before her calculus test or before the goodnight kiss at date’s end, it’s a small thing. But either scene tells the reader something about the character.
Yesterday I was clearing out a bunch of old books and I found a book on palmistry. I haven’t looked at it since I was a very young adult, I think I bought it because I had some sort of idea for myself, about reading palms for fun at parties. That never went anywhere, but now I thought, wow! Character who reads palms at parties. or at the breakfast table, or at Starbucks? That’s cool and interesting and could go all sorts of different places as far as plotline. Just from looking at a book on palm reading.
For my upcoming murder mystery—Poison by Punctuation—I continued with a tiny character trait for Leslie, one of the two main characters, but it’s turning bigger by the day. Leslie is super stylish, graceful, a fashion plate who (almost) always has every hair in place. But she has a sort of magic trick to correspond with her perfection, which works to help the reader know what kind of a person she is underneath. Whatever people around her need, she is able to produce. From where, nobody knows, but if it’s a Kleenex or a protein bar or…a pair of ski boots, somehow Leslie has it. She’s a little snarky, a little irreverent, and has no idea how intimidating she can be, but her magic whatever-you-need ability shows the big heart hiding in the sarcasm. It’s a small thing with a big impact.
The coolest new character trait I’ve decided to experiment with is a big thanks to YA Indulgences blogger Amber Barnes, and it’s called a character playlist. Thanks Amber! Seems like the most basic of ideas, but I never thought about it in terms of characterization. What’s your character’s top 10 musical playlist? Why are these songs in his top 10? We all know music triggers the most intense memories, so how can you use the playlist to help expand and define your (and your reader’s) knowledge of the character?
For me, all my characters have elements of me, but the playlist was nice because I could play with it beyond my own personal memories associated with the song. Anything by Peter Cetera transports me immediately to a dance in the gym of my junior high school, but Emma Lovett, my main Chalkboard Outlines cozy character, is only 27 years old. If I want Peter Cetera on her playlist, what cool little story is behind the reason she loves him? It doesn’t have to be a life-changing story, just something small. A little idiosyncrasy that can turn into big character relating.
Thank you for joining me today on the eve of my new release of Poison by Punctuation! I’m leaving you with Harper, my YA character’s playlist as an example, because I haven’t made playlists for Emma and Leslie yet… 😊Maybe I’ll make a list for Edward the librarian and Nate the skateboard-riding-through-hallways principal too, who knows?
- Belly of the Whale Burning Sensations ‘Belly of the Whale’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZgtKt8K3hoThis is, of course, Harper’s theme song. She feels so isolated in her body – like most teenagers do – that it’s like she is down in the belly of a whale in the bottom of the ocean.
2. Closer to Fine Indigo Girls Indigo Girls – Closer to Fine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZgtKt8K3ho
Harper‘s mom, Isabelle, introduced her to this song. Isabelle wrote a paper on this song when she was in college, and she’s loved it and the message ever since. Isabelle definitely feels this way—like the more you can go with the flow and roll with the punches, the better off you’ll be. Harper is trying.
3. No Roots Alice Merton
This, again, reflects Harper’s life theme. Since she’s not even sure she’s in the right family, she certainly doesn’t feel like she has roots anywhere.
4. The Man The Killers
This song is for Harper’s Uncle Pasta—the gay uncle who lives in the basement. He’s hilarious and awesome—totally The Man! 😜
5. Uptown Funk Bruno Mars
- Every Little Thing She Does is Magic the Police The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Since Harper can envision her glorious future with basketball star Larson McCready—even though she’s never even talked to him—she can imagine him singing this song to her.
7. Breathe Anna Nalick- Breathe (2am)
The ability to say the right thing at the right time is an important and as yet unrealized skill for Harper. This song confirms how scary it is to put yourself out there for others to judge, but the song helps her know she’s not alone in feeling that way.
8. Blackbird The Beatles
Harper’s father, Michael, is this intense and driven man with very strong ideas and opinions. He’s the one who introduced her to the Beatles, but he was careful to explain that there are only a certain amount of Beatle songs that are genius, and some bubblegum poppy kinds that are lame. This, thankfully, he considers one of the genius ones because Harper thinks it’s beautiful, and feels like she is only waiting for HER moment to arrive…
9. Bohemian Rhapsody Queen
Harper and Uncle Pasta like to headbang to this song.
And, for 10., Harper chose Michael Jackson, because, well, any playlist is incomplete without Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
Poison By Punctuation
High school teacher Emma Lovett is finally recovering from her first year of teaching when she discovers another dead body. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this time, someone has killed a student, Kisten Hollis.
Emma and her best friend, Leslie, are desperate to solve this murder. But suspects abound. The perpetrator could be a teacher, an administrator, a member of Kisten’s zealous church community, or even another student.
Emma must juggle her teaching responsibilities, her new romance with handsome Hunter Wells, and interest from a hunky second suitor, all while searching for evidence to bring a killer to justice before someone else dies.
Who Kelly Kaye?
Kelley Kaye is the pen name for the cozy mystery fiction of Kelley Bowles Gusich. Kelley taught high school English and Drama for twenty years in Colorado and California, but a 1994 MS diagnosis has (circuitously) brought her, finally, to the life of writer and mother, both occupations she adores, and both of which were dreamed of clear back at stories surrounding her Barbie and Ken. Her debut novel, cozy mystery Death by Diploma was released by Red Adept Publishing February 2016, and is first in the Chalkboard Outlines®series. Book #2, Poison by Punctuationis coming out April 24! She’s also writing YA under Kelley Kay Bowles with her novel Down in the Belly of the Whalecoming May 5. Yay, books!
Kelley is active on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedinand GoodReads, with a combined over 3500 followers. Her website is www.kelleykaybowles.comwhere she’s valiantly attempting to blog once per week. She has two wonderful and funny sons, and an amazing husband who cooks for her. She lives in Southern California.