character development

World Poetry Day

Happy World Poetry Day!

To celebrate, we’re premiering a new and improved version of the International Read of my poem A Study on Character Development.

Enjoy!

 

website: http://www.astudyoncharacterdevelopment.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/studyoncharacterdevelopment

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Meet the Characters: Scarlett Lang

I’d been wanting to write about the characters in my series, The Caregiver, for some time now, although I believe it’s a little too early to do so, don’t ask me why (maybe it has to do with the fact that I refuse to think of myself as an author). However, The Beast (Book 3) will be released into the wild soon and I thought it would be nice to give you some inside info about the main characters in the series (I may get to the secondary and tertiary too because I love them all so much).

Consider this something in the likes of loose character notes because these people tend to take matters into their own hands most of the time, leaving me as the mere channel through which they tell their stories.

So, let’s get this party started with the protagonist:

Scarlett Lang

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, USA, around March 1981 (don’t have an exact date but she’s an Aries) which makes her 31 years old at the time of books 1 and 2. Granddaughter to Adrian Lang, daughter to Daniel Lang and Margaret Lang. Became an orphan after her parents’ murder at 12 and went to live with her grandfather up until she was 17, when she married Xavi Pontevedra and moved to Puerto Rico. She didn’t become an active hit woman until after that marriage ended (only lasted a year) and she was taken under Rafael Cisneros’ wing back in Miami (right around 1999 – 2000). Rafael Cisneros was the one who coaxed her into becoming a nurse, all the while employing her as hit woman and helping her become the well-known assassin she is. Cisneros’ half-brother, Roberto, is another main character in her personal history, turning from childhood crush to lover around 2002 and keeping an on and off relationship with her until she’s offered the Interpol position within The Filius Project in 2005. The Gibraltar mission takes place in 2007, the Sayer mission in 2012.

      I wrote a post about face claims on my Tumblr and put up a collage with pics of the men in the series because it’s been so much easier to find male actors to fit my characters than female ones. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and like to think of every female character as an extension of myself, although the male ones are also extensions of myself… Or maybe it’s because I’m so jealous of them I can’t even… Emotions aside, I picture Scarlett a lot like actresses Emily Hampshire, Jemima Rooper, or Suranne Jones.
      I didn’t want to make her a sex symbol, nor a masculinized woman. A friend once commented on how much she liked to read scenes where Scarlett’s in a room filled with men and not have the situation turn into a sexual one (she was mainly referring to this vignette). Scarlett’s confident about herself and her abilities to the point of not having to prove them to anyone. And she prefers shirts and trousers rather than dresses, but I want to believe I’ve given her enough emotional balance to say she’s not a man with a vagina, or a woman with a dick, whatever rocks your boat. There is a lot of sex in Scarlett’s past. Part of it is revealed in Book 2, but Book 3 shows a tad more, and the possible prequels I’m working on thanks to the vignettes do have a heavy sexual component. There is the subject of BDSM, nevertheless, this is no Fifty Shades. I just wanted to show a female character that can walk into a dark alley and, although she’ll be scared shitless, can deal with the situation should she get mugged. And that, of course, enjoys sex as much as the next guy without feeling guilty about it.
      Also, I like that she’s got body issues like any other woman, to the point of even mentioning the fact that she can’t wear a gun between her thighs because she lacks the coveted thigh gap. This is also a loaded weapon in the hands of the wrong people. In Book 2 her new superior, DS Ethan Young, uses it when he tells her “I wasn’t aware that the Sayer mission was a deep penetration one. Romulus assured me you weren’t a honeytrap. Seeing you now I can tell what he meant. However, I know he was aware of the fact that Sayer was never a shallow man, unlike his colleagues.” The bastard. She may seem unfazed right then but, believe me, that kind of talk does hurt. And then he goes into slut-shaming mode in Book 3 and will keep it up in Book 4 because he’s a dickhead like that.
      Scarlett isn’t a complicated character, at least from my point of view. She’s pretty simple and even though she thinks she’s got a hold on life, she doesn’t. The situation she’s in is what’s complicated about all this and she’s trying to figure things out as well as she can. She’s made a lot of mistakes (haven’t we all?) and will keep making them until the day she dies.
      She’s no Cinderella. She’s a hit woman, for fuck’s sake. And even when she’s been dragged into this whole Filius Project shit, she’s never stopped being one of the best assassins in the world, which translates into a lot of money in the bank and a lot of traveling around. This being said, she’s no poor girl falling in love with a filthy rich prince. As a matter of fact, she may be one of the few that can look a drug lord like Armand in the eye when it comes to both nerves and financial stability. She doesn’t need anyone giving her anything, to the point where, in Book 3, she’ll be the one gifting Armand some pretty cool and expensive stuff. She has a life apart from him and his people and a lot of it will come to the light in Book 3.
      Even though she could be, she’s not alone. There are some revealing scenes in Book 2 where readers learn how Scarlett was abused as a child. This whole sad, dark past subject worked itself into the story. It was never my intention to do that but, somehow, it fit. However, this doesn’t mean she’s lived a secluded or estranged life, quite the contrary, she took it to herself to surround her persona with friends and allies that, although work related, regard her as part of their families and will do everything they can to help and protect her. Many of them don’t know what actually happened in her past (hence Bobby Cisneros’ reaction when it’s revealed) even when her grandfather, Adrian Lang, was also their acquaintance, yet that didn’t stop them from adding her to their circles. There’s Eliza Pontevedra too, who lived such abuses in tandem and acts as a sisterly safe haven when the past comes at them in waves. Then, when Armand comes into the picture, we can all see how she wins over his people and manages to bend them for her own purposes.
      “You seldom kill for your own benefit, Scarlett.” When Han, the Chinese Dragon Head, said this while I was writing Book 3 I had to pause and think for a while. There’s a scene in Book 2 where Scarlett has a bit of a breakdown after a very tense moment between her, Adrian, Bobby, and a very concerned George. But when Han spoke those words it all became so clear. Scarlett’s a hit woman. This means she’s paid to kill people that other people want dead, not her. Now the tables are turned and she’s finding out how different it is when you’re killing people you want dead yourself. It’s a whole other game she’s entering and it will prove not to be as easy as she thought.
All this said, I want to add that there’s a bigger character arc in the works between the vignettes/prequels and the books already in the series. This can be seen already in the vignettes (another one of those things that’s come as a surprise while writing them). The Scarlett pre-Gibraltar mission is very different from the post-mission one in a lot of ways. I like to think the pre-mission Scarlett would’ve never thought of getting married again, not even remotely, much less let herself get caught up in the illusion of planning a wedding and a happy ending kind of future…
But you’ll have to read Book 3 to know what happens with that!

Want to know more?

You can read THE CAREGIVER (Book 1 of The Caregiver Series) for free at The Caregiver Series Blog and Wattpad, or get it from Smashwords (free), Barnes & Noble (free), Kobo (free) and Amazon (99 cents).

TORN (Book 2 of The Caregiver Series) is available through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will be available mid-January through Smashwords and Amazon (the rest of the retailers will come later).

Of actors, and characters, and writing, and all that crazy sh*t

I’ve been meaning to write a post for some time and have come to the conclusion that I’m an awful blogger. Most of the time I don’t think I have anything nice or earth-shattering to say, so I stay quiet, which isn’t the blogger thing to do.

Ugh.

Thing is, my friend, writer, and editor Stacia posted this wonderful entry on her bog titled When they’re dull as dirt: Thoughts on casting characters about using actors in the character development process. It’s a technique I use a lot since it helps me give each character the three-dimensionality they need (I’m the friend that sent her the document with my dream cast, which, as of now, has 28 characters in it).

I must confess it’s an exercise that makes me feel guilty about “using” these people for my convenience (I wrote about that here). Do their ears ring all the time because of me? I don’t think so, but still. They don’t have to be exact matches, even a single trait can help you solidify a character enough to make him or her pop out of the page. A beautiful post about it is Susan Rutherford’s ‘Hearing Voices’ for Park Theatre’s blog where she talks about how an actor’s voice helped her shape a character that refused to come out of the page:

I went to a reading, met the actors, and the voice of one of them stuck in my head.  Suddenly that lifeless character started to breathe.  It’s not that my character is similar to any of those I saw that night, nor is that particular actor necessarily suitable for the role; but there was something about him that seemed to give my man a gentle kick up the arse.

My closest friends know there are actors and actresses that have recurrent roles through my works. They also know I’ll die of embarrassment if I ever met them (the things I put them through some times!). That’s why I prefer to use actors and not Tuckerization, I mean, I can kill off a character based on an actor’s performance and he or she won’t come knocking down my door asking me why I did that to them; friends or family, on the other hand, won’t let me live with it.

“When I read I make myself a film in my head. It’s the writer’s job to make that process as easy as possible – so readers are almost eavesdropping these people, seeing the locations, smelling the coffee if you like. Viva la Madness flows like a film. And has snap edits like a film. There’s a lot of “cut to” involved. Lots of flashback and different aspects of the same story told from different points of view. It has captions and timelines. Writers nowadays have borrowed these techniques from film.”

— J.J. Connolly

We read and simultaneously see the movie of what’s happening in our heads; the same goes for writing, you see it in your head as your fingers hit the keys on your computer.

Writer friend Todd Keisling talks about this in his Up and Coming Interview with In Ear Entertainment, saying his writing is very cinematic. And given the fact that new generations have shorter attention spans and very active imaginations, I believe it’s something good. I don’t want to compare my writing to Todd’s because I can’t bring myself to look him in the eye after reading his work. He’s amazing and if you haven’t read his books then shame on you. But I want to think my writing as cinematic also (I was told this once by an English professor) and that it engages the reader as a film would. I often get that ‘I read it in one sitting’ or ‘I couldn’t put it down once I started’ from people that have read my work and it makes me happy.

In an interview with Stacey Cochran and RJ Keller in Book Chatter, the subject of my writing process came up and my answer still makes me think I may have sounded a little crazy. Anyway, when I was little I wanted to be an actress. Even when writing was always there, the first things I wrote were short stories and screenplays. Screenplays because I wanted to be able to write the character and play it. Oh, and also direct it, but that wasn’t my main goal back then. What I learned from that was to take on the dialogues for what they are: dialogue, meant to be said by someone. Since then, most of the time when I sit down to write I’ve already acted the whole thing as if I were in the movie. I shout at my walls a lot, thank god they don’t shout back.

Where do the actors come in, then? Well, I can’t play all the characters, can I? And having a solid reference for each character does wonders for this process. You have no idea the actors I’ve “worked” with in my head and how that mental interaction has helped me with writing stuff that doesn’t sound like coming out of a robot’s speaker.

It may also be the reason that will get me locked up in a padded cell later in life. But psychological distress while writing is another topic I promise I’ll write about on some other occasion.

The important thing here would be not to get too attached to those actors you envision playing your characters in case it gets picked up by some production company and they cast other people for the parts. Writers don’t have a saying in that and you have to be able to let go. Yeah, yeah, I know that most see this as wishful thinking, but a girl can dream, right?

Now go on, come up with your dream cast and make ’em proud.

Write

A Study on Character Development – International Read (Round 1)

6 actors. 6 countries. 1 text.

A crowdsourcing experiment part of the A Study on Character Development transmedia storytelling project.

All actors were contacted through email and social media, given the same text, and asked to film themselves giving their own renditions of it with any type of camera they had available (webcams, mobile phones, anything). These videos were then sent to me to be edited into a mashup, deconstructing their personal renditions to create a new collective one.

Text: Astrid ‘Artistikem’ Cruz (Puerto Rico)

Cast: Kisha Tikina Burgos (Puerto Rico), Iván Camilo (Dominican Republic), Alia E. Torrie (Scotland), Amandine Vincent (France), Frances Okeke (Nigeria), Franky Plata (Colombia)

Music: ‘The First Day Pt. 2’ by All Will Be Quiet (Finland), ‘Control’ by Skatan (Sweden)

More information about the project and how you can collaborate:
http://astudyoncharacterdevelopment.com
http://facebook.com/studyoncharacterdevelopment