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Published in Author Interview

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Published in Author Interview

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Kathleen Harryman on how to create a character for a story

Kathleen discussed how to create a character for a story and her own narrative style. Her most well-known book, “the promise,” was well-read and admired by many people. We spoke about her writing routine and writing tips in this interview. She writes every week. Finding out what your characters are doing is always intriguing. So for every writer, preparation and ...

Kathleen discussed how to create a character for a story and her own narrative style. Her most well-known book, “the promise,” was well-read and admired by many people. We spoke about her writing routine and writing tips in this interview. She writes every week. Finding out what your characters are doing is always intriguing. So for every writer, preparation and revising are really necessary. Continue reading to learn why developing characters is important in both fiction and non-fiction writing.

If you ever get a question or stuck somewhere while writing, I highly recommend you to read what Kathleen does. Well, how to create a character for a story, all writers have to keep faith in their writing. However, Kathleen advised to embrace each error you come across is one of the keys to success.

how to create a character for a story
how to create a character for a story | Learn character growth from the author “the promise”

There is a lot more to this story than its genre would suggest. There are touching, honest love stories set against the uncertainty and horrors of WWII, but there is the deeper pull of relationships of all kinds that really drew me in and held my interest. The author went to great care to flesh out the key players in this drama that ultimately spans decades. What starts as a benign, happy look inside post, World War I subtly begins to take on a wary expectancy as England’s Prime Minister declares war against Germany. Suddenly, the sheltered youth who only knew of wartime horrors second-hand are now faced with the possibility of losing everything their predecessors had worked so hard to recover. Young love and the prospect of family and a future are now put on hold indefinitely. Hearing from the key players in this rich historical drama in their own words is what really hooked me. The insights the author has for each of her characters is truly remarkable. Nothing about this story was pat or standard; everyone in this drama comes across vividly, with their own unique mindsets. Watching as they grow and adjust to the impacts of war is eye-opening and refreshing, and most of all authentic. I think this is a wonderful story and I look forward to reading more by this insightful author.” — Cynthia Hamilton

About Author

Kathleen Harryman is a storyteller and poet living in the historically rich city of York, North Yorkshire, England, with her husband, children and pet dog and cat.

Kathleen first published a suspense thriller in 2015, The Other Side of the Looking Glass. Since then, she has developed a unique writing style which readers have enjoyed and is now a multi-published author of suspense, psychological thrillers, poetry and historical romance.

How to create a character for a story

In 2015, you wrote your first suspense thriller. Tell us your author journey from the beginning to until now.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to write. Stories have always been an integral part of who I am, it just took me a while to find the confidence to write and submit my first novel. Like all important events in life, there are joyous highs and extreme lows. Moments that propel you forward, my first novel, The Other Side of the Looking Glass, did that for me. The book reviews have been lovely, providing me with the confidence and zest to write my second book. The conception for each book is different. My second novel came to me from a single line: What's wrong with being a psychopath... While The Promise is a book that sat inside me for a long time, waiting for the right time to grow.

Research is an integral part of any book, even when writing fantasy, there has to be an element that makes events believable. There have been times when I have even tried some of the escape methods my characters have used, to ensure it is possible. When Darkness Falls is based on the internal dialog of the serial killer, so, it was important that I understood what drove the character to do what she did. There was an immense amount of research on serial killers as well as forensic science and profiling, to keep the book as real as possible.

I've often read that writing is a lonely journey. This makes little sense to me. My head is filled with characters, battling for a chance to be heard. When writing, the story sweeps me away, and time melts. I never see the loneliness, just the visions that flicker in my mind, where the story takes me and what is to come. 

From concept, I know the beginning, and the end, everything else is malleable. The ending may change slightly, When Darkness Falls, is one example. I'd always planned the end as I've published it. It was the Epilogue that was the biggest change, and I'm so happy it's there, the book would never have been complete without it.

Self-doubt is a huge part of writing, and there have been many times when I have written a book, and edited, and edited it, that I begin to wonder if it's strong enough. We all make comparisons, it's part of human nature, it is also what opens the door to self-doubt.

By the time I have finished a book, I will have read, and edited it, at least ten times, sometimes more. I need to connect with each story I write, to feel an emotional pull, which I can hopefully pass onto the reader. An author isn't a singular person, it is the story, the characters, and the reader. This connection is important, if the reader doesn't feel the story or become part of it, the story becomes lifeless.

There are no shortcuts in my writing journey. It's about hard work, embracing errors, self-doubt, and always having faith in my writing. 

What is the name of your favourite writer of historical romance novel you ever read before you start writing, and what take way from the perspective of beginners (writers)? Read further how to create a character for a story.

The first historical book I read was “The Sunne in Splendour” by Sharon Penman. I'm not sure, if you would class it as a love story, but there were essences of real life romance enfolded within the story. Sharon Penman captured my imagination, changing my perceptions around Richard III and lighting my hunger for historical fiction. For this gift, Sharon Penman will remain my favourite historical author.

For me, The Promise highlighted the difficulties historical authors face. Research isn't based only on surroundings, life, machinery, etc, but also on dress, behaviour and speech. When writing an historical novel, you are entering a world that cannot easily be accessed. I was lucky when I wrote The Promise because I had access to the 1930s and 40s from stories told me by my father and great uncles. There was still a lot of research, even though I was plunged deep into WWII.

Tell us more about your novel, “The Promise” and what triggers you the ideas about making it live.

The Promise is based around stories told me by my family who lived through WWII, it is a story I longed to write, but also one I put off for too long. It was Lucy Marshall, (co-author) who came to me asking if I would write a book with her, that made me write The Promise. Some of the characters are based on Lucy's acting friends. 

Like all the books I write, I knew how the story was to begin and end. But the night I met Lucy's friends, as we sat round my kitchen table talking, that's when the characters became real. Character relationships were forged from that night. Circumstances surrounding Tom Amitage and his father came into fruition. My brain works in strange ways, and I could see Tom's darkness and pain, as well as Sergeant Micheals strength and confusion.

Lucy was fantastic. When I told her some of the stories bestowed upon by my family, she would say, 'the hairs on my arms are standing up, Kathleen…' that's when I knew those stories would become part of The Promise.

I cannot tell you how much I cried when writing The Promise, and how much it touched me to write it. The Promise is my way of honouring my grandfather, James Chappell, who never returned from the war. My great uncles have kept his memory alive for me, and The Promise has allowed me to retell some of those stories. Though circumstances have been changed, the integral nature of those stories remain in The Promise. The Promise was a privilege to write, and I owe Lucy so much for asking me to write it with her.

The Promise was also a gift to my dad, Neville Chappell, who died in 2018. He never got to see The Promise published, but I was able to make hime smile and give him the knowledge that James Chappell would live on within The Promise.

What hard work you put in creating the protagonist and the other characters in the “The Promise” and ideas that you would like to share.

The Promise is told from multiple points of views, each character's thoughts, desires, and fears are laid bare as the story unfolds. It was my meeting with Lucy's acting friends that really drove each character's storyline, a lot changed for me that night. The interaction between them was inspirational, I do believe that the best characters are born from watching human interaction. While this isn't always possible when writing psychological thrillers, I can still get a favour of their essence from interviews, etc.

How to create a character for a story?

An important factor for me is allowing character growth, without the character becoming too dominant. Characters, even main characters, shouldn't suppress character growth, or you loose interactions you are going to rely on to knit the story together.

How do you plan your week if you are writing in your busy schedule? Would you like to give some tips to aspiring writers on character growth?

One thing I have learnt is that plans are never ridged, allow for outside factors, and so long as you write something daily, the weekly plan is a success. There are days when I'm not there creatively. However, I still aim to write something. Those are interesting days. When I go back and read what I've written the next day, that is when I notice how the story is evolving. If there is nothing imaginatively coming, I focus on a particular feature, like hair or eye colour, or even a dress, by picturing this in my mind. And writing it down, I find it frees up my headspace, allowing imagination to take over without conscious thought. Get fixated on something, and you lose everything because there is no way of moving past that point.

I hope Kathleen covered pretty much on character growth and many other things. Now it's time to explore more topics. Check out below interviews.

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