Q&A with Angela Meadon author of Strong Medicine part 2
How do you go about developing a character?
I think every major character must have certain aspects to their personality in order for them to become real in my mind, and hopefully the minds of my readers. They must have a great strength, a great flaw, a dream, and something that motivates them to take action in the face of terrible adversity. They also need to change and grow over the arc of the story.
When planning a character I open a new sheet in my Scrivener file for that person and outline all the factors I mentioned above. I add some defining physical characteristics, and then I move on to the next character.
With Erin (the protagonist in Strong Medicine) I had such a clear picture of who she is and where she comes from that I could tell her story almost like it was my own.
What do you consider key steps to take when bringing a character to life?
I think that character who feel live are complex. They have their own personality, hopes and dreams, and idiosyncrasies. You might not know all those intricacies when you start, so be prepared to weave them in during your rewriting process.
One thing I will never do is sit down and try to list every part of a character’s history, preferences, etc. I think they develop organically through the writing process. And every one of my characters has something of me in them.
What is the one crucial consideration without which it’s impossible to create a believable character?
You have to know your character’s motivation. What is it that makes her keep pushing through all the difficulties you sling at her? Why does she so badly want to achieve her goal? Without motivation, true, deep motivation, you have nothing. You cave a caricature, not a character.
Did the characters change and develop as you wrote the book and if so how did that happen?
Oh, goodness. I think Erin mellowed out a little. In the beginning she’s a hard-ass, trying to do her best with the little she has, and she only has a soft spot for her daughter. By the end of the story she’s cooled down a bit, achieved two of her goals, and is looking forward to a long happy life with her daughter, safe in the knowledge that she has the inner strength to do anything.
Makulu, my antagonist, started out as the typical “evil bad guy”. While writing him I discovered more of who he is, and why he does the things he does, to the point where he became as rounded as Erin.
Creating believable dialogue is an essential skill in any writer’s toolkit. How did you achieve this?
First of all, you have to throw out the idea that ‘believable’ dialogue in a book is anything like natural dialogue in real life. Cut out all the extraneous sounds (“um…er…”) and filler words (“like dude!”). Then only use the dialogue that moves the story forward in some way, either by advancing the plot or better illuminating the character.
And tell us what went into getting the book published. As an indie publisher how much of the work did you do yourself? What did you get help with?
I spent a year submitting Strong Medicine to every agent and publisher who I thought the book might suit. After a year I decided that I was either going to give up on the book or publish it myself. I couldn’t give up on a book I believe so strongly in, I mean, this is incredibly close to my heart. So I made the decision to publish independently.
I didn’t go into this blind, I’ve been watching the self-publishing industry since 2010, so I was well aware of the pitfalls and possible benefits.
Up until this point I have done everything myself, while asking for feedback from writers and readers whose opinions I respect. I did the editing, cover, typesetting, marketing, and I even keep track of my sales and royalties myself. It’s intense, there’s a HUGE amount of work, but when I decided to independently publish, I decided to produce the most professional product I possibly could with the resources available to me. I’m thrilled with the result, and my readers mostly agree.
Excerpt from Strong Medicine
She wanted to beg them not to hurt her, but the words didn’t make it past the gag in her mouth. It wouldn’t have made any difference anyway.
The two men stood over her, looking at the marks on her skin. The old man spoke in a language she couldn’t recognize, pointing at parts of her body.
“We want her to last,” he said. “So we will start on the outside and move our way in. The hands are powerful. The fingers bring things to us. If your customer wants to get money, or a lost lover, anything. You use the fingers for small things, the whole hand for bigger things.”
The old man took Lindsey’s right hand in his own, he turned it this way and that, showing the boy the knuckles and the joint of her wrist.
“When you want to take the finger, you put the point of the knife here.” His fingernail dug into the knuckle of her pointer finger and she felt him twisting at the tendon there. “You push in and twist and the joint will come apart. Pass me the knife, I will show you the first one.”