Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Straight Talk From the Library: Character Creation from Terri Herman-Ponce

Terri Herman-Ponce, author of IN THIS LIFE, is at The Library today to talk about the hardest part of character creation as part of her virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions. Terri is giving away a digital copy of IN THIS LIFE (Book 1 of the Past Life Series) to a randomly drawn commenter at each stop during the tour, and a Grand Prize of a $50 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. You can see the other stops on the tour here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2014/03/virtual-book-tour-in-this-life-by-terri.html

Hardest Thing About Character Development

Character development? Oh man, this has got to be one of the most difficult things to do as a writer. It’s a vicious cycle, and just thinking about it gives me the shakes and shudders.

For me, character development is scary and fun and stomach-turning at the same time. Wanna know why? Because when I begin a new story almost every character I set out to write starts off sounding like me. My words, my thoughts, my emotions…it’s stamped over each and every page. Which is all sorts of wrong, but I can’t help it. I hear stories of authors who say that a character’s voice is just SO strong in their head that they can plow through their writing in record time. Me? Not even close. It usually takes me about thirty or forty thousand words before a character finally settles in my head and my heart. Thirty or forty thousand! And it’s because it takes me that long to see the character—to feel their pains and joys, to see the world through their eyes, to discover their quirks and hates and nuances—before I’m confident enough to let go of the me on the page and write the character on the page.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s the result of writing almost everything in first-person. There’s an intimacy about writing in first person that doesn’t exist with other points of view. You’re just so closer to the action that you just can’t separate. And I’ve tried doing character questionnaires. Oh yes, I’ve tried. But that kind of activity feels disconnected to me. Maybe it’s the way my brain works, but I can’t answer a series of questions and know who my character is when I’m done. I need to get my hands dirty instead. I need to write, and develop story, and see how the character reacts from their own perspective, even if it takes me those painful thirty thousand words to find out just who that person is. I need to push the character, or characters. I need them to surprise me. And then I’ll push them again, and keep pushing, until their true colors come out in all their vibrancy. It’s an exhilarating (and exhausting!) process but it’s the only one that works for me.

But when I find a character that sticks with me? One who grabs my heart and refuses to let go? The one who is with me when I wake in the morning, who sits with me over coffee or on the train ride to work, or who stands by my side when I’m food shopping? Well, then I know they’re a part of my soul. David Bellotti, the male lead in my Past Life Series, is one of those characters. His voice, after writing him all these years, is SO strong in my head I often will be in a situation and wonder how he’d handle it. And that gives me food for future stories. It’s wonderful…

…Until I sit down and start writing a new novel with all new characters. Where those characters sound just like me, Terri Herman-Ponce, until I get about thirty or forty thousand words in. And the cycle starts all over again. Write. Rinse. Repeat.

For the record, I’m writing Book 3 of the Past Life Series now. I’m over 35,000 words into it and I still haven’t figured out three of the major players. But I’ll get there. Hopefully in another five thousand words…

That said, thanks for having me here and giving me the chance to chat a little about myself and showcase In This Life. Truly appreciated!


Hidden memories. Buried secrets. Resurrected revenge.

Psychologist Lottie Morgan knows something is wrong when she relives memories of a lover she's never had. At first she attributes them to fever-induced dreams. But when the fever disappears and the visions don’t, Lottie realizes something else is going on.

Then she meets Galen. Their first encounter is as intense as it is eye-opening, and his revelation that they shared a passionate relationship thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt entices Lottie into wanting to learn more about her past. Her decision, however, comes at a price. Galen may hold the answers but he could destroy the devoted, lifelong relationship Lottie has with her current lover, David.

It also could mean her death—again.

Someone is protecting millennia-old secrets, determined to keep them buried while exacting a revenge on Lottie for a mistake made a very long time ago. A mistake she could be destined to repeat.

Take a trip to mysterious ancient Egypt, where Lottie becomes caught between two lifetimes, two men, and long-buried deceptions. Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony and Macavity-winning author, calls this paranormal suspense "Inventive, original and thought-provoking; this mystically romantic mystery will instantly intrigue."

The restlessness I’d been feeling surged through me again, stronger this time, and I didn’t like the way it felt. Something seemed off, and I wasn’t sure if it was with David or with me. Remnants of last night’s sleep started trickling in, and then a connection clicked into place.

“I had a dream last night and I started remembering it in the bathroom.” I closed my eyes, trying to remember more. “I was in a room with a servant who was waiting on me. She was preparing me to meet someone. A boyfriend.” No, that wasn’t quite right. “A lover.”

I felt a tingling uneasiness as I said the word.

“A lover?” David asked.

I opened my eyes, saw David’s grin and recognized the bait for what it was.

I grinned back. “The lover wasn’t you.”

His grin widened and then faded away. “That still doesn’t explain your behavior in the bathroom. You looked like a statue.”

“I’m tired, David,” I said, sliding down under the covers. “ The human mind is capable of doing unusual things when a person is under stress, like when they’re sick, and the gods only know I’ve been feeling a lot of that these past few days. Forget about it. It’s not a worry.”

David paused. “Is that your professional assessment?”


It looked like David wanted to say more but he got up and walked to the windows that overlooked the backyard instead. I wasn’t sure what was going through his mind but I knew him well enough to know not to pry. It always backfired whenever I did. So I let him have his moment, toyed with the toast, and then passed on it in favor of some tea. My cell phone rang as soon as I put the mug on the nightstand, and I answered it on the second ring.

“Tough night’s sleep, Lottie?” The voice on the other end was male and one I didn’t recognize. “You shouldn’t tell your boyfriend about your other lovers. Especially those you dream about.”

“Who is this?” I asked.

“I’m disappointed you don’t recognize me.” He laughed, the sound crawling over my skin like a snake over sand. “I’m the man you dreamed about last night.”


Terri looks for any opportunity to make stuff up. She thinks anything that can’t so easily be explained is worth an extra look and often makes a great story. She loves red wine, scotch, sunrises, Ancient Egypt, the beach—and a host of other stuff that would take too much real estate to talk about. The youngest of five children, Terri lives with her husband and son on Long Island. And, in her next life, if she hasn’t moved on to somewhere else, she wants to be an astronomer. Terri’s fascinated with the night skies almost as much as she’s fascinated with ancient Egypt.

Terri is a member of member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and you can read about her at http://terriponce.com/.

If you love social media, you can also find Terri on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Terri.Ponce.Author and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TerriPonce. Come visit. She’d love to hear from you!

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Terri-Herman-Ponc%C3%A9/e/B009FMZV3K/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1394838446&sr=1-1


BN: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/terri-herman-ponc%C3%A9


  1. I am really looking forward to reading this book. It sounds wonderful.

  2. Thanks for having me on your site! Thrilled to be here and hoping we'll have a fun day together.

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  4. Past lives have always fascinated me. I can't wait to read the entire series. I hope your current characters open up to you soon. ;)

    1. Jennifer, what a wonderful thing to say. Such a thrill for me! And yes, my characters are always speaking to me, and there's more of the Past Life Series on the way!

  5. It's always characters first with me...great post!


    1. I think characters are so important to a story and have to be larger than life -- that's what catches my attention anyway. And I've got a few I've loved over the years... :-)

  6. Okay, I am fascinated by past lives, love ancient Egypt and am obsessed with mysterious secrets. I'm hooked, Terri!

    1. A few of my obsessions, too, Elizabeth. LOL Thanks for visiting today...it was nice to have you as part of our chat!

  7. Oooh. Terri, I loved that excerpt. I'm really looking forward to reading In This Life.

    1. Thanks, Rowena. I'm thrilled to hear you loved the excerpt because choosing just one -- and in a certain word limit -- is so so tricky. Appreciate your support!

  8. I related so much to you saying your characters all start off being you. My female ones do as well but I have to push them toward independence. Great post and your story sounds so intriguing.

    1. Oh, Joanna. It can be SO hard to separate yourself from your female characters. It's something that annoys me, because I can see myself on the page every time. LOL Thank you for the kind words and for the visit...it was nice to chat with you!

  9. A very interesting post thank you.


  10. Great excerpt, thank you.