Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Character Development Tips

Guest Post by Victoria King-Voreadi, @VAKingVoreadi

Interrogation Tango Cover_smallThere wasn’t much cloak & dagger mystery involved in researching our tale Interrogation Tango. Our anti-hero Georg Elser did it; there was never any doubt about that. He didn’t do it in the parlor with the candlestick – he did it at the Burger Braü Keller with a primitive yet nonetheless effective explosive device.

The GESTAPO blew a gasket because it was totally unacceptable for an Aryan German Lutheran worker to want to kill Hitler – the champion of the German working class. The second blow to any semblance of reason was that this nobody, with no specialized military training and no formal higher education, very nearly succeeded in assassinating Adolph Hitler just as he was reaching the apex of his national popularity.

Two specific questions intrigued Donald Schwarz and I about this story:

1) What was the personal motive and impetus that drove Elser, at great personal sacrifice and discomfort, to conceive of and execute his plan with no regard whatsoever for his personal safety or future?

2) Why was such effort invested by the powers that be to ensure that very few ever learned about this man’s quite successful failure?

Those questions made Elser and the men who spent a great deal of time interrogating him fascinating characters, to us at least.

Ideas for stories are everywhere and as writers we tend to observe those around us a bit more intently than many others. People watching had always been an absorbing past time for me but it took on new meaning when I began my studies in Dramatic Arts. Every social and professional group has its own code of conduct, its own unique patois, and each member adapts to and applies those elements in their own unique way within the group.

Some characters have internal or external conflicts with that social assimilation process which may stem from their ethical or moral canons, from mixed loyalties, or from their own uncertainties. Others may rebel against the “law of the jungle” thus creating a catalyst for conflict around them – this is often the crux of great love stories. The only certainty is that the more conflicted an individual is the more interesting and realistic their appeal as a character is to the reader.

Spectacular events may get our attention, but what keeps us turning pages is the human factor. The way characters react to situations, how they deal with the emotional impact of events are the elements that engage us deeply in any story. A factual account of any historic event alone has an encyclopedic interest at best. But when we are allowed to experience the event through the eyes of a well rounded character the story stays with us and instills within us a new found respect for those notable and unknown individuals that actually lived it!

Even “bad guys” have human motives for their choices and their actions on some level. Members of the NAZI hierarchy were passionately convinced that they were serving the best interests of their fatherland. It is essential that you allow your characters opportunities to show their depth. Even seemingly “easy” decisions are wrought with potential pit falls. Megalomaniacs are not aware of their self obsession but see themselves as the great protector. Our man Elser is considered a terrorist by some, a people’s hero by others, his action killed and injured many yet he had no sense of the potential “collateral damage”.

Whatever your genre great characters are what can elevate a piece of solid writing into the realm of master storytelling. Sometimes the keys to unlocking your character’s potential can be found in unassuming details, quirks that foreshadow other aspects and dimensions. Allowing your characters to reveal themselves to you is a mind-blowing experience!

Victoria King-Voreadi_for WebVictoria King-Voreadi is the co-author of Interrogation Tango, a film noir anti-detective tale recently released by Iguana Books.


Victoria lives in the city of Herákleionon the island of Crete, Greece with her husband and two beautiful daughters. A freelance writer and translator in Greece since 1992 she has received two screenwriting grants from the EEU Media Programme for both original and commissioned feature scripts, has worked on local and foreign productions. Victoria met her co-author Donald E. Schwarz in 1994 while visiting New York and the two instantly struck up a creative partnership.

Connect with Victoria here:
Twitter - @VAKingVoreadi
Facebook -