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Monday, September 13, 2010


A Change of Character

Let’s talk about changes of character. No, I don’t mean becoming a “good person” through some spiritual miracle—though I’ve seen that happen and believe God changes hearts and characters every day. For now, however, I’m referring to fictional people, and when it’s time for an author to give them a makeover of one kind or another.

Here’s an example. The heroine in Destiny’s Dream, the first book in my upcoming Solomon’s Gate series, underwent a name change in the final edits. A character in the second book, Kylie’s Kiss, morphed from a saucy redhead to an equally dynamic black sistah about two-thirds of the way through the book.

Why the character changes?

I had a couple of reasons for changing the heroine’s name from Karissa to Destiny, though I am admittedly still getting used to the new moniker. After all, I thought of her as Karissa through the entire writing process. (One of my real-life friends, whom I’ve known since I was ten, legally changed her name from Judy to Julie when she reached adulthood. That’s been at least thirty years ago, and I still slip and call her Judy from time to time. Old habits really do die hard.)

In Karissa’s case, it turned out that manuscript had too many characters whose names started with the hard “K” sound: Cassie, Carrie, Carson, Claire, Karen, Cameron, Clay—and, of course, Karissa. Why on earth was I so drawn to those hard “K” names at that time? Who knows, but apparently I was. So why not change the other characters’ names? Especially since Karissa’s name was also in the book’s title, Karissa’s Dream.

Well, that’s why. The other two books in the series will have alliterative titles—Kylie’s Kiss and Gypsy’s Game. In order to make the alliteration consistent across the whole collection, my editor and I decided Karissa should get the name change. She became Destiny, and the title is now Destiny’s Dream.

Why would I give my fun little redhead in Kylie’s Kiss a complete racial makeover? Because I recognized a lack of racial mix in my overall writing. Every character in my books up to that point was Caucasian, like me. Not good! So Dayna became a beautiful black gal with plenty of attitude, but retained her role as the heroine’s best friend. I find that I rather like Dayna in her new skin—it fits.

Recognizing and being willing to change that lack of racial variety will add depth and more realistic peopling of my future writing. Kylie’s Kiss boasts a loveable, loyal Hispanic character named Trina. Here again, there was a character change part way through the manuscript. Catarina (Trina) was originally named Anina, but called Nini by those who knew and loved her. Another character, Winona, went by Noni. See the problem? As much as I loved Nini, I decided I could use that name in another book someday. Noni fit the other character so well—and it is my sister’s name, so held a rather special place in my heart.

Changes of character. Changes of attitude. Changes of skin color, occupation, age, eye color—every author must make them at some point in her writing career. Reasons vary, and range from simple to complex, but when they are recognized, it’s important that the author be willing to reshape her brain children. It hurts sometimes—I did not want to change Karissa’s name, and I nearly cried when I changed Nini’s, while Dayna’s racial makeover gave me not a single moment’s pause.

I reworked those things because it was the right thing for my characters, my readers, and the book as a whole. As the creator who breathed life into these fictional people, it is my sole responsibility to change them in any way that will improve the storyline, even when doing so demands a sacrifice of some quality or characteristic that I personally love. (I’m pretty sure our Creator sometimes sheds a tear when he rids us of some characteristic that doesn’t work out for our good, or His glory.)

As a writer, have you made character changes that helped your storyline but hurt your heart? As a reader, have you come across characters you wish the writer had taken time to change?

Tell us about them. What did you change, and why? What bothers you as a reader?

We want to know—it’s a matter of character….

DELIA LATHAM is a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend. While she considers each of these roles important ones, she treasures most of all her role as a child of the King and an heir to the throne.

A former newspaper staff writer, Delia promised herself a novel for years, while raising her four children, working at various jobs and writing the occasional article, poem, or song. She fulfilled that promise when Vintage Romance Publishing released Goldeneyes in 2008. A Christian historical romance with a touch of the divine, Goldeneyes is set in the farm country of the author’s childhood, and therefore close to her heart. In 2010, White Rose Publishing released Yesterday’s Promise in electronic format. A children’s book, Adam’s Wings, will be available in December 2010. The Solomon’s Gate series is in the publisher’s hands and awaiting release dates.

Delia grew up in Weedpatch, a tiny agricultural community near Bakersfield, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. She and her husband Johnny recently transplanted from that area to Okmulgee County, Oklahoma.

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LoRee Peery said...

I think change is good, be it in real life or fictional. When I was writing Moselle's Insurance, a question from a long-forgotten workshop came to mind. "What would your character never do?" Well, Moselle said it, but didn't end up following through on the action. I couldn't make her change that much. As far as a name change, I think of my own. Mom named me Loree. When I started school no one got it! I gave up correcting people and went by "Lori" until a couple years after my Mom died. To make people think about the pronunciation, I capitalized the R. And that's way too many words for a comment! Best wishes, Delia.

Delia Latham said...

I love long comments, LoRee! And I'm glad you explained the pronunciation of your name...I've wondered how it was pronounced. Thanks for stopping by!

Marianne Evans said...

Great post, Delia!! What bothers me as a reader is a lack of attention to details. Switched eye color, hair color, ages...

BTW - I had to chuckle about pronounciations -- and using names appropriately. It's one of my bug-a-boos because my name isn't Mary, or Ann, it's Marianne...but I've ended up answer to about anything! LOL!

Blessings on your amazing success, Delia! Can't wait for your next release!!!

Delia Latham said...

Thanks, Marianne! Those detail things bother me too - immensely, and I pray I'm guilty of them by the time my stories actually go to print.

I certainly understand the pronunciation thing. You'd be surprised at the the names I've answered to!!! lol

JoAnn said...

Hmm-- from a family of all "J's" I understand how you could end up with all "K's."

As for character change, the story I'm working on right now--the protag. is right in the middle of this. Can't seem to hold this guy still long enough to figure him out.:)But that's part of the fun, isn't it?

Great post, Delia!

Donna B said...

Charater changes? You certainly know you have the wrong name when you keep writing it wrong and have to go back and check! LOL Thank goodness my characters keep me in line!

I love your stories, Delia, keep 'em coming!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Oh wow, wonderful post!

Yes, in my novel, The Visionary, I had to change the male twin's name from Tylor to Trevor(heroine/female twin Taylor) and the hero from Terry to Alex - too many T's and Taylor/Tylor too close and confusing to the readers - although difficult, I prayed and -odd as it may seem- talked to my characters to find out what their names should be LOL. I'm like... "Okay what am I going to call you?" Then start going through names in my mind until one struck my heart and it was like "Yes! Thank You!" (don't laugh I know you do this too) :-)

In another story I had to change the name of the town - the editor threw out a couple of names but they did not resonate with me - again I took the matter in prayer and talked to my characters and "Hearts Crossing, TN" became "Stars Crossing, TN"

Yep, flexible and teachable works well.

Good luck & God's blessings!

Vickie McDonough said...


I love the name of your hometown, Weedpatch. Can I use that is a book sometime? :D

I've had to change characters' names a number of times, and you're right, it's hard when you've connected with one name to think of the character as another. I recently changed my heroine's personality because she was too much like other characters I've written. I like her better now.

Delia Latham said...

JoAnn, Donna, Pam, Vickie - thanks for saying howdy! JoAnn, my husband and I have close friends who named all of their kids with the initials RDJ. Must be fun growing up in a family like that! :)Donna, I'd definitely say that character has the wrong name! lol Pamela,I won't even go into the crazy things I talk about with my characters! :) And Vickie - how nice to see your name pop up here! Of course you can use Weedpatch in a book - I did...have you read Goldeneyes? :)

Delia Latham said...

Marianne and Judy, thank you so much for allowing me to guest blog here at LASR - it's been so much fun!

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Delia great post. How interesting to read about how your characters take shape. I think I pretty much stick with the original character, but maybe someday the need for chance will come upon me LOL.

I so loved Yesterday's Promise. Thanks for a great story. oxox

Delia Latham said...

And thank YOU for stopping by, Tanya - I'm thrilled that you liked Yesterday's Promise. You know, I can't think of a single character change in that book, and it was my first! Hmmm...I don't know whether to say "despite it being my first" or "probably BECAUSE it was my first." lol

susan said...

Enjoyed this article and change can be good. I am for a change in things. susan L.

Delia Latham said...

Change really can be good! :) Thanks for stopping by, Susan.