Monday, 20 February 2017

Creating Characters - Eve Anderson from 'Where Lemons Bloom'

On Creating Characters

How are characters born in our minds? What makes them so real to us as writers that we instinctively know how they will react in every situation?

Every story has to begin someplace. Few novels begin with the birth of the principal characters. (Although I remember one best seller that did just that, essentially starting with “I was born”).

That exception aside, I believe in order to make characters come alive on the page, the author must know what happened to them before page one. What brought each of them to this point in their lives? Unless we know what happened before, we have no way of making what happens next believable. Full backstory rarely appears in novels, or if it does, it is much abbreviated.

I always write a fairly complete background for each of my principal characters before I begin writing the story. Most of this will never appear in the story or will appear only briefly as backstory, scattered through the text. But it is important to me to know these things. They define my characters and give a sense of reality and consistency to their later actions.

Where Lemons Bloom picks up both lead characters at the point of dramatic change in their lives. Here is Eve’s back-story:

Where Lemons Bloom - Eve Anderson
Eve Anderson

Five years ago Eve’s father had a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. He was a history professor in a college in a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where Eve and Bette, her sister, grew up. After finishing undergraduate degrees in the community college there, both were glad to escape the small town of Shoreport, Bette to marriage and children in Washington, D.C., Eve to a fellowship in art history at Goucher College in Baltimore.

 At the time of their father’s stroke, Eve was working on her Masters in history, intending to go on to her doctorate and eventually to teaching at a university somewhere. She was living with a lover, med student, Alex Fender. She expected to marry Alex at some unspecified point in the future. 

Then her father was left disabled. That changed everything. He had lived all his life with a horror of care facilities, nursing homes, convalescent homes. He said they were storage places for the waiting dead.

Eve and her married-with-children sister, Bette, confer on what’s to be done. They agree their father can no longer live alone. He requires care. Bette can’t leave her husband and children so Eve agrees to put her life on hold to go home to Shoreport to look after their father.  As to Alex—at first there was some effort to continue the relationship, long distance, but they drift apart, and a year later he marries someone else.

After that Eve has no life outside of looking after her father. He is first walker, and then wheel chair bound.

Eve is intelligent, well read, but a bit overweight. Her hair is naturally curly, light brown, but uncared for, drab in appearance. Her best feature is her eyes, a startling deep blue. She has good bones, but in a small town where the best clothing store is Walmart’s and the hairdressers still put rollers in their customer’s hair, she has let herself go badly. Besides she rarely gets out of the house so what difference does her appearance make?
Then her father, after five years, has a second stroke and dies. 

At thirty-two, Eve is free, but severely depressed.  Like a bird that has spent its whole life caged, she’s afraid to venture out. What now? She’s too old to go back to University. It’s been so long she’d have to start her Master’s program all over again, surrounded by students so much younger than she. She can’t face that. 

Her sister, Bette, comes to the rescue. She arrives and takes over. “Do you want to spend the rest of your life in Shoreport? You need to find a life.” 

Eve returns to Silver Springs, Maryland with Bette and over the next three months there is a complete make-over. Diet, exercise. The possibility of a sessional teaching job at a community college. She begins to have faith in herself again. She can make it on her own, but she wants more. She has $30,000 from the sale of the house in Shoreport.  Bette insists Eve take it all. She’s the one who has cared for her father all those difficult years. 

Where Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowellEgged on by Bette, she decides to splurge—to blow it all on a trip to Europe. She wants to see for herself the places she’s only read about up to now. And to do it first class, new wardrobe, good hotels. She’s going to pretend for just a little while that she’s “somebody”. She starts studying travel brochures, investigating on line. She’s intrigued by the Windstar, luxury sailing ships—and finds an itinerary that begins in Barbados and ends in Lisbon.

Both our hero’s and our heroine’s lives have essentially been on hold for some years. For Eve, their story begins here, on a beach in Barbados.

Watch for Blair's newest thriller, Fatal Charm 
Coming in 2017

Fatal Charm by Blair McDowell

Where Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowell
Blair McDowell's latest tale of Suspense  takes the reader to Italy's  beautiful Amalfi Coast.

"Adamo and Eve are two people who have both been through their own versions of hell. They are both certain that they are not ready to enter into a relationship, but love finds them anyway. Then it takes them on the non-stop thrill ride of their lives."
-   Marlene Harris,


When Eve Anderson meets Adamo de Leone on a ship bound for Europe, she has no idea of the dark secret that will endanger both their lives. She accompanies him to his home on Italy’s Amalfi Coast to open an inn left to him by his grandfather. But then she learns he spent 5 years in prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Could the man she loves be responsible for embezzling eighty million dollars from the investment firm he once owned?

Adamo wants to hold Eve at arm’s length until he can clear his proud family name. But when there is an attempt on his life and Eve is terrorized by a gun-bearing thug, he realizes how much he wants her, and he must accept whatever help he can get to uncover the well-hidden trail of a six-year-old crime.

Books of Blair McDowell
To review and purchase any of Blair McDowell's books, Click Here.


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Blair McDowell