Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Black Parade by Kyoko M. with Guest Post

Character Development

For me, the hardest thing about character development is balancing organic inner turmoil while still making the character someone that the readers care about. In fact, it’s one of the toughest challenges that I deal with as I write because Jordan is such a defensive, closed-off character. She can come off as a jerk at times, but it’s due to her rough past and her fear of being hurt again.

Whenever I write her, I take a moment to consider why she reacts a certain way and how it is tied to who she is as a person. I recall the words of Rachel Dawes from Batman Begins, “It’s not who you are underneath. It’s what you do that defines you.” To me, that means that it doesn’t matter who I think Jordan is deep down. Her actions and her words have to prove what lies beneath. I link up the two ideas to see if they match up. Who is Jordan Amador? What do her actions say about her? Sure, she’s prickly but she still fights for the good guys and she still believes in Michael no matter how she feels about him. Her personality and her morals should be what guide the story from start to finish, and I believe that it should feel natural to the reader instead of contrived or forced. Many successful writers advise to write from the character outward, and this is something I tried to adopt when I wrote The Black Parade. I began with Jordan and build the world around her and filled it with our supporting cast and our villains.

The biggest struggle I had with writing The Black Parade came in the third act where Jordan and Michael’s relationship comes to a point where they have to make a decision. Their friendship has been running parallel to some pretty strong romantic feelings, and while they have plenty of reasons why they shouldn’t be together, it’s not something they can both put off indefinitely. By that time in the novel, Jordan’s been with Michael long enough to get a full perspective of who he is as a man and as an angel. She has to decide how to react to him and how she feels about him, and all of that is wrapped up in her past. She had once been in a long term relationship that went nuclear after she became a Seer and she doesn’t want to give up having a best friend for the first time in her life.

At the end of the day, it’s not our job as writers to make the readers happy, but rather to write something that is worthy of their time. First and foremost, I want the character development to feel natural and while the reader might disagree with decisions the characters make, if they can still understand why they acted a certain way, then mission accomplished. I also believe in permanent changes that cannot be easily reversed, because otherwise it can seem like you’re chickening out of a character’s arc. Their actions should be consistent with their personality and their beliefs, but that’s harder than it sounds when you’re also balancing an entire plot on their shoulders. Often, I’ve written a scene that made logical sense, but I had to scrap it because it was out of character.

My advice to other writers would be to simply tell the truth. Whatever is true for your characters—no matter how disturbing or absurd—should be what’s on your pages. Go with your gut. Don’t be so caught up with making something happen that you lose the integrity of the story. You can’t write it wrong if you’re writing what’s true for your characters and their desires.

The Black Parade
The Black Parade Series
Book One
Kyoko M

Genre: Urban fantasy/Paranormal/Supernatural 
ISBN: 1490911502 
Number of pages: 346
Word Count: 103,169
Cover Artist: Gunjan Kumar

Book Description: 

One bullet is all it took to transform eighteen-year-old New Yorker Jordan Amador into the last hope for souls of the dead. However, it also transformed her into a cantankerous asocial waitress with a drinking problem.

Jordan accidentally shot and killed a Seer: a person who can communicate with ghosts, angels, and demons. Worse still, she did so on the eve of her own awakening, making her the last Seer on Earth with no one to guide her. As penance, God gives her two years to help one hundred souls with unfinished business cross over from Earth to the afterlife or she will go to Hell. Just as she approaches the deadline, Jordan finds her hundredth soul: a smart-mouthed poltergeist named Michael whose ability to physically touch things makes him distinct from her usual encounters with the dead. However, the deeper she delves solving his sudden death, the more she realizes something sinister is on the horizon. 

With time running short, Jordan stumbles across a plot that may unravel the fragile balance among Heaven, Hell, and Earth. Her life is plunged into chaos as she is hunted by demons that want to use her valuable Seer blood to bring about the end of the world and discovers that these creatures have a frightening connection to her family bloodline. Plus, the budding romance between Jordan and Michael makes it harder for them to let go of each other so he can become part of the eternal black parade.


My head throbbed. It felt like my brain was trying to hammer its way through my skull and into the outside world. A pained groan crawled out of my throat and escaped my dry lips. As I regained consciousness, I realized I was lying on a bed of some kind. The mattress had way too many springs in it so they poked my spine like needles. My eyelids fluttered for a second and a wave of nausea hit. I pressed my palm to my forehead as if it would help. That was when I realized the necklace around my wrist was gone. 
“Sleep well?”
I heard a purring baritone voice from the corner of the white room. My eyes shot open. Ignoring the nausea and dizziness, I frantically pushed myself up to a sitting position. There stood the longhaired man who came to unlock Jacob’s files. He leaned his lanky frame against the far wall, smoking a cigarette. The black suit stood out stark against the pristine paint behind him. 
I swallowed hard and tried to get a bearing on where I was. No windows. The door didn’t have a knob, either. From what I could tell, this was either an operating room or somewhere they put the patients who were a threat to themselves or the hospital staff. It was also rather small—no more than an eight by eight foot room, not much bigger than the bathroom in my apartment. 
The man continued to watch me with a cool expression. The eerie patience on his face made me realize I hadn’t replied to his comment. As if I really knew what to say to the man who had just kidnapped me. I went for the casual approach.
“You’re not allowed to smoke in hospitals.”
He chuckled deeply enough to shake his broad shoulders. I took a moment to analyze his weight and strength. Could I take him? Most likely, no. Would I try it anyway? Hell yeah. 
“You’re right, I suppose. Still, I can’t help loving these things.” He flicked the cancer stick to the linoleum floor and stomped it out. 
“Humans come up with the most wonderful things to destroy themselves with.”
A red flag popped up in my mind. Please God, no. “Pardon?”
The man walked towards me and fear wormed its way up my stomach, settling in my chest. He had a heavy presence about him that confirmed my suspicion. 
“I’m hurt, Jordan. You don’t recognize me?”
My whole body tensed. He leaned over the bed until our faces were level, placing his arms on either side of me. I had to ball my hands into fists to keep them from trembling. I looked into his eyes. They were a chillingly blue hue with reptilian pupils. I’d seen them before. 
He tilted his head to the side, and a sheet of that fine black hair slid across the side of his face. It brushed my cheek and made me flinch. “Did you miss me?”
“Not particularly.” I hated how afraid my voice sounded. 
The demon smiled in a way I imagine a snake would at a mouse. “I suppose not. There’s no need for you to be scared of me this time. If I was going to kill you, I’d have done it while you slept.”
I licked my lips, mind racing to think rationally. “Like I believe that. Killing me while I was unconscious wouldn’t be any fun. You’d want to do it while I was awake and screaming, right?”
His sadistic smile widened. “My, my. We are getting to know each other, aren’t we?”
“If you’re not going to kill me, then would you mind getting the hell out of my personal space?” 
“Why? Am I making you uncomfortable?” He tilted his head so that our lips were almost touching. 
I took a deep breath, preparing to deck him if he dared kiss me. “No, I just hate that cologne you’re wearing. My ex-boyfriend used to wear it.”
Belial’s eyes widened like I’d surprised him. He stood to his full height, letting out another one of those creepy chuckles. “You really are an interesting girl.” 
Now that I had my personal space back, the tension slid out of my rigid spine. I rested my feet on the floor. Whatever happened, I needed to be off this bed. It was clear that the demon had designs on my soul, but my body was a whole different issue. Better to play it safe. Or as safe as I could with a creature from Hell that wanted me to be his pet for all eternity. 
“I aim to please,” I said. “Now get to the point. If you’re not going to kill me, what do you want?”
The smile remained intact, unnerving the hell out of me. He could give the Joker a run for his money with that thing. “The same thing I wanted before, my dear. Your soul.”
I glanced around the bare room. “I don’t see another spear lying around. How are you going to pull that off?”
“Persuasion.” To my surprise, he began unbuttoning his suit jacket, revealing a cobalt blue dress shirt beneath it. 
I lifted an eyebrow. “No offense, but nudity is not going to win me over.”
Belial let out an amused snort after he tossed the jacket aside, rolling up the sleeves to the shirt. “As appealing as that sounds, that’s not what I’m going to do. I thought I’d give you a fair chance to fight for your soul. If you win, I’ll let you go. If I win, you agree to go through a ceremony that will bind us together for all eternity.”
There it was. He had a trap, a plan, and I’d played right into it by coming to this hospital. 
I stood and crossed my arms underneath my chest. “Do you honestly expect me to believe a demon would keep his word? What makes you think I’d agree to something like this?”
“Because, dear Jordan, you are running out of time.”

About the Author:

Kyoko M is an author, a fangirl, and an avid book reader. 

Her debut novel, The Black Parade, made it through the first round of Amazon's 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. She participated and completed the 2011 National Novel Writing Month competition. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit degree from the University of Georgia, which gave her every valid excuse to devour book after book with a concentration in Greek mythology and Christian mythology. 

When not working feverishly on a manuscript (or two), she can be found buried under her Dashboard on Tumblr, or chatting with fellow nerds on Twitter, or curled up with a good Harry Dresden novel on a warm central Florida night. Like any author, she wants nothing more than to contribute something great to the best profession in the world, no matter how small.

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