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Monday, February 9, 2015

Characterization - A Story's Life Blood by Blanche Day Manos

Today we are bringing you a guest post from Blanche Day Manos, co-author of the Darcy and Flora cozy mysteries. If you'd like to learn more about Darcy and Flora, you can pick up all three books in the series for .99 each for a limited time. Thanks, Blanche, for introducing us to your characters and sharing your thoughts on character development!

Characterization—A Story’s Life Blood

by Blanche Day Manos

My favorite part of writing fiction is developing the characters. I like to create an appropriate setting and have an intriguing plot line but my characters are the books themselves.

The protagonists for the Darcy and Flora series are, well, Darcy and Flora. Darcy, recently widowed, has returned to her hometown of Levi, Oklahoma to heal from her loss and decide on a new direction for her life. Flora is Darcy’s mother. Flora’s husband, Darcy’s father, died twenty years ago. She welcomes Darcy back home to the hundred-year old farmhouse that has sheltered the Tucker family for a long time.

I want readers of the books to know and like Darcy and Flora. I want them to understand and sympathize with their problems and root for them when the going gets tough. These two ladies are the life of the books.

However, Levi, Oklahoma is home to other residents. So, in come the supporting characters: Sheriff Grant Hendley who was a long ago sweetheart of Darcy’s; Grant’s deputy Jim with the abrasive personality; Jackson Conner, Levi’s lawyer and an admirer of Flora’s; Pat, Flora’s quirky friend. Other people come to life on the pages including the villains who, hopefully, won’t be recognized as the villains until near the book’s end.

And, here’s a funny thing about all three of the Darcy and Flora books: ghostly characters move through the pages of these books! I don’t mean I present these unseen people as ghosts but The Cemetery Club begins with the death of a pivotal character; without him, there would be no story but we never see him alive, only dead. In Grave Shift, searching for a young woman is the reason Darcy and Flora nearly lose their own lives. And, in Best Left Buried, long-dead people in Darcy and Flora’s family are the reason for the mystery.

When I develop characters, I get to know all about them before introducing them to the reader. I know what they look like, their ages, likes and dislikes, their goals and motivations, personality traits, and their backgrounds. Backgrounds are especially important because they are the reason the characters act as they do. Each person has a story that has led him up to the current time. It’s fun to write those backgrounds and a good chance to let my imagination soar!

My characters talk. A lot! I don’t tell the reader what they say, I let the reader hear them speaking. Here’s a really important thing: the characters do not all sound alike! Their words reflect their thoughts. No two people are the same so why should they sound the same?

From Best Left Buried: Mom fiddled with the fringe on her afghan. “I hope you understand, Pat that we can’t say too much about what Cub dug up. It was a parcel, I guess you’d say, and not a box. We’ve told Grant all about it and also Jackson Conner. We’re going to let them take care of it.”

Jethro rubbed against Pat’s leg. She reached down and scooped him onto her lap. “Well, fiddlesticks! I don’t see why you can’t tell me or at least let me see that confounded parcel or whatever it is.”

And, in The Cemetery Club: Jim Clendon squinted at me. “What’s this about finding some poor devil dead on top of the ground at the cemetery? Don’t you know that’s unlawful? You’re supposed to let ‘em stay buried.”

“Forgive me if I don’t find that amusing,” I said between clenched teeth. My head pounded like a kettledrum. Mom’s aspirin had yet to work. “And,” I added, “that is not ‘some poor devil’, that’s Ben Ventris lying out there.”

Clendon grinned and shot a stream of tobacco juice into a puddle.

Which brings me to another important part of the Darcy and Flora books. They are written first person, Darcy’s viewpoint. The reader doesn’t see or think anything that Darcy doesn’t. Personally, I think skipping from one viewpoint character to the next is confusing. And, for me, it’s a good reason to close a book without finishing it.

So there you have my ideas on characterization. I love writing and I like the people in my books. It’s rather fun to drop in at Darcy and Flora’s and have a cup of coffee at the cherry wood table. I’m always a little sad when I finish a book. It’s like taking leave of good friends. I like to think of the characters as moving on with their lives, solving more mysteries, and captivating more audiences. To me, they are real and I hope my readers feel that way too.

About the Author:

Blanche Day Manos
Why would a retired, mild-mannered kindergarten teacher suddenly turn to murder and mayhem? The transformation wasn’t sudden, actually, it was rather gradual since Blanche Day Manos has been writing for many years. And, not to worry, the wickedness takes place only within the pages of her books.

 A teacher and a writer have quite a bit in common. A teacher is a word craft. So is a writer. A teacher wants the best for her little charges and, believe me, a writer wants the best for her books. A teacher wants her children to take a path which leads them to satisfactory outcomes and although she can’t control that, she can make sure that her protagonists come through their challenges in a satisfactory way! A cozy mystery writer loves happy endings.

A native Oklahoman recently transplanted to Arkansas, Blanche Day Manos is familiar with the Sooner state. Because of that, she sets her books in rural Oklahoma. To date, her published books, written with co-author Barbara Burgess, include the Darcy and Flora cozy mystery series: The Cemetery Club, Grave Shift, and Best Left Buried. However, mysterious ideas for the next cozy are already lurking within the brain of this teacher turned writer. Whatever the next cozy is, I’m guessing it has quite a bit to do with the perils of lawlessness and will, undoubtedly include a happy ending.


  1. Thanks so much for the opportunity to blog for your website! It was great fun.

  2. We're very happy to have you as our guest!! Thank you!

  3. Well said, Blanche! What great advice for all writers. Thanks


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