Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Character Building Using Personality Profiles

I’m a structured person. Very structured. I've got more structure than the Coliseum. In the definition of structured, there should be...

OK, you got the picture.

Anyway, the point being that there’s a myriad of details that go into a book. If the writer wants to ensure consistency - which I do; see above about being structured - then those details need to be tracked. Once I’m immersed in a story, I don’t like to have to stop to invent things, like clothes or currency, and I especially don’t want to stop to make a note of it in case I need it again. I resent such intrusions, and consequently I tend to do a slapdash job. It's probably a left-brain/right-brain conflict. The right brain has the reins, and doesn't want to give them up!

I’ve gotten around this with world-building by having a comprehensive set of notes in advance. There’s a map, and a file for each country detailing those things I’m most likely to need, like physical appearance, clothes, currency, trade and so on and so forth. It’s great; if I need a detail while I’m writing I just look it up, slot it in, and away I go. Kind of like plug and play!

Despite that, I still tend to have a slapdash approach to characters. I mean, I have some idea of who they are when I start, but really I’m not much of a people-watcher.

What, a writer who doesn’t like to people-watch?

There's a goddess of death in the WIP for
which I'm currently character building, but I'm
pretty sure she has on more clothes than this!
I know, I know, I feel abnormal too, but I can’t help it. People watching exposes me to far too many things I don’t want to see. Like stupidity. And then my eyes need to be sanitised. And then I get depressed about the state of humanity. Possibly I feel homicidal. Yeah, it's all kinds of bad.

Consequently, I struggle to articulate characters sometimes, leaving them occasionally two dimensional. I try to flesh them out during revisions, of course, but still… It would be easier if I was a people-watcher.

Then it occurred to me that what I needed was a quick reference card for each of my characters like I have for different countries. A solution to every instance in which I ask ‘how would this character respond to that?’ Plug and play characters!

Enter the personality test.

There’s a free resource online at www.16personalities.com which has pretty comprehensive profiles. The test and a summary is free, and you can buy the full profile for $16.99, which is pretty cheap in my opinion, and a business expense anyway – and one I can’t possibly incur more than 16 times.

So I’ve started doing personality tests for my characters.

I know, hard-core right? I know what you’re thinking, and I’ve heard it before. Anal. Perfectionist. Pedantic. I consider them compliments. Writers tap their right brain for their creativity, but I use my left brain equally, so I’m also extremely rational and logical. I am not a seat of the pants type person. I'm a planner. A strategist. In fact, I used the website to personality profile myself, and it pretty much said that. INTJ personalities have a plan for everything, including a plan for if the plan fails.

So shoot me.  Maybe I’m uptight. I can’t help that. I can’t change me but I can change my writing process to suit me.

I like this goddess of death.
What I know of the character in the initial stages of starting a new story is enough to enable me to answer the personality test questions, and then, hey presto I have a personality profile. I’ve been building character profiles off the back of the personality profile, making up historical details to fit the story and the personality as I go. And now, when I’m writing, and I'm not sure how my character would react in a given situation, I can look at the profile. Instant consistency. Just add personality profile!

It has also spawned some interesting ideas. The profile for my latest protagonist said he can fall back on vices like drugs and alcohol under pressure. Well, the guy is grieving for his murdered wife, and he's been sent by his king to some backwater to get over it basically, but if we add in some heavy drinking, and some unreliability, and now we've got a convincing reason why an otherwise stellar commander has been shipped out to command an outpost no one wants.

It’s early days, and I wouldn’t recommend this technique for all writers, especially those who are extremely right-brained or definite pantsers, but so far it seems to be working really well for me. Already I can feel the characters are more fully-fleshed people, which makes it much easier for me to write them instead of me.

Suddenly I have that feeling I’m sure is familiar and natural to nearly all writers – of having another person riding around in my head.

Current WIP: In the Company of the Dead – a full-length adult high fantasy novel. Lyram thought life couldn’t get any worse than a prince wanting him dead, until he fell in love with a woman dedicated to the goddess of death.  

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Friday, 11 October 2013

Confronting the Demon: 99c SALE on October 12 ONLY

The gates to hell are thrown wide when Alloran is betrayed by his best friend, Ladanyon, and framed for forbidden magic. He is hunted by the guards and the wizards both, tormented by the gruesome murder of his friends and loved ones, and crippled by fear for the living.

Now Alloran must face his demons, or damn the woman he loves.

Also featuring bonus short story 'A Magical Melody'

Confronting the Demon

Genre – High Fantasy (17+)
Length – 110 pages
Published – September 24th

October 12th Indie-Vengeance Day Special! 

“Ballintyne gives wonderful descriptions and I found myself becoming lost in the magic of her words in a picturesque world with every turned page”  Bella Doerres
“The power-packed action will leave you breathless and the eerie suspense will make you chomp on your own nails, beware!” Satarupa
With imagination and detail that paints a full scene for the mind’s eye, Ciara takes us on a short but exciting journey into a world of magic, love and demons from hell.“ Miranda Wood of DustyKatt’s Stuff Reviews
“I actually enjoyed a good fantasy novel that didn’t take days and days to read, but still offered the opportunity to get caught up in its world and story.” - Tracy Riva Global eBook Awards Judge

~Amazon Kindle~ US $2.99 99¢ | UK £1.93 £0.77
~Trade Paperback~ Amazon US | Amazon UK

In honour of Indie-Vengeance Day Ciara Ballintyne is offering up “Confronting a Demon” for the sale price of 99¢
On October 12th after more than a year of planning, more than a dozen bestselling indie authors from around the globe (seriously!) will gather in Dallas, Texas for a once-in-a-lifetime signing and meet-the-author event; Indie-Vengeance Day.
Come join authors from the U.S, Canada and Australia and meet some of the most notable and recognized writers in the indie author movement.

Goosebumps prickled her arms, and she hugged herself. Demons. Why did he have to mention demons? She didn’t want anything to do with demons. I want to pretend that day never happened.

Before she thought it all the way through, she deposited herself in his lap, slipped her arms around his neck, and tilted her head up to kiss him.

A raucous cheer erupted from the sailors. She glanced over at the men saluting her with upraised tankards. Heat burned all the way to her hairline. She ducked her chin and looked away but refused to move from Alloran’s lap. The men shouted out obscenities. Or were those suggestions? The heat in her flaming cheeks intensified as she pulled her hood up to hide her face.

Alloran sat rigidly, staring down at her with an unreadable face.

She pouted. ‘I haven’t seen you in three months, and you don’t even have a kiss for me?’ Provoked by the continued catcalls, she wriggled her hips against him. Leather slid across coarse cloth. What is he wearing?

He seized her by the shoulders, pressing his fingers into her flesh hard enough to bruise. Another squeak escaped her throat. Her mouth tried to find words, but nothing came. He bent his head and brought his lips to her ear.

‘Is this a game to you, Gisayne? A game? This is my life. I haven’t just been vacationing somewhere, I’ve been running for my life, from Ladanyon, and from your father!’


Ciara Ballintyne was born in 1981 in Sydney, Australia, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, one masochistic cat, and one cat with a god complex.

She holds degrees in law and accounting, and has been a practising financial services lawyer since 2004. She is both an idealist and a cynic.

She started reading epic fantasy at the age of nine, when she kidnapped Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings from her father. Another two years passed before she began her first attempts at the craft of writing. Confronting the Demon is her debut book.

She enjoys horse-riding, and speculation about taking over the world. If she could choose to be anything it would be a dragon, but instead she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House. M.D.

 The book tour for “CONFRONTING THE DEMON” By: Ciara Ballintyne is now accepting tour hosts.

The Book tour will take place on Monday through Friday. 12/2/2013 - 12/13/2013

If you are interested in participating in this tour, please fill out this form.

Hosted by:

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Audience Expectations: The Danger of Trying To Be All Things To All People

Last week I saw Brandon Sanderson was releasing a new book. Excited, I rushed off to find out when I could buy book 2 in The Stormlight Archive only to find Steelheart is the first book in a new dystopian series. 

What the…?

After some discussion with some folks, I learned that Brandon Sanderson apparently advocates writing multiple series at once in case some people don’t like one series or the other.


I see what he’s getting at, but I think it’s playing with fire. Readers already wait a long time for sequels in the fantasy market, and I was under the impression that his readers were already chomping at the bit because of how much of his time had been consumed by finishing The Wheel of Time. If you make them wait longer, by dividing your attention between series, you may frustrate them to the point of losing them.

I think this also applies to cross-genre writers. If you’re playing in two genres, readers won’t necessarily follow you. Sanderson can get away with epic fantasy and dystopian sci-fi, I think, because both are inside the speculative fiction genre. Hard SF, and erotic romance (separately, I don't mean genre mash-ups or crossing genres), might be a tougher sell….

Anyway, I was mollified by the knowledge that the second Stormlight book is to be released soon, but still, I think it’s a dangerous course.

After this experience, I started listening to Keith Urban’s latest album, Fuse, and I am not happy (I know, jump to country music, but bear with me). Where’s the country at? I began to suspect the name Fuse was a reference to genre crossing, and it turns out I was half-right. Fuse is a move away from traditional country. Urban says he wasn't trying to create a pop album, only to "capture a sonic energy" he hadn't captured on other records, but the result is something that sounds more pop to me than country. For someone who just loves that country sound, this is disappointing.

Urban says “If I were a new artist, I don’t think I could have done this." I would argue the opposite. If he were a new artist, no one

would yet have any expectations, and he could create whatever sound he wanted, and attract the fans who like that sound. With an existing fan base, you risk alienating them. How many of his other fans feel the same way? I don't know, but it strikes me as risky.

The lesson?

Think about the expectations of your fans. I’m not saying you can’t branch out and experiment, but consider if it might lose you fans. And if you might, consider why you are doing it, and if it’s a good enough reason. Don’t just expect that readers will stay loyal to you if you try something new. Look what happened to JK Rowling with The Casual Vacancy - it's now on the list of most unfinished books because so many readers started it and then stopped because it wasn't what they expected from the author of Harry Potter.

In another word - branding. You create a brand, and fans are loyal to your brand, not you. Think about whether something fits within your brand, could damage your brand, or needs a new brand.

How do you feel as a reader if your favourite authors switch between series or genres? How do you feel when your expectations aren’t met?

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven't already. If you're finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter. 


Don't forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

IndieVengeance Day - October 12

I use Grammarly for online proofreading because it's unwise to tell your husband you're doing pirates while he's away on business... Uh, I mean pilates. Damn typos.  

My epic/high fantasy novella, Confronting the Demon, has just been released on Kindle (other eBook formats coming soon) and paperback. If you like fantasy in the style of Jacqueline Carey (author of Kushiel's Dart) or Brent Weeks (author of The Night Angel Trilogy), check it out here. The book has so far garnered eight 5 star reviews and three 4 star reviews. I’m pretty sure I don’t even know most of the reviewers!

I’ll be signing copies of the book at the IndieVengeance Day book signing in Dallas, Texas, so come by and say hi. Bring your own book, or buy one on the day. If you’re not into my genre (no hard feelings, promise – but you might want to watch your back) there will be plenty of other authors there from many genres.

Event Details 

More than a dozen bestselling indie authors from around the globe (seriously!) will gather in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, October 12, for a once-in-a-lifetime signing and meet-the-author event.

Come join authors from the U.S, Canada and Australia and meet some of the most notable and recognized writers in the indie author movement.

Slated authors include: 


Susie Clevenger, Texas – Dirt Road Dreams 
Justin Bog, Oregon – Sandcastle and Other Stories 
Ben Ditmars, Ohio – Night Poems 
M.E. Franco, California – Where Will You Run? (Dion) 
Lynn Hallbrooks, Texas – Call Sign:Wrecking Crew (Storm Warning) 
Tracy James Jones, Texas – Secrets &Lies 
Amber Jerome-Norrgard, Texas – The Color of Dawn: Poetry by a Member of Generation X 
James Peercy, Texas – Without a Conscious 
Charity Parkerson, Tennessee – The Sexy& The Undead (Sexy Witches) (Volume 1) 


Ciara Ballintyne, Sydney – Confronting the Demon 
Dionne Lister, Sydney – Shadows of the Realm (The Circle of Talia) 


Julie Frayn – Suicide City, A Love Story 

Other attendees include Melissa Zaroski, Tyler Hunt and Sreya Bremtin.

Names unfamiliar? Not for long. This is a serious collection of talent, not just award-winning, bestselling authors, but the cornerstone of the indie author movement. Don't miss your chance to meet tomorrow's biggest names. They'll only be here once.

This is a free signing, but authors will have their books for sale. Cash only, please.

The signing will be at:

Half-Price Books
5803 East Northwest Highway
Dallas, TX 75231

on Saturday, October 12, 2013 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM (CDT).

This post sponsored by Grammarly

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