Posted On June 28, 2017 by Print This Post

Putting it on the Page: How Your Personal Experiences Influence Character Development – by Paul Lonardo

Please welcome first-time Visiting Professor, author Paul Lonardo.

Obviously, the one question I get most often as a male writing a story with a female protagonist is how I go about developing a character for someone of the opposite sex. While I’m sure that women who write stories with men as the lead character are asked the same question, because my new novella, Soul Awakening, is a romance, this somehow makes that question directed at me more profound.

Actually, good character development is something that transcends the sex of the hero or heroine. There are certainly many differences, physiologically and extrinsic, relative to the sex of the character, but when it comes to emotions and feelings, men and women share them equally. It is precisely these common human emotions that connect us to one another, and it is what draws readers to well-developed characters in a book. It is always easiest when developing a character, male or female, to start with some fundamental and powerful human emotion. This creates a strong foundation to build a character to who readers can instantly relate, even if all the other circumstances of your character’s life are disparate.

The starting point for me with Soul Awakening was an emotion that everyone knows well; grief. We all lose people who are close to us, and the development of my story’s heroine, Alecia, began with the feelings that resulted from the death of boyfriend.

All along, this was intended to be a romance book with a happily-ever-after ending, so the evolution of the heroine’s emotions provided me with the basic structure of my storyline. I just had to come up with a way to get from Point A (Alecia’s grief) to Point B (happily-ever-after ending).

I drew upon my own experiences with loss, something that was not easy for me to do. I had recently lost a brother at the time I began writing this story, and the process dredged up a lot of personal feelings of loss that were still very fresh. By instilling some of the emotions that I was feeling, and putting them into Alecia’s character, helped me bring her character to life. And the universal feelings of grief allowed readers to immediately empathize with her. After establishing this key element early in the story, it was a matter of adding essential detail to her character.

Alecia is a young woman who has a lot going for her, even as she is struggling to find her identity after her boyfriend, Braden, was killed in a car accident. Besides this sudden trauma in her life, Alecia is dealing with other personal issues, including sour relationships with her mother as well as her best friend, who together with many of her classmates, think that she should just get over Braden already and move on with her life. She can’t forget him, however. They had been together since the sixth grade. He is the quarterback of the school’s football team and she is a cheerleader. They are the “IT” couple and she is in crisis because she always thought they would be together forever, and she now finds she does not have an identity without Braden.

Having to confront this sudden shift in the direction her life was headed, she is forced to reflect on her relationship with Braden. She has very strong feelings for him, and loves him, but when she notices Riley, a boy who was dating her best friend and who always had secret feelings for her, she begins to wonder if the only thing that had been keeping her and Braden together for all those was years was nothing more a matter of convenience, or perhaps she had just been doing what was expected.

Did she really love Braden, or was he just too wonderful to give up?

Braden, in death, helped her see the truth, and essentially guided her into the arms of the only person who could make her truly happy.

Soul Awakening is essentially a love triangle, with a twist. It just so happens that one of the three people is a ghost. Initially, I did not envision the love triangle aspect. That occurred to me after I began writing the first draft. I’m glad it did, because it really is what makes the story unique and gives it an added dimension.

How much time should you allow to pass before writing about a personal trauma that your character may experience?


SOUL AWAKENING [Inkspell Publishing – May 24, 2017]

Something otherworldly is happening in a small Texas town.

As a small Texas town mourns the tragic death of its high school football star, Alecia is struggling to adjust to life without the boy she has dated since sixth grade and thought she would be with forever.

When Braden comes to her as an apparition, she finds herself falling for Riley, Braden’s best friend and teammate. Has Braden returned to spy on her, or for some other reason?

Alecia’s not sure, but she soon realizes she must find a way to accept Braden’s death and welcome love back into her life, or risk losing everything.

The Power of Secret Love changes everything…

 Kobo | Amazon | iTunes


Soul Awakening video:


                Kobo | Amazon | iTunes

Bio: Paul Lonardo is a freelance writer and author. He has had both fiction and non-fiction book published, including titles that have been excerpted in Reader’s Digest and reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly.

Soul Awakening is his third romance novella. Reunion of Souls was published by Liquid Silver Press in 2105, and last summer Wild Rose Press released Enchanted Desire.

From the Ashes, a collaborative book written with a Gina Russo, is a true story of her survival from the deadly 2003 Station Nightclub fire in Rhode Island which claimed the lives of 100 people, became the basis of a 2013 documentary web series, The Station, which Paul produced.

Paul has been interviewed as part of several documentaries, including NBCUniveral’s I Survived a Serial Killer, featuring the true crime story depicted in the book, Caught in the Act, A Courageous Family’s Fight to Save their Daughter from a Serial Killer.

To learn more about Paul, connect with him via Goodreads, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or visit his Amazon Author website.  


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5 Responses to “Putting it on the Page: How Your Personal Experiences Influence Character Development – by Paul Lonardo”

  1. I’m glad to see someone who knows men can write women and women can write men. I’ve been to writing conferences where the speakers denounce writers who try to do that, claiming it’s not possible to do so (effectively) because the two genders don’t think/speak/feel things the same. I couldn’t disagree with them more, and I’m glad to see you showing people how it’s done. Great post.

    Posted by Staci Troilo | June 28, 2017, 9:37 am
  2. Hi Paul,

    Writing about trauma and loss, whether in a journal or through the eyes of a fictional character is cathartic. The fact that everyone processes emotion differently makes for interesting and authentic characters. Thanks for joining us today.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 28, 2017, 6:23 pm
  3. Thanks for pointing out that we don’t have to write characters in our own gender. While there may be differences, there are emotions and actions that transcend and apply to us all, for we are all humans. Congrats on the new release.

    Posted by HELEN HENDERSON | June 29, 2017, 11:03 am
  4. Tried to share this on twitter as I found it very interesting but for some reason it didn’t work. You made some good points

    Posted by Barbara | July 3, 2017, 10:11 pm


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