Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wakefield Guest Post

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Wakefield (Mad World: Book One)
by Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner
Young Adult Paranormal
Date Published: October 2012

Book Description:
Orphans Astrid Chalke and Max Fisher meet when they’re sent to live at Wakefield, a residential and educational facility for teens with psychiatric and behavioral problems. Astrid’s roommate cuts herself with anything sharp she can get her hands on and Max’s roommate threatens him upon introduction.

Just as Astrid and Max develop a strong bond and begin to adjust to the constant chaos surrounding them, a charming and mysterious resident of Wakefield named Teddy claims he has unexplainable abilities. Sometimes he can move things without touching them. Sometimes he can see people’s voices emanating from their mouths. Teddy also thinks that some of the Wakefield staff are on to him.

At first, Astrid and Max think Teddy is paranoid, but Max’s strange, recurring dreams and a series of unsettling events force them to reconsider Teddy’s claims. Are they a product of his supposedly disturbed mind or is the truth stranger than insanity?

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Troy once had a beta reader tell him, “The characters are great and all, but everyone has brown eyes and dark hair.” He immediately grew defensive and said, “No they don’t” and then went to prove otherwise, only to find every character had brown eyes and dark hair. Whoops.

Developing the amount of characters it takes to populate a fictional world can be tough, especially when you’re trying to make all of them three-dimensional. Coming up with one character, easy. Two, no problem. Fifty-seven, and now that’s a lot of work.

Characters can be harder to create than fascinating settings or tightly woven plots. If a character isn’t believable, relatable, or interesting, then a reader probably won’t care about the thrilling storyline. Would the Harry Potter series have been successful if Harry was a mean-spirited rich kid instead of a lovable underdog? Probably not.

The greatest difficulty in crafting characters is the amount of information needed that never makes it to the page. Authors should know their central characters inside and out. What do they eat for breakfast? Are they allergic to shellfish? How would they react if a stranger accidentally bumped into them on the street? If they found a wallet, would they return the money in it? Of course, only a small percentage of that info makes it to the page, otherwise books would involve dozens of pages of biographical detail breaking up action and boring readers to tears. By understanding your characters’ quirks, temperaments, and motivations, you’ll master how they would behave throughout your book.

Some basic information to know about a character is age, gender, disposition, and physical description, but there’s much more that can determine a personality. Take, for instance, where he’s from. A twenty-two-year-old blond bartender from Jacksonville, Missouri, will probably act differently than a twenty-two-year old blond bartender from New York City.

The same can be said for political affiliation, religious view, and intelligence. That age old problem of “your narrator sounds like he’s thirty instead of sixteen” comes into play when you haven’t developed a youthful character.

And keep in mind there’s no formula to success. A klutzy heroine might be a winning formula for Twilight, but try to mimic that, and you could have a huge failure. It’s great to be inspired by literary characters, but avoid copying them.

If you have questions or want to chat more about writing, feel free to leave a comment, email us at, or send us a tweet (@madworldseries).

Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner

Erin Callahan lives with her husband in the bustling metropolis of Hooksett, New Hampshire, and works for the federal government. She enjoys reading and writing young adult fiction, playing recreational volleyball, and mining the depths of pop culture for new and interesting ideas. A year after graduating from law school, she found herself unemployed and took a job as a case manager at a residential facility similar to the one featured in Wakefield. Though she worked there for just over a year, the strange and amazing kids she met will forever serve as a well of inspiration.

Troy H. Gardner grew up in New Hampshire and graduated with a B.A. in English/Communications with a dual concentration in film and writing from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He spent ten years working in the banking industry dreaming up numerous stories to write. When not writing, which is seldom, Troy busies himself jet-setting from Sunapee, NH to Moultonborough, NH.


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