Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Talking With Sands Heatherington About Characters

     A few weeks ago I did an author review of Sands Heatherington and his remarkable characters from his Night Buddies series. I was able to ask him how he builds such remarkable, vivid characters for his stories, and as expected his response was equally as interesting and thought provoking as he is.
How to Develop Vibrant, Believable Characters?  This is a challenging question and one I'm not really qualified to have a go at, since I deal in fantasy and caricatures.  But I have some opinions on the matter, as follows.
Aristotle said art imitates nature.  He was talking about drama (mostly Oedipus Rex) and he called the process mimesis.  John Dryden qualified this two thousand years later, saying that's all well and good, but art, in order to be art, is nature "wrought up to a higher pitch" (another way of saying sure, it comes from nature, but it has to have some tuning added in).
It's difficult to disagree, and I'm not here to play critic, so what can we take out of this in practical terms as storytellers?
Start with nature and go with some real character you know or know about.  If you want to draw a "real" character, use a REAL CHARACTER as a basis.  People are far too complex to simply make up.  William Faulkner said he got most of his material from sitting around hunting camps at night.
That's the Aristotle part, the raw material part, and you ignore it at your peril.  That is, unless you do gangs of sociopathic iguanas and French-speaking rhinos like I do.  My only "real" character is John, my protagonist, and he is a close facsimile of my son, name and all.
The Dryden part (the "vibrant" part) is just as essential.  This is where you leave off being a newspaper reporter and work your raw material into what you need for your story.  It's the "art" element, although it's really more "craft" if you want to know the truth.  (The Greeks didn't even make this distinction.  They called it all techne.)  But this is where you put flesh and bone to the template you fliched from the real world.  Load your character up with eccentricities that are interesting and entertaining and organic to your story.  Make sure of this last part or you'll only be adding tinsel.  And finally, let the character surprise the reader now and then.  Dull people that you know are predictable, aren't they?  I'll bet the really interesting ones keep you guessing just a little bit.  Give your character the ability to jump "out of character."  Truly interesting real people do this all the time.
Sands Hetherington   
Sands Hetherington and Jessica Love are available for speaking and signing events, as well as touring with The World Of Ink Network. Author Sands Hetherington and illustrator Jessica Love’s nighttime adventure children’s chapter book, Buddies, Impostors, and One Far-Out Flying Machine the second book in the Night Buddies series published by Dune Buggy Press will be featured on tour  throughout January and February 2013.
The first book in the Night Buddies series, Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare is available anywhere books are sold.
Night Buddies, Impostors, and One Far-Out Flying Machine, the second book in the Night Buddies series, has a ton of mischief going on all over the Borough, done by a red crocodile and causing confusion and hard feelings
About the Book:
For young John Degraffenreidt, lying awake at night is no reason to fret when it brings a bright red crocodile named Crosley out from under his bed. Night Buddies like Crosley promise a big adventure to any kid not sleepy yet--and tonight is no different! Out of bed, and into the city, John starts on a very special Program (Night-Buddies-speak for adventure) with his crocodile friend. Crosley is a unique, wacky character, the only red crocodile in the world for sure, but look-alikes have started popping up all over town, committing crimes, causing confusion, and making Crosley crazy at the sight of them. The imposters must be stopped, and Night Buddies John and Crosley are just the ones to stop them! Stakeouts and wild chases in a fantastic flying machine, far-out schemes to snare the imposters with the help of old friends and new ones, and a never-ending supply of Crusted Crème Fro-Madge frozen yogurt make for one totally super night.
ISBN Numbers
Book 2: 978-0-9847417-2-4
Book 1: 978-0-9847417-1-7
Publication Dates
Book 2: February 1, 2013
Book 1: June 1, 2012
Juvenile Fiction/Chapter Books for Ages 7 and up.
Places where available for sale:
Amazon.com; BN.com; wherever books are sold.
(Dune Buggy Press titles are distributed by Delphi Distribution and are set up with wholesalers like Ingram and Baker & Taylor.)
About the Author: 
Sands Hetherington, creator of the Night Buddies series of chapter books is delighted to have published his second title, Night Buddies, Impostors, and One Far-Out Flying Machine. Sands credits his son John for being his principal motivator in creating Night Buddies. He and young John developed the Crosley crocodile character in the series during months of bedtime story give-and-take. They collaborated many nights on escapades starring John and Crosley, until eventually it occurred to Sands why it was that Crosley was bright red. That was when the first book came together. Now, Sands is pleased to announce the second title in the series!
Sands raised his son as a single parent from the time John was six. He read to him every night during those formative years: all of the classic children’s stories from Aesop through the Grimms, Lewis Carroll, Frank Baum, Tolkien and Dahl, with a lot of Dickens and Hugo thrown in. When school was out they got in the car and toured Alaska, Canada and most of the contiguous states. John still gets around. So far he has lived in Germany, Scotland, Russia, England and Spain.
Dogs have always been a part of the author's life, beginning with Whiskers, a cocker spaniel. When his wonderful boxer Hube died, he despaired of finding a boxer who could match him, and instead got a Saint Bernard. He ended up breeding Saints for a number of years and at this point has had twelve as house pets. Sands says dogs can do you a power of good, and if you lose one, go out and get another the next day and you will be surprised at how fast your grief goes away.
Sands is also a Civil War buff. He would like to spend a month of evenings with common soldiers from both sides to see how they felt about the business. And eccentric generals like Jackson, Sherman and Forrest, and most of all Lincoln. Because Lincoln never gets to smile in his pictures.
The author was born in New York City but was transplanted a year later to Greensboro, North Carolina, where his maternal grandmother lived. He never really left the area and has a lot of the South in him. His grandmother was a prominent educator and became a great friend and mentor.
Sands majored in history at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and has an M.F.A. in creative writing and an M.A. in English from UNC-Greensboro. He lives in Greensboro now, and hangs out with his longtime friend Ann and their Saint Bernards Dudley and Maggie. He likes visiting ancient Mediterranean sites in Turkey and Italy, and most of all Greece.  
You can find out more about Sands Hetherington, Jessica Love and the Night Buddies series World of Ink Author/Book Tour at http://tinyurl.com/bysdkbv
Follow the Night Buddies at
Facebook Fan Page: www.facebook.com/nightbuddies
Twitter: @Night_Buddies
Publisher Website: www.dunebuggypress.com


  1. Thank you Traci for hosting Sands Hetherington and letting him share his creative process with characters with us.

  2. Some of the characters in my novel, We Shall Overcome, are modeled after people I know or television characters. My favorite character was Hawkeye on MASH so I modeled one of my minor characters, a doctor, after him. My main character's brother, a physicist, is modeled after my own brother, also a physicist. Most of the characters in my novel and short stories are made up. You can read some of my short stories on my Website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com. You'll also find pages containing information about We Shall Overcome and my poetry collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. There's also a link to my blog.