A character sketch can be made if you will study attributes of one of your favorite heroines or villains.
Notice what is mentioned or built into that person’s story persona. Notice also what has not been mentioned.
Use your favorite hero or heroine as an example when developing your stories, even short stories. Consider choosing names and name meanings that add descriptive writing to your prose.
The people in The Howling Cliffs had their personalities established back when they first appeared in River Bones. However, caution is necessary to bring their appearances and mannerisms forward into each sequel. Sara Mason, Huxley Keane and some of the characters of River Bones will appear in each sequel. With each new story, new descriptive writing must be found to describe them without changing them.
These are just a few tips about building a character sketch to suit each story. The Howling Cliffs's exciting and strange cast is listed below, at times, along with what the names mean. (Read more about giving story people meaningful names in River Bones Character Names).
You can also read the entire Howling Cliffs Chapter 33 which includes some exciting plot points for writing thrillers.
The Howling Cliffs
A Sara Mason Mystery
The Howling Cliffs begins deep in the jungles of Vietnam. The veteran search party seek remains of MIAs. The post-war jungle is pretty much established as a scary and unhealthy place to be, but the MIAs must be found.
Sara Mason then returns to the island of Kauai in Hawaii. She has purchased a home strictly for the use of veterans who constantly travel between the U.S. Mainland and Vietnam. The house is an R&R stopover for them. Note: Sara had to be developed with a distinct character sketch for each location. No matter where we humans travel, we are affected by locations and cultures that can change us.
Sara has heard of a cold case involving a neighborhood special needs child that had been missing for about ten years. She feels moved to get involved, to help, if she can. So, most of the story takes place on Kauai. The reader gets a full dose of island life, culture and mythology through descriptive writing.
The ending of the story takes place back in Sara’s beloved Sacramento River Delta in California. This is where the story of River Bones began.
The character names and other pertinent information in The Howling Cliffs are listed below. As usual, I like to list some of the actual meanings of my character names as well. It gives readers a good idea about their character or personality - since we should give all our characters names that fit their part in the plots.
Sara Mason (princess, daughter of Atlas, works in stone) - Protagonist/Heroine
Esmerelda “ET” Talbot (Emerald, bloodhound) – Former Victorian owner
Birdie Crew – (birdlike) – Sara’s busybody Kauai neighbor
Betty Talbot – (devoted to God) - NAVY Corpsman, ET’s Daughter, MIA
Emma Ellis – (nurse, universal) - Rockford’s San Francisco girlfriend
Daphine (Daph) Whelan – (victory, beautiful fairy, joyful) – Sara’s artist friend
Leia Aka – (child of heaven) - Missing child
Ling Chang - Bao's wife - dainty
Huxley Keane (from Hugh’s meadow/intelligent, sharp) Sara’s love interest
Rockford (Rocky) Keane - NAVY Corpsman – Hux’s MIA brother
Palmer Dane – (Pilgrim) - MARINE 1st Lieutenant
Thanh Van Thuy (bright/clear, friendly/loyal or clear water) - A Montenyard
Maleko Aka – (Warlike) - Leia’s brother
Hien – Thanh’s oldest son – nice, kind, gentle, hides secrets
Bao Chang - neighbor across street - praise, honor
Palani Makamai - police officer, interested in Sara
Nohea Lio - Detective
Konani Inoa - Police Sergeant
Oka - Older Police Forensics Officer, Photographer
Hale – Younger Police Forensics Officer
Chief Akoni – Kauai Police Chief
Poe Kilipaki – Suspect
Ezera Mauli – Suspect
Lihue Public Library Manager
Couple on trail with Airedales
Three young men on trail
In River Bones, an award-winning thriller, some of the
characters that play major parts just happen to be dogs: two lovable pit
bull puppies that grow up in the story, named Choco and Latte, plus a stylish and hoity black
standard poodle named Mimi la Jolie.
Would you consider building a character sketch for an animal? I did.
In The Howling Cliffs, my love of dogs has allowed me to, again, include them. To be sure, today’s search teams do not attempt to find anyone in circumstances such as those in this story, without using forensic trained K9s. These are the Human Remains Detection (HRD) Dogs included in The Howling Cliffs:
Iwi – HRD German Shepherd for finding human remains
Laka – HRD German Shepherd for finding metal
Ka`imi – (Seeker) - Birdie’s retired HRD German Shepherd
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Here is a taste of what to expect from the location of the story. You can consider building your location description as a character sketch. Give your town a personality all its own. Three locations exist in The Howling Cliffs, all with unique flavor and personality. These are the main locations:
Vietnam jungle - southwest of Krong Klang, below Quang Tri in central Vietnam
Wailua Homesteads, Kauai, Hawaii. Some of the minor locations:
Kekaha on the west side
Waimea on the west side
Waipouli area in Kapaa, on the east side
Lihue Public Library in Lihue, the county seat
An Arboretum in the island interior behind the Wailua Homesteads
Walnut Grove, California – back in the Sacramento River Delta.
When setting your story in a location with cultures different than the mainland or other parts of the world, it’s vitally important to capture the flavor of the locale. Hawaii has a culture unique and all its own, including the use of Pigeon English. This is one area where attention must be given to building a character sketch, when other story people must fit the locale.
In different states and countries, be astute and include language variances, cultural norms, local mythology and just about anything else that compliments the flavor of the location and it people.
Likewise, in my paranormal Egyptian suspense, The Ka, since the book came out in paper as well as eBook, I was able to fully list all the Egyptian words and phrases in a Glossary in the back of the book. Since I’m dealing with a web page here, I will list some terminology, but it in no way reflects all that can be found in The Howling Cliffs.
Montenyards or Yards – Indigenous natives who used to live in the jungle in Vietnam.
Hmong - The true name of the Montenyard peoples as a nationality.
Kapu – Hawaiian, meaning forbidden
haole - happy
ha`ole - no breath (notice the okina, the accent mark. This word would be pronounced with something like a guttural stop.)
ha`le, meaning home or house (pronounced with a guttural stop)
Hale - a man’s name, pronounced as two smooth syllables: ha-lay
ono - delicious
huhu – confused or crazy
pupule – crazy or having a split brain
vog – volcanic ash from an erupting volcano mixing with the clouds or fog to make vog
Kahuna – keeper of ancient knowledge, a priest
This list is but a sampling of the terminology used to provide a Vietnamese or Hawaiian flavor to the story. Think about this:
A Hawaiian person wouldn’t necessarily say a person was loco in the head. That phrase is not Hawaiian at all. But they would say he was a pupule or was huhu.
Building a character sketch not only applies to your individual story people. You can build a character sketch to establish the flavor of the location where you set your story.
Closely consider your heroines and villains when choosing character names. Meanings of the names are as important as any of the traits you attribute to them.
The Howling Cliffs - A Sara Mason Mystery is available at both...