Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Faye Fite, one of my longtime writing inspirations, and the author of The Terebinth Tree Chronicles, which I reviewed last week! I am thrilled to have her on my blog today to talk about developing characters, specifically fighters. This was such a fun interview, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed conducting it!
Welcome! First, for a general introduction, can you tell me about yourself, how long you’ve been writing, and what you write?
Faye: Absolutely! My name is Faye Fite. I’m a disabled author of Christian speculative fiction and author of the Torn Universe, an expanded universe of science-fiction and fantasy short stories containing such things as desert elves, Aztec-inspired vampires, and sci-fi mermaids. I primarily write YA fantasy with tough, raw characters, vibrant cultures, and themes of strength, courage, and brokenness. I have been writing long before I knew how to spell properly. In my spare time, I am a college student studying nutrient metabolism and research assistant studying nutritional metabolomics.
Etta: Ah, that’s such a good pitch! It absolutely fits what I’ve seen of your work so far, and I love you say you do college “in your free time” haha. Big mood there. I’ve most recently read your Terebinth Tree Chronicles, so I’m most familiar with those characters, but if you think another character fits better for the questions, feel free to tell us about them too!
When you start a story, are your characters built from the ground up as the story forms around them, or do you start with a plot and create characters to fit the story you want to tell? Or is it a combination of both?
Faye: That’s a great question! I almost always start with a character first, as well as a theme or a question I want to explore, and then the story falls into place around them. Because my characters have such strong personalities, and because my world-building is very specific, I’ve found that letting them lose into the world results in a fairly instantaneous plot.
Etta: That makes sense! The themes in your stories are also super interesting and I want to circle back around to talk about that later. I love that you’re able to make your characters both so dynamic and distinct so it’s cool that they guide you through the story as you go. I can absolutely relate to that feeling.
What are your favorite types of character arcs to write?
Faye: I really enjoy writing angry, hurting characters who mean well, but don’t always know how to direct their emotions in a healthy way. As for arcs, I tend to enjoy writing what I refer to as “non-linear” character arcs, in that the characters don’t follow a clearly improving or backsliding trajectory, but instead take steps forward, mess up, try again, fail, rinse and repeat. These types of characters are interesting to write because they feel like a more honest reflection of most human beings, and also help myself and my readers learn how to pick ourselves up after we fall.
Etta: I respect that perspective, it great that you’re trying to capture the more nuanced and messy parts of life in your fiction – because that’s what makes the characters feel real and relatable. I especially noticed that personality with Jayel, especially in her fight with the magician. She’s doing her best to make a positive change in the world but is as often a victim of her own impulsive decisions as dire circumstances, putting her in that place where she has to act. It’s compelling, because there’s not always a right answer. The three books in the Terebinth Tree Chronicles all set up these characters’ arc and leave you with a satisfying conclusion of one arc, but you can tell they still have more growth ahead of them and I’m cheering them on.
Faye: Thank you for that awesome summary of Jayel! She is my beloved disaster child. I’m glad to hear you’re excited to see where their stories go next. I’m looking forward to publishing them!
Etta: Ahaha, “beloved disaster child” is such a fun way to describe her! I’m super excited to see her dynamic with Wanderer that you teased at the end of Flames of Courage. They’re a fun duo.
Tying into the comment about angry hurting characters who mean well, you write a lot of fighters, which I think is super cool! They face a ton of challenges in their world – be they physical threats, societal pressures, disabilities, or spiritual attacks. How do you decide which battles to give to which characters?
Faye: This is always one of my favorite parts of character creation! All of my main characters have some form of a disability (except for Ishtaka from Vengeance Hunter in the Phoenix Fiction Writers Antiheroes anthology), as I am disabled myself and am working to increase disability representation in sci-fi and fantasy. So the disability is pretty much always a given. The other circumstances are ones that I feel most threaten something important to that character, as it pushes them to grow and change. For example, Wanderer faced a lot of societal pressures in Colors of Fear because he is a fearful character who needed something to spur him into finding his purpose and his strength.
Etta: I love that, “circumstances are ones that I feel most threaten something important to that character, as it pushes them to grow and change”, what a succinct way to sum up character development, wonderful writing advice right there I will definitely take to heart. Wanderer’s story especially resonated with me when I first read it in high school working on college admissions. Maybe it’s not the same as joining the hunters, but the competition, anxiety, and “three in five” motif really hit home. And yes! I’m so glad you brought up the disability representation, because I was going to ask you about that next. It’s one thing that initially drew me to your stories and the indie author space as a whole, since you don’t see a lot of characters like that anywhere else!
When you write a character with a disability you don’t experience yourself, what do you research to represent the experience accurately?
Faye: I love this question! I do a combination of things. I watch YouTube videos created by people with those disabilities and read blog posts by them. I also tend to follow a lot of disabled people online and am always actively learning from them, so I absorb a lot that way. Additionally, I am involved in a lot of disability activism at my university and thus work alongside many other disabled people, so sometimes I will ask them for insight about their specific disabilities (if they are open to that). It’s a lifelong process and I’m always in “educate myself” mode.
Etta: Oh, that’s awesome! I can ditto following disabled folks online – I have a blind character in my book Storge and Molly Burke’s YouTube channel has been such an invaluable resource. Completely agree with lifelong learning, it’s great to connect with other people like that.
Another general character development question because now I’m curious about your process. How are your character’s strengths and weaknesses related to their motivations?
Faye: I often like to take a look at how people have the tendency to try to push through their weaknesses when they should instead by asking for help. This means that my characters are motivated to “overcome” obstacles that are usually of their own making….or that their motivations stem from them trying to fix external problems so they can ignore internal ones. I also like to play with character dynamics so that one character’s weaknesses result in them relying on another character’s strengths to ultimately succeed.
Etta: That’s interesting! On some subconscious level, I understood the tension that comes from conflicting internal and external, but hearing it articulated like that just made something click for me, wow. I also really like that “no man is an island” message. Team dynamics are always a ton of fun to explore and that setup is great for pushing characters to grow in ways that are outside their comfort zone.
You often have rich supporting characters who are fighters in their own rights. How do their lives affect your protagonists, and would you want to tell their stories too?
Faye: Yes, I love me some fighters! Often they are there to push my protagonists in a specific direction, either through inspiring them, teaching them, or showing them how not to behave. Many of them are characters that we will see later on, such as Fendred from Colors of Fear and Shelumiel in Flames of Courage. In fact, Wymund from Sounds of Deceit is making an appearance in the 4th Terebinth Tree Chronicles: Taste of Rage. These are all characters I’m excited to explore further.
Etta: Yay! Oh, oh, oh, now I’m so excited to see more of Wymund in the fourth book. That’s the first time I’ve heard the title, and it sounds so intense! And that’s cool how all the characters we’ve met so far are all there for a deeper purpose and will reoccur in the series. I’m looking forward to seeing how their stories all tie together. It’s like that saying, everyone is the protagonist of their own story.
Faye: Thank you! Character creation is always my favorite part of the writing process, so I love getting to pull side characters back into the spotlight in later stories.
Do you have any advice for writers about creating a compelling character arc?
Faye: Oooo. Yes! Don’t be afraid to be bold. Remember that people in real life are complicated, messy, contradictory, and that they don’t exist in a vacuum. So let your character have real highs and real lows, let them think they know what they want only to realize it’s not what they need, and remember that character arcs are often influenced by the arcs of surrounding characters.
Etta: Ah, that’s great to remember. Thank you so much! I will keep that in mind as I’m editing Storge and working on the arcs. My first draft suffered from hesitating and not going for the hard emotional beats, so it’s good to hear that reminder. 🙂
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me! This was super informative and interesting and I’m glad I had the chance to chat with you! Where can we find you and your work online?
My website is my one-stop-shop to finding me and my stories. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram (@_FayeFite).
Thank you again to Faye for agreeing to do this interview with me and for sharing such thoughtful and thought-provoking answers! If you enjoyed this, be sure to go check out her other work. Thank you for reading, and until next time, happy writing!