For What It's Worth

Friday, May 24, 2013

Guest post with Jessica Lave–Quiet on the Set


When her screenplay gets accepted to a local LA film festival, 23-year-old Rylie Cates heads to Tinseltown, where she is thrust into the spotlight as her career takes off.

As she struggles to live up to her newfound success, Rylie meets the people who will become her friends, her guides to the city and the movie business, and ultimately, her “LA family.”

Despite her best intentions, deciphering the politics surrounding her new career proves difficult, and she unwittingly makes a few enemies on her path to success.

Confronted by scheming studio executives, philandering movie stars, and the perpetual lure of the bottle, Rylie relies on her new friendships to help her navigate life, love, and business in Hollywood.


Please join me in welcoming author Jessica Lave to the blog today to discuss her process for developing her stories and characters.

I always love reading about “the behind the scenes” of writing.


Puzzling Out Plots and Piecing Together Characters

Every writer gets to know the eternal question: where do you get your ideas?  For some, the story starts with a very vivid character that creates the circumstances of the plot. For others, the plot comes together first and the characters are inserted into it and developed around it. Depending on which one comes first, I approach the story development in a different way.

Plot First

If I get an idea for a story before I know any of the characters, I work backwards building characters that would fit into that type of story. With a basic plot in mind, character histories are more limited—by setting, circumstances, even occupation.  For me, having a plot in mind first is like a puzzle where I have the photo on the box to refer to as I fill in the pieces. It’s still difficult to put all those little pieces in the right places, but I have a general idea of where they’re supposed to go, and each one builds on another, making the picture (story) clearer with each piece I add.

Character First

On the other hand, having a character idea come to me first is more of a challenge. It’s like having the same puzzle, but flipped face-down, so I only have the edges to fit together, and no photo to look at while I put the pieces together. Having the character first is tough simply because there are so many possibilities to choose from. There can be any number of settings, backgrounds, and paths that character might follow.

With so many options, building a character’s background and personality is partly personal preference, partly creative liberty on the part of the writer, but it’s logical, too, because the characters and their backgrounds must be believable. Chronology, a character’s intellect, and even birth order may factor into their development.

What’s in a name?

Choosing names is always fun. It’s why television shows make an entire episode out of choosing a name when there’s a baby on the way. It’s because everyone has an opinion about names, especially if it’s a character they like. Can you imagine if James Bond was called “James Secretan” instead, as Fleming had originally planned? I can’t. It just doesn’t fit.

As a writer, choosing a name is extremely important because the name has to fit with the character, with their place in the setting, their history, the rest of their family, and their personality. Even if you have a great character in mind, if the name falls flat, the character may seem flat, too.

How you’ll know my characters

Part of the pleasure of writing is that I can have adventures; I can say and do things I might not normally do, without confronting the risks and dangers that some of those things might pose for me in real life. So, I tend to live vicariously through my characters. They can go on vacations, break into their boss’s office, or head into a militarized zone in the jungle without batting an eye.

My characters also have a tendency to be strong, outspoken, and much more outgoing than their creator. I tend to be very by-the-book, tactful, and quiet, especially around people I don’t know very well, but I like my characters to be a little gutsy and to make friends easily. It opens up more doors for them as the story progresses, and it often makes them more entertaining to read about.

However, while the characters in my books may curse like a bunch of sailors and chat up every person they meet at a party, I also like to maintain a level of introspection and thoughtfulness in them. Extroversion is easy to write, but the conflict and inner turmoil can’t show through without having a character look inward from time to time.

A great plot is nothing without memorable characters to play it out, but great characters don’t just spring up out of thin air—it takes a lot of planning and a lot of time for an author to get to know them and develop them to their full potential.

mail-1Author BioBy day, I work in a cubicle tending to an e-commerce website. By night, I blog, I review television shows and films, and occasionally, I settle down long enough to write a novel. I’ve always had a diverse set of interests, which has led me to study everything from ethics to yoga to film, but the one thing that has stayed consistent is my enthusiasm for writing. Writing is my way of bringing all of my interests together—I may not be able to speak six languages, pick the lock on a door, or cook a five-course meal without a recipe, but I can write about a character who can, and that’s the next best thing!

Visit me on my website:
Follow me on Twitter @jessinsists 
Check out my other books on Goodreads 
Buy Quiet on the Set on Amazon


  1. Lol, James Secretan, I did not know that

  2. Interesting post, its always fascinating to know what inspires authors and just how they go about their writing.

  3. I love these informative posts. The story sounds really great. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Oh it's interesting to see how authors work. I really enjoy reading that! It always makes me more curious about the book!

  5. I have to admit, I'm always a little suspicious of books set in Hollywood for bc of the authenticity factor, but this sounds like it could be fun. Thanks for featuring the guest post!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  6. Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I'm so glad to hear you liked the post! I had a great time writing it.
    And thanks again to Karen for offering me a spot to guest post on For What It's Worth!!

  7. Terrific guest post! I know they get asked that a lot, but I'm still always interested in how individual authors approach the process of writing. When I had creative writing courses, it was always the naming that hung me up - nothing felt natural about it. :) Thanks for featuring Jessica's post, Karen! It was quite interesting.

    1. Every author has different methods and inspirations so these kinds of posts are always interesting to me.

    2. I understand your feeling about naming, Barbara. It's a delicate process, and there are a lot of considerations that go into it. I've had it happen where I named a character "incorrectly" and I had to go back and change it through the whole story! Sometimes a name can help create the character's personality, and sometimes, you have to write about the character for a little while first before you get a good grasp of who they are well enough to give them the proper name. Thanks for the comment!