Book Tour/ Guest Post: The One You Feed

YA Horror
Date Published: October 2013

 Like most kids who grew up in the small Oregon town of Silver Falls, Toby Hoffman had heard all the scary stories about the monsters living in the neighboring woods of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Now a teenager, he knows the stories are made up to keep the town’s children from wandering where they aren’t wanted.

Then his best friend, Nate, wakes up covered in blood in the reservation woods, with no recollection of whose blood it is or where it came from. When even more brutal attacks follow, Toby can’t help but wonder if one of the fables he was told as a child might be true. With the help of Rachel, a determined Native American girl who has moved off the reservation and into the house next door, he begins searching for an explanation for the recent carnage. He also develops feelings for his new neighbor, which are put to the test when he and Rachel discover that her uncle may be responsible for the emergence of a legendary monster that does in fact exist.

To make matters worse, there’s evidence that Nate was turned by the beast, and that he has every intention of holding onto his extraordinary new creature capabilities no matter the cost. In order to save Silver Falls from a true scary story, Toby will have to face off against forces he doesn’t fully understand – and his closest friend.

Making Character Memorable

When I started the Out of the Dark series, I knew who my characters were. I knew what they were about and where they were going. I had a clear picture of them in my mind. What I wasn’t sure about was how to create them in a way that would allow my readers to picture them as clearly as I could. Even the supporting roles. How would I make them memorable?

How do I make one character distinct enough from another so that my readers don't mix them up in their minds. I’ve done that before while reading a story and I know how frustrating it can be. When I introduce a character on page 16 my readers need to be able to remember him when he reappears on page 60, and not confuse him for somebody else. I tried giving characters memorable names, memorable haircuts, and I gave a couple of them memorable ways of speaking. But I couldn’t give everyone from a small town in Oregon different accents.  

Then an early reviewer of my first book, who took a look while it was still a work in progress, turned me on to the use of tags. More than a simple description, a character tag calls to mind aspects of the character’s personality and uniqueness. One of the most popular ones that I imagine most of the people reading this will be familiar with is Harry Potter's scar. It’s not just something that identifies Harry immediately to all who see him, but something that plays a significant role in Rowling's series. 

In a way I was already using this device to a certain degree. My main character, Toby, is often wearing his faux-leather jacket with an inset cotton hood—based off of the jacket the vampire character Aidan wore in American version of Being Human ( However, I turned his jacket into more of a character tag by having Toby often pull up the hood to “avoid all the sympathetic eyes that greeted him seemingly everywhere he went.”

In my second book, Something Wiccan, I have a warlock character who is quite fond of using fire as a weapon. I like using character possessions as tags as well, whether it be a weathered rucksack or a Zippo lighter. Mannerisms can be a great way to make a character memorable too.
So if you’re struggling to find ways to set your characters apart, I strongly recommend this device. Like me, you’re probably already using it to a degree. Now see if you can expand upon it. Does one of your characters have raven black hair? Maybe she can subconsciously twirl it when she’s anxious. Or maybe not. I’ve got a character who does that. 

James is the author of The One You Feed, Something Wiccan, and The Agreement - the first three books of the Out of the Dark series. He lives in Chicago, Illinois with his wife Angela and two cats named Tim and Ruby. During the day James is a Senior Instructional Designer for an e-learning development company. A Graphics Designer at the company, Wojtek Batko, designs the covers for James' books.


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