Writing Curses and Creating Memorable Characters with Gabe Cole Novoa, Author of The Diablo's Curse

We love reading about the characters Gabe Cole Novoa creates, so we asked him to share what it’s like behind the scenes when he brings his characters to life. Read on to see how your favorite characters from The Diablo’s Curse and The Wicked Bargain came to be!

Readers love characters like Marisol and Dami. What advice do you have for writing compelling characters?

The most successful strategy I’ve had for developing characters is allowing my characters to go absolutely wild in the first draft, then using my later revisions to home in on their distinct personalities. From a practical level, this mostly means I let them say whatever they want or react however they may, even if it feels over-the-top or momentarily out of character. Oftentimes these more out-there lines or reactions will form into a pattern of personality that I can grab on to in revisions and turn into a more formed—and memorable—character.


How would you encourage aspiring writers to create authentic characters?

What makes characters authentic is when they ring true to life, and I’ve found that the most direct way for me to create that is to pull from my own life. For my trans characters like Mar, Dami, and even Marisol, it meant thinking about my experiences with gender dysphoria and gender euphoria and how I might feel in regards to my experience as a trans person in certain situations. But authenticity isn’t just about experiences related to marginalization—it’s also about reflecting on your life’s experiences as a whole. Everything from getting caught in a rainstorm to a first crush to a devastating disappointment or even an embarrassing experience. All your life experiences can help you write your characters in a way that rings true—it just takes some reflection to tease those memories out of the dusty corners of your mind and weave them onto the page.


Have your characters ever surprised you?

My characters surprise me all the time! And I love it when they do, because that’s a sign to me that my characters are coming to life. I’ve personally found that I can’t plan too much in advance when it comes to my characters’ personalities or relationships, because they don’t listen to me when I do. I recently forgot this when working on the first draft of These Vengeful Gods (my 2025 book!) and meticulously planned out a romantic relationship only to have a completely different character have instant chemistry with the protagonist. When that happens, the characters know best and I follow their lead.


Do you have any behind the scenes stories about the characters in The Diablo’s Curse?

I do! So in the first draft for The Diablo’s Curse, Guillermo (Marisol’s brother) was trapped on the island with her. Guillermo actually survived quite a few drafts until we eventually realized his presence on the island was somewhat redundant, as he didn’t bring a whole lot to the crew of desperate treasure hunters. So we decided to cut him and have him already in Connecticut, and doing so actually allowed for a lot of extra character development for Marisol. Not only did it sharpen her desire to get off the island (besides, you know, survival) since she was trying to get to her brother, but once she had to survive on the island alone, I was really able to finesse her skills, let her personality shine, and better understand her as a character. It was after cutting Guillermo that Marisol’s aptitude for puzzles became clear, which allowed me to build her into a much more essential member of the team.

Check Out These Books by Gabe Cole Novoa

The Diablo's Curse

The Diablo's Curse

From the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Bargain and Most Ardently comes a high-stakes race to defeat a curse designed to kill—about a teen demon who wants to be human, a boy cursed to die young, and the murderous island destined to bury them both.

The Wicked Bargain

The Wicked Bargain

El Diablo is in the details in this Latinx pirate fantasy starring a transmasculine nonbinary teen with a mission of revenge, redemption, and revolution—now in paperback!

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