Character Development

Tag: Character Development

Blog Post: The Theme of Lemon Lavender

October StoryNotes

Hi friends!

This month’s edition of StoryNotes focuses on Lemon Lavender Is Not Fine, specifically the theme of the novel. If you haven’t read it yet, but it’s on your TBR list, STOP NOW! Instead, bookmark this post to come back to it later. Or, you can follow my updates through my Amazon Author Page.

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For those of you who have read the book, let’s dig into some theme-y goodness.

First, a little background on what theme is. The theme of a novel is the underlying message the author wants to get across. In its most  simple form, you can drill it down to one line. For Lemon Lavender, the theme was summed up in the tagline featured on the book cover: Sometimes the biggest bully is the one in the mirror. That’s it…simple, right?!

When I first started Lemon Lavender, I knew it was going to be about a girl who was struggling to overcome a name she hated, as well as the effects it had on her life. Names are so much of who we are, and if you can’t identify with your own, it can influence what you believe about yourself. This is why entertainers use stage names and why some people choose to legally change their names to something that fits them better. Lemon doesn’t have either option, so she chooses to hide in plain sight.

As the plot evolved and I added in the Chelsea and Madeline characters, the story started to focus on bullying. From a writing perspective, this was a way to give Lemon a challenge she had to overcome, as well as exacerbate her need to stay invisible. In real life, things like this happen all the time. We ignore what we need to change about ourselves until something forces us to confront it. It’s very uncomfortable and not at all fair, but it is necessary to grow as a person.

“The message they wanted to send echoes in my head. You are worthless. Your feelings are worthless.
You are nothing except a funny story we can tell.”

The more Lemon’s story morphed into her overcoming her enemies, it also became about facing herself and figuring out who she wanted to be. This is where I’ve received some criticism from reviewers (and my mom), because Lemon doesn’t ever get revenge on Madeline and Chelsea. The ending doesn’t wrap up in a neat package where she humiliates her tormentors to the point that they’ll never bother her again. I get it—that would be a satisfying ending! As a reader, you take on the feelings and journey of the protagonist, so revenge feels awesome. And as people, we’re hard-wired to want bad people to be punished. Believe me, I thought about it as I was writing.

But then…

The bigger picture filtered in. In real life, it’s rare to shut down a bully completely. And if you actually do, it will impact your exterior life, but all those insecurities are still running rampant on the inside. When I considered this, the theme of Lemon’s story turned. Suddenly, it became less about bullying, and more about finding a strong identity.

During the penultimate chapter, when Lemon and Madeline have their showdown, Lemon has this realization:

“People will always have judgments to make, and I don’t doubt she has the power to bully me old-school style. I also don’t have much faith that her followers will quit either—if it comes down to pleasing her, they’ll continue to hang on her every word. With a sigh, it dawns on me that maybe taking down LW was a waste of time, because it’s me who needs to change. It’s me who has to stand tall instead of shrinking into the shadows. I can’t stop it, but I can be bigger than it.”

In this moment, Lemon sees that she won’t ever be able to control what other people think or say about her, but she can accept herself for who she is. When she does that, what Madeline and Chelsea (or anyone else) believes no longer matters. Instead of reaching for revenge, she goes for the larger, life-altering choice—finding peace with herself (and her name).

Choosing this theme over a “mean girls get schooled” story was a choice that probably alienated some readers. I had a few reviewers say they didn’t know how they felt about the book overall. I understand…this ending didn’t provide the easy reward. As a writer, I do want to offer a satisfying finish, and it’s something I’m going to remember as I plot other novels, but with Lemon, I couldn’t end her story with a short-term Band-aid to her problems. I felt like she deserved a more thorough life change that allowed her to stop beating herself up and take on any challenges that come up in the future.

To the angry readers, I hear you…and I hope this clarifies where I was going with the theme of the novel and why I chose to end it the way I did!

Next month, StoryNotes will focus on Ash & Olive, and the challenges of interpreting a classic novel into a modern retelling. If you haven’t read it, you can pick up the e-book here. If you’re in Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for FREE. Also, the paperback is coming soon!



Lemon Lavender Is Not Fine - Elle Pallmore Blog Post: Ash & Olive Cover Reveal! -








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Blog Post: How Lemon Lavender Got Her Name -

September StoryNotes

Hello, friends!

For the first edition of StoryNotes, I wanted to focus on Lemon’s character, since she’s the heroine of my debut novel, as well as a challenging personality to write. If you haven’t read the book, this post doesn’t include any spoilers, so proceed!

When I first had the story idea for Lemon Lavender, it came from asking this question: What would it be like if you had this flashing neon sign of a name, but wanted to be invisible? I immediately landed on a name for my character—a mash-up from two commercials during a TV show I was watching—and Lemon Lavender was born. I loved the name immediately, and it never changed throughout the course of my writing and editing. Originally, the title of this novel was just Lemon Lavender, but as I got deeper into it, I realized that adding “Is Not Fine” had a better ring to it, and it provided a sense of what the novel was about—a girl struggling with life.

While she might’ve had that unforgettable name, what Lemon didn’t have was a personality. And I wanted it that way. Enter the challenge of writing a character who doesn’t have a lot going on to draw readers into her story. I was nervous about this, because some of the most fantastic books feature characters who leap off the page from the very start. Would anyone want to stick with Lemon for the novel if she wasn’t all that interesting?

“Desperately, I look down at my own clothes: a generic long-sleeve shirt in blue; basic jeans with no swirls, sequins, bling, or bedazzles; shoes—just black Converse, not too clean, not too dirty. Overall, I don’t strive to be ugly or pretty. Just plain and vanilla with a large dose of invisible.”

This was the difficulty—making Lemon have enough of personality so that you, the reader, wouldn’t get bored. (And I, the writer, wouldn’t nod off while writing about her.) Because Lemon wants to be invisible, she never gets involved in school activities or bringing attention to herself through academic success. This made her different from female YA characters who start their journey with a lot of goals, like to succeed in advanced placement classes and extracurricular activities. I needed Lemon to be the opposite of that, in order to give her a  point to grow.

So I started with a few things she did like—slushees and her best friend. Add in some dry humor and a healthy hate for gym and running, and I had the basis for a character who I think is like a lot of younger people…someone who isn’t sure what they like, because they just haven’t had a chance to find out. Someone who doesn’t have a passion, doesn’t know what they want to be when they grow up, and isn’t gifted in a particular sport or hobby.

“There’s nothing wrong with her, but like me, she isn’t flashy. She doesn’t wear short skirts and a lot of makeup like Marisol or flirt shamelessly like Chelsea. We aren’t cheerleaders or jocks or anything else that draws attention. Neither of us fills any superlative, like best-looking or most outgoing. We’re just regular girls.”

As a “regular girl” myself, I hoped that readers would be able to see themselves in Lemon, just as I did. And as she encounters turmoil and heartache, that they could root for her to finally realize who she wants to be.

We all go through this, and oftentimes, continue to go through it as we change and experience new things. While Lemon was a tough character to write since she didn’t come with a fully-formed personality, she taught me that we are all multi-faceted, even if we don’t have a particular way of identifying ourselves. Those of us who tend to like shadows are just as interesting as those who get the spotlight. 

Next time, I’ll share my thoughts about the theme of Lemon Lavender Is Not Fine, and why it made some people mad (including my mom!).



Lemon Lavender Is Not Fine - Elle Pallmore