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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bringing Characters to Life by: Terry Spear

Whether your characters are real or something imaginary, bringing them to life for our readers is the ultimate challenge. Yes, we need a plot. Yes, we need a story, but without characters to drive it—

Aha! I’m talking about creating character-driven,not plot-driven stories!

Has an editor or agent ever told you that he or she can’t get a feel for your characters?
Might be that the characters are too much of a cookie cutter cut-out. Maybe not “deep” enough. Maybe the editor or agent just can’t relate to the kind of character you’ve proposed. So there are quite a few things we can do to create characters our readers want to read.

1. Give them a reason for us to want to read a 400-page book. Goal

2. Give them a reason for wanting to reach this goal. Motivation

3. Make us sympathize with the character so that we want to see them reach the goal. Empathy

4. Give them weaknesses to make them real. Flaws

5. Give them strengths to make us want to be them. Strengths

6. Give them stumbling blocks that allow us to see how they deal with it. Conflict

7. Give us background, not in lengthy backstory, but in a way that we “see/feel” their past and why they are the way they are today. History

8. Allow the character to learn from their past mistakes and current ones. Character Growth

9. Create a world around them, secondary characters, their surroundings, work, play. Defining the Character

10. Make them real, but that stand out in a reader’s mind. Unique

When readers really, really hate a character (hopefully, you intended that), you’ve done your duty. You’ve created someone real. Someone despicable. Someone to loathe.

When readers want to take your hero home with him at night, want to be the one he falls in love with, you’ve done your job. You’ve created the ultimate hero.

When readers want to be your heroine, want to deal with the troubles she’s encountering, want to be her and make the hero hers, you’ve made a winning heroine.

When readers enjoy your secondary characters so much they want to see them in subsequent novels—that’s the ultimate making of characters that captures the readers’ imagination.

Not all readers will feel the same about your characters. Why? Not because they aren’t great. But like our characters and their checkered pasts, readers have pasts.

Take a for instance: My mother hated petite heroines in stories. It wasn’t that she was tall either. But when she was a kid, she’d had a growth spurt over the summer, and that fall she was taller than all the other little girls in school. In the spring play, she was made to play the part of the storm cloud and wore a gray sack. The other girls got to be cute little colorful flowers.

Now, her story is really unique, and because of the embarrassment and animosity she felt over that one incident, caused her to abhor petite heroines in stories.

We can take that further—what if she really hated all women who were petite in real life? My mother couldn’t—I was shorter than her. And as she got older, she ended up being a petite. J
But when we create a character, we can use this to emphasize how much it affected him or her throughout life. Let’s say she had a boss who was cute and petite, and wore all the cute petite clothes and Mom towered over her. What if all her friends were petite little things and she felt like a big raincloud hovering over them? And then, what if she found a shrimp of a hero and…

Probably wouldn’t work. She really, really didn’t like short men either. Had to do with her father being a shrimp. Okay, so another big issue and again a really unique situation. But let’s say a hunk of a hero walks into the office and he’s tall, like her. At first she figures he’ll fall for all the petite little things who are so…cute. But he’s more interested in the willowy blonde with the dark brown eyes who can look him in the eye.

So by creating a background for our characters, and secondaries who can help showcase our main characters, conflict that will make us want to see how they deal with it, worthwhile goals and deep motivation for having to reach them—we make believable and entertaining characters. And hopefully, memorable.

In To Tempt the Wolf, currently released, the hero’s sister has run off, his pack mutinied, fire has consumed their homes, and he’s injured and lost his memories. But when the heroine finds him injured and naked on her Oregon beach as a winter storm descends on them, he’s more than intrigued with her—not like he should be for someone who is not one of his kind. The rescued quickly becomes the rescuer when he learns someone has broken into her home—and he is one of his kind.

Here is a quote from one reviewer with regards to characterization in To Tempt the Wolf:

Top Pick from Novel Thought

Reading TO TEMPT THE WOLF was like watching a movie in HD. The characters were all
vivid and lively. I liked how Ms. Spears was able to focus on Tessa and Hunter,
but also introduce other important characters that made this an intriguing story
and to see how far each of those characters would go to care for each other. ~~Sheila
Smith, Reviewer for Novel Thought

And this is what we strive for!! Have fun creating your own HD characters! J

Terry Spear

“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male.”

To Tempt the Wolf Wildlife photographer, Tessa Anderson has to prove her brother is innocent of the murder charges against him. But when she discovers a half-dead, naked man on her beach who looks like a mythical Greek god, she’s got a whole world of new troubles to deal with, least of all how he affects her with just a look, a touch, a whispered word.

All Hunter Greymere remembers when the enticing female human rescues him is a he’s lupus garou. Whether he was pushed from the Oregon cliffs or fell is a mystery. Intending to keep a low profile at Tessa’s cabin on the coast, he’s drawn into her troubles while investigating the truth about his own past. But he finds that living with humans causes more problems than he ever believed possible. His animal instincts war with his human half–he wants the intriguing woman, who attracts male lupus garous like one of his own kind, but he knows he can’t have her for good–unless she becomes one of them. Secrets abound in the quiet coastal community, but can Tessa and Hunter uncover the truths before it’s too late?

Destiny of the Wolf, Heart of the Wolf--Publishers Weekly "Best Books of the Year!" To Tempt the Wolf, Legend of the White Wolf, Seduced by the Wolf


Terry Spear said...

Hope everyone who celebrated had a terrific Thanksgiving. What do you do the day after? We're having more turkey and decorating for Christmas!

diva donna said...

When readers want to take your hero home with HER at night, wants to be the one he falls in love with. MY HAND IS RAISED!!!! That's ME.
You for sure have done your Job. Darien and Hunter still give me Heart Flutters thinking about them both. WOOHOO!!!

Terry Spear said...

Thanks, Donna, I'm thrilled you loved my heroes!!! Daemon in Deadly Liaisons is a vampire to die for coming in Jan and Legend of the White Wolf's Cameron MacPherson is also a hunk! :)

Anonymous said...

問聲好~~ 祝福您的blog愈來愈熱鬧!..................................................

Terry Spear said...

Thanks so much for enjoying my post!

Anonymous said...

Right on. This was great. Thanks for the post!

Terry Spear said...

You're so welcome, Lynn! I'm glad you enjoyed it!