First, I’m honored to be on the FFnP blog. I have spent many days & nights reading and learning from posts here. I hope my post gives back to readers at least a part of what I have gained.
When I think Pirates of the Caribbean, I think of Captain Jack Sparrow. While there are many twists and turns, snappy dialogue, and adventures in the movies, I would say what people remember are the characters, especially that of Sparrow. Actor Johnny Depp makes the character come to life and be almost more real than our next door neighbor, and as writers we must do the same for our protagonists.
Now Rukh, the hero of The Djinn’s Dilemma (my recent Harlequin release), is a genie assassin who can melt into shadows, fly through the ethereal plane, read his targets’ minds, and control the air. How do you make someone like that real?
After much head banging (my fellow FFnP authors I’m sure are nodding in sympathy), I went back to Jack Sparrow for inspiration (why yes, it involved popcorn) and he reinforced the following tips:
1. Don’t make your character a Mary Sue or average. While Rukh as described above makes for a very manly Mary Sue…he would still be overly-perfect if I left him at that. Readers would sneer at him rather than love him.
On the other end of the spectrum, you don’t want to make your character well-polished, but average. Imagine a morning commute in the metro in Washington D.C. packed with pleasant looking, professionally-dressed workers. Which Average Joe will you remember? The one that stands out. Your character should be unforgettable, exciting and unpredictable. Yeah, Captain Jack Sparrow is definitely all that plus more.
So here’s a description of Rukh from the POV of my heroine, Sarah:
Just a hint of his tattoos, a few blue-black tendrils, peeked from the collar of his periwinkle blue shirt. The darker gray silk tie, neatly knotted at his tawny throat, was the straw that broke her. The mix of cool refinement and dangerous wildness left Sarah’s heart beating in her throat, turned her knees weak. She grasped the counter edge for support.
And I gave him a sense of humor & surprising dialogue (Sparrow is a master of saying & doing the unexpected):
She(Sarah) jotted down the order, then forced herself to meet his gaze. “It’s going to be a bit of a wait, we’re short-staffed this morning.” The next words rushed out of her. “And breakfast’s on me.”
“Normally I wouldn’t protest,” he said, leaning closer. “But in public, I’d prefer a plate.”
An image of Rukh, hair untied, licking whipped cream off her navel flashed through her mind, left her staring.
2. Every authentic character –hero, heroine, villain etc. – must believe in something and live by a personal moral code. Sparrow is a pirate and embodies much of the ambiguity the term carries, yet he has a moral compass. That’s what leads him to rescue Elizabeth Swann in The Curse of the Black Pearl, and return to rescue his crew in Dead Man’s Chest, among other things.
Rukh sees himself as taking care of the world’s trash, i.e. taking out the bad guys. The problem is his latest target, Sarah, isn’t bad. That’s what makes Rukh an honorable assassin, that’s what leads him to find out more and more about his unsettling target (Sarah, the heroine) until he ends up falling for her.
3. A hero should be heroic –be courageous even when he’s afraid, do the right thing even if it hurts, and be loyal to his friends or the heroine as the case maybe. At times, Sparrow comes across as selfish or even downright cowardly…yet he always redeems himself. In At World’s End, Sparrow wants Davy Jones’ heart & immortality, but in the end he saves Will instead and gives him the infamous immortality.
In THE DJINN’S DILEMMA, at one point Rukh puts Sarah’s needs ahead of his own and makes a choice that hurts him, makes him lose the very person he wants the most. The man made me cry while I wrote that scene, and then again during edits. A character doesn’t get more real than that.
I’ll be popping in throughout the day and looking forward to questions, comments, and bonding over Johnny Depp!
Mina Khan is a Texas-based writer and food enthusiast. She daydreams of hunky paranormal heroes, magic, mayhem and mischief and writes them down as stories. Between stories, she teaches culinary classes and writes for her local newspaper. Other than that, she's raising a family of two children, two cats, two dogs and a husband.
She grew up in Bangladesh on stories of djinns, ghosts and monsters. These childhood fancies now color her fiction.
You can find her at:
The Djinn’s Dilemma
Rukh O'Shay, half-djinn and assassin, is used to taking out the bad guys. But his latest assignment, Texas Journalist Sarah White, is nothing like he expected. A glimpse of her bright aura reveals her gentle spirit, while her beauty makes him long for only one thing—to taste her.
Sarah shares the raw desire to connect with Rukh. He can turn her on with a glance, and satisfies needs she didn't even know she had.
But Rukh had been hired to kill her—and the only way to save her is to find out who wants her dead before someone else finishes the job….