Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writer’s Digest - 8 Ways to Write Better Characters

Writer’s Digest - 8 Ways to Write Better Characters

This is a great post if you're struggling with your characters and want to give them greater depth, develop their motivations and desires, or even just understand them better. Ask yourself just how much you know about your characters: their opinions, their likes/dislikes; what they'll die to save and what they'll kill to preserve; who they hate and why. Oh, yes, and lots more besides.

This article struck a chord with me today because while I was doing something very difficult in my Pilates class involving a ball and a theraband (?) my trainer asked me how I come up with my characters - do I plot everything out step by step or does it just flow? I had to admit that in fact it's a bit of both. I make a basic outline, place who I think will appear where in the story, and away we go. However, what I found hard to explain to her, although it seemed to make complete sense to her, was that often the characters surprise me, overturn my plans for them, and forge ahead with a better storyline for themselves. So, that tells me I didn't know them very well. In my first historical romance (The Dangerous Duke published by Aurora Regency) I created a wonderful baddie called Sir Marcus Solesby. Oh, the epitome of sleaze and just the man to disgrace and discredit the heroine. However, Sir Marcus refused to seduce the unsuspecting young lady. That's right. He refused because he said he'd fallen in love with her and although wooing her would definitely annoy her employer (the dangerous duke himself) and please said duke's nasty mistress Lady Penelope Vane, he wanted to court her honestly. Lucky for me he dug his heels in because the story took a sharp turn and ended up being a lot more interesting and exciting.

The conversation continued and I brought up the beautiful and malicious Lady Vane, the duke's mistress. As I was describing to my trainer what a complete cow this woman is, and how she's one of those ghastly females who always manages to turn any situation round, even though she is caught red-handed, I found myself being rather envious of my character's ability to twist everything to her advantage. I grudgingly admired the kind of rampant self-centeredness that makes Lady Penelope just the bitch she is. Well, she doesn't get away with it in the end, of course, but she survives...

So, just a little example of how well I did not know my arch-villain and villainess. How well do you know your characters?
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