More on Characters

We are considering what makes a book character real to the readers. So we have more coats to be added. If you go through life with no plan, no goal, nothing to look forward too, nothing to plan for, I’d say you were leading a very boring life. Even if the goal is to get up in the morning and go to work, you have a goal. But chances are you want more, a lot more, out of your existence, than just getting up in the morning and going to work. Why go to work? Probably because it’s the best way to pay your bills. If you’re lucky, you like what you do, but polls tell us, most of us don’t really enjoy our labors. So lets assume your book character is a normal person. Goal, get up in the morning and go to work. Does he or she like the job required of them. Or would they rather be doing something else, in fact anything else. Another way to make your character real to you reader. “Hey, that person is just like me!”

But then, like most of us, your character has a larger goal, a reason to getting going, the need to pay the bills. Is the hero working to put a younger sibling through school? Is the heroine at the job she hates because her sick mother need special medication and the stuff is tremendously expensive? Higher goals. Okay, we’ve raised the level of the character’s goal. How about the villain? Is he working at the job because it will get him close to the person he is most interested in destroying? I did mention I liked to write villains didn’t I?

Okay, so we now have added another layer to our book character. The individual in you book has a goal, worthy, or worthless, but still a goal. Tomorrow we’ll look at how that goal motivates the character. That motivation is the way we build the conflict that will drive the character in the story.

I can recommend an excellent book about Goals, Motivation and Conflict.  It’s GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. 1996. She does a terrific job tying the three “building Blocks of Good Fiction” (her words, not mine) together. But at this point we are only interested in developing a real, and great book character. A great character is a character the reader remembers, and all authors want their characters to be remembered.

Allison

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Villains – oh yeh!

Today, lets look at villains, female or male, doesn’t matter.

First, of course, you know these guys are going to be imperfect. They wouldn’t be villains if they weren’t. They are twisted in some manner. You know that as soon as you start to write them. They have flaws, probably several, and they are usually pretty bad. They can be super selfish, greedy, want power, hate someone, or something. In some manner they are really imperfect.

But what most people don’t seem to understand about villains, is to make them real, they have to have some good in them. They can not be all bad, or the reader won’t believe in them. You don’t have to let the reader know right away they are the villains. In most novels, it’s great fun to keep the villain a secret for most of the book. You have to plant hints even at the beginning, but you don’t have to let the reader know until you are well into the story, just how bad the guy/gal is.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say at the beginning of your book, there is a car accident and the car, with the driver still inside and unconscious, is about to burst into flames. The villain can be the one who saves the woman driver. Maybe he was stalking her, but you don’t need to tell the reader that for many pages. At the beginning of the story, he is the hero, or seems to be.

In one of the gothics I wrote, the villain was a charming, fair-haired boy, who was all sweetness and life to the heroine until almost the end of the book, when I revealed what a nasty guy he really was.

As I said yesterday, I love writing female villains, but they are generally a little sneakier, and usually are not nearly as violent as the male villain. That doesn’t mean she can’t be, but to keep it real, if your female villain is going to be a violent villain, then she’ll have to show some of those tendencies in the beginning. Violently killing bugs, or snakes (which most women and quite a few men don’t like) is a good way to introduce a violent type of villain. Remember, the reader has to feel the villain like the hero and heroine is a real person. No person is all good, or all bad. They are a combination. What makes a good villain is a character that’s a surprise to the reader, someone who appears to be good, but turns out to be really bad. And they are fun to write.

Just be sure you give a couple of hints toward the beginning of the book that’s indicates, the villain is just that. The villain. And the rule of thumb is to mention some characteristic three times. Readers remember something if it’s mentioned three times – or so they say. And, I’m not about to argue with the experts. So give three hints of the evil nature of your villain along with the charm, or skill or what kindness you are going to use to make him/her a real person.

Oh, and you don’t have to limit yourself to one villain. Villains can come in pairs, or trios. Just make sure you leave some hints. Readers like surprises. They don’t like something pulled out of the blue, with no hint it was coming. It’s great praise if they can say, ‘Oh, yeh, back on page 14, I knew this guy was going to be a bad one.” They’ll thank you for the hint, and maybe even look for your next book.

I’m taking the rest of the week off. See you after Easter. We’ll start looking at what I’ve learned about Character goals and what they do for your novel then.

Have a great Easter!

Allison

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The Hero’s Warts

Today, let’s look at the hero of a romance novel. Or it could be just about any novel, but since I write romance, it will have to be the romance hero. First, our guy usually doesn’t have too many physical warts. (imperfections) After all, most heroes are tall, dark and handsome. Oh, he might have a scar or two, and suffered a broken nose growing up, but the romance hero doesn’t give any of those problems much concern. So our guys are going to have emotional or psychological imperfections.

He could have had a mother who deserted him at a young age, gave him away, sold him, beat him, and now he doesn’t trust women, any woman. He could have been responsible for a sibling’s death, a friend’s car accident. Or like the hero, his father could have been the town drunk and embarrassed him all of his life. Maybe his brother, father, uncle, (some relative) was responsible for killing someone, Oh, there are all kinds of things that could affect our hero, things that make him less than perfect.

These imperfections are reasons for his behavior, one way or another. I mentioned that if he had a bad mother, and now doesn’t trust women, it will effect how he treats the women in your novel. What if he’s carrying around of ton of guilt? His behavior could involve trying to be the world’s protector, another superman. Again this will contribute to his action in the book. Whatever his imperfection/s are they will determine how he behaves toward the other characters and together with the heroine we can build the all important conflict that drives a good book.  But we’ll tackle conflict later on.

Along with these warts (okay, imperfections) the guy has to have some really outstanding qualities to make him a hero, just as the heroine has to have. Maybe he funds an old folks home, or builds house for disabled vets. If he’s carrying that ton of guilt around, he’s going to go out of his way to do really good, hero type things. So start to think about your guy as a nice guy who has to makeup for whatever really bothers him. (And part of the fun of writing the novel, is to keep why he does what he does unknown to the reader for a bit.)

Tomorrow we consider the villain. As I said I love to write villains, especially lady villains. We’ll look at them a bit differently, because we know, usually from the start of a book, (unless this is a mystery, or romance suspense) the villain is a nasty person, one with lots of warts. Tomorrow we talk about their warts and how to make a villain real. It’s a kinda Love/Hate thing.

Allison

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The Heroine’s Wart’s

Today, I want to talk about the heroine’s warts. Well, really, what we have to consider are the heroine’s imperfections. One of my favorite romance authors always gives her heroine’s some real warts (imperfections). One of the first books of hers I read, the heroine was deaf and dumb. I loved that book. I laughed at some of the antics of the heroine as she tried to figure out what the other characters were trying to get her to understand. And I cried too, because her situation – not being able to express herself or to understand some important truths – were real imperfections. This particular author often give the heroine a very real problem in the form of a disability.

Of course the imperfection doesn’t have to be physical. It can be emotional or psychological. It can be social. But whatever you decide, your heroine has to have an imperfection, stringy, mousey brown hair that bothers her because she never can do anything with it. That matters to her because she wants to be a chef and hair in her face or falling into food is a real turn-off. She can have a mother who hates her and tells her how stupid she is, or a father who is the village drunk and embarrasses her at the places she tries to work. There can be a thousand things you can come up with, that the poor heroine must contend with, that will influence how she feels about herself and how she reacts to others, especially the hero and the villain.

So now we have an imperfect heroine. But she must also have qualities that make her worthy of being a heroine. What if others consider her a spoiled little rich girl, but she is an talented artist, paints under a different name and gives all the profits away to an art school for underprivileged kids. Or, take the heroine from above with the drunk father. What if she volunteers to help in a rehab center for recovering alcoholics. Or the heroine with the problem hair, who designs wigs for breast cancer survivors. If you’re going to write a memorable heroine, you need for her to have imperfections, but she has to be a little bit better than the average person. She has to heroine material. And she can become that heroine during the story you write. How she becomes a heroine can be part of the story. She can grow into the kind of person you can admire and your readers will love. Those readers will be anxious to see what kind of problems your next book will contain and how the heroine grows as the story grows. Because those imperfections make her real. She has problems just like the rest of us.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the imperfections (warts) of the hero. And next we’ll tackle the villain. You need to know I love to write villains.

So until tomorrow.

Allison.

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Character Warts

The edits are nearly finished, I hope. So, I can continue with what I’ve learned over the years. I said I would concentrate on Characters first, So this week, I’ll be writing about what I learned about Characters and their Warts. Today I want to define the term, because some authors have never heard of a Character wart, or it’s been called something else.

Warts are usually something we see, and we don’t like. They can be hidden, but we know they are there and we don’t like them. I.E. all the remedies to get rid of warts.

So what has this got to do with characters? Well, let’s look at characters. They represent real people. If they don’t seem real then the story is going to fall apart. Who cares about something that isn’t real, even if it’s an animal, it will have human traits, which make it seem real. So the next question has to be, have you ever seen or even heard of someone who is perfect. We’ll leave all religious discussions out of this. Perfection is what we strive for, but are we perfect?  Nope! I’m not and I don’t know anyone who is. So those imperfections are like those warts. Some hidden, some out in the open, things we’d like to get rid of, things that make us less than perfect.

So a character wart is something that makes the character less than perfect. And of course, there could be a thousand reasons. Over the next couple of days, I’ll talk about a heroine’s warts and how it effects the story, plot, and conflict. I’m sure you can come up with a hundred of your own, if you stop for a moment and ask what makes Aunt Harriet so nasty, or why your grandmother likes a different part of the family more than yours, or why all the kids in the neighborhood don’t like the lady next door.

Along with those warts, we also have to look at the things that make a heroine a heroine. Does she feed the neighborhood cookies, is your Aunt Harriet the best chicken fryer in the world.

Oh, dear. I’m starting to talk about food.  Must be lunch time. Until tomorrow when we talk about the heroine’s warts!

Allison

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Slight delay

I have the flu. Character final next week.

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Computer problems

Somewhere along the line, (My DH is going to take the blame), we picked up a couple of Trojans and a virus. I’ve spent a couple of days trying to clean things up and it looks like I have things clean. On top of that, my “Cat selector” for the free PDF of “A Matter of Passion”, didn’t co-operate, so to all of you I apologize.

I said I would explain my method for choosing the winner. Here it is.

I take the toy mice for cats, give each one a number corresponding to the number of comments and wait and see which mouse the cat picks. Wally wasn’t interested in any of the mice and Celine ran off with two of them. So, I started over. I’

m delighted to say, Wally co-operated yesterday and picked Linda Andrews’ mouse.
Linda, I’m sending a notice to your word press blog. Send me your e-mail addy and I’ll send the PDF of “A Matter Of Passion” ASAP.

Thanks for the patience. I’ve decided I need to go to a different method to pick winners for my contests. Cats don’t necessarily follow instructions. (sigh!)

Allison

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