Creating Characters

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Characters are what make the story. You have to have good characters or the story won't matter. We need to care about these people and what happens to them. I would bet your favorite movie has interesting characters that grow and change through the story.

Boring people don't sell books. We all know too many boring people in real life. We want a chance to escape into a more interesting world for a while. That's why billionaires, princes, aliens, shifters, pirates, historical, and motorcycle clubs are all popular genres. We want something new and original in our lives.

The best part is that you don't have to come up with a brand new character all on your own. You already have hundreds of them in your head.

Think of your favorite movie. I'm guessing you have a favorite character. They probably have something interesting about them. They probably have someone that they interact with that is interesting too. There is a relationship that makes it fun to watch. The way they react to problems speaks to you.

You can have a Mary Sue (someone with no real characteristics) as a main character, but only for self insertion. Think of Twilight- most people don't really love Bella, but we can easily insert ourselves into her head. She's a blank character. If we were reading this from someone other than Bella or Edward's point of view, we wouldn't see why Edward is so enamored with this very normal/boring girl. She could use a little more humor. Or a hobby. Or something that makes her stand out more than just she smells really delicious. We can't love her based on looks/scent/can't read her thoughts alone. We need to like HER. Not her attributes.

Being pretty isn't enough. Being handsome isn't enough. We need some flaws. We need something that we can connect with.

Let's create a character for a book. Let's call him Joe.

Joe is prince charming. He's handsome. He's rich. He's in the perfect age range.

Do we actually like Joe? Would you talk to him at a party? Would you set him up on a blind date with your sister? What kind of date would they go on?

We need more. He can be handsome. He can be smart, but we need to show that intelligence, not just say it. Instead of “Joe was smart” we need to say “Joe sped through his advanced physics homework. He didn't even need a calculator.” We should also clarify if he's book smart or street smart.

Then we need a flaw. It doesn't have to be something terrible, but something that trips them up. For Aladdin, he is a street rat with too much confidence. For Thor, he's not all that bright sometimes. Loki is self-centered and a trickster. Edward Cullen likes blood. Mr. Darcy has way too much pride.

These flaws make the story much easier. Why can't Mr. Darcy find love? He's got too much pride.

It makes the character relate-able. If the character is too perfect, we can't put ourselves in their shoes. We don't care about them. The Stepford Wives are only interesting as plot devices, not as characters.

Your hero and your heroine both need a flaw. If their flaws clash, even better. Your hero has too much pride? Your heroine having some prejudice against prideful people is great. We have drama.

In creating characters, use what you know. Is there a friend that you adore? Can't stand? Why do you feel that way? Take them and make them a character.

Same with TV shows. Do you LOVE Dr. McSteamy? Why? What makes him real to you? He's kind of an ass, but there's something charming about him. Use that.

There are so many amazing characters out there. Use literature (Pride and Predjudice), TV (Grey's Anatomy), Movies (Disney Princesses) and make them your own. Make Disney's Mulan meet Mr. Darcy, but they're on an alien spaceship. Maybe Arya Stark should have a meeting with Marvel's Loki, but they're both high powered business lawyers.

Imagine the possibilities!

Working on Your Writing Brain

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Story Plot Exercises

You have this idea for a book, but something is missing. Or maybe you're stuck on a plot point.

What do you do?

The best thing an author can do is watch TV and dissect the plot and characters. Asking why a plot is working and how the writers did that, or if it isn't working, the things the writers can do to fix it will build your storytelling muscles in no time. The best part is you can do this with any show. It doesn't have to be a romantic movie- any story will help you become a better story-teller.

I play this game all the time with my husband with our kids' movies since we have to watch them nine million times.

For example, Frozen. It's a great movie and it's made billions of dollars. It's not a traditional romance, but we can still learn a lot about it.

The main criticism of the movie's plot is how out of the blue Hans' transformation to bad guy is. In the movie's commentary, the original story had Elsa being the villain, but the song was just too good and they changed the story around. Knowing that, it's easy to see why he has such a abrupt change of personality. They morphed him into the bad guy rather than making him the bad guy from the beginning.

So, how do we fix it?

My plan: Hans needs to show more uncaring characteristics earlier on. The gloves theory (he's wearing gloves while professing his love to Anna and thus doesn't mean it) is weak. We need a clearer hint. Perhaps during the meeting with Elsa, he says, “when I'm king…” and Elsa corrects him that he'd still be a prince. He can smile and brush it off. But, the audience would have the hint that he wants more.

He can say something again while handing out blankets. “When I'm your ruler, things like this won't happen.” The people can smile and cheer, and Anna can be happy she has a strong man to help her. She doesn't have to see anything wrong with this statement.

Also, when he's interrogating Elsa in the dungeon, he could try and woo her a little bit. This would make it a lot easier to hate him, and make it more believable that he'd do anything to be king. It also makes his feelings for Anna, or rather the lack of them, make more sense.

The audience LOVES to figure out the clues to a puzzle. That's why mysteries are so popular. That feeling of “I KNEW IT!” is super powerful and motivating. We want to keep the story going to see if we're right. It's important to give hints and clues so that the A-ha! Moment can happen. Plus, if you do it well, you'll get a re-read. How many people watched The Sixth Sense at least twice? You don't have to have a huge twist, but making the reader/viewer feel smart for figuring it out will definitely make your book more enjoyable to them.

How do you then incorporate this into your story?

-Make sure you're characters decisions make sense. They don't have to be rational (who in their right mind goes and looks for the scary noise without calling the cops?) but it does have to be believable.

-Use inspiration from other stories. That CSI episode might give you a great idea for why your character needs to go to Vegas. Use your favorite TV shows to fuel your brain. Don't just consume the show blindly- analyze them. Why is this show entertaining to you? What's the story that's got you invested? Put that in your book, or use it as a motivation elsewhere.

So, go watch some TV 🙂 It's not totally part of your writing process.

Tips on Being a Romance Writer

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I'm going to start a new blog series:

Tips on being a Romance Writer!

I might come up with a more exciting title, but for now it's pretty explanatory. I'm a romance writer and I'm going to explain how I do what I do.

This will be great for those looking into writing a romance novel or even those who already are in the business. I know I'm always learning new things from other authors!

So, stay tuned for a new post every Friday!