Character Development

My characters, Adam and Valerie, have been in my life for a long time now. You would think I should know everything about them. I thought I did. Then judges in a contest I entered suggested I work to make them more layered. This isn’t the first time I have been told this. But I see that when the excitement of the plot gets going, I forget to make Valerie self conscious about her weight, or pinpoint Adam’s need to clear his name. Like when you ride in a car going 80mph, it’s hard to pick up details at the side of the highway, or that’s what they tell me. Ahem. But going 15mph, all the details are clearly visible. My task now is to keep the speed up but keep the details in mind. Continue reading “Character Development”

The News

She woke up to sunshine and a headache, as well as disorientation. What day was it? What time? The bed she lay on was lumpy, the blanket coarse. No clocks were in sight, so she reached for her phone. Her heart raced as her fingers closed on empty air. Continue reading “The News”

Senses and History, Part 5: Smell

As a writer, you have probably heard that the sense of smell is the least used in writing fiction. We use words, so vision is well represented. We write dialogue, we write personal connections, so hearing and touch are all good. Taste could probably be used a bit more, outside of bedroom scenes. But smell is in itself a somewhat negative word. Writers tend to ignore it. This blog is helpful for all the underused senses. Continue reading “Senses and History, Part 5: Smell”

Karma and Character Arcs

Construction a story of any length requires the same amount of thought and detail. If you are a pantser, which means you write by the seat of your pants and don’t outline in great detail, you still have to have a beginning, and a middle, and an end. Your characters need to change and grow. No matter what your characters are doing, you need to ask “WHY?” and be able to answer that.

In my personal life, I am as happy as I have ever been. Things are mostly stable, and with the exception of the party animals in two different houses in my neighborhood, I’m not going to complain. In some ways, it’s Karma. I have put myself at the disposal of friends when they needed me, I have given of my talents to many different groups, and I have reached out to help anyone whenever I could see a chance to assist them. But I have also done a few things that perhaps I shouldn’t. Hence the loud music from the neighbors most evenings.

My recent RWA meeting had a workshop on character arcs, given by the talented Susan Meissner. She used examples from movies and books. I haven’t seen most of the movies. I don’t plan to see the Titanic, no matter how great the character arcs are. I’ll take your word for it. But I will watch You’ve Got Mail. I’ll even rewatch Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and The Wizard of Oz. And I am reading Stephen King’s The Stand.

Let’s look at my character Roland Curtis from the Regency Banquet series upcoming novella, Main Course – Pure Captivation. He’s the eldest son of a rich but untitled family. He’s clever and knows how to get his own way, and likes to be in charge. He’s considered for promotion in the army after a year of service, a goal he’s been striving for. All that changes when he meets and falls almost instantly in love with Maryse. Sure, he’s wounded and feverish, but she’s pretty and gentle and broken inside. The only way he can help her heal is to let her be in charge, especially when they make love. He finds that falling for her is worth giving up his Alpha role.

Is it Karma that he would not have found love without this change? Is it Karma that he willingly gave up his information so that his captors could ransom him? Roland now needs filling out as a character. He was not a nice brother to his little sister Ellen, but he’s been good to his twin brother until he came up with his plan to join the army. Even without doing massive outlines, I have room to work with the character and his “WHY?”

Speaking of Karma, I’ve had a pretty bad cold for the last three weeks or so. I’m going to the doctor’s office today. And I will be reading The Stand. That’s your basic, in your face Karma right there. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

Are There Limits to the Darkness?

Romances have a strict adherence to the Happy Ever After ending. In order to get to that point, you can put your MCs through a lot of really bad things. But how much is too much?

The uproar around 50 Shades of Gray includes the fact that no woman should be treated the way the FMC is, even with her consent. What happened in her life to make her feel that treatment was sexy and wonderful should never have happened. And making a movie glorifying it, not to mention a book series, is too much. But it’s not really a Romance.

Outside of sexual preferences, the world has lots of violence aimed at women, and a difference of any kind can amplify the violence. If you haven’t heard of Cynthia Bond, you will soon. Her book, Ruby, has been chosen by Oprah Winfry’s book club, and for good reason. I heard about it on NPR’s Morning Edition program. The writing quoted from the first page of the book is poetic, wonderful, and also carries the promise of some edgy events to come. Ms. Bond’s inspiration for the story came from a beloved aunt, a beautiful woman (much like Ms. Bond herself) who was murdered because she had a white lover. Her murderers were never brought to trial. Again, this book is in the category of Woman’s Fiction, not Romance.

I write Romances. I have a heroine in my Regency Banquet series, Main Course – Pure Captivation who was raped. The story takes place in a war in Europe in the early 1800s. I can’t imagine a woman in Maryse’s position would have been able to avoid rape. And so one day as I talked to her in my head, she revealed what happened. It makes the story poignant, and gives the two main characters a way to really bond to each other. They will have their HEA ending.

The last book in the series, Dessert – Pure Indulgence, has evolved while I have been writing the first two stories. At my local chapter meeting of Romance Writers of America, I really began to think about the character of Cousin Mellie, the heroine in the last book. She has a strong personality, and always knew that she wanted to marry her cousin Roland. In a flash of insight, I realized that she has been desperate to get away from her stepfather, who has touched her inappropriately. I wondered if things had gone farther, if she, too had been raped. But Dessert is supposed to be a light and satisfying story, not as heavy as Main Course. Incest is a dark, ugly act, but like the rape in the second story, something that happened in more cases than would ever or will ever be told.

No, at this time, I am going to keep the situation lighter, but it’s the perfect motivation for my heroine. And the perfect motivation for the gentleman who will want to rescue her.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

Don’t Confuse Me with Facts!

As you read each of the names in the following list, let an image come to your mind.

Mr. Darcy. Bond. Holmes. Thor. Loki. Batman. Superman. Gomez Addams. Jamie Fraser.

Some of these characters have been portrayed in movies or TV shows by more than one actor. Some have only been on screen once, but have been read by millions. And many readers are annoyed when their favorite characters are cast for film. They have a vision of this character, and they don’t want anyone else’s ideas.

When Jane Austen introduces Mr. Darcy, she gives very general information: [He] soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

There’s little to go on, no hair color, no eye color or shape, not even a sensuous mouth to fix on. This is the conundrum faced by Romance authors. A certain portion of the readers want to imagine their own heros. They aren’t attracted to blond men, so don’t want to know if he has Thor-like tresses. They abhor beards on men, so must have a clean-shaven image.

But another group of readers who must know exactly what the author had in mind when writing the hero and heroine. Frustration abounds when critics say add more description, the writer adds it, then critics say too much detail. This whole writing thing would be vastly improved if the pictures in the author’s brain could be forced into the readers’ brains.

My “classic” Regency Romance, The Viscount’s Mouse, with any luck will be self published in the first part of 2015. Miles, my hero, in my head looks exactly like Brad Pitt. But I can’t say that anywhere, except here and later in the blogs about the book. If someone buys the book and doesn’t read any of the blogs, then they are going to picture their own favorite blond eye candy. And Cassie is anyone’s guess, I don’t really have a set image for her. That might change as we go on. It’s so hard to find photos of plain women. I did find an excellent Ms. Farnham, but no Cassie yet.

I’d love to hear from you on who you picture for any of the characters mentioned above. I’d also love for you to subscribe to my newsletter that is just getting started! Click here to be added to the group. I’ll be back on Thursday.