It’s too often that I find a historical romance novel I enjoy and when I check out the author’s other work, the characters are all the same. The heroine is a beautiful, graceful woman who doesn’t know she’s beautiful, who is caring and kind but “strong” (I say it in quotes because for a woman to be strong she just needs to be more masculine) and smart. The hero is a big muscled hunk who is clever and honorable. Sure, there will be a few minor differences, like the heroine will have a “temper” or the hero’s lust may overcome his honor when he seduces the heroine against her father’s wishes, but mostly, they’re the same.
I understand that you want to write what your readers want to read. If they liked book one, why not make your second book follow the same formula?
Only… that’d be shit to write. Your characters would be the same. They’d never surprise you, never do anything other than what was planned in your outline. I know that some people argue against this type of creativity, saying that writers are crazy if they think that the characters control the story, but those people take the saying too literally. Once you start writing a character, you get a feel for behaviors. A scene you once thought would be serious turns funny when you realize that your character would crack a joke to ease the tension. You may have thought that your character was too strong to weep for her dying dog, but then you realize how much affection she showed the dog, and that she was be depressed for weeks about it.
I plan characters by thinking of how I could make them different from my current characters. My only published book, Kiss of The Fey, features the outspoken clever Johara and the introverted Xenos. I decided that my next book would feature Wren, who is strong-willed yet silent and Ferran, who is very gentle. Next I thought that I would create Wild, who enjoys things like a child and is very naive, and Daivat who holds honor above all else and is very serious. Another book I have planned is between Orion and Kasmira, both of whom were featured in Kiss of The Fey. One is an alcoholic and the other hates everyone and has a terrible temper.
The important thing to remember when creating a character is that they can’t always have attractive flaws. I have yet another book planned in which the main character will be a quiet, caring girl who isn’t afraid to cry, and her love interest is going to be an impatient asshole who thinks all women are weak.
I enjoy lining my characters up next to each other and seeing how they compare. When they come too close (Johara and Wren became too similar, so I started cutting Wren’s dialogue until she was a much quieter person) I change things, and I even try to make their physical characteristics different. Ferran has very dark skin, Johara is tan, Wren is tall and extremely skinny, Orion is a skinny ginger (who isn’t strong at all), my unnamed man will actually be shorter than the unnamed woman… you get the picture.
I know we all love our characters, so it’s important that you love them for their differences, not because they all have big hearts or kind souls. Quite frankly, Kasmira is a bitch, but it’s my job as a writer to show how her and Orion came together, and to make you like her despite her flaws.
On a more unrelated topic, I’ve found a really awesome character creator here. It’s a little confusing at first, but I’ve managed to start making characters and now I’m only stopping because I need to make food. The only real limitation is that if you want to change body types it’s a pain in the butt, so I didn’t bother. Here are some examples:
I’m sorry if this post seemed scattered, but break is finally over and I’m still trying to get back into the grove of things, including finishing everything I said I’d do over break and getting back to blogging for realz (and not just posting book reviews, because that’s really all I’ve done over break).