Why I Enjoy Writing Diverse Characters

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:

johara

Johara

Xenos

Xenos

Kyald

Unnamed Male

Elianna

Unnamed Female

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).

 

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Make Me NEED to Read Your Book

There is one specific genre that I find most compelling to read. It’s not really a genre, even, just a broad plot line. When I read these stories (when done correctly) I’m gripping the edge of my seat (figuratively) and biting my nails (sometimes literally) and reading as fast as I can until I get to the end.

One such book is Inside Out. To get an idea of how amazing this book is, it has no one star reviews on Amazon. Not a single one. There are 147 reviews, and none of them one star, even though the book has been out since 2010. I call that impressive. (The second book only has 90-some reviews, but it has only three star reviews and up!)

The next such book is Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier. I might be a bit biased because I LOVE Juliet Marillner, this book has 0 one star reviews out of 102 and has again been out since 2010. I’ve reread this book multiple times, and like Inside Out, it’s one of the ones that made the trip to college with me.

So, what genre are these books? Well, they’re both young adult. Inside Out is science fiction and Heart’s Blood is fantasy, and both have romance. The main character in Inside Out is a lower-class janitor of sorts and the main character in Heart’s Blood is a traveling scribe. What is so similar between the two stories?

Well, it’s frustration. The characters make bad choices, choices you want to throw a book at them for. They don’t do what you want them to. They’re like the blonde in the horror movie who goes through the door you know has a serial killer behind it, you just want to yell, “YOU IDIOT, GET OUT OF THERE, STOP THAT.”

Not only that, but in both stories there is a distinct “The world is against us” vibe. I love stories like that that throw every single obstacle at the characters, so much so that it seems like they’re not going to make it (even though most stories I’ve read have a happy ending). George R. R. Martin is fabulous at this kind of writing, especially because you KNOW he isn’t afraid to kill off the character you’re routing for. (Here is a link to a spoiler that is only safe if you’ve read all his books that illustrates my point.)

So, here are some tips for making me need to read your story:

  • Make your character likable. If I don’t like them, I won’t care if they’re killed. (I don’t yet have a post about making a character likable, but Stephanie Meyer wrote a whole book about making a character unlikable.)
  • You don’t have to threaten to kill your character, but some kind of conflict has to happen. Not just any conflict. The more frustrating, the better. Right after A and B fall in love, A overhears B talking to C about how much he hates D and misunderstands him and thinks that he was talking about her then flies away to England and enrolls in University even though B just accepted a job in Pittsburgh and they’re perfect for each other. Just as X and Y were about to overthrow the oppressive government, Z swoops in and throws them in jail. J and H are about to pull off the big heist when they open the safe and find that it’s empty. You get the picture.
  • Be convincing when you write your conflict. As I said, most of us can tell if a story is going to have a happy ending. Romance novels, young adult novels, novels by specific authors—we can normally guess. However, you want to write well enough to make your reader forget that. You want them to be so caught up in the story that they think that X and Y are really going to be executed, or that A and B might never get back together again.

The meat of the story is the conflict, so you have to make sure you do it right. I’ve read books where I ended it with a “meh” and never picked it up again. Worse, the conflict happened too late in the story and I never got to it because I got bored in the first few pages. You want to make your readers NEED to finish the book, and if you’re really good, they’ll need to read your next book too!

What’s your favorite novel where it’s been the character versus the world?