Wednesday, January 6, 2016

See Your Characters As Your Characters Do

One of the toughest things in writing is character development. As an author, you know everything about your characters, but for your readers, they are along for the ride. They are discovering new things about the characters and the plot WITH the characters in the book. This the joy of reading. As we turn pages, we learn things and stop every now and then saying things such as "Why didn't I see that?" The thing is, if the author did it right, you did see it, but didn't recognize it.

In romance, this is especially important. The purpose of a romance is to show the growing relationship over time. We want to sense that the hero and heroine are falling in love early on in the book, but that realization is not going to happen for the characters until well into the plot. The problem is that too many authors have them seeing this too soon and this all stems from how they are writing their stories and how they are viewing their characters.

A simple solution to this is to view your characters through the eyes of the other characters in the book. Let's look at just the basic relationship of the hero and heroine. The key here is to think like them.

So let's say the heroine works at a local general store in Smalltown, USA. This is a normal day for her, stocking shelves and so forth. The bell rings over the door like it does everyday and then the hero comes in. What does she see?

She will not immediately get horny. She will likely just be drawn to this guy. She won't be able to put to words what she is thinking but her eyes will be drawn there. You have all experienced this before when someone in a room draws your attention. It is magnetic. It doesn't matter where they are in the room, but your eyes always seem to go to that person. For the heroine, she might try to put words to this but she won't be able to. "Ah, a new guy in town," might be all she can come up with.

Let's say that for some reason they start seeing more and more of each other. It is still just a casual thing. For example, maybe he comes in every morning to get a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Now she might watch how he holds that coffee cup. How he stirs the cream into the coffee. How he eats the doughnut. Again, she might not recognize what is going on, but her brain is being drawn to behaviors that she finds appealing. I know drinking coffee and eating a doughnut might not be something "outwardly" we would say is appealing, but the brain sees something.

Now maybe she really hangs out with him. She might see things in his hands. The way he holds the steering wheel. The hand gestures and so forth. Maybe she is drawn to his eyes. Again, she doesn't need to pool up when he looks at her, but maybe the attraction is that she can't help but look at his brown eyes when he talks.

If you think about when you are drawn to people, think of what you look at. There are probably TV or movie actors and actresses that you find you are simply drawn to. You aren't in love with this person, but it is that magnetism. It is that same attraction you are feeling that needs to be seen in your characters.

The problem is that too many authors are eager to tell us how the characters are feeling. It is like being around kids at Christmas time who are too excited to not tell you about the package they have given to you. But, like Christmas packages, the joy comes from watching them open the packages. The joy comes from watching the kids as you open their package. The joy does not come from just telling people what they got.

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