Monday, April 1, 2013

Character Development - Day 1: What brought them together

I wanted to focus our attention this week to your characters you create in your romance novels and some of the issues of development of those characters throughout your stories. This is one area that I am very passionate about when it comes to the novels I look at. Unfortunately, it is also one of the areas that I tend to have as a reason for passing on a project more than I want. I do want to note that, although I am talking about the characters found in romance novels only this week, I think there is a lot you can take from the discussion here and apply it to other genres.

The schedule for the week is as follows:
Monday - What brings your characters together?
Tuesday - Creating and maintaining a strong conflict between the characters.
Wednesday - Finding the motivations for your characters
Thursday - Secondary characters that become too strong for your main story line.
Friday - Creating a great sexual tension

Since romance novels focus on the development of a building relationship, and our readers will be following our characters from that first meeting to the happily ever after, we have to build the story around characters that would truly be a good partnership. Unfortunately, I see too many novels with characters that would simply never be compatible with each other. Some of the relationships are so far out there that it takes a great deal of force to even get the characters together. In other cases, the readers spend more time trying to find a reason to get the characters apart. We simply don't want this. In many ways, if you think about pairing up your characters, it is similar to all of those online dating sites that find a way to find that right person.

To accomplish this, you have to really sit down and develop a clear picture and profile of your characters. Yes, I know you pantsters out there hate this, but this is a must. You are not out to discover things about your characters as you go. Sure, your readers will, but you doing this is a huge mistake. If you get yourself several chapters into the book just to discover your characters aren't compatable, they you have wasted a huge amount of time.

As you think of your profiles, think about who these people really are. This can include (but not limited to):
  • Professions
  • Hobbies
  • Backgrounds
  • Family lives
  • Personalities
  • Motivations
  • Past experiences
  • etc.
The issue here is pretty simple. If you have a hard core environmentalist out there, the odds are, pairing up with someone who believes trees and animals are just a nuisance won't work, or if you do try to get it to work, you have to work way too hard by creating a ton of plot devices just to force them together. We don't want to force this relationship, we want them to truly be drawn to each other.

As you think about your characters, you might also want to think about whether or not a relationship is really something they are looking for at this time. Sure, they might not see it, but you as an author should see it in them. I bring this one up especially for you romantic suspense people. The example I always use really makes this point clear. If someone was just raped and is escaping a sexual predator, the odds are they will not be looking at the cop as a sexual relationship. And please, don't give me the example of a tension release, it just doesn't work.

As you look at the professions, also think about the reality of the situation, Would this situation really happen? Is it legal? Is it something that society might find a bit morally disgusting. Examples of this include the cop investigating the heroine and then falling in love. Legally, the cop would be pulled off of the case. Would the boss really start up an inter-office relationship in a company that prohibits it? Probably not.

Now, even if you do have two characters that would work together, how on earth are you going to bring them together? This has to be a natural and casual meeting. Think about this in reality. This has to be something that would "likely" happen. In this situation, I always ask if this would really happen in the real world. This is crucial considering that romances are looking at true human experiences. Even if the hero is a zombie alien vampire bunny, he would still have to display true human characteristics so your reader can "relate" to the character.

The key to all of this is very simple. What do you want to achieve in your story and what characters would do the best job to accomplish this for you? Understand and know your characters. Make them real and think if they would even get together outside of the pages of your novel. Is the situation for their getting together real and believable?

Tomorrow - Conflict between your characters.

1 comment:

  1. I am really looking forward to this series. Thank-you for presenting it! Kate