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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Monday, February 04, 2008

Character Month

Last month The Wet Noodle Posse covered Getting Started. This month our topic is Character.

We Romance writers often ask each other whether we are “Plot Driven” or “Character Driven.” I’m definitely Character driven, which is why I volunteered to moderate our WNP Character Month. Almost all my stories develop out of a character, the idea of a person whose story I want to tell, often a character who appeared in a previous book.

All of our characters are important, but I believe the success of a romance novel mostly lies with the hero. We want to fall in love with the hero of a romance novel and we want the heroine to be someone --- like us, or an ideal of us.

We don’t want our heroes or heroines to be perfect, because part of the delicious fantasy of romance is to see how love can change us, transform us, make us into better people. At the end of our books, we want the hero and heroine to be more than they once were, to have the injuries of the past healed because of love. We want Beauty to tame the Beast; Cinderella to wed her Prince; Snow White to be awakened with a kiss.

But how to craft these strong, to-die-for heroes and valiant heroines? How important is backstory? What should their Goals, Motivations, and Conflicts be? What flaws should they have? What will make the reader fall in love with them? How can I make them unique? How can I show who they are in the writing?

That’s what we will be discussing in a variety of ways this month.

This week’s schedule:

Tuesday: Maureen Hardegee, author of quirky southern short stories like her latest in At Home in Mossy Creek, discusses Using Pet Peeves to Inform About Characters.

Wednesday: Dianna Love, whose next book, Phantom in the Night, is written with the fabulous Sherrilyn Kenyon, covers that thorny question, Is Your Character Acting Out of Character?

Thursday: Noodler and Multi-award winning Priscilla Kissinger writes about Character Interviews

Friday: Q and A Day, a day to ask any questions you like about crafting characters. You may ask your questions ahead of time by emailing me at diane@dianegaston.com or just asking in the comment section on Friday.

There is more.

We are giving away prizes this month! Dianna Love will give away a signed copy of WORTH EVERY RISK and a booklight. And Jill Monroe will give away a signed copy of HITTING THE MARK. All you have to do is comment on the blog! Dianna’s winner will be randomly selected on Friday, Feb 15, and Jill’s winner, on Friday, Feb 29. So join the discussion and have a chance to win.

Beginning now.

What do you think are the important elements in a romantic hero and heroine?

What are your peskiest problems in developing characters?



(Speaking of prizes, come visit my website and enter my contest. My friend Kathryn Caskie, whose How To Propose To A Prince is due out Feb 26, and I are each giving away signed copies of the books that started our series. From Kathy, it will be How to Seduce A Duke, and from me, The Mysterious Miss M. )

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13 Comments:

At 5:05 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Diane, this looks great! I'm very much looking forward to the posts this month.

 
At 10:18 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

I'm plot driven, and I used to let the characters develop willy-nilly, which works okay, don't get me wrong. But lately I do a lot of character work up front, and it makes that first draft a lot more fun to write.

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

My characters usually emerge full-blown in my mind, with pasts that seem complete. Rarely do I have to tinker with their backstories; I just 'know' who they are.

What I don't know is the plot--what I'll have these characters doing.

Which is why, as Esri has said before, if we were merged together, we would make the perfect writer!!

 
At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Judy T said...

I'm definitely more interested in character than plot. I'm willing to let a lot slide with a plot if the characters are good, but if I don't like the characters, it doesn't matter how good the plot is.

My fascination with characters is how they work things out. For the most part, it is an internal battle. There in lies my problem, how do I turn what's going on inside into something that occurs outside?

My favorite characters are bright, committed, and trustworthy. And nice to dogs and their maiden aunts. :-)

 
At 2:02 PM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

Looking forward to this month's discussions.

I need my romance heros to be attractive although they don't have to be super hunks. And they need to be intelligent and sensitive, not overly so but there has to be something that gets to them and moves them past that hard exterior.

Heroines also need to be intelligent and not desperate. And then, icing on the cake--but not required--is if they (and the heros) are AA or Hispanic, which makes them a bit more relatable.

Hardest thing about developing characters? They don't reveal themselves all at once. Kind of like real people.

 
At 2:33 PM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

I'm looking forward to this discussion, too! Characters make or break a story. As judy t said, the best plot in the world won't hold your attention without great characters.

Loved the comments so far vis-a-vis what we demand from a romance hero/heroine. For me, first and foremost, they have to be heroic. My favorite heros start out with questionable characters, but reveal themselves under pressure to be true heroes. I think you have to signal that capacity in smaller ways along the way so that we believe it when the the character steps up.

They don't have to be gorgeous, either. In fact, I prefer it if they aren't. I want my hero to be strong and protective, and I want my heroine to be smart and courageous. :-)

 
At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My characters tend to come to me in full, or at least their present lives do. Coming up with motivations for conflicting goals is a challenge these days. I also tend to do a lot of internal conflict and think I need to work on more external. This is an awesome topic!

Sheryll

 
At 5:57 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Okay, so it is clear we don't want perfect heroes and heroines. We do want them to be heroic at their cores, though. We want them to have conflict, both internal and external.

Isn't it amazing that we ever manage to write books?

 
At 6:38 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I agree with everyone who said characters can make or break a good story.

I like the characters I read about to be sympathetic and yet not wimpy or whiny. I also agree with Patricia when it comes to revealing the characters slowly. I tend to want to put it all out there in the first few chapters and that's not the way to do it. And internal conflict is a must or the story drags.

You're right, Diane. Each time I begin a new book I wonder how I did it the last time.

 
At 10:27 PM, Blogger doglady said...

I am really looking forward to this month's blogs. I have had some pretty strong reactions to my heroine - either people love her or they hate her. I happen to like her because she is one of those people who decides what she wants and just goes for it. And she pretty much says whatever she thinks with little regard for the consequence of the person to whom she is speaking.

My novel, Lost in Love, came out of a writing exercise, but I discovered before I finished the first chapter that I had their entire lives, their backstories, in my head.

Someone hit upon my question. Is it better to establish a character up front or is it better to reveal them slowly in layers? How do you keep the conflict between the hero and heroine going without making either of them look bad?

 
At 11:03 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

O Doggy One, I'm saving your questions for Friday's Q and A!!!

More questions are welcome from anyone.

 
At 1:11 AM, Blogger Carol Burge said...

Wow,great topic's! I'm looking forward to this month's discussion, as I can use all the help I can get with fleshing out and creating characters (especially internal GMC). :)

 
At 8:18 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Carol,
I'm sure lots of our blogs will talk about inner conflict. I know my discussion of Michael Hauge's view on Character will. That's next Monday.

 

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