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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Getting Summer Write - THE WHY'S of your CHARACTER

Often your main characters, the hero and heroine, define the conflict in your story, so it's important to know them before you start writing. Have a character sketch in your mind about who these people are - and why the reader/editor should care about them.

If you don't have characters that are sympathetic, meaning they don't evoke emotion and aren't people a reader can relate to, then you might as well not write the story. So often, I've tried to start a story without really knowing my characters and the results were not pretty. I usually ended up scraping the story. The characters weren't working, therefore, neither was the conflict.

Some writers do a complete bio of their characters in writing. They know what their favorite movie is and why. They know their favorite foods, colors, type of cars, etc. For me, those things come naturally as I write the story, so I don't set them up that way. But I do know WHO they are before I write. I know their past and what they want in their future. The backstory of your character defines them.

In BETWEEN the CEO'S SHEETS, I knew that Gina was desperate for work. She'd been embezzled by her partner and needed a job to get her lifelong dream -- GiGi Designs back on track. Since she'd been tricked by a con man, she had trust issues. But that wasn't enough. I knew I had to dig deeper with her character. She needed a reason to be wary of Wade and his job offer.
Gina and Wade had a past history together. Both felt betrayed when their very young and innocent relationship ended. Both had lost something in knowing each other.

The characters grew from that knowledge. Who they are today, was a direct result of what happened between them in the past. Knowing the backstory and how they once felt about one another, helped me to design their story today.
Each were motivated from sources and conflicts that had occured when they'd first met. So, when they meet again, nine years later, their conflicts, emotions, resentments and anger were easy to bring to the surface.

The best thing a writer can do is constantly ask yourself WHY? Why is he acting and reacting this way? Why doesn't she trust the hero? Why does he want to gain revenge on the heroine? Why... why ... why?

You must know the answers to these key questions. Sometimes the answers are simple, but sometimes they are complex. And how do each characters' WHY's intersect in the story?

In my upcoming western Bodine's Bounty - my bounty hunter hero is after the man who killed his brother. That in itself wasn't enough. That meant my hero wanted revenge. But he needed more WHY'S -- so it wasn't JUST for revenge and a sense of justice. His brother Josh was his TWIN. He was shot innocently when the outlaw had mistaken him for Bodine. NOW -- we have more Why's. NOW, we have more conflict. Bodine wanted revenge, but he's also dealing with guilt. His brother took a bullet meant for him. That rounds out the character and we know his motivation. We feel his pain. And the vows Bodine made to his brother to take care of his wife and child, keep Bodine from allowing himself to fall for my heroine. He's committed to another woman - it's his way of easing his guilt. He sacrifices his own happiness to honor the vow he made to his dying brother.

Everyone has their own style in developing their characters. It's up to the writer to figure this out for themselves. As I said earlier, I don't do bio's on my characters, but I jot down key points. Mostly, I develop a character in my head and I think a long while about them, before I write a single word. When I do finally begin writing, I LOVE how the characters come to life. They TELL me who they are. THEY often say and do things - true to their character that I'd never consciously planned out before. It's what I love most about writing them. They surprise me. They become real. Their motivations are clear.

Think about your characters and the Why's in their lives. Delve as deep as you can. All of us are very complex beings. Our "character" is defined by how we were raised, our culture, background, religion and the friends we keep. We are defined by events both good and bad in our lives. We have issues, fears, loves and desires. When you write your characters know as much about them as you can before you write a single word. Then let them tell you who they are. It's a collaberation and a partnership that you'll come to enjoy.

Coming Next on the Blog -- Emotion!

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