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Posts tagged with: character developement

What My Mother, And Walt, Didn’t Tell Me

Life is messy. I don’t know one person who is living the fairy tale that Walt and his tribe, lack of social media, and the sheltering love of parents helped us to envisioned as children. Disagreements were once about how we were affected. Now they included our families, our communities and our world’s state, and these disputes are not easily forgotten with a hug.  Disease, accidents, and death are no longer something that happens to someone else. Financial responsibility is more than adding dimes to a piggy bank. Social manners go beyond saying please and thank you. The news is aired 24/7, and viewed by children. Life is messy.

My grandmother had a saying. If everyone in the room tossed their problems into a pile and then were told to go pick one out, most would pick their own.  

Why would we do that? Because we know what we’re dealing with, we have experience handling it, and we have a sense where we’re headed. Starting over with new problems requires a lot of energy, physically and mentally. Many don’t want to do that. A few don’t have any more stamina left to give. The rare person will give up a less important problem and take on a life threatening one. They are heroes.

Readers love to escape their world. They want to read about other peoples’ problems and learn how they resolve them. They don’t want to read about a fairytale life. They know that world doesn’t exist.  They want to connect with your characters and causing your reader to sympathize with your characters is a way to connect. Give your readers a hero or heroine to cheer for.

 

Life will always be messy, especially in great works.  

 

 

 

                                   

Autumn Jordon is an awarding-winning author of Romantic mystery/suspense and contemporary romance. Check out her sexy U.S. Marshals in the C.U.F.F. series, or fall in love with her characters in the Perfect Love Series. 

 

 

 

Just Contempt

Has this ever happened to you?

I read continuously. Sometimes two books at a time. This past week I took my grandsons to the library and even though I have hundreds of books sitting in my office and on my kindle that I’ve not read yet, I had to have another world to step into.  I picked up a book by an author who I recently heard of but never read before and dove in. That evening, after reading twenty odd pages, I closed the book and went to sleep, thinking it’s the beginning. It’ll get better. The author is a NYT best selling author. The book was edited and published by one of the big five houses. One of the two publishers I’d always dreamt of being part of their stable of authors. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

After reading a third of the book, because I was really trying to give this author a chance, I went on-line and read the reviews for this story and was amazed that the majority of reviewers, like seventy-five percent of the people reviewing the story, felt the same way I did about the characters. We didn’t feel anything. Well, maybe contempt for taking up our value time.

I continued to read, skipping paragraphs at first and then pages, looking for some reason to like the characters and continued on, (I’m a determined Scorpio after all), but there was only more whining from the heroine and more one-track sexist thoughts from the hero. This was a suspense for goodness sakes. What about the murderer still at large?  What about some thought about saving lives? Other characters were dying.

At a little over the halfway point, I stopped.  Feeling totally disappointed and annoyed, I closed the book.  I was glad I hadn’t spent money on this book. Will I read this author’s work again? I’m honestly not sure. This wasn’t her first book. It was like her twelfth. If it had been her debut book, then I’d probably give her a second chance to win my loyalty.

I then picked up a book from my TBR pile. One that I’ve been meaning to read for years.  A classic time travel published in the nineteen seventies and within twenty pages I was intrigued by the main characters and the possibility of the plot. I even chuckled at a line. I’m totally enjoying it.

Stories are about people and what happens to them. And for readers to enjoy the story, they MUST connect with the characters. It’s that simple.  It doesn’t matter if the main character is an archeological professor in the 1940’s searching for treasures or an old man on a boat or the widow who inherits a football team.  Readers must like or become invested in them immediately. In order for you, the author, to pull this off, you must know your characters.

There is no right way or wrong way or one way to accomplish this.  My way is to first scan pictures and find physical forms for my characters. It’s easier for me to have conversations with them knowing what they look like. Then I figure out one trait about them my readers will admire and one thing that will connect the character with a large portion of readers by way of relation or sympathy (goals).  Why did I say large portion and not all? Because in the realm of things, humans have very few universal similarities. We all need air, food and water to live. We all have a lineage; ancestors but some of us could care less about our pasts.  Most humans need human connection, but there are those who do not. All of us believe in something, even if it’s not to believe in anything.  A majority of people want to help other humans and or other life forms, but again, there are those who could care less. None of us have live through the all same experiences. We are unique but we do still connect.

After I have those three character’s features, I begin to write my story.  At this point, I don’t know everything about my characters– I’m a hybrid pantser/plotter—but I begin to write the moment when their lives change. As I put them into situations they reveal their innermost desires and fears to me and usually by the black moment I know them like I know myself. During revisions, layering in everything I’ve learned in unique ways is a challenge, but so much fun and so rewarding.

How do you develop a character that readers will love?

Or tell us, why a particular favorite character stands out in your memory? How did the author connect you with him or her?

 

It’s All In The Past

I love a good action movie where it’s all about the ticking bomb, once in a while. However if the screen writer adds a character that touches my heart, the movie goes from good to great! When that happens, I can’t stop talking about it. I tell my family and friends. I chat about it at work and on social media. And I easily lay down my hard-earned cash for the next movie. Readers have the same reaction after finishing a book that left them feeling something for someone, the character.  And word of mouth is still the best advertisement. It will get you more returns than a pricey Bookbub ad and cost you nothing but the sweat and blood and tears you poured into your story. So how do we create characters that are memorable?

Most new writers think of physical traits when we speak of creating a character, but art is so much more. Certainly, features, abilities, or disabilities can shape a character’s perception of themselves or how the world sees them, so yes, picture them but go beyond the physical. Use the physical to create flaws for your character and thus emotional ties with your reader.  Just a few film examples that you might be familiar with which use physical attributes to create memorable characters are Princess Fiona (Shrek), Erin Brockowich, Raymond Babbitt {Rain Man} or Sherlock Holmes.

The basic tool we use to dig deep into our characters psyche is GMC. We’re all familiar with the acronym, right? Goals, motivation and conflict. Every character, including secondary characters, need to have goals. Behind the answer of what they’re goals are comes the question why is that their goal? What impels them to get up every morning and work toward that objective? Then why has that particular incident in their life affected them so deeply that years later they’re not going to let anyone stop them from reaching their objective? What is the emotional seed?

There is that word again. EMOTION.

Then comes conflict. Think of your own conflicts. Unless you live in a solitary world you have them. We have issues with the world events.  We have conflicts with others; Husband, wife, children, mother, father, the cousin who lives a state away and still seems to meddle in your life, a co-worker who rubs you the wrong way and pets. Don’t forget our furry or feathered friends. At times we have conflict with ourselves. Time can add conflict. Conflict comes in all sizes and most days from every direction. Do you recall days like that? Remember the raw emotion that coursed through you because of conflict. Hit your character with a ton of conflict.

The way your character reacts to conflict is part of their temperament. You can show their reaction to tough situations as a strength or a flaw. Characters need both. We all have both. Readers identify with characters through them and the emotional baggage that comes with them. Make a list of your character’s flaws and strengths. How did they come about? How can you show them? How can they show growth?

When I start a new story, I usually have glimpse of the opening scene in my mind. I have no clue where the story line is going to take me. The first thing I do is search for pictures of my characters. I know them as soon as I see them. (CRAZY RIGHT?) Then I start asking them questions about themselves. Out those answers, story ideas will begin to take shape.

My advice: Dig deep into your characters’ pasts even though not a word of it might make it on to the page. You need to know them.

How do you develop your characters? Please share your process.

 

 

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READER CONNECTION: USING MEMORIES

Emma didn’t know what woke her— the excitement of the celebration to come in a few hours or the moonlight streams shimmering through the window, but something had.  Her heart, like an Olympic sprinter’s, drummed against her narrow chest as she brushed her bangs from her eyes.

BECAUSE OF SEASONS

If you’re thinking this blog is about setting, you’re totally wrong.  Maybe I should’ve changed the title so you wouldn’t have thought so, but after I started brainstorming ideas for a blog it actually fit.

My original idea was to write about two lessons I learned many years ago from my creative writing professor which, yes, would’ve pertained to setting, but then two of my Ruby sisters had also mentioned on our private loop that they planned blogs about the subject. Although I knew we’d approach the subject matter from different angles, I kind of figured our readers would say enough already.  So I’ll save my thoughts on setting for another time.

Anyway, going back to my creative writing classes— since I know you’re all dying to know what they were—the first one was free writing. We all know what that is, right? You just write whatever comes to mind without stopping for a length of time and the writing doesn’t need to follow rhythm or reason. It’s a way of freeing your muse. Thinking about that lesson helped me put a twist on the second lesson, which was setting sense and had to do with experiencing your world.

When we think of seasons we contemplate visions of spring, summer, autumn and winter and all the elements that make them unique. But for today, we’re going to think of seasons in term of our character’s lives.

People in different seasons of their lives have very different points of view on just about everything. I know I think differently than my children on many topics, including their view of texting to friends while talking to me as multi-tasking. I also have a different point of view than my parents on many subjects.

However, age is not the only factor that determines our mind set.  My views are not always agreed upon by friends who are my age. Everyone’s  POV has been shaped by many dynamics such as; their racial background, their educational level, the region in which they live, their talents, their experiences with others (job or social networking), past and present world events, handling health issues, religion, and their relationships with family members, to name a few.  To make characters really come to life we need to know which forces molded them—backstory.

A woman of ninety who has been totally blessed all her life is going to look at death differently than a girl of sixteen. And a girl of sixteen who has been blessed will face death differently than a girl who has been repeatedly abused by her father.

A man who has a family that depends on him for support is going to go to a job interview with a different mindset than a man who has no one but himself to worry about. And a woman is going to have a totally different mentality in the same situation.

Two homeless families will have a different outlooks on their future because of their relationship with each other and their faith in God.

Two men hear gunfire. One is a hunter. The other is a vet who has seen the worse side of humanity.  Each will react differently to the discharge.

A person who has never had a new car is going to feel differently about their new car than the person who buys a new Porsche every year.

Those are simply examples, but I think you get my drift.

I remember while cleaning for my grandmother I found dozens of pieces if cardboard maybe six inches in length. Each had many different colored threads spooled around them.  The threads were extras that came from clothing that had been undone.  She also kept sheets of used aluminum foil of all different sizes in a box. They were to be reused.  My grandmother lived through the great depression.  Many things she did all her life were based on the time she lived through.

Each season of life as well as how much we have been seasoned influences our POV and fuels our motivation in doing everything. So it should be for our characters.

 

 

Autumn Jordon is sneaker-wearing Ruby who authors light-heart contemporary romances and seat-edging mystery/suspense novels.  Join her newsletter at autumnjordon.com and receive a free book and many short reads, available only to her subscribers. 

I Hate You

Okay. I bet the second you read my blog title an ex-significant other popped into your mind and you’re recalling what it was about him or her that caused conflict between the two of you and ended the bond.  Think back to the turning point in your relationship.

Was it something he did or didn’t do?

While eating out, did he/she always pick at the dinner you ordered because he decided yours looked or tasted better than the dinner he ordered?

Did he/she always leave the television on when leaving the house or apartment?

Did he/she never wash or clean out his car? And was happy to have a backseat filled with garbage?

Did they constantly make promises and always had an excuse for not keeping them?

Or was it something he/she said?

Like beginning every sentence with “Hummm”

Or “I told you to…”

Did he/she never let you finish your sentence?

Or did it seem the relationship was all about them?

You always went out with his/her friends but not with yours?

You attended all of his ball games but he/she always found an excuse to miss your book signings.

She/He always wants sex with the lights off and never in the afternoon.

Or were there outside influences that strained the relationship?

He/she hated your dog, or cat.

Her/his family always had to be consulted concerning decisions that should be made by the two of you. Or the family interfered on their own.

His/her job took priority over everything.

Maybe there was a habit at first you thought was kind of cute but then it became really annoying.

He called every one of his buddies MAN.

While in the shower, he sang his version of We Are The Champions, inserting I am instead of we are.

He always swiped a cookie or veggie from the tray you just finished making for a party.

He always wore the same ratty shirt on the weekends.

I’m sure many of you could add more really great examples.

My point in listing all these examples is that they are character flaws and by giving your characters a flaw, your reader will connect with them and identify with your hero or heroine’s reaction. And that is what you want as a writer—a connection with the reader.

Perfect characters are boring characters.

Think about your favorite sitcom. One of mine is Everybody Loves Raymond.  Every character in that show is memorable. All have huge flaws.

Raymond, of course, is lazy when it comes to helping with the children and around the house. He loves golf and sex and would do about anything to have more time doing both, including telling his white lies.

Deborah, his wife, her flaw in my book, is she puts up with Raymond. But she can also be admired for sticking it out with the guy.

Robert, Raymond’s older, much taller brother, is insecurity about being second in line to his baby brother. And he has this freakish way of touching his chin when eating.

And Marie and Frank, Ray’s parents… well there isn’t enough room on this blog to list all of their faults.

The only characters who seem perfect are Ray’s and Deborah’s three children.  GRIN. Kids are always perfect!

In my 2009 Golden Heart entry, Evil’s Witness now titled His Witness To Evil, my hero, John, a FBI agent, is very curt. He is a loner with deep wounds. John wears a tiny rubber band around his ring finger and constantly snaps it. This works the heroine, Stephanie’s nerves. She is the target of a Mafia lord and under a lot of stress, so this little repeated action becomes the catalyst for her to express anger over her situation. It also does something else. When Steph blows her top and she presses John about it, she learns of his internal conflict. It reminds him of his daughter who was murdered out of revenge against him.

 

Now let’s go back to the lists above. I’m going to pick a few and show an example what conflict and emotion can be developed from the trait, flaw or habit.

A) Leaves the television on. Perfect internal conflict. Character was abandoned. Afraid to come home to an empty house.

B) Hmmm.. Heroine yells, “Hmmm. That is all you ever say to me. You never share what you’re thinking.”

Hero thinks, I really don’t want to do Thanksgiving at the grandfather’s house again, especially this year when it’s going to be the old man’s last.  I’ve lost enough this year.

C) Sex in the afternoon:

“I’ll get these reports to Mr. Gillings right away.” Marcy tapped the papers into a uniform pile, surprised Bill had agreed to all of her terms.

“You have time.” He stood and second later she heard the door lock clink.

“What are you doing?” Her nervous chuckle echoed off the walls of her office as he walked toward her. It was Saturday and there was no one in the building. “I told you, I’m not going to have sex with you.”

“If you want my support, you will.’”

Marcy’s heel landed home, in his nut patch.

How’s that for conflict?

I know you’re all avid readers. Do you have an example of a character with a flaw you’ve read you’d like to share?

 

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Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. You can join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com or follow her on Facebook and Tweeter.

The Latest Comments

  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Ooh! I hope you write some of the them, Autumn. I love a snowy meet cute. 🙂
  • Autumn Jordon: Our first snow left me stuck at work and not able to make it home. Boy did I think of a number of...
  • Autumn Jordon: Love this, D! I really don’t think there could ever be enough romantic comedies. That’s...
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: I love the first snow of the year. It always feels so magical. Happy holidays, Bev!
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Yes! I love just falling into the season headfirst. 🙂

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