Posts tagged with: character motivation

Make Sure to Save the Cat!

Have you ever started reading a book and wondered if the awful person you have met is actually the hero? Surely it can’t be the jerk who seems to have no redemptive qualities. Yes, a hero, as well as a heroine, needs to grow and change to make a story, but sometimes one of them seems so terrible that we don’t really want to watch their growth through a whole book. If a reader thinks the same, he/she will close the book. Don’t let that be your book.

Blake Snyder wrote SAVE THE CAT: The Last Book on Screenwriting that You’ll Ever Need. I read this book cover to cover and loved it. I’ve delved into the details, mapping out the pacing for my own books. That was before I realized that Jessica Brody took Snyder’s info and revised it to help authors writing novels called SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL. I just bought it but haven’t yet had a chance to read it. But if it follows Synder’s screenplay writing book, I’m certain that it is fabulous.

One of the first things Snyder talks about, and what he named his book, is Saving the Cat. What exactly does that mean? Snyder says, “It’s the scene where we meet the hero and the hero does something – like saving a cat – that defines who he is and makes us, the audience, like him.”

If you have a character who acts terrible at the beginning of your book, but you want the reader to continue reading and rooting for the character to grow and win love, then you need to give them a redemptive quality. They should secretly have a golden heart or a strong moral compass even if circumstances are making them act like a horrible person or even just a self-centered person. The way to show this golden heart is to have them do something unselfish and good like literally saving a cat.

I just read a book where the heroine is an assassin, and the opening chapter details how she kills an innocent man. This is awful, and I could never root for her to be happy, except that we are in her head in the book. We hear the remorse and the reason behind her actions, and they are honorable reasons. She is saving her younger sister.

The Saving the Cat technique can work in many different ways. I have literally made my hero in THE WOLF OF KISIMUL CASTLE, who was kidnapping my heroine, save a dog. So, although he’s carrying a woman away from her wedding, and he has flung her over his shoulder while she berates him and whacks him with her rose bouquet, he stops to save a chained dog. We instantly see his golden heart and forgive him a bit for his barbarian ways. Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t hate a gorgeous Highlander for giving me the best kiss I’ve ever experienced and then carrying me away from a wedding that I don’t want to go through with anyway.

In another example, I have a hero (SACRIFICE: Book 5 of The Dragonfly Chronicles) who was raised by demons to usher on the end of the world. Before he starts doing terrible things, I have him use his magic to save a child with cancer first. This was his Save the Cat and helped my reader forgive him for his bad attitude. Although he was raised to be the big bad, demon of doom, he has a golden heart full of mercy and compassion.

The more terrible the hero or heroine is in the beginning, the more important it is to show him or her “saving the cat.” If your hero or heroine doesn’t have a spark of good or mercy inside them to do a small act of kindness or show a golden hearted motivation, then they, in my opinion, don’t deserve to be a hero or heroine. And if your reader thinks this way too, they may shut your book, something to avoid at all costs.

Do you try to show your hero and/or heroine doing something kind or having an honorable motivation behind their early downfalls? As a reader, do you root more for the flawed characters if you know they have a golden heart?

For more information about Heather, please find her here:

Anniversaries – Powerful in Life, Powerful in Books

We all experience anniversaries, dates that come around every year. In fact, we are born with one! Our birthday. Anniversaries fall into two main categories: celebratory and remembrance.

Celebratory anniversaries are easy to spot: birthdays, wedding anniversaries, adoption days, first kiss date, day your book releases…

Remembrance anniversaries are trickier. We’ve all had days we don’t want to ever relive, and yet we don’t necessarily want to forget them.

When I was diagnosed with cancer on April 4th, 2011, the date became very important to me. Mentally, I split every picture that I see of me and my family in the past into “before” and “after” the diagnosis. Each year I celebrate the day I found out I had a battle to fight, because each year I am thrilled to tears that I’m still alive to love my family. I go through my box of hundreds of cards I received over 15 months of chemo. I sit quietly to honor the time when I couldn’t walk with all the meds battling within me. I hug my kids longer, loving the fact that the farther away from the year I was diagnosed, the easier it is for my kids to forget that awful time.

The Battling McCollums

So, remembrance anniversaries swing both ways, happy and sad. The initial event is full of shock, sorrow, and even devastation. But as the years go by, flowers can grow up through the cracks of our shattered lives. We must still honor those anniversaries, but also embrace the happy memories and positive things that grow out of them.

This not only works in our lives, but also in our characters’ lives. In my book, A PROTECTOR IN THE HIGHLANDS, which releases TODAY (woot!), the heroine, Scarlet Worthington, has survived a terrible event that occurred on St. Valentine’s Day. In the following book in the series (which I just turned into my editor), King Charles II has been buried on St. Valentine’s Day, which is true to history. Although it is not spelled out for my readers, the anniversary significance will not be lost on Scarlet.

Anniversaries are powerful. In real life, we should honor them, even if they are not celebratory, even if we do it alone in hushed reflection. Our unconscious will likely mourn even if we try to forget, so I find it better psychologically to acknowledge the event and remember any positiveness that came from it. It’s a good day to cuddle up with those we love, eat our favorite comfort foods, and watch happy movies.

In our books, anniversaries can also create powerful motivation, conflict, and character growth. Whether it’s a one-month anniversary of a kiss, a five-year anniversary of a divorce, or a fortieth anniversary of a psycho killer named Michael stalking and killing all their friends, anniversaries will affect your characters in powerful ways. Keep them in mind when creating your characters to give them depth.

BTW – today is not only my book birthday, but it is also my 24th wedding anniversary!

26 November 1994

Releasing 26 November 2018


Do you have any anniversaries coming up?


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