We’re delighted to once again be hosting a stop on a 4WillsPublishing blog tour for #RRBC member Rebecca Reilly! Rebecca is the author of Haunting Megan and is sharing some great tips on creating characters with depth.
Create Characters With Depth
by Rebecca Reilly
A woman I met at a book signing leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I gotta tell you, I have the hots for Jim.” I don’t think I’ve had a better compliment. Detective Jim Tanger is the sad and sexy romantic lead of my first book, Into Dark Waters. It thrilled me to know that I gave Jim enough depth, flaws, and virtues to draw women into romantic fantasies about him.
Giving readers a protagonist that women desire and men admire is high priority when I write in the romantic suspense genre. I want to deliver a guy from whom readers can’t easily close the book and walk away. The story, the setting, the mystery and suspense are key, but realistic and relatable characters, male and female, make a novel worth reading and thinking about when the novel is done. It’s the characters that draw a reader back to visit a second and third time. My goal is to introduce you to people and make you feel as if you know them like family.
A writer must spend time with her characters before she introduces them to the public. I take long runs and quiet hikes conversing with my heroes and villains. In my imagination, I watch them relate to each other, listen to their back-story, uncover their weaknesses, and learn to know the layers that distinguish them from other people. I need to know if my female lead is the soul mate of the man I have in mind before I begin writing. I had to change my plans for the sequel to Haunting Megan because the two characters I had thought would fall in love didn’t work together; their faults and strengths did not mesh. By the time the story began to unfold in my mind, they were both so real I could not change them to make their love work.
A character’s flaws are more important to understand than his virtues. Everyone is broken in some way, and an author needs to allow the reader to know how her characters struggle, or don’t struggle, with their faults. The character that works to overcome his weaknesses pulls vastly different emotions from the reader than the one who hides his imperfections. Then you have the one who accepts his imperfections unashamedly, even boasting about where he falls short of social norms. How does this character’s quirkiness balance that character’s strengths? How does their relationship make each stronger, or at least, happier?
Personality assessment profiles are another character research tool I use. My favorite is the Meyers & Briggs (expanded here). Reading over the sixteen personality types helps me hone down idiosyncrasies and keep my characters consistent. I prefer to know my characters before I analyze them using this tool, but I know authors who use the assessment descriptions for inspiration, too.
Creative revealing of a character’s back-story helps connect the emotions of the reader to your hero or heroine. How the character responds, develops, matures, or falters because of the events of his or her past makes your character worthy of affection or an object of disdain. For example, sadness is attractive (someone special can cure that); bitterness is not (who wants to spend time with someone acidic?).
Characters morph, fall back and go forward, arc, and fail and succeed in a well thought-out story. Flaws lessen or change. Enlightenment comes and spurs positive action. Interesting characters do not begin a story with the same traits they end it. Static equals boring. Draw a line for each of the major players in your novel. Arrow up when they demonstrate personal growth; arrow down when they display a falling from grace. Evaluate the arc you’ve given your character. Is it enough to keep the reader believing in the reality of your hero or heroine?
When you read several books by the same author, you’ll know what he or she finds admirable and attractive. Though the protagonists may differ (hopefully) in looks, personality type, and back-story, at heart the guys that play the hero have a similar underlying character. For me, honor, self-sacrifice, and courage to do the right thing are paramount. He may be surly, sad, or taciturn, but underneath it all he’ll be a man with integrity.
I’d like to introduce you to two of my heroes, Deputy Sheriff Jason Belt in Haunting Megan, and Detective Jim Tanger, the sad and sexy protagonist of Into Dark Waters. You can meet them, and the heroines that learn to love them, here.
“This tour sponsored by 4WillsPublishing.wordpress.com
Latest posts by Dave Brown (see all)
- Guest Post: 5 Great TV Series to Binge Watch this Summer - July 13, 2016
- The Bleaklisted Movies: V for Vendetta - December 1, 2015
- DigiWriMo (Day 30): DIGIWRIMO #digiwrimo - November 30, 2015