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Excerpts

What's An Aspiring Author To Do?

This column is based on questions Margaret gets asked by those who also want to write romance novels. The answers are based on her personal experience. Every author must and should find their own way along this path; however, sometimes it helps to know how it was for an author who's reached the goal of publication.

This column's question:
How do you create your characters?

Margaret answers:
I consider the characters the single most important element of my books. More than plot, more than setting, it's the characters, their emotions, their reactions and decisions, that make the story. Therefore, my goal as an author is to create interesting, three-dimensional characters -- people who are fictional, but seem real to the reader.

So just how do I go about this important task? What do I keep in mind when I'm first coming up with "my people," as I call them?

CHARACTERIZATION IN A ROMANCE:

You want your reader to empathize with the heroine and fall in love with the hero -- not technically, of course, but she has to understand why the heroine loves him.

They can do the wrong things, but they will do it for the "right" reason (i.e. an unselfish one), or they feel remorse and guilt -- or both.

No romantic hero or heroine should ever be perfect. Perfect is boring.

A hero or heroine does not have to be drop-dead gorgeous. Scars are interesting. Physical imperfections render a character "more human."

SECONDARY CHARACTERS

Secondary characters are all the other characters in your romance, and again, your goal is to create realistic characters. However, because these are secondary characters, you have some latitude to make their characterization broader (i.e.. less subtle). For instance, a secondary character can be primarily a figure of fun to provide comic relief.

Secondary characters also provide more opportunities for dialogue -- one of the best ways to "show, not tell" in writing.

Secondary characters are expendable. Unlike your hero and heroine, they can die, which you can use to create tension and angst on the part of the other characters, and the reader.

The more shading and extra dimensions you can give to secondary characters, the richer your book will be.

A WORD ABOUT VILLAINS:

Villains generally act for selfish reasons. The world revolves around them and their needs/desires goals. They will act purely out of self-interest when a crisis hits.

The least interesting villain is one with a simplistic motive such as insanity or monetary gain.

The more complicated you can make your villain's motivation, the more interesting he or she will be, and a more fitting foil to the hero and heroine.

THE GREATER THE VILLAIN, THE GREATER THE GLORY OF DEFEATING HIM.

BEWARE: Don't let the villain be the one calling all the shots. Ensure that your hero and heroine initiate action -- that they aren't simply reacting to whatever the villain does. This will make them seem weak and ineffectual.

Creating characters can be hard work, but it can also be the most fun. Good luck! And remember, I'll believe anything about a character if you give me a good reason.


Index of Aspiring Author Columns
This material is Margaret's intellectual property. If you would like to print it out for your personal use, feel free. If you belong to a writing group and would like to reproduce it for your fellow writers, please e-mail Margaret at maggiejmoore @ yahoo.com (no spaces). All other use is prohibited.

Copyright © 2005 by Margaret Wilkins. This material may not be copied without permission.