Tag Archives: character

How to Speed Date your Character

Hey Scribe’s fans, PJ Sharon here. This past weekend, I spent Saturday with my writer friends at the CTRWA (CT Romance Writers of America) chapter meeting. Our usually packed monthly meeting had only about thirty members due to the New England Crime Bake conference that many of our members ditched us for attended. But even with our skeleton crew, we managed to have a fabulous time. Thanks to Jamie Schmidt, our illustrious leader for the day (that’s her in the Victorian garb and the funky boots), we enjoyed a most helpful exercise, called “Speed dating your character.”

Some of us took the liberty of getting into character by dressing up for the occasion. That’s me in the silly glasses (Lily’s eye shields that look suspiciously steampunky rather than dystopian but work for the costume, I think). Left to right is Christine Bundt, Jennie Francis, Angelique Meltivier, Jamie Schmidt, me, and Melanie Meadors.

 I found that becoming my character was especially challenging since I’m far from a sixteen-year-old girl and even farther from the year 2057. The exercise itself, however, was very enlightening. We divided up into groups of five or six and went around the table asking questions of each other’s characters, focusing on one person for about five  to ten minutes. Being grilled about our likes and dislikes, and the most intimate details about our character’s lives and personalities felt a bit like being on the Dating Game.

The funny thing was that as I answered questions from each person in the group, and each answer led to deeper questions, the more I felt like Lily Carmichael, my main character from Waning Moon. I had to totally put myself in her place, talking about my family, friends, what life was like in my fictional future world, and even what my hopes and dreams were. It really made me think about what my story was about and who my character was down deep. After a few minutes, I actually began talking in a different voice and even felt different inside. It was strange to answer in Lily’s voice and from her experiences in the book.

The following questions came up, which I thought really got to the core of our characters.

What are you most afraid of?

What is your greatest flaw/strength?

Who do you love/hate?

What are your hopes and dreams?

What is it like being a teenager with so much responsibility?

How do the people of the future survive and what does the future world look like?

These were only a few questions, but the idea was that we put each other on the spot and forced each other to dig deep and get to the heart of our characters. If you have critique partners or a writing group, I highly recommend you try it.

What questions do you ask your characters to get to know them better?

 

Heroes We Love To Love

Thea Devine here, ruminating this week about heroes we love to love, the ones who drive us nuts, but we know we can’t have a fabulous story without them.   This is my list, in no particular order:

 The Good Guy: 

Everyone loves the good guy. He’s the renaissance man who’s just been waiting for the woman of his dreams.  Healthy childhood, no wounds, handsome, successful, willing to cook, change diapers, the best best friend when you need someone to listen.  He’s the one you lean on when your life is turned upside down;  he’s steady, gives fantastic advice, is decisive, funny, and loves his mother (always a prime point for a mother of sons).   And he’ll always fall for the woman who is in critical chaos because he’s the problem solver, the rock, the calm center, and he’ll always be the thing a woman wants most:  an anchor.

 The Bad Boy

He’s experienced, and knowing.  He’s that guy in high school that had that gleam in his eye.  He’d take one look at you, and he knew everything:  who you were, how far you’d go,  and where he’d like to take you.  He’s magnetic, a little rough, a little rakish, a leader without really wanting to lead;  strong, decisive, probably doesn’t like to talk much, especially about his feelings — but oh, man, does he ever have them.    He loves women, but no woman is ever going to tame him.  And when he falls, he takes a nosedive to eternity.

 The Wounded Hero

He’s the guy who suffers  There’s some great trauma in his past, or something in his present, something with his parents, another woman, his best friend, the war:  he is psychically damaged and  he’s not going to let any woman into his life because he can’t give her what she needs.  He’s too busy tending that crippled inner self to give anything of himself to anyone.   He doesn’t want to feel,  and he habitually picks fights, so he can chase everyone away.  He can’t share his life, can’t allow the heroine to assume his stain, his burden, his guilt.  She, of course, won’t rest till she does, so while he just wants to be off on some island, alone, nursing that part of himself that needs to be made whole, guess who’s right in the rowboat behind him?

 The Unobtainable Man

This guy seems not to like women at all.  No one gets to him.  It’s like battering at a wall.   He’s cool, logical, seemingly without emotions.  He never lets you see him sweat. He’s an island unto himself.  He’s got all the answers.  And he always reveals them first so he can cover his behind.   He doesn’t need anyone, which he won’t hesitate to tell you..  But of course, he’s the one who needs someone most of all. The heroine must storm the fortress, and if she can find his tender spot, he is hers forever.

Mr. Unflappable

Nothing rattles this guy.  He can be in the  middle of a war and crack a joke.  Nothing scares him; there’s no problem he can’t solve, no situation he can’t get out of.  He’s walking the line, but he’s got such a sense of humor and irony, nothing jolts him. He doesn’t take anything seriously, and he takes love too lightly. Forget about prising up his past. Some days the heroine can’t even get him to commit to saying hello.   He’s a pretty happy guy, probably real successful, and not in a button down kind of job;   but somewhere along the line, someone probably hurt him, so his deal is, don’t get too close too soon.  And of course, the heroine can’t get too close soon enough.

The Scoundrel

He was badly hurt by a woman sometime in his murky past.  So he loves ‘em and leaves ‘em, uses ‘em and loses ‘em.  Takes out his anger on all womenkind, especially the heroine, and particularly because she gets to him and he doesn’t want to be gotten to.  But she’s under his skin and before you know it, he’s protecting, defending and loving her, protesting his misogynist nature to the very end.

 The Outlaw

He’s been convicted of murder or some other heinous crime that he didn’t really commit.  But they’re after him.  He’s a loner.  He may be on the run. but he’s always got a reason, and it’s always plausible as hell.   He’s going to protect the woman he loves by NOT letting her into his life, and by reappearing in hers often enough to drive them both crazy.  And she can’t stay away.  Truth to tell, he doesn’t want her to, but he’ll never tell her that either.  It’s always her choice, and she believes in him in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  She’s so loyal, she’ll go on run with him, or be the first one to ferret out the clues that will vindicate him.   She knows what she’s letting herself in for — and she always believes he is worth the effort, because in the end, she will make him vulnerable — and hers.

And, isn’t that the ending we strive for, in fiction, and in life?

 

So who’s the hero you love to love? Any of these guys sound like your husband/boyfriend/significant other?  (My theory is all romance authors are married to the same man — and he’s usually an engineer or should be one.)  Any of them sound like anyone you know?

Thea Devine’s latest book, The Darkest Heart, was a June 2011 release from Gallery Books.  She’s currently at work on a sequel.