I’m pleased to welcome back one of my favorite cozy mystery authors, LynDee Walker. Today, LynDee shares her insight on why it’s important to develop believable male characters.
Understanding men. It’s a question as old as relationships themselves, and not always an easy one to answer—but for a writer, it’s a must-know.
Gentlemen, I know y’all have just as much trouble understanding us (that whole Mars/Venus thing didn’t sell a bazillion books because Dr. Gray was wrong, after all), and I hope this advice will help you, too. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to focus my thoughts (and my pronouns) on my quest to figure out how to write convincing male characters.
My mysteries are told in the first person, from the point-of-view of a young, female reporter who’s not terribly unlike me. Getting inside Nichelle’s head isn’t hard. But men tend to be motivated by different things than women are. When I started writing the rough draft of my first Headlines in High Heels book, I crafted the male main character to be—well, to be the perfect guy. So, think your BFF, but smoking hot (after many rounds of revisions, he’s no longer there—I like Nichelle much better as this self-reliant, strong woman), and a great kisser. The other male characters were based on a mishmash of guys I’d known in my life, for the most part.
And then there was the sexy Mafia guy. He started off as a way for Nichelle to get some information she wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
You know what? He stayed that way. And it showed.
After the book sold, one of the hardest bits to rewrite was the scene where Nichelle meets Joey for the first time. My editor said the way he behaved didn’t make any sense. “Get inside his head and rethink this. What’s his motivation here? What does he get from this?”
Um. I didn’t know.
I cut the whole scene. Started from scratch. Even though the story isn’t told from Joey’s POV, I had to figure out what he was thinking. Which sounds obvious, but I hadn’t really done it the first time around. I opened a notes file and fleshed out his background, his reason for being there, his involvement in the mystery: that’s a lot of words no one will ever see, but I needed to understand this guy. I thought about criminals I’d interviewed and how they behaved. I thought about my darling hubby, who has a sense of self-confidence I truly admire, and a sharp, sarcastic wit. How would a guy like him, but with a shady background, respond to Nichelle?
It took me a week to revise those 600 or so words. But it was worth it. I learned so much, about my characters and about craft.
Here are my tips:
—Character profiles are stock docs in Scrivener for a reason. Use them. Figure out your characters (all of them) early on. It will save you rewrite headaches. It will also save your readers from one-dimensional characters.
—When you’re writing about the opposite sex, in particular, think about people you know. Your significant other, family members, close friends. Put a variety of folks into your fictional situation and imagine how they’d handle it. Then mash up the results into a fun, but realistic, fictional person. This also comes in handy for writing about any personality type that’s different from yours, I think.
—Once you’ve drawn your characters, you can’t alter their personalities to fit your story. Stay true to them. I just got edits back on my new novel, and the aforementioned Mafia guy did something my editor thought was out of character. If I’m honest with myself, I thought so, too—but when I was writing, I wasn’t sure how much longer I had to play the story out, and I wanted to fit everything in.
Lesson: readers will notice if a character they love doesn’t something out of character every bit as much as you’d notice it if your fitness-crazed husband suddenly took up residence at Burger King.
Just like getting to know real people, getting to know your characters takes time. And effort. But I promise, your books will be better for it, and your readers will appreciate it.
How do you get to know your male characters? Are they based on someone you know or a composite of several people?
Author T.J. Kline presents ‘A Rodeo Queen’s NaNo Success Story’ on Thursday, November 14th.
Here’s a blurb on LynDee’s latest book, BURIED LEADS, which released on October 15th.
When an Armani-clad corpse turns up in the woods, crime reporter Nichelle Clarke smells a scoop. A little digging, and Nichelle uncovers a web of corruption that stretches all the way to Washington, D.C. Politics. Murder. And a dead lobbyist. It’s everything Nichelle’s ever dreamed of.
The cops are playing it close, the feds even closer, and Nichelle’s afraid her boss will assign the story to the political desk any day. Richmond’s new ATF SuperCop makes an arrest before she can say “Louboutin,” but Nichelle’s gut says he’s got the wrong guy.
Her sexy Mafia boss friend warns her off the case, her TV rival is hot on her designer heels, an ambitious copy editor wants her beat, and victims are piling up faster than she can track them down. As Nichelle zeroes in on the truth, it’ll take some fancy footwork to nab this headline before the killer nabs her.
Bio: LynDee Walker grew up in the land of stifling heat and amazing food most people call Texas, and wanted to be Lois Lane from the time she could say the words “press conference.” An award-winning journalist, LynDee traded cops and deadlines for burp cloths and onesies when her oldest child was born. Writing the Headlines in High Heels mysteries gives her the best of both worlds. LynDee is a member of Sisters in Crime and James River Writers. BURIED LEADS is her second Headlines in High Heels mystery. Her debut, FRONT PAGE FATALITY, is an amazon multi-chart #1 bestseller. A Headlines in High Heels novella will be in the anthology HEARTACHE MOTEL, on sale Dec. 10, 2013, and the third novel in the series, SMALL TOWN SPIN, is coming in April 2014.
LynDee adores her family, her readers, and enchiladas. She often works out tricky plot points while walking off the enchiladas. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is working on her next novel. You can find her online at www.lyndeewalker.com, follow her on twitter, or connect with her via Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest.
- Author LynDee Walker Talks Dialogue
- Weekly Lecture Schedule – November 11th to November 15th
- The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit by Josh Lanyon
- Weekly Lecture Schedule, February 4 – February 8, 2013
- How to Create Characters That Leap Off the Page with Terri L. Austin