Posted On June 2, 2017 by Print This Post

Create Characters Your Reader Will Care About – by Liz Fielding

Author Liz Fielding joins us today with a stellar post on creating characters.  

Romantic fiction is character led.

A plot, a story is important, but unlike a thriller, where the hero or heroine responds to outside events, romance is driven by emotion, feelings, internal fears and longings and it is the character of your hero and heroine that will dictate how a romance develops. Their internal response to external events.

Consider the great characters in literature, characters in the books you love. What made them memorable? What made you care about them?

They won’t have been perfect — no one wants to read about someone who is perfect — but they will have been determined, wilful, well-motivated. Consider Jane Austen’s Emma, Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind and Vanity Fair’s Becky Sharpe.

Readers are looking for a heroine they can identify with, connect with, even if she sometimes gets things wrong. Someone she is happy to spend time with.

Imagine being stuck in a lift with just one other person. Would you want to be confined with a moaning man, a whining woman, someone of either sex having hysterics? Or would be want to be with someone calm and practical, someone who would amuse you, who would make the time pass quickly?

It is vital that your main characters have the “lift factor” because your reader is going to be with them for several hours of her precious time. And not just the reader. You are going to be living with them in your head for weeks, maybe months and in order to make sure they are people you want to spend time with you will need to get to know them.

Don’t just fill out a standard character worksheet. Okay, you’ll need one. Eye colour, height, hair, parents’ names, siblings. Pin it up where you can reference it when you’re in full flow. You may think you couldn’t possibly forget the colour of your hero’s eyes but believe me, you will — maybe not in your first book, but by the tenth, twentieth… There is nothing more infuriating that having to stop and hunt for the well-honed description you wrote dozens of pages back.

These are, however, no more than the basics.

To come alive on the page, your hero and heroine must be more than two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs that you move around the stage. If you find yourself thinking “what can I make them do next” warning lights should be flashing. If your characters are blood-and-bones, heart-and-soul real, you will know what they would do, just as you instinctively know what someone close to you would do in any given circumstance.

You may hear authors talking about characters who “take over” the story. That is not because the author is not in control of her characters, but because she has created three-dimensional, living, breathing people, men and women she knows so well that her writing brain is flying ahead of her fingers on the keyboard.

To truly know your characters you must understand not just what they look like, where they went to school, what they do to pay the bills, but see them living in their own world, having a life before you write Chapter One.

That world will dictate what you need to create them.

First you will need a name.

You can Google websites to find the most popular names for any year. Make sure you use one for the country in which your character was born. Fashions in names are cyclical and vary quite markedly from country to country.

Consider social class. A name will brand your character, possibly embarrass one who has moved light years from his or her start in life. How will he or she deal with that?

Think about the image you want to portray.

And be kind to your reader. There are many beautiful names out there, but if you give your heroine an ethnic name that the reader is unfamiliar with, is unsure how to pronounce, she will stumble over it every time she sees it and it will not only throw her out of the story, she will never bond with her, know her.

It is, of course, possible to make the fact that no one can spell her name if she says it, or pronounce it if they see it written down, part of her character. When she demonstrates how to pronounce it to the thick hero in tiny little chunks of sound, it will give you a chance to show them both in action, and give the reader a break.

Think, too, about how your hero and heroine speak. Listen to the rhythm of native speakers – Youtube is brilliant for this kind of research — but don’t make a big thing of it and never write in dialect. It’s hard to read and popular fiction should be effortlessly entertaining.

By all means use a native term of endearment, the occasional word to show that the character has a distinctive voice and cultural background. Let the reader to hear the heroine listening to the hero, or vice versa, and she will get it.

 

And then there was her voice.

No one spoke like that unless they were born to it. Not even twenty-five thousand pounds a year at Dower House could buy that true-blue aristocratic accent, a fact he knew to his cost. — Christmas Angel for the Billionaire

 

‘Still got a temper then, cariad?’ The voice was soft as a shawl of mist around the shoulders of Carreg Cennen. Welsh as the daffodil attached to his lapel for St David. — Dangerous Flirtation

 

Remember, too, that these people you have brought to life do not step onto the pages of your book fresh-minted. They have families, friends, they will have gone on holiday, had jobs, been moulded by their experiences long before you step into their lives at this point of crisis, of change, of opportunity.

To familiarise yourself with their world you need to walk in their shoes. Consider your heroine’s life, where she goes shopping, how she travels, what she reads, what would be her dream holiday. Ask yourself how she would cope with a domestic emergency, a difficult child, an infestation of mice. Think of your own worst nightmare, confront her with it and watch her react.

Very little — maybe none — of this will make it into a book. All research should work on the iceberg principle; no more than an eighth on show. Your familiarity with the way they live, deal with challenges, cope with incidents that take them out of their comfort zone will shine through on the page and convince the reader that they had a life before they stepped onto the pages of your book.

Consistency is vital. Your character will have to change to achieve her HEA and you must show that change on the page, not as a “with one bound she was free” moment somewhere near the end, but as a journey. It won’t be easy. She will take small steps forward, retreat a little, but always moving forward, gaining in confidence, courage with each small triumph. Read Sarah Morgan’s Puffin Island or New York series to see a master of the technique.

 

TO SUM UP

  • Is your heroine likeable, empathetic, spirited? Would you want to spend time with her?
  • What is her deepest desire? Is her motivation clear?
  • What does she fear — emotionally, physically?
  • Who would she die for?

 

  • Will your reader fall in love with your hero?
  • What are his strengths?
  • What haunts him?
  • What does he fear — emotionally, physically?
  • Who would he die for?

What will each of them need to confront in order to achieve their potential?

***

Her Pregnancy Bombshell – Summer at Villa Rosa [Harlequin Romance – June 2017]

Expecting her boss’s baby! 

Pilot Miranda Marlowe is too sick to fly her plane, and she must face the truth: she’s pregnant! She knows well enough that her boss, Cleve Finch, is still grieving for his late wife, so to think, she heads to her sister’s new inheritance, Villa Rosa.

Despite the spiders and dust, the Mediterranean palazzo is as gorgeous as ever. Until Cleve turns up with a dramatic offer: a convenient marriage as soon as it can be arranged! It may be the sensible answer…but is it enough for Miranda?

***

Liz Fielding won her first writing prize aged 12 – an Easter egg – and has been writing, and winning awards, ever since. She has more than seventy titles in print, including her Little Book of Writing Romance. She lives ten miles from the Regency city of Bath with the man she married nearly 45 years ago.

http://www.lizfielding.com
http://lizfielding.blogspot.com
https://twitter.com/@lizfielding
https://www.facebook.com/lizfieldingauthor
https://uk.pinterest.com/lizfielding/
https://www.instagram.com/liz.fielding/

Similar Posts:

Share Button

Characterization

Discussion

6 Responses to “Create Characters Your Reader Will Care About – by Liz Fielding”

  1. “Readers are looking for a heroine they can identify with, connect with, even if she sometimes gets things wrong. Someone she is happy to spend time with.”

    Some romance novel heroines are so memorable I still think of them years after I’ve finished reading the books! eg Ginny( in Liz Fielding’s The Billionaire Takes a Bride)who,when caught by the hero in the act of searching, what she believed to be, his unoccupied bedroom, immediately invents a runaway hamster.
    And Dodie in The Bridesmaid’s Reward, who,after accepting the personal trainer-hero’s help in her goal to lose weight, suddenly relapses, grabs her bike and makes a mad dash for the fast food drive-thru’ the minute he takes his eyes off her.
    Such fun and likeable heroines.

    Posted by Janet Ch | June 4, 2017, 3:36 pm
  2. Wonderful post, Liz!

    One of my major peeves is the lack of backstory on a character. Past experiences play a role in a character’s GMC, their decision making processes, and how they may react in certain situations.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 4, 2017, 11:15 pm
  3. Thank you, Jennifer. I love a character with “baggage”, the stuff that made her who she is. Like Cinderella!

    Posted by Liz | June 6, 2017, 12:45 am
  4. As always, Liz…FABULOUS!!! I completely agree. The external drives the buys the steak! But the internal…oh that lovely luscious INTERNAL seals the sizzzzzle.

    **Cheers to writing**

    ~ Cindy

    Posted by Cindy Nord | June 8, 2017, 10:47 am
  5. Thanks, Cindy!

    Posted by Liz | June 20, 2017, 1:18 am

Post a comment

Upcoming Posts

  • Jun 23, 2017 Plan: Read by Suzanne Brockmann

Subscribe

2013-2016

100-BEST-WEBSITES-2015

2014-2015

Follow Us