Continuing on with my posts about The Writing, here’s a little bit on Characters.
Characters are the lifeblood of a story. If you cannot get your reader to emotionally engage with your characters, most especially your protagonists, then you are in deep, deep trouble. My job as an author is to make my characters compelling. I have to make you peeps love the characters of my stories, or love to hate them. Either way, you should be so totally emotionally invested that nothing will stop you from FINDING OUT WHAT HAPPENS. NOTHING. Not the threat of a tsunami. Not a nuclear holocaust. Not that Game of Thrones is back on TV and OHMIGODWHATSHAPPENINGWITHARYAANDDANYANDJONANDGODALMIGHTYIWANTTOSLAPJOFFREYSOMETHINGFIERCE
Ahem. Sorry about that. Perhaps I’m a tad excited Game of Thrones is back on the telly.
Anyway, your characters don’t have to be likeable. In fact, the reader can completely despise them but—and this is a big BUT—if they despise your character, it’s because this is what you have intended. Your protagonist can be the biggest tool in the universe, and the reader can absolutely loathe them, but there has to be that special something that makes your reader want to find out what happens.
Think of Hamlet. Oh my word, what a whiny do-nothing of a character. Should I kill my step-dad? Should I? I don’t know. Oh, I should drive my girlfriend crazy. I should pretend to be crazy! But should I kill my step-dad? Maybe I’ll kill this other guy…But then there is my step-dad. Should I kill him?
Wow. Just…Wow. And yet, such a character is compelling. We want to know what he finally decides, even as we are morbidly fascinated with watching the trainwreck before us. This is because Shakespeare has made it compelling. Hamlet is a complex enough as a character that we understand his point of view, even if we don’t agree with it. And that understanding, dear peeps, is crucial.
To make characters complex, we must understand that no one, ever, is wholly good or wholly evil. The villain of the piece will have one redeeming feature, even as the heroine of a story will have a dark side, albeit perhaps an extremely sunny dark side.
A character is more interesting because of their flaws, not because of their perfection. It’s hard to give your character flaws, to make them less than perfect, but you must if you what them to be believable and relatable. Put them through hell and your readers will love you for it!
Joss Whedon, he who is God of the Writings, has intoned in scripture (or maybe it was a DVD commentary) Don't give people what they want, give them what they need. Kill off that beloved character, make your hero dump your heroine, have your heroine betray your hero. Your readers will wail and scream, but you can be sure they will be glued to the page.
So, the take home message: Brave the darker recesses of your creative nature. Make characters flawed, and you will have a richly textured story with living, breathing characters your readers will love – or love to hate!
Thanks for hanging with me, peeps!
Christmas in Freewill
Christmas Eve, the Diamond Saloon is empty of its people, and Pearl la Monte has a hankering to retire early. A pounding at the Diamond’s door rids her of such a fool notion. Her irritation rises when she sees the prissy, polite-like Garrett standing outside.
Ethan Garrett has a powerful need to gain succor. When the saloon’s voluptuous redheaded singer scowls at him from the threshold of the Diamond, he doesn’t stop to think on how his ire at her has disappeared. Or how he just wants to spend some time in her company.
When a blizzard storms in, trapping them, will they spend their time arguing or find their irritation for each other disguises something more?
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Turning on her heel, Pearl marched off toward the stairs.
A weird kind of panic jolted through Ethan, one he’d never felt before in all his days. It was…he didn’t…. She couldn’t leave him. “Where are you going?”
She whirled to face him, her irritation plain. “I was seeking my bed before your arrival, and now I’m seeking it again. Help yourself to whiskey this one time. I got better things to do.”
Shoving to his feet, he strode to her. “Don’t just walk away when we’re discussing things.”
“We ain’t discussing nothing. You’ll be down here, waiting out the blizzard. I’ll be in my bed, doing what I was gonna before you arrived. That’s the end of it.”
Taking a step, she made to leave him. Again.
He grabbed her arm. “Don’t leave me.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.” Glaring at him, she stood before the bar, her magnificent hair slipping from its pins, her breasts rising and falling.
Abruptly, his mouth went dry. Clearing his throat some, he said, “You’re supposed to offer succor to those in need.”
“We’re closed, remember?” Paint-less lips pressed tight together, she glared up at him.
They were so close he could see the faint marks of freckles on her skin.
Pearl La Monte had freckles.
A kind of haze came over him, tightening his skin and bringing with it something all-fired powerful and completely unstoppable. All the years he’d known her crashed through him, all the times she’d flirted with him and meant something else, all the times he’d seen her perform on stage and wished he could have held such fire.
Grabbing her upper arms, he hauled her against him and, ignoring her shocked gasp, he covered her mouth with his.
Cassandra grew up daydreaming, inventing fantastical worlds and marvelous adventures. Once she learned to read (First phrase – To the Beach. True story), she was never without a book, reading of other people’s fantastical worlds and marvelous adventures.
Fairy tales, Famous Fives, fantasies and fancies; horror stories, gumshoe detectives, science fiction; Cassandra read it all. Then she discovered Romance and a true passion was born.
So, once upon a time, after making a slight detour into the world of finance, Cassandra tried her hand at writing. After a brief foray into horror, she couldn’t discount her true passion. She started to write Romance and fell head over heels.
The love affair exists to this very day.
Cassandra lives in Adelaide, South Australia.