One of the things I most enjoy as an editor is meeting author’s characters. We all have our favorites. Characters who become family. We love to visit them within the pages of books. Wondering about them long after the story is over or waiting impatiently for the next installment of their lives.
What draws us to these characters? What makes them become real enough that we want to know more about them? To know their stories? To invite them to dinner? And in some cases wish we could be them?
As both an editor and a reader, I look for depth. For layers that give a character the feeling of reality. We all know people who are a bit mysterious. Those friends or family members that make us want to dig deeper. The same can be said for characters on the page.
Young girls often dream of their prince charming. The actual specifics differ for each dreamer, but for the most part we want handsome, charming, strong, loyal and while we are young we want perfect. Then as we grow wiser, we know that no one is perfect.
Heroes and heroines need to be a bit “messy.” Something that makes them less than perfect. While the idea of “character flaws” may seem a bit cliché, there is a lot of truth behind the statement. We look for flaws. And when we don’t find them, we become suspicious. Someone who is too perfect is someone we can’t trust.
As an editor, I look for characters I can relate too. As an editor in Black, I admit to favoring hero’s who have a bit of the “bad boy” hidden inside them. Or even in plain sight. There is nothing more attractive than a hero who is rough on the outside and tender on the inside! A character that struggles, learns, and grows is much more likable than one who remains stagnant.
Characters also have to have consistency. While there is nothing wrong with a surprise or two, reader’s need to feel that a character’s actions or feelings are true. A hero who is afraid of snakes (think Indiana Jones) who jumps into a pit full of slithery critters to save his love is much more believable than one who suddenly decides to keep snakes as pets. A heroine who has always been afraid of heights who suddenly scales a cliff in order to save her child and lover is someone we all can connect with. But changes in behavior that have no understandable basis will leave the reader dissatisfied.
I like a character that has history but not too much. As a reader, I want enough background that I feel that I can understand a character’s motivation. Those little things that make him or her tick. At the same time as an editor, I don’t want to be buried under unnecessary back-story. There is definitely a balancing act to keep in mind when character building.
I have to shamelessly put a plug in here for Black. Though this applies across the lines. We are looking for strong and sensual characters in Black. Our guys and/or gals are otherworldly and as such, we like them to be sure of themselves. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with a heroine who needs to grow into that strength or a hero who may battle what he really is. Bottom line, we want characters we can relate to.
I look forward to meeting your characters. To inviting them over and hopefully visiting them again and again.
Black Rose Editor
The Wild Rose Press