Friday, May 1, 2009

Romance is all about Character

Part 2. Romance is all about Characters.

“I’m not a morning person!” Angela growled.

George grinned, picked up his mug and stepped outside to enjoy the sun rising over the peak of the barn’s hay loft.

We not only know Angela is grumpy in the morning, but George knows and gets out of her way. And he finds something he enjoys doing while he’s waiting for Angie to become human. Both characters are established by the word “growled.” We know George is patient AND kind. Therefore, despite Angie’s growl, we understand there is something implicit in her character that keeps George from snapping or getting angry. What that is we don’t know – but the mystery will keep us reading.

Writers have the difficult task of using words, without inflection or body language, to convey the character of the person they want to write about. But those words need to reflect ALL the senses not just what we see and hear. Make your characters 3-D, not one dimensional, and they will be memorable and intriguing. Show, don’t tell. Help the reader smell and taste the meatloaf, touch a flower, kick a stone, feel the drama of Mom with her hands on her hips at the edge of the playground. A heroine who kneels to kiss and hug a child, winks at an old man, cuddles with a kitten conveys more of her character than if she simply said, “I like children, old men and kittens.”
Your job, as a writer, is to help the reader understand and relate to the emotion and motivation of your characters. One thing we need to remember is the hero and heroine must always be heroic. Being heroic is not the same as being perfect. Being heroic is about doing something for the greater good. Nothing less. They can be angry, they can lie, they can get cruel, they can even kill. But the underlying reason for ALL those negative emotions must be heroic – they are angry because the villain kicked a dog, they are lying because they’re protecting a witness, they are cruel because they’re undercover and must show they’re a member of the gang, and they kill because the villain threatened to set off the warhead. In each of these cases, they need to have a crisis of conscience. We must understand they suffered for having the negative emotion.

Emotions develop motivation, motivation develops character, and characters form relationships.

In a romance, we know the story is going to end with “happily ever after,” that is part of the definition of a romance. But, the relationship between our heroine and hero, ah--that is everything. Build it wisely.

Posted by Jamie West, Senior Editor, Donna Bas, Editor, and Mary Albright, Editor.


Me :) said...

There are times Showig is what I have problems with. Practice makes perfect :)

Wendy Davy said...

Emotions and motivations are the key to having the reader understand and care why a character does something. I love to create strong conflicts filled with emotional scenes in my novels. :) Thanks for the info.

Wendy Davy

Hywela Lyn said...

Some wonderful and helpful illustations of 'showing' rather than telling. Thanks Jamie and Donna

Donna B said...

Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments. Happy writing, and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY everyone!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Show vs tell & POV are still my weakest points, but I'm determined to Perfect of these days.

The only bad thing about an editors blog, is they are always trying to teach you something...sigh/wink/grin

What would we do without YOU?

Certainly wouldn't write the best book ever!

THANKS FOR ALL - you ALL - do!

Donna B said...

The winner for the Hummingbird hour is....Pam Thibodeau. Thanks everyone!

Amber Leigh Williams said...

LOL, "I like children, old men, and kittens."

Great post, ladies! Motivation is the key to excellent characters and excellent characters are what makes a story especially memorable. Conflict between characters--each other and within tjemselves--quickens the pace. Without either of these key ingredients, no one would turn the page.

Here's to TWRP!



danie88 said...

I'm not a writer, but have been thinking about becoming one... thanks for the info! :)

Leanne said...

To those thinking about becoming writers, The Wild Rose Press is a great place because we believe in helping writers along the publishing path. The Greenhouse has great articles that give tips about various areas of the writing craft.

Great examples.

Silver James said...

Creating "real" characters are the best part of writing, as far as I'm concerned. Plots are fun but without compelling characters the writer and the reader care about, who cares?

Marianne Evans said...

Clearly defined characters are what I feel engage your heart, your mind...and your imagination as a reader and a writer. Well illustrated ladies!