Saturday, July 17, 2010

Memorable Characters

As the critique coordinator and member of the FTH Critiquers for three years, I have critiqued a fairly large number of manuscripts. Add to these an impressive amount of contests judging over the years and the weekly exchange of chapters with my wonderful critique partners. Amazingly I’ve gathered almost as much useful information from critiquing as I have learned from books, workshops and seminars. In a way the latest taught me the theory but critiquing and judging showed me the mistakes I should avoid. The most important thing I learned was that the characters can make a good book or a mediocre one.

When I finish reading a book I really enjoyed, I remain in my chair, meditating for a few quiet minutes on the story I just finished. I often experience a strange mix of happiness and sadness, happiness for the heroine and hero who have succeeded in overcoming their problems or defeating their enemy, but sadness because I have to leave them, to say goodbye. Isn’t that why we love series? Because we can meet again the characters we liked so much and live again with them a part of their lives.

Don’t you agree that creating lovable characters is the most important part in making a book successful? To create believable characters, you have to know them well. Some writers interview their characters. I prefer to live with them. I keep them in my mind and talk to them while walking, driving, eating on my own. My heroine becomes a dear friend, another me. As for my hero, I always fall in love with him while writing his story.

Just describing a beautiful heroine or a macho hunk will not make them memorable. You need to dig deep into their soul and show the reader their real personalities, the side of them they don’t want anyone to see. Imagine a heroine who tries to hide her soft nature under a cold fa├žade, to appear strong and professional in her job while dealing with a family, or a handicapped child, at home. Now we are talking. Add to that, a deception in her past, an attraction to her boss or a colleague that can jeopardize her career or affect her family. That’s raising the stakes.

Readers like to find similarities between themselves and the characters; an attraction that makes them share the characters’ suffering and struggles until the hero and heroine reach the HEA.

Let’s face it. Readers are a bit sadistic. They love to bite their nails and breathe fast as they watch the hero and heroine jumping from the pan into the fire and trying to get out of difficult situations. So don’t hesitate to torture your characters. Don’t make it easy for them. Conflict is the name of the game. Only conflicted people have a story. Happy people are boring. When you hero and heroine are finally happy, it’s time to type, THE END.

Also be careful about the pace of the story. Accelerate the pace with dialogue. During action, use short sentences, scarce descriptions. After a fast scene with high suspense, allow the reader to relax with an introspection that will slow the pace while the characters expose their emotions. Slow-paced scenes should be short to prevent the reader from getting too relaxed and bored. To keep a good pace, alternate short sentence and long ones. Short paragraphs and long ones. Short scenes and long scenes. Often a love scene may break a highly suspenseful situation and keep the momentum going.

No matter what genre you write, enjoy your story while writing it.

Mona Risk writes romantic suspense for Cerridwen Press,
To Love A Hero [The Romance Studio~ Sweetheart of the Week: Ms. Risk is one of those authors who puts together a tale that’s captivates from first page to last]

French Peril [Night Owl Romance~ Recommended Read~ Mona Risk’s characters will enthrall you as they all dance to their own personal tunes]
and medical romances for The Wild Rose Press,
Babies in the Bargain, [Readers Favorite 2009 Best Romance; The Long & the Short, Reviews Best Book of The Week~ This one will keep you on your toes and make you beg for more.]


Rx for Trust [Night Owl Romance~ TopPick Reading]


and Rx in Russian, coming soon.


All her books are available at Amazon.com
www.monarisk.com
http://www.monarisk.blogspot.com/


If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat~

41 comments:

Ginny said...

Hi Ms. Mona,

Sorry you're being left all alone today. I've been busy moving bookcases and furniture so I can make room for the new HDTV with the Blue Ray thingie which will be hooked up Monday. Took a small break to see what was happening on the loop.

I enjoyed your article very much. You've pretty much hit the proverbial nail on the head as far as what we go through and how we tend to get so attached to our characters. It's painful when a ms comes to an end. Thank you for a very entertaining blog. Good show.

Ginny

Jean Drew said...

Hi Mona,

I enjoyed your blog. I think I'm guilty of not tortuting them too much. I guess when you love someone you don't like to see
them suffer.

Jean

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Great blog, Mona! I worked then have been trying to edit Dreaming of the Wolf while watching the Castle series. It's impossible. LOL But I love the characterization in the stories.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Mona,
I love memorable characters, especially those I can remember after I've put the book down. In fact, I often reread books to spend time with that character again, even though I know the entire plot. My goal is that someone will one day say that about my characters!
Maggie, a book spa friend
http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/

Mary Ricksen said...

You have no reason to feel lonely Mona, you have friends that will be there on a moments notice. Plus a lot of fans to boot.
But I do know you have taught me a lot and I appreciate your edits. My problem is that you don't have enough time. I think we need to clone you.
Love you Mona,
Mary

Barbara Monajem said...

It's so hard learning to torture one's characters. It took me a lot of practice not to make them happy too soon!

My favorite characters are the ones I can't help but think about even years after reading the book.

Judy said...

Good post, Mona. I, too, live with my characters for a while, try to get inside their skin, understand where they've come from, where they're going. It's hard to realize that some characters are going to have life give them unbearable burdens but that is what will make them rise to the occasion. Thanks

Beth Trissel said...

I agree totally. super post, Mona.

Cheryl said...

Hey Mona,
Better late than never, right? I've been gone or in the pool all day long--finally getting to the computer. Great post, as always! You know I never have any trouble torturing my characters...LOL My guys are always wounded, in spirit and in body. And the heroine always has some kind of baggage she's got to overcome, as well. Wonderful post--characters are my favorite part of writing.
Cheryl

Amy said...

Hi Mona,

You're absolutely right. The writers I love to read the most are those whose characters jump off the page. Who can forget Mr. Darcy, Scarlett O'Hara, Sherlock Holmes? You may not remember the plots of Pride and Prejudice, Gone with the Wind, or any of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries but you remember those characters. And that's what keeps readers coming back for more.

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

this is my first visit to your blog, Mona. nice bits of information.

Tarot By Arwen said...

I'm going to tweet this link. Great post. One of my secondary characters gets the most comments! That's our Tante Kay who shows up in books 2&3. And may in 4. Lol

I think you hit on something very important--torture. You have to put them through the wringer. Nice post.

Autumn Jordon said...

Great post. Mona. I too am guilty of not torturing my hero and heroine. I learned though to say no, we're doing it my way.

Mary Marvella said...

I use bad guys to torture good characters. I'm really not mean enough, beyond sexual tension and torture of making the characters wait for what they want.

I think my own most memorable characters are the ones who pester the crap out of me before I start their books.

Mary Marvella said...

I use bad guys to torture good characters. I'm really not mean enough, beyond sexual tension and torture of making the characters wait for what they want.

I think my own most memorable characters are the ones who pester the crap out of me before I start their books.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Mona,
Great blog. Sorry I am so late coming in, been out all day, but it looks like you aren't lonely any more.

cheers

Margaret

Mona Risk said...

Hi Ginny, so happy to see you on the blog. Careful about your back when moving books.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Jean, that's my problem too. I don't want to see them suffering too much but then I realized they have to earn their happy ending.

Mona Risk said...

Terry, I always have a sideways glance at the TV while typing a story. The TV is in the same room as my computer, that way my hubby can watch TV while I write. At least we see each other, although I hardly pay attention to what he says when I write. Just nod. LOL

Mona Risk said...

Maggie, talking about memorable characters I remember vividly Hannah and Jake from your House of Lies. They are so real they pop out of the pages to talk to me.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Mary, I don't know why God created only 24 hours in a day. I need 36 to handle the writing, blog, critique, promo, taking care of Mom and my little ones that are her for six weeks. I am glad my critique had helped. Thank you.

Mona Risk said...

Barbara, thanks for stopping by. I know how busy you are too. About charcaters, the more they suffer, the happier the ending, or in case of romance the better the last love scene. LOL

Mona Risk said...

Hi Judy, it's so important to know your characters and let them be true to themselves. I am always so proud when a reviewer says she loves my characters. TWO LIPS REVIEW: Mona Risk tells a poignant yet beautiful and sweet story of two people falling love, who must fight their attraction

Mona Risk said...

Hi Beth, you are one who knows the value of good charcaters such as Jeremiah and Meriwether.

Mona Risk said...

Cheryl, you cetainly know how to paint a somber hero and a strong heroine with enough conflict for a bestseller.

Mona Risk said...

Amy, I am like you. I often forget the title of a book but I never forget characters I love.

Mona Risk said...

Larion, Voices from the Heart is not my personal blog. We are a bunch of dedicated writers from the on-line chapter From The Heart Romance Writers (FTHRW). Glad you like the blog. I hope to see you often here.

Mona Risk said...

Arwen, I noticed that secondary characters have often a mind of their own and fight to get attention.

Mona Risk said...

Autumn, you hero and heroine have their share with the terrible situation where you throw them. LOL

Mona Risk said...

Mary, the real torture often comes from within. An internal angst about a secret conflict or something from their past that keeps them from going after their goal or the one they love.

Mona Risk said...

I am not lonely Margaret, but I always love to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

Clarissa Southwick said...

Great advice. You gave us plenty to think about today.
Thanks.

Mona Risk said...

Clarissa, I am glad you found this post helpful.

StephB said...

Mona I know I'm late but I was working yesterday! I love your romances I really enjoyed To Love A Hero and the journey to Bellarus. I think the international theme really caught me. And your characters were very interesting!

Smiles
Steph

StephB said...

Mona I know I'm late but I was working yesterday! I love your romances I really enjoyed To Love A Hero and the journey to Bellarus. I think the international theme really caught me. And your characters were very interesting!

Smiles
Steph

Mona Risk said...

Thank you, Steph. We both are international writers. LOL. Now if only our books could be translated. That would be KEWL!!!

JACLYN said...

MONA,

OH, LOVE, YOU'VE HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD WITH THE FOLLOWING.

Readers like to find similarities between themselves and the characters; I LOVE TO PICTURE MYSELF IN THE HEROINE'S PLACE. WOULD I ACT DIFFERENTLY THEN SHE?

an attraction that makes them share the characters’ suffering and struggles until the hero and heroine reach the WHEN AN AUTHOR MAKES ME LAUGH OR CRY AS I'M READING, THEN I KNOW I'LL KEEP THE BOOK AS MY OWN. AND AT THE RATE YOU'RE GOING, I'M GOING TO HAVE TO BUILD ON ANOTHER ROOM TO HOLD ALL YOUR BOOKS. :-)

So don’t hesitate to torture your characters. Don’t make it easy for them. Conflict is the name of the game. Only conflicted people have a story. TRUE AND NOT ONLY IN BOOKS. YOUR UNDERSTANDING IS MARVELOUS.

Happy people are boring. WEL-L-L, I WON'T GO SO FAR AS TO SAY THAT----, OH, YOU’RE REFERRING TO BOOKS. :-)

GREAT ARTICLE.

JACLYN

Keena Kincaid said...

Hi, Mona. Sorry for stopping by so late. I hope the party is still going on. I agree completely on the need to really show a hero or heroine's vulnerable side to make them memorable.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you Jaclyn. You are so good for my ego and the best one to cheer me up when I don't believe in myself.

Mona Risk said...

Keena, you have great books to prove what you say.

Joanne said...

Mona,
I'm late chiming in, but the FTH critters taught me so much. They are an invaluable resource for one of the best RWA chapters around.