Friday, May 14, 2010

Be a Detective: Creating memorable characters...

A big hello from Lisa Mondello! It's a special day. I actually have a lull in my writing schedule and have begun working on a new Love Inspired Suspense proposal. I'm really excited to be able to bring readers back to the beginning, bring in the Aztec Corporation and see if they'll come to justice for their crimes. More on that later. I'm hoping my editor loves the proposal when I send it to her later next week.

Anyway, today I'm going to talk about how writers need to be detectives. You don't necessarily have to write suspense to be a detective. Comedy writers, contemporary and historical romance writers need to be a detective as well.

To make stories that are believable, you need to dig deep. That's a tall order for someone who spends their days with characters that are a figment of their imagination. Yes, I know our characters are real to us AND to the readers...we hope. But they still start from that unknown place in our brains where we create them.

Every writer needs to go beyond face value to create characters that come alive on the page. We all strive for it. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes...well, we struggle until we get there. How do you dig deep to create believable characters?

First off, know much more about your characters than you need to know to tell the story. The reader doesn't necessarily need to know that the hero broke his leg in the 4th grade playing basketball or in a car accident unless the hero has a limp and that limp plays a part in the story. What if he longed to be a runner or be a Texas Ranger and that limp kept him from his dream?

Here's an example. Remember Billy Bob Thornton's character in Armageddon? He always wanted to be an astraunaut but got grounded because of the problems with his legs. We don't necessarily need to know a huge amount about why he needs leg braces. But the fact that he does and had a strong desire to "wear that patch" like Bruce Willis is the reason he pushes so hard for the team in space to succeed. Well, that and the fact that a 3 mile-wide asteroid is charging toward them in space and is going to abliterate Earth.

Let's face it, he could have easily just been a guy in Mission Control who wanted Bruce and his team get the job done. Period. It's the little details like that make a character come alive. They separate them from being ordinary and make them memorable.

In my 11/07 book Cradle of Secrets, the housekeeper, Aurore, has an gruesome scar on her face from a fire that happened 27 years earlier. It colors her character for the reader initially until you learn later in the book that Aurore received that scar saving the heroine as a baby from that same fire. Readers have told me that Aurore's character was one that stood out to them and provided a few surprises.

We want all our characters to be memorable. Characters don't need to have physical ailments to be memorable. Sometimes it's phobias. Sometimes it's just the baggage of life that has created motivation for them to act the way they do or create conflict with another person. When creating characters, we all start with a blank white page. It's how we color that page by digging deep and making that character come alive that makes them memorable.

What movies or books have characters that you can't seem to forget? I've love to know.

Many blessings, Lisa Mondello


Jill Kemerer said...

Great post, Lisa. I love delving into my characters' pasts, probably because I'm nosy! You've made me think about different ways to make the character stand out. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Good day! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog.
Is it tough to set up your own blog? I'm not very techincal
but I can figure things out pretty fast. I'm thinking about creating my own but
I'm not sure where to begin. Do you have any points or suggestions?

Thank you

Have a look at my webpage :: make cash today