Writing Process: Developing Great Characters

Writing Characters Readers Will Care About

Guest post by KJ Wolf

Writing characters

Original image found here

My youngest teenager recently told me that I’m her favorite cartoon character.  This is on the heels of her also informing me that I’m like living with a Saturday Night Live skit.  Apparently, in her eyes I’m quite a character.

I had no idea.

Characters are my favorite part of fiction.  Write great characters and you’ve got me.  Sure, if the rest of the book isn’t all that great and could use some serious editing or rewriting, I’ll skim and skip to the dialogue.  But I can’t put it down otherwise.

Why?  Because I’m already emotionally invested in the characters.

My daughter sees me as a lovable character.  I make her happy.  She laughs at and with me.  We love each other dearly.  There’s an attachment that will always keep us bonded.  She’ll never want to stop “reading” me.  We’re entangled in through our feelings.

I come from a long line of characters.  My grandmother, a favorite of mine on my blog, is a great example.  She’s got that tiny, white-haired woman with a gentle nature about her that draws people in.  What you don’t expect is her quick wit.

One of my favorite stories about her is when we were playing cards with a bunch of family and the discussion settled on health care.  The conversation got a bit tense until my grandmother, who was 87 at the time, said, “I don’t care what they do as long as they cover my birth control.”

No one could talk because we were laughing so hard.  She’s the kind of woman people are drawn to because of her lovely disposition but the more you get to know about her, you realize she’s sharp, dynamic and quite funny.

Characters come in all shapes, sizes and forms.  Remember Wilson from Cast Away?  Tom Hanks’s stranded character became so dependent on that volleyball, I doubt there was a dry eye in any movie theater across the country when it floated away.

The interaction, companionship and dependency between the main character and that volleyball are all basic human experiences we can relate to in any form.  Tom Hanks was desperate on that island.  Wilson became a crucial character through tangible need.  We were goners for Wilson before we even knew what was happening.

As writers, we need to do the same things with our characters to connect with readers.  Create a relatable situation or emotion with your hero or heroine.

The world provides more than enough situations that writers can use to connect with readers.  Think about how you feel when you’re having a hard time making ends meet.  Are you stressed?  Worried?  Angry?  Desperate?

Maybe you’re in love with someone but you don’t know if they feel the same way about you.  Are you terrified?  Curious?  Resigned to live in the shadows even if they are with someone else?

Every single human being can relate to these emotions.  Tapping into a reader’s feelings makes all the difference when you create your characters and bring them to life.

So what’s my point?  When you write, be a character.  Look inside your leading lady and/or man to find the likable, relatable qualities that would make a reader care.  Then bring them to life.

If you have trouble with your characters, look no further than the people around you.  You see them completely different than they see themselves.  Compile a list of what you love about them as well as their challenges.  Once you’re done, you’ve got a number of recipes for any character you want.

I’m a character.  You’re a character.  We’re all characters.  We spend our lives trying to be characters at least a few people will like.

As a writer, you get to orchestrate this entire process.  Become an observer.  Listen.  Watch.  Learn.  Pull those puppet strings and create the character that will connect with many hearts.

K.J. Wolf lives in upstate N.Y. with her husband, two children and too many pets to count.  When she’s not playing matchmaker in her romance and erotica stories, she loves spending time with loved ones, reading, hiking and cooking.  Eating is just a given.

She’d love to have you stop by her blog, visit her on Facebook, and check out her novella, Change of the Heart, available on Amazon

The Writing Process: Finding Inspiration


Guest Post by Margaret Tanner

Writing ProcessI write historical romance, so how do I get inspiration for my work in progress, or for that matter, all my novels?

Like the heroines in my novels, my forebears left their native shores in sailing ships to forge a new life in the untamed frontiers of colonial Australia. They battled bushfires, hardship and the tyranny of distance in an inhospitable and savage land, where only the tough and resilient would survive. They not only survived but prospered in ways that would not have been possible for them had they stayed in England and Scotland.

I am a fourth generation Australian. We are a tough, resilient people, and we have fought hard to find our place in the world.   We have beautiful scenery, unique wild life, and a bloodied convict history.

I admire heroines who are resourceful, not afraid to fight for her family and the man she loves. I want my readers to be cheering for her, willing her to obtain her goals, to overcome the obstacles put in her way by rugged frontier men who think they only want a wife to beget sons.  A chance for revenge.  To consolidate their fortunes. That love is for fools.  Oh, the victory for the reader when these tough, ruthless men succumb to the heroine’s bravery and beauty and are prepared to risk all, even their lives, to save her.

Then there are the brave young men who sailed thousands of miles across the sea in World War 1 to fight for mother England, the birth country of their parents and grandparents. I also wanted to write about the wives and sweethearts who often waited in vain for their loved ones to return. Who were there to nurture the returning heroes, heal their broken bodies and tormented souls.

This is why I write historical romance, even if it means trawling through dusty books in the library, haunting every historical site on the internet, badgering elderly relatives, and risking snake-bite by clambering around overgrown cemeteries.

Historical novels are informative.  When they contain a dash of romance they are also entertaining. Research is imperative when writing in this genre. Nothing kills your story or reputation quicker than inaccuracy.

I sincerely believe that those who forget the past do so at their peril. Nations should learn from the mistakes of the previous generations and not repeat them, but if the history is not documented, how can new generations learn about it?

Margaret Tanner is an award winning multi-published Australian author. She loves delving into the pages of history as she carries out research for her historical romance novels, and prides herself on being historically correct.  Her publishers are Whiskey Creek Press, The Wild Rose Press and Books We Love.

Margaret is a member of the Melbourne Romance Writers Group (MRWG). Be sure to visit Margaret’s website!