Guest Blog by Theresa Meyers, author of Shadowlander
As a writer, one of the biggest challenges is creating characters that resonate with the reader. Not everyone is going to identify with your characters, but that’s not what I’m in it for. I want readers to remember my characters, to be passionate about them. I think characters make the story great. Yeah, you want action, adventure and romance, but when you think about Gone With the Wind, what do you remember most? Scarlett! Would there have even been a series about Hogwarts without Harry Potter? And really, when it comes to the television show Supernatural, if it wasn’t for Sam and Dean Winchester, what would be the point of watching?
The point is we as readers identify with characters in the stories, no matter if it’s a full novel or short story. Characters that grab us by the throat and don’t let go until the ride is over, well those are even better. But in particular we want heroes. People who do and say the things that we never would or could in real life. People who we would love to be, but aren’t.
Rook Blackwood is that kind of a guy. He’s the quintessential bad boy, but he’s got a twist in that he’s a dark fae prince from Shadowland. It’s a kind of thankless job, seeing as how the woman he’s been interested in doesn’t even know he exists (because she’s human), his father – the king—favors the captain of the royal guard more than him, and he’s got to prove he’s fit to lead his people in an invasion of the upper realm (aka our world), and yet he’s totally committed to his role, despite the fact that it doesn’t make him feel complete. He’s the bad guy with a heart of gold; a ladies’ man, but also a leader in training, prone to all those bothersome doubts and frustrations of trying to live up to his father’s and country’s expectations. He’s determined, willing to go above and beyond to get the job done, until he realizes that will require sacrificing his relationship with his human love, Cate, to serve his nation.
We want fun characters like Maya, the somewhat airhead friend of Cate, our heroine. She’s young, carefree, flippant and willing to try anything for a decent date. She’s oblivious to the fae realm that revolves around Cate, and in many ways represents our detached view of the world, centered on our own human concerns to the exclusion of what’s happening around us in the bigger picture. For Maya it’s just a party gone terribly wrong, and she’s ready to go home now, thank you very much.
We also want characters who aren’t cardboard. They’ve got to have dimension. They’ve got to grow. Catherine O’Connell (Cate) has always felt like a freak because of her ability to see the fae, but it’s that same ability that makes her the link, and possible salvation of not just our world, but Shadowland too. She’s a contradiction all the way through, and yet, there’s that undeniable desire we all have to be ourselves that she mirrors so well. We’re all striving to find out who we really are meant to be and Cate is no different, she just happens to have see fae, which for her changes everything we take for granted.
I guess the best characters for me are the ones with flaws and needs, just like the rest of us. They aren’t perfect. Even the bad guys aren’t wholly evil. They truly believe what they want is justified in their own twisted sense of reality.
Perfect characters aren’t the interesting ones. The best characters make mistakes and face challenges just like any other person. If character exists in a vacuum of perfection, then there’s not a whole lot going on in the story! My critique partner is fond of reminding me that when my characters face choices it ought to be a choice between sucky and suckier. There is no good choice. Either way it has to hurt or stretch them to force them to grow through the course of the story.
One of my favorite things to do to figure out my characters is to “run the numbers” on them. It’s a technique used in books like You Are Your First Name by Ellin Dodge and it’s just brilliant for getting a quick snapshot of what motivates the character, how they see themselves and how others react to them. I also love using The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines. It’s chock full of flaws and possible past histories, things to think about and traits that will make my characters more three dimensional when I write.
Creating memorable characters isn’t easy. But it sure is fun.
So what about you? What makes a character memorable for you as a reader?
About the Author: Raised by a bibliophile who made the dining room into a library, Theresa has always been a lover of books and stories. First a writer for newspapers, then for national magazines, she started her first novel in high school, eventually enrolling in a Writer's Digest course and putting the book under the bed until she joined Romance Writers of America in 1993. In 2005 she was selected as one of eleven finalists for the American Title II contest, the American Idol of books. She is married to the first man she ever went on a real date with (to their high school prom), who she knew was hero material when he suffered through having to let her parents drive, and her brother sit between them in the backseat of the car. They currently live in a Victorian house on a mini farm in the Pacific Northwest with their two children, three cats, an old chestnut Arabian gelding, an energetic mini-Aussie shepherd puppy, several rabbits, a dozen chickens and an out-of-control herb garden.
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GIVEAWAY: I have one ebook for giveaway of Shadowlander. Contest is open internationally. Enter by telling us what makes a character memorable for you. Last chance to enter: December 23, 2011. Good luck!