There's just something about those memorable characters that jump off the page and endear themselves to your heart. It's part, they aren't just cardboard cutouts or mechanical robots; it's the one where they're almost human which catch our attention. They have flaws we can relate to, even sympathize with. They aren't all my groin is making all my decisions, but are faced with real issues. Strong or weak. The existential 'knight in shining armor' or the 'heroine in distress' who give the reader insight into their world, these are the characters we're most likely to remember.
I can tell you the first romance I ever read that opened my eyes to what was possible with characters. I can even tell you the character – Nick Sinclair. Yep, I'm talking Judith McNaught's, Double Standards. Rich, powerful, self-made millionaire who was disgustingly 80s, but then again, it was the 80s. Jaded, manipulative and in a very strange way, a true hero.
There's no telling how many times I read the book, absorbing the story, considering how great the characters were together. When I started writing romance, that's what I wanted to create. Characters who leapt off the page and at times made me want to tear my hair out. In some cases I succeeded, in others – not so much. The fact was I had to start where all great characters start – with them.
Notoriously, I am a big character profiler. I want to know how they tick and what makes them so deliciously imperfect and yet great at the same time. So, I constantly pour over my character profile, staring at it, going "If my character is in this position, how would they act?" Once I'm familiar with them, I go into their arcs, GMC and all the goodness that is emotional drive.
In the end it comes down to the character. Who they are, and what makes them great. How the reader relates to them and how they connect with the rest of the story.
Yesterday, I was reminded of one of my first short stories and how much frustration I had with my characters. It took a very good friend of mine to sit me down and say, "Shut up, TJ, and do the work." Okay, so I was a bit stunned, but he was right. I hadn't invested in them because I wanted the next credit. In those days, it was all about making me feel bigger because I actually determined who I was by the number of sales I made. My friend, plus my editor, plus a few internal rants showed me, it wasn't about the number of stories I sold but the quality which only I could create.
So today, I do the slug work. I learned my lesson. Character Profiles. Character Arcs. GMC. Emotional Drive. The whole nine-yards of it.
Never forget that this is a craft, and however you draw your characters, do it well. After all, they star in your story.
Time for you to shout back. What was the first book you ever read that made an impression on you? Was it so good, you'd go back to that author just cause of that first story?
Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,