Last year when I sat down to write the story I wanted to submit to the Passions contest, I was feeling truly nervous. I really wanted to win this contest. So when I had written it a story, for feedback I sent it to my author friend Doris O’Connor. She liked it; it was an amusing story, she said, but quite rightly she pointed out that the hero’s character didn’t come across well. She told me he comes across as a ‘fly by night’. The situation was this: the said hero being sloshed, somehow he brings the tent down around himself and the heroine. Funny? You probably agree. But a good build up of the hero’s character? Do I hear nah? I agree. I put that story away. I sat down to think it over, because I relied on Doris’ opinion and began to wonder: what exactly does make a character? I thought of all the amazing books I’d read and enjoyed. I knew the importance of having a great character in your story. I realized if the character is appealing, the story begins to have promise. HOW to craft that character, was the question. It wasn’t easy. *sigh* It isn’t easy. It’s a learning spiral that’s practically unending. But after a lot of head banging, I did manage to carve out two characters, Vishakha and Zaheer who didn’t just form that story but grew and developed till I wrote a whole book on them.
What I learnt during my struggles with lots of input from author friends and my lovely editor I’m going to sum up here. Your story is centered on the character. In other words it's the character that is going to take your story forward. In Romance genres, there are two main characters, so the story should be about both.
It comes down to three things your character should be:
Your character should be interesting: In my contest-winning story Her Dream Date, the heroine has won a date with a Bollywood star. What girl wouldn’t be excited about that? But she isn’t. She has her reasons for that. A broken engagement behind her. A feeling of betrayal. The thing is, she is being herself and so she is acting out of ordinary. Enough to pique the hero’s curiosity. So rule no. l is: Make your character interesting. Someone who does exciting things.
You must have travelled. Have you ever shared a train berth or a car front with someone with whom time flew and you never knew how you reached your destination? Your protagonist is going to be the one any reader travels with throughout your story. So make her or him fascinating.
Your character should be real: Yes, real. As near life-like as you can make her. We aren’t pure and all heart every second of the day. Have your character make mistakes, be disappointed, feel jealous at different times. We all have these kinds of feelings, so don’t make her a holier-than-thou who does everything correctly and never spills a thing on the kitchen counter. (Says one who can’t pour anything right most times. Lol.) She/he should be human.
Your character should be alpha: I know HMB use the term ‘alpha’ for the hero. But what’s wrong with having an alpha heroine as well? Even if your heroine is very submissive, don’t just have her sitting there, waiting for things to happen. Have your characters act. Do something. Not just wait for an avalanche so they can get stranded and then wait for the rescue.
Hope this helps.
One thing more to bore you with ;-) when you craft characters in any story, they do have a part of you in them. What they laugh at, why they cry or what makes them angry, will be all your reactions. For example a heroine in one of my works-in-progress loves chocolate. Guess why?
So always remember: writing characters or writing in essence isn't about others. It's about yourself.
Your world. Your values. Your fears. Your crazy impulse to do the zombie dance. (ok that's mine. I drive kids mad no end when I do it. Oops! Did I just admit I do it? *hides head under pillow*)
*getting back* At the same time, beware of making your characters a white washed version of yourself. Let them develop and tell their own story. Sometimes it may be different from the one you have been trying to tell. Let them speak. Go where they will.
To add up, both your hero and heroine should be likeable, flawed BUT alive and happening.
I hope through this post I've been able to iron out some of your difficulties in crafting characters. If you have any questions, do comment below and I'll try to answer and hopefully help.