07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Character, character, character

I love to read, doesn’t matter the genre—mystery, thriller, suspense, romance, and I tend to fall in love with the characters, especially if they’re recurring. One of my favorite characters is Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Lee is sixteen novels into this character and every book takes you on a pulse-pounding adventure and you can’t wait to grab the next book to see where he goes next. But, I have to say, the first character I fell in love with wasn’t so much a single character as it was a family of characters. One of the first romance writers I ever read was Nora Roberts. My kids gave me one of her books for my birthday back in the early 90’s…okay, I bought it and said it was from them…they were still babies. Haha Anyway, after devouring that book I tried to get my hands on as many of her books as I could find and that’s when I came across the Macgregors! If you’re not familiar with them, look for them at your local library or on Amazon. Love her or hate her, Nora knows how to bring a character to life so much so that you just want to adopt them.

Building a character isn’t really as hard as some seem to think. There are workshops and blog posts galore about how to build a character using worksheets and graphs and whatever. More power to you if that’s how you do it, but like plotting….I just can’t go there. It’s not that I don’t know anything about my character when I start writing because I do, they are generally a part of me and some members of my family—Hispanic, lower to middle class, everyday people---so I don’t need to chart it all. In my novella, Her Will His Way, I started the story knowing only one thing about my character Anita Perez—she didn’t speak Spanish. Why is this a character trait? Because Anita has just moved to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, which is predominately Hispanic, to run a flower shop. She’s too stubborn to admit she won’t succeed, especially when her sexy state trooper neighbor Antonio Hernandez tells her she can’t do it. (you’ll have to read the book…heh)

So anyway when I sit down to write a new novel the only information I need to know about my character is “What traumatic event happened to her/him as a child to make her/him the person s/he is today?” The rest—back-story, goal, motivation, conflict— will fall into place as I write.

So, what about you? Are you a “charter” or do you just let your characters flow?


Paty Jager said...

Terri, It was s Nora's MacGregors that hooked me on romance! I'd been reading mostly mysteries up until I picked up a Christmas story with the MacGregors and then I had to have all of them! I went on from there with some of her other books which sprouted me into reading more romances and I read LaVyrle Spencer and knew I had to write westerns.

I write a half a page about my character just things that pop into my head about them before I start writing. I like to know them a little to see how they will fit into the plot or premise I've devised.

Sarah Raplee said...

Character charts helped me understand characterization when I was a 'newbie' writer. Now I only chart GMC and strengths and flaws.
Character development is more 'organic' than 'systematic' after years of practice.

I have to ask, does Antonia tell Anita she'll fail because she doesn't speak Spanish?

Judith Ashley said...

Amazing how influential Nora is/was. For me it was the late 90's and my dad had just died, my mother was ill and my brother (3 years younger than me) was diagnosed with end-stage emphysema. Life was dark! and then I found Nora and romance!!! I love the MacGregors and her Silhouette stories "Summer Desserts" and "Lessons Learned" are so well-read I can almost quote sections to you.

I'm an organic writer so there is very little charting for me. My characters seem real to me and I merge with them as I write. It's not as creepy as it might sound. In reality it is a natural high to have the thoughts and dialogue flow easily and effortlessly onto the computer screen.

Terri Molina said...

Sarah, Antonio doesn't really believe she'll fail, he just picks on her because it's what he's been doing for twenty plus years as a way to get her attention. hah But, you'll have to read the book to know more. ;-)

Sarah Raplee said...

Terri, your post inspired my post that will go up on the 29th, so I linked to yours in mine in hopes readers will check you out.

I WILL read your book!

Tam Linsey said...

Not speaking Spanish would be a huge conflict in a story set in Rio Grande Valley!