07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How to make a man

Or Creating Characters

When a story idea first comes to me it’s usually inspired by a phrase or a single action – like watching a leaf float down from the sky and thinking about all the things it briefly touches as it glides from branch to branch, bumping a twig, a birdhouse in the tree, a park bench under the tree or landing for a short time on a statue’s outstretched arm. Kind of like a person drifting through life and all the different strangers he affects by his touch.

Anyway once that story idea hits me I begin to visualize the man my story will center around. I think his personal qualities—good and bad—form before with his physical attributes for me. Maybe he dazzles his lovers with striking vibrant, blue eyes or freezes his enemies with the icy coldness of his pale blue/gray stare. I have to know his personality before I can choose his eye color. Is he hard-hitting, business-like or a warm, welcoming man?

And usually the story line—if I plan the story first as opposed to allow the character of my story to determine the story outcome—will tell me the type of main character I need to pull a successful story line off. A shy, conservative architect who loves evenings at home with a good book and has a secret passion for knitting is not going to be a likely hero of a rough and tumble adventure. Not that it can’t happen but it would stretch believability a bit for some readers.

So once I have my story line, I imagine the man who is capable of accomplishing what I want done.
His looks, his likes and dislikes, his quirks, strong points and most importantly his flaws. No good hero is flawless. Those flaws make him interesting, provide conflict in a relationship and are just plain more realistic. I know we are writing fiction but the characters still have to be believable.
Then because I write manlove romance I have to pair this woman-made man with a suitable male lover. The process is the same but I like bring in an opposite personality. Ying and Yang. Big and small, direct and subtle.

The hardest part for me is naming the characters after I have them all knitted together. Names have to fit. Not just the correct ethic or cultural background I’ve given them but their personality traits. I like short, direct names like Bram or Adam for my more dominate characters and ‘softer’ names like Blair, Connor or Aidan for the partner. Since I write to please myself that works just fine.


Judith Ashley said...


I love your inspiration of the leaf falling from the tree...very poetic. Names are challenging for me. They have to 'sound' right when I speak them out loud.

But your last comment "Since I write to please myself that works just fine." really struck a chord with me. I do believe if I don't write to please myself, if I don't experience joy for the most part in my writing process then I'm on the wrong track.

Diana Mcc. said...

I agree with Judith. "the leaf falling from the tree..." what a beautiful way of expressing our travels through life. Is it hard writing from two male perspectives? How did you get the experience to do that? :))

Paty Jager said...

Laura, Great visual of how you mold your characters.

Sarah Raplee said...

I enjoyed the description of your story-first process. I figure out personality traits before physical description, too. Loved the metaphor as well!

B. A. Binns said...

So which name was supposed to be for the dominant character - Antonio or Gabriel?

Just kidding, I know. And I love the way you pair your characters together into a loving combo.

Tam Linsey said...

I find I have to know my character inside out before I begin writing. A character's backstory drives their goals and motivations, and if I know those, I know best how to plan the conflict for best impact.

Maria Zannini said...

Strangely enough, the names usually come first for me. Once I know their names, their characters begin to blossom.

PS Love the title to this post. :)