Welcome to November!
I think almost everyone is getting ready for two things:
ONE – the Holidays
TWO – The NEW YEAR!
So this November I’m having some “Give Me Some Shopping Money” Multi-Author Giveaways. Each week in November I’ll have a new $100 Amazon Gift Card up for grabs courtesy of a few of my favorite author friends. This week’s giveaway is sponsored by:
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Enter via the Rafflecopter below.
And… because I’m trying to be productive with each post, I’m going to have Author Tip Post for all my author followers too. Last time I posted it was about writing villains and you can read/listen to that here.
This week I’m gonna talk about writing heroes/heroines and anti-heroes. And really, the most important take away in writing genre fiction isn’t really the genre tropes, it’s the characters. Anyone can write an office romance. It’s really not that hard. You have a girl and guy (who is usually her boss) and they fall in love at work.
The hard part is writing an office romance (or any trope, could be werewolves, or vampires, or space opera) is making it something people want to read. And yeah there are readers out there who just love an office romance and they’re gonna read them all. But most of your readers won’t be like that. They’re gonna be choosey. They only have so much time in their day. So while yeah, you need an original office romance premise, it’s no good without amazing characters.
I think one point is true in all genre fiction, but especially romance, and that point is that readers want to become a character in your story. They want to feel a part of it. So of course, world building plays a huge role in that but you can have the most original premise and great world building but no one’s gonna care if you have shitty, unrelatable characters.
So that’s where the hero/heroine or anti-hero comes in and here are my top tips for writing great characters:
ONE – give them an interesting job. Someone once asked me why I write about billionaires. Why can’t my hero be a plumber? Well, I’ve known some hot plumbers in my day (and some not-so-hot ones too) so there is nothing wrong with writing a romance about a plumber. But the problem in plotting a hero with a more ordinary job is that it takes his profession out of the story. Not many romance readers want to read about the daily grind of plumbing. They don’t want to hear about his house calls. I mean, sure, there’s some old 70’s porn out there featuring house calls from a plumber, pizza-man, etc. but that’s porn. You don’t really need great characterization with porn.
So the reason I write billionaires is because their worlds are BIG, their jobs are interesting, they typically have big houses, or boats, or private jets. They can afford to take my heroine out on a nice date, or an impromptu trip to Paris, and they wear nice suits and drink good booze. And let’s face it, that’s a helluva lot more interesting than the plumber’s white van with the sink logo painted on the side, right?
This applies to the heroine, whether she’s in a romance novel or a space opera, doesn’t matter. She needs to be doing something INTERESTING. In a romance your heroine needs to compliment your hero in some way. You CAN make her a dirt poor nobody. I’ve done it before. In fact my first romance TRAGIC had a very down-on-her-luck girl in it. Down-on-her-luck girl is actually a trope in romance. So I’m not saying you can’t have that. I’m saying you have to make her interesting. In my Tragic book I did that by giving her a new opportunity that would change her life and hey, just so happens that her love interest, our billionaire-ish sexy hero, is now her new erotic modeling partner. See what I did there? I made her job compliment his. Not only is this interesting it’s a lot easier to write because my two main characters are interacting constantly. And that is one of the rules of romance. Keep them together as much as possible.
This also applies in other genres as well. Mysteries, science fiction, thrillers. Your hero or heroine isn’t alone in the story. You have to have them interacting with people and one or two of those people are going to be a main influence.
You have a chance to really make YOUR STORY stand out from all the others with your characters. Everyone is writing an office romance, so make the people in that office interesting. Make them do interesting things. Same thing with space opera. Every single book has a space ship in it. So make your characters on their ship super special by giving them a unique PURPOSE.
TWO – Unless you’re specifically writing an anti-hero (more on that later) make your characters someone your reader would like to be. This is especially important in romance. Your heroine needs to be relatable to your reader. She (or he, I guess) needs to see herself in that character, relate to her, and insert herself into your story as the character.
The hero in a romance should be someone a romance reader could see herself with. That doesn’t mean he needs to be flawless, because flawless people are boring IMHO. They can do all kinds of things that reader would never tolerate in real life and still be “likeable”. If you’re writing a hero like that it’s your job as the writer to make that happen. Not everyone will love your hero, and that’s OK too. But if the audience you writing to doesn’t like him, you’ve got a problem. (Or you need a new audience, which could be true if you write office romances and then all of a sudden you’re writing dark romances – like me lol. I do actually have two separate audiences for the tropes I write, nothing wrong with that. Just know who you’re writing to.)
But this doesn’t just apply to romance. People read mysteries for the same reason. These readers like to solve puzzles. They want to pretend they’re the “detective” looking for clues and if your character does something stupid, they’re gonna get pissed off. A “detective” needs to be CLEVER. Not just smart, but CLEVER. No on wants to read about a bumbling idiot who never solves the crime (unless of course, they do… lol because you pulled it off.) But if you can’t pull that off, if you can’t make that bumbling idiot into a loveable, respected detective, no one’s gonna remember your story, let alone your name. At least not for the right reasons.
If you’re writing space opera your readers want to fight those battles. They want to see those worlds and experience using that crazy-cool tech you invented. And your hero/heroine needs to know how to HANDLE THEMSELVES in these situations. No one wants to read about someone who fucks everything up, loses every battle, and never saves the galaxy.
So MAKE your readers want to BECOME your hero/heroine while also being aware of what their limits are for your trope.
THREE – Caveat here for number TWO – because shows like Dexter (serial killer who hunts murderers for victims) and Breaking Bad (family-man-chemistry-teacher who cooks meth) appear to do the exact opposite of making characters likeable/relatable. But not really. I mean look, no one wants to aspire to be a serial killer or a meth cooker. But these characters are so great, were written so well, that these fatal flaws are part of their charm.
So number three is give them an amazing fatal flaw. And by this I don’t mean – they’re too indecisive, or they’re afraid to love. I’m talking something that pits them against THEMSELVES. Think about books, or movies, or TV shows you love and ask yourself “Why do I love these shows?” Chances are it’s not the premise, though that’s probably what piqued your interest in the beginning. Chances are it’s the characters.
Characters are what keep you coming back for more. You get invested in them. You want to root for some and curse others. Their story is a journey you want to take right along with them.
I’m going to use Sookie Stackhouse from True Blood and the Southern Vampire Mysteries novels by Charlaine Harris as an example. Sookie’s fatal flaw is that her magic fairy blood is toxic to her love interest vampire. It sounds so simple—the best fatal flaws often are—but it’s so damn clever and interesting. That’s why TSVM were turned into a long-running TV series that many, including me, were obsessed with for years. It’s interesting to note that Sookie’s fatal flaw is also what gives her strength.
It’s this dichotomy that makes her such a dynamic character. And by dynamic I don’t mean cool. I mean duality. This and that. Hot and cold. Good and bad. She has depth that can be drawn on in many ways and that’s what makes her so interesting.
Eddard Stark from Game of Thrones has a dynamic fatal flaw as well. His honor. He is so beholden to the idea of honor and loyalty it actually kills him.
Superheroes always have a fatal flaw, though it’s not always dynamic. Superman has kryptonite but he doesn’t draw strength from it like Sookie does her fairy blood.
I’m certainly not going to say that Sookie is a better character than Superman, he has stood the test of time and his fame is destined to live on for as long as there are comics and superhero movies. But I think the dynamic part of a flaw is important. Kryptonite should have more purpose. (And maybe it does, I’m not a huge Superman fan, but a quick search didn’t find anything more noteworthy about kryptonite.)
This is why people were fascinated with Dexter. He’s a forensic scientist by day and a vigilante serial killer by night. I mean, come on. That’s just amazing. You don’t even need to read the books or watch the show to be curious about this guy.
You can make money “writing to market” and if that’s all you want from your career, that’s cool. Hell, being a writer is tough, making a living at it tougher, and being a top seller for any length of time nearly impossible. So if you found success writing to market, I’m not telling you do something different or that you’re not as good as writers who don’t. (One of my marketing rules is “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”) But if you want to write a world and fill it with characters that people want to read about over and over again then give a lot of thought to your fatal flaws when you flesh out your characters.
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CHECK IT OUT BELOW AND ENTER THE $50 GIVEAWAY WHILE YOU’RE HERE!
They said write what you know so that’s what I did. I wrote dirty, I wrote erotic, I wrote the truth.
And then they called me a liar. But it’s not me who’s lying, it’s them.
Our story isn’t for everyone. It’s not even for us. So if you’re looking for the fairy tale and the stupid prince on his dumb white horse, move along. You’ve got a hold of the wrong book. This is not your story, this is not your life, and this is not your opportunity to dip your frightened little toe into the dark pool of water and “try new things” and then pull it out and decide… #NotForMe.
When you go in with us you go all in. So make a decision before you turn this page.
Because I’m making one promise with this book.
We are The Dirty Ones and this is our truth.
The Dirty Ones is a brand new dark romance about the secret world of erotica authors releasing December 4, 2018.More info →
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OK, that’s it for today. I’m gonna go take my own character-building advice now (lol). I will have another author tip post next Monday with a brand new $100 (every week this month!) so make sure you don’t miss anything by filling in the “Follow This Blog” form below.