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NaNoWriMo Prep: Digging Deep into Your Characters

Let’s get to work on what I love most: creating characters. I love my characters. I love spending time with them, mulling over the problems facing them, how they are going to respond, but most importantly, how are they going to respond and why do they respond that way. So as you start to plan your month of writing consider some of this advice for helping round out and develop your characters.

From birth, we all collect experiences that shape how we do everything. And if you want to create living, breathing characters you have to consider their experience as you, the author, write their story. Let me use Lady Hermione Marlowe, the heroine in my book, Tempted by the Night, as an example.

Hermione, much to her distress, is one of those Marlowes. The ramshackle family of the Earl of Walbrook, and the stigma of her missing father and her rather flamboyant mother follows her like a pair of great big, ugly traveling trunks. In the world of being perfect and being from the right family and making the perfect match, her parents, as much as she loves them, are two strikes she can do nothing about.

As I created Hermione, first in His Mistress by Morning as Charlotte’s best friend and the hero’s sister, and then by writing her story, I was struck by how deeply her insecurities ran. And therein lay the character flaw that I mined like gold. She is the daughter of an earl and therefore should be quite secure and lofty, and yet she is as lost in Society as the greenest country lass. But this flaw works because it strikes a chord in all of us. It will resonate with every reader because everyone has been tied up by their own insecurities at one time or another. And because she tries so hard to overcome them, we as the reader root for her to succeed. Because her success on a very deep level is ours as well.

So once I had discovered how deep her insecurities ran, especially when it came to her feelings for Rockhurst (to the point of throwing up when he comes near her), I then had to give her the tools and the power to overcome her fears. Because Hermione wanted everyone, especially the Earl of Rockhurst, to see her as an elegant young lady of Society, I therefore did the complete opposite and made her invisible. Unseen. Nadda. Nothing. And slowly Hermione discovers that outside her self-imposed limits, the strictures of a Society where she will never be just another member of the herd, she can come into her own.

So take your hero and heroine in your story, and dig around inside them and ask yourself:

1) What are their greatest fears? Try to discover something that most everyone can identify with.
2) How can you take your character right up to the dragon’s lair and have them face that fear?
3) What lessons, tools, and help will they need to win the battle?
4) What can we as readers learn from our character’s lesson?

This exercise helps outline your character’s development, steps in your plotting and the story arc. And one last note: make your heroine likeable. Nothing tanks a book faster than a bitchy heroine. Would you want her for your cubical mate in an office? If the answer is no, then why are you spending November telling her story?

Likeable sells. So does a depth to character that tugs at the heart. Find what tugs at your heart and then write.

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