Character Driven Stories

The topic came up in our forum recently, and then I was thinking about it as a started reading a new book because there was a certain disconnect as I read through the first chapter.

So, as I thought about it, I noted two things.

One from my reading:

The conflict created unnatural reactions in the characters. When it came right down to it, I disliked the heroine for her bitchiness in the first scene…but mostly, it seemed that her thoughts [as the author tried to ‘show’ the story] and her actions weren’t realistic. She was stuck in a Russian blizzard, needing rescue! Why is she thinking she should try to bring up a past and resolve anything? Why is she thinking at all beyond, ‘Thank God. You rescued me. Please don’t hate me too much to save my life.’ So there were a few other instances where the author was trying to maintain sexual tension by NOT having the couple hook up too soon, and created conflict. But again, it just felt off, especially since the characters were both young, healthy, attractive, sexually active, and ‘hot for each other’. As an author, reading this book, the conflict felt too contrived.

This is where characterization can play a huge part! Because if even one of those characters wasn’t the horny, sex-impulsive type, then…I could have believed they were holding back as a natural occurence!

Two, from my own writing:

Last week I finished revisions on Book Three of my Hawk Elite Security series, and it’s the first full-length novel that has no sex in it. Before I started revisions, this book had the expected 2-3 love scenes. As I went through on the revisions, the sex kept NOT happening. Believe me, I wanted it to happen! I understand the satisfaction of seeing a couple through even this very private part of their relationship. It’s what romance readers are looking for… emotional connections. But no, I had a character. And do you know what my character’s nickname on the teams is?

Fr. John. Because he’s conservative in his dating life, because no one is quite certain if he’s had sex or not… is he a virgin? Does he even date anymore? He hasn’t–in a long time–and that’s what made his story. So, wouldn’t it be odd to have him suddenly be a lady’s man? a Don Juan? I think it would. It wouldn’t be in character.

I had a heroine who was ready to go, and she did her own pondering on why this guy wasn’t going to have sex with her. But even my heroine had been living alone for a few years, sort of in hiding from herself and the world. So, even for her to jump right in would have been a little off-reality.

I write romance, and I know the possibility of disappointing readers with a book that has no sex in it. But, I just couldn’t get beyond my characters. John was raised a certain way. He’s not perfect. He’s NOT a virgin [cuz, hello, college is a bed of sowing wild oats and living a little rebelliously], but he’s celibate, and has been for a few years. Because he knows, he wants the whole thing. All of it, and he isn’t going to settle for less, or cheat the next woman he’s attracted to by leading her on.

If you get a chance to read Strike Zone, please come back and tell me what you think. Part of me loves this story, because the sexual tension is so darn high. Part of me wishes I’d left the sex in there because it’s satisfying…

But in the end, I left the tone of the book up to the characters.

And if you like things a little hotter, stay tuned for book 4, Strike Force. Oh boy. That’s a different story completely!

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

If I Knew Then: Writer’s Edition

Today, I thought I’d blog about craft. Specifically, the things I wish someone had told me (or helped me understand better) when I first started writing. I’m focusing on three main areas today.

Goal-Motivation-Conflict

There’s this fabulous book, if you’ve never heard of it, by Debra Dixon, called GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. When I first started writing, I kept hearing about GMC. Maybe you have, too. No one really explained it in a way I understood or, worse, they assumed I knew what GMC was. At that time, you could only order a hard cover from the publisher to get this book. I paid $20, plus shipping, and I’ve never regretted it. It’s incredible.

To summarize, characters want GOALS because MOTIVATION but CONFLICT. It’s a little more complicated than that. For instance, goals are the future, motivation is the past, and conflict is the present. If you can pull all those together, give your character an achievable goal for a realistic reason (motivation) and then have someone stand in their way, you have instant conflict.

Protagonist/Antagonist

Speaking of someone standing directly in the way, pushing back against the hero/ine, that is your antagonist. You really do need an active antagonist. It can’t be your characters drunk, dead father because he can’t push back. Alcoholic daddy can be part of the motivation, but he can’t be the antagonist.

The protagonist has a goal they are working toward. The antagonist has a goal (GMC of his or her own, in fact) and they are actively standing in one another’s way.

Conflict Boxes

Conflict boxes are these nifty, simple little boxes that help you show how the protagonist and antagonist are in opposition. They’re explained best, in my opinion, by Jennifer Crusie in this blog post. Their goals are mutually exclusive, which means only one of them can achieve their goal. The other has to lose. Sometimes, if you aren’t sure who you’re antagonist really is, a conflict box will show you in about two seconds.

If Only That Were It

Obviously, there’s more to learn, but these concepts will get you well on your way. I highly advise reading GMC and checking out the Basics of Fiction blog post by Jennifer Crusie if you’re at the beginning of your writing career or even if you feel you need a little help in these areas.

We’ve got a slew of helpful writers here, so if you have a question, one of us will do our best to answer. Or maybe you have a tip for a new writer. Just post it in the comments below.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Sassy humor for the heart, captivating contemporary romance for the soul.

From Fake to Forever Sale!

Hi, all! Jennifer here with a brief announcement.

My romance From Fake to Forever is now on sale for 99 CENTS until Sunday, May 7th. So grab me at ITunes, B&N, AMZ, or KOBO while you can!

Here are what a few nice people have said:

5 STARS  “Great writing, incredible characters, and a storyline that touches your heart make this one a perfect lazy afternoon read. I highly recommend it.” -Bette H., Goodreads review

5 STARS  “Jennifer Shirk has written a beautiful sweet romance which made me laugh plenty of times.” –Anniek, Goodreads review
5 STARS  “This was my first read by Jennifer Shirk and I’ve been missing out.” –Isha Coleman, Netgalley reviewer

5 STARS  “This story is filled with captivating characters, lively banter and a touching romance.”–Rosemary, Goodreads reviewer

Here’s a little bit about it:

Sandra Moyer’s preschool is struggling, so when her sister suggests allowing a super-famous actor to research his latest role there, she reluctantly agrees. Except the actor turns out to be Ben Capshaw—a playboy who’s never serious, always joking around, and who knows zero about kids or being a parent. Case in point: his involvement in the untimely death of the preschool’s class pet…

Ben is enjoying teaching more than he thought he would, but that doesn’t mean he’s looking for a permanent position. Sure, he’s ready for more serious movie roles and less goofing off, but the buttoned-up, beautiful Sandra and her young daughter are more than he bargained for. Plus, Sandra still won’t trust him—what if it’s all an act, research for the role? As the lines between make-believe and reality blur, Ben will have to decide if love is worth casting aside the role of his life for a new role…that could last a lifetime.

Hope you check it out!

Have you read it?

 

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her upcoming sweet romance: WRONG BROTHER, RIGHT MATCH releasing December 5, 2016.

  • OUR LATEST BUZZ!

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