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Creating Memorable Characters by Frances Stockton

Hi all, Please join me in welcoming Frances Stockton to Everybody Needs a Little Romance.  I love her Panthera series and definitely recommend them to everyone.   Thanks for stopping by, Heather

Hello and Greetings everyone!

First, let me thank the lovely ladies who invited me to guest blog today. I am super excited about this opportunity. As an author of sensual Paranormal Romance with Cerridwen Press, and soon to have a sexy Contemporary Romance released by Ellora’s Cave, I thought it would be great to discuss creating characters, more so, creating memorable characters, characters that capture the imagination and don’t let go. When I was very young, Kindergarten to be honest, I created my first fictional characters. They were identical twin brothers that wore red or green, always. Known to my family as Red Henry and Green Henry, I’d created so many tales, everything from trouble with math and homework, to breaking up with girlfriends or dealing with a friend moving away, that they became as real to my family as they were in my mind. Now, I should say that my family was convinced that instead of twin brothers, there was only one Henry boy and he simply liked the colors red and green, but regardless, he/they became central characters in our lives. It wasn’t until the Henry boys mysteriously moved away that they realized they were entirely fictional. My mother convinced me to start writing down the stories I was making up, and I finally did when I turned thirteen, completing my first manuscript. I knew very little about description, dialogue, POV, GMC and HEA, but I knew I had a more stories to tell, stories that were character driven.

Whether in film, books, or television, there are characters that we remember, make us cry, make us laugh, shout, or cheer. Some that come to mind, at least in my mind, are Hawkeye Pierce as portrayed by Alan Alda in M*A*S*H, Winds in His Hair as portrayed by Rodney Grant in Dances With Wolves, John Wayne in just about any Western (again, this is just my opinion, as I loved his Westerns and still have them on DVD), the entire cast of LOST, well, okay, I was definitely a Sawyer and Desmond fan but I think you get the point. In books, characters such as Acheron, created/written by the amazingly talented Sherrilyn Kenyon, Rhevenge, Vishous, or Rhage, of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and so many others to name, catch our attention and don’t let go until we scream for their stories. How many times have you heard the name Sookie, Bella, and Edward? What images or thoughts come to mind when you hear them?

What do you look for when reading a book and what kind of hero or heroine are you pulling for? For me, if a character is weak, the plot will not sustain through the end. Characters should drive the plot forward and create that romantic, sensual tension and the complications that arise as the story unfolds. Ditto for the HEA. If characters aren’t believable, can you believe in their happily ever after?

Now when it comes to characters, I have to admit that I love the plotting process when it comes to writing character bios. I’ll sit down with a very basic idea of what I want for the story, and then I will create the characters. Starting with my favorite ‘name’ book, The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Hal Blythe, and Charlie Sweet, I will decide whether the hero has an English, Irish, Scottish, Celtic, Spanish, Italian or Anglo-Saxon name (not to be limited to these, of course) and then I will find a name that fits his personality in my mind. I will then join it to a surname, being careful in historicals, as some names may not have been used or known yet. Once I have his name, his personality comes to me. In creating his personality, his heroine stands out in my mind and I start the same process with her name. By doing this, creating everything from likes, dislikes, family ties, occupation, age, physical description, I will often see a more concrete plot. In my own books, namely Seductive Persuasion, I begin with a warrior-type hero who is the second eldest of his race, a man who is gruff and arrogant and a little frightening, but must convince his heroine Aisley, the village healer, that even though he is far more than human, she can trust her life and love to him. I based his personality on my research into leopards. Of the big cats, leopards are the most adaptable, the best hunters, and they are fierce, even scary. Their roars sound like rusty saws cutting through wood or tree branches, and that ominous rumble can be heard on my website, http://www.francesstockton.com if you click on the Paranormal Books link. Characters morph and roar according to their panther counterpart. Likewise, I did the same with Dante Luciano, in Rhiannon’s Pride and Adriano Montoya, in book 3 of my Panthera series, Sea Captain’s Ghost.

All three books are available through Jasmine Jade, Cerridwen Press, and Amazon.com, and I hope you will consider checking them out just to see how I modeled the heroes to their panther half.  Once the character bios are done, I will go back and do a smaller bio for secondary characters, as often they will have stories of their own. This is my creative process. Some authors will create posters, storyboards, bios, diaries, journals and social networking profiles for their characters. I’ll even find photos of models or actors that I think resemble the hero/heroine in my mind and put them on my computer or phone. It helps to visualize what they look like and by the time I write the first sentence, they are clear in my head and on the screen.

So what characters in books, television, or movies are memorable to you? Have a favorite character in a book you’d like to talk about? Have you ever read a book or watched a show where the character disappointed you? Why do you think that happened? What could the author or writer of the show do to make the character stronger? Share, I would love to hear from you.

If you’re a reader, ditto to what I asked above. If you’re an author, share your character creating process.

Again, many thanks to Heather for arranging my visit here today, it has been an honor. If you’d like to learn more about my Panthera series, please visit http://www.francesstockton.com and be on the lookout for updates in the ‘What’s New’ feature of my newly redesigned website. I am venturing into the world of sexy Contemporary Romance for Ellora’s Cave, in addition to my Paranormals, and will soon have excerpts, blurbs and a release date for my upcoming title, Quarterback Blitz.

Keep Writing and Reading,

Frances Stockton

5 Responses

  1. You are too right about the characterization having to be strong to pull the reader through the plot. I’ve read some terrifically mapped out books that fell short of the mark for me because I couldn’t relate to the heroine. Heroes I can give a little leeway to because they are men and I don’t always “get” men, but the heroine has to be interesting and/or sympathetic up front for me to like the book enough to wade all the way in.

  2. Thank you so much Frances for stopping by.

    I also look for strong characters, mainly female too. I like my females able to take care of themselves, be able to Kick A$$ and not be afraid to ask for help if they need it.

    I really have a thing for flawed male characters. I like them tough and able to take command of any situation but I love when they have some sort of flaw. This makes them more human to me and more believable.

    I love your books. I don’t tend to read a lot of historicals anymore but when I read yours I tend to forget that they are historicals. The characters are smart and tough and believable. I think Rhiannon’s Pride is one of my favorites.

  3. I’m a little late, but wanted to say Welcome! Great points here. I’ve never plotted my characters, but I love this idea! 😉 Yeah, more great books for the summer!

  4. Hi everyone!
    I’m sorry I didn’t comment until now. I’m on vacation at the beach and couldn’t get internet until today! LOL, thank you to Heather for arranging this visit. She absolutely rocks.

    Also thank you to Melissa and Liz for commenting and sharing your opinions.

  5. The first character that came to mind for me was Jeannie from I DREAM OF JEANNIE.

    I haven’t seen that show in a long time, but that’s about as memorable as you can get, I think.

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