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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Character counts

Think about the most complex person you know. Maybe it's your auntie who spent her life raising a family while working a job she hated, so that her kids could go to private school. She may have been tough as nails at home, but soft as a pillow at work.
It confused you to see her acting that way when she ruled with an iron fist at home. Remember seeing her cry silently at home? You wondered why she cried and what you could do to make her feel better?

When writing and creating characters, you have to make the reader care about why he or she lives. Whether it's your hero, villain or heroine, people need to care. Readers will pick the characters that they care about.

When I wrote, The Business of Love, I thought Cleveland Alexander would be an annoying character that no one would like or appreciate. I tried to make him the most annoying younger brother ever. This is the one time when I'll admit I used some of my own personality to create this character (I'm the youngest in my family, I got the annoying sibling thing down!).
Imagine my surprise when e-mails rolled in asking, will Cleveland get his own book? Of course he did, but that taught me a valuable lesson, all characters are important. Make them three dimensional and as real as possible — or you're cheating the reader and the story.
I'll admit, Cleveland and I didn't get along at first. So, I had to create a woman who wasn't swayed by his gray eyes and lovely locks.
I knew his romantic match had to be a little over the top. Winfred "Freddie" Barker was born. She didn't like Cleveland at first, either. But she had her reasons. More Than He Can Handle, became a test of wills because two strong characters were falling in love.
A great author who creates characters that stick with you like super glue is Eric Jerome Dickey. Gideon, anyone?
One of my favorite Dickey characters is Nia Simone Bijou from his novel Pleasure. 
Here's a smart woman unafraid to go after her desires, even when things go to the left! The book is carried by Nia, told in her voice and at nearly 400 pages, you have to care about Nia to keep reading. Why is she so memorable to me?
She corrects misspellings in text messages and has a problem with men who slaughter the English language. :)

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