Thank you Holley for visiting with me today. I'm excited about your blog. I always love learning ways to improve my writing. I can't wait to apply some of the techniques you talk about.
Thanks, Melissa, for letting me visit today! I wanted to talk about how I decide what my characters look like. Characterization is a big deal for me because I want readers to bond with my casts and I know that
requires that I try my hardest to make them realistic, yet entertaining.
When I have a general idea for a story, I know what kinds of personalities need to be in the cast, but I don't necessarily have a mental image of what the leads should look like. Actually, I get a bit stymied by that occasionally. It's hard to have your story play out like a movie in your brain when your characters are amorphous blobs.
I've started doing a bit of an exercise to overcome my casting problems. I think about the traits my characters have and then think about stereotypes -- what sort of people would have those traits? Basically, I'm working opposite of the way the brain wants to. Instead of looking at a teacher and making assumptions about the way she behaves, I work in reverse to ensure my character is absolutely unique.
Here's an example from The Spirit of Things - my May 3 release from Rebel Ink Press. The heroine, Nikki, is a bit of a snot. She's a former professional dancer and has a socialite mother. Her father is Native American. She has an advanced degree and is fairly ambitious. Considering all that, I thought about people I've known who've had those qualities and manufactured a single person by combining all of them. She ended up with long black hair marred by a gray streak which she dyes because of vanity. Her green eyes stand out in stark contrast to her olive skin and dark hair. She's petite and has an hourglass figure beneath her workout clothes. She's generally very carefully dressed and she cares what other people are
Now, if I'd done it the other way around--decided what the character looked like first and then built a personality around it--I would have probably ended up with a bubbly teacher cliché, or worse--a character who looks exactly the same way as another character in a different story of mine. Now, don't get me wrong--sometimes stereotyping is an excellent
tool when you're TRYING to create comic relief. Beth, the bodacious blonde in the sequel to TSoT (and also the sidekick in my story "Impersonating Dad") is an absolute stereotype.
I think some people think we writers have a bunch of hats on our desks and that we pull slips of paper out of each telling us what the hero/heroine's hair color, eye color and profession will be each time we start a new story -- basically, that any character we put in the story is interchangeable. Maybe that's true for some prolific writers, but me? I try to be conscious that my characters have features that are worth remarking on and that their profession or hobbies are integral to the story. Why bother mentioning them otherwise?
For the spin-off I working on, the hero is a guy named Jerry who is the resident tech geek. Okay, stereotype: what does a gamer guy who hacks computers recreationally look like?
Now, remember - he's a romance novel hero. He's got to be shaggable.
Take a guess! I'll let you know if you're close.
The Spirit of Things (blurb)
Nikki Stacy is a middle school math and science teacher. To make ends meet she advises her school's rag-tag cheerleading squad for the extra paycheck supplement. When the squad's antics lead to a girl's injury, Nikki butts heads with squad dad Charlie. Frustrated, Nikki seeks a job that will really make her happy, but Charlie won't let her move on without tidying up the loose ends she left behind.
Visit Holley online at holleytrent.com/blog, on twitter by following @holleytrent and like her on Facebook at facebook.com/writerholleytrent. The Spirit of Things is now available at Bookstrand, Kindle eBooks, Barnes and Noble (Nook), and All Romance eBooks.
Musings from Michigan