Monday, June 1, 2015
A good character makes you feel like you know them. A great character makes you feel. It's obvious that without characters, you don't have a book. No one thing is more important, or more feared, by authors than character development.
You know what I'm talking about. The characters that get so stuck in your head that for days after you're thinking of them. You catch yourself wondering; "Where is Marz*? I wonder how he's doing." And than you stop yourself, because you just remembered that you're thinking about a garsh darn fictional character.
I know we all do it. Don't pretend you don't. Even as an author myself, other author's characters get stuck in my head and leave such a big impact on me I find myself thinking of them as real people. And really, I hope and pray people think about my characters like that.
Without strong characters, your story is nothing. You can have the greatest idea in the world, but with a one dimensional character, you have nothing. Your characters need to make you feel. If you get bored by them, chances are your readers will too. I have stuck with books solely because I was invested in that character. There could be typos, there could be some grammar mistakes, but damn a good character or two makes all the difference in the world.
Nowhere is this more important than in the world of Indie authors and self published works. A good many of us may not have that classical English literature background, never went to college for creative writing, but we have honed our craft through years and years of trial and error. We have learned from each other, and the characters that have got stuck in our heads and inspire us.
As fans we know what works, and what doesn't, and we take those lessons to the table with us. We listen to our fans, because we are fans first and foremost, and we build on it.
I can think of a few characters who have been stuck in my head. And Laura Kaye is a master at writing those characters. Though not an Indie, she writes some amazing stuff. And I am not ashamed to say I have studied her style and her writing time and again. Her characters certainly make me feel.
Her latest book, Hard To Come By, is no exception. The second to last book in her Hard Ink series, it continues to follow five former special forces soldiers as they rebuild their friendships, fall in love, and work to clear their names. Hard To Come By focuses on Derrek "Marz" DiMarzio, a amputee veteran and computer wiz, who is also sexy as hell.
I finished the book this past weekend and can not get Marz out of my head. All her characters are amazing, they feel so real. I have loved every one of her books and will be so sad to see this series end. All of her other series are spectacular as well. And that is what lead me to thinking about characterization, and how important it is.
A great example of an Indie author who does this well is Amelia James. Her brand of erotic romance blends strong characters with complex story lines. Her characters do more than have sex. They are involved in complex interpersonal relationships, all while exploring the world of pleasure. And even better, she has introduced us to a new kind of leading man, "the regular guy." Her evolving casts of characters now has IT guys, chef's, and eccentric professors. She is making "Geeks" sexy. And I love it.
So if you are like me, and characters from your favorite book take up residence in your head for long after your done reading, own it. Embrace it. Explore it for yourself. These strong characters lead us to our "book boyfriends", our discussions lead us to recommend books and start friendships. Our tastes should evolve as we read more, we should discover that we can read deeper, and demand more. Characters lead us to those worlds.
As an author how do you develop your characters? Do you plot them out? Do they speak to you? Get to know your characters, and your readers will thank you for it.