As it turned out, quite a bit. Stuff I’d never even noticed or considered as a reader. In the first draft of Pole Dance, I’d gotten the story down, but my Jake and Caitlin were stiff, two-dimensional people.
And even worse? They sounded alike!
So I learned (the hard way) there was a lot more to writing characters than just typing ‘his dark blonde hair’ or ‘her flashing blue eyes’. Or coming up with cool names (and, oh yeah, naming a character is a big freaking deal! Don’t believe me? Ask D.P.—she knows because once we started writing Phoebe, we soon found every guy had a name starting with ‘R’. Oops!)
By the time we as readers fall in love with our latest book boyfriend, his creator had to get to know him—to discover everything they could about the man: the way he dressed, his posture in any given situation or setting, his mannerisms and gestures to help show his emotions (both the good ones and the bad).
And most especially his voice, the way he speaks.
This becomes a huge problem when there are people of the same gender talking together. For example? Take the scene in Phoebe where Ryker goes to Black Ice for the first time to meet with his brothers, Max and Cruz (who were originally named Rex and Rogan. *insert both an eye roll and a giggle here*).
All three guys had to not only look different, move different but sound different. Okay, so how to do that? We knew Ryker had a chip on his shoulder going in, so keeping his gestures and posture stiff would work. Which meant the way he talked would be short and sound defensive or challenging.
What about Max? Oldest brother…the leader of the family from a young age. Former military and now the head of an up-and-coming business. Yummy! Alpha and level-headed? Nice.
Cruz on the other hand, is the middle kid of the three. So he had to be completely unlike his older brother as well as his sulky younger one. It helped the dude has quite the potty-mouth and loves to talk, because then he could be the bridge between the almost arrogant Max and the distrustful Ryker. And while I sometimes like his character, I gotta say the guy and his attitude pissed me off a bit as I wrote him. (Cruz will get his own book in the Black Ice series scheduled for late 2017 or early 2018.)
And the same goes for the heroines as well. The author will know her female lead inside out so we romance readers can ‘see’ her in our mind’s eye, understand her reactions and why she does some of the (dumb) stuff she does and says.
Characters and the way they are written are, in my opinion, one of the first things that separates a good book from a great one. Amazing fictional people, drawn with enough description and realistic responses can carry even a weak storyline.
But sometimes they’re a real pain in the butt to write. Fun, but often as not, frustrating as hell.
Until next time…
Smiling and waving from Phoenix in late summer,