Saturday, August 7, 2010

Characters Welcome

You know that catch-phrase for the USA Network's shows --"Characters welcome"?

It's something I've been thinking a lot about lately. How to make your characters distinct from one another and how to give them their own voices.

I think I managed this pretty well with Aidon and Stephanie in Pomegranate Seeds, which remains one of the books of my heart. At least, I think I managed that at first. Their voices were completely different in the beginning.

But when Steph travelled to the Underworld and had to take on Aidon's responsibilities there, she began to sound more and more like him. After all, she couldn't very well remain the flightly girl she was Above after going Below.


Readers seemed confused about who they were, nevertheless. Perhaps the first person present tense made it difficult, but more likely, it was that I didn't truly introduce who they were and why they were and where they were and what they were.

We live, we learn.

It's very easy -- especially in a romance -- to just push your characters around, move them from scene to scene and bit of dialogue to another bit of dialogue without giving them true depth or purpose.

Focusing on their goals and motivations has never been the fun part for me. One of the reasons why I sometimes let them speak out here! (Also because that's fun for me. And allows me to procrastinate and pretend I'm working.)I hear their voices, learn what they want.

In Pomegranate Seeds, we don't learn who Aidon really is until his memory is wiped away and bits begin to return in odd splotches Steph can't decipher. Far too late.

But in Healing Hearts, Adam, a veteran of combat on the Peninsula, and Emma, who has lost her brother to battle, think in terms flavored with the smoke and thunder and weapons of war.

In Dream Voyager, Ryck, who has been closed off from sensory perception for years on the dreamscape, becomes dazzled and addicted to the scents and flavors of the modern world.

And ... Lara and Cole? Newspapers, guns, bad guys and scoops.

It's a way to texture the characters, to tell us who they are, to ground them, and to set them apart.

It's a work in progress.

10 comments:

Wendy Marcus said...

I am so excited about Healing Hearts. Something about a wounded hero finding love that really does it for me!

Taryn Kincaid said...

I'm excited, too! I know! I LOVE damaged heroes.

The seeds of Adam probably came from one of my first "starter" manuscripts. Hero was Spider Webb, also a viscount. Also a returning Peninsuala vet, beset by nightmares (PTSD)and pain.

And one of my favorite heroes to this day remains Laura Kinsale's Sheridan Drake from Seize the Fire

I HAVE to get back to Webb one of these days!

JL Walters said...

Teri, please do get back to Webb. I think he has much valor as a hero. I'm not sure your take on Pomegranate is totally correct. The present tense first person wasn't my favorite of your voices and I think I said so. The characters are among my favorites of yours, especially Stephanie.

Taryn Kincaid said...

Thanks, Janet. Maybe we never see our own stuff really clearly. I fall in love with all my heroes. Webb and Aidon among them! One of the things I love best about Aidon is the way he is with Ariel. And Webb...well, not much I don't love about Webb.

charmainegordon author said...

People are all works in progress. As writers our characters mimic life because they are in progress through us.

I enjoy your blog;always thought-provoking and entertaining, Taryn.

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Taryn Kincaid said...

Thanks for stopping by, Charmaine.

Shoshanna Evers said...

I love the damaged Hero too :)

Taryn Kincaid said...

Know exactly what you mean!

Well. On second thought, maybe not exactly!

Jennifer Probst said...

I remember my first book got rejected by so many editors because my hero was way too "alpha male" and damaged. I loved him more than anyone, glad someone took a chance on him though I am making no money from it!! I think I identify better with damaged heros for some reason. If they are too healthy they are boring for me!

Taryn Kincaid said...

Exactly, Jen. Those Alan Alda types just don't do a thing for me!
Give me brooding and Byronic -- and damaged!

(OTOH, I'm reading Carly's Kiss Me If You Can, right now, and the hero's a really nice guy. But still a hunk. And a mensch!)

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