Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stars of the Show

Good morning, all! Audra here : )

I've been working a lot of hours at the day job recently. I'll come home, walk the dog and give thanks that hubby likes to cook. I still manage to get my two hours of writing in, but lately I've found spending a little time in front of the television pretty insightful.

If you know me at all, you'll know I operate on guilt. My family can guilt me into doing anything.

So can my friends.

So can my boss.

In order to derive any enjoyment out of watching TV, I have to have a reason to watch.

God bless Hugh Laurie and House, MD for being on Monday nights. As I watched House, I began to digest all the quirky idiosyncrasies that give Gregory House top billing in the show. Grumpy, ill-dressed and crass, who would ever think him a hero? This show makes it so easy to recognize scene and sequel. Scene - House insults and bullies people to the point where you wonder why they keep him around. Sequel - quiet moments where House is alone and you see and feel his passion and pain.

Don't we all want to create characters this complex?

My favorite mannerism: When House makes a statement that you recognize he wants approval over or acceptance of, he leans heavily/ackwardly on his cane and looks at Cuddy, Wilson or whoever with his chin down and eyes level with his brow. I'm such a sucker for the lost puppy look coming from ultra-confident heros!

Okay, so after House, I'm ready to go write. I wait just a little too long and the theme music to Lie To Me comes on. Being a relatively new show, I don't know that much about it except for the fascinating subject matter. Would you want someone to know if you're stretching the truth or not by just looking at you?? I don't think so!

Dr. Cal Lightman captured my attention from the moment he appeared on the screen. The man does not know how to move slowly. He'll sit calmly forever and and a day, then Wham! the moment he stands up, he's off like the energizer bunny. You see, he can't do his job if he's not studying someone, and you can't study someone unless you're with them. His eyes are always moving. He's always moving, looking at a situation from every angle. I've got to remember this trait!

My favorite mannerism: He does not hide what he's doing. He openly watches facial expressions by tilting his head and angling around to see all the subtle muscles jerks. His expertise is in his unvarnished stare. 99% of the time so totally rude, but with him...very appealing.

And the ladies? How about Reba McEntire?

Reba has been entertained audiences in various types of media for years. She sings, she dances, she acts. She writes, she directs...she does it all! And she always looks happy. I love watching her on Country Music Awards as a presenter and entertainer. She truly looks happy to be making other people happy.

So, what's her secret? Her impish ways? Her pixie appearance? Her hearty laugh? How could your heroine NOT be spunky if modeled after Reba? Plot out the right story and plop Reba in the lead and you'll have the crowd laughing.

My favorite mannerism: Her incredible look of disbelief when someone demonstrates absolutely no common sense. Eyes wide open, mouth dropped, figure frozen. You can just see the wheels turning in her little red head thinking "what turnip truck did you just drop off of?"

When you talk about characters, Lucille Ball will always reign the Queen of Comedy. It's tough to point out just one facet of her persona when she performs so many, so well.

The first thing that comes to mind is "Loooooocy!" whenever you see Lucy and Desi Arnez together. For years we were entertained by Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel in I Love Lucy. Her smile, her frown, her laugh and no one can match her cry. Obviously this is a little too over the top for a common, everyday heroine to portray, but think of the episodes of Lucy and the Chocolate Factory, or Lucy Saving Money, Lucy Wanting To Perform On Ricky's Stage, or any of a number of memorable moments.

Lucy became those characters and she was doggone good at it!!

My favorite mannerism?? All of 'em!!

Enough television shows and actors.

How about music videos? Now here is an industry designed to hype up image!

Breaks my heart that after so many years, Brooks and Dunn are breaking up. Beautiful voices melding together perfectly to create memorable music. I'm sure Ronnie Dunn is someone's hero, but to me, Kix Brooks is front stage.

Even though he rarely is.

In most of the videos they've produced, Kix is in the background playing guitar and belting out the song. Hat tipped low and incredible concentration on his instrument, he moves with controlled strength to show his emotions in every song. He smiles and the place lights up. Cowboy written all over that man.

My favorite mannerism: He steals the spotlight without moving a foot forward. Dark and brooding describe him to a tee, until he smiles and then you wonder what ever gave you the notion he could have an intense bone in his body.

Folks have talked about George Strait for as long as awards have been given out. I love George. I know all the words to all his 50 #1 Hits : ) His crooked smile has only grown more endearing over the years.

As a music entertainer, I can't more than swoon over his talent. As an actor, I can't really say "award this man an Oscar."

BUT, if you watch his movie Pure Country, and pay attention to all the riding scenes, you'll see only A-class Team Roper. My favorite laughs come during the scene where Harley's brothers take payment from Dusty to teach him to rope and ride. The man is pure poetry in motion! Now that's what I'm talking about! No stunt double for him!

My favorite mannerism: George Strait is the consumate cowboy, entertainer, rodeo star. Yet, he's humble as humble can be. You can see it in his slow manner and hear it in his soft voice. He's not out to show anyone up, he's just happy to be what he is.

I know I've gone on and on about cowboys, but I can't finish without mentioning my all time hero: Chris Le Doux. Be still my heart! Not only was he a National Finals Rodeo bronc riding champion, he was songwriter, a poet, singer and most of all a family man.

He put life into perspective. Where most cowboys would say their finest moment in life was winning the NFR championship, Chris said winning the honor gave his music credence. He wrote lyrics to touch the lives of people he'd never met with his songs of love, honor and of course, the thrill of the ride.

Chris Le Doux died in 2002 of a rare liver disease. The magic of the man lives on.

My favorite mannerism: You can look into his eyes and see ornery from the inside out. I know it's cliche, but the gleam in his eye gave warning something was going to happen.
When he tips his hat and says "yes, ma'am."
I'm melting just thinking about it.

Okay, enough from me. How about you? How do you create memorable characters? What trait do you allow to shine? Why does makes the reader keep thinking about your characters long after they've finished the book?

Share the quirks and habits that make your hero or heroine stand out in the crowd. Or, what television/video/music character or celebrity stays on your mind long after the show, movie, etc is over?

Blessings to all!


  1. You've already covered my favorite - House. Not just character, scene and sequel, but story arc too, and everything has a purpose.

  2. The only facial expressions I see on TV are on the faces of managers and players when an ump blows the call.

  3. Nothing like a nice cup of cowboy to kick off a chilly morning!

    Very nice post, Audra! We used to watch a lot of House, but lately our focus has shifted to NCIS...umm, we're talking a slight addiction here. I just love the distinct characters on the show and how they really play well together. The dialogue is snappy. I could go on and on. Mark Harmon keeps getting better and better with age.

  4. Walt that doesn't count. Unless as Ruth would tell you, it was the NY Yankees.

    Who put the coffee on?

    My latest WIP has a character that is like the Patrick Jane in the Mentalist. Easy going..too easy going, that hides a wounded soul.

  5. Good morning everyone! I've arrived bearing 100% Colombian coffee and hot buttered croissants. Umm, I can eat those by the dozens : )

    Sheila, a fellow House fan! Have you watched an entire day of House when they offer marathons? After a couple of back to back episodes, you see the similarities in plot structures and story arcs. My son and I can watch an entire weekend of House. My husband walks into the room, rolls his eyes at the television and goes out to the garage. Oh well, marathons are meant for everyone : )

  6. Morning, Walt : )

    You can learn a lot about dealing with pain while watching the shows in your chosen genre : )

    Grace in action, too. I could watch those fine players in incredible uniforms hit the ball and run the bases for a good chunk of my day. This is not a problem : )

  7. Oooo Lisa! The USA channel here in Denver is hosting the Labor Day NCIS marathon!

    Can you guess what I'll have on as background noise while I clean the house????

  8. Well, I don't know if my characters stand out yet, if I'm that good, but EEEEEKKKKK!!! I love that you mentioned House. Whew. That character is so wonderful! *happy sigh* I can't wait for the new season to start up.

  9. Mornin' Tina : )

    Easy going and likeable make you love the character right off the bat (thinking of you Walt and Ruthy!). Then when their wounds surface you sympathize with them so much more.

    Truth to tell: I hate it when villians start off really likeable. Hurts my heart when they go bad.

    Coffee and croissants, Tina, and fresh raspberry jam and honey. Dig in!

  10. Jessica! I wasn't ready for an EEEKKK! so early in the morning. Calm down, girlfriend. LOL!

    Don't you just love how we love the characters someone else has created?

    C'mon, kids!! The characters in our books need to jump off the pages, too.


    Hmm, that does feel good to stretch out vocal cords in the morning : )

  11. Sorry Audra. *shamefaced grin*
    The mention of House gets my heart pumping. LOL In a very nice, Julie Lessman kind of way.

  12. Good morning, Audra. You have a great mix of impressive characters to ponder this morning. I'm leaning toward the cowboys. :-)

    For me, heroes and heroines may have a variety of mannerisms, but what I think makes them memorable is their basic goodness. No matter how gruff or aloof or laid back; no matter how funny or sassy or flawed, underneath they all have heart. And we love them for hanging onto that, through all the trials we toss at them.

    Thanks for the croissants and coffee!


  13. LOL, Jessica! You just EEEEKKKK anytime you want. I love morning people : )

    Hi Janet! I lean toward the cowboys, too : )

    Absolutely right, if characters don't have heart, why do we root for them?? In my latest mss, I had to "gruff up" a character more at the beginning of the book to show the impact his personality had at the end. Difficult for me. There's a fine line you need to walk when introducing a less than lovable character and making the reader sympathize with him.

    I tend to gravitate toward watching House (with Jessica) to research the qualities of goodness hidden deep behind prickly barriers.

    Yep Janet, you're right. You're nothing without heart.

  14. When I want to nail down a character, I watch movies. My new hero is a private investigator in the late 1800's, so I'm sticking movies in my Netflix queue with tough guys who always fall for the girl they're helping. But I never model a character directly after any one person. I just can't seem to do that. I take a look or an attitude or a quirk from a movie character and try to capture that in my character.

    But yes, watching movies helps me get my ideas. You might never figure out how I got a certain idea from a certain movie, but my mind captured something from the screen and then ran with it so that the final product doesn't resemble the inspiration at all! Funny how that works.

  15. Maybe I shouldn't admit this but I've never watched House. I hardly ever watch TV except for the news and a few kids shows. So, I think I'll broaden my horizons and watch House to catch up with the rest of the word.

    Great post, Audra! You've convinced me I need to be more aware of mannerisms and quirks. They sure help distinguish one character from another which is sometimes hard to do on a white page.

  16. Good point, Melanie. Television and movie characters may give me ideas, but I could never (nor would I want to) recreated screen character for my books.

    I just like to borrow their habits : )

    Netflix is the greatest. I'll admit it, I'm lazy. What is easier than pushing buttons on the computer and in a day the movie of your choice arrives at your door.

    Now if I could only get them to deliver popcorn...

  17. Morning Cara : )

    How lucky you are to not be drawn into the web of idleness! LOL! Actually, I tend to think it more an escape : ) Either way, I too am a new junkie. But hey, that's an idea for another post : )

    As I mentioned to Melanie, I tend to be lazy. If left to my own devices, my characters would be the same book after book.

    Watching television programs of my choice helps broaden my scope of thinking. I don't want to feature a Gregory House as my hero, but the character just offers so many facets to pick and choose from! I love analysing why certain personality traits work to make us sympathize with the character dispite the obvious dislikes.

    Like they say, you can't have an all good hero; you can't have an all bad villian.

    Screen characters just help me think outside the box : )

  18. Audra, are you SURE you were writing a blog post? Or were you just looking for a reason to post hot cowboys on a blog somewhere. :)

    I like the idea of watching people for quirks. And when I see something really different and interesting I store it away and it often finds it's way into a character.
    I knew a man once who ended every turn of his in a conversation with the words, "And stuff and everyrhing."
    Well, I was really happy that it rained, and stuff and everything.

    Isn't that strange?
    And I had a teacher at a parent teacher's conference...I went to them for YEARS and he'd throw in, "And so on and so forth." at the end of about half of his sentences.
    Just a sort of nervous twitch I suppose. Neither of these men would say usually, anything that would call upon those tags in a sentence.

    I've never quite gotten a character to do this. It's so repetitive and dull really, but done right I think it could be funny.

  19. Oh, Audra! I've watched the last 4 episodes of House this week! I had DVR'd them back during the season and planned to watch this summer while oldest was home from college. But we didn't have time for all the episodes. So I've been watching them late at night this week (we're talking after midnight!). It's been a nice way to wind down.

    Can you believe the final episode?? Wow.

    Great post! I was just thinking the other night that my heroine in my current proposal isn't unique enough. She needs a mannerism. :)

  20. Wonderful post, Audra! And House? What a fascinating character he is... There are so many layers to him that I feel as though I get to keep discovering him with every episode. Quite a credit to Hugh Laurie's acting. But the whole cast interests me, too. Great show. I like the quirky characters in "Glee," also. (Fun to see the pilot again last night!) They're not as complex, IMO, as "House"--but the offbeat mannerisms of those characters are compelling in their own way.

  21. Shh, Mary. You weren't supposed to spill the beans : )

    Have you seen version of The Scarlet Pimpernel with Jane Seymore? I can't remember who played Sir Percy, but the character ended sarcastic comments with "slay me."

    Something as short as a couple words I can occasionally tie to the end of a character's sentence to make a point so forth and so on...

  22. LOL, Missy! That last episode is so reminescent of Cuckoos Nest...hey, House would make a great Jack Nicholson stand in : )

    Quirk up your heroine, Missy, just keep the darling Southern accent!

  23. Good morning, Marilyn!

    I haven't seen Glee but the promos look fun. My daughter is an addict of all those shows, so I might have to pull over a corner of the couch and ask her to catch me up on the plot (oh she just HATES that).

    I so envy complex plots. Especially well done situations like House, NCIS, Perry Mason (Ooo dating myself, but I never could pick out the murderer in the OLD Perry Mason episodes). I love shows that make you think!

    Coffee refill, anyone? I've pulled blueberry muffins and cranberry scones from the oven. Enjoy!

  24. Audra,

    LOVED this post!

    I so loved Lucy too. I love fashioning characters after celebs who have distinct mannerisms.

    Melti things that come to mind:

    Gearge Eades' (YUM!) look of controlled, quiet, intense concentration when he's investigating evidence on a CSI crime scene.

    The irresistably crooked grin and slow, sexy-lazy, drawling voice of Matthew McConoughey.

    Sandra Bullock's snorting laugh.

    LoCash Cowboys' hawt, fun, choreographed country dancing.

    Tina Turner's onstage jiggle dance. And her VOICE! Very distinct.

    Reba's spunk...I actually DO have a heroine fashioned after her!

    I could go on and on and on


    Now I know why your heroes are so great!


  25. My new favorite character to watch is Simon Baker in the Mentalist.

    It's the way his entire face changes when he smiles...and the he knows something you don't and he's waiting for you to figure it out.

    Thanks for the cowboy tour. I totally agree about Kix Brooks. And George. And Chris. :)

  26. So True, Lisa! NCIS is a goldmine of great characters. I'm slightly obsessed with it too.

    I also love to watch Closer with Kyra Sedgewick. That woman has created a fantastic character and I love the co-workers too.

    The Mentalist is another great show. Simon Baker's character has so much insight and depth. He's good at presenting the image he wants people to see in order to get the results he wants, and yet you still know that underneath all the quirks and drama he's a man of character and passion.

    I like to watch the real life people around me. I find myself incorporating traits and mannerisms of my friends and co-workers. Not enough to make it obvious, but who better to study than those closest to you?

    Great post, Audra!

  27. Audra said: "If you know me at all, you'll know I operate on guilt."

    Grin ... thanks for kicking my morning off with a good laugh, sweetie, and oh my, what a FUN post!! Unfortunately, like Cara, I have never seen House, but I have to admit that the few advertising clips I've seen paint a really intriguing picture of him, one that actually been tempts me to watch it sometime. Unfortunately, I don't watch a lot of TV, so I guess I'm missing out.

    Quirks and habits of our characters? Well, I tend to be a "cheap author" (kind of like a cheap drunk without the booze), meaning I go for the usual, unimaginative quirks for my characters -- you know, lip chewing, hair raking, heated cheeks, which does bother me somewhat, but quite frankly, it's all I ever see in my mind when I write, so you gotta be true to your vision.

    I especially like to give heroes a quirk characteristic different from other heroes I've written (i.e. Collin had a slow smile to reflect his roguish nature, Mitch grinds his jaw to show his short-fuse nature, Brady rolls the kinks from his neck to show his dogged, patient nature, etc.), and I think the key is to use that quirk only for them as much as possible.

    But, God help us, there are only so many facial characteristics we have at our disposal that we can use to relay emotions when showing how a character feels rather than telling. Which is why I have a "Word List" document I keep with my own stash of words for BLUSHING, CHEWING ON LIP, RAKING ONE'S HAND THROUGH ONE'S HAIR, HALF-LIDDED EYES, SHALLOW BREATHS, ETC.

    And, JESSICA -- thanks for your cute comment, sweetie -- much obliged.


  28. Cheryl, how could I have left off Sandra Bullock's snort! Miss Congeniality had me howling!

    That whole Southern thing and Matthew McConoughey...

    Is it so bad that actors become associated with a character? I will never be able to look at William Shattner and not think of Star Trek, or Michael J Fox and not think Alex P Keaton.

    Kinda teaches us something about author branding, too.

  29. Ah, Audra, I'm heartbroken. Where have I been. I didn't know Chris La Doux passed away. Prayers and condolences go out to his family, friends and many fans. I wish I had time to watch a lot of TV; I simply don't. But naturally the ones I tune into are The Closer. Kyra S. (see I don't even know her character name -- gulp), I love her Southern accent, her tough as nails persona when she wants to solve a crime, but her vulnerability at the same time in her personal life.

    I love House also. When I get to watch him, I think of that brilliant actor and the genius who made him up.

    As for Country stars, I'm a sucker there. If you've ever seen George Strait in concert, who wouldn't love his laid back, almost shy persona, but what a sexy, dynamite voice, and that man can give a look like no other.

    Tim McGraw... I love his ethics, his charisma and his unstoppable energy. Who wouldn't love a man who's so secure in who he is... he'll have bouncers remove inappropriate people from the crowd.

    Jimmy Buffet also is a favorite of mine... Come Monday ... is without a doubt my favorite song. But out of this Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, balding, long-haired individual can come some of the rankest lyrics LOL, and some of the most beautiful.

    Characterization is about developing these complex traits. You nailed it, my dear. Wonderful blog!

  30. OMG, you're so right about this, "Harley's brothers take payment from Dusty to teach him to rope and ride. The man is pure poetry in motion!" I LOVED that part. His facial expressions knocked me over. I love that. :-)

    Great post.

  31. Audra, that was Anthony Andrews playing opposite Jane Seymour in the Scarlet Pimpernel. (I just checked Netflix to make sure I was right.) Oh, how I loved that! I need to watch that again. And that is a great book, too.

  32. No one plays Percy as well as Anthony Andrews. His ability to make you believe in him as a fop and then switch to real live hero in a flash is amazing. He walks a fine line and makes you love it all.

  33. Hi Audra,
    Such a fun post!!! But important. We CAN learn so much from TV and the big screen. My favorite show is The Closer, which April mentioned earlier. I watch it like a writer and immediately get who the bad guy is, yet it doesn't spoil the ending for me. I'm more interested in how they build to the climax. I've picked up some good tips by really is, like, work! :)

    Love Brenda's hubby -- Fritzie! What a hunk!

  34. Hi Erica, glad I made you happy with cowboys : )


    I've never seen the Mentalist, but after all the hype I've heard, I think I better tune in.

    Thanks everyone for mentioning this show!

  35. Julie, number one rule of writing -- if it ain't broke, don't do anything to it, Darlin'!!!! Your books are beautiful just the way they are -- blushing and jaw grinding included : )

    Oh and my dear Julie, you are not cheap. Maybe petite and inexpensive, but definitely not cheap : )

  36. YES ERICA!!! I love The Mentalist. I keep old episodes on my iTouch to watch.

  37. LOL, Donnell! I can just see Jimmy Buffet in one of you Romantic Suspenses!! I have images of a short, balding, Magnum PI!!

    Yes, I have a VERY vivid imagination : )

    I loved Kyra in Phenomenon with John Travolta. And yes, give me southern accent anytime.

    Tim McGraw? He's right up there with Kix Brooks in his performance intensity.

    Don't you just love a man who loves what he does for a living??

    Thanks for stopping by Donnell!

  38. Anthony Andrews! What a versatile actor.

    Yes, yes, yes.

    I so want to develope the ability to write fop to fantastic seamlessly. I've only seen the movie. I'll have to read the book and look for pointers.

    Melanie, April thanks for filling in my blanks : )

  39. Hi Lynn!

    I could watch that scene over and over again : )

  40. Hi Debby!

    Who would have ever thought watching television and movies could be homework??

    Sad, but I rarely read books without analyzing them. I always study TV programs and try to learn something from them.

    Lucky for me, I can eat for pleasure : )

  41. Hi Audra!
    I want to start by saying that I am not a House fan. I am a die-hard fan of Grey's Anatomy. I enjoy it more than House, sorry!

    I watch a ridiculous amount of shows *blush* I do make sure my homework and chores are done first, though! For examples:
    7th Heaven
    Gilmore Girls
    Joan of Arcadia
    Pushing Daisies
    Ghost Whisperer
    Ugly Betty

    Lol, see what I mean!? Most are off the air though(cancelled or finished).

    I would seriously recommend LOST, if you don't already watch it. The plot is ridiculous! You'll never want to stop watching!

    Also, a spiritual show, that is oh so good, is Joan of Arcadia. Let me know if you've never seen it and want to know more : ) There's only 2 seasons because Ghost Whisperer took it's spot.

    I really enjoyed this post!

    I'm supplying brownies fresh from the oven tonight! They're homemade, my sister just made 'em. Plus some cold milk.


  42. Hi Hannah!

    I loved Joan of Arcadia!

    And Heros! Talk about a quirky bunch of characters to throw together in series. I loved the first season, got lost in the second, and lost interest for the third - though I heard they returned to season 1 format.

    It's okay if you don't like House -- I think you've more than made up for it, LOL!

    No blushing! This is a learning experience for all!!!

  43. Oh, goodness! I am so glad you know JoA! I absolutely loved that show and am so sad that it went off : (

    You should really try LOST. From an authors POV, you'll probably find it crazy! I don't know if it'll help you at all, but the 1st season is remarkable! I am currently watching the 2nd season because I just started watching it in April/May. Give it a try! : )


  44. HUGH LAURIE and HOUSE! He mesmorizes me. I can't not watch him. And I love Wilson too.
    Whoever doesn't watch HOUSE yet, please give it a try. I KNOW you will love it.
    Monday, Sept. 21st. 8 p.m. EST on
    FOX. 2 hr special of House in the mental hospital. Will be AMAZING!
    TRUST ME because I trust Hugh!
    I hope he finally gets his Emmy this year. :)

  45. My 2 favorite shows - House and Lie to Me. I love Hugh Laurie - the entire cast is excellent. The writers really know how to put the story together.

    Lie to Me - gives explanations to all the facial expressions and body language the people show. This is a great asset to writers - I've already used two body expressions, with explanation, in my current WIP.

    Thanks for a great and fun post!