Ruthy here! We set our sights on Dina as soon as she appeared in Love Inspired news feeds for two reasons...
1. We love Love Inspired and the opportunities they bring to writers
2. New editors are avidly seeking new authors!
3. She's just the nicest thing!
So here she is, with tips that you should listen to... follow... and then put your best foot forward!
I’ve been the assistant editor for Love Inspired Historical and Love Inspired Suspense since April, and I acquired my very first author this month through the From Blurb to Book contest. Romance has been my favorite genre since I first picked up a Silhouette Nora Roberts book when I was in middle school, so working at Harlequin is a dream come true. And finding a position with Love Inspired was a great way to combine my experience at Guideposts Books with my love of romance.
When I was interviewing for my job at Love Inspired, I was asked what I thought made a great romance novel. My immediate response was strong, interesting characters. A book or television show can have an intriguing plot with lots of twists and turns, but if I don’t become emotionally attached to the people, I have a hard time losing myself in the story. I want to fall for the hero and heroine, hate the villain, melt over the children, or laugh at the persistent matchmaker.
Here are some ways your characters can catch my attention:
One of the most important parts of character building is making sure that your story has real conflict. Recently, I received a submission that I was excited about. The synopsis was interesting, and the first three chapters looked promising. However, when I read the full manuscript, I saw that the hero and heroine didn’t have enough internal conflict. In fact, the problems with their reunion romance could have been solved in one very simple conversation, especially since they admitted to themselves early on that they still loved each other.
That type of conflict doesn’t make a reader connect with the characters. In fact, it tends to be frustrating that the hero and heroine can’t get past a small misunderstanding. Their internal conflicts should be deeper. They should have issues that they have to battle through before accepting that they have fallen for each other. I want to know if something in their past has made them afraid of love and trusting somebody. Or if there is some reason they plan to never marry. Make it interesting, and give your characters more complexity.
This also applies to the villains. They should have some motivation that doesn’t just boil down to them being insane. Why is the villain specifically targeting the hero and heroine? Make sure the reasoning is believable so that the reader can understand the villain’s perspective.
Little habits, mannerisms, and nervous ticks are what bring characters to life. People aren’t perfect. They get nervous and their hands shake, palms sweat, they pace, or they tap their foot. Some people shriek with joy, jump up and down, or just get a huge grin. People laugh or cry when they are happy, angry, afraid, or uncomfortable. Incorporating these kinds of behaviors into your character and making them consistent throughout your book will humanize the personalities that you are creating. Pay attention to your own mannerisms and to those of your friends and family and think about including them in your stories.
Probably the quickest way to draw readers in and make them form attachments to the characters is to show the bonds they have with others in the book. If your manly hero melts around the single mother’s young child, we’ll melt over him. When sibling bonds are strong—and a bit of familial teasing is involved—the characters really come to life. Bonds are so essential because the reader can see why others love your characters. And it is also important to see how they interact with a villain. Many times, the person trying to turn their lives upside down is someone they are close to. If they always seem suspicious of the character, readers become suspicious as well. Sometimes it’s better for them to know or trust the villain as a friend or acquaintance before they are betrayed.
Finally, your characters should have an interesting background. Make sure that the reader knows what their occupations are. Tell us if they are close to their families or if they’ve been at odds for years. We need to know that they have a history and a life outside of this one book. Otherwise, the small glimpse into their lives is lacking. But be sure to filter background in carefully. You don’t want it to take over your story.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on how you can build engaging characters. Let me know in the comments if you have anything to add or any questions. And check out this Harlequin blog for more on character building: http://sold.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/2015/07/advice-from-the-archives-creating-characters/
Ruthy here, so excited to be hosting Dina! Dina, thank you for being here... thank you for your expertise and your wisdom. We've got delicious bagels from Bits, Bites and Baguettes, and a tray of pastries from Financier, one of my favorite NYC haunts...
Coffee is ready... come on inside, leave a comment or ask Dina a question, and we'll throw your name into the drawing (I don't use the cat dish for editors, it seems unseemly...) for an assortment of Love Inspired books and $8 Amazon gift cards to celebrate our upcoming 8th BIRTHDAY!!!
We've got copies of "Healing the Lawman's Heart", "Rekindling the Widower's Heart" (Glynna Kaye), "The Doctor's Second Chance", (Missy Tippens), "Person of Interest" and "Stranded" (Debby Giusti)... Tell us what you'd like and I'm going way out on a limb here and figuring everyone's in for the $8 Amazon gift cards!!!