Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tips for Creating Characters

BY: Love Inspired Assistant Editor Dina Davis

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!

Hi, Seekers! Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog today.

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:

Intriguing Conflict

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:

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!!!


Helen Gray said...

There's extra coffee brewing since you expect a big crowd today.

Thanks for the great tips.

Of course I want to be in the drawings.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good morning Dina, Thank you so much for joining us today in Seekerville. How exciting and congratulations on your new job at Love Inspired. You will be working with terrific authors.

Love your tips on deepening characters. This is a great list to review before sending out that manuscript. Thanks for the advice.

Enjoy your day. I know I'm going to enjoy one of the bagels Ruthy brought.

Missy Tippens said...

Welcome, Dina!! I enjoyed meeting you at RWA and am glad you've joined us today!

These are such great reminders about our characters. I really loved the advice to show the characters interact with the people around them so we can see what others think about them. That's a great way to show a story rather than tell.

Keli Gwyn said...

Hi, Dina! I was excited when I saw that news on Twitter that you were joining the Love Inspired team. I've heard great things about you from one of your former colleagues at Guideposts.

Congratulations on your first author acquisition! I know the author was excited, but I'm curious. How excited were you?

As a writer I love creating characters and try to bear in mind the great points you included in your post. As a reader I'm all about the characters. I love it when an author crafts characters who are fun to spend time with but have flaws to overcome just as I do.

Could you name some characters who have captured your attention as a reader and stayed with you over the years and what makes them so memorable?

Mary Preston said...

Very useful tips for any writer.

Look at those pastries!!

Cindy W. said...

Good morning Dina! Thank you so very much for the great tips on characterization. I know when I read a book, if the character doesn't pull me in early on, I'm left feeling no connection to the book. I love it when a character pulls me in and I become one with that character throughout the story.

Ruthy, the pastries look wonderful! Wow!

I would love to be in the drawings, except for Person of Interest (I just purchased a copy last week).

You all have a blessed day!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Jill Weatherholt said...

Hi Dina! Congratulations on your first author acquisition. That must be exciting for you.
Thank you so much for these beneficial tips. I've printed this for my Seekerville notebook. It will be a great reference guide for my current and future projects.

Tina Radcliffe said...

WELCOME, DINA!! Oh, my gosh..this is soo helpful. Thanks so much.

Printing this off as I completed my WIP!

Jackie said...

Welcome to Seekerville Dina,

What a great post! I'm adding it to my Love Inspired folder. Thanks!

Dina, if you're not writing suspense, can the villain be a situation? Like the hero works starts a charity for vets with PTSD, and the heroine has recently moved to a new town (where the hero currently lives) to raise her young nephew. They have other conflicts, but this will be a biggie.

Ruthy, I'd love to be in the drawing for Missy's new book. Thanks!

Glynna Kaye said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Dina --and congratulations on joining the wonderful Love Inspired team! Thank you for the great tips, too!

Janet Dean said...

Dina, welcome to Seekerville! It's very exciting to have you here!

Thanks for the excellent tips for creating strong characters. Especially the tip to show characters through their interaction with friends. That's a terrific way to show the hero is lovable when he's causing the heroine trouble. :-)

I often forget to use mannerisms and quirks in my stories. Must remember to do that!


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, I'm trying to not be a pig with that tray of pastries. You may need to slap my hand.


Jillian Kent said...

Oh my gosh you guys. I'm trying to lose weight. Those pastries are calorie free, right? Like the post, Dina. One of the things I've worked on remembering when building characters is smell. A great hero or heroine has to smell the part in my opinion. I guess that could get dangerous if what you write doesn't mesh with what the reader thinks is a great smelling guy or gal but hey, take the risk.

Jeanne T said...

I always love to hear about writing from an editor's perspective. :) I know I need to work on incorporating family into my books. In my current story, I realized I made one mention of the younger sister, and then she never shows up or is mentioned again. I'm going to have to rectify that.

I also always love to see how a hero heals a heroine's wound in a story. :)

Please put me in the drawings!

RUTHY—those pastries look deee-licious!

Connie Queen said...

Good morning Dina.

I think it's so cool you joined LI just in time for the Blurb2Book contest. Talk about initiation onto the team!

When you mentioned characterization my mind always jump to an author that I've mistakenly grabbed her books twice because her name was similar to another well-known author. This lady had a lot of action in her stories and the plot was good, but I just couldn't get into the book. I finally realized I didn't care about the characters. They could die for all I cared. (This was a suspense. LOL.)

Great points and love seeing you at Seekerville.

Sally Shupe said...

Thank you so much for this great post, Dina! It is very timely as I just got in the mail yesterday Creating Characters. Two questions: the story I am working on now, the hero is an abused animal investigator. What would be some tips on making the character come to life without being too descriptive in his occupation? And, could you further explain internal conflict? What would be some types of internal conflicts that you'd like to see? Please enter me in the drawing for one of the books: "Healing the Lawman's Heart", or "Person of Interest" or "Stranded" (Debby Giusti)Thanks!

Cindy Regnier said...

Good Morning Seekerville and thank you to Dina for a very informative post. Wondering what some of you think about platform. I have the impression that Harlequin doesn't put as much value on an author platform as many other publishers? Am I correct? Why is this? I have a hard time with platform, maybe because I don't really believe it's as important as it's made out to be. Great characters and a great plot make a great book. Right? My thanks to Harlequin for giving so many new authors a chance!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Dina, welcome to Seekerville! I'm so glad you're here, and as I read your blog and posted it, this is all stuff we should know...

But sometimes we get caught up in the story/plot and forget those important details that make characters relatable/lovable/wonderful/unforgettable.

Helen, thank you for the coffee, and folks if you've got questions for Dina, jump in! THINK: NEW EDITORS ARE LOOKING FOR AUTHORS!!!!

And Dina, huge congrats on Blurb2Book success! What a great contest, and I'm delighted to have so many friends of Seekerville get THE CALL!!!! Happy dancing!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pastries... Financier in NYC.... there is one outside my hotel in Lower Manhattan. It is outside the sweet Catholic church as well... It CALLS ME!!! And I always bring home a box of treats when we drive down to Manhattan because my girls at home will love me even more!

Amazing pastries. Really. Truly. I mean it. I know this is totally off-topic, but I could just find me a corner in a Financier Pastry/coffee shop and be happy forever.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Connie Queen, I love to care about characters. The hero in Missy's "The Doctor's Second Chance"... Oh be still my heart!!!!!

And Tina's heroine in "Safe in the Fireman's Arms" had me laughing the whole time... and I fell in love with her hero. He was so wonderfully engaging by just being funny, kind and manly.

I once said to a new author "You've got to give me a reason to care about this heroine."

I hurt her feelings, and I felt bad, but gosh, this isn't a sensitivity training class. This is writing, this is business, this is work your way up the ladder with willingness to change and adjust.

Caring about characters is clutch!

Rose said...

Hi Dina,

Congratulations on landing your 'dream job' at Harlequin!

Are there certain hero/heroine occupations that pique your interest in a manuscript?

Connie Queen said...

And folks, Ruthy was right when she said Dina was sweet.

Dina gave me great feedback on my Blurb2Book contest entry. So happy to see Dina here today!

Dina Davis said...

Hi Everyone!

I'm so happy to be here with you today. Thanks again, Ruth, for inviting me. You are so right about new editors wanting to find new authors. To answer one of Keli's questions, I was very excited to make my first offer call to Christina Miller. I really fell in love with that story and those characters, so I was jumping for joy (internally while smiling professionally externally) when I was given the go ahead to buy the book. Since it is Christina's first full length novel, she and I will have the chance to learn and grow together while working on her book.

Jackie Smith said...

Nice to meet you, Dina! Seekerville gives us "readers" many chances to meet great people!

Ruthy, I've read the books (loved them) so I would love to be in for the gift card. THANKS!

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Thank you Dina,

As I'm working through my edits, the things you addressed today are resonating.
How timely!

Appreciate your insight and attention to detail.
Great info.
Another Seekerville "keeper" post!

Have a pawsome day in Seekerville!

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

OOOH ~ and Ruthie,

Thank GOODNESS those are virtual goodies.

Nom nom nom... :)

Erica Vetsch said...

So great to learn more about Dina. I love the advice on mannerisms. I'm always on the lookout for a personality quirk to make a character stand out.

kaybee said...

Interesting! My beta reader just finished the story I'm shopping around, and she said she couldn't get close to the POV character and felt no empathy with her. The POV character is an impoverished widow who takes a job cooking on the Oregon Trail because she has no home, money or family. I don't know how she wouldn't feel empathy for THAT, but guess I've got some work to do.
Enter me in the giveaway.
Kathy Bailey

cathyann40 said...

I love Ruth's books. I'd love to win a giftcard of course.

Wilani Wahl said...

Dina, I am realizing how important it is to develop your characters. This is very helpful to me. Thank you so much.

Ruthy, please enter me in the drawings.

Dina Davis said...

I'll jump right in to answer some of your questions.

Keli: I could go on forever listing characters that drew me in and stuck with me over the years. But that would just bore you, so I'll just name a few. I read GONE WITH THE WIND when I was in middle school, but I will never forget Scarlett O'Hara. She is one of those characters who made me feel like I knew her personally because there were times when I loved her and times when I despised her. I think that she has stuck with me for so long because there are so many levels to her and the way that she interacts with others. I loved that she was a strong female determined to succeed in her life (even if I didn't always agree with her methods). She was someone who struggled continuously against internal and external conflict, but didn't always prevail. Characters should be flawed, as long as we can see them develop as people as they go. I was able to watch her grow as a person, and by the end of the book, I was hoping that she could finally realize her happiness, but we all know how that ended...

Another character I'll never forget is The MacGregor (Daniel MacGregor) from Nora Roberts' MacGregor series. He was hilarious. I loved how the man meddled in all of his children's and grandchildren's love lives. He is a prime example of bonds really helping to showcase a character's personality. He'll always be my favorite matchmaker.

Really, there have been so many that have touched me over the years, and if you can get me to connect with your hero and heroine, you are well on the way to selling me on your manuscript. And if you can make me cry for them, I'll always remember the story. Lois Richer managed this recently when I was reading her Love Inspired book that will be coming out in March. The characters had such great internal conflict that the confession of love brought me to tears.

Dina Davis said...

Jackie: Of course the villain can be a situation in a non-suspense novel. I feel like there is always some kind of villain, even if it comes in the form of PTSD, trying to find your place in a new town, the struggle against the system to adopt children that the hero and heroine have fallen for, learning to move on after the death of a spouse, or so many other forms. And even in books that aren't suspense, sometimes there are still actual villains, like a person who is trying to take away the hero's ranch. The "villain" or internal or external conflict doesn't always have to be manifested in a person.

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome, Dina! Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us today! It's always enlightening to get an editor's perspective on what works and what doesn't.

One point you made that especially resonated with me is the bond between the hero or heroine and other characters in the story. I've had a really good time with that aspect of my current wip--the hero and his best friend/mentor. Kind of brotherly, kind of sarcastic, but always caring and concerned. With my heroine, it's the give-and-take between her and her sisters with very different personalities.

Must read your post again and often for these great reminders!

Dina Davis said...

Jillian: I love your comment about smell. That can really help with the characterization. One of the upcoming LIS books mentions that the heroine smells of strawberries, and that was a great little detail.

Although on the other hand, I did see one submission in which the hero talks about the heroine as if she needs to learn about personal hygiene, and the heroine mentions that she frequently gets sprayed by skunks. Please stay away from these types of smells. They will not appeal to a reader!

Barbara Scott said...

Dina, so glad to have you stop in for some coffee and pastry and give us such great advice! As the MasterCard commercial says, "Priceless!" And congratulations on your semi-new job with LI.

Couple of quick questions: Do you consider unagented material outside of LI contests? Also, is there a downside for you in receiving a proposal from an agent? Inquiring minds want to know.

RUTHY, since we have an editor in the house, I think you were wise to kick the cat dish under the counter today. But please throw my name in the drawing for any book except Healing the Lawman's Heart by you. I've already read it! Soooo good.

Dina Davis said...

Sally: As for your abused animal investigator, I can see why you wouldn't want to go into those details because every time I see one of those commercials or Facebook posts with graphic images, I cringe. And we don't want that to happen with your readers. However, a great way to bring the character to life is to filter in the back story. Why did this job call to him? Also, I would definitely suggest that he has one or two rescued animals as pets. The interaction between him and a dog that cowers away whenever anyone comes near can really show a gentler side of his character. If we can see him working with an animal to help it socialize, we'll be drawn to your hero. I hope those hints help. I'd need to know more about the story and his conflicts and relationships to give you anything deeper than that.

Internal conflict can really be anything brought on by the character's past that makes him/her not want a relationship. Maybe your character's spouse died and he/she doesn't think that they can love the same way again. Perhaps the person they are growing close to is someone who already hurt them in the past. Reunion romances are great this way because the conflict is twofold. The character was hurt once and is now afraid of romances, and he/she is particularly afraid of falling for the same person again. Maybe your character witnessed his/her parents' abusive relationship and doesn't think that people can love each other without hurting each other. There are so many types of internal conflicts, and I'd love to see any of them, especially if you can come up with a new twist on an old hook.

Caryl Kane said...

Dina, what author/s inspired you to write? Thanks for the great post.

Sherri Shackelford said...

I always love to hear editor insights! I recently watched a Brene Brown video on blame - and I had this 'ah hah' moment for a secondary character. We've all worked with someone who has to assign blame immediately when something goes wrong. (We can't solve the problem until we figure who is at fault!) I think people can relate to that because it's a common personality type most of us have encountered.

I also enjoy watching good actors. It's amazing how much a great actor can convey in a single look. I watched two seasons of Peaky Blinders (it's extremely violent, so I don't recommend watching it) The main character was a violent gangster, and I was hooked from the beginning. He had good bonds - he was fiercely loyal to his family. He had a compelling backstory - World War I hero. The bleak post industrial revolution landscape lent an underdog vibe to the gangsters. You know, when you have that guilty moment of, "This guy is awful and I'm totally rooting for him."

I wish I had those skills!

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

Intriguing, real conflict definitely makes a difference. I agree, those in which the conflict could have been solved in one simple conversation are so frustrating! I always feel slightly cheated when it's easily worked out. But if they have to really work for it, the romance seems all the sweeter.

Dina Davis said...

Rose: For LIS, there are certain hero/heroine jobs that really work, such as police officers, current or former soldiers, PIs, or anything else that makes them great for dealing with deadly situations. And in all three Love Inspired lines, we love the cowboys/rancher and anyone Amish. But in general, if you can find an occupation outside of the box and really make it work for the story, I'd love to see it. I recently read an LIS submission about a woman who provides emotional therapy through scuba diving, and that really piqued my attention because it isn't something you see every day.

But please research the occupation that you choose! I actually went to school for print journalism and recently read a manuscript about a journalist. As I read it, I found myself frustrated with the character because he was not acting the way a professional journalist should. Some readers choose a book because it involves an occupation they know a lot about, and if it isn't properly researched, that reader probably won't want to return to read your future books.

Myra Johnson said...

Dina said: "Internal conflict can really be anything brought on by the character's past that makes him/her not want a relationship."

This is another point I need to keep in the forefront of my mind when figuring out my characters' background and motivations.

Dina Davis said...


Do you consider unagented material outside of LI contests? Yes! Please submit here:

Also, is there a downside for you in receiving a proposal from an agent? No. There are no downsides to receiving a proposal from an agent. In fact, since we have relationships with agents, editors usually prioritize reading those and giving our feedback before reading anything unsolicited.

Julie Lessman said...


I'm with you -- "strong, interesting characters" are exactly where it is for me, too, and I think for most readers. It's people we are relating to and how they interact/react in a plot, not necessarily the plot itself.

One of the first characters who grabbed me by the throat and MADE me want to read about her was Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. Oh. My. Goodness!! She was not likable, but strong and interesting??? She had it in spades, which in the end, made me like her more than any other character I'd read for a long, long time.

Every single one of your points are so dead-on -- thank you!! As an editor I guess you're trained to focus on those important points, so we appreciate you sharing them today.

And SUPER CONGRATS on landing the job of your dreams at LI -- I pray God blesses you richly in your new endeavor.


Dina Davis said...

Caryl: The author who really inspired me to want to edit romance novels is Nora Roberts. But I've loved many authors over the years, such as J.K. Rowling, V.C. Andrews, Jane Austen, Stephen King, Katherine Paterson, Lois Lowry, George Orwell, C. S. Lewis, and so many others.

Barbara Scott said...

Thanks, Dina! My agent is shopping Dreams of My Heart, a historical romance, right now. I'll give him your name and info. :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi DINA, I'm finding your comments as helpful as your post. Thanks again for being here and giving us such timely info.

Cara Lynn James said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Dina! Great information about characterization. It's so important to define and individualize our characters so they become vivid and memorable. Like Scarlett O'Hara who really stands out in my mind. Even though I didn't always like her I certainly remember her. And Rhett, too.

Melissa Jagears said...

I love good characters. A book I just read only kept me reading because of the hero. I actually couldn't stand the heroine, but the hero was great and pulled me through.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

The MacGregor!!!! I still love him, too!

He was the larger than life Grandpa we all loved and wanted to claim!

Daniel MacGregor, one of the best!

My foremost (that I didn't write!!!) would be Hush Thackery "Sweet Hush" and Mary Connealy's "Belle Tanner".

I still love that woman.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Dina, I knew Julie would love you instantly, the SCARLETT O'HARA connection!

And I had no money when I started my self-taught lessons on writing, and used the library to research the best-selling romance authors: Nora Roberts and Linda Howard then... and then I took that and worked with it, but with my own take on inspirational.

There is so much to learn from other authors, and I find studying them is way better for me than studying technique... because their use of technique shows me so much more.

Kathryn Barker said...

Hi Dina,

Thanks for sharing some of your journey on the road to your dream job! And congrats on acquiring your first novel!!

Great post with fantastic tips! I'm printing it off to keep as a handy reference while revising my current finished novel. Look out hero and heroine, your lives are about to change!

Are there any scones on that pastry tray? I'm craving one to have with my tea!!

Would love to be entered in the drawing!! Thanks Seekerville for always encouraging us!!

Lyndee H said...

Hi Dina,
As I sit on the edge of my seat awaiting Blurb2Book news (#TeamLIH), I am soaking in every word of your advice. Thank you for sharing your insights.

I read Gone with the Wind when I was a teen and Scarlett O'Hara impressed me so deeply that I thought about her long after the last page. Happily, the film did not diminish that characterization. Both the book and film are two of my all time favorites. Of course, it helps that the story takes place during 'my era.'

Many thanks to Harlequin/Love Inspired for such unique contest/submission opportunities. It must be hard on you editors, but from my perspective, it has been great fun sharing Blurb2Book victories with my newly contracted writer friends and a wonderful learning experience.

Dina Davis said...

Ruth, Julie and Cara,

The women in my family all love GONE WITH THE WIND and Scarlett O'Hara. I grew up with the book, movie, Scarlett and Rhett Barbies, and even a 3D puzzle of Tara. In fact, my grandmother named my mother after Melanie, and my mother still insists her name should have been Scarlett.

And I completely agree that reading as many books from as many authors as you can will improve your writing. There are so many great examples out there.

Debby Giusti said...

Dina, it was so nice meeting you at RWA! Thrilled that you're part of the Love Inspired Editorial Team. Waving to Emily, my wonderful editor! :)

Thanks for writing such a great blog on Creating Characters. Wonderful tips and good reminders for all of us. Like others have mentioned, I need to give my characters a few unique mannerisms. Loved the strawberry smell. Such an interesting twist on scent. I often pick lemon-lime. Need to throw berries into the mix! :)

Kathryn Barker said...


You're such a teacher!! Well, the way I remember GOOD teachers! I LOVED your comment!!

"I hurt her feelings, and I felt bad, but gosh, this isn't a sensitivity training class. This is writing, this is business, this is work your way up the ladder with willingness to change and adjust."

One of my best writer friends (published) took a look at a few chapters for me. When I got them back, I smiled, thanked her, went home and cried...but then decided I'd better put on my big girl panties and get busy!! I treasure her honesty!!

Thanks for being kind enough to be honest!! BTW---am loving HEALING THE LAWMAN'S HEART!!

Loves To Read said...

What an interesting post! I love characters with interesting hobbies, quirks, etc. it just makes them seem so real. Please enter me in the drawing for the Amazon cards and books!

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning, Dina! How thrilling to be at Love Inspired, and so many great ideas in your post! I'm saving it for later when I need to add that bit of oomph to my story.

Thank you, Ruthy, for hosting, and please put me in the drawing for any of the books! :-)

Sally Shupe said...

Dina, "I'd need to know more about the story and his conflicts and relationships to give you anything deeper than that."

The hero has a farm where the animals he has rescued can stay until homes are found. He has a horse and some other animals that he rescued. Thanks for the tip about showing an interaction between the hero and a rescued animal. He has a teenage (14 years old) niece he has taken in due to the recent deaths of his sister and brother-in-law. His sister is older than he is.
The heroine is afraid to get close to him b/c there was a ‘misunderstanding’ and she was accused of abusing an animal. Kind of like the way they meet and she assumes the worst about him. She’s wary of his position, and her previous boyfriend found someone new, she found out the hard way, so she isn’t looking for love.
The heroine has a cat and something happens that makes him think she might not have been telling the whole truth about the abuse case she had been involved in. Can he trust her? Thanks for your input. I greatly appreciate it!

Debby Giusti said...

I, too, am a member of the GONE WITH THE WIND fan club. The FOX Theater in downtown ATL was where the film premiered, as you all know. Anytime I see a play there, I always imagine the excitement of that night when seemingly the whole world was focused on Rhett and Scarlett. As a young girl, Margaret Mitchell frequently visited a relative of hers who lived in a lovely house about 7 miles from my home. After dinner, the family would sit on the porch and tell stories about the Old South. A bit farther away, in Jonesboro, probably a 30 minutes drive, is the farm house that she wrote about and named Tara in GWTW. It's not the grand mansion that we see on the big screen, but it's a lovely two-story home that's steeped in history.

Dina Davis said...


The orphaned niece is a great hook. His interactions with her and the animals will definitely help give the reader a sense of your hero's character. Since the niece is a teenager who just lost her parents, she'll probably be a handful and he'll have to be just as gentle and understanding with her as he is with the animals. However, none of us are perfect, so I'm guessing the two of them would bump heads a lot since he is a bachelor suddenly taking care of a teen. I'd also want to see some backstory about the sister. Were they close? How much older was she? Did they grow up together? How is he handling her death? How did the parents die? Did the niece and her parents live near him, or does the niece now have to move pretty far to a farm? Was the niece living in the country before, or does he have to help her adjust from city to farm life on top of everything else?

Also, the hero doesn't seem to have much of an internal battle going on. What has happened in his life that would make him hesitant to begin a relationship? Has he been in a bad relationship before or witnessed one? Or have so many of his loved ones (like his sister) died that he is afraid of loving anyone else? Is he worried that bringing a woman into his life will make things even harder on the niece?

As for your heroine, there seems to be some great internal and external conflict happening there. I'd also want to see some great scenes of her interacting with the hero's niece, possibly giving some motherly advice. Who else is in her life that she could interact with outside of the hero and his niece? What is her occupation? Does she have any hesitations about taking on an orphaned teen? She'd need to fall in love with the niece while falling for the hero.

Don't forget to make the reader feel sympathy for the niece as well. She is also very important to your story.

I hope this helps! If you answer some of these questions in your manuscript and throw in some personality quirks, you should be able to make a reader fall for your characters.

Christina Miller said...

So good to see you here, Dina! Thank you for the kind words about my book. And your writing advice was great!

While Dina is new to LI, she certainly is no novice! Her suggestions for my book have made it much stronger, and she is a dream to work with. LI is blessed to have her on their team! And so am I.

Sally Shupe said...

Thank you so much for your comments, Dina. I so appreciate them and will be incorporating them. The niece and the hero absolutely bump heads. She did not live close so they are getting to know each other, plus he's trying to be the guardian he thinks his sister would want him to be. The heroine is opening a store. A flood has hit the town and the niece offers to help her clean up. She and the niece hit it off and the hero can't believe how the niece acts around the heroine considering the bumps they have hit. The niece also has to adjust to living in the country. The hero is focusing on the niece and he has had something happen that he isn't looking for a relationship. The heroine has a best friend that she talks to, who is there for her when she finds out about her boyfriend. The heroine loves the niece, thinks she's very brave for moving to a new place and trying to fit in and deal with her parents' death. They have conversations and interact so the heroine can give her advice.

Valri said...

Welcome Dina! Always great to see things like this since I'm a reader! I love all the "behind the scenes" stuff! And Ruthy, you know I love anything you do :)
BTW, GONE WITH THE WIND is my favorite all time book and movie!!!!


Janet Dean said...

Dina, I have never forgotten Scarlet for the same reasons you mention. Do you think LIH would be open to a heroine like Scarlet that readers will both love and despise?


Debby Giusti said...

Congrats, Christina, on your success!

Dina Davis said...

Since our readers come to us for inspirational romance, they really expect the characters to be likeable, so I wouldn't suggest creating one that they'd despise. However, I'm not against some Scarlett-esque qualities. I like strong-minded, independent women (but not quite so independent that it is impossible to let a man into her life). And her history doesn't always have to be the cleanest, as long as she has now found religion and moved past shadier elements in her past. We have an LIH coming out soon in which the heroine is a reformed safe cracker, and there is an LIS with a reformed thief heroine.

I would not, however, suggest going quite as far as Scarlett did in some instances, such as stealing her sister's fiance, marrying Rhett for wealth, etc...

Jodie Wolfe said...

Welcome, Dina and great advice on building characters. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Dina, I just laughed out loud picturing you getting the go-ahead for your first sale, jumping for joy inside while remaining professional on the outside. :) :) I love it!

Janet Dean said...

Dina, I can see that Scarlet at her worse would be going to far.

Stories with a reformed safe cracker and reformed thief sound like fun reads! Their pasts would surely up the internal conflict, especially if the heroes are with law enforcement.


Sandy Smith said...

Thanks for your post, Dina. Very interesting and great advice on characters. I think characters need to be human with some foibles, but they also need to be likeable. When I read a book where I just don't like the character, I can't get into it. I try to keep that in mind with my writing.

Please put me in the drawing Ruthy. I would like any of those books, but if I was going to pick just one, make it Person of Interest. That has intrigued me. Of course, I would like that Amazon card, too! :)

Janet Dean said...

Debby, lucky you to be surrounded by GWTW history. An elderly friend gave me a book entitled Margaret Mitchell & John Marsh The Love Story Behind Gone with the Wind.
Fascinating book!


Sally Shupe said...

Oh, Janet. That book sounds great! Would love to read it. I had never heard of it.

Heidi Robbins said...

I recently read a book I absolutely loved and after reading your post I can see how the author incorporated all the points you mentioned which definitely contributed to how I connected with the characters and story. Best wishes on discovering some amazing authors for us to enjoy! :)

Angel Moore said...

Dina, thanks for sharing your perspective here. Insight into your side of the business is always helpful.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kathryn, thanks for not thinking I'm a big meany-pants! :) Gentle honesty (rather than blunt force trauma) is always best, right? Although if I'd KNOWN how she was going to react, I probably would have sugar coated it.

Naw. :)

Sherida Stewart said...

Congratulations, Dina, on your dream job at Harlequin and your first acquisition. (Yay, Blurb2Book and all the new LI authors!) I love the image of you internally jumping for joy and externally smiling politely....perfect for a post on characterization!

Your points about making our characters touch the hearts of our readers are tips I need to review. My hero has friends and a close family, but my heroine needs something more. She's an independent loner with a somewhat dysfunctional family. I'll be working on that aspect. I do have trouble with writing about the mannerisms and portraying those in a realistic way. More people watching is in order. Additionally, thank you for all the suggestions you made in the comments. Great thoughts!

Ruthy, please put my name in the discreetly placed cat dish for Glynna's book and Debby's "Stranded".......the only ones I don't already have. How did I not pick those two up? Will definitely be putting Financier on my list of places to visit in NYC......perfect for an afternoon tea treat!

Dina Davis said...

Thanks, Sherida!

The independent loner with a dysfunctional family can be a very interesting backstory. If she has no friends and family that she can rely on, sometimes her best interactions will be with his family. Does he have an older brother that might tease her like she's his sister, or a sister that she can grow close to? Or maybe his mother decides to take the heroine under her wing. Not everyone has lots of friends and family, so don't think that your character is lacking because of that detail. Plus, she could always have a pet. :)

Mary Connealy said...

Terrific post, Dina.
Everyone who wants to write for LI should copy it and take it to heart.
But then everyone who wants to write romance for ANYONE should take it to heart.
Great solid details about what an editor wants and how to give it to her!

Mary Connealy said...

I like the way you put the BONDS section, Dina.

I always say to make your characters likable, have someone like them.

But BONDS is maybe a clearer way to explain this. Show that your character, even if they are difficult, have people who love them and you will, unavoidable, show your character behaving with them in a lovable way. And those bonds, family, friends, pets, who or whatever, are the bonds that make that work.

Mary Connealy said...

Ruthy, Kathryn thinks you're a meany-pants? Where did she get that idea.

Oh wait, isn't your email address

Something like that.

Mary Connealy said...

I just finished Myra's The Sweetest Rain. Such a perfect conflict and so beautifully presented. It was so organic to the lives of the hero and heroine that my imagination said the only solution was the villain's death.

maybe someone could shoot him?

But Myra went another way, God bless you. Wonderful book, beautifully written. GO MYRA!

Mary Connealy said...

nd I just finished Refuge of the Heart by our very own Ruthy. So far I love this new publisher. These two early examples of what Franciscan Media is doing are wonderful.
I have rarely cared so much about a hero and heroine as I did in Refuge of the Heart. The perfect example of emotionally connecting to characters like Dina talks about.

Very powerful book, Ruthy.

Okay, I'm done.

I will go back to mocking you now.

How did you ever decide to use a CAT DISH to draw names? What were you thinking?

A Stetson is so much cooler and that is just undeniable!

Rhonda Starnes said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Dina! I really enjoyed your post, and I'll be printing a copy to use as a checklist as I complete my current manuscript.

Keli Gwyn said...

Dina, Scarlett is quite a character. I didn't warm to her as much as most, but she sure is memorable. I'm eager to check out Lois Richer's story. When a story can bring an editor to tears, that's saying something.

DebH said...

HI Dina
thanks for this post. i'll be referring to it as I revamp my one and only ms. i think i'm guilty of the not enough conflict part. all the other stuff is pretty interesting. i think more fleshing out of my characters will help me find that thing to generate the conflict i'm missing. I am very grateful you've taken the time to share your insights with Seekerville. I'm also glad to know that editors can get giddy about finding an author too. I guess they have their own version of "the Call".

ruthy, please sign me up for the Amazon card. i think i have all the Seeker books.

Tina Radcliffe said...

A reformed safe cracker. Oh, that sounds like a terrific premise!

Jackie said...

What a great day! Thanks so much!

Cate Nolan said...

Sorry to miss such a fun day. I had a long day trying to wrestle my classroom into submission after a summer of demolition and construction. What a MESS!

I really enjoyed chatting with you at RWA, Dina. Your enthusiasm for LI is contagious.

Thanks for sharing your tips here today. I have to admit, I'm one of those who learned the hard way that there have to be problems for the hero and heroine to deal with.


The Artist Librarian said...

Spot on regarding conflict --one of my friend's pet peeves with romance are the conflicts through misunderstandings that could have been cleared up if the hero and heroine simply talked to each other instead of being stubborn or assuming the worst. I can see her point but I also think it's kind of realistic --communication can be a struggle for certain couples. =)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, how can you diss me with one hand and then write sweet things about my work with the other???



I do that, too!!!!! :)

I just Myra's "The Sweetest Rain"!!!! I'm so excited! And Mary has a new granddaughter, I'm excited about that, too!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sally,

I hadn't heard of the book either. Wonder if you could find it in the library.

As I recall--its been years since I read it--it's detailed about the writing of the book, about the John and Margaret's relationship, about her personally. I think she modeled Scarlet after herself. :-) After Margaret was killed crossing Peachtree Street in Atlanta, John was instrumental in getting copyright laws abroad. At that time stories were serialized in newspapers abroad without paying for a word.


Bettie said...

Seekers...congrats on 8 years. It only took me seven to find you!

Dina...thank you so much for your fantastic advice. I will definitely use it as I work on my latest story. Thanks to so you think you can write I finished one manuscript. Unfortunately it was written in Heart song length and was rejected because the line was discontinued. I've been learning lots from my seeker ville friends and posts like yours in the meantime. If I get it reworked to L I Length with lots of corrections can it be Re submitted to that line? If I do that should I give it a different title so it isn't confused with the old manuscript? Thank you so much.

Walt Mussell said...

Great post today. I love the comments on the villains. When I write my manuscripts, I write the villains POV, knowing that I'll likely have to pull it later if it ever gets published.

Terri said...

Loved hearing an editor's perspective. I'll take all the insider knowledge I can get. :-)

Please include me in all the drawings.

Jessica Nelson said...

Awesome tips! Thanks for sharing. :-)

Suzanne Baginskie said...

Writing for LIS is my goal and this column about building the character traits is a keeper. Dina, you did a good job of showing us writers the importance of faith, family and friends needed to make them real instead of flat people on paper. Thanks for the great post, Dina.

Suzanne Baginskie said...

Forgot to say thanks for the coffee and the chance to win. Happy Eighth Anniversary! Lots of luck For continued success with the Love Inspired line.

Sarah Claucherty said...

Ruthy! Am I too late to hop into the drawing? Had zero time to post a comment yesterday...moving back to campus and starting classes for the semester has kept me insanely busy. :/ not insanely like a villain--just to clarify ;)

I would LOVE Missy's book, and I love gift cards (read: book funds) for Amazon!

Sarah Claucherty said...

Dina! Congrats on your very first acquisition!

I just want to print this post and pore over it again, scribble notes and thoughts along the margins and highlight certain things...DEFINITELY a post worth carefully saving!

Thanks for coming to Seekerville!

Sarah Claucherty said...

Almost 8 years! Wow, that is amazing!

ohiohomeschool said...

I enjoyed your post Dina. As a reader I am shouting "Yes, please do that with characters!"
I would love to be in the drawing for the Amazon card and the book Rekindling the Widower's Heart" (Glynna Kaye). I have the rest. :-)

Becky B

Unknown said...

Another reason to have Pinterest is to pin these great posts! Dina, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I loved what you had to say about bonds. I didn't realize how much it meant to me until I read it and said yes out loud.

Happy 8th birthday Seekerville!
Please include me in the drawing, and I would definitely love to win "The Doctor's Second Chance" by Mssy Tippens

Julie Arduini said...

Great post! Congratulations on being part of the LI team.

Christina Miller and I are in the same critique group. Readers, you're going to love her work. She has strong characters you won't soon forget. I love her submissions.

Elva Cobb Martin, South Carolina said...

Good post! I'm printing it out and sharing on Twitter.
Elva Cobb Martin, President, ACFW-SC Chapter

Deanne said...

Dina, congratulations on your exciting new job with Love Inspired. I am looking forward to more new and exciting author acquisitions. Love Inspired is my favorite book line. You have a true fan here . Please throw my name in for the books and gift card and I'll drink some of that fortifying coffee !
Deanne Patterson
Cnnamongirl at aol dot com

Janet Kerr said...

Great tips on characters!