Anyone who knows me as an author knows my books are character driven, which means I have to create believable characters and I have to know them really well before I plop them down on page one of my book and let them run with the story. Sometimes I think I know them perfectly, and I am so sure I know what is going to happen next that when they take a hard turn away from my expectations, it’s surprising. But it’s also rewarding to know they are strong with hearts and minds of their own.
Most of my books are romances so they have a hero and a heroine created for people to care about. But who could ever care about Miss Nothing but Sweetness or Mr. Perfect and knows it? Often it’s the flaws in our characters that make them loveable. Even the traditional Alpha male who’s as handsome as a god and totally ripped, super smart and capable of lifting a car off a trapped child or shooting a neat round hole in the villain’s forehead from 1000 yards out has to have something to make him human. Maybe it’s his mom who’s ill and he never feels he can do enough to care for her. Or perhaps he has to hide his tears when a good friend dies. He might be haunted by memories from childhood or nightmares of things he’s seen or done. Maybe trusting his heart scares the crap out of him, or maybe he just can’t find the words to tell someone how much he cares.
Some of the heroes I’ve fallen the most in love with don’t even fit that description. In Pamela Morsi’s book, Simple Jess, she creates such a memorable hero who isn’t as smart, or successful and at first glance is the last man you would believe is the hero. But for all the heroic attributes he doesn’t have, he has a heart of gold, and an understanding of what the heroine needs that surprises everyone. If you haven’t read that book, you should. He’s one of my favorite heroes of all time.
It’s equally important for heroines to have their flaws. Sweetness and light and never making a wrong step can get pretty boring pretty quickly. Most readers want their heroines to have some spunk and sass. They want their heroines to make mistakes and find the courage and strength to overcome them. Maybe she did have an alcoholic father who beat her and she has never been able to forgive him, but when she comes upon a man so beaten down by his demons that he has chosen alcohol to forget, she can find the courage to see through the exterior to the hurting human being underneath and reach out to him.
But just as our heroines and heroes need to have flaws to be real, our villains need to have something that makes them real. Even a Mafia don can love his mother, or a hit man can have a soft spot for a dog. Perhaps the man is ruthless about tearing down his adversaries in business, but he never fails to be a gentleman to a woman. I recently critiqued a story that had a villain who was involved with running an enterprise that included enslaving people and rape and worse, yet every now and then the author gave this man a spark of human decency that made me care about him in spite of what he was doing. I began to see how he’d gotten where he was and that he sometimes wished he was not. He was still the bad guy, but flickers of his humanity made him a character with depth that the reader could relate to.
My first book published, Whatever It Takes is a mainstream intrigue and there are several point of view characters: my hero, of course, three other secondary characters who are decent people and one who is not so nice. All of them have secrets or things they aren’t always proud of. My main character has a past he has to face up to and deal with and it is the choices he makes that make him a hero. My villain discovers something about himself and what he’d believed in and dedicated his life to that revolted him and he, too has to make a choice. It is those choices that made them human and turn them into characters the reader can care about and cheer for.
Check out what some of these other great authors have to say about heroes, heroines and villains:
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Helena Fairfax http://helenafairfax.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/