For our November Round Robin Blog Hop we were asked to describe a flawed or evil character we have or might use in a story. How did they become so flawed? What part will they play in the story and what will happen to them?
All of my stories have begun with what I call my bible of characters with a brief physical description and any other important detail that will influence the story. And my main character(s) have lengthy bios – sometimes several pages long. I know them inside and out, so I know how they will react when I throw them under the bus. I just drop them into the action and let them run with the ball.
Unlike a fairly large and devoted audience, I don’t watch programs like Criminal Minds or FBI Most Wanted because I find that level of evil a long way from entertaining. So, I guess it’s no surprise I’ve never really had a truly twisted, evil character in any of my books. At least, not on purpose . . . .
Years ago, I pitched The Candidate to an editor at a conference and she requested the manuscript. For reasons I no longer knew, I’d written it entirely from one man’s POV – my protagonist was a man in the midst of a hotly contested race for the White House when a personal crisis erupted that threatened everything he knew about himself and his candidacy. After she’d read my work, she said she loved the premise and the characters but felt there wasn’t enough tension in the story. (Apparently having your entire life thrown into disarray wasn’t tense enough at this critical juncture of his life?) But I returned to the manuscript with her comments in mind and ended up writing it from several points of view. I made it a three-way race for the presidency, but the story wasn’t about politics. It was about my hero and a difficult decision he faced, the candidate currently ahead in the polls hiding an important part of who he was personally, and a third candidate willing to do anything to win. About halfway through my write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants revision, I realized I had to create a villain and this third candidate ended up with a past that the voters wouldn’t be able to accept. I told his part of the story from his campaign manager’s point of view. Then I stirred up a Twitter storm to release bits and pieces of the the candidate’s past, and revealed the evil through the eyes of his horrified friend and advocate.
Blair Cabot and his nefarious deeds of the past catching up with him in the present did what that editor had asked for and turned an okay story into a really good read, but I never had any desire to use him again, thus his existence ended with The Candidate.
After that mainstream effort, I turned to romance/women’s fiction type stories, and have a reasonably successful series of 6 books (The Camerons of Tides Way). In book five, Keeping His Promise, I followed my usual formula, creating my hero and heroine with detailed bios, secret longings and passions, and current problems. Kate Cameron is vehemently against a plan to turn an old plantation willed to the town, and currently a drag on the town’s coffers into a second chance house for young men who’ve gone astray and want to get their lives headed in the right direction. The hero is a local cop who is in favor of the proposal. That was the external conflict I created for this pair who were falling in love in spite of their differences. I had my bible of characters made and was happily ¾ of the way through the story when I realized I needed some event, unavoidable facts or someone who would say or do something to change Kate’s mind. . . . Lucas Trevlyn walked in and sat down and took over the impasse.
Lucas had a mixed past. Once a good kid and an excellent soldier, then a man gone completely off the rails. A man who’d gotten in trouble with the law and done time behind bars. Twice! Not (remember I’m not entertained by stories that include twisted minds) an evil man, but certainly the sort you might cross the street to avoid, and caution your kids about. But he was also a man who had fallen so far that he’d lost hope and decided that he wasn’t worth taking up space on this earth . . . until an off-duty cop found him on the wrong side of the railing on a highway overpass and reached out a helping hand.
Like Blair Cabot, Lucas came into this story late, but filled a vital need for the plot. And he somehow captured my imagination. He now has a very detailed dossier and I have plans to write his story to add to the Camerons of Tide’s Way series. I already have a short story boiled down from that lengthy background that you can read here: Second Chances. Now I want to give him a new lease on life and his own happy ever after.
Check out what some other authors have done with the bad boys and girls in their stories:
Dr. Bob Rich
Rhobin L Courtright