Drawing a character without turning readers off
I love the character of Hana Du Rose. It’s probably because of all my fictional people, she’s the one who really came from the centre of me. Obviously I used poetic licence to make her more beautiful, more accomplished, more desirable and much more intelligent than me. Nobody wants to read about me, but with Hana they suck up every inference and adverb. Fans refer to her as though she’s a member of their own family, which is flattering when I consider she came out of my head. There’s not much of use in there usually.
Hana cries a lot though.
One of my beta readers pointed it out early on, thank goodness and I did a universal search on the root word ‘cry’ and discovered an embarrassing amount of tears which needed to be curbed. But curb them I did! She cries less nowadays.
There are heroines who sob until their floral hankies drip from trembling fingers and those who fight back. Lara Croft fights back but here’s the dilemma; Logan Du Rose wouldn’t fall in love with Lara Croft. There’s no room on the mountain for two egos that big, so Hana needed to be soft and delicate but not of the swooning variety. He wouldn’t go for that either.
Vomiting is another thing which seems to creep into my novels and other people’s. In my defense, my biggest vomiter was in the early stages of pregnancy and didn’t realise. Vomiting can be as bad as crying, but with more gross description. When I get particularly stressed and reach the end of my rope, I can go one of two ways; puke or sleep. Both are carefully honed avoidance tactics and I can do each with a similar amount of skill. Yeah, I know. The sleeping thing is weird. Poor Hana spends a lot of time stressed, mainly because she’s party to heaps of murder mystery type scenarios. If she crawled beneath the covers and slept each time Logan upset her; there wouldn’t be much to say.
In essence; your characters should cry and vomit sparingly.
A character evolves throughout a manuscript in the same way that we change and adapt to the pressures surrounding us. We click with one person but don’t with another, can have coffee with one whilst avoiding a prison sentence for manslaughter around people within the same friendship group. In order to understand how our character behaves, it’s a good idea to get in touch with the driving forces behind our own psyche.
Otherwise our character will be forced and appear false to the reader. Readers aren’t stupid. They know.
Have you ever read a book where the characters do the most peculiar things just to keep the plot moving? The girl who’s scared of her own shadow goes outside in the dark wearing only a towel and knowing there’s someone out there. We’re face palming and wondering what she’s playing at but out she goes; and dies. There’s the axe murderer. Game over. $2.99 wasted right there.
Hana is only Hana because of Logan. He does strong and tough for both of them but sometimes, she surprises him. Who she’s become over the course of the eight novels in the Hana Du Rose Mysteries is down to her interactions with him and the other people who wander in and out of her life. But mainly him.
It’s essential to keep character traits consistent. Yes, a person can do something so out of their usual sphere of behaviour that it surprises everyone including themselves but as writers, we need to use these incidences sparingly.
Otherwise our character will appear unhinged.
I read a book recently where the heroine was one minute sober and the next, raging around like an unchained bull. It provided an unsettling experience and not one I’d like to repeat. The author provided her character with no lead up, no change of heart which could have been used to create tension, just wham! Now she’s different and nothing like I’d come to believe. I didn’t like it.
But then again, nor do I like Mr and Mrs Dull who don’t do much, rarely leave the house and yet expect me to join them in their living room for 400 pages of scintillation. Ooh, is that…yes it is. It’s an axe murderer.
It doesn’t work.
Form your characters from the dust with love and invest your time into them. Let them react to their counterparts with naturalness and only change their plans or outlook by using clear events or explained changes of heart. There are some instances where it proves fun to keep the reader in the dark but no self-respecting page turner will persevere to the last chapter if it’s a constant series of unnatural surprises.
Imagine how you react to the people around you and make sure your character does the same.
Cry and vomit sparingly, just like in real life.
About Hana is FREE internationally.
Click on the cover to find out more.
K T Bowes is the writer of 18 mystery romances available on all eBook platforms. Each of her first in series are FREE so check them out on the BOOKS page of her website. As a person she’s pretty much alright, apart from the crying, sleeping and puking thing under pressure. She also answers all her own messages so feel free to contact her.