Monday, July 22, 2013

Story Characters are People Too

As a reader, when I pick up a book, the first thing I look for is at least one character in the cast that I can relate to. They don't have to be like me, but I do want to have some point of reference that I understand. It can even be something basic, like a woman who puts her family first, and the conflict involves the outside world telling her that other things are more important. Or it may be a person who shares the same interests as me.

As an author, I like to dig deep and get to know the people in my stories. I often do extensive character interviews to find out what happened in their past to motivate them to do the things they do in the story. This is generally where I find my conflict that creates the foundation for everything else. Doing this helps me write the proposal that my agent uses to sell the book to a publisher. Occasionally, the people in the story do something unexpected as I write, so I may even change things a bit, but I do my best to keep them (mostly) on track, or I risk going off on a self-indulgent tangent.

Even though I've lost most of my southern accent, I'm still a southern girl deep down. I love grits, fried okra, and hot buttered biscuits, and I think with a southern accent. 

In Missing Dixie, the first book in my Uptown Belles series with Charisma House, I've taken an Alabama girl out of a small town in the South and planted her in New York City. I think that alone offers a healthy dose of conflict. I've added a powerful reason for her to stay away from her hometown for a while and a born-and-raised-in-New-York man as the hero to add more ways to expose the heroine's vulnerabilities and nuances.

I enjoy reading other books set in the South, but I also like getting to know people from places I've never visited. The key is to find some common ground so I can feel what the characters feel and care enough to go on this 300-or-so-page journey with them. Although I prefer a female main character who loves the Lord, I'm willing to give a guy a chance if he loves his cat. And for me to pick up that author's next book, I need to see character growth with the main person in the story learning something that matters to me.

What character traits do you look for in stories?


Brandi Boddie said...

I like characters who are strong, learn from their mistakes, and who aren't afraid to be different. Given my propensity to be opinionated, I also like reading about heroines with the same trait ;-)

I love grits, too! My favorite are the yellow kind, since I'm from the north.

Debby Mayne said...

I like different characters too! I think Christian fiction is evolving and allowing even more diversity than ever - a very good thing in my book.

Yellow grits, huh? Mine are yellow after I put butter on them, but I have a feeling that's not what you're talking about. :-)

Martha W. Rogers said...

Keep the grits. I may be from the South (Texas) but I don't like grits.

However, I do like female characters who have grit. :) It's also good when the heroine has to rescue the hero in certain situations. Not all the time, but some time.

Debby Mayne said...

Martha, I agree! I love strong female characters! And it's so true to life to have heroines who rescue the hero!

Jillian Kent said...

I love grits! Men who like cats and all animals for that matter. I enjoy reading about and writing about characters who are loyal. Loyal to others and possibly to a cause they deem worthy.

Debby Mayne said...

Jillian, I remember reading a book with a guy lovingly stroking his cat and thinking that he was pretty wonderful. However, when he turned out to be the villain, my first thought was, "How can that be? He loved his cat!" I guess the author was trying to show that he was multidimensional. He didn't like people.