Crafting Layered Characters in Romance

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Remember last week’s post about breathing life into your romance novels with character development? Today, I’m riding that wave right into the fun, occasionally tricky, but always satisfying world of character creation. Writing, a well-crafted character is as crucial as cheese on a pizza. And in my humble opinion, a cheese-less pizza is as disappointing as a romance novel without a swoon-worthy lead. Let’s roll up our sleeves and ensure no one’s left holding a metaphorical cheese-less pizza!

Creating characters that are as convincingly real as the person next door (or, if you’re being honest, as real as that cute barista you keep stalking on Instagram) is an art. It’s a process that requires a lot more than just picking a sultry name and a couple of alluring physical traits. You’re not just sketching a 2D image; you’re sculpting a 3D figure with depth and complexity.

What you’re really aiming for is a concoction of strengths that make your characters admirable and appealing. Sure, a ripped six-pack or the ability to rock a little black dress can make hearts flutter (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!). But it’s the inner qualities, the mental and emotional muscle, that turn a passing interest into a lasting fascination. It’s their courage in the face of adversity, their unwavering loyalty, their sharp wit, or their relentless optimism that truly makes them stand out.

These quirks could be something like a hidden insecurity that pops up at the worst times, or a stubbornness that could give a mule a run for its money. Maybe it’s a temper that lights up like Fourth of July fireworks when they least expect it. Or how about a fear of spiders? And I’m not just talking about a mild discomfort, but a full-blown, all-consuming terror. Picture this: my hubby, a big ol’ teddy bear standing a mighty 6’4″ and weighing in at a solid 225lbs. He’s the kind of guy you’d want on your side in a zombie apocalypse. But mention the word ‘spider’, and he turns into a jibbering mess, ready to hitch a ride to the next galaxy. It’s like watching King Kong being afraid of a rubber duckie.

Then there are quirks like a tendency to ramble when they’re nervous – it’s like their mouth decides to run a marathon without their brain’s permission. Or laughing way too loudly at puns so bad they’d make a dad cringe.

These little hiccups in their character are what make them feel real to readers. They help readers say, “Hey, I’ve felt that too!” or even better, “Hey, my husband does that too!” After all, nothing says ‘relatable’ like a tough guy running from a teeny tiny spider.

So, when you’re crafting your characters, remember to go beyond the surface. Dive into the depths of their being, explore their strengths and weaknesses, and let those guide their actions and reactions. And most importantly, allow them to be human – flawed, complex, and beautifully real. That’s the secret to creating characters that readers won’t just read about, but truly care about.

First, let’s talk about motivations. Picture the driving force behind your character as that piece of cake at the end of a treadmill. It could be something tangible like finding love (or that cake), achieving success, or something a bit more abstract such as seeking acceptance or overcoming fear. These motivations are the fuel to your characters’ actions, the compass to their decisions, and the roadmap to their journey in your tale.

Alright, now we’re getting to the juicy stuff – backstories (I love writing backstories!). Think of it as the prequel to your character’s life before your story even starts. It’s like the “previously on…” segment at the start of your favorite TV show. Maybe a past heartbreak made them as guarded as Fort Knox, or a supportive family provided them with an optimism account that’s always in credit. It’s all about connecting the dots from their past to their present.

Now let’s talk about strengths and weaknesses – our characters’ secret sauce. Strengths make them as irresistible as a chocolate lava cake (can you tell I’m writing this before lunch?), while weaknesses make them vulnerable and relatable, like when you find out Superman is actually allergic to green rocks. For instance, a character might be as bright as a summer’s day and as motivated as a squirrel near nuts, but they may also struggle with insecurity. These traits not only layer your character like a delicious lasagna but also set the stage for conflict and growth.

Next, we’re onto relationships. It may be a best friend who knows their secrets (including that embarrassing incident with the karaoke machine), or maybe they’re a lone wolf type, happier with their own company. It’s like holding up a mirror to their personality and values.

Complex characters are like onions (or ogres, if you’re a Shrek fan). They have layers, people! They’re consistent, sticking to their core traits and motivations, yet they can and do evolve. Maybe they learn from their mistakes (like not to trust a fart after a night of spicy food), overcome fears, or develop new perspectives. This evolution is the dash of spice that keeps your narrative interesting. You need to understand their motivations (the main ingredient), investigate their past (I can’t seem to dodge cooking analogies), identify their strengths and weaknesses (the seasoning), examine their relationships (the presentation), and portray their growth (the taste evolution). These elements whip up characters that are intriguing, authentic, and as unforgettable as your grandma’s secret recipe. And remember, just like in cooking, feel free to experiment and make a mess. After all, some of the best creations come from happy accidents in the kitchen, and the same can be said for writing.

So, go forth, make a glorious mess, and create characters that are as rich, layered, and authentic as that lasagna I now desperately need to go and make. Happy writing and Happy Monday!

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