Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Delving Into Character

As a result of participating in the NJ chapter of RWA’s JeRoWriMo, which was a 30K word writing challenge, I was able to make significant progress on two of my works in progress. One of them, currently untitled, is the sequel to The Seduction of Esther, which was just contracted by Rebel Ink Press. Because the first book of the series is about to be published, I feel a sense of urgency to work on book two in the series.

My biggest problem with book two was that I didn’t know where the story was going. Prior to the challenge, I knew the main characters’ names (Josh and Miriam), I knew the theme of the book (freedom) and I knew the Jewish holiday around which the story would play out (Passover). However, I didn’t really KNOW my characters.

Forcing myself to write this story every other day (I alternated between this story and a different one) accomplished a few things. Number one, it gave me discipline. Number two, since I was kind of writing blind—without an outline and because I had to make my word count, rather than being inspired—my characters had the opportunity to jump to the forefront and crystallize.

For me, it was kind of like loosening my hold on what I thought I wanted the story to be about, and where I thought I wanted my characters to go, and allowing them to speak. As a control freak, for me, this is huge! J

One of my biggest challenges with this story was learning about Josh, the hero. He was the redeemed villain from the first book. In The Seduction of Esther, I think I did a pretty good job showing his progress from bad guy to good guy. By the end of the book, the reader understands why he’s done what he’s done, how remorseful he is, and hopefully understands and likes him enough at that point to want to read about him!

But other than the development from that first book, what did I know about him? What I’ve discovered, so far is that he’s a bit of an arrogant ass. And that arrogance stems from insecurity and a need to exert control over his life, when in the past, he had none.

Professionally, he is super confident in his abilities as an architect and prides himself on being able to understand what the client wants better than the client understands. When he messes up, it’s devastating for him. He not only has to fix what he’s done wrong so that his client will be happy, but he has to perfect it so that he can maintain his own self confidence.

He uses his skills as an architect to understand the people around him as well. He learns to find the hidden meaning behind other people’s thoughts and actions and desires. He’s intuitive and thoughtful and enjoys helping people. He thinks he knows best what others need and how to give it to them. While that can come off as high-handed, it also can be downright adorable, romantic and even sexy. Who wouldn’t want a man who will do anything to make them happy?

That’s what makes his arrogance forgivable. What makes him human is that quite often, especially in his personal life, he’s not perfect, he’s not able to carry through his plans for the perfect evening exactly. There’s room for the heroine to step in and there’s room for improvement. He’s not perfect, although he tries to be. And eventually, he’s going to learn to accept that perfection isn’t necessary. But it’s going to take him a while.

I’m still discovering things about him as I go along, but for me, it’s the psychological insight that makes it easier for me to write about my characters.


  1. It sounds like you have a strong character profile and story arc for your hero, Jen.

  2. I hope so. About half the time I feel like I'm floundering in the mud.

  3. I definitely learn my characters as I go. Usually I have a better handle on my hero (don't know why) and really discover my heroine as I go. As a result, sometimes the opening chapters need to be tweaked when I really get to know her.

  4. Sounds as if you are discovering your characters and focusing in on the real heart of the story.
    DL Larson

  5. Debra, glad to hear I'm not the only one. A lot of my writing is layering--first the basics, then adding depth, a subplot maybe, etc.

    Deb, I hope so!

  6. You've definitely developed am interesting and complex character there, Jen.
    I'm like Debra and learn about my characters as I write their story - but with me, it's the heroine I get first, and sometimes struggle a while to discover the hero. Once I've done the first draft, I can then layer in more about the characters.

  7. Paula, with me, it varies as to which character I understand first. I tend to be intrigued by complicated heroes, so quite often I know them first. But not always.