Thursday, September 14, 2006

Book with Trish - Pt 2.

So now that we have our Hero casting done, with a selection of pics that can show us his moods and possibly kick a scene or two into gear, we have named him and we have a detailed character sheet on him... It's time to move onto our heroine.

Basically we do exactly the same with her as we did with him... So, I've gone looking for a gal I could cast as my heroine who gave me a selection of pics that could show moods and create possible scenes. And Rosamund Pike was perfect! Remember now, I'm going for characters who have known each other a long time... So as well as having pictures of my hero looking younger and progressing through to the way he looks in my mind when the book starts, I needed pics that would show the same progression with my heroine. If you look down through them from the top you can see her maturing from young girl through to the thoroughly confident, sexy woman at the bottom. And as an added bonus I not only have one or two pics that suggest scenes to me, I also have her on a couch to go with the pic of our hero I found on a couch... I see a late night talk scene coming on there... Loads of tension... maybe a confession or two made... See how my mind works?

I do think, as a female writer that it's almost easier to build up a character for the heroine than it is for the hero. The trick is, not to go nuts with it. It's all too tempting to give her every hang up in the proverbial book, because as females, we've spent our lives going through our own hang ups, recovering from broken hearts, and nursing our bestest friends through the same things. But the modern day heroine, although having many of the same difficulties as us, should also, I feel, have an element of the inspirational to her. In our imaginary heroine we have the opportunity to allow her to say and do things that we might never have the guts to do ourselves. It's finding the balance between the confidence we may seek to have and the emotional conflicts attached to the hang ups we may all have experienced, that makes for a rounded, likeable heroine. One we can all cheer on to her happily ever after!

So, let's fill in a character sheet for our heroine. Age, height, eye colour, hair colour, figure type maybe?... Career, friends, family?... How she takes coffee, hopeless in kitchen, masterchef, single parent, divorced? Favourite film, book, colour, type of clothes? First broken heart, longest relationship, first crush? Anything you want to add to her character sheet that makes her real to you, that gives her a three dimensional personality... And that you can refer to for the smaller details to ensure continuity in your story.

I can tell you from experience, that it can be the little things that catch you out. And by the time you have spent weeks or even months on a book you can become blind to those little things, so you might not even catch them until the copy editing stage, or worse still, until the book is in print! *shudder* So having a reference point can be a heavenly gift...

So:

Day Two: Heroine Character Sheet.

1/ Cast a heroine with pics that suggest moods/scenes and personality
2/ Name your heroine
3/ Build up a detailed profile of her life prior to the beginning of the book

And remember - Keep her real and don't make her some pathetic little figure waiting for a hero to rescue her - please! Don't give her a set of cliches in her past just so she fits into some kind of a mould that you think might fit in a romance novel. Yes, do think about the line you're aiming for - but no, don't try too hard to give her some kind of lost waif complex waiting for Mister Right... She's also a real person, with the everyday hopes and fears common to all of us and the fact that she's doing her best to get through each day like the rest of womankind should be a large part of her in both word and deed... It's such an easy trap to fall into - actually the fabulous Kate Walker did a wonderful piece on How Not To Write A Romance Novel recently on her Blog and she mentioned just this kind of thing when it came to heroines in Part One here - and it made me smile - because she's so right. As always. (Great series btw... well worth a read!!!)

Even a vampire hunter or a 17th century woman or some sci-fi heroine caught in an intergalactic war will have the basic human emotions in place. She will have moments of embarressment, of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, of offering a kind voice when required or needing a shoulder to lean on when things get too much, she'll feel desire and fear and joy and hope and anger and regret... You can have your heroine be anybody in any place in any time and the basic human emotions and reactions will remain the same. Just in differing degrees for differing personalities... So you can transmit her need for things to change in her life, and how the hero might help her along with that without turning her into someone we'll all think is just too pathetic to deserve happiness. Don't make her one of those women who constantly opens doors when she hears something outside in a horror movie... The last thing you want is for your reader to be slamming down the book in frustration when the heroine never learns from her mistakes or shows any sign of deserving the love our hero will eventually bestow on her...

Make her worthy of our gorgeous hero I say!!!

With that in mind, and having completed our hero and heroine's character sheets I want you to now live with them for a day or so. Talk to them in your head, out loud if it works for you... Maybe even try a little role playing - speaking aloud as if you are the heroine talking to the hero...have a little flirt with him if you like ;)

And then I want you to think about the things in their personalities that might cause conflict, the experiences from their individual pasts that have shaped the way they are at the start of the book that may hold them back from a perfect romance that could be written inside about three chapters... Because even though we will have to add a plot to the story to make the pages turn-worthy - it's the characters and their inner emotional journey that will hold the story together, and hopefully make the reader believe that their relationship will last beyond that last page...

Many, many authors, me included, will tell you that quite often the well rounded characters from our imagination will take on a life of their own as you start to tell their story. For me, the only way to get those voices speaking in my head, is to have spent a few days really getting to know them, playing through a few scenes in my head with only their dialogue to guide me. By filling in a character sheet you give yourself the best idea of who they already are. And then, with any luck, as we start to flesh out their conflicts and the plot that brings them together, they will take hold of a figurative hand and guide us through, showing us possibilities we might never have thought of while we were in this dreaming up a new story phase...

So once you've had some fun with the pics and the creating of your hero and heroine's character sheets, take a little time and start to think about who they are at the start of your book, the important things that have shaped them before we begin. Get inside their heads. I for one, don't think it's any coincidence that so many authors I've read about recently are people who have done some kind of psychology degree or admit to being long time people watchers... They've been subconsciously training for this line of work for a long time...

When we know our characters and their back stories we can then write them with more conviction. I know my hero pretty well I think, now I'm getting to know my heroine. I want her to have a girl next door quality but with a deeply sensual edge to her that only my hero seems to bring out. But I need her to have something that will hold her back from my hero too. So, I'm going to study her character sheet, I'm going to let her whisper in my ear some, and I'm going to look for some kind of emotional burden, or a secret, maybe something that relates to my hero so that it's all the more important she holds it back from him... Mmm...

So, while you think about your heroine and start thinking conflict, I'm going to do the same. And then we'll come back tomorrow and see what might be our options shall we??

In the meantime - My heroine is Shannon Hennessy, she's 26, I'm thinking a Kindergarten teacher at this point, though I'm flexible on that and may make her a career gal whose company runs a kindergarten for employees (I'm thinking all those toddlers would be my commitment phobic hero's worst nightmare - so room for some comedy and general cuteness there - and also a great good girl by day and playful gal by night foil for Shannon....) But after I've lived with her for a few hours she may tell me more...

18 comments:

Natasha said...

I just *knew* you were going to nick Rosamund Pike. That's you on the sofa when you come over for the Harlequin party. *g*

Sharon J said...

I like the sound of Shannon. Yepp... I can see her developing into a real fun character :)

Trish said...

Shannon now is telling me that she would like to be going into business.... So we've compromised... and she's going to start a Tumble Tots type franchise and wants to use part of Connor's gym... so that gets them on the page together and under the same roof - Good girl Shannon!!!

liz fenwick said...

Shannon sounds great and a classic irish woman as she knows her own mind!

My H, Maddie, is 37 yr old widow and step mum to a 14 yr old girl by default. She looks like Julia Roberts.

Your questions started another page of notes on her:) Thanks

Liz

Sierra Donovan said...

Okay, I'm done.

Well, pretty much. My new book is a sequel, and this heroine was determined to take on a life of her own even in Book One. For this book, I already know the situation she's up against, what drives her, and a whole lot of the things that will drive her nuts about the hero. And she's probably my most fiery heroine to date.

She bears a suspicious resemblance to Catherine Zeta-Jones, which is funny, because I swear I wasn't thinking of ZORRO when I cast Antonio Banderas as my hero!

But I still need to get inside HIS head more, to understand WHY he thinks and acts in those ways that drive her crazy...!

Carol Hutchens said...

I've picked Sandra Bullock as my model...this may change...she isn't talking in my head, yet.

Carol

Judy Jarvie said...

Mine is GMTV presenter Jenni Falconer purely because I love her hair and smile. I'm still pondering...her job is creator of an online dating club. Hmmm still mulling her over.

j

Sierra Donovan said...

Trish, how do you display that worm counter on your blog? Is it a big, scary HTML thing?

Sierra, who just set up a blog and is HORRIBLY html-challenged

Trish said...

I'm gonna answer Sierra's and work my way backwards...

The codes for uploading the worm can't be placed in this comments box - I just tried - so I'll add it to todays post later if that's okay? If you wanna try before then email me through the website and I'll send you the instructions ;)

And a fellow linked story-er - EXCELLENT! We can try together to keep our original characters in their places!!!

I love the Zeta Jones/Banderas combination - lotta sparks there...

Anonymous said...

"I'm going to look for some kind of emotional burden, or a secret, maybe something that relates to my hero so that it's all the more important she holds it back from him"

I find it so difficult to decide whereabouts in the story the h needs to reveal this secret to the H.(The reader will know early on)

Janet

Lis said...

At least my heroine isn't giving me trouble, Angelina Jolie is happily playing the part of Harley :) Still working on her notes but she's more talkative then the hero right now (damn brooding male *g*)

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

I'm behind :-(. Today didn't go to plan for reasons I've mentioned on my blog, but I have finally discovered who my heroine Kate is -Melissa George. When hubby showed me pics of her in a scene with Clive Owen it all fell into place. I'm looking forward to filling in her character sheet in depth tomorrow.

It's very exciting to read how everyone else is doing. What a great bunch of heroines we have!

Sue :-)

JENNA said...

Brilliant about them working together :D

Since Liz snagged Julia, and Lis opted for Angelina...we'll have to share. My Heather has 20 pounds on both of them, so it shouldn't matter :p

Nicola Marsh said...

My heroine is Bria Green, age late twenties I think, highly successful architect and a dead ringer for Keira Knightley.

This is fun!

allyblake said...

Janet, this might not work for you but when I write I tend to "reveal" things in a few places, and at the end I keep the one that works best, and delete the rest. Likely why my first drafts are always HUGE.

Or wait until you get to the moment where it will cause the most damage! Post coitus is always a good time to throw in a great big spanner, or to drop the anvil!!

My heroine is Brooke Finlay, she's a 27 year old yummy mummy who looks decidely like a picture of Heather Graham stuck up on my wall right now.

Ally

Carol Hutchens said...

Ouch!
I must 'replace' my heroine. While I love Sandra B.'s movies...and I have a young pic of her,
I need PERKY...
Off on another search,
Carol

Anonymous said...

From Ally: "When I write I tend to "reveal" things in a few places, and at the end I keep the one that works best, and delete the rest."

Allly, Thank you! What a great idea.

Janet

Trish W said...

***OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT***

DUE TO NEICES AND COMPUTERS TOTALLY BEYOND HER CONTROL (TRUST ME!!!) TRISH HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO UPDATE FOR A DAY AND A BIT.... AND NOW HAS TO PLAY CATCH UP... sorry...

Natasha - If I look like her on a sofa after the Harlequin drinks I'll be chuffed to bits....

Sharon J - I hope so!!! Really do! She's been quite vocal this last day or so...

Liz - yep! AND she's quite determined that Connor won;t know what hit him... Thing is Connor might know more than she goves him credit for... ;) And Julia Roberts is a great choice! Runaway Bride being a great study in her abilities as a romantic heroine methinks...

Carol! I love Sandra Bullock - I also have a story about wanting to be her in my next life and a *friend* who had an opinion on that... :( Isn't she perky enough??

Jude - Jenni Falconer is another great choice! Very naturally pretty, bright, full of life - and loves horses so she gets my vote!

Janet- I'm a drip feed emotional *screw the punch* kinda gal myself. Though I love Ally's method too! We'll be doing a bit on that as we progress so look out for that and maybe it might help some... hopefully...

Lis - LOL - Yes, nothing like a brooding hero to make you insane! I had two secretive characters in my last book and they made me *insane*... Though in my first Modx I made my hero not much of a talker and then swung it round at the end when he talked for page after page and wouldn;t let the heroine speak...

Sue - Oh hun - Thankyou for being a little behind! It makes me feel better... though maybe should stop giving neice the eldest eye now then... Maybe tomorrow. Or Monday.

Jenna - wish I could claim it was my idea - it was all Shannon's ;) And my Fen Modx had a gal with extra weight and confidence issues and it went down a storm so YOU GO GIRL!!!!

Hey Gals *waves to Ally and Nic* - LOVE both those heroine castings!!! And love the way you write heroines so I'm very excited!!! Though Nic - with your usual speed... I won;t have finished the workshop before you finish the book.... :-0

OKAY - AM GONNA POST NEXT WORKSHOP TODAY!!!