Writing Supporting Characters

Supporting characters can come in all shapes and sizes, as well as, a variety of forms depending on the genre one writes: think elf, sprite, monster, you get the jist : ) They can range from loving family members to enemies that want our hero/heroine dead or want to destroy everyone and everything in our character’s life. In order for a supporting character to have relevance in a story, that third character must have a significant impact on one or both of the hero/heroine or they must influence the rest of the story. Otherwise, they don’t belong in the story.

In romance, many stories contain a certain kind of third character. This character is almost like a third main character. This third character can be the cause of the story or the point around which the story revolves. This character can be a child, a parent or a grandparent. They can be a best friend or confidante. Whichever works best for the story : )

In my first book, ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, I used the heroine’s Gram as my third party.  I made this quirky, sweet, senior the reason the heroine came to town in the first place. I gave my heroine a close/loving relationship with her Gram and created a grandparent reader’s would love to have for their own : )

I love using a third main character in my stories. Most times it’s a person, although I must admit in MARRYING MR. RIGHT, my third character is an adorable dog named Hugo. He may not be able to talk to my heroine, but his loving ways and deep insightful eyes give her all the support/guidance she requires : )

This third character usually acts as a buffer, or someone the main character can bounce things off of. Better yet, someone who is truthful/honest to the end and tells the hero/heroine what they need to hear even if they don’t want to hear it. After all, isn’t that what a good friend does in real life?

The difficult part of writing third character’s is that they often become too big for their own good.I know when I write a third character, I have to pull he/she back and remind myself who the story is really about: The hero/heroine. Third character’s can become larger than life and that’s fine, if one is writing women’s fiction, not romance. So, when I outline these third character’s I must decide how the actions/choices of the third character affect the actions/choices of the hero/heroine without letting them take it too far.

Noone said writing was easy : ) And my books would probably be written faster if I didn’t insert a third main character. But every time I finish another book, I find that these third characters mirror so many real people that it would have been a shame to not include them in my story : )

Have you ever written a third main character? Do you find it hard to keep them on track and not allow them to “break out”?  Do you have a certain way you keep them in line? I’d love to hear your comments.

Best,

Cathy Tully

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Creating Believable Hero’s and Heroine’s

I love reading books on the craft of writing because I believe that no matter how many books I write, there is always room for improvement. My latest read was written by Leigh Michaels, titled, Creating Romantic Characters. This book really hit home with me and how I write my hero/heroine’s, so I’d like to share some of what Leigh talks about with you today.

A hero or heroine should be the kind of person a reader wants to be. The good, the bad and the ugly qualities rolled up into a nice neat ball. As a writer I find that’s the best part of creating hero/heroines. They shouldn’t be perfect. They should be as real as we can make them, because those are the kinds of people readers relate to.

If a hero/heroine doesn’t open their mouths and insert their foot from time to time, if they were perfect and didn’t say dumb things, embarrass themselves or trip in front of a room full of people. If they said the right thing at the right moment instead of a week later, or better yet, if they were considerate and tactful more times than none they would probably be too perfect. Because we all know, no one is perfect : )

Here are some things hero’s/heroine’s do: he/she is always kind to those who are less powerful than them i.e., children, animals and the elderly. He/she is gentle even if Uncle Bob consistently talks about his aching back, they never snap at him or treat him like a pain in the butt. : )  Sure, we all know people in real life who cross the line and do not follow the above rules, but I’d like to think there are fewer of them in the population and more people like the heros/heroines we create.  More people like us : )

Heros/heroines never gossip or delight in another’s troubles, even if they deserve it. He/she is never rude unless provoked, even to each other and even then, they’re never hateful or malicious. However, wisecracks and remarks are acceptable : )

I especially like the last piece of information because I always get my hero/heroine head-to-head with some type of issue where each one is on the opposite side and the wisecracks fly like fireworks on the fourth of July. Ahhhh…..sexual tension is built and into the story I go : )

Do you agree with these rules for heros and heroines?  Are there other’s you use when you’re crafting a character? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Best,

Cathy Tully

RWA “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing, July 17

Since 1990 Romance Writers  of America have raised over $775,000 to fight literacy by hosting a huge book signing/sale. Over 400 authors (including me!), will gather in Atlanta this week for the 2013 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing to raise that number even higher.  If you are going to be in the Atlanta area, please join us, chat with your favorite authors, and support a great cause. The event is open to the public.

2013 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing

Wednesday, July 17
5:30–7:30 p.m.
Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atrium Ballroom A–C (Atrium level)

Here I am last year with the fabulous Leanne Banks at the signing in Anaheim. You can check out the entire list of authors participating here.

An Indecent Proposition by Stephanie Julian

An Indecent PropositionToday we have author Stephanie Julian with us talking about her latest book, a serial romance, entitled An Indecent Proposition. Welcome to the Attacking the Page Steph!

I got a call from my critique partner, Judi Fennell, last October. She wanted to know if I wanted to be in an anthology with her, Olivia Cunning, Cherrie Lynn and Cari Quinn.

I said yes. I’m not stupid.

Then I hung up the phone and thought, oh, crap, what the hell am I going to write?

My first idea was a novella based on my Forgotten Goddesses series. I actually started to write that story (and you’ll see that one, probably early next year) but then I got another idea.

Two men (because I love ménage stories), one woman and a whole lot of money for one night with her. Why all that money? Because money screws up everything. Otherwise, I had no idea why the men were going to give her all that money. And why would any sane woman take any amount of money to sleep with a stranger? To make this work, she was going to need a really good excuse. By this time, my brain had kicked in and was starting to work through scenarios.

When I get an idea, I almost always see the first scene of the story. Sometimes it doesn’t always stay the first scene but this time it did. Two men waiting for the woman they both want. And since this is one of my stories, they don’t have a problem sharing.

But one of the men was in the shadows. And he wasn’t going to be involved in the actual seduction. No, he was going to be watching from those shadows. Why?

Well, because he’s badly scarred, of course. Beauty and the Beast? My absolute favorite fairy tale.

And AN INDECENT PROPOSITION was born.

Erik and Keegan are best friends and owners of a multimillion-dollar company. Three years ago, Erik was horribly scarred by an explosion in their lab and Keegan lives with the guilt that it should have been him in the lab that night.

Julianne and her mom are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt due to her mom’s illness.

It’s a simple enough setup but it’s ripe with angst. I love angst. A love story needs good angst.

Since this was an anthology of novellas, AN INDECENT PROPOSITION was only 18,000 words. But I knew the story wouldn’t be complete. There are three parts so far. Part Four will be out in September and I plan to complete the story by Part Six.

I hope you’ll follow along on the journey. I don’t always know where I’m going but I know there will be some twists along the way. They make life so much more fun.

You can get AN INDECENT PROPOSITION PART I free at digital retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes.

Parts 2 & 3 are also available, as well as Volume One, which includes Parts 1-3.

Check out my website at www.stephaniejulian.com for more information.

Knowing When to Hit Send

Send ButtonHow do you know when it’s time to stop editing and just hit send? My writing group was recently having a discussion about the editing process. It stemmed from a comment an author made about how once they finished a manuscript they just send it out and they don’t bother with revisions unless and editor sent them a revise and resubmit. Was I surprised by the comment? No. I know there are writers out there who want to be assured of a sale before investing the time to do extensive revisions. Me, I could never do that.

 Being a part of professional writers organizations, polishing a manuscript until it’s as shiny as I can make it is sort of ingrained. For myself, I need to know that I’m putting my best work forward. I think about my most recent submission. I went through multiple rounds of critiques and beta reads before I was finally ready to hit the send button on the submission email. Believe me, I was half tempted to have someone do on more read through just in case. I stopped myself from doing that, but largely because my massive impatience kicked in. I just couldn’t deal with looking at those pages one minute longer. I wanted to be done with it and have it out of my hair. I wanted the sense of accomplishment that came with hitting the send button.  

I think all of us writers could go round and round reading, critiquing, and tweaking a WIP in the hopes of polishing our manuscript to perfection. But, at some point we have to let it go. We have to put it out there for the world to view. So writers, how do you know when you’re ready to let that manuscript fly? If you haven’t submitted anything yet, why not? What’s holding you back?

Author Fun – Book Signings

I’d like to share with you just a few pictures from my book signings for CAPTIVE (the Survival Race #1). I had a blast signing books, answering questions about CAPTIVE and about how I got published, and seeing good friends. I’m so lucky to have the support of these wonderful people – both pictured and not.

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Lisa & Jurgen came dressed in CAPTIVE colors!

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Melanie brought her copy on Kindle. (which reminds me to sign up for Authorgraph)

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Signing a copy for Katie.

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Thanks to ALL the Hellers for your support!

1010814_10201142529272897_1855511495_nI donated a copy of CAPTIVE to my local library. Librarian Karen graciously accepted the book and sent this picture to the local paper, the Readington News.

The following picture is the only one I have from last night’s book signing at my parents’ house. I’m sure my mom will email me some soon. Below is me with my aunt, Sharon Moran, who also wrote a book Daughters Of Destiny: Dramatic monologues of four Amazing American Women. I’m so blessed to have the wonderful support of my family. Aunts and cousins bought multiple copies for other family members who couldn’t make it, and I ran out of books!

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Aunt Sharon and me with our books.

I have a few more book signings on the schedule. I’ll be at RWA’s national conference in Atlanta signing at the Readers for Life Literacy signing on Wednesday, July 17th, as well as Grand Central Publishing’s signing on July 20th (my birthday!). Click on the link to see the 400+ authors who will be signing at Readers for Life.

August 4th I’ll be at A Paperback Exchange in Belmar, NJ. I hope to see you at one or more of these places!

~KM Fawcett

Moving Your Story Forward

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about forward movement in fiction. A good story starts at the beginning, moves through the middle, and ends at the end. But this isn’t as simple as it may sound because without forward movement, even good characters get stuck in dull stories. If your characters are reflecting, wondering and thinking a lot, be wary. Odds are all that thinking and wondering aren’t getting them from point a to point b.

Characters must do things, say things, go places, and interact with other people. A young man thinking about death isn’t a story. A young man digging his own grave is. Don’t ask who your character is; ask what your character does. Trust in your skills as a writer. Your character will reveal who he/she is once you’ve undertaken the task of describing him/her through their words or deeds. This happened to me while I was writing my first book, All You Need Is Love. A secondary character I created, the heroine’s Gram, wound up becoming the real life Gram I wished I had while growing up. Reviewers even mention the quirky senior citizen as endearing and memorable. Go Gram!

When your character’s personality and motivations emerge, this revelation may be so deep you might have to make changes to your plot when you’re done with your first draft. Gram’s constant knudging, made me change her from a one scene character to a six scene character. Quite a difference.

Our characters often reveal themselves to us when we least expect it and this is what makes being a writer, at least for me, so much fun ☺ These aren’t just voices we hear in our heads urging us to write their story down, they become real people we can relate to through the process of writing their story, and in some instances we hate to say goodbye to when the story is over.

Plot turns into story when we convey emotional information to the reader. A woman discovers the end of her marriage. A young man is left at the altar by the love of his life, a child realizes his mother isn’t coming back. Use these emotional discoveries that make real life interesting, horrifying, and beautiful.

Once you entwine them into your story, you begin to mesh plot and character together. Your reader will experience real heart break, loss or joy. Through this process of meshing you’ll feel the difference because the emotional information you convey will create a memorable three-dimensional character that might just grow his/her own fan base : )

Best,

Cathy Tully

Details…Details…

Details, Details…

Writing is hard work, a never ending process of learning and applying. I’ve been writing for fourteen years and am still learning how to improve my skills. Today I’d like to talk a little about details in a story.

A detail is a word/phrase/image that enables a reader to “see.” Instead of telling your readers that Sam “looked sad,” describe the shape of his mouth or the lifeless slats of his hair. Avoid details that call to mind anybody and use the specific ones that call to mind your character because these are details that stay with your readers through the book.

Sometimes it only takes one or two details to bring your character to life for a reader. These are the telling details that stretch beyond observation to give readers a larger, richer sense of character or place.

When I was asked to do revisions for my first book, All You Need Is Love, my original opening line was: “Stepping inside the local veterinarian’s office, Ginger bellowed.”

A specific directive from my editor was: “Don’t just tell me I’m in a veterinarian’s office, show me, make me hear it, see it, feel it.”

Here’s what I added:

Stepping inside the local veterinarian’s office in Promise, Massachusetts was like stepping into a half-price sale at Macy’s the day before a holiday. A Doberman barked repeatedly while a Pomeranian, eyes wide, ran in circles piddling on herself and the floor, frantic to escape the din and chaos.

Ginger bellowed, along with a German shepherd across the room that had jumped into a chair with the woman trying desperately to clean the Pomeranian’s urine from her heels. The shepherd, easily one hundred pounds, bounded back onto the floor, sniffed once at the yipping Pomeranian, then raised his leg and doused the little dog.

My editor was delighted with the details and replied that she felt as though she was in the veterinarian’s office, heard the chaos and, being a pet owner, could smell the urine. No, not the best memory, but vivid just the same : )

The right details at the right times allow your readers admission into your character’s inner peculiarities, fears, and compulsions. It’s one thing to explain the veterinarian’s office was utter chaos, but when I added the details that helped the reader experience the scene, I enriched my story.

Best,

Cathy Tully

Special Guest Post: New Writer Mistakes by Chris Redding

Most new writers make the same mistakes. Here are some examples and how to avoid them.

Lack of specifics: This can be caused by laziness or insecurity on the part of the writer. By using significant details- works, friends, what does the character want-you can flesh out the character’s emotional life.

I’m terrible at emotions. Really. It’s sad that I write romance or at least include it in my suspense stories. This was the last part of the workshop I researched. But I learned so much doing the research. You need the specifics to make your character three –dimensional.

Ambiguity: A writer has to trust his own experience. This is one of my flaws. I could go into a long complicated explanation but none of you are my therapist. Suffice it to say it has been a hard fought lesson on my part to trust my experience. We are all more similar than we are different.

A writer needs to bleed onto the page. That requires the writer to tap into and explore their own emotions. I know many writers who say if they didn’t write they’d be in a straight jacket. You could probably include me in that. I get to work things out on the page.

Lack of Trust in Characters: A writer can write the character with too many inconsistencies. The reader needs to see the emotional journey of the character for the range of emotions to be believable. A writer can also make a character too consistent. We all have a range of emotions. Also, we all can react differently to the same situation on a different day. Our characters should too.

“Giving your characters authentic, believable emotions is the best way I know to breathe life into them and off the page.” Ann Hood.

Your characters should have emotional depth and breadth. How does a character get from emotion A to emotion B?

There’s a timeline.

Do you have one? No need to share here, but you all have resolved on emotional conflict. How did you get from A to B? Your character must go through a similar timeline, but it should be different from yours since your character is different from you.

Your emotional life and your character’s emotions life only needs to overlap enough to make the reader believe.

WEA WEB smallChris Redding lives in New Jersey with her family. When she isn’t writing or giving workshops, she works part time for her local hospital. Her latest book out is a novella titled Which Exit Angel. 

Blurb: She’s an angel who hasn’t earned her wings. He’s a preacher questioning his faith. How are these two supposed to stop the impending apocalypse?

Thanks for having me today.

Adding PUNCH to Action Scenes

From time to time it never hurts to do a refresher of the basics. So, here’s a replay of one of Attacking the Page’s original posts by Melinda Leigh.

You can use fighting terminology to make your action scenes more interesting.  More specific words can add power to your pages.  This post will focus on punches and other hand strikes.  I’ll cover kicks another week.

The first thing you need to know is that fighter will generally angle her body away from her opponent to give the opponent fewer vital body targets. One foot will be slightly ahead of the other.  Fists will be raised to the chin to block any income punches, and mimicking his stance, one hand will be ahead of the other.  If the fighter is right-handed, she will generally put her left shoulder to her opponent. This leaves her dominant hand in the rear for power striking.  More on power later.

Visualize this.  If you stand squarely in front of another person, your entire body is facing his.  Your most vital organs/targets are in a straight line from your nose to your groin.  If you turn your body on an angle, your shoulder, arm and hip naturally block these areas.

There are four basic punches, which are put together into combinations.

jab – a short punch with the lead hand.  Since it’s not the most powerful strike, it usually goes to a weak area like the chin or nose.  Or it’s used to set up another punch.  Stepping into the punch makes it stronger by utilizing the fighter’s forward momentum.

cross – a stronger punch with the hand farthest from the opponent. The fighter’s body twists, driving forward from the hip, to generate additional power.  Common targets are the nose, chin and solar plexus.

hook – a punch that circles around to strike the opponent from the side.  Can go to the head, chin or body.  Because of the circular path, hooks to the body often connect with the ribs.

uppercut –  An inverted fist that drives up into the opponent’s chin or solar plexus.  The blow will originate in the hip area. A fighter will sink down a bit and use her legs to increase power.

Watch this Muay Thai kickboxer train her jabs, crosses and jab/cross combinations.

An experienced fighter will always keep her non-striking hand near her head/chin to block any incoming blows.

heel palm – A female fighter will use the heel of her hand instead of a fist when striking bony areas like the nose or chin of a male opponent.  This is because the bones of her hand are thinner and will likely be broken if she bare-knuckle punches a thicker-boned man in the face.  Unfortunately, if he punches her, it’s the bones of her face that will give.  Think of  a collision between a VW bug and a Yukon.  Doesn’t matter which car hits which, the bug is the one that’s going to get squashed.

Yes, I know, the women on TV punch men in the face all the time, but we’re talking reality here.

Other less common hand strikes include:

backfist – hits with the back of the knuckles

Hammer fist – strikes with the bottom of the fist in the same way you swing a hammer

chop – outside blade of the hand

thumb strikes/finger darts – eye strikes

half-fist – fingers bent at the second knuckle, fits nicely in the throat

claw – fingers curled in a claw, usually rips a soft target like the face or groin

elbows – extremely strong strikes

If you’d like to see these strikes in action, try searching on YouTube for videos.

-Melinda