Tag Archives: Characterization

The Adam & Eve Approach to Character Development

“The Creation of Eve” by Paolo Caliari (1528-1588)

About a month ago I’d been asked the following question in an interview. “When you decided to develop a hero and a heroine, how does that process come about? Do you do the character sketch? Do you use real world influences?”

Sometimes I get an idea for a character and then create a story around them. Sometimes I get an idea for a story and then create a character to fit the story.

In Captive (book #1 in the Survival Race series) I had a story idea first and then created the characters to fit the story. The plot required a tortured alpha male whose humanity is stripped away. I created Max–the poor hero believes he’s nothing more than a beast–to fill this role. Then I had to figure out what kind of heroine could make him see he’s not a beast. He’s a good man worthy of love. So I created a strong, spirited heroine who could inspire Max.

The hero of Fearless (Survival Race #2) was introduced in Captive. His character was already partially formed so I needed to create a story around him. As I brainstormed the plot, I also brainstormed the kind of heroine he required. Since he wants revenge, he needed a heroine who could tame his lust for war and bring peace into his heart. His heroine was created especially for him, and new to the series. This couple was exciting to write about. The warlord and the spiritual healer have opposing goals, but we all know what happens to opposites, right? Sexual tension! The heat level is a bit steamier in Fearless than Captive.

While plotting Survival Race #3, I realized once again that I have a hero and a partial plot but no heroine. I actually went through three different heroines trying to figure out who would work best! The first two weren’t getting the job done. They were already established characters, but were not right for what the hero needed or what the plot needed…or, quite frankly, what I needed. Those heroines weren’t getting me excited to write the story. After much cogitating, I came up with a new character. This kick-butt alpha heroine is exactly what the hero needs, and boy is she going to be fun and exciting to write about. I can’t wait to see their tension ignite the page.

So what have I learned about my character development process? Apparently I take the Adam and Eve approach. I create the man first and then from the man create the perfect woman for him.

No matter how the character is born, I always do a character sketch to get to know each one better. A character sketch answers questions like what do they look like, what is their history, what are their fears/ likes/ dislikes, etc…  I’ve also taken bits and pieces from real world influences, but don’t tell my family or friends that. 😉

Readers – have you ever read about characters that were perfect for each other? Have you ever read about characters that weren’t and wondered why the author forced them together? Writers – What’s your process to character development? Do you do the character sketch? Do you use real world influences? Please leave your answers in the comments section.

~K.M. Fawcett

The Game of Characters

Yesterday my daughter came to me with a list of Disney Princess Movies she used to watch over and over when she was younger, and asked me to list my favorite princesses in the order I liked them. What my writer brain heard was, “Which heroines do I like the best and why?” When finished, we did the same for the men (the heroes).

It was a simple game we’ve played before, but then she took it further. “Let’s list the villains we like in order.” Now things were getting interesting. What makes a good villain?

Then she surprised me with wanting to list the sidekicks in order. Hmm…first we had to decide who the sidekicks were. Disney movies tend to have a bunch of them. For example in The Little Mermaid, Ariel has flounder, the seagull, and Sebastian the crab. This got us into a fun conversation about sidekick characters and mentor characters. After explaining what a mentor was, we decided that Flounder was Ariel’s friend-sidekick and Sebastian was her mentor-sidekick. In Cinderella, Jacques and Gus are Cinderella’s sidekicks while Fairy Godmother is her mentor.

This game was fun for a number of reasons. The writer in me enjoyed talking about what made good heroes, heroines, villains, and sidekicks. The mom in me enjoyed learning more about my daughter and why she liked certain characters over others.

I challenge you to play this game at home with your family. The catch is that you cannot simply list the characters. That’s too easy. You must discuss the reason WHY you chose one over another. You’ll learn more about each other, plus it’s a fun way to discuss something you love: characterization.

So who was my favorite Heroine? Well, there was a toss up between my two favorite heroines – Belle and Mulan. Belle from Beauty and the Beast is adventurous. She sacrifices herself to save her father (very heroic). She stands up to the beast (a pretty kick-butt thing to do). And she loves to read! Mulan is not a princess. She’s better. She’s the Hero of China. She pretends to be a man to save her elderly father from going to war (again heroic). She trains hard in the martial arts and fights the Huns (very kick-butt). She uses her wits to solve problems (smart heroines are awesome).

But there can only be one winner. I chose Belle because she loves books. 🙂

So who was last on my list? Snow White – a woman happy to cook and clean for seven men. Is she crazy? I can’t relate.

If you’d like to play this game in the comments section, these are the nine Disney “Princess” movies we used: Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tangled.

~K.M. Fawcett