Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I have a friend who tends to write her female characters too harshly. Because of this, her critique group will often express how much they dislike her heroine. It's a problem I also struggled with as I developed characters in my early years of writing (okay, like last year). I can't tell you how many times I would re-write chapter one. Constantly tweaking dialogue and character qualities and. . .well, you get the point. Thankfully I have learned a trick that works to create a better first impression for my characters.

How do you write about a character who has issues in such a way that makes them likeable?

Think of their qualities.

Redeeming qualities, if you will. We all have them. What I have discovered as a writer is that it is possible to put off showing a characters dark side long enough to establish some good traits or tendencies. Instead of showing your shattered-heart heroine's bitter, impatient attitude toward others, because, afterall, that's how she really feels inside, give her a prop. Something that she cares deeply about, whether it be a dog, bird, or a hobby. Or maybe she is devoted to her aging mother. Whatever it is, be sure to show that soft side, then segue gently into showcasing her edginess.

First impressions count. If your reader doesn't like your character or make a connection, then you're sunk. Can you mix both elements? Edginess with redeeming qualities? I'm sure you can, but please be sure to let someone else, preferably more than two people, read your first chapter and give you feed back. If one of the three critiquers doesn't like your character then you might have a problem. But if two of three critters don't like your character, you *know* you have a problem. Of course, if all three unanimously hate your character. . .oh, dear. Back to square one.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

S. Dionne Moore is author of cozy mystery, Polly Dent Loses Grip, a 2010 Carol Award finalist, as well as several historical romances. Visit her at www.sdionnemoore.com.


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