View Full Version : Welcome to All About Characters

Terry Odell
September 1st, 2011, 09:14 AM
They say that great characters can make up for a weak plot, but weak characters won't do anything for your book no matter how strong your plot may be. Have you read reviews that say, "I just couldn't get into the characters." If readers love your characters, they'll love your books.

Isn't this what you'd rather hear about your books? Dalton, "just Dalton," is a sweet-talking Texas black ops contractor equipped with a sharp mind, big muscles, an intriguing background tragedy that makes him cry over babies, and boatloads of sex appeal. … Romance fans will drool over Dalton and his fellow camo-clad helicopter-riding commandos as they look for runaways and love. (Publishers Weekly, March 14, 2011).

Welcome to a month-long discussion of characters. I'm a firm believer that great characters are the heart and soul of any novel. Cardboard just won't cut it for me. I want to love the characters in the books I'm reading—to the point where I expect to run into them around town. Although there have been a few successful books with characters who (to quote a workshop presenter) "you could drop a piano on and it wouldn't matter to the story", I think most people prefer their characters be crafted from something other than cardboard.

For this month, I'd rather have discussions than lectures, so I'm going to post "formally" twice a week, and we'll have Q&A and chat the other days. I'll try to get my posts up by 9 AM Mountain time (I live up in the Colorado mountains).

I'll check back in periodically through the day and respond to any comments or questions you might have. And if there are any topics you want to address, please let me know.

A little about me. I write romantic suspense, and have six published novels, plus numerous short stories. My genre of choice before I started writing was mystery, and I thought that's what I was writing when I wrote my first book. However, my daughters were reading my drafts, and they told me I was writing a romance. To that point, I'd never read a romance, so I figured I ought to start learning about them. Thinking about it, however, I realized that I preferred series mysteries where I could follow a character through the course of many books, and I was paying more attention to their private lives and relationships than I was to the actual crime-solving.

I guess that's why I like to think of my own books as "mysteries with relationships" although the publishing world insists on pigeonholing them as romantic suspense. As a matter of fact, I was so hooked on Randy and Sarah, the hero and heroine of my first novel, FINDING SARAH, that I broke a "rule" I didn't know existed (remember, I hadn't been reading a lot of romances) and brought them back as hero and heroine of a second book, HIDDEN FIRE.

So, for me, it's all about characters. Years ago, I bought a copy of Naked in Death by JD Robb to read on a plane. I'd never been a huge romance reader (sensing a theme here, are you?) and hadn't read any Nora Roberts. In fact, I was totally unaware she was JD Robb as well, but I'd heard that this series was about a female cop, and that they were less "romance" than the books she wrote as Nora Roberts. I read the book on the plane, and although I'd expected to leave it in the seat pocket, I brought it home, went to the bookstore and bought the rest of the series (14 books at that time.) Why? Because I needed to know more about Eve and Roarke. The characters hooked me. Totally.

What about you? Who are some of your favorite characters, and why?

Feel free to introduce yourself, let me know if there's anything in particular you want to talk about, and because it's a holiday weekend, I'll be back on Tuesday. And if you want to meet any of my characters, first chapters of all my books are on my website, http://www.terryodell.com (http://www.terryodell.com/)

Terry Odell
September 2nd, 2011, 03:50 PM
Here's a Labor Day gift. I'm giving away e-books. If you'd like one, read the details here (http://terryodell.blogspot.com/2011/08/free-ebook.html). But hurry, because the deal ends Monday, September 5th, 2011. And thanks for reading my post. Hope to see you throughout the month.

September 2nd, 2011, 07:42 PM
Hello Terry. I'm Dory and I write historical paranormals. I wonder where everyone is. Probably thinking this starts after the holiday. I am looking forward to the class. Dory

Terry Odell
September 2nd, 2011, 07:50 PM
Dory - welcome, and I'm so glad to see you. Yes, i think we'll get into things after the holiday weekend, but I definitely wanted to post on the 1st, just to get things rolling.


September 3rd, 2011, 12:10 AM
Hi Terry,

I'm Julie, and I must admit to loving character sheets. I, too, was thinking this class wouldn't start til Monday, but I'm glad I checked in. I already took advantage of your generous offer after seeing your post on Savvy Authors.

I don't care to read a series mystery that has the same leading characters. But I love reading a mystery with relationships series that includes previous protagonists as minor characters in succeeding novels because I like to look back and see how all the characters fit in. Sort of like a puzzle. So the characters do hold me, even if the protags change.

Some of my favorite characters from these types of series books have come from Amanda Stevens, Allison Brennan, Melissa Mayhue, Veronica Wolff, Karin Tabke,
Terry Spear, Dani Harper, Emily Bryan, and Christy Craig---just off the top of my head.

Looking forward to learning more.

P.S. And hello to Dory. It seems we've been in several classes together---and Celtic Hearts, right? :-)

September 3rd, 2011, 01:36 AM
Oh, and that would be Christie Craig. Don't know what I was thinking.

Terry Odell
September 3rd, 2011, 09:12 AM
Julie - thanks for sharing. I have nothing against character worksheets as long as I don't have to create them! That's the beauty of writing. Everyone works to find what methods get them from page 1 to "the end" and there's no right or wrong way. It's learning about all the possibilities that helps you hone your craft.

And I hope you'll enjoy the characters in What's in a Name?


September 3rd, 2011, 10:21 AM
Hi Terry, romance and suspense, yes just how I like it, so hoping to enjoy learning about 'characters' but not about filling in one of those ghastly forms. Gloria

September 3rd, 2011, 10:40 AM
Well, Terry, I do have to admit that character sheets and plot outlines may keep me from moving forward. I can have it all planned, but then when I'm done, it's as if, it were already done. But it's not. The actual writing is not done. So, I may inadvertantly be self-sabotaging myself. Instead, probably should just write. But I have to have some plan, it seems. I did NaNo a few years back, so I'm hoping to let loose then.

Terry Odell
September 3rd, 2011, 11:03 AM
Julie - I use a 'tracking' system and add things as I move forward. I find that I don't feel as compelled to make my hero the oldest of 3 brothers if it works out later in the story that he's got two older sisters instead. But I'm not a plotter, either, which probably makes a difference.

Terry Odell
September 3rd, 2011, 08:39 PM
Gloria - I think I have some forms hidden away in my file cabinet somewhere. But I'm not going to make anyone fill them out. Mine are all blank!