Dear Indie | Prologues, Prefaces, Forwards, Introductions & Epilogues

Hi Indies! I’ve been thinking about prologues a lot lately. Mainly because most of my original works have them and when I get the rights back from my publisher, I plan to polish them up and have them re-edited. But, it seems that more and more readers are expressing their dislike for prologues these days. It makes me wonder if I should cut them out of my revised books, or just leave them as is.

Looking back on when I was gobbling books up by the dozen as a teenager, it seems that ALL books had some kind of Prologue, Preface or Introduction and usually an Epilogue to boot. When I first started writing, I used them all of the time because I thought they were standard and therefore, made my manuscripts look more legit. But, are they really necessary for your book? What exactly is their purpose?

I had to do a bit of research, because I wasn’t too sure on the differences between some of these extra areas of a book, or why they’re used. Here’s a short breakdown of what I learned:

FORWARD: In my experience, I’ve only ever seen a Forward used when the book has been re-edited or translated by someone other than the author. Maybe it’s an adaption of The Master and Margarita, something that wasn’t originally written in English – or it’s just an extremely popular classic novel that’s been re-published a hundred million times. Either way, a Forward is never written by the author of the book. It is always written by someone else, usually with some kind of ‘authority’ on the subject or other credentials.

Your book doesn’t have to be re-edited or translated to have a Forward, though. You can have a Forward written for your book by another author as a marketing tool. The Forward sells YOU as an author to readers. The writer of the Forward will highlight what they liked most about your writing style, vocabulary, etc. It’s not about the book or the book’s content as much as it is about you as an author, and what the Forward’s writer thinks the readers will enjoy most about your awesome skills.

PREFACE: I’ve noticed that most authors use a “Dear Reader” rather than labeling it a Preface, but essentially, they’re the same thing. Like the Forward is designed to “sell” the author, the Preface can be used by the author to “sell” the story. It’s when they talk to readers about where the idea for their story came from, and how it evolved along the way. It can cover the writing process or character development, as well. For example: I recall reading a Preface by one of my favorite authors where she explained how she’d scrapped hundreds of pages of her original idea, because her MC had better ideas and wanted to do it his way, LOL – this kind of insight in a Preface can be endearing to your readers and have them already feeling some kind of connection to your main character.

As a marketing tool, a Preface can be just as big of a selling point as the “Blurb” or “Book Description.” You can use it to speak directly to your readers and boast about how much you think they’ll love your book, while leaving baited hooks that will further pique their interest in the story.

INTRODUCTION: The perfect example of an Introduction that comes immediately to my mind is actually from a movie, rather than a book and that was the opening scene of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone where Hagrid first delivers the newly orphaned, infant Harry to the Dursley’s doorstep. This one short scene covered the entire foundation for the story to come, and gave just enough of the backstory that viewers knew exactly what kind of journey they were about to embark on with Harry.

The use of an Introduction seems to be more frequent and popular in Fantasy genres because they usually take place inside of a fictional world with elements unfamiliar to readers. By Introducing the story to your readers, you’re not only preparing them for what comes next, you’re also attempting to further pique their interest – so, once again, it can be a great marketing tool.

PROLOGUE: I think we’re all pretty familiar with and understand the purpose of a Prologue, I just didn’t want to leave it out. Typically, a Prologue is used to provide information to the readers about characters, a referenced event, or anything else that isn’t fully explained in the main story, itself, but you feel is vital for them to know to understand the plot completely. For example: In one of Nora Roberts’s series, she uses a Prologue in each book to show what happened to the ancestors of the main characters. Not only did this provide her the opportunity to share vital information with the readers, but it further invoked the ‘mystery’ of the whole, deepening her readers’ investment and interest in how the present-day plot would play out.

Most of the Prologues I’ve ever used was to flesh out a past event that will either come into play later on in the main story, or will explain one or more of the characters’ reasoning/personality/connections,etc. Prologues are good to use when the information you want to provide isn’t enough to flesh out a whole scene in the main story, or like the example above, doesn’t involve your main characters’, themselves, and may even take place long before their time. Prologues can help keep those bad “info-dumps” from showing up in your main story, as well.

EPILOGUE: Generally, an Epilogue is used to give readers a glimpse at your Main Characters at a future point. It can be an immediate future or years later. This can be for multiple reasons, either to tie up any loose ends, or to “introduce” some of the things that will be happening in the next book, if it’s a trilogy/series. While a lot of Epilogues seem to be geared toward satisfying the readers’ curiosity about what happens to the MC’s after the end of the book, sometimes it can be from a whole new character’s POV that is somehow connected to the story or Main Characters.

For example: I used an Epilogue at the end of Hearthstone Alpha to explain something that would happen in the next book, Little Queen. There were two purposes for this. One: it allowed me to give my readers pertinent information without the use of a dialogue info-dump later on in Little Queen – and two: it tied up a loose end from Hearthstone Alpha about a ‘missing’ sub-character. Since the Epilogue is written from that missing sub-character’s POV, it satisfies the readers’ curiosity about whatever came of him.

One thing that almost all of these extra areas have in common, is that they’re usually shorter than the length of one of your book’s chapters. Although, I have seen some pretty lengthy Forwards and Introductions before.

So, Indies, what’s your opinion on using these extra areas in novels? Do you think it’s solely dependent on the genre, or do you prefer your books without them? I’m mostly ambivalent, but in all honesty, those ‘extras’ can feel like treasured bonuses when they’re in a book I absolutely love and enjoy reading.

I do feel genre has a lot to do with whether or not an author uses a Preface, Introduction, or Forward, where Prologues and Epilogues tend to be more flexible. In today’s market, though, and especially for the Romance genres, I think readers appreciate when they’re used more sparingly. So, if there’s a way to work the same information into the main story, that might be the better way to go.

❤ Happy Tuesday! (Hey, at least it’s not Monday anymore) 😀

Dear Indie | Tropes

Hi Indies! In this post, I’d like to cover some of the more common tropes used in the romance genre. I think we’re all pretty familiar with them and have our personal favorites and those we absolutely despise. I won’t be holding back on my opinions here, fair warning.

10 MOST COMMON TROPES IN THE ROMANCE GENRE

#1: Rags to Riches: It’s timeless, some might even say it’s a classic. Those who despise this trope would rather call it the most unrealistic cliché in history. I think it all depends on how it’s done. We’ve been hearing/reading Rags to Riches stories since we were children and not all of them had to do with a poor girl being swept off her feet by a prince (I’m looking at you, Cinderella). Some, like the musical “Annie,” weren’t about romance at all. Even “A Christmas Carol” had an element of Rags to Riches at the end when Scrooge stopped being stingy and gave Bob Cratchit a raise, then provided a rich man’s feast for their Christmas supper. The thing is, most writers are poor as shit, all of their problems are money-related, and writing is our way of escaping reality and living out our greatest fantasies. Poverty, or being close to it, is simply a ‘real life’ experience that most writers are drawing from, so going from Rags to Riches will continue to be a common trope.

Currently this trope can be split into two main categories for romance: The plot where a desperate need for money is the heroine’s main motive for doing/being in a position to meet her wealthy hero in the first place (virgin auction, escort, sugar daddy, etc.) – Or – The plot where their meeting is happenstance/work related, and the heroine is either defiant against her lover’s wealth or extremely intimidated by it. The problem with the second category is that it causes the hero’s wealth to be repeatedly brought back into the spotlight, often as a negative element – sometimes as the main obstacle between or against them being together. Depending on how this is handled, it can either come across as understandable to the readers or the reason why they stop reading your book. It’s a risky minefield to play around with. The best advice I can give is to follow the golden rule of “less is more.”

My book, Collar Me Foxy, would actually fall under both categories, even though my heroine, Tessa, was offered the opportunity to make money, rather than it being a desperate situation she went looking for on her own – her love interest’s financial and societal status will play a negative part between them – but not until much, much later on in the series. So, it’s not something that I continuously bring up. Personally, I enjoy reading the Rags to Riches novel where the hero’s wealth isn’t the main theme or topic throughout the entire story line. Where the heroine going from Rags to Riches is simply a byproduct of the relationship, and the characters are too in love and busy with a hundred other things for it to matter more than being together.

One thing I feel obligated to note here: Rags to Riches is a highly popular trope in romance, with hundreds of thousands of books titled “The Billionaire [something or another]” Those lovely gems make it easy to avoid the trope if you’re not a fan. However, not all books are that obvious. So, as a writer, if your title isn’t that specific, it might be a good idea to mention the trope somewhere in your book description. Trust me, presenting your books as clearly as possible to readers can help keep those bad reviews from popping up.

#2: Light vs Dark / Purity vs Impurity: This is Little Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf in all of its countless mutations. The heroine is a virgin, inexperienced in every way, pure of heart, full of life and light, and her love interest is the walking epitome of depravity and sin. The main ingredient is temptation. Now, this trope can have a few different kinds of heroes. The Corrupter, who doesn’t care about protecting the heroine’s virtues, he wants to consume and claim her in every way, and be the only one to bring out her inner sex kitten. The Brooder, who believes himself beyond redemption and undeserving of the heroine’s love so keeps her at arms length while his desires fester and he falls deeper into self-loathing. Or – The Protector, who knows that he will destroy the heroine’s purity, taint her lightness, so spends the whole story fighting his desires for ‘her own safety’ and believing it’s the right thing to do.

This is another tricky trope to use without irritating the crap out of your readers, because all 3 of those Hero types can go from lovable to “get the eff over yourself, already” real freaking fast. My personal favorite is Hero #1, my least favorite is Hero #3. Mostly, I’m not a fan of this trope at all. It’s more commonly used in New Adult/Coming of Age romance, which I avoid at most costs because of this trope in particular. The whole wishy-washy, indecisive, back-and-forth behavior by The Protector or even The Brooder goes way too far, or I should say, goes on for waaaaaay too long in most of these books and will even continue AFTER they’ve already had sex. To me, that’s just beyond ridiculous, not to mention it’s more emotionally traumatizing and damaging to the heroine’s self-esteem than anything their ‘dark’ sides could have done if they’d just get the fork over it already.

My advice to any writer who’s going to use this trope is – don’t make it the only one! Provide other tropes in the plot for tension/conflict between your heroine and hero than just this ‘moral dilemma’ so it can be resolved faster, rather than being drug out to the point of annoyance. Give them some other reason to fight against and then for being together. Please. I beg of you.

#3: I/We Were Drunk: This trope can be used a few different ways. It can be the backstory for a Second Chance romance, or the cause of one of the Secret Baby romances (shudder) – but my biggest pet peeve is: When the entire book is thick with sexual tension between the hero and heroine, the build-up to their first time having sex so ripe it has readers on the edges of their seats, flipping the pages so fast they’re in danger of spontaneously combusting – and then one or both of the characters gets drunk, they have sex, and one or neither of them remembers the details the morning after – or feels so guilty about it, that it takes them forever to get over it.

This is the most ANTI-CLIMATIC trope EVER used in romance and I will throw your book in the goddamn trash! I’m not kidding. Not even a little. I HATE when I read this in books and I don’t use that word lightly. I don’t care how realistic drunken sex or drunken one-night stands are, using it in this context–as the couple’s first time having sex following a massive build-up– is the crappiest let down in a novel I have ever read. The fact that I’ve come across it more than once or twice, even in books by my favorite Best Selling authors, just floors me. Why would you do that to your characters, let alone your readers? It completely obliterates all of the fantastic build-up in an instant. It’s robbery. You are robbing your characters and your readers of what should have been the “Finish Line” euphoria deserving of such a rigorous race. Using “I was drunk” is just as pathetic an excuse in writing as it is in real life. It cheapens everything, and in my far-from-humble opinion is the epitome of Lazy Writing. Don’t be lazy. Find some other way to throw a wrench in your couple’s happiness, ffs!

#4: Independence vs Pride: I am all for a strong, independent heroine, as I mentioned several times in my previous posts. All of my heroines are independent in their own way, even if they are kneeling at the feet of a Dom. While independence is more of a personality trait, it can also be a trope – and quite a common one in romance. The trope of independence is often tied to the heroine’s inner-strength, her career, and her list of responsibilities/obligations – so, even if she’s not rolling in riches – she’s still working and taking care of her own with her own income. Sometimes, the woman is at rock bottom and jobless, yet we’ll still see her strive to help herself before asking for hand-outs. Independent women ask for help as a last resort, they have to be desperate to go looking for assistance or agreeing to do something that goes against their morals/beliefs. I like this trope, because it’s believable and it maintains the character’s integrity, even if she ends up doing something immoral to get money out of that desperation. Readers can still relate to that and root her on.

Where independence as a trope becomes a negative thing is when it stops becoming about maintaining independence and starts becoming a matter of pride. Not dignity kind of pride, but the whole “cut off your nose to spite your face” kind of pride. This is when the heroine repeatedly goes against or argues with the hero, even when by doing so, she finds herself in deeper trouble and/or in need of getting rescued by the hero. Yet, she never stops doing it. She never takes a moment to realize she’s the one making her situation worse by being stubborn and unwilling to compromise. She’s too hell bent on proving she’s right and the hero is wrong to see beyond it – and that’s not about independence, that’s about ego and pride. The worst of the worst, is when this trope is used throughout the entire story and the heroine still gets her HEA without growth/compromise/giving equal effort to building a strong and healthy relationship. It’s another book I will throw in the trash after leaving a scathing review on every platform I can find. I have absolutely no respect or support for this heroine type as a reader. She’s an immature hypocrite with double standards, and that has NO place in a romance novel.

#5: The Love Triangle: This is more popular in YA, but is still a classic trope that works. Most readers love it. It’s a great way to show emotional conflict within the heroine, giving readers a more in-depth feel for her personality and those traits that come by her naturally. It can also bring out the ‘ugliness’ wrought by jealousy to show how worthy the hero or heroes are to win the heroine’s affections. Just as in real life, though, this trope can easily slip into the negative realm: If the heroine is leading both men on because she’s indecisive or too afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings, there’s a delicate time frame when this is understandable and relatable to readers, but then it should be resolved, otherwise it starts making the heroine look weak, cowardly, and just like a really bad person.

Now, in some cases the love triangle isn’t experienced by all three people. Often times, the heroine loves only the hero, but she is loved by both the hero and a second man. The unrequited love isn’t her fault and she’s not leading the man on, most likely he is a good friend or someone she has regular contact with. Using the trope in this fashion can lead to numerous results. Frequently, the ‘rejected’ man will become one of, or the main antagonist, or at least some kind of obstacle in the way of the heroine and hero’s happiness. Sometimes, he will recover from this on his own and bow out with some of his dignity left. Other times it will take the heroine or hero confronting him. Usually, it results in the heroine breaking all contact with the man and him simply disappearing from the story line. This trope can also cover the heroine stuck in an arranged marriage, while being in or falling in love with someone else.

The Love Triangle is one of those tropes that can be 100% unique each time it’s used, simply because the characters involved are completely different from any other characters who have already been in this situation – therefore, their reactions and behavior are going to be their own and not what someone else would do/have already done. My advice if you’re going to use this trope is have fun with it, try to make it as unique as possible while maintaining realism. Also, even though jealousy brings out the worst in us, try to stay as true to your character’s personality as possible, even if it’s the ugly side of it.

#6: The Other Woman: This is quite a popular trope in romance and can range from a very small part to being thoroughly integrated into the story line. Either way, somewhere in the plot is another female character who has her sights set on the hero and will cause some kind of tension/conflict between the main characters or will be an obstacle they have to overcome. It is so varied in use, I wouldn’t even be able to list all of the different scenarios here, but I’m sure as readers you have seen this quite often. I have used it a few times in my own books. It’s another classic trope in the romance genre that readers seem to enjoy. I’ve also seen and written scenarios where the ‘other’ woman doesn’t necessarily have her sights set on the hero, she just can’t believe the heroine would be chosen over her, she believes herself more beautiful, better status in society, whatever the case may be. It’s more about a slight against her ego and envy, than desiring the hero, himself.

For example: I have a “other” woman in my current WIP that doesn’t even know who the hero is, she’s just infuriated when she sees my heroine wearing a collar, because she believes herself far more attractive, yet no one bid on her at auction. She’s going to be a small, one scene problem, but it still falls under the umbrella of this type of trope.

#7: The Secret: Another trope that’s readily used is when there’s a secret that will be revealed, usually at the most inopportune time, causing tension/conflict between the heroine and hero or providing them with a challenge that threatens their relationship’s survival. The secret can come from just about anywhere and be about anything that fits your story line and where you’d like the plot to go. Either one of your characters can be harboring the secret or it can be one that neither of them are aware of, but is dug up by a friend or found following the death of a relative – or from the woman who shows up on the hero’s doorstep announcing he’s the father of her child. There are endless ways The Secret trope can be used for your book, and just like The Other Woman, it can be a ‘side’ obstacle they have to overcome or it can be one of the major plot conflicts/twists.

#8: Love For Hire: We’ve seen this popular trope not only in our books, but often in movies, where either the hero or the heroine has to obtain a ‘partner’ at short notice for an event or to achieve something, so they hire or ask someone to pretend to be their lover/spouse. Of course, the more time they spend together, get to know each other, the more the relationship between them becomes real, rather than fake. I loved The Proposal with Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Bullock and especially, Betty White – but that’s far from being the only time this trope has been used and loved by viewers/readers. This is a trope I’ve yet to attempt and may not ever, but it’s not one I dislike, either.

However, I do think that this trope is at higher risk of coming across as completely cliché – in a bad way – than most other tropes. Simply, because there are only so many reasons why a person would need a ‘stand-in’ partner at the last minute and I’m pretty sure they’ve all be covered a few times.

#9: Friends-to-Lovers / Friends With Benefits: Either of these tropes can be used in romance, and it seems to be a fan favorite. I think FWB is still less common than just FTL, but either one is a trope where the heroine and hero start out as friends and then eventually become lovers, then fall in love and HEA. It’s also one of those ‘generalized’ kind of tropes that gives writers plenty of creative freedom to make it unique from all the rest, as it can be applied to a million different scenarios and plot settings.

10: Enemies to Lovers: This trope is more commonly seen in Mafia, MC, and Paranormal romances, but that doesn’t mean it can’t or has never been used in contemporary romance. It can range from the Romeo & Juliet scenario where the love is forbidden due to family loyalties; the Sleepless In Seattle scenario where they’re business enemies; or the Second Chance romance where something happened in their past that made them enemies and now they’re stuck being around each other again for some reason – There are many ways the main characters can be or became enemies, but usually the ‘attraction’ element is always used to get them from enemies to lovers, to in love, to their eventual HEA.

Recently, the favorite type of books where this trope is the main plot thread are the “Abduction” romances. And those can fall under any of the types of romance sub-genres. However, the “Abduction” scenario is a trickier story line to navigate. One, it’s at higher risk of being cliché because of how popular it is and how many times it’s already been done. And two, unless you’re writing “Dark” or “Psychological” thrillers with this trope, you have to make sure readers are convinced the heroine’s affections for the hero are genuine and not the result of Stockholm Syndrome.

Whew! That was a lot to cover and it’s really only a small amount of tropes. What’s your favorite and least favorite trope?

❤ In my next post I’m going to finally conquer the topic of writing BDSM/Kink, the popular scenarios, tropes and how you can make your BDSM novel pass scrutiny by members of the Alternative Lifestyle, even if you’ve never experienced a single kinky thing in your life outside of a bendy straw. 😉

Dear Indie | Writing Male Characters Part 2: Types

Welcome back, Indies! Today in Part 2 of Writing Male Characters, I’m going to cover the most common character types, talk about the difference between writing human and non-human heroes, and touch on some of the good and bad aspects of writing non-human heroes.

COMMON MALE CHARACTER/HERO TYPES IN ROMANCE

I think I pretty much covered the Playboy already in my last post, but that is probably the #1 most common character type for heroes in romance. Especially, erotic romance. They’re usually billionaires to boot, which I think might be the 2nd most common type. So, let’s have a look at what kind of lists I can conjure up off the top of my head for the genres I’m most familiar with.

Romance & Erotic Romance

  • Playboy
  • Billionaire/CEO
  • Dom/Daddy/Sadist
  • Mafia/Mobster
  • Biker/MC Prez or VP
  • Club Owner (usually a sex club of some sort)
  • Foreign Prince/Duke/Noble/Dignitary
  • Military/Special Forces/Personal Security
  • Fireman/Cop/Detective
  • Cowboy/Rancher
  • Single Dad

Paranormal Romance

  • Shifter
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf (not to be confused with wolf shifters)
  • Witch/Wizard/Warlock/Sorcerer/Shade
  • Demigod/Pagan Deity
  • Demon/Reaper
  • Angel/Fallen Angel
  • Devil’s Son
  • Ghost

SciFi Romance

  • Alien
  • Human-Alien Hybrid
  • Ship Captain/Crew-member
  • Galactic Mercenary
  • Space Pirate
  • Time Traveler
  • Bounty Hunter (everyone loves the Western/SciFi mash-ups, come on)
  • Special Operative for an Alien Control Agency

Okay, I’m not as familiar with SciFi as the others, so I’m sure I missed a lot. You can call me out on it, I don’t mind.

It’s no surprise that writing male characters/heroes that aren’t human can be a somewhat different process from writing heroes that are. Most supernatural/paranormal heroes aren’t restricted to the same laws that humans are, let alone the same laws of physics. Of course, the more flawed and ‘human-like’ they are, the more readers will root for them.

The reality is that unless your non-human hero is displaying only non-human traits throughout the entire story, it is very difficult for readers to remember that minute detail. That’s why in my book Hexed, I tried to slip in a reminder here and there simply by having Hex repeat to Zoe that she couldn’t “humanize” him. Because, he does come across with a lot of typical human male traits, but is also very much demon and proud of it. I also tried to give him more demon-like reactions and responses, to add weight to those reminders.

Despite being creative with massive imaginations, we writers still tend to rely on the things we know as points of reference and inspiration – and I, personally, don’t know any real life demons, angels, werewolves or aliens (that I’m aware of). O_o

Well, then what really is the difference between writing human heroes versus non-human heroes? I think, most obviously, is making sure they possess personality traits associated with whatever kind of supernatural/paranormal being they are–and then keep it there. Don’t have your hero starting off as the epitome of a vampire and then start behaving more human than vamp as the story progresses. Besides, I think it’s equally entertaining when a character’s supernatural traits are revealed gradually, rather than all at once.

When it came to writing the characters for my wolf shifter series, I first did a lot of research on real wolves because I wanted to depict the pack dynamic, not just the relationship between the hero and heroine. And I really wanted to incorporate wolf traits into my characters’ personalities, because that just seemed more realistic to me than their wolf traits only coming into play while they’re in wolf form. On top of that, how they think and believe as wolves plays a major part in the way they approach the world around them. Ways humans might not. For example: real wolves mate for life. They’re completely monogamous, so I’m not going to use the ‘cheating’ trope to create conflict between my hero and heroine. It would be unrealistic to do so for their supernatural type.

Now, I know many of you might be thinking: “But, it’s a supernatural book, you don’t have to follow real-life protocol.” That’s true. Writing PNR and Fantasy certainly opens up our ability to be as creative and extraordinary as we want. But, it goes back to creating ‘believable’ characters. We know wolf-shifters aren’t real, but for however long it takes a reader to read my book, I want them to believe that they are 100% possible. So, I’m going to make them as realistic as I can.

THE GOOD & BAD ABOUT WRITING SUPERNATURAL/PARANORMAL HEROES

Without a doubt, the best part about writing non-human heroes is the freedom to give them personality quirks/traits that would normally be frowned upon coming from a human man. Drinking blood isn’t something we could readily forgive our lover, just because. But if he was a vampire and it was the only thing keeping him alive (undead?) then it’s excusable. I mean, the man’s gotta live, right? Or not die all the way?

Another favorite aspect about creating supernatural heroes is getting as close to an original idea as possible. These character types have been around for soooooo long, it’s pretty much impossible to come up a completely new, never before seen kind of vampire, werewolf or wizard. Some authors succeed in at least contributing one thing that stands out from the rest. Stephenie Meyer gave us sparkling vampires and whether or not you appreciated that as a fan of vampires, she at least had an original idea. Her “imprinting” idea for the wolves was also a bit unique. At least it was for me, but then I haven’t read every wolf shifter book on the market, either.

The point is, I respect any writer that attempts to break away from the overdone, cliched, stereotypical character type to offer something as different as possible. I also appreciated the realism of her vampires being that freaking cold to the touch. Often, that realistic side-affect of being ‘undead’ isn’t even mentioned in vampire novels.

Then again, we can only guess what a ‘real’ vampire would feel and act like. As my heroine, Kallie, states in Dark Duplicity: “Aside from making freakishly realistic vampire movies—which, by the way, should be considered an oxymoron…”

The only bad aspect to writing non-human heroes that I have personally come up against stems from my Hell on Earth series. In the series, all of my main male leads/heroes are the actual demons/devils assigned to the seven deadly sins. The problem with writing about demons and devils is that 90% of the books with “Devil” in the title or description for the Romance genre are about human men. Likewise, a good 95% of any series claiming to be about the seven deadly sins is also only about humans.

That’s irksome on its own from a reader’s standpoint when I’m trying to find books to read about actual demons and devils. But, knowing that, going in – I first made the executive decision to use the Latin names of the sins for my book titles and left the word “Devil” out of it, altogether. Then, I backed it up with a Trigger Warning in the description that clearly explains it’s about demonology, occult, devils, fallen angels, etc. Yet, I still get readers who complain that it’s about demons. And it’s not just obvious they missed the trigger warning – it’s because the amount of books about human heroes depicted as-and-referred to as “devils” is far too prominent. So, that’s what readers are expecting. Their eyes just kind glaze over the word Devil anymore.

Another downside is that I’ve gotten reviews where the reader complained about how the hero doesn’t possess the usual ‘good’ qualities and ‘decent’ attributes they typically like to see in their romance men. 😐 My first thought to this is always: “Well, he’s not a man, he’s a devil from hell, so I don’t know what to tell ya.” But, I understand that this reader reaction goes back to what I mentioned before about the way we present our non-human characters.

Despite being 100% fallen angel/demon, my hero lives and works on earth, so he acts human to fit in. This “act” makes up most of the personality traits my readers are presented with, so I can’t really get too upset when they expect those traits to carry all the way through. Even though his “act” is anti-social disorder at best and he displays random abilities no human man could ever possibly pull off, it’s the equivalent of having an unlikable vampire. To most readers, it really doesn’t matter “what” your hero is, as long as he’s a lovable hero.

Personally, I think Aliens should get the largest pass for not acting human, but once again, I’m not as fluent in SciFi romance as the others. I thoroughly enjoy Anna Adler’s Silenia series, but her heroes are Alien-Human Hybrids, so of course, they’re going to both look and behave just as human as alien. I’m also a fan of Gena Showalter, and I love her Alien Huntress series, but all of her aliens are extremely human-like in personality, even if their physical appearances are anything but. If you know of any great SciFi romance books with Alien heroes that lack most human traits, please let me know, I’d love to check them out for comparison!

This is also where picking the right genre for your book is vitally important. Most romance novels that are labeled “Dark”, “Thriller”, “Suspense”, “Psychological” or even “Taboo” get an automatic pass from readers when it comes to how their male heroes are depicted. I tried my best to advertise the Avarice trilogy as “Dark Erotic Romance”, but unfortunately that’s not an actual category option on Amazon from the main set up screen. I haven’t learned the art of hidden categories yet, but if you’re facing the same problem, it might be worth looking into.

Alright, Indies, that covers the topic of writing male characters/heroes. Please feel free to let me know if I missed an area you’d like to see discussed. In my next post, I’m going to talk about common tropes used in the romance genre.

If there’s a topic you’d like to see a post about, let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Dear Indie | Writing Female Characters Part 3: The Unlikely Heroine

Hi Indies! This will be the last post addressing just female characters/heroines, so I really hope I’ve covered everything. If not, please let me know in the comments below. Today I’m going to talk about writing the challenging heroine and then go over some of the common female character ‘types’ that we know and might be naturally drawn to.

WRITING A FEMALE LEAD/HEROINE THAT CHALLENGES YOU

Have you ever wondered how some heroines came to be? Ever read a book where the female protagonist wasn’t completely loveable, relatable or even likable, yet by the end of the book you still found yourself on her side?

As a reader, some of the most rewarding endings to a book can come simply from watching the evolution of the main heroine go from not-so-likable to an amazing woman who mostly redeems herself. The best example that comes to my mind immediately is the main character from The Girl on The Train. Sadly, I’ve yet to read the book, but even watching the movie, I couldn’t necessarily relate to this character based on all the things that made up who she was. I don’t want to include any spoilers, though so I’ll do this carefully.

In no possible way did I relate to this character for any of her ‘flaws’ or ‘traits’ or even ‘circumstances’ – yet I did relate to her as a woman with a shattered heart, even to her justifiable bitterness. I could relate to her panic, her need to remember things that might reveal she’s a more horrible person than she already fears she is. I could sympathize with her to a certain degree. But for a moment there in the midst of all the chaos, I felt my loyalty to her waiver. I felt my annoyance with her obsessive behavior increase, and I started doubting the integrity of her as a heroine, but by then I was already too invested in her to give up – and that really paid off.

It’s all thanks to the formula the author used to tell this heroine’s story. We’re given the opportunity to sympathize with her on many levels before we ever learn about her less than admirable habits. So, by the time her bad traits start rearing their ugly heads, we’re already invested in her good ones or the ones that make us feel some kind of connection to her. That’s damn good writing! 😀 But, imagine if ALL of our books had heroines like that? They would no longer stand out in our minds or have the ability to leave a lasting impact. These unique, unlikely heroines are undoubtedly the most challenging to write for an author. So how can we, as writers, successfully create this most challenging kind of female lead? Should we take everything I highlighted about Inspiration and Realism and toss it right out the window? Not exactly…

If you’re going to challenge yourself with an uncommon heroine, think opposites. Don’t ditch your sources of inspiration or your tools for realism, pick the ones you wouldn’t normally use. Write the things that make you uncomfortable, that goes against your sense of morality. Give your heroine just enough to make her sympathetic to your readers, but otherwise don’t attempt to make them fall in love with her like you usually would. That woman on the train was largely unlikable to the point where she didn’t even like herself, yet the author managed to convince her readers that she was worthy of their support.

I’m currently working on my first Dark Psychological Romance, and it is challenging me in every way imaginable, it’s quite out of my comfort zone. My main female lead is much like that woman on the train was for me: I can’t relate to her. I can only empathize with her. In order to work on my character, I can’t even ask myself what I would do in her situation. I have to rely on the most ‘realistic’ response or reaction I can possibly imagine for someone like her. It’s the most detached I’ve ever been from one of my female leads, yet I get her. I understand, perfectly, why she is the way she is. I can logically reason out that there’s no other way she could possibly be given her overall circumstances. But my logic and ability to reason doesn’t equal a relatable heroine.

My biggest challenge will be staying true to her character, while giving her ‘personal growths’ that will enable my readers to continue to root for her, even if a part of them knows they shouldn’t. She is never going to be 100% redeemable because it’s unrealistic to make her that way, which makes this all the more challenging. In essence I’m creating a kind of anti-heroine and hoping readers love her for it.

Of course, I’m not saying anyone should try to create a female lead who is that extremely removed from their norm. But, it can be a good exercise to try your hand a sketching out an unlikely heroine. It might even give you insight on all the different personality traits and character ‘types’ you’re usually drawn to. Which is a great segue for our next topic…

FEMALE CHARACTER/HEROINE TYPES We Know, Love & Hate

I mentioned that we’re naturally drawn to heroine ‘types’ for our inspiration, even if we don’t make the conscious decision to lean toward them, we do. No matter how submissive my female protagonists are for my BDSM novels, they’re never weak. They are not doormats. I am naturally drawn to strong, independent women. I idolize character types that are bad ass and intelligent with integrity above all others. But what do those types really mean? What is YOUR definition of bad ass, intelligent, and integrity? The truth is that you can take a single character “type” and use it to create half a dozen distinctively different heroines. Below is just a small example of what I mean.

The Bad Ass:

Character 1: This heroine is bad ass because she can fight physically, has weapons training, and perhaps she’s skilled in stealth, espionage and has other spy/assassin attributes. She can operate any vehicle and probably has her pilot’s license. She’s strategical and can usually out-smart her opponents. She’s very active, her life is one adventure after another. This example can also apply to the “magical” bad ass.

Character 2: This heroine is bad ass, because she’s got a spine of steel and she’s the rock others depend on in any given situation. She’s highly respected, a natural leader others look to for direction. She would sacrifice herself to save others, but she would never sacrifice her integrity or her morals. She’s scarred, but she uses those dark past incidents to make her stronger and a better person, rather than letting them crush her. Family is important to her, as is her unerring faith in human decency despite all that she knows and has seen.

Character 3: This heroine is bad ass because she doesn’t take anyone’s shit, can win in most physical fights, and usually has a more cynical outlook on the world. Yet, buried under all of her hard outer armor – she cares deeply. She’s intimidating, tough to crack, and even tougher to get to admit when she’s wrong, but her moral compass is dependable when push comes to shove. Some of her toughness comes from being in a leadership position like a detective, military commander, or even the captain of her own ship; she is equally feared and respected.

The Intellectual:

Character 1: This heroine might not be able to fight physically, but she can win debates and reason out major problems logically in a way that makes her intimidating to others. She’s either in a political position of power or another career responsible for directing others – and she had to knock down a few male egos to get there. She’s tough because she’s a woman in a man’s world, but is usually respected by most. She would, however, make enemies easily.

Character 2: This heroine’s intelligence is less aggressive in nature and even if she’s in a leadership position, she’s just as generous as she is smart, making it harder for people to dislike her. Her intelligence is most apparent in her quick wit, independent lifestyle, and ability to make the best decisions. She’s good at solving clues, mysteries, connecting dots and is likely the main puzzle-solver in her story.

Character 3: This heroine is sly, conniving, coy. She’s the manipulator, the one who knows exactly how to maneuver people into position to get exactly what she wants. She can either be smugly obvious or completely unexpected. Either way, people are charmed by her and usually fall right into her traps. She’s not always a bad guy, her ploys could be for the sake of the good. She could just as easily be a con-artist as an undercover agent, but guaranteed her mind works 10 paces ahead of everyone else’s.

The One With Integrity:

Character 1: This heroine’s integrity is her most obvious trait. Everyone around her knows she can’t be budged when it comes to her standards, morals, or beliefs. She’s usually relied upon by others, all of her strength emanating from within, rather than a physical show. People are drawn to her, and trust in her advice inexplicably. She might be a judge, her family’s matriarch, a lawyer, a case worker or psychiatrist. She would be in a position to guide and better people’s lives however she can.

Character 2: This heroine comes across as shy or even gullible, because she believes in the good in everyone she meets and is always looking on the bright side of every situation. She’s ridiculed for being naive and often comes across as inexperienced or sheltered. She hasn’t known too many hardships, hasn’t been victimized or exposed to the darker sides of humanity – yet, even when/if she is – she still clings to all of her positive beliefs. Her integrity is the core of her really good heart, and unerring faith that good will always triumph over evil.

Character 3: This heroine is blunt and honest to the point of making others uneasy around her. She doesn’t give two shits what others think about her and would rather be hated than ever pretend to be something she’s not. She’s got a tough outer exterior, because only someone as blunt and honest as her deserves to see what’s inside. She’d kill for those who matter to her and can be a little over-protective of them, hates small talk, forced pleasantries, and anything else she considers outright bullshit and a waste of time. She’s all for living life to the fullest, but is usually self-employed or at least not in a position where she has to deal with other people.

That’s only 3 character examples of 3 personality types, I’m sure many of you could come up with way more. Especially, for the types you’re most drawn to. Sitting down and seeing how many different heroines you could create from just one ‘type’ could also be a handy tool to help you nail down a new character’s personality. It’s kind of like playing the word game when you’re fighting writer’s block. And there are countless “types” to play around with.

  • Charismatic/Extroverted
  • Quietly Observant/Introverted
  • Princess/Girly-Girl
  • Wallflower/Shy/Bashful
  • Ambitious/Career Driven
  • Damaged/Broken
  • Goody-Goody
  • Tomboy
  • City Girl
  • Fashionista
  • Depressed/Sorrowful
  • Scorned/Vengeful
  • Secretive
  • Resigned
  • Whimsical/Daydreamer
  • Creative/Cheerful
  • Responsible/Burdened
  • Adventurous
  • Snarky/Sassy
  • Brat
  • Giving/Generous
  • Narcissist
  • Loyal & Self-Sacrificing
  • Freedom Seeking
  • Sensual/Sex-Driven
  • Violent/Aggressive

These are just the personality types I could think of off the top of my head, but some character types can be defined by their career or circumstances, rather than personality traits. Here are some examples I’ve used for my own female characters and a few others I can think of:

  • Party Planner
  • Confectioner/Baker
  • Homemaker
  • Photojournalist/NSA Agent
  • Stager
  • Personal Assistant
  • Supervising Coordinator & On-Site Liaison
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Stripper
  • Artist
  • Magical/Supernatural
  • Serial Killer’s Assistant
  • Researcher/Genealogist
  • Historian
  • Cop
  • Novelty & Holiday Decor Store Owner
  • Social Media Publicist CEO
  • Secret Government Operative (x3)
  • Graphic Novelist
  • Phone Sex Operator
  • University Student
  • College Drop-Out
  • Intern
  • Bar Owner/Metal Sculptor
  • MotoGP Parts Developer
  • Teacher/Professor
  • Single Mom
  • Broke & Struggling
  • Debutante
  • Mafia Princess
  • Huntress/Warrior
  • Biker
  • Secretary
  • Lawyer
  • Case worker
  • Waitress
  • Veterinarian
  • Foreign Princess
  • Activist
  • Homeless
  • Doctor
  • Caregiver
  • Thief/Con-Artist
  • Charity Worker
  • DIY Guru

So, what’s your preferred ‘type’ of heroine? Does your preference differ from what you read to what you write? What are some of your least favorite types, or types you get tired of seeing so readily in books? Comments, feedback, and questions welcome! ❤

Dear Indie | Writing Female Characters Part 2: Realism

Hi Indies! Welcome back for Part 2 of a current hot topic: How to Write Female Characters/Heroines. If you missed Part 1 about inspirational resources, you can check it out here. Today, I’m going to talk about key elements or tools that can help you create believable/relatable female characters.

IMPORTANT TOOLS FOR WRITING BELIEVABLE FEMALE CHARACTERS

#1: Realistic Reactions. Few things are worse for me as a reader, than having a beloved heroine go bi-polar out of the blue. Or worse–stupid. I can love a book to pieces and one unrealistic reaction from a character will ruin the whole thing for me. In instances like that, it’s easy to determine that the writer was so in love with the scene, that they forced their character to react in the only way they felt would make it work. There is no scene worth sacrificing your character’s truth for. It’s not a remarkable scene for your readers if the character is suddenly behaving like aliens invaded their body – and you don’t write SciFi – so the practice it pointless.

Realistic reactions have layers, just like personalities do. The core should always be: stay true to your character. If she has an ‘uncharacteristic’ reaction, then there should be a reason behind it that’s either foreshadowed or clearly explained in a later scene. Whenever I’m not quite sure how to write one of my character’s reactions, I always ask myself: How would I react to this situation? Or, if I’ve modeled my character after someone else, I ask: How would so-and-so react to this situation? If you can’t picture yourself or a person you know reacting the way you want the scene to go while staying true to your character – it’s time to rehash the scene, not the character’s reaction. #sorrynotsorry.

#2: Flaws. The most believable thing about a character is their flaws, and we all know this. It’s what makes them relatable to readers. Even if your heroine is supermodel gorgeous, juggles a host of natural talents, and can slay zombies with one hand tied behind her back – she’s still going to have insecurities, doubts, a dark secret, or a bad nail-biting habit – something. Because I bet if you interviewed an actual supermodel, artist, or soldier they could give you a whole list of things they don’t like or would change about themselves. Whether your characters are 100% human or not, readers will love them all the more for the flaws they can relate to. For the insecurities they can sympathize with.

#3: Growth. I think it’s pretty common to see characters undergo some kind of personal growth by the end of a book – or at least, it should be. This adds to the realism and relatability of them for your readers and is simply based off how you present them in the beginning of the story, versus how they end up being by the end of it. Leaving room for your female lead to grow is an important element in character development and can have a long-lasting, positive impact on your readers. Take a moment right now to think of some of your own favorite heroines and ask yourself how many ‘personal growths’ they went through along their journey. Did those moments make you love them all the more, did they end up better versions of themselves by the end of the book?

Most female leads that come to my mind don’t necessarily scream “OMG, I need so much growth!” right off the bat. A lot of times, neither they or you as the reader, even realize they need it, until something happens to make them realize it. Obstacles are great elements to trigger moments of growth for your characters. Tough decisions, hardships, a challenge issued by the antagonist, etc. There’s an endless supply of ‘reasons’ – but if your female character is already 100% grown to the version you want her to be and is surpassing all the obstacles without breaking a sweat, then these moments of greatness are lost and readers have nothing remarkable to remember about her story.

A Growth No-No: A major, recurring -ish that I have derives from the romance genre. I’ve seen this horrendous trend more times than I care to count, where ONLY the male character is expected to make any compromises, changes, growth, apologies, groveling, basically give up everything that ever made them who they are as a person – just to win the female lead’s undying love. And it irks me so freaking bad! It is the worst trope in romance novels ever – and it’s rampant.

Seriously, writers, this is one of the most unrealistic and unbelievable things you can do in your story. As a real life woman and reader, I will never buy that a relationship magically falls into place when just one of the characters makes it happen. If your female character is going to portray the belief that a man should love her for who she is, flaws and all, then she should be willing to extend the same courtesy to that man. Nobody likes a hypocrite.

Most importantly, if you’re writing romance, that means you are showing the development of a relationship – and a relationship takes equal effort from all parties involved. Plus, it goes back to flaws. Your female lead should be flawed to be relatable, which means she would have her own share of compromises and inner-reflections to make, and should be adult enough to admit when she’s wrong, because the relationship should matter to her just as much as it matters to her love interest. The relationship is the key element in a romance novel, which easily makes it a huge ‘reason’ for all of your characters’ growth. Note: There are always exceptions to the rule – this is based solely off of the most common couple types depicted in romance fiction.

#4: Character Integrity. This could be considered an ‘umbrella’ element over all of the others I’ve already mentioned, but it’s something I try to remain conscience of while I’m developing new characters and haven’t completely fleshed them out yet or gotten the whole of their personalities sorted. Basically, it’s quite simple: Make sure your heroine walks the talk. If you’re going to claim she’s highly intelligent with an IQ of whatever, then don’t have her acting clueless throughout the entire book. It’s rare to see happen, but I have read a few books where the main character’s behavior and reactions to things completely contradicted her inner thoughts – at every turn. Every time a course of action was taken or dialogue was spoken, she would go against or do the exact opposite of everything she’d claimed to think, believe, know, decided about. And it’s one thing for an author not to notice this after reading their own story a gazillion times – but their editor on top of it? Ugh.

Another instance I’ve come across is when an author is trying to keep certain things ‘secret’ so they can have a ‘dramatic reveal’ later on – but they make the mistake of giving away too many clues that their “intelligent” heroine just can’t seem to piece together, even though the readers could have figured it out with less detail…while they were wasted. However – this can also be done on purpose. The difference is with how your heroine reacts when the ‘secret’ is revealed. Note: if she’s utterly surprised, you need to rethink things.

For example: In the Avarice trilogy, my female lead, Kami, appears to ‘miss’ clues that I know damn good and well my readers were able to piece together right away and quite easily. It wasn’t because she had moments of lapsed intelligence, it was a psychological hangup – she was in too much denial to acknowledge the clues and make the connections. But, I showed that to the readers with her reaction. Not only does she ridicule herself for not making the connections sooner when they’d been so obvious, she admits to herself that she hadn’t wanted to see them, making them too easy to ignore.

Side Note: Speaking of obvious…Clarification is something I struggled with a lot as a writer when I was first starting out and still do every once in awhile, when I find myself having to explain things to my editor. It can be difficult to remember that our readers don’t already have all of the information we do. They’re not getting half of the things we’ve fleshed out behind the scenes and then never used in the finished manuscript – or in the case of a series – events that will unravel later on. Which means, things that seem obvious to us, are not at all obvious to them. The art of subtlety in writing is precarious and can be a downfall in helping readers connect with your characters. It’s better to err on the side of caution and spell things out for your readers, than to try and use clever subtleties half of them will never get. This is an area where reliable beta readers can come in handy during your writing process.

One Last Tip: A good exercise you can use to check the realism of your female character/heroine – as backwards as it may seem – is compare her to a YA character. I’m not kidding. If your adult heroine is coming across less mature, less in-depth, and less believable than a teenage girl in a YA novel, then you’ll know you’ve got some work yet to do on fleshing her out. Just don’t forget to leave her room for growth!

Coming up in Part 3 for this article, I’m going to talk a little about the challenge of writing female characters/heroines that take us out of our comfort zone and then cover some of the ‘types’ of heroines that we may or may not be drawn to.

❤ As usual, feel free to leave your questions or feedback in the comments below! 😀

Dear Indie | Writing Female Characters Part 1: Inspiration

Hi Indies! I’d like to jump into character development topics over the next several posts and thanks to some amazingly positive feedback and requests for this particular article, I’m tossing in my two cents on the popular subject about writing female characters/heroines. Keep in mind that I’m a writer of Romance, so that genre will be the main basis for my tips, feedback, etc.

It’s unfortunate, really, that there are so many books out there that apparently don’t live up to readers’ standards when it comes to the female leads. Especially, considering 95% of our readers are women. I’ve read my share of heroines that were the equivalent of watching the stereotypical, half-naked woman running through the woods from a serial killer only to trip, fall, then continue to make the worst decisions while the audience screams at her not to. I understand how and why that trope became a slasher movie cliché –I’m just not sure why women are writing women this way in their books.

I will be breaking these posts up into parts to make them easier to digest, because there ended up being a lot more to cover than I’d expected. In this first post, I’m going to talk about where I draw all my inspiration from for my female characters and briefly talk about avoiding the creation of carbon-copies.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I’d just like to preamble that I haven’t read any of the other articles or books out there which address this topic, so I’ll apologize in advance if any of this sounds redundant. I’m not an expert, I’m just me, so I can only share with you how I write my female characters, the kind of females I love to read, and the kind that will have me ditching a book in a heartbeat – or writing a scathing review.

DRAWING ON REAL-WOMEN INSPIRATION FOR YOUR FEMALE CHARACTERS:

#1: Yourself. There is a piece of me in every single one of my characters. Whether it’s one of my strengths, weaknesses, quirks, flaws, hobbies, fascinations, something I envy, something I abhor – it’s drawn directly from my own personality, life, experiences or dreams. This is a mixture of ‘write what you know‘ and ‘have relatable characters‘. Even though readers might not be able to guess it and wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the exact elements that are ‘me’, they’re still in there. This practice can be just as therapeutic as it is fun. It can allow me to dabble in a career I’ve always admired, or explore a talent I always wished I’d been blessed with. It can also give me the opportunity to confront someone I never had the guts to, or right a wrong I’ve always regretted. Lending a piece of yourself to your heroine enables you to connect with them on a deeper level while you’re fleshing them out and makes it easier to put yourself in their shoes when they come up against an obstacle.

Even though I do this, I’m also aware of the unfortunate backlash some authors get when readers accuse them of ‘being’ their characters. We are not our characters, even if we lend them a piece of ourselves, they’re still likely to do and say things we never would, for whatever reason, so don’t let that small downside discourage you from using things about yourself as a source of inspiration. #hatersgonnahate regardless.

#2: People You know. Many of my characters share personality traits with family members and close friends. Usually, it’s a blend of many. For example, my female lead from Hexed, Zoe Bankes, is the perfect mash-up of one friend’s infallible independence and A-type personality, another friend’s sarcastic mouth and no-nonsense attitude, my sister’s quick wit and snarky comebacks, and my geeky love for all things Supernatural and Star Wars. Then, I topped it off with a dash of traits unique just to Zoe. Since I had already developed her as a sub-character before she took on the role of main protagonist, those traits were already there for me to build upon.

Another great example, is my sub-character, Serena Daniels, from Hearthstone Alpha and Little Queen. She’s largely her own personality, but it’s one of my friend’s unerring belief in the importance and loyalty of family that I drew from that gave Serena all the trademarks of a ‘matriarch’ type of character, even though she’s no older than the main protagonist. In one scene, Serena gets quite verbal and bossy during her anxiety over family members arguing and this is something that my particular friend would do without hesitation.

Another reason why friends make such amazing sources of inspiration is because usually they’re bringing traits to the table that you don’t have. “Opposites attract” can be just as true in friendships, as it can be in romances. If your female lead has other women in her life, especially if they’re regulars in the storyline, using complimentary traits that differ from hers can be a great way to add depth to your sub-characters without having to completely flesh out their stories.

#3: Idols. I know I said “real-women inspirations,” but most of us have celebrities/artists/activists/authors/teachers/historical figures that we admire–and technically, they’re real people. Drawing on the traits of these women that you might idolize to some degree can also be a handy source of inspiration for your female characters. I wouldn’t necessarily advise creating a character that’s an exact replica of someone you know or look up to, but everyone’s personalities are multilayered. There are things you like and dislike about them, things you admire and frown upon, and those traits can be used for all kinds of characters, to include antagonists. This is where the therapeutic part comes in – how many times have you ever wanted to tell someone off or see them get a taste of their own medicine? I mean, you’re the one writing the book, so have at it! LOL

#4: Other Characters. Okay, so this is NOT real-women inspiration, per se, but most female characters are portraying real women, so it shouldn’t be discounted. And let’s face it, we can’t consciously keep track of every single female character we’ve ever had the pleasure–or misfortune–to read about, unless you’re blessed with photographic memory. But, subconsciously we tend to naturally draw inspiration from character ‘types’ that we’re attracted to the most. This can also be said for movie or TV show characters. And it’s another option to use for finding inspiration, as long as you’re not plagiarizing, of course. Unless, you’re borderline plagiarizing on purpose for a parody. In that case, good luck! 😀

Now, that I’ve covered these sources of inspiration available to you for writing your female characters, I’d like to briefly touch on a related topic.

WRITING UNIQUE FEMALE CHARACTERS

By this, I don’t mean unique from the world’s population at large, but from each other. If you have multiple books out, chances are, you’re already pretty good at creating female leads that differ from one another in enough ways they’re not coming across as carbon copies, or the same exact personality with a different hair/eye color combo.

With so many sources of inspiration at hand, it shouldn’t be too difficult to make sure all of your female characters are unique from one another. I usually have a general idea about my female lead’s personality before I even start typing the first words on the page, because I’ve found that this is much easier than just diving right in without a clue – and I’m a Pantser! But, it’s rare that I have no inkling at all. Still, there have been times when I started off with a personality type that I just couldn’t make work for the story idea and ended up having to start from scratch. Those are never fun, so I try to make sure I have the right ‘voice’ going in.

A lot of times, it helps if I just flesh out a little of their background first or maybe stick them in a scene with the male lead to get a better feel for who they are and how they respond to things.

Another obstacle, is that I write BDSM novels, so many of my characters share certain traits distinctly linked to being submissive. If you’re dealing with a handful of female leads that have a common trait such as this, you really have to try to make sure all of their other traits make them unique for your readers. Likewise, I have female leads like Reyna Daniels and Zoe Bankes, who don’t have a single submissive bone in their bodies – yet, they’re still remarkably different in how they approach and react to situations.

Regardless of where you draw your inspiration from, most writers share the common goal of wanting to create female leads/heroines that readers will love and root for. In Part 2 for this article, I will be covering tools I use and feel are most important for writing believable female characters. Hope to see you there! 🙂

❤ Please feel free to comment below if you have questions or need to point out something vital I missed (Wouldn’t be surprised, so don’t be shy! LOL)

Meet The Character | The Self-Sabotager

They call me Max Carver, because that’s the name on the cover. I’m the latest contender in the world of Graphic Novelists. My fans line up outside the bookstores and comic book shops, dressed like characters I created, waiting to see what carnage will be wrought and what kind of debauched mess their favorite anti-hero has gotten himself into this time.

Insidious “Sid” Strider gives all bad things a bad name, and man, do they love him. They can’t get enough of my morally-challenged alter ego. The one who’s always been free to do exactly what he wants; extending two middle fingers to the world like twin banners of pride.

No one knows that he’s been my cathartic outlet since I was seventeen; that he was born out of the madness following childhood tragedy. That he’s my much needed escape from reality, my purge of all the fear and rage. They can’t know that at times, he’s still the only solace I seek, my most trusted confidant.

Mostly, they don’t know that I’m a girl.

A young woman frayed at the edges behind an easy smile. Picking at the threads of my seams when no one’s looking. They have no clue that Sid isn’t my only sordid outlet.

In my private life, I’m a submissive of the Alternative Lifestyle known by and large as Kink. I found it quite naturally and never looked for anything else, even though I always ruin it. A subconscious demand stemming from my many contradictions, which, eventually–and without fail–push me to rebel against contentedness and comfort.

I’m the good girl in need of a strict-ass Dom who won’t put up with my shit. Though, in all fairness, it’s a lot of shit. I really can’t blame them for falling for the lies I tell myself, while pulling the wool over their eyes because they let me get away with it before. It’s not their fault I’m constantly testing them and watching them fail. Somewhere in the dark complexities of my mind, they’re fighting the inevitable.

I don’t have issues, so much as a solid record.

But Hayden’s not failing. He’s calling me out on my BS at our first meeting, switching up the rules of engagement from any other Dom I’ve ever met and you’d think that was a good thing. Except, good things are like bad thing’s crack, and I feel Sid creeping out of his cage, just waiting to make a long-lasting impression.

I don’t know if this is going to be an amazing ride or the toughest trial of my life, but I do know one thing: I’m destined to fuck it all up. I won’t be able to stop myself. I will tow the line, bend the knee, and earn my “good girls” – but in the end, I’m still a self-sabotaging mess seeking a miraculous change, while fighting tooth-and-nail to remain exactly the same.

~ Catherine Maxine Nicholson