Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday July 11 First segment of RWA Nationals Workshop

Hey! Good Monday to you.

When I realized the notes for my segment of the workshop I gave with Jenna Kernan and Deb Mullins at RWA Nationals, was only about 18 pages, I also saw that I could easily put these notes up for those of you who couldn't go to Nationals. And for those who did go to Nationals but missed the workshop...or those who went to the workshop and just want the notes... LOL...I'm posting it!

To get you up to speed, Jenna, Deb and I gave a workshop on building a great hero. My 3 segments dealt with Family, Flaw and Conflict. So these segments will go up for the next 3 Mondays.

Today's segment is Family... Enjoy.


Everybody needs family. Your heroes were not hatched as adults on page 1 of your novel. They also do not live in a vacuum. They’ve had parents (either present or absent) who made a difference in their lives and who might still have some say. They should have brothers and sisters, cousins, friends, teachers, bosses, co-workers, a preacher, priest or Rabbi.

These people form your hero’s personality. So even though you have a hero and heroine trapped in a cabin in the woods or on a deserted island, their families will have played a part in the person/people they are now.

And we’re not just talking about dads who deserted their families or moms who were distant. A chatty mom could produce a chatty heroine…or a heroine who HATES to be chatty because her mom drove her nuts. A quiet dad could cause a heroine to feel insecure…or feel that she’ll never let herself depend on a man! Being an only child will produce tons of beliefs. Having doting aunts or no extended family at all will create other beliefs.

Religious parents? Alcoholic parents? Two teachers for parents? Nosy neighbors? A workaholic dad? A workaholic mom? A more successful than dad mom?

Your characters’ families don’t even have to step on the page to influence your hero and heroine…and your villain. (But that’s another workshop.)

So family…even without stepping onto the UBER IMPORTANT in the creation of characters!

But sometimes they are going to step on the page…

Because unless your characters are trapped on the moon, (or living hundreds of miles away, for their jobs) family also form your characters’ world. They give advice. They chit chat. They help the hero and/or heroine feel they belong or they don’t belong.

They form the basis for the characters’ correct and INCORRECT core beliefs about themselves, life and others. (And we’ll talk about this more in the segment on conflict.)

But they also pop up and mess with the plot.

They don’t merely show up on the pages of your novel to populate your book. They need a purpose. To win a spot on the pages of your novel, they should do something.

Whitney Ross’s dad in my April release, THE BABY PROJECT, forces her to become co-guardian of the hero’s infant half-brother, to protect the interests of Darius’s other half-brothers.

The death of Darius’s mom leaves him totally alone.

In SECOND CHANCE BABY, the heroine, Maggie’s step-mom threw her out when she got pregnant at eighteen. Now, fifteen years later, at that same step-mom’s funeral her relationship with her dad is strained.

The hero’s mom in A BABY ON THE RANCH match makes the hero and heroine. Worse, just the presence of Cade’s former father-in-law on his ranch serves to remind him he was married before and he didn’t make such a good husband.

Family pokes into business, offers unwanted advice, meddles, gives the hero and heroine a chance to shine…or shows the reader how they behave in an environment where they are just one of the bunch…or litter! How you behave with family says more about who you are than all your outside behavior!

Family can add depth and sparkle to a book. A dad who likes to cook and is always asking the hero to stay for supper can make us laugh. A little sister who sees through her big brother’s convenient stories and teases him about being in love can add some tension. A next-door neighbor who loses her husband and tells the heroine not to let such a good guy – the hero – get away can make us weep. (If it’s done right!)

And don’t get me started on babies and kids! A baby or a child can totally turn a story.


It’s never a good idea for the secondary characters to steal the show, but it’s wonderful idea to learn how to use secondary characters. How to manipulate them into having your hero and/or heroine do what YOU NEED THEM TO DO.

But most of all, intentionally or unintentionally your characters’ families have helped form your MAIN CHARACTERS’ personalities.

Which takes us to fatal flaw. Or What’s not to Love!


The Fatal Flaw segment will post next Monday. Have a great week. And if you have any questions, just post them! I'll be glad to answer them!


No comments: