Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Posts tagged ‘The Monarch’s Son’

First Monday Mentoring May 2019 – let your writing show who you are, but carefully

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I answer your questions about writing. Today’s query asks how to make your characters more real?

The common advice – write what you know – works in many ways. One of them is letting the reader glimpse your personal values through your characters. In mine I try to show their good qualities through how they act under pressure. Their defaults are honesty and kindness even if they struggle to live up to these values.

This doesn’t mean that every character is me. Far from it. They are their own people, shaped by the parenting they received, their experiences as they grew up, and the love they did or didn’t get from their adult relationships.

You as their creator give them these backgrounds, but having done so you lose some of your freedom. A character who has a rough upbringing may well struggle to form good relationships later on. One who has been smothered by “helicopter parents” may find it hard to take risks, seeking a protective partner even as it stunts their emotional growth.

It’s important to be consistent. If they try to surmount their upbringing they need to be aware of the struggle. Perhaps they’ve chosen previous partners unwisely and now resolve to do better.

In my Harlequin Superromance, With a Little Help, my heroine is a successful caterer, the odd one out in a family of high-flying physicians. Having experienced how the demands of a medical career can leave children feeling neglected, Emma Jarrett has no interest in medicine but it doesn’t stop her mother parading eligible doctors in front of her. The latest is surgeon, Nathan Hale, someone she shares a history with. Trying to stick to her ideals is hard as Nate’s appeal grows stronger. Being honest and kind is Emma’s default, challenged by what she considers Nate’s unsuitability.

If you give your main characters some of your own values, it’s easier to portray them as real. There were no doctors in my family, formal education stopping as soon as we were old enough to work. But I was the only writer I know about, so can relate to being the odd one out. I also saw patterns in my family that I didn’t want to repeat when it came to romance.

Having Emma resist partnering with a doctor meant she had to learn that not all of them are like her immediate family. On the other hand, Nate had to come on strong as the indispensable man, only learning differently as he faced mounting challenges including how fast he’s falling for Emma.  This growth and change is the character arc.

In Crowns and a Cradle, the monarch, Prince Lorne, had an unhappy marriage until his wife died leaving him with their young son. If I’d known this would be the first of twenty-three novels set in my South Pacific kingdom, I might not have made divorce illegal. But Lorne is stiff-necked, refusing to change Carramer’s marriage laws even for his own benefit. The situation cried out for a clash of values between Lorne and free-spirited Alison who literally washed up on his private beach. She fell foul of several traditions before accepting that Lorne was right; he had to set an example for his son and his people. But he was also a man, as he started remembering from the moment they met.

Whether they flout their history or stick to it as rigidly as did Prince Lorne, is up to you. It may help to try different approaches before you settle on what works best for your story. I like to make my characters stronger, braver and all-round better people than myself, why I suggest using your own values – but carefully. You don’t want perfect people who can do no wrong.

Nobility is a value I aim for. Noble is defined as fine, decent, righteous and many other good qualities which must be shown, not told. For example, if your heroine needs to raise money for treatment for her sick child, she must attain it by worthy means. Should she find a bag of money, the proceeds of a crime, say, she may agonise over keeping it but she must choose to do the right thing. This shows us her character so we don’t have to be told. In traditional romances the hero may offer her a solution through working for him, possibly the last thing she wants to do, but this is an honest way to help her child.

Your characters may not achieve their goals but it’s not for want of trying. If they fall short it’s for good reason, such as helping the hero or heroine achieve their goals, and in so doing, find a new goal they can achieve together.

What parts of you go into your characters? What don’t you like to see? Share your thoughts in the box below. Comments are moderated to avoid spam, but your comment can appear right away if you click on ”sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

Valerie

www.valerieparv.com

If you’re near Canberra ACT on June 1, join me for a full day of Romance Writing Rebooted. By day’s end leave with a two-page outline of your romance novel.  Information and bookings –

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/romance-writing-rebooted-with-valerie-parv-am-tickets-55747747012?aff=Enews

One among many – should you plan to write one book or a series?

I love Twitter. It can be frustrating trying to reduce a Big Idea down to 140 characters but great fun. And inspirational. Today I posted a Lawrence Block quote using the hashtag #quotes4writers. On Twitter, a hashtag automatically groups together tweets (twitter messages) on a related subject – in this case quotes writers might find helpful.

This is the quote I tweeted:

“Concentrate on the book at hand. Projecting an entire series merely dilutes your efforts” – Lawrence Block #quotes4writers

Within minutes, this blog topic was born. Considering how many writers tell me the book they’re working on is intended to be the first in a series, it’s a fairly common concern. But should an author, especially a new author, tell an agent or editor that their book is part of a series? And how much of the series should you develop?

Make sure you get the continuity right.

In Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, Lawrence Block makes his thoughts clear, adding, “The agents and publishers are not much impressed. Their interest in a manuscript is in its own merits…”

Even if you have the makings of a series – in a fascinating lead character, setting or profession – the first book has to sell before the second become a twinkle in an agent’s eye.  Not because they don’t like series. They do. And readers love them. But there are traps. The first is the need to read series books in the order they’re written. What if you miss book one? Readers feel cheated if they buy a book without knowing it’s part of a series. They must either buy the first book(s) or try to fill in the gaps as they read.

Giving each book a complete story in its own right is a good idea. You can also fill in necessary background with a light hand to avoid boring the pants off regular readers. Giving the book to a reader who’s coming fresh to the series can help you find out what works. The writer can’t know because the back story is all in our heads, although ideally the details should be in more accessible form, in journals or charts you can check to ensure the orphan in book one hasn’t acquired parents by book three without any explanation.

Another trap is “saving” a great story idea for later in the series.  Give your first book your absolute all and trust that more ideas will come if and when you get to write future volumes. In my experience, ideas emerge as the series’ characters and settings grow. When I wrote The Monarch’s Son I never dreamed that I’d set thirteen books in the fictional kingdom of Carramer or I wouldn’t have made divorce illegal. In future books,  I could only end marriages by killing off one or other party.  I could have changed the law but in book one, my monarch had made much of not doing so to suit himself. On the other hand, I was forced to become more inventive.

By all means let an agent or editor know you have other books in mind but 0nly offer a brief paragraph summing up each proposed sequel until you catch their enthusiasm. And most of all, take Lawrence Block’s advice and concentrate on the book at hand.

What are your thoughts on series books, either to write or to read? Have you fallen into any traps? How did you fix them?

Valerie

Proud to be a Friend of the Year of Reading 2012

http://www.valerieparv.com

on twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

Tag Cloud