Friday, March 12, 2010

Just When You Think You Know Someone ...

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” ~ Virgina Woolf

Creating strong, independent heroines is a tricky business. Are they too much? Too little? Too this? Too that? Are they likeable enough? Strong enough? Smart enough? Flawed enough? Sexy enough? Are they the correct balance of all those things?

The heroines I have on the go at the moment span a wide range of personalities (or archetypes, I guess?). From Peyton St. John, my vampire loner; Lily Wheeler, my girl next door; Kate Logan, my model turned entrepreneur; and Grace, my activist. And don’t even get me started on my psychic, my exotic dancer, and my corporate ingénue, and their down-in-dirt struggle to survive in a pre-apocalyptic world.

They each come with a backstory of their own and each character is shaped by their own history. Using great caution, I'll decide how much or how little of it to include in their story. After their backstory, I'll begin to work on their motivations. What do they want? They have to want something. In my work-in-progress, Complicated, Kate Logan wants a fresh start. She also has something to prove to herself and everyone else. She’s got a plan. And it doesn’t involve romantic entanglements. She’s all business, budgets, and bankers.

Does Kate’s character need further developing to make her into a strong heroine? You bet! The first draft is written and now comes the fun part. I enjoy revising, almost more then writing the first draft. There’s something about coming up with just the right sentence at the exact right time. Knowing you’ve written the exact right piece of dialogue for a certain character. Writing the first draft helps me get to know the characters and how they'll react in certain situations. It's all about knowing what she will and will not do in any given situation. For example: What’s her game face? What are her tells? Those are all things I have yet to figure out. I set out to discover a little more about Kate.

Ten Things About Kate Logan

1. She loves high heels. She wears them everywhere. Except down dark alleys, which she avoids completely for more than one reason. The same goes for basements and attics.

2. She will gleefully stab a stiletto through the heart of any man stupid enough to rip her blouse in the guise of foreplay. Her first official act from prison will be to send his estate the bill.

3. She buys fashion magazines for the articles. Yes, really! Well, not the ones with the sketchy offerings on how to please your man. Because isn’t that just a little bit backwards? After all, we’ve all encountered men who’ve never heard of a G-spot let alone found one.

4. She will drive herself to the restaurant, theater or coffee house, thank you very much, where she will not be splitting the bill. And if she wants to sleep with you on a first date she will. She’s just never been tempted. Plus, she has very high standards. Very. High. She no longer dates men who are shorter, the same height, or taller than her.

5. The must-have-contents of her purse are as follows: three shades of lip gloss including her signature shade of red, one set of keys, a twenty dollar bill, her blackberry, and two tampons. I won’t bore you with the minor items.

6. She does not, nor will she ever, roar. She has, however, attended a Lilith Fair or two.

7. She does not own a gun because why the hell would she?

8. Her favorite fictional hero is Mr. Darcy because …duh.

9. She owns Kate’s Closet. She wanted to spell closet with a ‘k’ but her best friend, who is a teacher, forbade it on the grounds there are already too many sanctioned spelling infractions. 2 tru :)

10. She can text and chew gum at the same time. She does not text and drive because it’s illegal in her part of the world and also just plain wrong. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter and if you want to go old school she’s also in the phone book. Just don’t call for a date as she’s done with men.

So there you go, a few interesting tidbits but my up and coming heroine I didn't know before my impromptu little exercise. It helped me understand Kate better, get inside her head. I still have lots of work to do to make her a flesh and blood heroine but it was fun trying to look at things from her point-of-view.

So how about sharing some of your current heroines biggest do’s and don’t’s. List some of your favorite fictional heroines. What’s in your heroine’s purse?

And as International Women’s Week comes to a close, some quotes to ponder over.

“When I say ‘work’ I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.” ~ Margaret Laurence

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” ~ Ayn Rand

17 comments:

Paula R said...

Hey Karyn, loved your blog post. I like the list you have too. I am still working on that first draft, trying to get to know my characters, so I don't think I can make a list just yet. The thing is I know who I think my heroine is, but that might not be the case, so I am going to wait until I finish the draft, then maybe I will attempt this exercise.

I love Kate, and I can't wait to read more about her. I am curious to see why she has such HIGH standards when it comes to men too.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Janet said...

Fabulous, Karyn. I loved this glimpse into Kate's persona - and I think her story will be just as witty and sexy as Lily's! There were a couple of 'spew' moments there - you should have warned us who like to drink coffee while reading blogs :)

(Just a side thought - I know in a recent blog you commented on your trilogy and tying them all together under a trilogy name ~ have you noticed that Kate's story starts with the same letter as Lily's? Great connection!)

My heroine, Mickey, has a purse the size of a gym bag (according to Jack). She heard once that the bigger the purse, the smaller her butt would look and has embraced that as her personal mantra. She also doesn't know how she could live without her crossword puzzle book, her latest spy novel, the granola bars (one of each flavor) she loves to munch on, or engraved lock picking set her grandfather gave her for her birthday.

Ooh, I like this exercise (learned lots about Mickey just from tapping out the above paragraph). Thanks.

Great post, Karyn. Looking forward to reading more of Complicated.

Vince said...

Hi Karyn:

My idea of a perfect heroine is Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice . I want a heroine I would marry but I have no idea what a woman wants in a heroine.

I don’t think I know your heroine, Kate Logan, from your points. What I would like to know is: if she were being true to herself, who would she be being true to?

1. Would she cheat on her taxes?
2. Does she believe in an afterlife?
3. Does she contribute to any charities?
4. Does she willing tell white lies?
5. What would she do if she saw an injured dog on the side of the road?
6. How does she react when she passes a Salvation Army bell ringer in front of a store?
7. Does she hold a grudge?
8. Does she get along with her parents?
9. Will she put off going to the doctor if she suspects a problem?
10. What does she really fear?

QUOTE: "You can tell the size of a person by the size of the things that make her mad."

What makes Kate mad?


Vince

Silver James said...

Backstory? Bwahahahahaha! I'm in the process of cutting out about 8 chapters of backstory in the current rewrite. Yes, you read that right. EIGHT! At least I know Sade very well at the moment, not to mention three of the secondary characters who will eventually have their own books (even if I never sell this series! I love these guys that much.)

Like everyone else here, Kate looks to be a keeper.

Okay, a few things about Sade...She doesn't carry a purse. She carries a badge, ID, and a Glock 9 mm. She wore a black, pencil thin formal to her debut ball while all the other debs wore white flouncy dresses of wedding cake design. She was expelled from a prestigious prep school for fighting (four against one and she came out on top.) As a child, she overheard her godfather (a master vampire) tell her gargoyle bodyguard that he would see her dead by his own hand before he would let the fae have her.

And I have to cut all this fun stuff! *wail* Speaking of, back to work. Have a great Friday, chicks!

Karyn Good said...

Hi Paula. Even though I do some prep work on characters, it isn't until the end of the first draft that I start to know them and consistently sound like them (if that's makes any sense).

I'm glad you like Kate. I can't wait to delve in and bring her to life.

Karyn Good said...

Hey Janet. I'm glad you made the title connection because I sure didn't. I've been wracking my brain, searching for a way to use the word 'comon' in this title. I like the letter 'c' connection better. Thanks for pointing that out :D

This post was a lot of fun and it helped me get into my 'Kate' mindset. I love Mickey's story and from the few snippets you've posted at Janet's Journal for Fiction Friday I can see those items being in her purse.

BTW, I suscribe to Mickey purse to butt ratio!

Karyn Good said...

Well, darn that link didn't work.

I'll try one more time:

Janet's Journal

Karyn Good said...

Hey there, Vince. Have no fear, the one thing I do know is what makes her mad. But there's just some things a girl has to keep to herself :)

Thanks for the great questions!

Karyn Good said...

Hi, Silver. Eight chapters of backstory, that hurts! I bet you do have a excellent handle on Sade. And bonus, you've got a handle on the next two books characters. Because there's no doubt in my mind this series will find a home.

Sade sounds like a keeper, too. Of course, now I'm wondering where she keeps her gun :) Good luck with the revisions.

Janet said...

Hey, thanks for the link, Karyn!

I think the "C" connection could work well for you :)

Anne Germaine said...

Love this, love this, love this. Thanks Karen. I'm excited to write this weekend and see what my new heroine will be like.

Karyn Good said...

Hey Anne. So glad you liked it. Happy Writing and hope you have a productive weekend :)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn,
Kate sounds like a very interesting character. I can hardly wait to read about her.

What's in my character's purse? hmmm...let me see. My heroine Bridget from my WIP "Welcome to Paradise" has the items in her purse organized with military precision. She has a wallet (sans cash), a hairbrush (the only one that can get throught her hair), lip balm, chewing gum, and day planner, even though these days she has no pressing engagements.

I'll also answer one of Vince's questions: What makes her mad? People who cheat and lie and take advantage of others.

That was interesting Karyn! I never knew Bridget was so organized!

Jana

Karyn Good said...

Hi Jana. It's amazing what you can learn from analyzing the size and contents of a woman's purse!

And I see pressing engagements in Bridget's future :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

What a fun post, Karyn. :)

Here are some things about Emma:

- she doesn't have a purse because she's kidnapped while hanging tablecloths on the line.

- she is curious - so curious that it's always getting her into trouble

- she's grounded in her faith

- she doesn't sit there and cry when she's cold, dirty and scared

- she doesn't fall for flattery

- she praises God for each morning she's alive

- she'd love to rip Virgil's eyes out because of the way he looks at her but she feels guilty for it

- she likes salamanders

- she knows how to use a gun and will shoot... if only the outlaws will give her a weapon. :)


I see I'll have to copy your list Karyn as well as yours Vince since they both help so much. Thank you!

Anita.

Vince said...

Hi Anita:

Emma sounds like someone I would really like. Do you mention any books she might have read in your story? I’m always fascinated by what characters in historical novels are reading. What a person reads tells a lot about what kind of person they are – and it takes so few words.

Vince

Karyn Good said...

Hi Anita. Emma sounds like a wonderful heroine, even if she likes salamanders :D I love developing those kinds of little details for my characters.