Written by Caroline Clemmons
Hello, Caroline Clemmons here. Characterization is one of my favorite topics. I sometimes teach characterization as a class. Are you set for a few days for me to tell you my theories? LOL Don’t worry, I promise to keep this short today.
For every writer, there’s a theory on character development. When I started writing, I had no idea how to go about shaping my hero, heroine, and secondary characters. I love eccentric or whimsical secondary characters with qualities simply not tolerated in the hero or heroine. But, how could I prevent comedic, eccentric, or whimsical secondary character from overpowering the hero/heroine? When did I change point of view (POV)? How could I make my characters memorable?
My first clues came after I joined a writers group. Their workshops were eye-openers. Presentations on character arc, point of view, hero’s journey, and many more topics left me wondering if I would ever grasp even half of what I was hearing. A program on mind mapping as a way to plot made me want to run screaming from the room. My first major break arrived in the form of Laura Baker and Robin Perini and their “Story Magic” all-day workshop. Imagine a light bulb going on over my head just like in a cartoon! And I mean a search light sized glow. If you haven’t attended this workshop, do yourself a favor and sign up.
“Story Magic” is well named, and worked like a fairy sprinkling her fairy dust on my computer. Since “Story Magic,” I have worked on creating my own character development style. I’ve lectured on and taught workshops on characterization, and will teach another one later this year. Here’s the class in a nutshell.
The secret to developing deep POV and memorable characters, in my opinion, is what I call “Method POV.” Just as actors learn to become the character they portray, authors must become the character in whose POV the scene is written. This is like the secret handshake of character development and now you’re a member of the secret society. Record ONLY those sensory details the POV character experiences or knows! A good side benefit of this is that you won’t head-hop.
Another secret is to use body language instead of attribution lines most of the time. For me, he said/she said is distracting. I’d rather see a little body language that gives me a clue to moods plus tells me what’s going on in the scene. There are many books available on ways body language reveals way more about us than we plan. One of my favorite examples is a mother talking to a rebellious teen son:
Mom shakes her finger at son. “You’d better be home by ten tonight.”
Son crosses his arms and rolls his eyes. “Yeah, right.”
As parents, how many times have we seen the eye roll? Can we count that high?
Keeping secondary characters in their place is hard. Authors can’t let them overshadow the hero or heroine. They’re supposed to be like sidekicks: Tonto to the Lone Ranger, Ethel Mertz to Lucy Ricardo. Yes, they’re important to show character development for the hero and heroine and to reveal backstory, but they can’t steal the show. We whip them into line and remind them they’re helpers not leaders. If we plan one of our secondary characters as the hero or heroine in the next book, we can’t let them do anything dishonorable or they won’t be worthy of their own book later. We usually introduce them initially in a way they can star in the next book. A good illustration of this is Julie Garwood’s Buchanan series and Jayne Ann Krentz’s Arcane series.
I hope readers enjoy the secondary characters in my books and fall in love with the main characters. My western historical romance, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, features a supporting cast of both comic and villainous secondary characters. In my modern paranormal time travel romantic suspense, OUT OF THE BLUE, I hope readers love the hero’s mom as much as I do. In fact, my thirteen novels and four novellas are available at Smashwords at
The books above are available in print or ebook plus two boxed sets in ebook at Amazon Kindle:
Please check http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com for interesting (in my opinion) articles, giveaways, interviews, book reviews, guest authors, and new releases. Keep reading books (and our blogs), please.
Thanks to Layna for having me as her guest today.
Caroline Clemmons is an Amazon bestselling author of historical and contemporary western romances whose books have garnered numerous awards. Her latest release is THE MOST UNSUITABLE COURTSHIP, book three of her popular Kincaid series. A frequent speaker at conferences and seminars, she has taught workshops on characterization, point of view, and layering a novel.
Caroline is a member of Romance Writers of America, Dallas Area Romance Authors, Yellow Rose Romance Writers, and Hearts Through History Romance Writers. Her latest publications include the acclaimed historical Men of Stone Mountain series: BRAZOS BRIDE, HIGH STAKES BRIDE, and BLUEBONNET BRIDE and the audio book of BRAZOS BRIDE.
Caroline and her husband live in the heart of Texas cowboy country with their menagerie of rescued pets—Shih Tzu Webster, huge tuxedo cat Sebastian, and small Manx kitten Max. Prior to writing full time, her jobs included stay-at-home mom (her favorite), secretary, newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, bookkeeper for the local tax assessor and—for a short and fun but unsuccessful time—an antique dealer. When she’s not indulging her passion for writing, Caroline enjoys reading, travel, antiquing, genealogy, painting, getting together with friends, and enjoying watching the birds, butterflies, and squirrels wandering through her back yard. Find her on her blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.