Hi, everyone! For this weeks’ author discussion, I decided to ask erotic historical romance author Jess Michaels about how she goes about picking her characters, determining their personalities, names, backstory, etc. I don’t know about you but the thought of creating characters really boggle me and I think it is the most creatively challenging aspect of writing a book. I mean, the characters CAN be a factor in making or breaking the story! So, without further ado, let us hear from Jess!
Hi and a big thank you to Zeee for having me here today! It’s an exciting week for me, yesterday my 49th novel was released. THE OTHER DUKE is the first book in my The Notorious Flynns series. Zeee and I got to talking about characters and she thought that might be a fun topic for me to tackle here today!
Building out characters is one of my favorite parts of the pre-writing process, mainly because to me, character is plot. Just like with a real person, what my characters have gone through in their lives and the relationships they have will influence their decisions. Hence, what I create for them will determine how they react to the situations I put them in. For me building character is more than about deciding looks (though you will be surprised how often I get halfway through a book and forget my character’s eye color) but it’s about deciding motivations and fears and hopes.
My character sheet is pretty simple at its core. There’s a section for basic appearance and background, then a section for significant events in their life, a section for significant relationships and then an internal/external motives rundown. This very basic information will help me determine when my hero will fight and when he will run, when my heroine will hold everything inside and when she will break down.
Now I write fairly dark, emotional stories (I once tried to write a frothy historical and my hero kept telling me he accidentally killed his brother so frothy went out the window for me at that point), so my backstories are sometimes very sad. For example, in my release from yesterday, THE OTHER DUKE, I gave my heroine more of the pain. Serafina has a difficult relationship with both her deceased mother and her living father. She has been forced into a betrothal with a really awful person who abuses her and once he dies, instead of being free, she’s forced into a new engagement, though this time she lucks out and gets the hero.
I wanted to create a heroine with the baggage we usually associate with a hero in romance. She is gun-shy of love, she doesn’t feel like it exists or even that she deserves it. And even when feels stronger emotions for Rafe, she denies them strenuously because they scare her.
I knew I had to pair her with someone with perhaps a little less baggage. But a perfect person would be boring, so I created Rafe, a man who has never had to be responsible in his life. So faced with Serafina and an inherited dukedom he never expected he has to step up to the plate. His character growth comes from wanting to stick in, even if it’s hard.
Watching them circle each other, watching them finally come together and become the exact thing the other one needs… that was a powerful thing for me as a writer. And I hope that readers will come along and feel that these characters I “made” are two people worth rooting for.
Thank you so much for stopping by my blog today, Jess! I have read The Other Duke and I really enjoyed it!