Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Creating a Hero in Six Easy Steps

I've started work on my next in series!

One of the first things I do is to create a "picture" of my characters. What do they look like? Since this is Kathleen's book, I already know what she looks like from her appearance in EPITAPH. And the hero? I'd originally given her one in EPITAPH, but turns out that relationship didn't work out, so I had to create a new man in her life.

How to create a hero in six easy steps.

1. What does he look like? I had an image in my mind, and as I started to describe him on the page, I wanted to check what people would "see" when I described his skin tone, so I Googled it. As a reader, I can see an olive complexion, or a creamy complexion or even bronze. When I Googled the color I chose, it returned pictures of skin abnormalities. Macules or signs of a disease. NOT the results I'd expected. First correction in the new book!

2. What does he do for a living? Many men are defined by their career choice. Are they ambitious? Driven? Biding their time doing what they have to do until they can do what they want to do? Do things come easy to them and, therefore, they don't have to put much effort into it? Did they get where they are due to nepotism or some other relationship and never had to prove themselves? These all help to define his personality traits - who he is.

3. What is his fatal flaw? His Achilles Heel? And/or what secrets does he keep? Nobody's perfect. Maybe blind ambition means he runs over other people in his goal to reach the top. Maybe he has a hidden secret in his past that could ruin his future. Does he rush to judgment, or act before he considers the repercussions of his actions? On the other side of this coin, what makes him Heroic? And maybe he has to overcome his fatal flaw to get to that point (all stories should show how your characters have evolved). Heck, maybe he has a hero complex which makes him both heroic and flawed at the same time.

4. What makes him stand out in a crowd? Why do you notice him? Is it a physical attribute? The way he dresses? The way he speaks? The way he walks? What draws you to him rather than every other man in the same crowd?

5. What is his "go to" gesture? People tend to have tics, or tells. Do not overuse the gesture. I had one early reader of THE MIRROR who said she was starting to worry about Garth's neck. He massages the back of his neck when he's nervous or tense or anxious - Thanks to her input, I fixed the overuse. In TOUCHED BY THE SUN, Dominic had a tendency to tick his fingers off against his thumb. This gesture shows us their frame of mind without telling your audience. It's the old "I can see something is bothering you."

6. Don't forget his backstory. It doesn't have to be dumped on the page, but you need to know how he grew up. Was his family close? Was one or both of his parents neglectful or abusive? Does he have siblings that might shape how he interacts with people? Does he have a role model outside his family who has influenced his life? And just as a random added extra, I read an article once that said you can judge a lot about a man by the way he treats his mother. That isn't always a two-way street, so be mindful of the psychology behind what shapes his personality. Much of this backstory will never make it onto the page, but it is essential for how he responds based on how he is programmed, and as the author, I need to know that.

Catch up with the EPITAPH series. Book 3, THE MIRROR went live yesterday and is now available at all your favorite booksellers!


  1. All good things to consider. I agree, except I rarely get this figured out before I start writing. I wait until the character is in a situation and tend to work backward from there. Too impatient to "get on with it", I guess, and I don't mind making changes if they're needed. I do have a mental picture of what the hero and heroine look like, and it's only for the current WIP that I actually spent time looking at images to get a more specific visual in my head.

    1. I'm not very good at getting ahead of myself while I'm writing, and personality traits generally rear their heads when I least expect them, but I DO try to get their basic information down before I start.