Character Development: On Being Human by Belinda McBride
Character Development: On Being Human by Belinda McBride
“To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
That’s been running around in my brain for awhile, not so much the concept of forgiveness, but the nature of being human. It’s had me a little puzzled, because frankly, the bulk of my writing revolves around people who aren’t human. I write about fallen angels and Fae, werewolves and aliens, and the few humans that make it onto my pages tend to be extraordinary in some way. Why worry about their humanity?
Years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Majel Roddenberry, the widow of Star Trek pioneer Gene Roddenberry. She was an extraordinarily sweet woman, and in a talk she gave, she shared something with us that Gene insisted on during the creation of Star Trek. It was a little piece of trivia that stuck with me and guides much of what I write even now.
Star Trek is full of people of various races, creeds, and even species. Some of the aliens are extraordinary in appearance, but Gene insisted on something in particular. No matter how outrageous the alien, it must have human eyes in order for the viewer to relate to the character.
As a writer, I paint pictures with words. My task is to draw a character that the reader can connect with. Whether the character is an alien or an angel, it’s my goal to bring out human elements such as jealousy and lust, compassion, charity and love. I strive to bring out the humanity in every character.
In reading Soul Keeper, you might not like the centaur shifter Kendra, but she’ll make you angry and frustrated at her bad behavior, just like that cheerleader you knew in high school. You might also get a peek at Kendra’s inner fears and desires. She’s not human, but oddly enough, she is. In Belle Starr, alpha were Armand de le Croix is outwardly confident and in control, but has doubts and fears that no one but the reader will share. And Annie Tanaka in Dragon’s Blood is a cop, strong and competent, but every day she rides a boat to work, fighting her phobia of the water as she does so.
Developing a character for a story is a process of taking a flat, undeveloped name and physical description, and bringing them off the page, complete with strengths, fears and quirks. There are countless methods of doing character development using charts, index cards and storyboarding. I have to confess, I’m not that organized. I just jot out notes as I write.
On occasion, I will skim photos online, looking for a physical inspiration. Other times I sit at the computer, staring at a blank page and letting the character take shape in reaction to the situation, or to their hero/heroine. As a general rule, I start a separate page and list their names, physical description, and then a list of questions about the character: What do they like to eat? What is their secret shame, their kinks, their greatest joy and their greatest fear? Their addictions? What is the worst thing you can do to that character? Those details are where you draw your conflicts from.
So in Belle Starr, the worst thing that could happen to Belle and Armand happened. She became pregnant, uncertain what sort of child her hybrid genes would produce. And Armand regained his memories, pulling him away from his lover and into the demands of his pack. Her conflict was internal, his was external.
You want your characters to have depth, to be complete, rounded humans. And like your friends and family, you will anticipate their reactions to a given situation, and on occasion, they will take you by surprise. Whether you are a plotter or a pantster, intimate knowledge of your characters will keep the story moving. You will be less likely to get stranded in the middle of the story, because even if the story stalls, the characters will want to continue forward.
Belinda McBride is a multi-published author of erotic romance. To find out more about Belinda and her books, visit www.belindamcbride.com
Now available at Loose Id: Belle Starr!
Blurb: Marshal Annabelle “Cowgirl” Oakley is the best law enforcement officer in Interstellar Coalition Enforcement. With her wolf Tucker at her side, Belle is clearly the best man for the job. Unfortunately, the job comes with hazards, and one of those hazards comes in the shape of tall, mysterious Armand.Armand de le Croix is a werewolf with amnesia. He has no idea how he came to be living in Coalition space, he doesn’t know where his people are, or why his inky black hair is now snowy white. He just knows that the tall dangerous redhead is all that he wants, and he means to have her regardless of what he must do to win.When they meet, it’s magic. When they part, it’s mayhem.http://www.loose-id.com/prod-Belle_Starr-934.aspxNow available at Changeling Press: Bad Angels: Falling
Blurb:Just what exactly happens when an angel goes bad?Stripped of his voice, his memories, and his divinity, Rion Hunter falls to Earth in a fiery blaze. After crashing into a muddy sheep pasture in
Scotland, the disgraced angel finds himself face-to-face with an unlikely rescuer: a sidhe-born farmer named Rex.
Rex finds himself rapidly falling for the beautiful angel, which can be risky when the object of your affection just might be psychotic. And if that isn’t enough, the men find that they’ve come to the attention of a ravenous succubus, who has developed an appetite for Scottish farmers.
Falling isn’t so bad… it’s the landing that hurts.
Bad Angels: Burn is a Recommended Read at Joyfully Reviewed!
low fat diets history…
You’ll be looking for the eyes, won’t you? LOL! I did after that, and she was right! Well, up till they put Mick Fleetwood in a fish suit…
Great post Belinda 🙂 Thank you for sharing the bit of Trekkie trivia too, I can guarantee that will be in my mind every time I watch Star Trek now 🙂
LOL! Aliens with big puppy eyes! Makes me think of some twisted anime!
Oh, yes, I love those tough guy heroes that hide their inner fears. Armand is yummy.
And I read somewhere that fantasy aliens — not ones that are sentient — often have cocker spaniel eyes. So us gullible humans go all mushy over them. LOL!
Whatever method you’re using for characterization, it works!