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Writing Tips: Building Better Characters

This is the week that Cinderella makes its big debut! In the interests of not giving myself an ulcer, you will see Cinderella’s promotional material going up, even though the book won’t be available until Thursday. (Or laaaaate Wednesday night if Amazon moves quickly.)

I’m pretty excited about Cinderella because the characters were a lot of fun to write and, as I said before, for once everyone can talk! I’m also excited because the main characters, Cinderella and Friedrich, break the physical mold most heroines/heroes are patterned after. Cinderella does not have long, flowing blonde/brown/black hair, and Friedrich isn’t 100% physically perfect. Instead, Friedrich has only one eye thanks to the battles he has witnessed as a soldier and Cinderella has short red hair, and a dusting of freckles.

It seems to me that in a lot of YA books, (some of my own included) you read about nondescript characters. The main heroine is described as pretty/beautiful with a slender build, beautiful eyes, and awesome hair, and the hero is always unbelievably handsome with the perfect gym body. All you need to do is picture a movie star body, swap out the hair colors, and bam, it is a “different” hero/heroine. With Cinderella I really wanted to break that mold, because when I thought about it, I don’t know anyone so beautiful, handsome, and perfect as many books make their characters. That isn’t to say Cinderella isn’t beautiful, and Friedrich isn’t handsome, but when I think of the beautiful people I know, they aren’t so bland. They have strong jaws, pronounced noses, full figures, short waists, or their smile is a little crooked.

Imperfections mix with our looks to create beauty. That’s why people who look entirely different can both be beautiful. Plus, I will admit that I am fairly tall for a female. When I was a kid it always bothered me that a lot of heroines (or Disney princesses) are so stinkin’ short. (Yes, I know most people think five feet five inches is medium height for females, but to me it is short.) I think varying builds and looks are important, and I will be making a bigger effort to do that in future books.

Of course, now that I’ve had my little rant, I want to say that there is a writing technique in which writers purposely do not describe their main characters in detail. The theory is that this allows readers to put themselves in the character’s place. I have no beef with this method, in fact I used it in My Life at the MBRC. (Never once do I describe what color Morgan’s hair is, or what she looks like. She occasionally describes her clothes, but that is it.) It’s actually a pretty useful technique. What I don’t like is when I read an author’s work, and the main characters are described as looking almost exactly alike, but perhaps the heroine from book A has a different eye or hair color from the heroine in book B.

So…I hope you look forward to reading about my new, imperfectly beautiful heroine and imperfectly handsome hero. I’ll have more information up on Wednesday. Until then, take care, Champions!

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