HOW TO PEOPLE YOUR BOOK

Let’s talk about the characters that should be in your book.
A protagonist drives the story. This is the main character, the one who has the most to gain and lose. The story will evolve around him. In most romances there are actually two protagonists, and probably two points of view. Your hero and heroine interact so closely throughout the story that each has everything to gain or lose by its outcome.
Other types of fiction may call for more than one protagonist too, but most center around a central character. Every subplot comes back to him, challenges him, drives the story forward to its conclusion around him.
You will need several secondary characters as well. Best friends, family members, etc. Don’t use them or a sub plot if it does not drive the story forward.
I let minor characters move in and out as needed and don’t waste a lot of time either on their creation, description or motivations. Just give a quick look. They are props.
Then there is the antagonist or villain. In many of my stories, because they are western adventures, the situation becomes the villain. Bad things happening to good people and how they become stronger while surviving this particular villainous situation. Sometimes I also throw in a real live villain to stack the cards even more against them. Remember, the badder the villain, the strong the hero must be, and the more your reader will admire him.
Don’t let your characters off the hook until the end either. Don’t feel sorry for them because they are suffering. Up the odds every chance you get. Just don’t kill the hero.
You have some thinking to do about your second protagonist if you’re using one. The two must have either opposing goals, beliefs, personalities, backgrounds or all of the above. That’s how we create conflict. Not in the arguments between them, but in the internal and external conflict of each character. Though tied together by circumstances, one pulls in one direction, the other pulls in another, yet the attraction between them and the reasons they can’t go their separate ways, are so strong they produce conflict.
This is not only true of romances and love stories, but of other genres too. Father and Son, Mother and daughter, or the reverse, Boss and employee, killer and victim, detective and witnesses.
The first thing you need to do is name the characters. Some may change as you go along and you’ll realize the name doesn’t fit. Names are important in other ways too. Don’t confuse your reader by using three or four short choppy names, or two that begin with the same letter or have the same sound.
You may have always wished for a different name because you don’t feel your own fits you. Here’s your chance to fit a character with a perfect name, one that brings an immediate picture to mind. Don’t get too inventive, stick to fairly normal names. A woman named Ivy will look, act and feel different from a woman named Veronica, or Samantha, or Mary. Well, you get the idea. Same with the men. A Ted is not a Matthew, Bob is not Jerome. Stay away from Rock, Tab, Lance, Heavenly, etc. and if you are writing historicals, use names that were used during the period.
Next week: How do we get to know our characters?
Check out Wolf Song and Stone Heart’s Woman here

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About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
This entry was posted in antagonist, conflict, goals, minor characters, motivation, naming characters, protagonist, secondary characters, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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