Tag Archives: character development

Why I need to see my characters before I write, part 2

So yesterday I showed you how my mind works. Get your own minds out of the gutter! I meant visually, that’s how!

I see things way before I ever type a single word of my manuscripts. My characters, my settings, the clothes people wear, the weather, everything, really, must be visual to me first.  I have stacks of current magazines in my office that I comb through frequently. Fashion mags, exercise, mags, home improvement ones, even travel issues. I’ll flip through the pages, see an interesting face, or place, or image, and rip it out, storing it in a big box on one of my library shelves.

I troll through Pinterest periodically as well, typing in search words for images I want, such as brown eyed and blonde hair women, or green eyed men.

When I see images that gel with what I’ve been seeing in my mind, I pin them to storyboards in my Pinterest site and sometimes even print them out for inclusion on my visualization board. You may think a great deal of this is redundant, but just having them loaded in a computer file isn’t enough for me. I need to actually see them every day while I’m writing my story.

As I’ve gotten older, I tend to forget little details that are important for my characters and stories. It’s not because I’ve got any kind of creeping dementia or cognitive memory loss. It’s more that there is so much going on in my life in one single day, that remembering what color eyes I gave my hero six weeks ago in chapter one, tends to be difficult if I don’t have the actual picture of the guy close by. A few months ago I was writing my soon-to-be-released 5th book in my Wild Rose Press series of the MacQuire Women, PASSION’S PALETTE,  and one of the characters had  chin length snow-blond hair initially, and the next time we meet her, it’s turned strawberry blonde and is down the middle of her back – three days later! I wasn’t paying attention to my vision board very well during those days, but luckily I caught a glimpse of it one day before submitting the story and fixed the mistake! So that’s all the proof I need to tell me making my vision boards is a worthwhile way to spend some of my creative time.

I’m just gonna throw this out there and say story boarding and plot visualization are as old as civilization. Didn’t primitive cave-people and early societies leave cave and cliff drawings, depicting their ways of life? Their history? Sounds to me an awful lot like storyboarding. Just saying….

So. Hope this helps you understand the way this writer’s brain and creative process works. I don’t think I’m alone in my storyboarding, either. I tend to think since the advent of Pinterest, more writers work this way, simply because it’s so easy to.

When I’m not storyboarding, you can find me here: Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

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Filed under Author, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, love, research, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women

Why I need to see my characters before I write them

I love a good vision board – especially for one of my own books. Since my writing tends to fall out of a visual tendency, I make vision -or story- boards for each of my books. Knowing what the characters actually look like while I am writing about them helps me “see” the story as it unfolds from their eyes and viewpoints. For instance, here’s the board I worked with for my October 2017 release, A SHOT AT LOVE:

You can see how I envisioned Gemma Laine and Ky Pappandreos, plus how I categorized aspects of their lives, such as photography info for Gemma and law enforcement stuff for Ky.  I sent their pictures to Lyrical when I was asked how I “SAW” my hero and heroine looking. I think they did a great job with portraying my vision on the cover:

This is my working vision board for the third book in the series, tentatively titled CAN’T STAND THE HEAT”

This book has  few more integral characters, but the H/H look like Grace Kelly ( Stacy Peters) and Pierce Brosnan ( Nikko Stamp)

I’m currently working on 2 more books in this series. and the first one, (working title: IT STARTED WITH HIS KISS) looks like this:

You can see I don’t have too much filled in yet, but I will….no worries.

More about vision boards and how they help writers in tomorrow’s edition of PEGGYJAEGER.COM

In the meantime, did you know that COOKING WITH KANDY, book 1 in the WILL COOK FOR LOVE SERIES releases next week on April 4?? Here’s a little sumthin’ to whet your romance-reading appetites.

Sugar and spice and everything sexy make the perfect recipe for romance in this brand-new series by Peggy Jaeger. Look for exclusive recipes in each book!

Kandy Laine built her wildly popular food empire the old-fashioned way—starting with the basic ingredients of her grandmother’s recipes and flavoring it all with her particular brand of sweet spice. From her cookbooks to her hit TV show, Kandy is a kitchen queen—and suddenly someone is determined to poison her cup. With odd accidents and threatening messages piling up, strong-willed Kandy can’t protest when her team hires someone to keep her safe—but she can’t deny that the man for the job looks delicious. . .

Josh Keane is a private investigator, not a bodyguard. But with one eyeful of Kandy’s ebony curls and dimpled smile, he’s signing on to uncover who’s cooking up trouble for the gorgeous chef. As the attraction between them starts to simmer, it’s not easy to keep his mind on the job, but when the strange distractions turn to true danger, he’ll stop at nothing to keep Kandy safe—and show her that a future together is on the menu. . .

Excerpt:

“Clock stops at five-thirty,” she told him, spying the way he glanced at the empty desks. “That’s a rule I never break. No matter how busy we are, or what our deadline is, I make sure everyone up here is out by then.”

“Why? I would think in this business long hours are the norm.”

“Everyone deserves free time, time with family, time to wind down. I won’t have people working for me when they’re exhausted, or thinking about the soccer game they’re missing for their kid. No one’s productive then. I like everyone to be rested, fresh and on the ball. I realized early on it was the way to bring out the creative, productive best in people.”

“But you don’t adhere to your own rules.”

She leveled a gaze at him. “That’s because I’m the boss. I thrive on deadlines and do some of my finest work when I’m exhausted.”

The slow grin that spread across his face made her stomach muscles giddy-up again.

“I bet you give great holiday bonuses,” he said, rocking back on his heels.

Because it was true, she smiled.

“My office is in here.”

She pushed through another set of doors and preceded him in.

While he took in the surroundings Kandy wondered if he saw the room the same way she did. She’d chosen this space simply because of the windows. A corner office, it had full-length, floor to ceiling matted glass surrounding the outer perimeter of the office on three sides. Her view was of downtown Manhattan, an unobstructed visage of Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty.

The interior design was her own and she’d gone for comfort and ease in the furnishings. Three couches circled one another in the center of the room, and in the middle sat an impressive glass table, currently covered with files, paper, magazines, and a few fabric swatches. A grandfather clock sat, unwound, on the far wall, the hour hand stuck at nine, the minute hand at twelve.

A large, cherry wood desk faced the windows, not the inner room, complete with two computers, a laptop, and two printers on a pull-out stand next to the desk.

“Interesting.” Josh gazed around the room. “I assume the reason your desk faces this way is for the great view?”

She lifted her shoulders to her ears and then brought them down again. “Why waste it by having my back to it?”

“Good thought. What’s up with the clock?”

She glanced over at it. “That’s the exact time my first book went on sale.”

“So, what? Time stopped for you then?”

“No. The way I see it my life started precisely at that moment.”

His eyebrows rose. “Says a lot about what you expect and want out of life.”

“Don’t read too much into it,” she said, unaccustomed embarrassment washing through her. Without even knowing her he’d hit her personality right on the head. “The clock also has sentimental value. It was Grandma’s.”

Kandy moved to the couches. “Come on, have a seat. Let’s talk specifics.”

Josh sat opposite her, leaned back into the couch, crossing one long leg over the other.

“I’m going to say this once because I feel we should get it out of the way,” she started. “I don’t think I need a body guard, and I don’t think anything that’s happened recently can’t be explained away. I find this whole situation of having someone follow every move I make unnerving. I’m not used to it. Not used to working this way. I don’t want to have to stop every five minutes to explain where I’m going, who I’m going to be meeting with. I just go. I have too much to do in a day to worry about someone keeping up with me.”

When he nodded, she continued. “I’m willing to go along with the entire scheme until you prove there’s really no reason for it, which I think you’ll discover pretty quickly. But I won’t be hampered in going about my day in any way. Understand?”

Buy Links: Amazon //Nook // Kensington/Lyrical // Kobo // Apple // Google

available in e-copy and Print on Demand ( POD) fro Amazon and Kensington.

 

 

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Filed under Author, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Cooking, love, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women, The Laine Women

The art of #naming your characters

I love names. Especially names where you can actually see the origin. Like SIOBHAN ( Irish!) NICOLLETTE (French) ANTONIO (Italian.)

Naming characters has always been a little bit of an obsession for me because I like to find names that actually mean something inherent in the person. For instance, my name, Margaret, means PEARL. If I was going to write a story with that name as my heroine’s ( and I never will because I hate my name!!!)  I would most likely give her attributes associated with pearls – strong outer shells, they take a lifetime to evolve, they are rare. You get the idea.

When I start a new book I always start with my characters first and the naming process usually takes me a few days to get right, especially with my hero and heroine. I want their names to connect, to go together, to be individualistic, but nonetheless when you hear the names mentioned you think “couple.” Like Oprah and Stedman, Goldie and Kurt, Elizabeth and Darcy. See? They go together ( why does that song from GREASE keep playing in my mind??)

Some writers spend more time naming their fictional characters than normal, non-writing people do naming their children. I feel both are crucial. You don’t want to name your alpha hero Marmeduke and please don’t name your child Zippity Doo Cogwheel or FeMale Jones. Don’t laugh…I have a doctor friend who told me a story of her OB/GYN internship days and a couple named their daughter after the name tag the hospital gave her: Female. But they thought it was pronounced  Fe-mal-ay. People are weird. Names shouldn’t be.

There are as many books and websites detailing names as there are, well, names. Baby Naming books get new editions yearly, as the popular and trendy names for kids change with the culture. Old Bibles are great places to get names especially if you are writing an historical novel. Writers who cater to fantasy or science fiction have a great deal of leeway in naming their characters because they can call them whatever they want ( like Zippity Doo Cogwheel) since they are inventing their own world with their own rules.

You don’t even need a baby naming book – although they are a fast, easy reference tool. You’re on your computer, so just get to your search engine. If you click Google images and type in name-meaning ( and then the name you want, like Margaret) you will get an unlimited array of images with the meaning of the name. That’s how I got the Margaret sign above.

Naming your characters and then giving them attributes associated with the name is a fabulous way of actually bringing your characters to life and having them be memorable to readers. Would Scarlett O’Hara have been such an icon if Gone With The Wind was published with the original name Margaret Mitchell gave her of Pansy? “Frankly, Pansy, I don’t give a damn!” doesn’t have the weight of “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn!”  Pansy means “thought”, Scarlett means “Sent from Heaven.” Now we all know Scarlett O’Hara never gave a “thought” to anything but herself and Tara, and as seen through the eyes of the men in her realm, sent from Heaven seems appropriate, no?

So, when you decide to name your characters ( or your children!) please please please give it careful, complete, thought. Don’t just pick a name out of the air or call them fruit ( anyone remember Apple Martin?) or weigh them down with a moniker they’ll never live down like Dweezle or Moon Unit. Give them normal, easily pronounced, meaningful names. After all, you want your readers to discuss your book with their friends and remember the characters names don’t you? You seriously don’t want them to struggle to remember what you called your hero and heroine. And if you’re really good – and very lucky – those character names will stand the test of literary time, like Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Rochester, Scarlett and Rhett all have.

When I’m not naming characters, you can find me here:Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

 

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#Music to write by…or not. #MFRWauthors

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The topic of this blog is supposed to be the music we, as writers, listen to when we are in the creative mood. I have to be honest about this – I need total silence when I’m in writing mode. If I put on any music – even classical without words(!) music, I will invariably stop what I am doing just to listen. God forbid I put on pop music. Then all I will do is sing along. And believe me – no one wants to hear my rendition of Baby, Baby, or Stop in the Name of Love.

Insert full body shudders here at the thought!

Music is very distracting to me when I write, so I’m going to talk about the music I listen to as  I Prepare to Write.  That, at least, is something I do, do.

Once I have my characters thought out and the storyline plotted, I go back to the characters and insert little idiosyncrasies into their backstories, which include the kinds of books they read and the music they listen to and favor. For my newest release, COOKING WITH KANDY, my heroine Kandy Laine is a total pop/rock-diva listening gal.  If she is alone at home, or driving in her car, she will have Pat Benatar, Madonna, vintage Joan Jett, or the Heart sisters blasting away and she will be singing at the top of her lungs, not caring a whit she can’t carry a tune in a bag! These rock warrior women are her musical soul sistahs. In the privacy of her kitchen she will dance like no one’s looking, a wooden spoon as her microphone as she belts out Heartbreaker or I Love Rock and Roll to her heart’s content. When I was trolling around on Pinterest trying to find the perfect image of Kandy, these were the ladies I listened to in order to find Kandy’s essence.

My hero, Josh Keane is a little more, shall we say, sedate, in his musical tastes. He’s a Jazz and Blues man, pure and simple. He’s got Al Jarreau and Miles Davis CDs by the truckload in his car and when he’s doing corporate computer research, or simply kicking back in his condo with a glass of Glenlivet 21 after a hard day, he’s a man who likes the complex simplicity of a solitary horn or a raspy, tortured voice weaving a tale of love, loss, and redemption. As Josh’s soul and spirit came to me, I had my iTunes opened, listening to jazz and blues by the hour. Those discordant chords and slip-timed keys brought to my mind the man Josh was, through and through.

Listening to music is, like writing, an individualistic endeavor. Whether for inspiration, motivation, or clarification, music helps a writer dig deep down, straight to the heart and soul, to bring forth the crux and core of character and story.

Plus, singing at the top of your lungs like no one’s watching is pretty fun to do!

When I’m not listening to music, you can find me here:Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

 

Stop by the other #MFRW authors participating in this 52 week hop and leave them some love.

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I get by with a little #help from my #friends..

and by friends, I mean books!

Every year I like to share the list of reference tools and books that keep me sane as a writer. Since I spend sosososososososos much time alone, writing and thinking about writing, I sometimes need tools to help me figure out plots, people, motivations, and dialogue subtexts. Here’s a list of my absolute favorites and the books that keep me sane when I’m trying to swim through the quagmire that is my imagination. Maybe if you haven’t finished making your Christmas and Holiday wish list yet, you’ll consider asking for one of these valuable tools. Believe me, it is money well spent and worth the cost.

1-4  The Emotional Thesaurus ( and amplifier) , The Postive Trait Thesaurus and the Negative Trait Thesaurus

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5.Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. This is like a bible to most writers!thes8

6.The Romance Writer’s Phrase Book. Little snippets, words, and descriptions to tweak your dialogue and writing

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7. Master Lists. Every conceivable list you need for character, description, setting. Also fabulous as a reference when you play Trivial pursuit!

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8. The title says it all. Rated Triple H for hothothot!

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9.Nothing better for getting into the mind of your character and their inner conflicts and struggles

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And if you’re looking for a great little romantic fiction read for yourself or as a Holiday gift, well, here’s my newest ( shameful plug) A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS 

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When I’m not doing research I can usually be found in one ( or more!) of these places:

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Mannerisms mean more…

I’m currently reading an exceptional book titled, Getting Into Character: 7 Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors, by Brandilyn Collins. Collins shows you how using the techniques actors use to “get inside the heads of their characters” can help you flesh out more realistic, memorable characters of your own in your writing. One of the fascinating aspects of this is developing and incorporating character traits or mannerisms.

Each one of us has some individual mannerism that helps define and shape how we present ourselves to others. For example, when I get nervous around people ( which is most of the time!) I have a habit of folding my hands in front of myself because they tend to shake and I don’t want anyone to notice the shaking. In my latest book. First Impressions, I gave that mannerism to my heroine, Clarissa, because she, too, is nervous when she meets new people. The hero notices it and whenever he spots this behavior, he attempts to quell her nerves. I know… le sigh!

nervous

I know someone who, when she gets angry, instead of blustering and bellowing with rage, becomes deathly quiet and speaks so lowly, it forces everyone around her to listen. What a powerful tool that is. I’m incorporating it into my next heroine.

Think of characters you have read or seen on television. What quirks made them memorable? Would Columbo have been as memorable if it hadn’t been for the way he cocked his head, squinted an eye and said, “just one  more thing, if I may?” How about Magnum, P.I.? Forget about Tom Selleck’s moustache for a moment and think about the way he lifted his eyebrows and grinned whenever he wanted to be charming. Worked for me. Or how about Arthur Fonzerelli, aka The Fonz? Would he be as cool and remarkable if he hadn’t entered every room saying “Ayyyyyyy?” Or more recently, what about Fox Muldur and all those sunflower seeds he was perpetually eating?Columbo_resize_2

Think of some of your own favorites, because as you can see, these all date me as a 70’s and 80’s chick!

 

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In an old Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot book, whose title I can’t for the life of me remember, Poirot was able to catch a criminal who was an expert at disguises because whenever the bad guy ate bread, he would pull it apart into little pieces. Poirot spotted the guy doing this at a cafe and voila! Bad guy caught.

I think for the next few posts I’ll be discussing character development this way, and referring to the Collins book.

But first, here’s a sigh worthy photo:

magnum

Le sigh*****

So, what character traits do you find fascinating, in books, or tv, or movies? Let’s discuss….

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Dialogue, Literary characters, research, Romance Books, Wild Rose Press Authoe