Friday, June 18, 2010

Characters and Sandwiches... gotta love 'em!

I love my characters.

Yes, all of them, even the villains. I figure that's okay since they are fictional, plus God tells us to love our enemies, right?

This week, the shopkeepers in the Writer's Alley have given you a sneak peek at their beloved characters and what makes them unique.

See, the thing with characters is this: They are the ultimate oxymoron.

We need unique characters that stand out and are not cliche, including hero's women can swoon over, heroines we can cheer for, and villains we can throw darts at.

However, we also need characters that are believable and relatable.

My friends... sometimes that is HARD. And I'd even argue, almost impossible. There is always going to be that reader who says, "That character is crazy, I totally can not relate to him/her." About that same character, someone else might say, "I LOVE THAT CHARACTER! That is so totally me!" And yet another reader will say, "Ugh! Been there, read that, *yawn*"

Knowing that the ultimate goal of pleasing everyone is impossible, we do the next best thing. We create characters with:
  • Dynamic Back-story (that you don't tell in the first 30 pages of course!) and
  • We give them characteristics that set them apart.
  • If not everyone gets or likes them, well, tough:-)
This brings me to MY characters. I have two completed novels, and oh my goodness, it was hard to decide WHICH characters to share with you today. I decided to go with my Sandwich book, as the picture of my heroine from my other book is one I found off a bridal announcement website of a real bride, and not sure some random person would appreciate me posting her picture.

On top of showing you their picture, I'm also giving your a brief view of who they are what makes them tick, i.e., what makes them, IMHO, unique.

Madison (Maddie): Maddie is one of my favorite characters. She's dynamic and has a ton of spunk, but underneath, she's an emotional girl who wants to please people. She does nothing partway. Her past was not so grand. She was a foster-child teen who found power, control, and a sense of belonging with guys. All that was shattered when she shacked up with a bad boy her senior year and ended up beaten and emotionally destroyed. She swore off men forever, but made an exception when she found Jesus via her teacher in cosmetology school. Fast forward six months: She takes her first hair-cutting job in the small town of Sandwich, IL in hopes of building a home and getting custody of her little brother who is still in foster-care. Her first customer is irritable, career-driven, Rueben.

My FAVORITE thing about Maddie is her relationship with God. She made a pack with God: If He would be real and honest with her, she'd be real and honest back. I love her newbie Christian passion and spunk, and her honest relationship with her Savior. I've learned a ton from Maddie about loving God beyond the restraints of religious jargon that, as a girl who grew up in the church, I've become used to.

Rueben: Ah, Rueben. Rueben, Rueben, Rueben. He's engaged to his high-school sweetheart, Olivia, but their relationship is ten years old and has become more of a habit than anything. He is 100% dedicated to his career, restaurant owner of The Sandwich Shop in Sandwich, IL, and fulfilling his father's dream and dying wish: Growing the Shop into a national chain. Rueben is passionate about his dream, but tends to let his work override his personal life and get in the way of his relationships. He also can be a wee bit too prideful. So when a snarky, new hairdresser snips a whopping 4 inches off the front of his hair in error on a morning when everything has gone wrong anyway, he's ticked.

Rueben isn't full of faults only though. When he is passionate about something, he gives it his all. He loves big and protects fiercely. He's been a Christian since he was young, but has a hard time letting go of the reigns in his life and giving God complete control. Sound familiar? It does to me!!!

Olivia: And then there was a villain ... Olivia is a conniving not-very-nice girl. I use Jessica S.'s not because I think she looks villainous but because Livy is an A-typical man's dream: Curly blond hair and ultra-curvy body. She knows it and takes advantage of her looks at every turn. But, she too has a story. She lives with her single-mother and has never known her father who split when she was very young. Her mother is, to say the least, bitter against all humans with XY chromosomes. She pounded into Livy's head from a young age: men only one two things, beer and sex.

Livy has been in love with Rueben for years, but Rueben has always put his career in front of her, which has causes her to be bitter and jealous and yield to her mother's influence. She'll stop at nothing to keep her man's eyes on her instead of the irritating new-comer.

This is a hard story for me to write, as it touches some touchy issues (aka Maddie's floozy history and Livy's penchant for using her body as a tempting device) but I wanted to show that 1.) God redeems us all, no matter our history and 2.) Looks aren't everything. But then that goes into a whole other blog post: Themes!

So, anyone care to share what makes YOUR characters unique?


Mia said...

Ohhh... I do love a good love triangle ;) All of your characters come across as relatable, fleshed out, and 'real' to me. Yes, I can even relate to the not-so-nice Livy. All of us have probably done things we shouldn't have because we needed the attention to make us feel like we're special and cherished (I'm guessing Livy's never truly felt that. But maybe I'm being too nice to the villain ;)).

My MC was/is in the foster system, too. For some reason, I can't seem to write a book without a foster kid or an orphan sneaking in the story, and usually stealing the spotlight. You know when there's like an issue or subject that just yanks on your heart and never lets go? That's foster kids or orphans for me. Hm, I guess it's probably OK if they're in a lot of my stories, as long as they don't all sound the same and I switch it up ;)

Krista Phillips said...

Mia, I do think it is okay to have something like a foster kid/orphan in your stories. Now that I think about it, there is one in each of my first 2 books too (one orphan, one foster kid) I was a foster mom once upon a time, so it's a subject near to my heart too.

And thank you for the kind words about my characters! I love that you felt that about Livy, because that's exactly what I'm going for. I want readers not really to like her that much, but to have empathy for her and understand why she is how she is. She's what I would call a redeemable villain, one it would be fun to write about later.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh, I love the pictures of your characters. And Mia is right, they are well fleshed out and very believeable. And did I read that your heroine is snarky????? I love, love, love that! I love anything snarky. :) I like the word, really.

I can't wait to read your books someday and have them sitting on my shelf. :)

Jennifer Taylor said...

I love characters. Right now I'm having fun with an elderly character who means well, but is always going around getting in the way, and getting into trouble. She's completely oblivious and makes a perfect secondary character. She's always saying, "Dearie me!"

Casey said...

Love the post Krista (as always!) the characters are so well fleshed out and real. Love the actors you chose. Thanks for the great post!! :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

One of the things that makes your post so intriguing is the way you took us to the window of their lives. The glass was clear. We saw a clear first impression of them and already want to know more.
Great post!

Krista Phillips said...

Sherrinda, yes, Maddie has quite a bit of snark in her:-) And oh my, you gave me goosebumps at the thought of seeing my books on someone elses bookshelf! SOMEDAY!!!!

Krista Phillips said...

Jennifer, your character sounds like a hoot!!! I love her already!

Krista Phillips said...

Casey, thanks!!!!

Mary, thanks for the kind words. Hoping my readers will feel the same way someday:-)

Pepper said...

Great post, Krista.
I love the pics -and ooooh, the villianess. Yep- she looks wonderfully devious.
Love me a good villian. :-) Especially the whole 'looks can be deceiving' thing