There is a fine line between a man who knows what he wants and will not stop until he gets it, and the man who makes a lot of noise expecting others to get him what he wants.
The first kind of man inspires confidence and admiration because those in his circle know he will achieve his goal with dignity and grace.
The second causes groans, tension, stress and the inevitable eye-roll.
How to make sure your hero is the first kind of man, not the second? Here’s a checklist for you:
- Your hero takes responsibility for his behaviour and words.
- Your hero never blames anyone else for the circumstances in which he finds himself.
- Your hero loves your heroine so fully he does not look to her to feel more of a man or to heal any residual pain from his past.
- Your hero leads gently but firmly and cares for those under his protection.
- Your hero knows his mind and understands the consequences of his decisions – especially how the heroine will be impacted.
How to spot a brat in your hero? Here’s another checklist:
- Your hero deflects the influence of his words or actions.
- Your hero looks for places/people who are responsible for his angst/plight.
- Your hero needs your heroine rather than loves her. (It’s ok for him to need her love after love has flourished, but if she is needed for psychological well-being rather than being pursued for who she is – there is a fundamental flaw in the hero)
- Your hero mistreats those who serve or help him.
- Your hero acts rashly refusing to weigh the consequences of his decisions on the heroine or those under his care.
What are your definitely/definitely-not traits when creating the hero for your novels? I hope you’re inspired to keep writing swoon-worthy men.
I thrive on knowing my characters deeply so I can better shape their story. Except, I end up writing the thoughts and reactions of almost all of my characters – simultaneously.
This is a big NO, NO and is referred to as head hopping.
Head hopping is when the narrative doesn’t remain within one character’s POV – but the scene moves from the perspective of all of the characters involved. Sometimes, in the midst of editing hell, I throw my arms up and think, isn’t that what the benefits of an omniscient narrator are?
Part of me becomes quite perplexed because I’ve read more than my fair share of romances where we get information from both of the romantic leads within the same scene – and I think, why does every piece of advice to writers out there include a finger wag at head hopping, meanwhile these very successful romance writers do it consistently throughout their novels?!? Frustrating, right?
I guess the saying that you have to know the rules before you can break the rules holds fast on this one.
As I write instalment two of my series and as I edit (again!) instalment one, these are some of the rules I’ve developed for myself to prevent the proverbial head hop:
- At the beginning of each chapter I must decide who will be the focus: hero or heroine. If heroine, I stick to writing only her thoughts and feelings.
- I make sure to note the hero’s reactions/feelings through the heroine’s eyes (and vice versa when the hero is the focus of a chapter)
- Rule #1 has meant cutting out entire portions of a chapter and refitting it into a later chapter where the POV changes to the other protagonist – or, sometimes, saying goodbye altogether to favourite pieces of prose regardless of the pain in my heart.
- Any interaction with a minor character must be experienced through the protagonist
- The feelings, changes in tone or body language of the minor characters must be perceived by the protagonist and the opinions of the minor character must be explicitly stated in dialogue.
- An omniscient narrator means access to every character’s thoughts & feelings, and brings those to light at the right time, not all at the same time.
So far, keeping these rules in mind has helped me to remain focused and each chapter has improved tremendously. Each chapter is stronger, feels tighter and I feel that the narrative voice confidently takes the reader through the story.
It’s worth looking at the amount of head hopping in your own writing and asking yourself if it is serving the story.
What techniques do you use to keep your POV focused?
Every word counts. I tend to skim and skip passages when I feel the plot of a novel is not moving. So I try to put myself in my future reader’s shoes (or, eyes) and make every effort to ensure the plot is not stagnant.
My notes as an English teacher inspired me, as did the blog of author Nikki Owen, to use the tried and true plot graph in order to achieve this goal.
For an explanation of each plot point see: how-to-plot-a-novel
Please note, I used this method once I had a very good understanding of my protagonists’ motivations and backstory, not before. Knowing my heroine and hero first helped me to plot their story.
The following steps might help you organize all of the wonderful ideas buzzing inside your head:
- In point form, list the main ideas of your novel
- Then, use the graphic above to plan where the main ideas should fall
- In point form, on the triangle, write down what will happen at each plot point in the novel.
- Then repeat this process for each chapter – draw a triangle, label the plot points, then write what will happen in the chapter at each plot point. This will ensure you have a clear goal for each chapter which includes a climax and a way to flow into the next chapter. (NOTE: ensure to use only the front of the page, keep the back blank for notes later on)
- And voila! Novel done. Haha! Kidding – if only it were that easy 😉 You won’t have a finished novel, but you will have a clear outline of each chapter when you sit down to write. And, since each chapter has been outlined on a separate sheet of paper, you may reorganize the chapters before you start writing.
In order to accomplish the above I bought a cheap notebook to keep my ideas together:
I found that this process helped me to stay focused during precious writing time (which is hard to obtain with marriage, career and children). Also when other ideas came to me as I wrote I could jot them down on the blank side of the page. If it was an idea which didn’t fit into the chapter or the novel as a whole, I was able to set it aside (after writing it down of course) for future books.
I hope this helps you on your writing journey! Please remember, every writer has her or his own process and this might not work with your style.
I’d love to know how other writers plan and plot out their works. What do you do when you start to write a novel?
Love, love, love Colin Bridgerton from Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton.
In case you haven’t had the chance to read Quinn’s Bridgerton series, you can find out about it here. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton is the third installment in the series and my absolute favourite, followed closely by It’s In His Kiss but more about that another time.
The reason I love this character so much is Quinn’s constant reassertion that he is just so…
Hmmm. A word that many men I have met throughout the years shy away from…”nice guys finish last” or the fact that women only like “the bad boys”.
Nice can get a bad rap as bland, ordinary and without complexity. But in this novel, Quinn shows us that nice is in fact the exact opposite. Nice has depth of feeling, ability to understand life’s conundrums and takes them in stride with a lopsided grin.
Nice is refreshing. It’s a person who doesn’t resort to a stormy temper the minute something goes wrong – not to say nice people don’t experience anger, perhaps they take longer to get there. It’s a person who can smile and find solutions instead of problems. Nice is light and airy and romantic.
Have you stopped yourself from spending time with someone because they were so nice?
Have you stopped yourself from using the word nice when building your characters?
I used to. But Ms. Quinn certainly changed my mind about the word nice through the unforgettable and charming Colin Bridgerton.
The next time you’re writing and are having trouble with adjectives for your protagonist – give nice a try. You might just be on your way to creating an unforgettable character.