Friday, October 21, 2011

Tis a Writer's life for me. Creating a hero!

This week I started on the first book in my Escape to Paradise series, entitled Forsaken Dreams. Before getting started,  I spent a couple of months doing research, reading old journals, taking copius notes, studying the reconstruction in the South after the war...etc.. etc..  Then I spent weeks creating characters, a hero and heroine for each story plus a plethora of secondary characters, all people who are traveling along on the journey to Brazil.

But let's backtrack a bit and start with the hero. How do I create a hero for the book?

 First I have to decide on a theme for the book, some moral or lesson I want to express through the story, something the reader can take away, something that might resonate with them and bring them closer to God. I decide this through much prayer and searching of the Scriptures to see what God would have me write about. It could be forgiveness, obedience, destiny, loving others, humility.. you get the picture. Then and only then do I begin to create characters.

You see it is through the characters that this theme will be expressed. It is through their lives and struggles and the things they learn that my message (or the message God gives me) becomes real for the reader. To start with, I create a hero and heroine. If I wasn't writing a romance, I wouldn't need both of them but romance demands a couple!  I must create a heroine and hero who are basically good people but they are flawed. (Like most of us!)  But I need to create flaws in both of them that can be used to forward the theme. For example if my theme if forgiveness, I need to create a hero who has a problem with forgiveness. It's not always that simple but you get the picture.

In Forsaken Dreams, the hero, Colonel Grant Wallace, has lost his entire family in the war, including his younger brother whom he encouraged to join the effort. Consequently, Grant is bitter and angry and filled with hate for the Yankees. He isn't sure there is even a God anymore, and all he wants to do is escape to a place where he can forget.

Next I choose a personality for my hero. There are many personality charts you can use for this. I use serveral but I like 45 Master Characters by Victoria Schmidt.  From the personality or personalities that I choose, these charts give me a list of qualities the person has. I use some of them and add my own to form the person I have in mind.

Now, I give the hero a backstory. I basically write him a history. I do this by filling out character chart listing his fears, dreams, disappointments, physical description, quirks etc. A good way to get to know your character is to interview them as you would a friend. "Hi Grant, where were you born? Did you have any siblings? Were your parents happy? Did you grow up wealthy or poor? What did you want to be when you grew up? How was your relationship with your father?"  Things like that. It's actually fun and you'd be surprised at your own answers! 

Once I have the hero's personality and backstory, I'm really getting to know him! He's starting to become a real person in my mind. Now, I need to create both a character arc and spiritual arc for him. These tell me how I want him to grow both internally and spiritually in the story. What is Grant like when the story begins, and what do I want him to be like at the end? How does he grow? What things does he learn? And very importantly, how do I get him from A to B? 

Last but not least, I go looking for a picture of the man I have created. That puts the final seal on my new guy. He's not just a fragment of my imagination anymore. He's as real as if he were sitting right next to me!

Seems more complicated than you probably thought, huh? Tune in next week when I'll write about how I choose a heroine to compliment my new hero.


  1. Fri Oct 21st,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    And ... 'that' is why the best man for the job is a: "wo-man" !!! Wow !!! It's perfectly clear you put so much into each novel .... each character, each personality. Better you than me ! Ahhhhh ... the signs of a great writer -- doing "much homework" ... getting it all to flow from start to finish. (You should be exhausted .... I'm exhausted just reading about what you require of yourself per novel.) Keep up the good (great) work MaryLu .... that is why your books touch so many, and, they sell !!!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. Thanks, Brenda! Yes.. writing a novel is a very daunting task.. and yes, I am exhausted some of the time! LOL. Speaking of exhausted, how is your new job going?

  3. Okay, first of all, this was so informative. You really pour all your time into creating your novels. And you do a great job, by the way. I was trying to figure out who the young man in the picture was. If his name is William Wolfe, is he the same kid that got bullied? I looked up the name and the young Billy Wolfe looks a lot like him. Just curious. I love the way you aren't holding anything back when telling us how to create a story. I am sure there are young aspiring writers that you are helping. I will share this post. Have a great weekend. I am going to see both my grandkids today. Yippee!

  4. This is really cool. I want to be an author someday, so it is helpful to see how other authors plan their characters. I CAN'T WAIT TO READ THIS NEW SERIES!!!!!!!!!:D

  5. Debbie, yes.. I POUR myself into each novel. That's why it's so hard sometimes when I get really nasty reviews. But hey, it's part of the process. The William Wolfe tag on the photo was by me. I used the same photo for another character called William Wolfe who is in the novella I'm writing with 3 other authors. Sorry about the confusion. I think I found this photo on some Civil War reenactment website. Have fun with your grandbabies!

    Glad my post helped you, Heather! And I love your enthusiasm!

  6. MaryLu, sounds good! Cannot wait!
    One of your questions for your characters should be: What is your relationship with your mother?
    All of your characters seem to have problems with their paretns, dominately the father...

  7. Very true! You can always tell if a man will be good to a lady by how he treats his mother. :-)

  8. Oooh, a behind the scenes look at the writing process. I like! Do you have a specific process for choosing names for your charcters? Thanks for sharing, MaryLu! :)

  9. Emma, I found an online census where I can type in the year and give either a first or last name and a location and it will spit out a list of known names at the time. It's a good way to see what names were popular during a certain era. I used to choose names based on meaning, and in my Charleton series I chose the heroines names by connecting them directly to the one thing they were missing. (Faith, Hope, Charity) So, it really depends on the book and what I'm trying to accomplish. Thanks for asking!

  10. First, I have to comment and tell you how much I LOVE your books! I really enjoy each and every one. Secondly, I wanted to ask if there was a program in place to review your books. I am a book review blogger and would love an opportunity to review your books! Thanks!

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  12. Hi Jenilee! You're so sweet!! Thank you so much. I'm glad you love my books. :-)
    I don't really have a program in place for reviews. You are more than welcome to review my books anywhere you'd like. My publisher runs my website but if you'd like your review linked to from there, I can ask them. Also I'd be happy to link to it from here on my blog as well! If you'll let me know when it posts, I'll be happy to drop by and chat with people.
    Also, I'm having a contest now for a free tote bag filled with books (recommended by me). To enter, just write a review on either Amazon,, or Barnes and Noble and tell me about it.
    Anyway... thanks so much! And have a wonderful week

  13. This is really Cool!!! I am hoping to become a christian romance author after I am all finished with school. This is definitely a good way to start writing a novel! I'll have to remember that! :) You definitely put a lot of work into making your stories realistic and beleivable! This sounds like it'll be yet another good book! Can't wait for it to release! If only I read slower, or you wrote faster! lol


  14. Glad to be of help, Emily! Yes, I wish I could write faster too!!! Maybe as time goes on, I will. In the meantime, you're going to have to slow down. LOL

  15. WOW. There is so much "homework" before you actually get to the writing!! I don't think I could do that... God has really given you a wonderful gift! Thank you so much for using it to entertain and teach others : )
    P.S. I am totally sharing this post with my brother. He is only 17 but has been working on multiple novels for years! I think someday you may hear of him ; )

  16. Thanks Sarah! I hope your brother finds my posts useful. Tell him I look forward to reading his work someday!