Friday, October 28, 2011

Tis a Writer's life for me--creating a Heroine

Last week, I shared how I generally start a story by coming up with a theme, some message I feel God wants me to get across in the story. Out of that theme, I create characters who can best express that theme through the plot and the struggles and the changes that happen during the book.

I usually create the hero first. As I mentioned last week, I follow these steps:

  • I choose a personality from one of several personality types. I don't follow this exclusively. I sometimes combine personalities or I add characteristics of my own. But this gives me a baseline to start with.
  • Next I give my character a great backstory! I do this by interviewing my character, by filling out a character chart and listing good and bad qualities.
  • I find a picture that matches what I thnk he or she looks like (I usually just browse online or go to a royalty-free photo website)
  • And lastly I create both a spiritual arc and  character arc for my character.

So now I have my hero. What about a heroine to match?

To create an interesting relationship, you need sparks, chemistry, problems. Let's face it, as nice as a great, loving relationship is, it doesn't make for an interesting read.  You want your couple to face problems, both with each other and with the world. They must clash. There must be tension between them, obstacles to overcome. In fact, there must be seemingly unsurrmountable obstacles to overcome!  Otherwise, your reader will lose interest. I'm not sure why we humans love conflict but hey, that's a topic for another post.

So how do I choose my heroine? In the case of the book I'm currently writing, Forsaken Dreams, my hero was a Colonel in the Southern army. He lost his brother in the war and his entire family in the Atlanta fire. He suffers from Post traumatic stress syndrome and is bitter, unforgiving, and angry. He hates the North and anything to do with the north.

So, I created a heroine who was married to a Northern General. Though her husband is long dead and her marriage was loveless, she hides this small fact from everyone because she knows her fellow Southerners would ostrasize her as her family has already done.

So of course they fall in love. Talk about conflict! Especially when my hero discovers the truth. But wait, I've also chosen my heroine this way because her past will help my hero learn forgiveness and learn to release his bitterness to God and receive healing for his heart.

Choose a heroine who in some way is in direct opposition to the hero.

  • A goal that clashes with the heroes  (Think Charlisse and Merrick in The Redemption)
  • A past that the hero cannot accept  (Think Hope and Nathaniel in The Blue Enchantress)
  • A past act that keeps them apart (Think Isabel and Kent in The Restitution)
  • A heritage that makes them an enemy (Think Rose and Alex in Surrender the Night)
  • A past that causes intense mistrust (Think Cassandra and Luke in Surrender the Dawn)
I'm sure you can think of others, but you get the point!
Once you have a general idea of your heroine, you can follow the same steps to flesh her out as I used to create my hero.

And voila, you have the makings of a very electric romance!


  1. Thanks for breaking that process down! I'm in the research phase for my second book and use a similar method. It helps to see it in writing and know that someone else thinks like that, too!

    By the way, I love your books. There is a special place for them on my shelf!

  2. Fri Oct 28th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Have to see if this message goes through ... experiencing problems with google again ... and it won't take my comments.
    Brenda Hurley

  3. Fri Oct 28th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Cannot figure this 'google thing out' !!! Ahhhhhhh !!!
    Anyway ... I appreciated all that you shared -- re how you choose your characters, with their natural flaws and strengths .. and create a theme/message throughout your story, that you want to get across. It works MaryLu ... keep on, keeping on.
    No wonder your books are so popular, and SO good ! We (everyone) can relate to them !
    And yes, your books are lined up across a special shelf on my bookcase, too.
    Thanks again for sharing.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  4. This is awesome. Thank you so much for sharing! I love seeing how you write and create your stories. More, please!! :)

  5. Kariss, so glad our methods are similar! That means we must be doing something right!

    Brenda, Google drives me nuts too! You're not the only one. Thank you for your kind words!! You're such a sweetie!

    Oh my, Sheri, I'm so happy these posts have helped you!. I do plan to continue posting Writing lessons and things I've learned as a writer on Fridays.

  6. These "writing lessons" are helping me a lot! I normally create my characters in a similar way to this. Thanks so much for posting these!

  7. Wow, MaryLu, you really have a talent in writing novels and explaining the process. You could be a teacher, honestly.
    Brenda: Do you have Google Chrome? I was having a lot of problems when I was using Firefox, but once I switched to Google Chrome, I haven't had any problems. Just FYI.

  8. I must say, it's so cool to see how my favorite author's decide on their characters. It seems like it is the funnest part...what is the funnest part for you, MaryLu?

  9. Glad I'm helping you, Heather!! I plan to keep em coming. :-)

    Debbie, I studied to be a teacher a long time ago. I'm fairly good at explaining things on paper.. not so good in person. LOL.

    The funnest part, Esther? Hmmm.. Yes, I do really enjoy creating characters! I also love coming up with ideas for an adventurous plot! So, those 2 are the most enjoyable for me. The least enjoyable? Editing and research!

  10. Haha of course:) I know somewhere I read Linda Chaikin spends months researching...I'm guessing that's normal, right? eek. By the way, I think it's awesome her name was Charlize. That's my little niece's name too.(I have an older half sister) Speaking of which...her birthday is monday! 1 year old!

  11. Happy Birthday Charlize! 1 is such a cute age.

  12. That direct opposition thing really does make for a great read and great characters! I loved the match of Merrick and Charlisse! Merrick is on my list of favorite characters of all time. I just love him! Although, Luke Heaton is a close second to Merrick.

  13. I agree with Emma, and also have to add that Alex was one of my favorites, too.

  14. My all time fav is Merrick too.. but I really love all my heroes. They are all different, yet true men of God and honorable and good. Well, at least by the end of the book!

  15. Ingenious!
    I think that's fantastic. Totally get what you said there at the end; agree.
    I like the conflicts you create. Sounds good. Can't wait!
    The Redemption is my favorite of your books (myabe just because it was the first) and Merrick and Charlisse are my favorite (maybe just because they were first).
    I've really liked your characters! Job well done. Never though Kent would be a good guy!
    -Rebekah xD

  16. Thanks Rebekah! When I first created Kent in the Redemption, I never had in mind that I would make him change and be the hero of the third book. He just sort of told me he wanted to repent and be good. LOL

  17. I love how you choose different conflicts for your stories-because everyone experiences life differently, and they are able to relate to your stories differently. It has something for everyone. Plus, I think it was brave of you to make Kent change. A lot of people forget that God can love, change, heal, and forgive everyone-even a villian like Kent was. Its through God that we change and become true honorable people and warriors for Him.

  18. @ Esther: Coolto meet someone who shares my name!

  19. Eszter.. writing Kent's story was really redeeming for me. It was so much fun to change him into a Godly man. It was like living my own redemption all over again. And you're right. God can change the darkest hearts!