More than a place--it's a writer's muse.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Muse Monday: It's in their jeans--er--genes.

Busting free of stereotypes. ::insert frustrated sigh::

It's easier said than done, particularly when writing fiction. And what better to start Muse Monday with a couple of visuals regarding the same?

Are all women like this?

And all men like this?

The answer? Yes, but no.

As authors, we want our characters to be recognizable as someone our readers could know, understand, and root for. On the flip side of believability, we don't want to write cases of same hero/heroine, different story, either.

Yeah, I really did just say, same, only different. Which makes my point as clear as--well, mud.

The biological truth of the matter is women are women and men are men. No matter how we dice it, we just aren't wired the same. And those wiring differences impact our behavior. So how do authors believably break free from the archetypes, those hardwired behavioral expectations that stand in the way of our creatng unique characters a reader can asssociate with?

As I grow and learn as an author, I'm finding that there's a huge difference between authorial voice and character voice. And if I want to make it in this industry, I realize I've gotta have both. To do that, I have to know what the stereotype if I'm to stand a chance of bursting free of it in a believable, yet appealing manner.

And that all comes down to character building and character voice.

Ryder Black, my Hellhound shifter in my serial textnovel in progress, Surrender the Night is "alpha male" to the bone. And he's been a real pain in the backside to write, because honestly, ultra alpha heroes risk coming off as jerks.

As I built Ryder's world, I realized he has tremendous issues with surrendering to anything, or anybody. And who could blame him? After all, the US NAVY keeps Ryder and the rest of the FANG warriors addicted to mind control drugs. Worse, they kennel the paranormal warriors like military working dogs.

Truth be told, working dogs get better treatment.

To say Ryder isn't all that keen on humanity is the understatement of the century. That is until he meets Dana Darko, the animal behaviorist called in by the Navy to force Ryder to toe the line.

Uh, yeah. Like that's going to happen. Because remember, Ryder doesn't surrender to anything or anybody. He's alpha. He's also got a chip on his shoulder the size of a small planet.

Problem is, Dana has something Ryder needs--the key to his memories. She alone has the skills Ryder needs to master if he is to overcome the mind control drugs the Navy uses to control his memories. And if he is to remember the identity of the woman who haunts his dreams, he must first remember who or what he is--and why.

Ryder needs Dana to get what he wants. To do that, He. Must. Surrender....

But Dana has her own motives for getting close to Ryder. She believes he may be responsible for the death of her husband. Natch, she aims to find out the truth, no matter what. If that means making nice with the FANG, then so be it. The way she sees it, every dog has his day, and seeing as how Ryder wants to get in her pants so badly, she's the natural choice for bringing it on.

If teaching Ryder to overcome his addiction so he can remember what happened to Tristan, then she's going to do whatever it takes to insure that happens. Even if it means sleeping with he enemy.

Enter the conflict.

On the surface, Ryder and Dana are one each romantic heroes/heroines. What makes them unique is their personal histories make them the only characters in the story world who can solve each other's problems. They are forced by circumstance to rise above the stereotypical expectations in order to get what they want.
So know what your characters want. Then block them from getting it in every conceivable fashion. I promise you, they'll rise to the occasion. In Ryder's case, in more ways than one. ;)


SarannaDeWylde said...

Yep, you have to put everything they want right in front of them and then build a moat, barbed wire on top of the electric fence and land mines, which they each must step on twice, not to mention the doggie rockets. You put them through the paces and they will grow. Good advice!

Great blog, I think that we all struggle with original heroines who are still strong and women that we'd either like to be or be best friends with.

I know if a character is too anything and I don't like her, I don't want good things to happen for her so I won't read.

I've seen a trend lately in romance where they make the heroines out to be what they think is strong, but they're just bitches, they might as well be the alpha male and the hero gives up everything to be with her and she doesn't sacrifice anything or learn or grow.I always want to kick them in the taco and steal their man, because I CAN.

I love Dana and Steph both. I would be friends with them, hang out with them and ache for them with what they are going through. Well, except for the whole evil genius plot... :)

Dana has gone through it, but she's still strong. She's still growing, still learning. She's an awesome character. I totally don't mind giving Ryder up for their happily ever after.

Robin said...

The visuals are a nice touch.
The stereotypes are there for a reason. It may sound all "conspiracy theory", but we learn our behaviors from others, and when those behaviors are unsatisfactory to us, we use media to fill in the blanks. It does bother me when a heroine is so strong, she is a bitch, and she has no soft side to befriend. The hero has two choices then: to either become the weaker of the two, or to conquer her. Who wants a sap or a Conan? Not us, not anymore. The words we write today will most likely influence someone's future view of what romantic relationships are. Think about it. How old were you when you picked up your first romance? We have the responsibilty to create characters who's lives have led them on a path that could be destruction, but make them strong enough to veer to the side of happiness and allow them to not only love, but feel love.

Gail Hart said...

"The same only different" is exactly what publishers seem to be looking for. How do we make our stories different enough to stand out without being too weird? It's a tightrope.

P.S. - The baby boy video is just too funny!

Shannon Reinbold-Gee said...


Excellent thoughts!

Yes, as Gail mentioned, publishers want "the same, only different." Reputations, names and careers are built on meeting certain expectations (even if it comes down to what sort of stories or characters you write--a VERY dangerous game that can result in pigeonholing).

I think there's room for all types of characters in the marketplace--even the ones we love to hate.

The key is always knowing what our characters' biggest wants and deepest fears are. Set their goal and then make them confront their fears or do the thing they'd NEVER, NEVER do because suddenly, there's no other option (my boy Pietr does the last thing he wants to do in book 3--because he MUST).

Those conflicts and obstacles they have to deal with truly show the measure of the man. ;-) They are often enough to break the biggest, baddest alpha into someone we WANT to love because we've seen him shatter. And THAT we can all relate to.


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