Gabrielle Bisset

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Joanne Troppello Guest Post

I'm pleased to welcome author Joanne Troppello to my blog today.  Joanne is a mystery and inspirational romance author, and her newest book is Mr.  Shipley's Governess.  Be sure to read the excerpt she's included at the end of her post for a taste of the story. 

Are your characters made of flesh and blood?

How do you create unique three-dimensional characters that will stay with your readers long after they finish reading your book?  You need to make your character just like a real person not some fictional flat character that no one will remember.  This technique begins with people watching.  You need to figure out why people act the way they do.  What do people want out of life?  How do people deal with struggles?  What makes humans real and not robotic?

Of course, as you write your story, the plot line will move along but to make the characters extraordinary, you need to let your characters tell the story—and be memorable.  Readers need to get inside the characters’ heads and feel what they are feeling and know what they are thinking.  If you’re only telling a storyline, you’re not writing an unforgettable book. 

You first need the basics:  male or female, age (at least generally speaking like mid-twenties, middle-aged etc.), what’s the character’s job and basic physical appearance as well as personality.  Once you get the basics then the fun part begins.  Now you get to flesh out your characters.  Make sure you give your character a problem; whether it is an emotional, physical or spiritual one.  

What’s in a name…Naming your characters is very important as well.  One of the minor characters in my book, Mr. Shipley’s Governess is the butler and I thought about naming him James; however, that’s stereotypical of a butler.  I ended up calling him Nigel—British sounding but less like a butler.  The heroine, Sophie, her name did not have any meaning to me.  The hero, however, I called Sebastian Shipley.  I was going for a name fit for a dashing, yet modern gentleman.  It’s your decision on whether or not you utilize stereotypes for characters, but that won’t be very interesting to your readers and it’s especially not a good idea for your main characters.  You can use some stereotypes, but the point of writing memorable characters is for you to step outside of the box and create interesting, believable, three-dimensional people. 

What is your character’s personality like?  Is he a strong type A person?  Is she more laidback and impulsive?  Don’t just say Sophie is laidback; show that she is.  Show her actions that she is more relaxed and not easily bothered by change.  Set her up in scenes where you can show her impetuous side and that she might drag the more reserved, Sebastian, out on an impromptu date.  What are the mannerisms and habits your character will exhibit?  You need to show these to your readers. 
People are not perfect.  If you thought that then maybe you’re living on another planet.  So why would you make your characters perfect?  That makes them unbelievable and that will defeat your ultimate purpose of creating the unforgettable novel.  So what problems does your character have?  Maybe he has anger issues or she has problems trusting men.  That will affect their relationships.  You need to get this out into your storyline and create scenes where such issues can be fleshed out, not just told to the readers.

Writing in deep POV is extremely helpful in achieving success in your writing.  Jump into the mind of your character and bring your reader with you.  As you write, it’s very effective to keep to one character’s POV per scene.  If you head hop to another character, just make sure that it doesn’t jar the readers out of the scene into a tailspin of confusion.  You want every aspect of your story to flow together seamlessly so that your readers are fully engaged and not confused, wanting to put the book down and not finish reading. 

Do you know what motivates your characters?  If you don’t know, you’ll never be able to get that across to your readers in a believable fashion.  Is your character motivated by greed or love or bitterness?  There are so many different aspects of character motivation that you can utilize.  If he or she is motivated by greed, what made this character live like that?  Share that catalyst and it will be another great factor to draw the readers in to the story. 

One of the best ways to know if your characters are believable is to ask yourself:  do you remember your characters?  Do you want to read more stories about them?  The likelihood that you care about your characters will mean that others will too.  Always be open to learn new techniques for character development and don’t shy away from editors.  Meticulous editing will assist you, if you’re willing to take constructive criticism, in writing the best novel.  For Mr. Shipley’s Governess, I had two awesome editors through a two year period of writing / editing, who helped me see critical aspects of proper writing techniques that I was missing.  Sure, I could have ignored their assistance, but I wanted my writing to be my best.

How do you flesh out believable three-dimensional characters?  Are there any memorable characters from books you’ve read that have stayed with you long after reading the story? 

I’d love to hear from you.  All commenters today will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of my eBook, Mr. Shipley’s Governess.  Thank you so much for stopping by.   

Excerpt from Mr. Shipley’s Governess

Sebastian leaned against the doorframe of the library, amused that Sophie continued reading, oblivious to his intrusion.  He watched her scrunch up her face in consternation, engrossed in the book.  “So, who do you like better, me or Mr. Knightly?”  He heard her sharp intake of breath.  She nearly dropped the book as she turned to look at her intruder.

“Definitely, that would be Mr. Knightly; he doesn’t have the habit of sneaking up on me.”

Sebastian sauntered into the room and sat in the chair opposite her.  “Yes, he’s so charming.  I hope to someday be like him.”

“Hey, don’t make fun.  He is the epitome of the perfect gentleman.”

“Actually, I’m serious.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve read the same book as you.  It must be a coincidence.”

Sophie smiled.  “Really…you’re just trying to get on my good side.”

He leaned forward in mock surprise.  “Huh, I thought I was on your good side already.”

“That depends on my mood.”

“I see.  You’re all about a woman’s prerogative.”

“Yes, I live by that rule.”

He played along, enjoying the playful banter.  “Oh, so you’re one of those.”

“You’d better believe it.  It’s my prerogative to change my mind whenever I want.”

He fluidly maneuvered his way to the ottoman where her feet rested and he sat down.  “I hope you don’t change your mind about me.”

“Well, that all depends on you.”

“I’d better be on my best behavior then.”

Sophie got up quickly and before he realized it, she walked across the room to the bookshelf.  “So, you really read Emma, too.  That’s still surprising and sweet.”

He followed her.  “You’re avoiding any serious conversation, young lady.”

She moved away, running her finger along the spines of the books.  He kept following, backing her into a corner.  She leaned her hands against the windowsill and backed up as far as possible.  She laughed nervously.  “So, tell me again why you interrupted me.”

“I did it because I’ve wanted to do this for a long time now.”  He cupped her face, tracing the outline of her lips with his thumb.  Then he lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her gently, at first, but soon his fervor matched hers.  She put her arms around his neck and moved in closer.  Finally, they pulled away from each other, both breathless.  “I…I’m sorry.”

She touched his cheek.  “Don’t be.  I’ve wanted you to do that for a long time, too.”

He squeezed her hand. “I should get back to work.  David’s going to wonder what happened to me.”

Sophie gave him a flirty smile. “Oh, I’m sure he knows.”

“Now try not to compare me too much to Mr. Knightly because there’s no contest, really.”

As he walked out of the room, he still felt the warmth of her lips on his and the softness of her body in his arms.  He chided himself.  “Shake it off, man.”  Then he walked down the hall in search of his brother.

To find out more about Joanne, visit her online.


Joanne said...

Gabrielle, thanks so much for letting me stop by today! :-)

Gabrielle said...

It's a pleasure. I enjoyed your post a great deal. Characterization is so important.

Teresa K. said...


I really enjoyed your analogies on how characters should be. The names have to be just right, the problem in life or struggle. I think thats what I look for as a reader.
Loved the excerpt of Mr. Shipley's Governess. Wishing you much success in your career.

Teresa K.

Nadja Notariani said...

Nice to meet you via the blog post, Joanne. Congratulations on your novel. It was great that you included an excerpt ...A sneak peek is a great teaser.
I enjoyed your post on characterization a good deal. Creating characters that we, as authors, feel connected to indicates that our readers will too. Your comments on people watching intrigued me,(my grandfather and I would sit together and 'people watch' from a park bench in a little town named Sewickley) and I wonder if many writers share my general curiosity about people and the way they behave. ~ Nadja

Gabby said...

Neat post Ms. Joanne. Very helpful for the writers who are just learning, like me.

I really liked your excerpt, I'm already intrigued!

Good luck with this novel it seems really intriguing to me!

JoanneTroppello said...

Thank you ladies for stopping by today. Glad you all enjoyed the post and my excerpt. Have a great weekend.