Monday, October 19, 2009

Guest - Frances Pauli

Good morning everyone! I hope you're all set to have a great week on this fine Monday morning. Today we have guest author Frances Pauli visiting us. Ms Pauli has a very interesting article about creating one of the most important characters for our books -- the hero. I, myself, really like the idea of the 'man board'. What do you think?

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On Creating Heroes:

Not superheroes, mind you, though those can be fun as well, but what I’m referring to is creating the hero—the hero in your tale, manuscript, masterpiece. How do you make certain that your hero becomes your readers’ hero as well? Preferably quickly.

Specifically in Romance writing, the hero has a daunting task. You might call it heroic. His is the business of quickening pulses, evoking sighs, and entrancing your target audience. He must be charismatic, charming, sexy, strong and sensitive, right? He must become all things wanted—the man every woman searches for.

Is it possible? Of course. He’s a hero, after all.

A writing professor once told me that, when we are at our most individual, then we become the most universal. (I think she was quoting someone else) It sounds a bit contradictory, but the point she was making is that our personal experience is our greatest tool for reaching the widest audience. The human condition, the specific, individual human condition, is what connects us and allows us to relate the closest to one another.

So rather than contemplate what might make our readers swoon, perhaps we should consider what makes us tremble in anticipation. Or, as I’ve heard other Romance writers proclaim, if he turns you on, he’ll turn your reader on as well. At least, the odds are stacked in his favor.

I’ve found that, while I’m not immune to the charms of the classic hero, my personal desires yearn for something a touch less formulaic. I imagine that my readers’ do as well. I have a soft spot (okay, it’s a gaping chasm of weakness) for the underdog. I like “un-heroes,” quirky characters, wounded souls and heroes that show their strength by overcoming enormous obstacles—not always physical ones.

I confess that I like muscles as well. Hey, I’m human. Good looks go a long way in my fictional fantasies, but they aren’t always the same old, tall-dark-and-handsome good looks. Give me a feature that makes a man stand out—an unusual nose, a scar, an accent—and good luck holding me back. I’m also quite fond of Storm Trooper armor, but that is a story for another blog. ;-)

The point is I know what I like. Maybe because I’m plenty old enough to have figured it out by now, maybe through diligent research, I’m not telling. I will tell you about an exercise I did back when I was young and single and prone to doing crazy things. It’s a fun exercise, so if you feel inclined, give it a try.

I had a supply of Men’s Health magazines on hand thanks to a fitness conscious male roommate. I also snagged a few celebrity geared periodicals, some glue, cardstock or board and other assorted art supplies. Because I was single, and shortly out of a not-so-nice relationship, I gave myself permission to be shallow for the duration of the art project. Really, really shallow. Don’t judge me.

What I then began to create was a collage of all things I found desirable in a man. Read that hero. I cut, pasted and arranged a miasma of: arms, chests, hairstyles, jaw lines and other features. (Don’t go there—I didn’t) In the end, I had a lovely painting of my ideal man. Granted, he wasn’t all in one piece, and I’d left out such minor details as personality. But you get the idea. If you’re creative enough, and you employ the use of snappy magazine text (which I did) you might be able to pin down more elusive traits than just appearance.

I loved that collage. If I’d been smart enough I would have designated it as literary reference and kept it, but then I wasn’t writing in earnest yet. I did hang it up for awhile, and it did inspire many of the heroes in my future manuscripts. But in the end I got rid of it. My next ex-boyfriend didn’t care for it. (I can’t imagine why) He called it my, “Man Board.” You can guess at the tone of voice implemented. Sigh.

I still think there was something to the act of consciously sorting out all the things I found attractive. I don’t just mean physically...really. In fact, I think the “man board” would have been more useful if I’d included symbols or words to create a more well-rounded person--my un-hero. Try it out and see what you end up with. You might surprise yourself.

Portraying what you like best might not engage every reader, but what can it hurt? At the very least, it’s more fun that guessing what someone else wants. I’m betting that, if you love your hero, the reader will hear it in your words and fall in love right alongside you.

Swooning,
Frances




SPACE SLUGS

Blurb:

When Xenobiologist, Dr. Murray, receives yet another phony wedding invitation from her galaxy hopping sister, she does what any good sibling would do. She drops her research and hops the first flight to some obscure planet at the edge of the civilized universe.

But Zora's weddings never manage to go off as planned, and before the cake is served, Murray finds herself imprisoned with the unapologetic bride. With the
assistance of a mysterious android and the universe's last living space slug, the two find themselves on the run in a stolen space ship with half the galaxy in hot pursuit. Thanks to Zora, it's the least desirable half.

Maybe Murray will get lucky, and the crash landing will kill her.

Excerpt:

Murray screamed. She started kicking again, only to be hoisted further from the ground. They hauled her forward, down the center of the archaic dungeon to the last stall. Sitting in this one, perched on top of a heap of straw and rubble, sat her sister.

Zora posed, legs crossed and leaning on one elbow, with a lit cigarette burning in her free hand. She wore a miniscule white skirt, a low cut vest and a veil. As they approached, she flicked a length of ash into a metal bowl beside her and slid gracefully to her feet.

"Bride's quarters," Lizard man left sniggered. They dumped Murray to the ground, and she staggered to her feet.

"Mur?" Zora said. She lifted the veil and tossed it over her red hair.

"Zora!" Murray pulled away from the scaly hands still clamped around her forearms. "Ouch." One of the guards moved to unlock the cell. Zora dumped her smoke into the bowl and stuck out her left hip.

"Hey guys," she drawled. "Play nice and let me out?"

"Sorry," the guard at the cell said.

"Orders." His buddy shoved Murray forward. They passed her, stumbling, into the cell and swung the bars shut.

"Oh, come on!" Zora stuck her bottom lip into full pout mode, but the Reptilian duo turned and headed back toward the stairs. Murray's hands found her hips. She tapped one foot against the soggy floor and stared at her sister. Zora ignored her, leapt to the cell front and craned to watch the guards' retreat. "Damn," she said.

"I'm going to kill you," Murray snarled.

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Frances Pauli, author of speculative fiction and romance, lives in Washington state with her husband and two children. Her first three novels will be released in e-book and trade paperback in 2010. Her short story, The Alien Embrace, appeared in the Spring and Fall 2009 issues of Alternative Coordinates magazine.

Frances blogs about writing at: http://francespauli.blogspot.com
She also writes a free serial Space Opera, Space Slugs, at:
http://spaceslugserial.blgospot.com

More information about Frances, her upcoming releases and free fiction
can be found on her website: francespauli.com

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3 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Frances and Linda,

I found this discussion of the romantic hero fascinating. Personally, I find it more difficult to create the hero than the heroine in romantic fiction. It must be a man that the reader can fall in love with. He must be physically and psychologically appealing. Not an easy task! Women readers more easily identify with the heroine, but the hero is equally important.

Jacqueline Seewald
THE DROWNING POOL, romantic mystery from Five Star 2009
THE INFERNO COLLECTION, Five Star hardcover paranormal romantic suspense, Wheeler large print 2008

Anonymous said...

A lot of people also enjoy creating customized video game characters as an easy way to visualize their hero and other characters. Sims 2 and 3 are popular choices, I personally like the character creator for Perfect World International, or for a more cartoony approach people often use http://www.tektek.org/dream/ (based on the avatars of the game GaiaOnline) or http://elouai.com/doll-makers/new-dollmaker.php Elouai's Candybar Doll Maker

Frances Pauli said...

Thanks so much for the comments. I'm a closet Sims addict...when I can find the time to play. ;-)
I will look into the links too, they sound like fun.

I agree about the hero being more difficult to write. I try to come up with someone I could fall in love with (and do, usually, while I'm writing him) and then hope that translates to the reader through my words.

Frances