Welcome to 5 minutes in the closet with me! Now, let’s just turn out the lights, shall we? Don’t worry–this is a sort of ghost story.
Once upon a time, there was a perfect heroine with perfect hair and eye colors of your choice. She had a perfect body with absolutely no issues about her appearance–everyone wanted her! Her personality was shining too–she took in stray cats and excelled in her 6-figure salary job as a top lawyer. She lived in the best apartment money could buy and an amazing family to share it with. Then she found the richest, sexiest, most fun boyfriend on the planet who…*gasp!* actually wanted to marry HER!
In comes the serial killer and stabs the fuck out of her.
Oh wait, that was me! I cut that little darling down. You know why? There was nothing wrong with her or her story! That’s right–these characters have to be flawed. You don’t have to cover them with skin tags to make them seem real. But they have to have real-life problems–money troubles, obsessions with pizza and fries, drink too much occasionally and have PMS-induced fights with their boyfriends, who in turn, see the small crack in their facade as something to love.
As a mother of characters, my muse wants to see them excel. I don’t want to see my babies struggle, but when writing good characters, we have to throw challenges and troubles at them to show them HOW to overcome and succeed. The book is about a battle, the character is Thor, and he has a big hammer… wait, I got derailed a bit. *ahem*
I’m guilty of wanting to create perfect heroes and hopelessly flawed heroines. But everyone needs at last one thing that can help develop the character arc. By the end of the story, those characters had better learn some kind of lesson about themselves or life or both. And if done right, the very strength the character’s love interest provides to the character will help them to achieve that high.
If I love my characters, I have to get out a knife and carve them up a little. Give them ragged edges and a wound or two. After all, it’s tough love.
Read on for a short excerpt with my emotionally wounded ex-soldier from the Civil War, Graham, from TRAIL OF LUST:
Graham paced before the stable in the late evening hours, driving his boot heels into the earth and cutting divots. It did nothing to lighten his mood. The insatiable need to sink his fists into something hard rose up in his mind.
As often happened when he was in a passion, images flitted in his mind, rapid-fire scenes that brought more torment than ease. Yanking a man off his feet and driving his knife into his chest, leaving the blade quivering as Graham ran on into the battle. Blue coats coming at them, marching on and on, the fear sucking at Graham’s chest as he stared at the sea of faces—men he was about to kill.
Bella’s dark eyes rolling up in her head…
“Fuck!” He slammed his fist into the side of the stable, causing the board to shake beneath the force. His knuckles split and burned as blood oozed from the cuts. He struck the board again, hoping to crush through it this time and in some way alleviate the painful emotion pounding through his veins.
That woman looked nothing like his deceased wife, Bella, and yet she was in his blood the same way.
“Damn little temptress.” He muttered it to the darkness, but inside the stables, his horse whickered in answer. The noise inspired images of him flying across the plains, the breeze filling his nostrils, and the horse’s hooves drumming in time to his heart.
The sound galvanized him. He had to go see her again.
Cradling his stinging knuckles, he went inside the stable and with only the light of the moon to guide him, saddled his steed. Old Gray had fought with him, seen him through the last few years of war. The speckled gray coat of his horse shivered as he settled the saddle atop the beast’s back.
He crooned to the horse while he adjusted the straps. At the end, he’d only had Old Gray to talk to. He and his cousin Xander had been split up and sent to two different cavalry regiments to fill in where they were short-handed. By then, Bella had been in the grave over a year.
Don’t think of her.
He swung up into the saddle, and Old Gray danced sideways, thumping the wooden feed box with his flank. Graham stroked the horse’s neck and leaned over to speak softly to him. “You’re as skittish as I am tonight. Let’s gallop and get it out of our blood.”
He acknowledged the reason for his troubles was one little auburn-haired woman. Dammit, if only she were still a child, he’d have no issues. He wouldn’t have laid a hand on her. And he sure as hell wouldn’t be traveling an hour across the plains just to see her walking with the moon’s glow on her glossy hair.
He gripped the reins more tightly as they galloped across the fields, hoping to eliminate the memory of her warm, silken tresses beneath his fingers. Her braid had felt like a living creature as it slid through his palm. And her lips—
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~where words mean so much more~