Monday, August 27, 2012

Writing Real

The most important job a fiction writer has is to create characters that are real.

Plot is worthless if the characters are not people we can believe in, care about, root for, hate, be provoked by or otherwise moved by on an emotional level.

Readers have often commented about the characters in MONTANA MATCHED, "I feel like I know them personally." and "They seem like friends of mine."

The characters in this popular contemporary romance remind readers of people they have actually met. They identify with them, care about them. Readers want things to work out for them.

What makes a character "real?"

Real characters...

1. have human emotions, faults and ambitions.

2. set goals, achieve successes and suffer failures.

3. cry when they lose someone they love.

4. are lonely, depressed, happy, ticked off.

5. pray, steal, lie, cheat, do good deeds without expecting any reward.

Real characters do what WE do and, most importantly, they do and feel the above things NATURALLY in the course of the story.

Creating "real" characters isn't easy, but succeeding at it is worth every gram of effort a writer makes toward that goal--especially when readers say, "I feel like I know them personally." Nothing is more satisfying for a writer than that.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

Monday, August 20, 2012

Living in a Different Time Period

Have you ever imagined what it might be like to live in a different time period?

As a writer of historical novels, I've had to think deeply about what it might have been like to live in another era. When I'm writing a story set one hundred years or more ago, I try to imagine what my characters would have been seeing around them, how they would have been living on a day to day basis. I want to make my stories real. I want my characters to react to situations in era-appropriate ways. And I want them to speak without Twenty-First Century catch phrases.

If my character is a boy in 1880s New York City (A Partner's Promise), what does he see when he is on the streets? Is there an automobile anywhere? A streetcar? What does an ambulance look like or a fire wagon? Are the street lights gas or electric? What race or ethnic population is most represented on the streets in certain parts of town?

If my character is a young woman in a small town in 1890s Nebraska, how does she support herself? (Tender Mysteries Series, coming November, 2012) What sort of dwelling does she live in? Does she have access to a telephone? What does she do when she is confronted by the difficulties of living in a society dominated by men?

I've always enjoyed reading well written historical fiction because, as a reader, I get to see a totally different perspective on life and survival. People who lived a hundred years and more ago had all of the same problems we have to day plus many, many more. It's fascinating to see how a good author depicts the handling of these problems by his protagonists.

If you haven't indulged in a historical novel recently, treat yourself to the pleasure of reading one. Live in a different time period for just a little while.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page