KISS your characters

I saw my first movie in 1979: The Black Hole. Due to a family thing (which is a very long story), we had to drive an hour one way and catch a ferry to make the show time. I was hooked from that night in a dark theater with my brother and my cousins.

The Black Hole (1979, Walt Disney)

The Black Hole (1979, Walt Disney)

I am a movie addict. There’s nothing better than the experience, and there’s no such thing as a bad movie.  There is always something redeemable.  I’m not a big fan of tear-jerkers (at least in public), and I draw the line at horror. My imagination about monsters in the closet is good enough without visual proof, thank you very much.

Strictly Ballroom, M & A Australian Film Finance Corporation (AFFC) Beyond Films

Strictly Ballroom, M & A
Australian Film Finance Corporation (AFFC)
Beyond Films

My favorites (other than rom-coms) are big ensemble movies. Dancing (Strictly Ballroom, anyone?), sports (hands up for Bull Durham), music (sing along with Pitch Perfect). I love watching the characters interact where they aren’t in a vacuum.

As you can guess, when I began writing, I wrote with a cast of characters in my head. I still do. It plays out like a movie. And, in the first drafts, those ensemble players all show up on the pages.  My critique partners constantly have to rein me in. I tease – there’s at least one Bollywood dance number and one “campfire/dinner table” scene. And they always get edited out.

Because I’ve learned that with any plot, characters get better with KISSing.

Keep it Simple, Silly.

Of course secondary characters are necessary. There are lists of the supporting players your protagonists needs: sidekick, mentor, skeptic, voice of reason … But here are few points to consider when creating them:

  1. Adding a bunch of people to a scene muddies what the hero is hearing, seeing, or learning about the heroine. She should be his main focus. Isn’t that the point of the story, at least in romance? That she’s his primary concern?
  2. The heroine can talk to her best friend, but any BIG revelations should be made to the hero. They are forming a partnership, and she needs to build that connection. Besides, if she confesses to her best friend, she has to do it later to the hero anyway. Save the words.
  3. And while we’re on the topic – as much as possible, save the words for the hero and heroine’s story. The first time I had to edit a scene to eliminate the crowd, I realized how much better it revealed the relationship between my main characters.

These are three really quick reasons, and I’m sure there are loads more. The whole point is to keep the hero and heroine as the focus of your story.  After all, when we tell friends about books (or movies, for that matter) we start with “So this girl … And then this guy …”

KISS your characters, and watch your story come to life.

Mia Kay - thumbnailMia 
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