Writing Tips: Character Flaws

Last week I talked about liking your characters and how if you care what happens to them, your readers will care also. This week, we need to talk about the things you don’t like about your characters. Their flaws that make them real.

Think of yourself. You have good qualities and qualities you wish you could change. Same with your significant other, your best friend, and your kids. We all have characteristics that make us who we are, good and not so good.

Why do your characters have to have traits that are less than desirable? Why should they have a flaw? Or a few?

None of us are perfect. No matter how much we’d like to be, we have flaws. Giving your characters flaws makes them feel more real. And if they’re real, they’re relatable. The key is finding the right flaw so your characters stay on the right side of the line between relatable and too stupid to live.

So what’s the right flaw?

What do you think about the alpha male who has a soft spot for his mom?

Or the kick-ass tattoo artist with a blind cat at home.

Or you could go with a billionaire who anonymously donates to a children’s center.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

What are the defining elements of your character? Is he a cocky asshole? Or a quiet guy who keeps to himself? Or is she a confident new business owner? Or uneasy about where her life is going because she just got fired?

With each of these characters, balance their strength with a weakness. The cocky asshole had an abusive dad and volunteers at a homeless shelter for women and children to help the kids learn not all men are bad. The guy who keeps to himself is a rock star in private and sings to thousands of people. The new business owner is a disorganized mess. And the woman who just got fired plays roller hockey on the weekends with a name like Punky Bruiser.

The most effective character flaws are not really flaws. They feel like flaws to the main character, but they’re really just new layers to the character that helps make them who they are. Do you see how each of the traits were toned down by the opposite trait? How something that might make them hard to relate to is offset by something that makes them very approachable. Or how someone who seems very down to earth is given a complexity by something they’re hiding.

Think of your favorite characters. What about them did you love? What made you connect with them? Share in the comments below!

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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#FiveOnFriday with Elizabeth Harmon

I’m so excited to have Elizabeth Harmon back with us today! I can’t wait to check this one out. I may have had fantasies of being a figure skater once upon a time… if only I had talent!

Hi everyone, and thanks Mary, for having me as a #FiveOnFriday guest!

My new release Shining Through is a sports romance set in a sport that lots of people aren’t familiar with—competitive figure skating.

Figure skating takes a high profile every four years as one of the Winter Olympics’ most popular sports.  But there are a lot of misconceptions about figure skating, one being that it isn’t actually a sport at all!  (It is.)

In addition to being graceful and artistic, it’s demanding physically—not to mention dangerous.  Imagine jumping into the air, spinning four times and landing not just on one foot, but on a sliver of steel less than a quarter-inch wide.  That’s tough enough on solid ground, but on hard, slippery ice?  Yikes!

With the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyongchang coming this February, it promises to be an exciting skating season. So for this #Five On Friday, I thought I’d share Five Things You May Not Know About Figure Skating. (All photos were taken by my friend Roseanne Pontillo at Skate America, 2014)

#1 – It’s more than just the Olympics

While figure skating gets the most attention in Olympic years, the sport has an annual competitive season that runs from August through April.  In addition to national and world championships, there’s a series of six international competitions known as the Grand Prix of Figure Skating, which takes place over six weeks in six different countries!  Though skaters compete in just one or two Grand Prix events, that’s still a lot of miles.

In Shining Through, American skater Tabitha Turner is competing in Star Spangled Skate when she first meets Russia’s Bad Boy of the Ice, Daniil Andreev.  Sparks fly and when Daniil tempts Tabitha to take a secret walk on the wild side, both get more than they bargained for.

#2 – It’s young and done

Like gymnasts, figure skaters, especially in the women’s discipline (“ladies” in skate-speak) keep getting younger.  Tara Lipinski won a World figure skating title at 14 and an Olympic gold medal at 15. Karen Chen,  one of the U.S.’s current top ladies’ skaters, medaled at U.S. Nationals when she was 16. Polina Edmunds competed for the U.S. in the 2014 Olympics before she had her driver’s license. Japan and Russia also have a number of rising teenage stars, like 14-year-old Elena Radionova, shown above.

Twenty-three year old Tabitha knows that the window on her competitive career is closing fast.  The Grenoble Games are her last chance to reward her family’s sacrifices with Olympic gold.  But a determined 16-year-old rival isn’t going to make it easy.

#3 – Skaters perform the same program throughout the season

I once thought skaters created new routines for each competition.  In reality they work for months with their coach and choreographer, as well as specialized coaches to refine their jumps and presentation.  In competitions, the programs must be performed perfectly for skaters to obtain the maximum number of points for each trick (“elements” in skate-speak). Not only do the programs showcase the skaters’ athleticism, they also tell a story.

Daniil’s powerful,  angsty program to Imagine Dragons “Radioactive” captivates Tabitha, who longs to bring more passion to her pretty, but lifeless skate to music from the opera, “Antigone.”  A week working one on one with him in Vancouver helps her unleash her passion on the ice, and off.

#4 – It only looks easy

Elite figure skaters make their sport look effortless, and some people believe that it actually is!  In reality, skaters usually start as children and spend a decade or more before they reach the elite  Senior level.   And just because a skater falls, doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t “good.”  Just as strike-outs and errors are part of baseball, falls are part of skating,  especially when you’re performing crazy-difficult moves like combination jumps and 4-rotation “quad” jumps.  Skaters learn to fall safely, in order to avoid injury.

#5 – The scoring is confusing

Actually if you watch figure skating you probably know this. ☺  While I’m not an expert I’ll try to give a down and dirty explanation.  Skaters receive two sets of scores. Grade of Execution is for how well they perform the moves in their program. Program Component relates to the program content, the skater’s skills and overall performance. The two are added together for a skater’s segment score.  Segment scores (for the short and long programs) are added together to determine who wins the competition.

Sounds simple on the surface but its not uncommon for a skater who fell to receive a higher score than one who didn’t.  The reason usually has to do with the skater who fell having a higher Program Component score than the one who didn’t, either for a better artistic presentation OR more difficult content.  A friend who competes in the Adult  division of figure skating  often jokes about ‘spin to win,’ because certain spins are worth more than jumps.

Are you a figure skating fan or just getting to know the sport?  Leave a comment below and add Shining Through to your Goodreads To Be Read list, and you’ll be entered to win a digital copy!

Thanks for reading! Elizabeth

* * *

Shining ThroughWhen the sweetheart of American figure skating falls for the bad boy of Russian figure skating, it puts her quest for Olympic gold on thin ice. Dirty Dancing meets Olympic figure skating in this sweet and sexy sports romance!

The Biggest Season of Her Career…

America’s sweetheart Tabitha Turner is on track to win figure skating gold in the Winter Games. Her family has sacrificed everything for her career, but the pressure is taking its toll. Burned out and living a lie, can Tabitha let off a little steam without melting the ice?

The Last Chance of His…

Russia’s bad boy of skating Daniil Andreev is determined to prove the toughest thing about him is his competitive fight. When Tabitha tempts him to help her take a secret walk on the wild side, he gives her a taste of the freedom she craves, never expecting that one unforgettable night could turn into something more.

Two Hearts on Thin Ice…

Chicago, Vancouver, Paris… the international figure skating season unfolds. Tabitha and Daniil compete and fall in love, but as the pressure mounts in a make-or-break season, can they set aside their painful pasts and spiral into a shining future together… or will their dreams shatter like thin ice?

At the Winter Games, the torch isn’t the only thing burning…

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Contemporary romance author Elizabeth Harmon loves to read and write romances with a dash of different. She is the author of the Red Hot Russians sports romance series. Her debut novel Pairing Off is a 2016 RITA® Award Finalist.

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Ample & Alluring, reviews

Ample & AlluringAll I can say is thank you. Maybe wow, also. Holy shit, you guys! The reviews on Ample & Alluring are so amazing! Thank you for sticking with me through this series. It’s been so much fun to write, but we’ll talk about that more next week!

If you haven’t grabbed it yet, read this review from Stephanie. Maybe she can convince you to check it out!

The last of its series, yet did not disappoint. Peyton and Wyatt have jobs that are high demanding. Mayor Wyatt though extremely busy, makes time for the Christmas holiday. Dr. Peyton never saw the joy of Christmas. Baffled by Peyton feelings of Christmas, Wyatt is on a mission to get Peyton to fall in love with Christmas. What they thought was a full proof plan, turns into something else completely. These two together have me laughing and crying in happiness. It’s hard to find romance that tugs at your heart strings and gives you butterflies in your stomach. Mary E. Thompson has done it again and you won’t be dissappinted when reading this book. This last book was bitter sweet. I loved this series and I am sad to see it ending. But Mary E. Thompson has a spin off to this series coming soon. I can’t wait!!!

Are you ready to read it? Go grab your copy now!

Ebook on Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | B&N | Smashwords

Print on Createspace | Amazon | B&N | Books A Million

Writing Tips: Crafting Characters

I haven’t gotten any new questions in my mailbox, so I’m back with some more advice for aspiring writers.

Today let’s talk about crafting characters. In romance, characters drive the story. If readers don’t care about your characters, the story is no good, no matter how good it is.

What you have to do is figure out how to make readers care about your characters. Want to know how I do it?

I care about my characters!

It’s simple, right? But how much I love my characters comes through. Every single one I’ve written has had a piece of me. Maybe not a similarity to me, but definitely a piece of my heart. I spend months, years, with these people. They live inside my head. I’m the only one they talk to. It’s up to me to tell their stories.

There’s more to it than that, of course, but you have to care about your characters to make your readers care. Which means you have to find characters, stories, people you want to write about.

Do you have a friend that you wish could find The One? Does your kid have a teacher you think is sweet? Maybe one of your grandkids has a coach that you think would be a great hero.

Find someone who inspires you. Yeah, someone in your world. No, I’m not telling you to write the story of a person you actually know, but to get yourself started, use someone you know to inspire you.

Puffy & PreciousI’ve written characters based on men I saw in church (Davoli brothers Matt, Mark, and John from Paradise Park), a guy at the gym (Graham from Puffy & Precious), and even my best friend (Charlie from Fluffy & Fabulous).

Once I get a feel for who they might be, who my inspiration is, I go looking for a picture. Pinterest is a great resource because it’s free, and I use the photos for my use only so it’s legal.

With my picture and my inspiration in hand, I start to figure out who my characters are. What they want, what they’re looking for, who they’d fit well with. I go through a character interview to learn more about them. I ask about their background, how they grew up, who their family is, what they studied in school, what they drive, where they live, what scares them, what inspires them, what they’re proud of, what they’re embarrassed by. I dig deep and get into who each character really is. I need to know what makes them tick, and what ticks them off.

Because at the end of the day, a book will be boring without some kind of conflict.

By the time I’m done with my interview, we’re good friends!

Which makes it a whole lot easier for me to care what happens to them.

If you’re writing a book that has a character driven story, make sure you know your characters better than you know yourself. They can’t have any secrets from you, and you have to want them to find their happily ever after. Otherwise, your readers won’t want them to find it either.

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

#FiveOnFriday with Iris Blobel

I’m so excited to have Iris Blobel back with us today! I think we all need to take a trip like this one day! Let’s dive in and find out about the trip, and the book it led to!

What inspired you to write this book?

I love this book. We went to the USA a few years back, travelling in a motorhome through five different states, having the time of our lives. After returning home, looking through hundreds of photos, I came up with the idea to turn our itinerary into a story. Fresh Beginnings was born. I hope the readers will enjoy this little journey and hopefully my love for the places we went to is shining through.

For first time readers, what book (of yours) should we start with and why?

Readers can start with any book of mine, but I have two series where the books can be read as a standalone, but to get a “feel” for the characters, I’d recommend to start with the first one. As for Fresh Beginnings, the first book in the series is New Beginnings

What do you hope readers take from reading your work?

I always like to use the cliché “I like to spread love”. My books are about family and friendship, something that is very important to me, and reviews are telling me that is what readers are appreciating.

What is one of your favorite quotes? What about it speaks to you?

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift.” Having finished cancer treatment only a few months ago, I’m appreciating life, try not to worry about matters I cannot change, but enjoy the little things in life as well as the big ones. I used to stress so much about all sorts of issues and had a need for success that I’d forgotten to love what I have now.

What song could you listen to on repeat and not get sick of?

I LOOOOOVE music, so picking “just” one was a challenge, but I’ve narrowed it down to three songs that have been important to me that last year: Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song”, Savage Garden’s “Affirmation”, and Louis Tomlinson’s “Just hold on”

What is your favorite cocktail or drink?

Hands down – Coke Zero (which they took off the market, quite to my displeasure ☹)

What’s next for you?

“Echoes of the Past” will be re-released later this year or early next year. But there’ll also be a book set partly in New Zealand – another travel inspired story. I’m really looking forward to releasing this book. The main character has a Maori background

Blurb

Jared Fraser, a landscape business owner in Hobart, Australia, sets out for a holiday to the USA to travel along the Route 66 in a motorhome. Looking forward to his first holiday overseas, he’s excited as he prepares himself for the journey. But little could’ve prepared him for crossing paths with a beautiful hitchhiker.

Will he be able to put his past aside and grab onto happiness?

Ivy Bennett thought leaving her boyfriend would be the hard part. It doesn’t take long to figure out how wrong she was. As she struggles with making a new start in her life, the last person she expects to lead her to happiness is a laid-back Australian on vacation.

But she will have to say goodbye again. And not only to Jared.

Buy Links

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/d/B074Y3KMYG/

Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fresh-beginnings-iris-blobel/1120056863?ean=2940154527429

iBooks https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/fresh-beginnings/id1275979573?mt=11

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/fresh-beginnings-1

Smashwords  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/744769

Check out the whole series!

Excerpt

Ivy enjoyed being with Jared. During their drive towards the Grand Canyon he told her of his home and described as much of Tasmania as possible.

“I always imagined Australia to be hot with white beaches and beautiful water.”

“That’s up in the north in Queensland,” he explained. “We have spectacular beaches as well. Tasmania is a small island in the very south. The last step before the Antarctica, so to speak.”

“That sounds cold!”

He laughed. “It clearly isn’t Queensland.” Settling his gaze on her, he continued, “But it has beautiful beaches as well. And a wonderful marine life. And the mountains. We have some stunning mountains in Tassie.”

“Tassie?”

“Tasmania.”

“It sounds beautiful.”

He agreed. “Yes, it is. One of the best places on earth.”

Once they arrived at the National Park, they found a parking spot and walked towards the edge of the Canyon. She touched his arm to get his attention. Not that she needed to. His attentive nature drew her to him, and she couldn’t get enough of listening to him.

“I feel bad that you pay for everything,” she said in a low voice.

Jared waved his hand. “Nah. It’s only money and luckily the Australian dollar is—”

“Whether you can or can’t afford it, it doesn’t matter. I don’t like it.”

He stopped and turned towards her, causing heat inside her body. Her breath caught but she kept walking, yet, it took him only a few steps to catch up with her and, by way of placing his hand on her shoulder, to stop her.

“Wanna tell me why?”

Avoiding his stare, she lifted her shoulder in a casual shrug.

“A shrug is not really an answer, ya know that, right?”

Yes, she knew that. How could she tell him that she’d left Dylan because he’d spent all the money she’d worked so hard for? She didn’t want to be in the same situation, as in spending someone else’s hard-earned money. But deep inside she didn’t want to hurt Jared, either. She was enjoying her time with him so much, she wasn’t ready for it to end because of some silly pride.

Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a little squirrel in the bushes and despite some guilt inside, it was a perfect distraction.

“Look!” she said louder than she’d intended. “A squirrel.”

With great relief, she noticed how her devious plan had worked. Jared quickly grabbed his camera and kneeled down to get the best shot possible of this little creature.

Kneeling next to him, she asked, “Don’t you have squirrels?”

Still trying to get that perfect photo of the little creature, he whispered, “Nope.”

Author Bio

Iris Blobel was born and raised in Germany and only immigrated to Australia in the late 1990s. Having had the travel bug most of her life, Iris spent quite some time living in Scotland, London as well as Canada where she met her husband. Her love for putting her stories onto paper has only emerged recently, but now her laptop is a constant companion.

Iris resides west of Melbourne with her husband and her two beautiful daughters.

Next to her job at a private school, she also presents a German Program at the local Community Radio.

Author Links

Website: http://www.irisblobel.com 

Blog: http://www.irisblobel.com/blog

Twitter https://twitter.com/_iris_b

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/IrisBlobel

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4067254.Iris_Blobel

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Iris-Blobel/e/B00FNFP3LI/

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bQ68rL