Paradise Park series

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!

Icing The Kicker, saying goodbye

PP7 Cover 2It feels like forever ago that I started writing this series. Paradise Park was a place I fell in love with. A place I wanted to show you, to share with you. It was a town that spoke to me with people I wanted to be friends with.

Saying goodbye is always hard. Whether it’s forever or for now, goodbye is a word no one likes to hear. I enjoyed writing Paradise Park and introducing you to these characters. Even though we say goodbye, I’ll never forget the first series I completed. It was a goal for me to finish the series in 2016, and I’m excited all the books are out there. I hope you enjoyed the series and that Paradise Park has a special place for you, just like it does for me!

Excerpt from Icing The Kicker

Isabella softened. “I’m not going anywhere, Greg. You’re not a selfish asshole. Well, not all the time.” He scowled at her. “I’m joking. You’re a good man, Greg. What you did today proved that. You should let the rest of the world know who you are.”

“Later. Right now I need you.”

Isabella glanced back at Jeff’s house. “What did you tell them?”

Greg smirked. “That you were horny and we needed to have sex.”

“What!”

Greg shrugged. “They both laughed so I guess they believed me.”

“That is so not true!”

“Oh, really?” he asked, his voice dropping, the sexy timber reverberating up all her pleasure points. Just the sound of his damn voice sent her head spinning and her body ratcheting up. She was horny, dammit.

“That’s not fair. I don’t have that kind of power over you.”

Greg stepped forward and took her face in his hands. He kissed her on the nose, then on the cheek. “You have since the day I met you, Isabella. I’ve wanted you since the first time I saw you. You’ve had me. All of me, sweetheart. You’ve always been the one with the power.”

Isabella could no longer deny how badly she needed him. She’d never felt that way before. Like she couldn’t wait another second to be with a man. Not just any man. That man. He was the only one that would do.

She grabbed his hand and pulled him toward her house. As soon as the door closed behind them she was in his arms. Their kisses were frantic, as though they couldn’t get enough of each other. Isabella tugged Greg’s shirt from his khakis as they climbed the stairs together. He broke their kiss to tug it the rest of the way off then threw it down as they kept climbing. Isabella’s t-shirt went next. Greg lifted her into his arms, carrying her the rest of the way up the stairs with her legs wrapped around his waist.

In the hallway at the top of the stairs he pulled away from her lips and growled against her neck, “Which room?”

Get Icing The Kicker, and the rest of the Paradise Park series, now!

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Icing The Kicker, release day

It’s release day for the last book in the Paradise Park series, Icing The Kicker!

I went back and forth with this story a bit. It took me a while to figure out who Greg was, but once we got to know each other, I really liked him. He’s got a cocky side that he shows everyone, but underneath there’s a vulnerability that is tough to find, and even tougher to resist.

ITK Release Day

If you’re still on the fence, check out what Krista said…

Sparks practically fly off the page of this book!! There were a couple of times where I wanted to kick Greg myself but he eventually ended up back on my good side. Isabella was a realistic mom, worried about babysitters, about dinner, about stuff every mom does every day. She also made time for a life. I loved her. She was a strong woman with two kids to be proud of.

Don’t miss out on the final novel in the Paradise Park series! Available now!

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Icing The Kicker, first kiss

PP7 Cover 2We were watching Fifty First Dates a couple days ago. Drew Barrymore’s “Nothing beats a first kiss” line popped into my head when I started writing this. Icing The Kicker is the last book in the Paradise Park series. I’m sad to say goodbye to this series, but am very anxious to share with you what I have coming up.

As the beginning of my goodbye to Paradise Park, I’m sharing one last first kiss with you.

Excerpt from Icing The Kicker

“If you don’t want me to kiss you, you better stop me, Isabella, because I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop myself.”

His words registered, but she was powerless to stop him. She wanted him to kiss her, but there was no doubt in Isabella’s mind that she was dreaming. She had to have fallen asleep with Blair and was fantasizing about Greg because there was no way his lips were moving toward hers. His pink tongue coated his lips a heartbeat before their lips touched.

His lips were soft against hers, gentle but insistent. He tested her, working his way across her lips with his. One of his hands rested on her hip, the other came up to cup her cheek. His thumb brushed over her cheek and as far as kisses went, Isabella knew it was one for the record books.

Not that she’d had that many first kisses, but she expected so much more dominance from a man like Greg. All the more proof she was dreaming the whole thing.

His tongue brushed her lips and she eagerly opened for him. She wanted to taste him, get a hint of him inside her. The first brush of his tongue on hers was like heaven as sensation exploded through her.

She felt his kiss all the way down to her toes. His arm tightened around her back, pulling her body flush with his. He stirred against her belly and Isabella declared it her best dream ever.

Uninhibited in her dream state, she deepened the kiss and plunged her tongue deeper into his mouth. He responded with both his tongue and his cock, circling both against her and beginning a slow spiral that made her panties damp and her body heat. If the reality was half as good as the dream, Isabella might not be able to resist the man. Thankfully in her dreams she didn’t have to.

Isabella ran her hands over his chest beneath the shirt he wore. His skin was warm against her palms, the hair tickling her skin. His muscles jumped as she explored him, first his whole chest, then lower to his abs. The whole time he kissed her. Their mouths fused together. When they ran out of breath, he eased their kiss, but kept their lips touching.

“You’re driving me crazy, Isabella.”

“Me, too. Good thing this is a dream and we can finish what we’ve started.”

“If we finish what we’ve started it will be a dream.”

Something about the way he said it shook Isabella. “This is a dream, isn’t it?”

Greg pulled back, his hand halfway up her shirt, splayed across her belly. “Are you drunk?”

Isabella jumped back, realizing she had in fact accosted her son’s coach next to the vending machine at their hotel. She was mortified. There was no way she’d ever be able to look at him again. Matthew would have to transfer schools.

Oh, she was such an idiot.

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Nothing But Net, getting personal

PP6 Cover 2There’s a line between our work life and our personal life. We like to keep it clear and straight so we don’t cross it. But what happens when it blurs? When that line isn’t as straight as it used to be? Or as clear which side we want someone on?

Excerpt from Nothing But Net

Emma had no right to be so pissed off that he was flirting with one of the moms, but she was. He always treated her like an employee but the woman with heels and perfect hair and one of those hour glass figures Emma had always been envious of… she got him to flirt.

Emma tore her eyes away from his, not willing to give in to anything more than he’d already seen. She studied her clipboard, understanding that learning the names of the players was as important as anything when coaching. She’d asked for pictures to go with the list of twelve girls, but was told they didn’t have any.

At least Emma knew two of the girls. Jeff’s daughter and the perfect mom’s daughter. Two down, ten to go.

She felt Jeff at her side before he was within her sight line, but she knew he was there. “Hey,” he said casually. “Thanks for coming.”

Emma nodded then pasted on a smile for him. “Of course. What time do we need to get started?”

Jeff turned away and surveyed the field. “It looks like we have ten here so we’ll wait a few more minutes. Do you want to meet Taryn?”

Meet his daughter? That felt like something different than meeting the girls at the camp. That felt personal.

Emma couldn’t do personal with him.

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