Fluffy & Fabulous

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 Me!

My guest author for today wasn’t able to provide a post, but it works out for me because I wanted to share something with you!

I’ve teamed up with 55+ fantastic medium to steamy small town contemporary romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner!  You can win my novel, Plump & Pretty, plus books from authors like Marie Force and Carly Phillips! 

Enter the giveaway by clicking here: bit.ly/small-town-rom-2

Good luck, and enjoy!

But it is Five On Friday, so I wanted to share a few things about the Big & Beautiful series that you might not know!

  1. I wrote the first eight books out of order. Plump & Pretty was actually the fourth book I wrote, even though it falls sixth in the series. Shapely & Stunning was eighth. The first book I wrote was Chubby & Charming though.
  2. I had no idea Tara and Olivia knew each other until I wrote the epilogue for Puffy & Precious. On top of that, I didn’t know why they weren’t friends anymore until I wrote about it in Round & Ravishing.
  3. When I first envisioned Abby, she was a skinny woman, and she was not going to end up as one of the friends with a book. By the time I revised Fluffy & Fabulous, I liked Abby enough that I wanted to give her a story of her own.
  4. I didn’t know Olivia’s full story until I started writing Curvaceous & Captivating. I knew she was divorced, but I wasn’t sure why her ex left.
  5. My two favorite couples have been Carrie and Drew, from Husky & Hot, and Olivia and Ethan, from Curvaceous & Captivating. They were the two that extracted the most emotion for me.

If you haven’t checked out the series yet, Chubby & Charming is free everywhere! And don’t forget to enter the contest to win one of two copies of Plump & Pretty, plus over 55 books from other steamy, small town contemporary authors.

I’m still celebrating release week today. Stop by and say hi to me and Ann Everett!

Have a great Friday!

Fluffy & Fabulous, so sweet

Fluffy & FabulousCharlie and Max’s story has been out there for a week now and I’ve heard from many of you who want more! Abby’s story will be out September 6 with four (eek!) more coming in 2017! How exciting is that?

But we’re still having fun with Charlie and Max over here. I won’t give anything away, but you know Charlie… She’s sweet and kind and wonderful. She’s always there for her friends, but carries her own load. Max takes care of her when she needs someone to step in and take over.

Excerpt from Fluffy & Fabulous

When I brought his coffee out from the back I glanced over to Mandy. She had turned white and was gripping the edge of the counter. Mrs. O’Neill was leaning over her, talking quietly to her. I handed Max his coffee and got his muffins and cupcake while watching Mandy. “Is she okay?” he asked as I handed him the bag and box.

“I’m not sure. Do you have a minute?”

Max nodded and I went to the other end of the counter.

“Oh, Charlie, Mandy here needs to get to the hospital now. She’s in labor and probably about ready to push. I wouldn’t delay at all, you need to drive her there now, honey.”

My heart dropped to the floor and panic settled over me. I had no idea what to do. I was completely paralyzed watching my friend as another contraction ripped through her body. She gripped the counter again and leaned into Mrs. O’Neill, who held strong despite her advanced age.

“Are you sure?” I finally managed. “She wasn’t in labor a minute ago,” I pleaded, hoping Mrs. O’Neill was wrong, knowing as I said the words she couldn’t be. Mrs. O’Neill had six kids of her own and a gaggle of grandkids and great-grandkids. If anyone knew labor, it was Mrs. O’Neill.

“She’s been in labor all night, Charlie. The back pain she felt was labor pains and the heartburn was her body warning her. Now her contractions are stronger and she needs to get to the hospital. She’s going to have this baby within a few hours, if not sooner.”

Max seemed to spring into action, thanking the O’Neill’s and ushering them out the door with promises I would call them later. He asked me where my car was and if I had towels on site. “I live upstairs so yeah there are towels. Through the kitchen and up the back stairs.”

“Stay with Mandy. Are your keys upstairs too?”

“Huh?”

“Keys, Charlotte. Where are your car keys?”

My brain skidded as I realized what he was asking. “Shit, my car isn’t big enough. I have a coupe. She won’t even be able to get into my backseat. Well, if she can, she won’t get out. We need Xander.”

“Who’s Xander?”

Mandy clenched my fist and moaned as the pain ripped through her again. I was vaguely aware that it had only been a couple minutes since her last contraction. She was going to have her baby, soon. There wasn’t time to get Xander.

“Xander is Mandy’s husband.”

“We can’t wait for him to get here first. We have to go now. Lock up.”

Max directed us out the front door and I locked it behind us. We loaded up into Max’s Explorer, me in back with Mandy and Max driving straight to the hospital. He drove with one hand and dialed Mandy’s phone with the other.

“Xander?” Max said into Mandy’s phone, then paused. “Yes, my name is Max. I’m a friend of Charlotte’s and I’m driving your wife to the hospital right now. I was at Bite Me! this morning when we realized she’s in labor.” He waited, listening to Xander. I could hear his loud voice from the backseat, although I couldn’t understand what Xander said. “Apparently pretty far along.” He paused again. “We couldn’t wait for you to get there. Meet us at the hospital.”

Max hung up and asked for Mandy’s doctor’s name. At the next stoplight he looked up the number on her phone and called the office, telling them we were headed to the hospital. “Is there anyone else we need to call? Her parents?” Max asked when he hung up.

Mandy shook her head. “You can call Claire and everyone, but they don’t need to be there now. Let’s just get to the- AHHH!” Mandy howled and grabbed my arm, squeezing.

I held onto her and let her barrel through it. She looked so miserable, but I knew she needed someone to be there for her. Max saved my life driving us. I never would have made it driving while Mandy labored alone.

He pulled up into the emergency entrance and threw the car in park. He came around and helped Mandy out of the car, half carrying her into the ER. At the desk he explained what was going on and helped get her settled into a wheelchair. Xander burst through the doors while we were talking to the desk. He rushed over to Mandy and kissed her forehead before they disappeared with a nurse.

“Call your friends, I’ll go park the car.”

Max vanished and I whirled around to the desk. “Where will she go?” I asked the woman who’d helped us get Mandy checked in.

“Fourth floor. There’s a waiting room up there. Would you like me to tell your boyfriend where you’re going?”

I shook my head, not correcting her error, and stepped toward the door to start making phone calls.

By the time Max came back in I’d gotten in touch with almost everyone. Drew told Carrie what was going on once Xander left and she was already on her way with him following soon. Carrie called Riley and Sam by the time I got to them also. Addi couldn’t get away from school, but promised to stop by after work. Lexi promised to come after work too, but Claire was on her way.

“Do you know where she is?” Max asked when I hung up with Claire.

“Yeah, she’s on the fourth floor. I can’t thank you enough for your help. I don’t think I would have made it if you hadn’t been there.”

“It was my pleasure. Is there anything I can do for you?”

I shook my head, not really ready for him to leave, but knowing there was no reason for him to stay. Someone would give me a ride home later so I didn’t even need him for that.

But I wanted him to stay. I couldn’t explain it, but I didn’t want to be alone. I knew it wouldn’t be long before my friends would descend on the hospital, each with her husband. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want to be the only one who didn’t have a man to lean on.

“Do you, um… Do you want me to stay?” Max asked.

“No,” I said too quickly. “I mean, I’m sure you have other things to do today besides sit around the maternity ward and wait for a stranger to deliver her baby.”

Max smiled and stepped a little closer to me. He looked like he wanted to say something, like there was more lingering. “Is there anything I can do for you at your shop? We left in a hurry. A coffee pot to unplug? Lights to turn off? Anything?”

“Shit,” I said aloud. “I didn’t even think. I left everything on. Hell, I didn’t even lock the back door. I need to go-“

“Do you trust me?”

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Fluffy & Fabulous, Release Day!

Fluffy & FabulousToday is a little bitter sweet for me. I’m saying goodbye to the women who’ve been a part of my life for two years. I’ve never ended a series before, and I don’t think I’m ready to end this one. In every book in the Big & Beautiful series I write the epilogue in the point of view of the next character. I did that here too with the idea that I might come back to these wonderful women one day. What do you think about that?

Whether the series continues or not, I know a lot of you couldn’t wait for Charlie’s story. She was the rock for everyone throughout the series. She was the person they all turned to. And she was single. She needed her happily ever after. I’m pretty sure Max was just right to give that to her.

Excerpt from Fluffy & Fabulous

Max’s hand slid to my cheek, gently tilting my head as his tongue teased my lips. I opened for him and he glided into my mouth, still not in a hurry. His kiss was long and slow and sweet. I quickly got lost in him, his kiss drawing me into another world. One where I wasn’t afraid of letting him in, where we could be together, where there weren’t secrets.

The kiss ended too soon for me, but since we were at Bite Me! it had to end. Max pulled back reluctantly and rested his forehead against mine. He kissed my nose and I felt his chest heaving as he struggled to catch his breath. It was good to know he was as affected as I was by what should have been a simple kiss.

“Tonight. What time do you finish? I’m taking you out. No more excuses.” He offered a humbled half-smile since all the excuses came from him.

“I close at eight. Today is my late day.” Kendall didn’t work weekends so I was there from open to close. It made for a long day and by the end of Saturday I was usually ready to collapse. Even the temptation of Max wasn’t enough to boost my excitement.

“Shit, you’re not going to want to go out, are you? What if I promise you we’ll go somewhere low key and you can dress casual and someone else will wait on you for a change?”

The excitement in his voice and the hopeful look on his face were enough to make me give in. I knew I couldn’t say no to those puppy dog brown eyes and that dimple. Not to mention the man who brought them to life. And who brought me to life.

“I’ll be here at eight-thirty. Unless there’s something I can do to help you clean up?”

“Why would you want to clean up?”

“I’d do anything for you, Charlotte. I’ll be here just before eight and you can put me to work while you relax or change or shower or whatever you need to do to get ready to go. And if you want to go to dinner in what you’re wearing right now… I have no problem with that but I probably won’t be able to take my hands and lips off you when you smell like cupcakes. Then again, it won’t matter.”

I blushed, imagining Max’s hands and lips on me all night long. He caught the look on my face and his eyes darkened, the pulse in his neck fluttering. He licked his lips and took a deep breath.

“Okay, I’m getting out of here before I lock that door and drag you upstairs. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

I smiled and followed him to the door. He stopped right under the mistletoe and winked at me before leaning in to kiss me again. A rough, demanding kiss swept me off my feet and made my knees weak. He circled my waist with his arms and held me up as he ravaged my mouth, promising an amazing night.

He stepped back, letting go of me way too soon. “You’re like a drug for me. Something that makes me feel like I can do anything. I couldn’t quit you even if I wanted to.” He paused and looked down into my eyes. “Eight o’clock.”

You can read it now! Yay! Order from AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKobo, or Smashwords!

Fluffy & Fabulous, First Kiss

Fluffy & FabulousIn only one week Fluffy & Fabulous will be out! I’m so excited to share the last installment in the series, but also sad to see these wonderful characters go. I’m toying with the idea of writing another story, but you’ll have to tell me if you want one more. You haven’t met her yet, but if you love her, you can talk me into writing book nine. I doubt it’ll take much convincing.

But today isn’t about her, it’s about Charlie and Max. Charlie is as sweet as her cupcakes and Max is as strong her her coffee, but they both need a little of what the other has. Today you get a little peek into just how much chemistry they have when they let that sweet and strong combination meld.

Excerpt from Fluffy & Fabulous

Max pulled into a parking space in front of Bite Me! and turned off the engine. I felt like I owed him something for his help and found myself asking, “Do you want to come in? I can make a fresh pot of coffee and I’m sure there are muffins and cupcakes left since I closed so early.”

“I’d love to,” Max grinned, showing that adorable dimple.

Max followed me through the darkened storefront back to the kitchen after I locked the front door. I flipped on the lights and propped the door open so I could grab some muffins and cupcakes from the case. “What would you like?”

Max groaned and my gut clenched, realizing how my question sounded. I spun to look at him and was nearly bowled over by the feral, hungry look in his eyes. He wanted me. I could see it, almost smell it in the heavy, sugar-filled air around us.

His eyes locked on mine and he knew I saw it. He stalked toward me, slowly, like he was approaching his prey. In a way I guess he was, but it shocked the hell out of me. I couldn’t think though, not with that look in his eyes, with that demand… that need.

Without stopping, pausing, or giving me a chance to question him, Max walked toward me until our bodies touched, until we were aligned in the most intimate way possible, until his lips crashed into mine.

His kiss was softer than I expected given his approach. He looked at me as though he was going to devour me, but his kiss was light and gentle, a finger dipped in the icing bowl instead of a spoonful. Just enough that I knew I wanted more.

Max angled his head and cupped my cheek. His tongue brushed against my closed lips and they fell apart like they’d been waiting for a good reason, allowing him entry and letting him take whatever he wanted. When his tongue touched mine my internals ovens went from warming to broil in a second. I couldn’t get enough of him and he seemed to feel the same way.

Max’s hands were all over me at once, like he couldn’t touch enough of me. He shoved my jacket free of my shoulders and it trapped my hands in the sleeves. I struggled to get free, finally releasing my hands as his kisses assaulted my senses. His mouth moved from mine to my neck and collarbone, open-mouthed kisses leaving a blazing trail of desire on my skin.

When his hands joined the party and cupped my heavy breasts I nearly lost it. I moaned loudly, my body aching for his touch, and arched into his hands. He smiled against my skin as his thumbs teased my nipples to tight, hard peaks. “Can we take this upstairs? Put that big, pink bed of yours to good use?”

Preorder Fluffy & Fabulous now!

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