Puffy & Precious

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!

Q&A Sunday: Male Characters

I’ve been sitting on this question for a while because I wasn’t sure how to answer it. I think I finally figured it out! Aliana wants to know…

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered when writing about characters from the opposite sex?

Writing men is hard. And not just during the fun moments! Seriously, though, men are a challenge.

Yes, I’m married. I have an amazing husband, a six year old son, a brother who is 17 months younger than me, and a wonderful father. But none of that means I understand men!

Women are complex. We’re moody and temperamental and emotional and a little crazy sometimes. I get that because I am one. I know we’re all different, but I feel like I understand women since I am one. I’ve felt all those things. All those struggles.

Men want us to believe they’re simple creatures. If they have sex, they’re happy. If they have food, they’re happy. If they have a bit of sleep, they’re happy. Not necessarily in that order, and definitely not in balance, but you know what I mean.

The challenge is that men are not simple. Men are just as complex as we are. They have mood swings. They have emotions. They want more than sex, food, and sleep.

Most of the time.

Characters though, they’re not real men. Sometimes, they’re the men we want real men to be. An alpha with a softer side. A beta with a dangerous vibe. An average Joe who is damaged.

Writing men is tough.

No matter how many men I know personally, how many I am close to, I’m not inside their heads. I don’t know them, the way they think, the reasons they do things, their fears, hopes, and dreams. I can speculate, but I haven’t been there.

Graham, Puffy & Precious, was a challenge for me because he’s a little bit alpha and I struggle with that. Don’t get me wrong, alpha can be sexy, but I’m not intimately aware of alpha. My husband isn’t alpha, a fact I’m very happy about. So writing a guy who was a little alpha was tough for me. A guy who was going to jump to conclusions, get jealous, and try to control things. I don’t know that I would have put up with as much as Abby, but then again, she was a challenge for him, too!

Brady, Fat & Fine, was another struggle for me. He was so wounded and angry that I had trouble relating to him. I sympathized with him, felt bad for him, but I didn’t know him. Sam was hurt also, with her own wounds. The two of them were both in need of someone who could help them heal, but I felt like I’d walked in Sam’s shoes more than Brady’s. And I struggled a bit with him.

Every man is a challenge for me. Every man gives me more than a few moments that I hesitate. I agonize over their words, their thoughts, their actions. In the end, I write them the best way I can, and hope that they are real enough to make you a believer, but fictional enough to make you love them!

Thanks so much, Aliana, for your question! If you have a question, 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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Q&A Sunday: Characters IRL

I shared this secret with those of you on my weekly newsletter, but for everyone else, I wanted to answer Aliana’s question…

You mentioned in another post that the physical description of Graham from “Puffy & Precious” reminded you of Dwayne Johnson.  Do your other characters remind you of other famous people?  Or do you have stock images of all your characters?

The short answer is it depends. Of course!

The long answer is I have pictures of every character. Some are pictures in my head, but for almost all of them, I take the picture in my head and find a person online.

I’ve found stock photos for some people. But most stock photos don’t exactly match my vision for who my characters are.

So I turn to Pinterest!

Yes, Graham was Dwayne Johnson, in my mind. Noah is Scott Eastwood. The other Big & Beautiful guys were stock photos, but Pinterest is a lot more fun.

Tattoos. 

Sexy grins. 

Shirtless men. 

Pinterest has it all!

Thanks so much, Aliana, for your question! If you have a question, 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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Puffy & Precious, such a tease

BB9 Cover 3What do you do when a man sweet enough to cancel a date to help you is ready for bed?

Tease him, of course! And make him bed for it!

Excerpt from Puffy & Precious

It was after midnight when we pulled the chocolate pound cake out of the oven. Max’s kitchen was covered in flour dust, sugar crystals, and dessert. We made red velvet cookies, rhubarb pie bites, blueberry doughnuts, chocolate dipped marshmallow stuffed strawberry pops, cherry fudge, cannoli dip with shell chips, and red and blue sprinkled vanilla cake pops.

I was exhausted.

I stifled a yawn and hoped Graham wouldn’t take it as a sign that I wanted him to leave. After the first orgasm he gave me I felt like I could stay up all night long to bake and have sex, but it was fading.

“You’re tired, aren’t you?”

“No,” I said on a yawn. “Well, maybe a little. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to finish what we started earlier.”

“I don’t want to mess up your meeting, Ab.”

I wanted to hear him call me that when he was inside me. Over me. Under me. I just wanted him.

“It would mess with my meeting even more if I went in there this wound up.”

“So I’m just a stress reliever?” he joked.

“Best one I’ve ever met.”

“Do we need to cover any of this stuff? Or put it in the fridge?”

I shook my head. “It’ll be fine until morning. I, on the other hand, will not. But if you’re not up to it, I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself.”

“Not gonna happen, Ab. Get your ass in that bedroom.”

I whirled on him, hands on hips. “Excuse me?”

“Please, Abby. Don’t make me beg. I’m not above it.”

He got down on his knees and was still almost eye level with me. He pressed his head to my chest and nuzzled. I laughed and he did it again. My nipples tried to say hi through my shirt and Graham turned his head. I watched, mesmerized, as his lips closed over one of my nipples. His arms circled me, one hand splayed across my back, holding me in place. My hands went to his head, securing him to me.

He drew my nipple into his mouth and swiped his tongue over it. The cotton of my tank top dulled the sensation. I needed his tongue on my skin. The night had been impossible to survive. Max’s kitchen was barely big enough for two people, but when one of them was the size of a truck, we needed a kitchen three times as big. He brushed against me every time he moved. More than once I wanted to turn off the oven and heat up the bedroom instead, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t nail the presentation for Mayor Ramsey.

Graham stood with his arms locked around me, his mouth still toying with my nipple. I clutched his shoulders so I wouldn’t fall and let him carry me to the bedroom.

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