Maggie LaCroix, author of soon-to-be released Zombified, joins me today to share her thoughts on what makes a good character in fiction.
So, let’s explore what makes good characters?
When you write a story, you play God in a way. You create people. And it’s hard because real people are complex and sometimes inconsistent but they feel real. Fictional characters feel less real if they are inconsistent. But if they are too predictable, they are boring. What is a writing God to do?
I love my female lead in Zombified, Josie Cortez, a small-town journalist with a drinking problem and a penchant for promiscuity. In fact, I modeled some (SOME!) of her personality on myself. But some early readers just hated her. I know she is difficult and lost -weren’t we all at some point?- but I love those characters. Don’t we love these anti-heroes when they are men? We should love the female versions too! Some authors have pulled it off. Stieg Larsson with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. But 1) we are not all Stieg Larsson, and 2) some paranormal romance readers expect their heroines to be perfect virgins before having amazing sex with a supernatural – but sexy- creature (Sookie Stackhouse was a virgin at 25; Mac in Karen Marie Moning’s awesome Fever series had one (1) boyfriend; and Cat in Halfway to the Grave had one bad sexual experience). In Zombified, Josie has tried mortal men and found them wanting. Haven’t we all? (Sorry, guys.)
The other fine line to straddle is with the male lead. He can’t be boring. But he can’t be a jerk either. He has to be alpha (Oh, my God, yes!) but have a weakness for the heroine. And, if it’s a love triangle, he can’t be less interesting than the other guy. Try writing all that into one man! Eventually what happens is that you set up the characters and let them do what they want. It’s kind of like magic. As a writer you shouldn’t micromanage your characters, just join them for the ride.
When she first embarked in fiction writing, Maggie thought, Piece of cake. After all, she’d been a newspaper reporter for ten years; writing was her daily bread. But Zombified, her first novel about a band of sexy zombies, was anything but easy. The story wasn’t conveniently laid out for her at a press conference; it had to be coaxed out of her own imagination. Plot points resisted solving, descriptions meandered, and characters misbehaved. But just when things seemed bleakest, it happened. Maggie fell in love with it all: the zombies, the love story, and even the rituals of writing.
Maggie likes her leading women flawed and her science fiction sexy. She went to school for journalism and political science. She lives in the United States.