|Photo courtesy of Jason Odell|
Nobody's perfect. And nobody wants to read about a perfect character. We want them to be flawed, because that makes them easier to identify with. And we want to see how, despite their flaws, they can overcome obstacles and can conquer their fears to emerge victorious at the end of the book.
I write a lot of action-adventure themes in my books. I put my characters in tight spots. In their action scenes, yes, they're afraid of being shot at. But to be more human, they need personal fears as well.
It's important to include visceral reactions. What happens inside when you're afraid? We're hard wired for 'fight or flight' reactions to fear. Among other things, your heart rate increases, your palms sweat, your mouth goes dry. As authors, we need to keep track of our reactions to what everything feels like as well as what it looks like or smells like, and then make sure that gets on the page. When you're writing, to give your characters depth, find out what their deepest fear is…and make them confront it. In Where Danger Hides, Dalton is afraid of babies. Yes, babies.
Here's an excerpt to serve as an example.
When Miri led him down the hall and he heard a baby crying—no, make that babies, plural—he was ready to jump ship.
“Shh. Keep your voice down. Sudden noises upset them.”
As if crying babies didn’t upset him?
“Go. Sit.” She pointed to one of three rocking chairs in a room with five cribs and other bits he recognized as nursery furniture. Elsie fussed over one of the cribs, then brought out a squirming, squalling blanket.
His heart went into triple time forced march rate. Blood rushed in his ears. Before his knees went to full Jell-O mode, he sank into the nearest chair. “What are we doing here?” he said to Miri. “What am I doing here?”
“Elsie and her husband Joe are foster parents extraordinaire. They take in the ones nobody else will touch. The mothers were on drugs, or HIV positive, or alcoholics. The babies need human contact. Lots of it.”
Elsie appeared in front of him. “Hold out your arms. Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never held a baby.”
He shrugged. Words couldn’t get past the baseball in his throat. When he accepted the bundle from Elsie, his hands shook.
Elsie adjusted the infant in the crook of his arms. “Relax. Big guy like you shouldn’t be afraid of a tiny baby. Keep his head supported. This is Xavier. He’s a little feisty tonight, but he’s been fed and has a clean diaper. Figured you might want to start out easy.”
Easy? She had no idea. Dalton zeroed his attention on Miri’s calm, soothing voice, coaxing her baby to eat.
“If you’re okay, I’ve got some things to do out front,” Elsie said.
“We’re fine,” Miri said. Her furrowed brow meant he’d be toast if he disagreed.
Elsie padded out of the room. Panic-stricken, Dalton looked at Miri. She smiled, which helped relax him. Not a lot, but it helped.
“Hold him close. Rock. Singing is good, too. Or talk to him.”
Sing? Talk? He couldn’t swallow. Breathing was an effort. He pushed his feet against the floor and set the chair in motion. Xavier didn’t seem to notice.
Miri’s charge now made slurpy, sucking sounds.
Dalton stared at a mobile dangling above one of the cribs. He focused on the shapes swinging gently back and forth above the crib. Fish. Fish were good.
Think about fish. Snorkeling. Deep sea fishing. Fly fishing. Anything but babies.
Of course, the why comes out later, but show your readers the emotion first.
|Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.|