16 May '13

An Author’s After Dark 2013 Spotlight – Claire Ashgrove "(Im) perfect Characters"

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When I asked for some topic suggestions, our lovely hostess made an observation that I’ve known, but haven’t heard many people remark on.  And I was tickled pink that she commented on it.  My characters are imperfect.
You see, for me to write a story, I have to believe the story is possible.  And for that to happen, the characters who are going to find a never-ending love have to be plausible.  I don’t know many Barbie and Kens, frankly.  Sure, I have some drop-dead gorgeous friends, but beneath the muscles, or the silky hair, there are flaws.  Things they are self-conscious about.  Secrets they don’t want random strangers to discover. They are real human beings.  And those are the people I want to write about—the fictional people we can all relate to in some fashion.
It can be a tricky balance, to be certain.  The character still has to be likeable and fit an acceptable paradigm of actions.  But imperfect characters are so fun to create!  Take for instance Noelle in Immortal Surrender.  She’s not a knockout, but she’s pretty.  To compensate for that ‘advantage’ I gave her glasses and a naivety that stems from being teased most of her teenage years for being the nerdy girl.  She’s still a bit nerdy and she’s clumsy.  Which made for some very fun scenes when her feet got in the way!

Farran de Clare, loyal member of the cursed Knights Templar, wants nothing to do with predestined mates. Even the Almighty won’t turn him into a fool again—he’d rather sacrifice his soul. Yet in the scientist Noelle Keane, a devout atheist, Farran meets the seraph designed for him.

 

Ordered by the archangel Gabriel to protect Noelle, the possessor of a sacred relic that could give Azazel incredible power, Farran swears to do his duty—but in name only. Fighting an attraction that grows with each day, he’s determined that he’ll never pledge himself to her.

 

As they war over her future, their mutual passion ignites a conflict far more damning. But before Noelle will agree to eternity with him, she demands the ultimate sacrifice—his heart

Imperfectness adds another dimension to the characters.  Alexei in Lie to Me is one of my favorite male characters.  He’s tough, in control, strong, sexy and smart.  But he has a shameful secret that makes believing in the woman he loves very difficult. 

After helping to break up a Russian human trafficking ring as part of the CIA’s elite Black Opal team, Alexei Nikanova’s newest assignment is to rescue one of the stolen women and return her to her father. When he arrives in Dubai, he discovers his target is Sasha Zablosky—a woman he knows all too well, and who has haunted him ever since their one unforgettable night together. But he finds Sasha reluctant to leave her Sheik, the only true friend she’s ever known. Only Alexei can’t give her a choice.

 

With their yearning roused by intrigue, Alexei and Sasha can no longer resist and spend night after night in forbidden pleasure. Soon Alexei finds himself falling for her even as he battles a shadowy menace to protect her. But Sasha is no innocent. She has a past darker than she could ever admit or that Alexei could ever forgive. And it is about to explode into her life once more. Now, as the lies they tell themselves—and each other—pull them deeper into a perilous desire, what began as simple passion becomes a love certain to destroy them and end the lives of countless innocents.

I like to think of my characters as just a little bit broken.  I believe the trick to doing this is to start with an acceptable mold, then dig a little deeper.  Find that birthmark, that hidden childhood event, that insecurity that the other character can both make fester as well as heal.  Once you’ve identified it, make it a poignant part of their lives, not just something stuffed beneath the bed.

After all, we know every romance has a happily ever after.  It’s fictional fantasy guaranteed to melt our hearts.  But isn’t it so much more real and ever-lasting if we are looking at characters we might possibly encounter in the world around us, as opposed to the princes and princesses we will likely never encounter?
Thanks for having me here today!  I look forward to seeing everyone at Authors After Dark this year.  Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts on flawed characters!
~Claire

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