I had a lot of interesting experiences at RT and attended several useful workshops, but the experiences I found most fascinating were “Conversations” with famous authors. In them, a moderator would sit with the author and ask him/her questions or field questions from the audience. The ones I attended were Charlaine Harris, who penned the Sookie Stackhouse novels which became the hugely popular True Blood television series on HBO; Lee Child who wrote the enormously popular Jack Reacher mysteries, and Lisa Kleypas, queen of saucy historicals. They were worth the price of admission by themselves.
Lisa spoke mostly on a single topic with questions and comments from the audience. Her topic was exploring the psychology of characters to create chemistry and spark. Every character comes into a story with baggage and that makes them damaged people. Perfection is boring. Here are some of the points she made:
v What do they look like? While you don’t want to pile on paragraphs of description, you need to have a physical image of their appearance and mien in order to create the images in your head as the action proceeds.
v What is their family and financial status? Are they a loving son or daughter of a rich aristocrat or a penniless thief of a Black Widow?
v The person’s innocence/cynicism or vulnerability/hard-heartedness? You don’t want to give away the meat of the story in the first chapter but you need a basic framework in which to place them. The conflicts in the story then work within that framework—at the beginning anyway.
v If there is to be a villain or protagonist in a love scene, that needs to be established ahead of time. You can’t just leap into a love scene without having thought out angles and motivations.
v What is lovemaking doing to each character and, afterwards, what has it done to each. A lovemaking scene, even if only a kiss, affects everyone profoundly. You need to establish this going into the scene, in order to accomplish what you want to with it.
v Worldbuilding—paranormal and sci-fi are not the only genres where you must build a world. Every world in every book is built slowly and surely.
v Justification of characters—every character needs to be justified, even if negative, to himself and the reader, no matter how society views him.
v Build your heroines carefully. Readers are so much harder on heroines than heroes, and we expect more from them.