So You Want To Write A Book? Part 3 – Character Arcs #writingtips

This is part three of our So You Want To Write A Book series.  So many people tell me they want to write a book, but simply don’t know how to get started.

There is no “one way” to write a book.  What I’m sharing is simply a method that’s worked for me.  It may or may not work for you.  Tweak it, make it your own.

So… here we go!  Last week, we discussed creating characters. This week we’re going to talk about character arcs.

What is a character arc and why is it important? 

I’m so glad you asked.   According to Wikipedia, A character arc is the status of the character as it unfolds throughout the story, the storyline or series of episodes. Characters begin the story with a certain viewpoint and, through events in the story, that viewpoint changes.

In other words, you character should change and grow.  Hopefully, for the better.  Your readers want to see and feel this growth.  You want to create characters that people care about, root for, and have an emotional investment.

Yes, some characters don’t change and grow.   Usually, these characters are in high-concept, action movies such as Die Hard, Rambo, or Terminator.  The end the movie they are pretty much the same person they started the movie as.   But, it’s hard to write a book without character growth, even if you are not writing a “character driven” book.

Can I pause for a moment to tell you how much I hate those terms?  Character driven versus Plot driven?

You have to have both, people.  You can’t have a book without a plot, or characters.  You need both.  You can lean the book one way or the other, but you can’t get away with leaving one out.

Whew!  Thank you for letting me vent.  Okay, so where were we?  Oh yes, change and grow.  Your characters need to evolve and grow.  How do they do this?  By the action in the story.

This is starting to sound like plot. 

Kind of.  As you decide what your character arc is going to be, it will affect your plot.  Don’t get the two confused!  If your character at the beginning of the book is afraid to open herself up to love and at the end you want her to be in love with someone… hey, something is going to have to happen to her to get her there.  That’s going to be part of your plot.

See how this is all intertwined?

I always decide on my character arcs before I do my plotting.  It makes plotting easier.  If you’re a pantser, understanding your characters growth will make it easier to write also.

Let’s do some together.  It’s a little clichéd, but let’s take the tortured hero who has been unlucky in love and cannot bring himself to love again.  It just hurts too much.   At the end of the book, you want him firmly in the arms of your heroine.  Something is going to have to happen to change your hero’s mind.

  • He has to get to know the heroine.  In our plot, we need to get them to spend some time with each other.  Preferably, he’ll see how trustworthy and wonderful she is.
  • Perhaps he could face his past by his ex coming back into the picture?
  • Perhaps he could almost lose the heroine to another man?
  • Perhaps he could almost lose the heroine to an accident or illness?
  • Perhaps a mentor or friend could talk sense into him?

We could go on for a while here.  The character arcs will help dictate what needs to happen in the plot.  Not all of it, of course, but some of it.

Just remember, the more character arcs you have going in a book, the more you will have to “tie up” by the end.  Don’t have ten characters all growing in a different way.  Yeah, The Big Chill was a great movie and each character had an arc, but it’s probably best not to try it on your first book.  (Just my two cents)

Character arcs don’t have to be big, and dramatic.  I like to choose growth arcs which are universal in nature.  Low self-esteem, bad relationships,  lousy careers, fear of getting older, fear of change, fear of death, impulsive personality to more deliberate, caution to spontaneity, are a few.   They’ve all been done before so don’t kill yourself trying to think up something new.  It’s the spin you’ll take that will make it fresh and new.

By the way, not all your characters need a growth arc.  Some of my books are menage, and I always have one “fully formed” character.   My secondary characters generally don’t have arcs either.  I save them for my main characters.

Well, that’s it for character arcs.  Next week, we’re going to talk about plotting.  Thanks for stopping by!


So You Want To Write A Book? Part 2: Characters #writingtips #authorgoals

This is the second in my series about writing your first book. I’ve spoken with so many people who yearn to put words to paper (okay, computer) but really don’t know where to begin. Since I had to learn it the hard, painful way, I’d like to save some of you the stress and heartache.

Last week, we talked about your “Big Idea” and how it can translate into an overall theme. You can read it here:

This week, we’re going to talk about characters. For me, a book needs great characters. If I care about the characters, I’ll overlook poor plot every time. I want a character who makes me fall in love with them. I want to care desperately about what happens to them.

Some people start writing and know very little about their characters. Some fill out detailed character sheets before they write a word. Where do I fit? Comfortably in the middle. You need to know enough about your character to get going, but you don’t need to know every freakin’ thing that ever happened to them in their childhood including if they preferred X-Files to Smurfs.
Personally, I liked X-files…

Start with your character’s name, age, and physical characteristics. Then add in their background. Did they grow up, rich, middle class, or poor? Married parents or divorced? Were they the smart kid in school or barely skate by? Did they play sports?
Now, how did this background shape their worldview? I had a character whose parents were drifters who rarely worked. The family often lived out of their car and didn’t always have enough to eat. It made her a workaholic who felt money and security was the key to happiness. Maybe your character grew up in a comfortable, middle class family out of Leave it to Beaver. Would this make them naive? Maybe restless?
What is their greatest fear? For Casey, my character above, being poor and hungry was her greatest fear.
What is their greatest desire? Casey wanted security and love, something in short supply in her childhood.
This is a pretty good start. If your character is a “bad guy/girl”, these items are still important. Make your villains three dimensional by not making them all bad. A friend of mine has a saying, “Even Hitler love his dog.” Crude, but it makes a point. Your villain will be less believable if he’s all evil.
Hey, I know. No one enjoys writing an evil guy more than I do. Let’s face it. The bad guys can be really fun to write. But, they’ll seem less cartoonish if there’s a speck of humanity in them. Maybe the bad guy loves his mother or his kids. Maybe the bad girl is wreaking havoc for revenge of someone she loved.
Oh, and your heroes and heroines. Don’t make ’em so perfect we want to take a sledge hammer to them. (See villain’s motivation above) Maybe they have a temper? Maybe they’re insecure or they’re an adrenaline junkie scaring the you know what out of their loved ones? Personally, I love a wounded hero. Someone who is damaged by life, but finds the courage and the love to move on with their life.
So, you now you know your characters? Write it down. Trust me. You’re going to be writing your story and come to a fork in the road. Would my character do this… or that? Or perhaps you have the dreaded “writer’s block”? Maybe you’re trying to get your characters to do something they simply don’t want to do. Let the character talk to you. As you find out more about your character, make a note. I just finished writing a book where one of the heroes grew up poor with a single mother but got a scholarship to Harvard. I knew he wasn’t ashamed of being poor but when I typed the line “Being poor was the best thing that ever happened to me”… Heck, even I was surprised.

Okay, got your characters? Next time, we’ll talk about character arcs. In other words, how will your character grow and change during your story.
Thanks for reading this! Happy Writing!!

Welcome Tonya Romagos!

I’m going all “Fan Girl” today, because my very special guest is Tonya Romagos! Tonya was one of the first erotic romance authors I read, and she helped hook me on this genre. She has a new release today on Siren and she’s here to tell us about all about it. Take it away, Tonya!

Tell us about your latest book?
Controlling the Burn is a M/M smoke jumper erotic romance. Drew Ward knows how to keep his head in the game and, now that he’s accomplished his mission to become one of the elite Loveland Smoke Jumpers, he’s turning his attention to the man he’s wanted nearly half his life. Seasoned smoke jumper Wesley Payton might be twenty years younger, but he’s one hot-bed of perfection Drew aims to have and he won’t stop his pursuit until Wesley belongs to him.
Wesley has avoided being caught alone with Drew for six weeks, but he hasn’t managed to evade the fire burning inside him for the younger man. Drew is sinfully sexy, dangerously tempting, and Wesley knows if he lets the man get too close he’ll be toast. But Drew isn’t a man who backs off easily and when Wesley suddenly finds himself in the man’s arms, he knows he’s parachuted into a wildfire he won’t be able to control.

Plotter or Pantser?
A little of both. I start with character sheets, get to know what everyone looks like and what really makes them tick. I also keep a file for ideas, sentences that pop into my head that don’t fit right away, and anything I know I need or want to add into the story at some point. That file grows and shrinks as the story unfolds. Then I start to write and let the characters tell the story to me and the readers.
What makes a great hero?
Strength, attitude, perseverance, and just the right amount of sensitivity. Oh, and ripped muscles, lean hips, and a marvelous “package”, of course. 🙂
Do you have anything in common with your characters?
I have something in common with each character I write no matter how large or small the role he/she plays in the novel. It might be a minute detail or a really big thing, but there’s always something about each character that I see as a common trait between the two of us.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Not exactly love at first sight, but a sort of “knowing” you’ve found the one. Love takes time to grow. Getting to know someone, exploring who they are and what makes them tick, spending time together and letting them explore you are all important progressions to falling in love. I don’t believe you can have that truly deep-set emotion on sight. However, I do believe sometimes we instinctively know the person we are looking at is the one we will fall in love with as time goes on.
Have there been any real-life love stories that have inspired you?
Sadly, no. I can’t think of any. 😦
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Sophie Oak, Raina James, Lara Santiago, Morgan Ashbury, Lora Leigh, Nora Roberts, and Suzanne Brockmann to name a few 🙂
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers trying to get published?
Write. Don’t just talk about it, don’t make excuses about it. Do it! Even if it’s only a few words a day, every word written gets you one word closer to the end.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
Time management. I’m a full-time author so luckily I no longer have to juggle another job and writing, too. However, between my sweetheart and I we have 5 kids ranging in ages from 2-18. Only 2 live with us full-time, but we have all of them as often as possible. Working a schedule around my sweetheart’s schedule, the children, and everything else life loves to throw our way is the biggest challenge I find in my career. Still, as I said above to the aspiring writer, I make time. Writing is what I love and there’s always a spare second or two here or there to get a few words on the screen.
What are you currently working on?
I’m writing 2 books at the moment. The first is In MIB Custody, a M/F/M erotic romantic suspense which will be book 6 of The Service Club series. I’m also working on Powerful Awakening, a M/M/F erotic paranormal romance which will be book 2 of the L.U.S.T. series.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read a lot, play darts on a Thursday night team with my sweetheart, and spend the rest of the time with our children. We love to hike, ride bikes, and just about anything else we can find to do outdoors.
How can your fans find you on the net?
Fans can find me at the following links:
Twitter: @tonyaramagos
Buy links:

Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Tonya! I wish you much success on this new release!

Valentine’s Day… It’s Too Much Pressure! #sirenauthor

I tend to get a little stressed this time of year. It seems like society has placed a great deal of importance on a holiday that’s not even really a holiday. We don’t get the day off work and we still get mail. It’s not a REAL holiday.

But, billions of dollars are pumped in to the economy based on a cherubic toddler shooting arrows and the colors red and pink. Who am I to judge?

So I go along… I’ll head out to my favorite chocolatier this Thursday and buy my hubby and son some fancy chocolates. I’ll stop at Target or Publix and pick up a couple of cards, too. I’ll bow to societal pressure and make the day as special as I can. A special dinner and maybe a fancy dessert. It’ll be a great excuse to break out a new recipe.

And I’ll try and not be stressed. It’s not even a real holiday.

Are You A Valentine’s Day Believer? #sirenauthor

For some people, Valentine’s Day is right up there with the High Holy Days. It’s a day to send Valentine’s to not only our “special” someone but to family and friends, too. I know some of these people and I admit that I smile when I get a valentine in the mail. BE MINE, it usually says or some variation. And I am their friend so I guess it’s okay. It reminds me of when we decorated show boxes in grade school with red and pink construction paper and paper lace doilies in anticipation of getting all those little valentine’s from our school friends. Maybe, just maybe, we might get a valentine from him. You know, the really cute boy in school. If we did, we’d look at the valentine over and over again as if it had some special meaning. It may have, but it probably didn’t. Little Johnny probably was told to send a valentine to every classmate.
Other people look at Valentine’s Day as a day to be romantic with just one special someone. A day to send flowers or candy, go to dinner, send a card, buy a funny stuffed animal. Restaurants are packed with those people on Valentine’s evening. The card section at Target looks like a war zone and Godiva and the flower shops make a killing. This is what romance is, we are told. Flower allergy? Take a Zyrtec.
The, of course, there are the Valentine’s Day Non-Believers. I dated a particularly militant one in my youth. He was a nice guy but felt that society shouldn’t tell him when to be romantic.
“I don’t need Hallmark telling me to be romantic on a specific day.”
I would have supported his right to be romantic on other days, but that was the problem. He was never romantic. Ever. On any other day. I told him that Valentine’s Day was for guys like him. Guys that never remember to be romantic. It was society’s way of reminding people to appreciate someone if only by buying them silk boxers or overpriced flowers.
I’m somewhere between a believer and a non-believer. I hope that I treat my husband well every day and appreciate him all the time, not waiting for a day in February to do it. But just in case, I always make sure I mark the occasion in some way.
Which are you?

What I’ve Learned About Writing in The Last Year

In March, I will have been a published writer for one year.  The upcoming milestone got me to thinking….. What have I learned about writing in the last year?

In no particular order….


  • Writers work incredibly hard.  Many work seven days a week – holidays, weekends, vacations.
  • Writing is hard work.  It’s hard on your eyes, your brain, your shoulders, back, and rear end.  I’ve taken many Advil and made many trips to the massage therapist and the chiropractor.  I’m still adjusting my ergonomics to get it just right.
  • Writers don’t worry about running out of ideas.  They have more ideas than time.
  • Writers worry about losing that awesome idea they had one minute before they fell asleep last night.
  • No, we really aren’t writing about our friends and neighbors.
  • I now understand why writers drink.  Enough said.
  • Writers are very generous.  They offer help and advice to newbies such as myself.  They believe in paying it forward.
  • You can never stop working at your craft.  Always try and make the next book even better than the last.
  • You never know what will capture the reader’s attention.
  • Getting paid to make stuff up is awesome.
  • Writing can be a humbling profession.  Ask anyone who’s been rejected or edited.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 will teach me.  What have you learned about writing?


What’s Planned for 2013? Lots! #sirenauthor

2012 was a life-changing year for me.  My first book was published and since then I’ve written six more.  Number seven will be released February 1st, 2013.  I’m currently working on number eight and making plans to leave my Evil Day Job to write full-time, hopefully by the end of February.  I’m a goal-oriented person, so I thought I would share my writing goals for 2013 and also some stretch goals.

  • I have three more Plenty books on the drawing board.  I’d like to get at least two of them written this year.  I’m currently working on Plenty, FL #4 and hope to have it done by mid-February.
  • I have two more Martinis and Chocolate Book Club books outlined – Tori and Lisa’s stories.  I definitely want to finish both of these this year.   This will complete the series.

Those are the books that I have outlined already, but you never know when a Plot Bunny will hit you on the top of the head and send you in a completely different direction!

I’ve also been contemplating a paranormal series involving shifters and alternate civilizations.  The world building is tricky and I’ve been hesitant to take it on.   When I begin writing full-time, I think it’s a challenge I’ll be ready for.  I’ve also been thinking about a time travel series to historically significant moments in the 20th century.  And last, but certainly not least, I’m planning a spin-off series for the Hunter family and ranch that I introduce in my upcoming book, His Submissive Jewel.

Thanks to all my wonderful readers for making 2012 the best year ever!

2013 is going to be an awesome year!