BORING CHARACTERS? HERE’S WHY! By CHERYL PIERSON

Cheryl2041web

The other day, I came across an article in a little newsletter I get a few times each week called QUORA. This is a newsletter/site where people can write in and ask questions—sometimes really odd or different questions, like “What does it feel like to die?” or “Are only children happier than children from large families?” – just stuff like that, and anyone can answer. Once the questions are answered, you can see all the answers, but the ones with the most “Upvotes” are the ones that move to the top of the answer page.

One of the questions was something like, “What makes a person boring? How can I try NOT to be boring?” I read several of the answers, and as I did, I thought about the characters we create and how this might apply to them, as well.

Growing up in the 60’s/70’s, there was still a prevalent idealogy that, to “catch a man” everything had to be about him. Even articles in magazines for young girls, such as Seventeen and Glamour and Mademoiselle talked about the things we women should do to make sure we snagged our guys and kept them. Number 1 on every list was “TALK ABOUT HIM”. Make him feel that he’s the most interesting thing on earth.

Here’s an example from Tiger Beat: Look at the worried expression on Davy Jones’s face…what teen girl wouldn’t give anything to make him smile again? And David Cassidy? Be still my heart. Let me find out what I need to do to make him MY OWN!

Tiger Beat Davy Jones

Tiger Beat David Cassidy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My personal heart throb at the time, Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders…I must know the bad things he does, and of course, the things he can’t live without. How can I hope to please him, otherwise?

Tiger Beat Mark Lindsay

Tiger Beat Mark Lindsay Can't Live without these

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you noticed this in some of the romance books you’ve read? In the words of the Toby Keith smash hit, “I wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I, wanna talk about number one, oh my me my…”

Well, some of the responses to what makes a boring person (or character) were pretty eye-opening. One of them was that the boring person was “absent” from the conversation—although they’re right there physically, they’re always trying to guide the conversation back to their interests. When everyone else is discussing books, the “boring” person is wanting to talk about something they are an authority on, or at least no more about than others there, rather than contributing to the ongoing conversation. If they DO manage to take part in the conversation that’s flowing around them, they’re only waiting on their chance to say what they have to say—not listening to what other people have to contribute.

I’ve noticed that in many romance books, the hero is not listening to the heroine because he wants to; he listens for information he might be able to use. A classic example of this is Sweet Savage Love. Oh, how I loved that book, and still do—but I do recognize that, in today’s world, there are some problems with it. Let me say, this book would never in a million years fall into the “boring character” category. It still remains one of my favorite books, ever. But Steve really doesn’t see Ginny as a person with wants and needs and desires—his goal is to make sure the intrigue that’s happening around him is manipulated to his plans, and Ginny is there to slake his sexual thirst. He does fall in love with her, but for much of the book, we know she is very much in love with him…and aren’t so sure he has any feelings for her at all above the sexual desire he feels every time they’re in a room together.

AMAZON LINK:   http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Savage-Love-Rosemary-Rogers-ebook/dp/B00KF49VRO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&amp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bie=UTF8&amp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bqid=1457973676&amp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bsr=1-1&amp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bkeywords=Sweet+Savage+Love&amp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Btag=pettpist-20

Sweet Savage Love

So our hero needs to actively listen to what the heroine is saying (which is going to require him to think about what she says) and he is going to need to be “present” mentally and emotionally—not just physically—when they’re having a conversation.

As for the heroine? Voicing an opinion or a conviction about a subject she feels strongly about is imperative. This is usually not a problem for the hero—he’s out fighting for the cause, or going after the bad guys, and so on. But for our heroine, in a time when women were to be silent, well…our heroines can’t be held to that rule. You’ve heard the word “feisty” used to describe heroines of many books. That’s a nice way of saying, “A heroine who has her own opinions and isn’t afraid to stand up and be counted!” If a heroine isn’t interested in any social injustices around her, or doesn’t have a cause of her own of some kind, what does she do to be interesting? Constant parties or working on needlepoint doesn’t make for an interesting person. She must have something to care about—something that might even come between her and the hero.

In my book, Gabriel’s Law, Brandon Gabriel and Allison Taylor were at the same orphanage together for a few years as children. It’s Allie’s dream to open her home to young boys who can help her raise cattle, investing in their futures. Brandon has no dreams…but as adults, when Allie saves his life, her dreams become his without his even realizing it’s happening.

PRPGabriels Law Web

Remember, in dialogue, the most important key to keep your characters from being boring is letting them tell their story in an interesting way. Keeping a secret until the end of the dialogue, a secret the reader may know but the heroine is keeping from the hero, then springing it on him in a bombshell, is an interesting way of making the facts known. But it does something more—it shows personality traits about both the hero and the heroine.

What is your most favorite romance novel, and why? Sweet Savage Love was the first romance novel I ever read.

I’m giving away a digital copy of GABRIEL’S LAW today! Just leave a comment (don’t forget your contact info!) to be entered in the drawing. If you just can’t wait to see if you won, here’s the Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Gabriels-Law-Cheryl-Pierson-ebook/dp/B00K2I2JRM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&amp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bie=UTF8&amp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bqid=1457974163&amp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bsr=1-1&amp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bkeywords=Gabriel%27s+Law&amp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Bamp%3Btag=pettpist-20

Cheryl Pierson
A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 37 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cheryl.pierson.92
http://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules

36 Comments

  1. My mom was born in Tulsa but also lived in OKC. And you had me at Toby Keith! 🙂

    My favorite romance novels are Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas, and Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman. My mom’s fave was Goodman’s Last Renegade.

    My first romance was Outlander because of a conversation I had with a co-worker about my having lived in Scotland. These days, though, I read more western romances by far (with a few books with English or Scottish settings sprinkled in) which is why I love this site.

    1. Eliza, I loved the Outlander series, too. Those are just excellent. And Lisa Kleypas is one of my favorite authors. I need to read some Jo Goodman–I’ve never read any of her work. I read all kinds of romance, but of course, my very favorite is western historical, and I love the Scottish books, too.

      Thanks for stopping by today!

      1. Also meant to say “Helllllllllllooooooooo from a fellow Okie!” I was born and raised here in OK. Half of my family came over on the boat and the other half was here in Indian Territory to meet them. LOL

        I love Toby Keith, too!

  2. I really don’t have a favorite romance novel. I have a bunch of them. There are so many parts of different books that I really enjoy, it’s hard to pick just one.

    1. Janine, you’re right! There are sooooo many wonderful books out there. We’re so lucky to have such a variety of authors and stories to choose from, aren’t we? I think of all the women of the past who didn’t have these choices and how hard their lives must have been not to have been afforded this escape we all have through reading!

      Thanks for stopping by, Janine!

  3. Cheryl, this is very eye-opening. You’ve certainly given me lots to think about while I’m writing my stories. A boring person and character is very shallow. I know someone who falls into this category. Never listens to me. Always directing everything I say back to them. It’s so frustrating trying to carry on a conversation with them. I, too, have observed how we’ve changed from those times growing up. The world is a totally different place now. I don’t think Sweet Savage Love would be published now the way it was written. Whereas Kathleen Woodiwiss always showed strong women and men who appreciated them.

    1. Hi Linda! I have known a few people like this, too–always waiting for me to finish so they can jump in and tell how much they know–it’s odd, isn’t it, how many ways there are to be a boring person? LOL The one I really detest is wanting to direct everything back to themselves. I’ve often wondered if this isn’t just a deep feeling of insecurity and wanting to talk about something they know a lot about–THEMSELVES. LOL Like you, I don’t think SSL would be published in today’s market as it stands, but oh, Lawzies, when I read that book (in my early 20’s) I couldn’t read it fast enough. There is something compelling about it–the mark of good writing–that keeps you pressing onward and needing to know what’s going to happen, even if you aren’t in agreement with the way the characters are treating each other. I also enjoyed Kathleen Woodiwiss’s books very much. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head–the men did appreciate the women in her stories.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Linda! XOXO

  4. You have a point – the “boring” hero or heroine would kill a story for me. I’m reading one right now where the author has the characters very attentive and “into” the conversations. It is keeping me on the edge of my seat! The body language matches what they are doing also.
    As for favorite romance novel – oh my goodness, NO way to pick!!! LOL

  5. Susan, those are the kinds of stories I love to read (and hopefully write!) — the kind you describe where the body language matches the dialogue and the conversations actually mean something. Edge-of-your-seat books are always so great to find, aren’t they? LOL yes, it is very hard to pick a favorite. Maybe I should have asked for a “top 10 list”??? LOL

  6. Fascinating post Cheryl! Makes me really evaluate my stories. I will have to check out this QUORA site too (in my spare time!) I have a feeling that extroverts might think that introverts are boring–but introverts just take more time to analyze and process a thought before jumping in to announce things. It’s not that they don’t have opinions for themselves… My two cents…

    1. Hi Kathryn! I agree about the extrovert/introvert concept. Introverts size up the situation quietly and really give it a lot of thought before saying anything. And they’re careful not to say too much.

      I can’t remember how I started getting the QUORA newsletter, but it is really fascinating. The questions that are asked and the answers that are given (from other people who read it and want to answer) are so amazing–just in being able to see not only the answers to the questions but what a wide variety of opinions and answers there are out there! Gives you a lot to think about, for sure.

      Thanks for stopping by, Kathryn!

  7. I don’t have a favorite because I love them all.

    1. Kim, that’s a great view to take! I can’t say I love them all–I do have favorites amongst ’em. LOL

  8. The book that got me hooked on reading was Catherine Coulter’s The Sherbrooke Bride…

    1. Colleen, I have not read that one. Another to go on my “to be read list”! Thanks so much for stopping by today!

  9. Avatar

    I guess my favorite romantic book is Gone with the Wind, although I don’t know if that is considered a romance.

    1. Oh, Sharon, well, wasn’t that our favorite book PERIOD? LOL Was and still is??? I still love that book so much. Glad you stopped in!

  10. Avatar

    I also read my way through every Emilie Loring romance novels our library had, and bought every copy of the used aper backs I could find. A lot of them were set around WWII, which I enjoyed reading about. Apparently people fell in love even in the middle of a war going on.

    1. I really love that time period, too, Sharon. I can’t seem to get enough of re-runs of COMBAT. LOL Yep, there are love stories there, too.

  11. “So our hero needs to actively listen to what the heroine is saying.”
    That’s a good point Cheryl. When I wrote “The Hardest Ride” my equivalent of that was, “the hero (Bud) has to be engaged in Marta’s life.” She’s not just there on the fringe, window-dressing. That was a challenge. Bud, a young cowpoke of the 1880s would normally care less about a lost Mexican girl he wants nothing to do with. She’s mute, doesn’t understand English, and Bud speaks barely any Spanish, plus she’s usually POed about something. So how does Bud “engage” her and why would he? Well, she is full of surprises and a much more resourceful person than one would expect, but how else would she have survived in her world? She makes herself useful and she’s a prime cook–The way to a man’s heart is, etc, etc. She also realizes she needs protection and that’s something Bud excels at, and she takes her turn protecting him. It grew into a relationship of mutual support. I just had to figure out how they could not only communicate, but find a way for them to grow to know, understand, and appreciate each other through all the barriers. And that my friends is what makes writing such a wonderful experience.

    1. Gordo, that had to have been a real challenge for you! I like the way you phrased that: “It turned into a relationship of mutual support.” That’s what makes a story good, in my opinion. It can’t all be ONE person doing everything–our characters have to need something the other can provide, but have something of their own to offer, as well.

      I still have not had a chance to read The Hardest Ride. It sounds wonderful. If I could figure out a way to add about 10 more hours into each day, I would be THRILLED! Thanks so much for stopping over and commenting!

  12. I my YA WIP series, “Vaqueras,” the protag is a hard-nosed, exceptionally capable 17-yo girl who you would think is a loner and in no need of anyone else. That’s her view of her world. That can’t be further from the truth. She’s obviously the leader of her “posse,” but it soon becomes apparent that she very much relies on her closest friends for support and strength. He pushes them to be strong and self-reliant, not only to deal with their adventures, which are always gray area legal, but because her demons will drag her down and the girls will come through for her. Just as she’s always there from them.

    1. Sounds great, Gordo. I’ve not had a chance to look at that one, but I will soon. I love the different types of quandaries your characters find themselves in.

      1. LOL It was easy to find the quandaries and situations the girls find themselves in. Many of the stories are based on my daughter’s adventures in Mexico. She and her best friend caught rustlers on the family ranch in Mexico. Another time they busted a corrupt cop and two drug smugglers, and then there was the legendary shootout in Los Alamos…in which not a single shot was fired, but that’s not how the locals tell it to this day. Its an endless supply of…stuff she gets herself into.

        1. Ummmm…do you worry???? LOL I would be worried sick. Sounds like she does a good job of taking care of herself!

          1. She can’t go down to Mexico now because its gotten dangerous again. She was expelled by the Coahuilla State Police for her protection after an “incident.” It drives her nuts that she can’t go. But as she says, “Guys like to brag they’ve been kicked out of a bar. I’ve been kicked out of a country…twice.”

  13. The expectations of society are very different now than they were when I was a teenager. In those dark ages women were seen and not heard or, if they were heard, it was to stroke the ego of whatever man they were with. Gag me. I knew girls who were very smart, but dumbed down to make the boy they were interested in feel smarter.
    I was lucky to be raised by a father who was ahead of his time. He encouraged us to use our intelligence, to do tasks other girls didn’t do like changing tires and mowing the lawn. He wanted us to be strong, self-reliant, and able to take care of ourselves. Once when I told him women who got married didn’t need a college education, he gave me some good reasons why every woman needs an education. You never know if your husband may become ill or even die and then who is left to take care of him or raise the children? He also didn’t want us to feel beholding to anyone. He was tough.
    My sister and I learned to speak our mind, have opinions, stand on our own two feet, and learn to do things other girls didn’t think were necessary for women. We both went to college and worked for a living. There’s freedom in taking control of your own life.
    It takes a special kind of hero to appreciate a woman like that and love her all the more for her strength. These men and women don’t just become husbands and wives, they become real partners in life, shouldering each other’s burdens.
    I do believe showing an avid interest in other people and what they’re about is not only, not boring, but gives us a new outlook on life and a different point of view. A self-involved person who only talks about themselves is not only boring, but never learns anything new–cause they think they know it all.
    An interesting and engaging topic of conversation, Cheryl.

    1. Sarah, you’re so right. How can a person learn anything if they already “know it all”?There is nothing anyone can gain from that. You sound like you really had a great childhood/growing up time. Excellent parents, who let you learn and have a mind of your own. Your father was very wise about impressing on you the value of a good education and being able to take care of yourself. And you know what? I see those characteristics in many of your female characters!

      Sarah, thanks so much for coming by today. I appreciate it, as always!

  14. I use to think an action packed story would make a good book, but without interesting characters you may as well read an encyclopedia. Today’s people love the action that comes from books and movies, but even in King Kong the big gorilla would be nothing without the little inspiring actress. Ha! What a good reminder and awesome blog. Good job , Cheryl

    1. Well, Cindy, if that isn’t the truth! We HAVE to know and understand and CARE ABOUT our characters, or it really is like reading an encyclopedia! Yes, this is the day and age of instant gratification and the action having to happen RIGHT NOW to please a lot of people. But there is such an art form in the writing of yesteryear, when the reader learned to WANT for things along with the character and in doing so, feel what that character was feeling. I will never forget reading The Age of Innocence in college and when I got to the end just feeling like the main character–he wanted to go up to her right then, but he waited. He’d already waited so long, a few more minutes was not going to matter, because he knew the feelings were there between them. So glad you came over today, Cindy!

  15. Cheryl, A very interesting blog for all of us authors to take note of for sure. You know I love those feisty women. None of milk sops or coy little prissy missies. Whether I’m writing a heroine or reading one, she better have enough umph to keep my or my readers attention and interest. And this reminder of just what kind of personalities become boring was a very good reminder to all of us. As far as my favorite story. Golly, I love them all. From way back with LaVyrle Spencer, Jo Goodman, Rebecca Paisley, Julie Garwood…I could go on and on, I love westerns, any historicals, Medievals, Regency and Contemporary, oh and throw in some paranormal. As long as there a good plot and great characters that aren’t too sappy I’ll be one happy reader. Great job. Asfar as Gabriel’s Law–one of my favorites.

    1. Oh, yes, Beverly, you do write heroines with attitude! LOL My favorite was Morgan in A LOVE SO STRONG. She was one of a kind. I don’t like sappy characters, either, or whiny ones. I’m so glad to know you enjoyed Gabriel’s Law! Thanks so much for stopping by today!

  16. Not sure if I could name a favorite romance. What I read depends on my mood, i.e. do I want something angsty or something just fun. One of my favorites is the classic, Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Cruise.

    1. That’s one I have not read, Keena. Sounds like I need to snap it up. Doesn’t she write contemporaries?

  17. Well gosh I finally made it. LOL! This is a great topic Cheryl. Times have changed. And our readers do expect more out of us than the simpering virgins from yesterday that clung to the handsome millionaire they were able to snag by at last giving up their most prized possession..their virginity. The first romance novel I read was Terms of Surrender by Janet Daily. After reading her book I bought everything she wrote. Growing up I read a variety of different genres, but to me, our romance books of today can take a piece of history and wrap a story around it making it come to life for our readers. Funny thing about introverts…I often sat quietly by and listened to others at social gatherings and to some perhaps I was a bit boring…in reality I was just very shy. It was after I wrote my first book, that I at last found my voice and haven’t shut up since. LOL! Doing research you often pick up bits and pieces of information so when someone is having a conversation on a certain subject, I now have something to add to the conversation.

  18. Great post, Cheryl! It seems the tables have turned maybe too far these days. A lot of romances now are all about the heroine’s wants and needs and the hero is just for the titillation factor. They both come off as boring that way. You hit it — if other people don’t really matter to you, who cares to read/hear your story? Those characters should be the villains instead of hero or heroine. 😉

Comments are closed.