Carolyn LaRoche is the author of several romances including Witness Protection and Homeland Security. Today she comes to Foreplay and Fangs on tour with her novel In the Shadow of the Shield, and some reflection on the act of writing what you love. Carolyn grew up in snow country but fled the cold and ice several years ago. She now lives near the beach with her husband, their two boys, two finicky cats and one old dog. When she is not at the baseball field cheering on big hits and home runs, she is busy teaching science to unwilling teenagers.
How Do Characters Come About?
Thank you so much to Foreplay and Fangs for allowing me to visit with their readers again. I’m excited to bring with me information about my new release In the Shadow of the Shield, book two of the Secret Lives series. Last month when I was here, I shared with you the first book in the series, Undercover in Six Inch Stilettos. Both books are now available for purchase, free to read if you belong to Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.
I recently attended a Twitter event where two guest authors answered questions and discussed their methods surrounding character development. I am fairly new to the world of Twitter and by the time I figured out how to actively engage in the conversation, the event was just about over. I did, however, enjoy the information that was shared. The two guest authors were very forthcoming with their style and work secrets. As I read through the different questions and answers it really got me thinking about my own writing style and the methods by which I develop my characters. Before now, I’d never really paid attention to the process as much as the final product.
Many times over the last year or so I have been asked if I am a plotting writer or a seat of the pants writer. When I begin a new book, I have a general idea of what I want to happen in the end but no idea how I am going to get there. I’ve tried outlines and spreadsheets, notebooks and notes scribbled on napkins but nothing I preplan ever seems to make it into the actual story. My characters seem to take over from the first page, dictating the direction of the story as well as the outcome. I have always been a planner by nature-I have a really hard time doing anything without a plan and a backup plan. As a result, it’s completely amazing to me that I cannot plot a story from start to finish and stick to it. I am a total seat of the pants writer.
I know what you must be thinking, and I often wonder the same thing. How do I manage to create characters and conflict that work then?
When a new idea comes to me, the first thing I do is choose a name and a profession for each of my hero and my heroine. The names might come from a running list I keep of guy’s names that I hear at my sons’ ball games that I like or a top one hundred names of whatever year I’m interested in that I find online. Sometimes I ask my husband for a “sexy” sounding female name (the names of any girls he dated before me are completely off limits!) or I’ll get my boys to list the names of their friends. If I’m writing a crime story with a strong, silent type of police officer or tall, dark and handsome federal agent I tend to stick with more traditional names. In my new sports romance series the names are a bit more relaxed for both the hero and the heroine.
Once I’ve chosen names, I look at careers. In my two intrigue series’ it was easy- all the men were involved in law enforcement of some kind. My new baseball series has firefighters, baseball coaches and paramedics. The ladies are often in law enforcement as well, I don’t discriminate. They are always employed in a job that requires them to be independent, quick thinkers and strong minded. I like when a woman is comfortable defending herself against a bad guy then surrendering to the man she loves in the next chapter. I don’t spend a ton of time on physical descriptors unless they are integral to the story line somehow. For example, a very tall hero paired with a petite heroine that still brings the hero to his knees in many ways. I do pay a good bit of attention to eyes. I believe, like the old adage proclaims, that eyes are the windows to the soul. A lot of emotion can be expressed via a character’s eyes or eye color.
I have a tendency to assign my characters baggage. I like them to be real and relatable and most people have something in their past that has affected the person they presently are. Interpersonal reactions can be strongly influenced. In my new release, In the Shadow of the Shield, Diana keeps a secret from her husband. Her husband dies suddenly and she is left to work her way through the aftermath. She is conflicted emotionally and, a year later, that spills over into her budding relationship with Carter, a man who has his own issues with both his past and when he learns her secret, Diana’s past as well. They are forced to work through it together as they also investigate the mysterious circumstances of Donnie’s death.
Because I am partial to strong willed, independent thinking characters they either need to start out that way or become that way. As much as I want my hero and heroine to get their happily ever after, they have to work for it. If one of them is broken emotionally then the conflict they encounter and how they deal with it has to help them heal. They can help each other through the event or emotions but ultimately they need to come to terms with things themselves and develop the strength needed to navigate the conflict. For Diana and Carter, it is a matter of accepting each other’s pasts and being willing to move forward together. Diana particularly has to forgive herself and allow herself to let go while Carter has learn to be less rigid in his expectations of others. Conflict, no matter how large or how small, is integral to any story line and how the characters accept and deal with the conflict can make or break a story as well as the character.
When a police officer falls, justice must be served.
Donnie Massey was an honest, skilled police officer. That’s probably what got him killed. When his wife Diana watches him die in front of her, the worst part is going to be telling their son, Jackson.
After a year of mourning, Diana decides it’s time to move on with their lives. The first step to getting closure is to visit Donnie’s grave. But when she gets there, she’s not alone...
Good cops are rare. Carter Ryan is one of them.
Mentored by Donnie, Carter is at the grave when his widow shows up. It may not be the best timing, but he needs her help. Carter admits the fallen shield may not have died in the line of duty, but was likely murdered while involved in a secret investigation with deep criminal ties. Diana agrees to aid in unveiling the truth. Donnie deserves that much.
The definition of insanity...
As the two work side by side, a new and delicate romance begins to bloom. But would falling for another cop be the worst mistake of Diana’s life, or the best decision she’s ever made? When the investigation leads them to an underground meth ring, their mission goes from risky to down right perilous.
They were standing very close. Too close. She could smell that musky soap of his again, and it was all she could do to stay where she was. He sure looked good in that uniform. Too good. She moistened her suddenly dry lips with the tip of her tongue.
“Don’t do that.”
“Lick your lips that way. I have to get back on the road in a minute, and that might make me quit my job so I can see you do that again.”
She giggled like a schoolgirl. “Oh, you can’t do that. Your uniform is half the appeal. Don’t you know, once a badge bunny, always a badge bunny?” She tapped the badge on his chest with one finger. “Badge bunny, huh?”
In one smooth move, his arm slipped around her and his lips pressed to hers in a quick kiss. “I hate to leave, Madam Bunny, but the streets of Virginia Beach are begging to be kept safe.”
“What kind of crime is there in a resort town in the middle of the winter?”
“You’d be surprised. Hookers still got pimps to pay, no matter how cold it is. Crack heads still need a fix, and drive-bys are very popular this time of year. The discerning gangster prefers not to freeze the family jewels to get the weekly quota of shootings in.”
“I suppose that makes sense, since it was this time last year when Donnie got mixed up in that supposed meth case.” No sooner had the words left her mouth that they heard the ringing of a cell phone.
Carter let her go and dug into one of his pockets. “That’s the Louie phone number. A text message.”
“What’s it say?”
“He says he wants a pizza with his Snickers and his Mountain Dew.”
“Hold on. Another message is coming in. It’s a photograph.”
“A photo of what?”
“Hard to tell. It’s pretty dark, but it looks like three people. He says he caught them leaving the house, and they are the same guys he saw the other night.”
“Ask him who they are.” Her heart rate picked up at the thought of a possible lead. “Are they cops?”
Carter tapped out a message and then waited for Louie to reply. “Okay, he says they left and locked the place up tight. He doesn’t know who they are, but he is certain they are the same guys he saw the other night.”
Carter typed in another message, then set the phone down on the counter by his radio. It buzzed almost immediately with a message from Louie, promising to let them know the second the men returned, as long as he could have an extra-large double cheese pie. “All right, as much as I hate to go, I need to get back out on patrol. Lunchtime is over.”
“Lunch time? Was I supposed to be a quickie on your lunch break?”
Carter grabbed his radio and clipped it back on his belt. “Trust me, baby, if that was why I was here, there would be nothing quick about it.”