Sunday, April 8, 2012


by Earl Staggs

I'm happy to present Caroline Clemmons as my guest today. Caroline is an excellent writer of Mystery novels but writes in as many genres as anyone I know. She's also published in Contemporary Romance, Western Historical Romance and Adventure, Time Travel, Romantic Suspense and more
. All her work stands out for smooth and cohesive storylines, but she also shines especially bright in development of characters. Here she tells some of her secrets.

Developing Unusual Characters

Hello, Caroline Clemmons here. Characterization is one of my favorite topics. I sometimes teach characterization as a class. Are you set for a few days for me to tell you my theories? LOL Don’t worry, I promise to keep this short today.

For every writer, there’s a theory on character development. When I started writing, I had no idea how to go about shaping my hero, heroine, and secondary characters. I love eccentric or whimsical secondary characters with qualities simply not tolerated in the hero or heroine. But, how could I prevent comedic, eccentric, or whimsical secondary character from overpowering the hero/heroine? When did I change point of view (POV)? How could I make my characters memorable?

My first clues came after I joined a writers group. Their workshops were eye-openers. Presentations on character arc, point of view, hero’s journey, and many more topics left me wondering if I would ever grasp even half of what I was hearing. A program on mind mapping as a way to plot made me want to run screaming from the room. My first major break arrived in the form of Laura Baker and Robin Perini and their “Story Magic” all-day workshop. Imagine a light bulb going on over my head just like in a cartoon! And I mean a search light sized glow. If you haven’t attended this workshop do yourself a favor and sign up.

“Story Magic” is well named, and worked like a fairy sprinkling her fairy dust on my computer. Since “Story Magic,” I have worked on creating my own character development style. I've lectured on and taught workshops on characterization, and will teach another one later this year. Here's the class in a nutshell.

The secret to developing deep POV and memorable characters, in my opinion, is what I call “Method POV.” Just as actors learn to become the character they portray, authors must become the character in whose POV the scene is written. This is like the secret handshake of character development and now you’re a member of the secret society. Record ONLY those sensory details the POV character experiences or knows! A good side benefit of this is that you won’t head-hop.

Another secret is to use body language instead of attribution lines most of the time. For me, he said/she said is distracting. I’d rather see a little body language that gives me a clue to moods plus tells me what’s going on in the scene. If you watched the old TV series “Lie To Me,” then you are familiar with telling traits, even though that particular show concentrated on face and eye movements. This show was based on the research of an actual person, and there are many books available on ways body language reveals way more about us than we plan. One of my favorite examples is a mother talking to a rebellious teen son:

Mom shakes her finger at son. "You'd better be home by ten tonight."

Son crosses his arms and rolls his eyes. “Yeah, right.”

As parents, how many times have we seen the eye roll? Can we count that high?

Keeping secondary characters in their place is hard. Authors can’t let them overshadow the hero or heroine. They’re supposed to be like sidekicks: Tonto to the Lone Ranger, Ethel Mertz to Lucy Ricardo. Yes, they’re important to show character development for the hero and heroine and to reveal backstory, but they can’t steal the show. We whip them into line and remind them they’re helpers not leaders. When we plan one of our secondary characters as the hero or heroine in the next book, we don’t let them do anything dishonorable or they won’t be worthy of their own book later. We usually introduce them initially in a way they can star in the next book. A good illustration of this Julie Garwood'sBuchanan series and Jayne Ann Krentz's Arcane series.

I hope readers enjoy the secondary characters in my books and fall in love with the main characters. My western historical romance, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, features a supporting cast of both comic and villainous secondary characters. In my modern paranormal time travel romantic suspense, OUT OF THE BLUE, I hope readers love the hero’s mom as much as I do. SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME is a western historical adventure romance. HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME is unusual for me in that it has only a tiny bit of larceny but no murder, no kidnapping, just romance. These four are available from online sources and

My back list of contemporary romances SNOWFIRES and BE MY GUEST and the western historical romances THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE and THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND are now at Smashwords for 99 cents each at:

The four books above plus two historical romance novellas, HAPPY IS THE BRIDE and LONG WAY HOME, and my mystery, ALMOST HOME, are at Amazon Kindle, also for only 99 cents. What a bargain!

Please check for interesting (in my opinion) articles, giveaways, interviews, book reviews, guest authors, and new releases. Keep reading books (and our blogs), please.

Thanks to Earl for having me as his guest today.


Morgan Mandel said...

Thanks for divulging so many of your secrets, Caroline. Now, I just have to put them to use!

Morgan Mandel

Caroline Clemmons said...

Morgan, you already know all the secrets. Thanks for stopping by. Thanks to Earl for letting me visit.

Steven J. Wangsness said...

That was interesting, thanks. I see some of that in Tainted Souls, my mystery-thriller. I, too, prefer describing what someone's doing to using some adverb when composing dialogue. Though I use "he said" a lot in a very matter of fact way.

Paty Jager said...

HI Caroline! For me characters are what make a book. If I can' become completely engaged with the characters it doesn't matter what the plot is like, I can't read the book.

Patricia Harrington said...

Liked the comments, helpful tips and thoughtful suggestions and reminders.

Could blog and thank you!

Pat Harrington
Re: Winter's Soul on Amazon

Vicki Batman, said...

Hi, Caroline! I couldn't let you be alone, my friend.

You've pointed out great tips. I heartily subscribe to action with dialogue. I love to write dialogue, especially funny stuff.

Jan Christensen said...

Great post, Caroline. I especially like the secret handshake idea--I already get into each character's head when in their POV, but I'm thinking I need to do it more consciously. That "secret handshake" phrase is going to stick in MY head. Thanks for a great tip. And for all the other advice, too.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Thanks to each of your for leaving a comment Lovely to be here with all these prestigious authors!