booksalesOK – peeps… yesterday we had our September meeting of the Dallas Area Romance Authors, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. Once again, it was easy to see the benefit of RWA membership.

Victoria Chancellor, an incredibly giving member, fantastic writer, and all-around great human being, presented on “Creating Heroic, Believable Characters.” Victoria has written for Harlequin, Kensington, Harper, and Love Spell (Um, hello? Do you see a pattern of success here?) She gave her presentation despite twisting her ankle on her dog’s bone that very morning. (Bad puppy!!) But see? I just SHOWED you what a fantastic human being she is (I didn’t just tell you!).

Before the meeting began, Jane Graves and Jo Davis conducted a witty, informative Authors’ Panel. They provided crisp, no-hold-barred insights into what helps unpublished authors become published ones.

So here’s just a sampling of tips from published authors with extensive track records. I admit I was hastily scratching notes, so I didn’t quite get who said what – but this BenKenobi wisdom is entirely theirs, not mine, OK?

  1. If the character is happy, the reader is NOT.
  2. End EVERY scene with a hook.
  3. Pacing – it’s nearly impossible to be too FAST. If you get feedback that you have a “pacing” issue, it’s because your story is too SLOW.
  4. This is FICTION. But your reader must believe your story either DID happen, or COULD happen. The story must be COMPELLING. The reader DOESN’T CARE if your story is “well-written.”
  5. Characters must be more VIVID than we are as people. Even (especially!) when the book opens.
  6. A compelling story explodes with CONFLICT. What challenges is your character facing? Are they big enough to carry an entire book?
  7. CONFLICT must escalate throughout the book. If it doesn’t, you have a boring (read: “unsellable”) story.
  8. Illustrate a character’s traits. Do this through quotes, backstory flashbacks, their physical mannerisms, etc… rather than just saying “They’re compassionate.”
  9. Readers must understand or be able to identify with an element of your protagonist. They don’t have to be just like that character. But you – the AUTHOR – should know what character aspect you want the reader to identify with.

No matter what genre you write, these same guidelines apply. Often I find folks who wring their hands over the adverbs that might appear in their work. But why not attach the same importance to making your characters really lust after something, and making them swear at, spit on, or claw the eyes out of their opposition to get it?

Get it?

These authors’ insights are AT LEAST as important as how many adverbs you use. So go forth and write it this way!