Lanetta J. Sprott

Posts Tagged ‘hero

On Saturday, I attended the Dallas Area Romance Authors (DARA) regular monthly meeting. DARA is a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. I happened to check DARA’s website a few weeks ago and made plans to attend based on the featured program: Creating Heroic, Believable Characters. The guest speaker was Victoria Chancellor

As a previous member of DARA (it’s been over four years since I allowed my membership to expire), I knew the high quality of speakers they have and expected an informative discussion on the subject of characters. I didn’t realize, however, just how informative it would be! I’m so glad I attended!

Although I won’t do her justice, using her invaluable handout, I’ll touch on some of the highlights:

Heroic does not necessarily mean “good” !!!

As a writer, it is your job to make the reader forget they are reading a novel, but that they are reading a story! Because fiction is not real, it is your job to make them suspend their belief and to make them care about the characters, and that the story could really happen, or has happened (as in the case of historical fiction).

What makes a character heroic?

  • Goal: Define a goal (not a wish) that they are pursuing at the beginning of your story. (Remember: a goal without a plan is only a wish)
  • Set of values: Characters must have guiding principles that are consistent throughout the story.
  • Challenge: Characters need/accept the challenge that will change their life.

What makes a character believable? Reminder given: Characters must be more vivid than people. This entire section was packed full of ideas. This is a brief taste of what she gave us:

  • Identification – the reader can identify with their situation or role;
  • Character Traits – archetypes defined; and,
  • Motivation – understandable to the reader when you reveal either up front or incrementally throughout story. What motivates a character will depend on such things as personality type, family history (birth order, happy, dysfunctional, etc.), society, personal history, and others such as religious or medical.

Why does a reader care about a character? Victoria explained four reasons: Empathy – Sympathy – Suspense – Justice

What must all heroic, believable characters possess?

  • Goal – character must actively pursue a defined, specific goal
  • Motivation – reader must understand the whys
  • Resolution – character must change to get what they deserve in the end. Know the difference between what they need versus what they want
  • Victoria also reminded us that interesting characters can also be atypical, especially in comedic situations.

Some books she highly recommended to read/study while developing/creating heroic, believable characters:

*The Writer’s Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon

*Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda Edelstein

**The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, et al

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass


*I’ve order via Amazon & they are on the way!!!

** On my Amazon’s wish list, in case any one wants to surprise me!

She also did a quick Character Study between two heroes with traditionally non-heroic traits comparing the books: Caleb Jones in Amanda Quick’s The Perfect Poison, Putman, 2009 and Shane in Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer’s Agnes and the Hitman, St. Martin’s, 2007. I don’t even know where to begin to describe the lessons learned from this study!

Concluding the workshop, Victoria gave us some tips and food-for-thoughts on “Naming Your Characters” – another post will follow to share what I learned!!!


I am so thrilled I attended this meeting! Thank you, Victoria, and DARA!


Native Texan living in the Hill Country writing and experiencing life one day at a time.

Novels by Lanetta J. Sprott:

Where Forever Begins Finding Closure

Where Forever Begins, A Simple Love Story and Finding Closure are available online at Lulu and Amazon.


Read a preview of both novels here.


New goal (to finish book): 95,000

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