Know Your Characters with Pippa Roscoe

This week we have debut author Pippa Roscoe sharing with us about Characters. Her debut book, Conquering His Virgin Queen is available now!

Mills & Boon author Pippa Roscoe lives in Norfolk near her family and makes daily promises that this will be the day she will leave the computer and take a long walk in the countryside. She can’t remember a time when she wasn’t dreaming of gorgeous alpha males and misunderstood heroines. Totally her mother’s fault of course—she gave Pippa her first romance to read at the age of seven! She is inconceivably happy that she gets to share those daydreams with her readers.

Pippa Roscoe on the web:

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Know thy characters… and how they like their coffee!

One of the funniest things my mum said after reading my debut book (after checking Wikipedia to make sure my Sheikh hero could marry in a Christian derived wedding ceremony) was ‘of course, I’m assuming he went to university in England?’

To which my response was: …yeah?

In that slightly earthshattering moment, I realised that even though I had written the whole book, even though it was revised, edited, published, and on sale… I hadn’t actually known my hero well enough to say where and what he studied at university!

This may be a shocking thing to admit – and of course, now that I’ve shared that with you, you will read my book and go, oh yeah! What is that about? Apologies if this ruins the reading experience! But hopefully it will go to show that even published authors can learn new tricks!
So I promised myself I would make sure that (in future!) before writing, I would sit down and get to know my character.

Quite often as writers, we know the big things – we know where the emotional conflict comes from, we know the motivation behind their actions, we know what their goals are in the story and how we want the end to be. But what about the small things? The little pieces of gold that add texture and flavour to your hero and heroine?

Now, before I sit down and write the first word, I have a list of questions I need to answer about my characters. Beyond, where they live, who their parents are, what was it like growing up for them, it includes things like – where did they spend last Christmas? What is the best present they’ve ever been given? Who gave it to them? If they could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Not all this information will make it into the book, some of it is entirely unnecessary to the story, but by peppering them with the small questions it helps to flesh them out in my mind and has sometimes led to some surprising discoveries. I think of it like speed dating with the hero and heroine!
So I start very small… how does my hero like his coffee? This on the surface is a simple question, but it’s how they start each and every, it indicates taste… a sweet tooth or the preference for a harsh jolt in the morning, it could expand on a personal experience…

For eg: (Sorry Mum – I’m coming back to you again!) I went for lunch with my mum when I was 22. We both ordered espresso’s after the meal and I used to love to take a sugar lump and half submerge it in the coffee, watching it soak up all that delicious coffeeness before releasing it into the cup (or in this instance because it was a trendy place, a shot glass!).

Mum: I thought only children had sugar in their coffee.
Me: I am your child!

Still, strangely enough, after that I stopped putting sugar in my coffee. (Freud, it’s not rocket science!) A writer I worked with told me that he once revealed two of his characters were having an affair – simply by the fact that they knew how each other took their coffee. When the wife saw and realised this, the bottom of her world dropped away.

It’s the smallest of things – how your hero or heroine likes to have their coffee – but it can express so much about themselves.

But these getting to know you questions don’t always have to be serious – like… If they had to chose a super power what would it be? (Time travel to correct a mistake in the past, skin of steel to protect their loved ones?) What was the naughtiest thing they did at school? (Detention for punching a bully? Pulling a prank on the headmaster? Did they even go to school?!) How long do they give someone at a green light before beeping the horn? (Patience, or not so much?)

As I said, I’m still learning my craft, even after my first book has been published. It’s a thrilling, exciting journey to go on, and now when I sit down to write my stories I like to explore those important little quirks that helps to make them feel a little more real… a little more unique and a little more special to me for it. 

So tell me, if you could ask your character one thing about themselves, what would it be? And more importantly… how do they like their coffee?!

Conquering His Virgin Queen

Six months ago, their marriage ended…

He has twelve hours to claim her back!

Odir Farouk is about to become king—but to take his throne, he needs his errant wife by his side! Odir denied his hunger for Eloise, refusing to compromise power for passion. His rejection drove her away. Now Odir has until news of his succession breaks to win back his queen…and pleasure will be his most powerful weapon!

Read Reader Reviews

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  1. So does this mean I have to learn the ins and outs of coffee? Yikes. (I don't drink the stuff and know nothing of this coffee world of which you speak. So, I would have no idea how my characters interact with it.)

    1. Ha! Absolutely not at all, especially if your characters don't drink coffee! It's just an example about how the small details can help build a solid character. Maybe your characters prefer tea?? Happy writing!

  2. I appreciate your honesty. I have a really great resource book I use with wonderful writing prompts and character development sheets. 90 Days to your novel by Domet. It’s changed my whole writing world :)

    1. Thank you Erika. That sounds like a great book! I'll have to look out for it. Happy writing!

  3. I use From First Draft to Last in 30 days. And I use some more writing craft books. Thanks for sharing these excellent advice.

    1. You're very welcome Janet. I love reading craft books. I don't always take everything on board, but prefer to collect and gather the pieces of advice that speak to me, but there's a wonderful world of writing advice out there! Happy writing!

  4. Knowing the little details helps. I've always created a detailed character sheet and filled out as much about each one as I could, much like you did.

    I won't complain if you didn't mention where he went to university though.

    1. I now fill pages and pages of character sheets. (Though it's running the risk of turning into healthy procrastination!). Happy writing!

  5. I think I know my characters pretty well – but just as with real people I learn more as I spend more time with them.

    1. One thing can be guaranteed in the writing process; there will always be something, small or large, that your characters say or do that will surprise you! That's half the fun! Happy writing.

  6. It's funny how we can live in a gorgeous neck of the woods, but somehow not find time to go for a long walk.

    There were things I discovered about my characters after I sent my manuscript to my beta readers and they started asking questions that I should have known the answer to - like what kind of work did he used to do?

    1. I think that's exactly why we need a pair of fresh eyes on our manuscript. We know (or mostly know) the answers to their questions, but may not have managed to get that onto the page! Happy writing!

  7. Moms get to the crux of things, don't they? You need to ask her to beta read for you. :-)

  8. Clem that is a great idea! Though I think I might be afraid of her style of feedback! Best wishes!


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