by Felicity Heaton
Kobo asked me to write about creating characters who will steal the hearts of readers after hearing about my readers’ passion for Snow, a hero in one of my paranormal romance series. I’ve had success with many heroes but none have captured hearts quite like this vampire.
Snow stole them so thoroughly that some readers now have replicas of his tattoo and others wear a black rubber bracelet that declares them an “Official Blood Donor for Snow”, and they wear them with pride.
Who is Snow?
Snow is a vampire lost deep in a terrible bloodlust. He bursts onto the scene at the end of the first book in the Vampire Erotic Theatre romance series, Covet. He protects the heroine from an evil vampire and when her hero, Javier, kills their enemy and is facing a beheading for breaking the law, Snow insists on taking the blame and any punishment, because he wants Javier to be happy with Lilah.
Why did readers love him after such a brief encounter with him?
Come a little closer and I’ll tell you.
He embodied what I have termed my “Four Ps”. I give these four Ps to all of my heroes and many of my heroines, and I give them to the character in spades. Want to know what they are? Every romance hero needs to be: Passionate, Possessive, Protective and Powerful.
My perfect recipe for a hero (or heroine) is to take those four Ps and add in another: Past. The heroes who capture the most hearts among my readers are the ones with a dark past. They have problems. Another P. They’re not perfect. Let’s think of that as an anti-P.
That first scene with Snow was the power of my four Ps (ah, six Ps in Snow’s case) in action.
In one single scene, Snow showed a fierce protective streak, deep caring for those he considers family, loyalty and chivalry, and also something else.
He revealed that he wants to die and he’s seeking an end to his 2000 year existence. Okay, not every hero needs a death wish to make readers fall in love with them, but it certainly helped with Snow and here’s why.
That sense of finality gave him mystery that set readers thinking, and that’s where his past and his problems come into play. Why does he want to die? Because his bloodlust means he’s crazy most of the time and has to be restrained? Because he’s tired of life after 2000 years? Or is there a darker reason behind his desire for death?
What happened to this man to make him so dark and troubled?
Can the right woman save him? (Can that woman be me?)
That mystery made readers want to know more about this imposing, ancient vampire.
With each book, I revealed more about Snow. With each book, reviewers ended with an update on how much Snow was in the book. Readers wanted to know about Snow. They were engrossed. Obsessed. They wanted to understand this man and unravel his past and his pain. They were desperate to reach his book and see if there was a woman who could save him. They had invested in this character. He had become real to them.
But Snow isn’t the only hero I’ve written who has captured the hearts of readers around the world and many of them don’t have a tortured past. What they do have is a richly detailed history, loyalty, a dash of mystery, and my four Ps.
Trying to write about how to pen the perfect character that will have your readers screaming for more is difficult. I can’t give you a recipe for success. I can only give pointers.
Give them the four Ps or a variation on those things. Not every character has to be powerful physically. I’ve written characters whose strength is emotional. Strength of heart.
Give them a rich history. Write down everything that comes to you in a character profile, and keep challenging and questioning it, making improvements until your character is larger than life and feels real to you. If you’re invested in them, it will come through in your writing and readers will follow suit. Even if you never use everything you write in that profile, it helps you to know your character and therefore you’ll do a better job of writing one that becomes real to readers.
Don’t give characters an easy life. I can’t stress that enough. No one has an easy life in this world, and your characters shouldn’t either. We are the sum of our experiences. They shape us into who we are. Put characters through trials and think about how it has affected them. Characters need to have been through bad times as well as good. It makes them believable and makes readers respond to them when they can relate to them somehow.
When I asked readers what attracted them to Snow, they said he was: sexy, powerful, loyal to a fault, emotionally deep, loving, deadly, chivalrous, self-sacrificing, and would die to protect those he loves, passionate, a little broken, and will fight for what he believes is right. He’s also strong and not just physically. Readers talked about how strong he was to have survived everything he had been through.
Their responses gave me invaluable insight into what they are looking for in a perfect hero or character. Since I write to give them books they love and heroes they adore, I’m listening to what they’ve said to give them more heroes they can fall in love with. I think a clever writer listens to their readers, so I’ll end this with a few quotes from them about why they love Snow and my heroes:
Anne R. said “They are strong men, who have difficulty loving/caring for someone else, but when they find that person, they will move heaven and earth to be with them.”
Kelly S. said “It has to be their passion. It’s raw. It’s powerful. It’s undeniable. They will love with every breath they take and defend what they love and believe in with their last… It’s their strengths, their weaknesses and not to mention their sinfully good looks that make you wish they were yours. I think I have fallen in love with every one of your heroes, Felicity.”
Jessica D. said “I like that he’s blunt, honest & strong, fiercely protective & loyal, and that helps him to be supremely endearing too. Of course being sexy & chivalrous just clinch it for me… well, and the tattoo too. He’s a bad boy with a heart of gold always trying to do the right thing.”
Sue B-M. said “Snow is tortured yet strong, can be vicious yet is self-sacrificing, and obviously has a deep love for his brother and a soft spot for the females. When I look at Snow (pre-Unleash) I see the potential for an epic journey of self-awareness and a struggle for keeping on that is worth cheering for.”
Josette S. said “From the beginning, you see his love and protectiveness for his brother and the way he protects those that he begins to consider family at the theatre. It shows a true depth to his character.”
About the Author
Felicity Heaton is an award-winning, bestselling, traditionally-published-turned-self-published author of paranormal romance. She started her career in 2005 and hasn’t stopped since. Among her most popular series are Her Angel, and Vampire Realm.