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Reader Question: How do you develop your character pairings?

Hello! I asked you lot on my Facebook page what you'd like me to blog about and there were some great suggestions and quite a few questions. I'm going to try to answer one of you questions each week, until I run out! And first up is Deb, who asks:

How do you develop character pairings?

I'm taking this to mean, how do I know who will suit whom. And the answer is that I spend a whole lot of time thinking about it! When I start with a character I've already established, say in an earlier book in the series, I already know this person inside out. I know where their failings are and what they hunger for most out of life. From there, I try to think about the type of person that would fill those empty spaces for the character, while still challenging them to become a better person. A sense of belonging for all my characters is really important to me. I think, too often, as people we feel like we don't fit. I know, in my life, I've spent a lot of time feeling as though I'm on the outside looking in. I also know, that all it takes to be "inside", is for one person to accept you for who you are and to believe in you. That's what I try to give my characters.

To see what I mean, let's look at Callum in Rage, Benson's Boys Book 3. At the start of the book he's a man who's lost confidence in himself. He isn't as physically able as he once was (having been injured in the military) and because of this he's lost his sense of identity. I knew absolutely when I came to write his story, that Callum needed someone who saw him as completely capable and unhindered by his disabilities. Also, he needed someone in his life who didn't take things so seriously, because he really does! Someone who would pull him out into society more. That's when I realized that Callum didn't just need a partner, he needed a family. So that's what I gave him! I gave him a woman with a sick sense of humor, who sees him as a hero and who comes with two kids in tow. And it was important for me that one of those kids was a teenage boy. I wanted Callum to see himself as a role model for a boy who really needed one. And, in turn, I hoped that would make him open to seeing himself through the eyes of the people around him, rather than through his own skewed vision of himself.

With that in mind, Isobel Sinclair walked into my head. Isobel is perfect for Callum. For one, she needs a keeper and Callum needs someone to protect - he's hardwired that way! For another, she's had a hard life and she is the type of person that will always see the humor, even in the darkest of situation. Again, just what broody Callum needs. As soon as they met on the page, I knew they were each other's missing piece and together they would only be stronger.

When I'm working with two characters I've haven't introduced in previous books, two new-to-me characters, I work along the same lines. I often start with an idea of the type of person I'd like to write about. At this stage, it's very general - "a shy woman with a disorder that makes relating to people difficult, something like high functioning Autism". Or "a fearless woman, who need challenge and adventure, but doesn't always think things through properly." Then once I've fleshed the character out, I ask myself what kind of partner she needs to feel good about herself and who will challenge her going forward. Then, it pretty much works the way I've described above. It all comes down to knowing your characters. Knowing what they really think about themselves and what they long to find in someone else. It comes down to acceptance. I want my couples to love each other for who they are, not who they could become.

And that's how I work out all of my pairings. I try to give my characters their missing piece. A place to belong. And someone who sees them as valuable and unique.

Hope that answers your question Deb!

I'll answer another reader question next week. In the meantime, happy reading everyone! :)


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