Developing my main characters has never been super-difficult for me. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the writing process. I always write in first person, and it’s so fun to take on somebody else’s voice. I realized a little while ago that all my main characters represent some part of my own personality. Faith, from Following My Toes is probably the most like me, except she’s less afraid than to speak her mind than I am. Melody from Starring in the Movie of My Life is the furthest from my true personality, but there are still similarities. I can be judgmental and driven at times, and in certain ways I can be over-responsible. Lucy, from November Surprise is very set in her opinions, and that’s totally me.
I assign my characters these qualities and then I carry them out to extremes. That’s where the conflict of the story comes in. What happens to these women when their personal choices conflicts with their surroundings? All my characters have internal conflicts and obstacles to overcome, and the fun lies in figuring out how they will learn, grow, and move beyond their personal foibles.
The thing I have more trouble with is developing the secondary characters, especially the male ones. I read an article a couple of years ago that said there’s more genetic similarities between humans and apes than there are between men and women. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do often feel out of my depth when writing dialogue and action for male characters. I ask myself: What would my husband do in this situation? What would my brother say in response to that? How would my guy friends act if this happened to them?
I hope my male characters are realistic, but I never feel like I’m doing anything more than guessing with them. Luckily I have two guys in my writing group who give me feedback. Often they’ll tell me it comes down to the details, like word choice, mannerisms, and appearance. One way you can define your secondary characters is by giving them little features that are unique only to them. For example, in November Surprise Monty is constantly tapping his fingers. He’s the only one who does that, and I chose it for him because he’s this guy who seems perfect, but actually has a healthy share of insecurities. The finger tapping is his way of letting nervous energy escape.
I tend to become very attached to my characters, to the point that I catch myself thinking about them as real people. I always want to give them the happy ending they deserve. If my readers end up feeling the same way, then I’ve succeeded!
Laurel Osterkamp was a comedy writer in Minneapolis before she began writing novels. Her first novel, Following My Toes, has been a Kindle best seller and won the 2008 Indie Excellence Award for Chick Lit. Starring in the Movie of My Life received honors in the 2011 Indie Excellence Awards for Chick Lit, and in the 2011 International Book Awards for Women’s Fiction and Young Adult Lit. Both books are indie approved at indiereader.com. She currently teaches high school, and is working on her next book, which is inspired by her recent jury duty.
Title: November Surprise by Laurel Osterkamp
Publisher: PMI Books
Genre: Contemporary, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction
Length: 209 pages
For Lucy Jones, the distinction between love and politics is hazy at best. Both can be all-consuming, and either can lead to a heart-breaking loss or an exhilarating win. Whatever the case, if you’re seen as a loser, you probably are one. Lucy first learns this lesson in 1988, when she’s a shy girl, battling a high school bully and rooting for Dukakis. Through the years Lucy will experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat as she makes the choices that define her. Meanwhile, she also struggles to define her relationship with Monty, who comes in and out of her life like the changes in public opinion. Is Monty simply a one-night stand, a kindred spirit, or the love of her life? And by 2008, can he offer her a change to believe in?
Over the course of twenty years and six presidential elections, Lucy grows and adjusts with the times. Filled with snarky political and pop-culture references, November Surprise is about the journey we take to believe in a candidate, in love, and in ourselves.
November Surprise is a companion piece to Campaign Promises, which is free on Amazon. They can be read in either order. Both have a liberal slant.
Monty and I have been dancing together all evening. The slow songs are the best, but we also do the Macarena and even the Chicken Dance. I can’t stop laughing the entire time I’m quacking my hands.
Jack and his new wife, Petra, have fed each other cake. Petra has thrown her bouquet, and all the toasts have been given. The night is winding down, and Monty leads me off the dance floor.
“I’m really glad neither of us had dates,” he says.
“Yeah, me too.” My heart beats just a little bit faster than normal.
“And I’m sorry about earlier. Hitting on you like that. It was clumsy. Will you forgive me?” His face is flushed and his tie is loosened. I’m sure I’ve noticed before how good looking he is, but this is the first time I’ve let myself appreciate it.
“There’s nothing to forgive.” I look around, make sure nobody is watching, and then I stand on my tip-toes and plant a kiss on his cheek. When he doesn’t flinch or pull away, I give him the barest whisper of a kiss on the lips.
It’s all the encouragement he needs.
With a conspiratorial smile, he takes my hand and leads me outside the reception hall. I follow willingly.
When we get to a dark, hidden spot, he wraps his arms around my waist and kisses me deeply. I can feel it everywhere, my entire body is tingling, my knees are weak, and I’m sure that at any moment, my heart will explode.
I don’t want him to stop. But he does.
“Where are you staying tonight?” he asks.
“I was going to drive back to my parents’ house.”
“Hmm…” he leans in and kisses me some more. I press up against him like I can’t get close enough. He tilts his head back ever so slightly, so he can talk. “That’s a long drive. Do you want to stay with me, instead?”
“You have a hotel room?”
“It’s close to the airport,” he whispers. “I fly back to New York really early tomorrow.” Then he baby kisses my eyes, nose, and chin.
I don’t answer immediately. I’m trying to steady my breathing. “So you can make a clean get away?”
“It’s not like that.” he smiles. “And you haven’t even said yes, yet.”
But he knows I’m going to. “You can’t ever tell Jack,” I say.
“He just got married, Lucy. Do you really think he’ll care?”
I rub my hands down his back and across the taut muscles in his arms. “I never had sex with him, and we dated for months. If he finds out you and I had a one night stand…”
Monty cuts me off with another kiss. “I promise I’ll never tell him,” he murmurs, between kisses.
We make out a few seconds more, but our kissing is interrupted when I’m consumed with a fit of giggles.
“What’s so funny?” Monty asks.
I shake my head. “Sorry. It just occurred to me. I’m about to do it with the homecoming king.”
Monty chuckles. “Does that turn you on?”
“Yeah,” I admit. “Kind of. Is that okay?”
He kisses my neck. I tilt my head back and sigh in pleasure.
“Are you kidding?” His lips are a mere centimeter from my skin as he mumbles, and his arms tighten around me even more. “If I had known, I would have worn my crown.”
Now we’re both laughing.
“You know this isn’t the sort of thing I usually do…”
He raises his face so he’s looking me in the eye. “I know,” he says, and he smiles. Crinkles form around his green eyes, and I feel a moment of panic. There’s no way I’m casual enough to be with him for just one night.
“Let’s make it special, okay?” He reaches down and clasps my hand, and I let him lead me somewhere, again. This time, I follow him to the parking lot. Tonight, I’d follow him anywhere.
To celebrate her stop here today, Ms. Osterkamp is giving away a copy of November Surprise to one lucky commenter. To enter this week’s Friday Feature contest:
You must Do TWO of the Following:
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Make sure you have filled out the contest entry form:
5. To be eligible to enter contests on Book Reviews and More by Kathy you MUST fill out the contest entry form (found HERE). This form only needs to be filled out ONCE. Your privacy is important to me, and I will not share your information.
And don’t forget to:
6. Leave a comment on this post by 5 PM Mountain Time Wednesday October 10th.
It’s that easy! The winner will be selected using random.org. I will e-mail one lucky winner the eBook of their choice in their preferred format. The winner will be announced Thursday October 11th.
To enter Ms. Osterkamp’s contest for a $30 Amazon gift card, leave a comment here with your contact info. Also, anyone who buys November Surprise and forwards their receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org will receive 10 entries. Visit Lucy’s political blog HERE.