A Conversation with Lisa Kleypas

I had a lot of interesting experiences at RT and attended several useful workshops, but the experiences I found most fascinating were “Conversations” with famous authors. In them, a moderator would sit with the author and ask him/her questions or field questions from the audience. The ones I attended were Charlaine Harris, who penned the Sookie Stackhouse novels which became the hugely popular True Blood television series on HBO; Lee Child who wrote the enormously popular Jack Reacher mysteries, and Lisa Kleypas, queen of saucy historicals. They were worth the price of admission by themselves.

Lisa spoke mostly on a single topic with questions and comments from the audience. Her topic was exploring the psychology of characters to create chemistry and spark. Every character comes into a story with baggage and that makes them damaged people. Perfection is boring. Here are some of the points she made:

v  What do they look like? While you don’t want to pile on paragraphs of description, you need to have a physical image of their appearance and mien in order to create the images in your head as the action proceeds.

v  What is their family and financial status? Are they a loving son or daughter of a rich aristocrat or a penniless thief of a Black Widow?

v  The person’s innocence/cynicism or vulnerability/hard-heartedness? You don’t want to give away the meat of the story in the first chapter but you need a basic framework in which to place them. The conflicts in the story then work within that framework—at the beginning anyway.

v  If there is to be a villain or protagonist in a love scene, that needs to be established ahead of time. You can’t just leap into a love scene without having thought out angles and motivations.

v  What is lovemaking doing to each character and, afterwards, what has it done to each. A lovemaking scene, even if only a kiss, affects everyone profoundly. You need to establish this going into the scene, in order to accomplish what you want to with it.

v  Worldbuilding—paranormal and sci-fi are not the only genres where you must build a world. Every world in every book is built slowly and surely.

v  Justification of characters—every character needs to be justified, even if negative, to himself and the reader, no matter how society views him.

v  Build your heroines carefully. Readers are so much harder on heroines than heroes, and we expect more from them.

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3 Responses to A Conversation with Lisa Kleypas

  1. C.D. Hersh says:

    Lee Child was there? A very good mystery writer but at RT. Are we missing something?

  2. They had quite a few noted authors at RT, but yes, I was surprised too to see Lee Child there. I went to his seminar and had him sign a book for my hubby, who is a big fan.

  3. Thank you for this excellent post! Great advice!

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