There are a few things which will make me stop from reading a story.
Cookie cutter, cliché characters is one of them. Or characters who lie flat on the pages like paper dolls.
There is one author I just don’t read anymore, because her characters repeat, repeat, repeat. I gave up on any hope of some miracle of original characters with her. She’s popular and vastly successful in the publishing world. Three pen names last I heard, all of them have best sellers. We should all be so lucky. All the same, she lost me for lack of originality in her characters.
When I approach a story, generally the characters come to me first. I write romance, so there are some things my Hero must have. Momma’s boys, short, no morals, weak of will or ego-driven men need not apply.
Heroine – Pretty much up to the author. I personally refuse to give voice to damsels in distress, clingy, needy types, martyrs, and drama queens. Heaven save me from weak women!
For supporting characters the sky’s the limit so to speak. I have a lot of fun with my supporting characters.
The ‘complications’ or skills my characters have dictates the amount of research required to make them real. Some of the complications/skills I have, so it comes pretty easy. Other times they come to me with things I know nothing about.
How do you bake biscuits in a camp fire? What would it be like to have the hopes of many rest on your shoulders? How many miles can two riders and a pack animal travel in the Sierra Nevada?
All of these things add depth and reality to characters. If your heroin loves and grows roses, please don’t tell me she has a miniature rose growing over an 8 ft arbor..that ain’t gonna happen, and she should know that.
How do you approach your characters, their quirks, skills and inner being? Do you get lost in research? Or find not much is required?