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QUESTION: I have this question that I'm afraid I'll have to do some character background explaining. I'm attempting to write a zombie novel in which there are actually two main characters. My question is relevant really only to the second Character. This Character is, for lack of a better term, a pig. Right from the start of the book you see this young man basically using women. I won't say exactly what for do to the audience that may see this but I will say they are not just for him to go skipping down the street with. This character is supposed to be very good at getting what he wants from these women/young ladies. Here is my problem. I'm not a girl and I don't want to write him so that he gets what he wants using way's that real women will look at it and get angry because it would never REALLY work. If you could help me I'd greatly appreciate it. If I need to be more specific please let me know.
Thanks again,
Robert O. Black (hopeful Author Name)

ANSWER: Hi, again, Robert!

Well, there really ARE plenty of men who manage to convince women to do things that they wouldn't normally do. Con men are a dime a dozen, and several serial killers (like Ted Bundy) were apparently extremely well-spoken and charming.

My biggest concern isn't HOW the character manages to do this, but making the hero still likeable DESPITE this trait. The reader has to empathize with the hero, so if he's a scoundrel (or jerk, if we want to be blunt,) then he has to have other redeeming qualities that make you overlook them. Our hero in our first romance was a Mafia assassin. He had no qualms about shooting a person in the face, and had a price list for rape and torture. But we found ways to make him likeable--almost against the reader's will. Like Tony Soprano, he had redeeming qualities and rationalized his business in such a logical manner that you almost found yourself agreeing with him.

So, for me--so long as you find a way to make him worthwhile to follow (since if the reader really hates him, they're not going to root for his success) then I'll go along for the ride.

But you're right that you have to make the charm logical. Usually, telling a woman what she WANTS to hear is the first step. If the hero, for example, chooses his women (and let's call them what they are--victims) because they're not really pretty, or already have depression problems, and then proceeds to woo them by telling them what amazing hair they have, or that their eyes are the most beautiful things he's ever seen, they're going to believe him. The victim doesn't have to believe that they're BEAUTIFUL, but that the hero has seen one thing--just one--that is beautiful to HIM. He can give her tiny gifts of a pretty hair comb or a shade of eye shadow that matches the shirt he first saw her in. Flatter a depressed woman into believing that there's hope, and she'll follow . . . at least for a time. Maybe it'll only take one night or a week. Most all of us have had bad judgment for a night, so the reader will buy it.

Does that help?  If not, then send me a follow-up and define your question down a little more. :)


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Even though you answered the question I asked I'm sorry to say i'm still just as lost. I can't think of a single way to ask it any better since one strategy wont work on every person. I guess this would be made easier if I were to know people like this but I don't (not that it's really a bad thing). Still thank you for your help and I will continue to ponder what you have said. Thanks again for all your help and the quick responces. I will certainly be asking you for more specific advice on the more mature scenes (since I have little experiance in that area) once I find that charming quality in this character.
Thanks again,
ANSWER: Okay, let's narrow this down a little and see if we can help you better. Maybe if you answer some questions we can figure out what you need to do.

1. How old is the character supposed to be?
2. Is he using the women just for sex, or does he like to have them spend money on him too--for drugs, clothes, fancy dinners, toys (cars, jet skis, etc?)
3. Does HE spend money on the women? (not to buy sex, but taking them out to dinner, buying them drinks, etc.)
4. DOES he pay for prostitutes, or does he consider that "beneath him?"
5. By the end of the book, do you want him to realize that he's been wrong to use women, or does he carry on at the end just like at the beginning?
6. Do any of the other characters consider him . . . well, scummy for the way he treats women?
7. Do you want him to come off as suavely charming (think James Bond) or conniving and a little sleazy (think Vinny from My Cousin Vinny?)
8. Do you have anyone pictured in your mind that you're crafting him after--like from a television show, book or movie?

Let's start with these and see if we can get you closer. :)

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Okay well,
1. He is 18 going on 19.
2. just for sex.
3. Zombies have basically taken over so money isn't much use, but before the zombies he would not buy them much of anything
4. same as 3 but before the zombies, no he wouldn't.
5. By the end he doesn't exactly change because he see's it wrong but runs across a girl that is alot like him in the way he act's and views sex and they start becoming a couple that will be enhanced in book 2.
6. Actually alot of them do and The other main character even gets onto him aobut in the beggining. His view is that there are plenty of fish in the sea so why settle for just one.
7. I guess he would come off more as a sleazy kind of guy.
8. No levioth is a unique individual that has come into creation through time. If he were basef off somebody it would be my cousin who isn't much of a lady charmer at all.

Okay, then you have three options:

1.  He's REALLY good at sex.  Word about that gets around, and he could easily know just how to make a woman shiver to make her respond. But that might be tricky to write without you having a lot of first hand experience. Use this one last if you have to.

2. You can also make him a real kick-ass fighter. With zombies around, if he can take them out without breaking a sweat, women would look to him as a hero/protector. If Doom3 had a romance angle, women would be falling all over the guy, whether or not he's a sarcastic SOB. They'd put up with him being a jerk because he's just that good.

3. Now, something you may not have considered (since you're writing a paranormal novel anyway) is to make the character supernatural himself. It can be as easy as making him immune to becoming a zombie himself because he was already infected (so they HAVE to kill him), and instead of turning, he developed some sort of weird phermone (sweat scent) that makes him irrestible to women. That would frustrate the heck out of his buddies, because women don't even CARE that he's a jerk.  They just can't control themselves. That would make it easy for you to write the character, because you won't have to worry about saying "just the right thing." You can say whatever you want, and the women--even if they KNOW they shouldn't be attracted--are. That could create a lot of good tension with the woman at the end, if she's somehow also immune to the zombies AND to him. She's the first woman he can't get, which makes her more interesting . . . a challenge.

Does that help any?

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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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