BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Monday, January 23, 2012

Writing Challenging Characters: Guest Post by Romance Author Kat Henry Doran

Please welcome Kat Henry Doran to Bea's Book Nook today. She's touring various blogs, talking about her new release. "Mad Dog and Archangel" (see my review here).

Over the years she's had the honor to work at a number of occupations: nurse, malpractice insurance investigator, forensic examiner, victim advocate, wife and mother.

Even if she sometimes wishes they'd remain in the closet, the years that she spent in the OR and labor floor, and later advocating for victims of sexual violence, contributes significantly to the voice of her writing. You don’t spend thirty years serving as loyal hand-maiden and mind reader for egotistical surgeons, then twelve years haunting police stations, Emergency Rooms, and criminal courts without developing an internal alarm system for overt misogyny, rampant apathy, and overwhelming bigotry. 

She retired her stethoscope and speculum a few years ago but continues to advocate, quietly, for marginalized populations through Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders. 

Kat likes hearing from readers. You can contact her through her website:, or blog:

Kat will give one random commenter from the entire tour, a Funky Bag and a Toiletries Bag from Kats Kustom KarryAlls, US and Canada only, sorry. The more you comment, the better your chance of winning. The tour dates can be found here:

Thank you Kat, for taking the time to sit down and talk to us today. 


Are Challenging Characters Easier or Harder to Write?  

For me, the challenge in writing evil characters lays with keeping them realistic without going over the edge and turn them into caricatures. I find this challenge a great deal more fun to write. In turn, I have equally as much fun describing the after-effects of what the 'bad actors' inflict on their victims.   

As an example, in my first full-length novel, “Captain Marvelous”, six women are brutally murdered, then dumped along an interstate like last week's trash. The hero, a New York State Trooper, is assigned to investigate the murders. Assisting him is the local physician's assistant because of her experience working with victims of torture. I didn't want to show the murders on camera, but did have the hero and heroine viewing morgue photos which demonstrated distinct patterns of abuse which in turn helped to identify some of the perpetrators.  

Being a nurse helped me write the scenes involving medical emergencies. One in particular was great fun; the hero [an avowed wimp when it comes to blood, guts and gore] is compelled to apply pressure to a gaping abdominal wound to staunch hemorrhaging. As the heroine tells him to think happy thoughts and breathe through his mouth, he of course does the exact opposite and is close to passing out while waiting for the EMT's to arrive. It was easy to write this scene and a lot of fun. Towards the end of this story, I slipped in a scene from the Emergency Room and was able to take revenge against all the snotty, know-it-all nurses and doctors I've met in my time. Immense fun as well as great therapy. 

In my second novel, “Try Just Once More”, I wanted to create a series of events which were at first crossed off as circumstance or accidents but in reality were carefully planned attempts to murder an entire family one by one. The  evil-doer is never scene on camera until the bitter end and his motive is something people don't immediately put at the top of their list as reasons to kill. The heroine's revenge on this person was a lot of fun and made me laugh out loud. I hope it works for readers who are new to my books! 

I never thought I'd be able to write short fiction but I proved myself wrong in “Raising Kane”, part of the Out of the Dark anthology for the Wild Rose Press. I had spent a number of years working as an advocate for victims of sexual violence so those men who fear and loathe women, and the way they act out, were not foreign to me. Taking a real life event, a Take Back the Night march, I had the fictional protestors stop in front of a bar and lounge, the scene of a recent gang rape. Patrons of said establishment take offense at remarks made by some of the marchers and a riot ensues. The police arrive too late to prevent the majority of injuries and arrest everyone still standing, leaving the sorting out to God. The heroine, an investigative reporter, is assigned to cover the march and is arrested for being in the wrong place and the wrong time. The hero, the police department's Public Information Officer [read: spinmeister], is charged with putting a positive spin on the actions of the cops and make peace with innocent bystanders forced to spend a night in jail. I had a lot of fun writing the scene in the holding cell where other inmates discover the the heroine's background which contributes significantly to the conflict between her and the hero.   

For my contributions to the Class of '85 series, “Embraceable You”, “Mad Dog and the  Archangel” and [writing as Veronica Lynch] “The List”, there were no truly bad or evil characters, simply bullies and jerks, characters whom all readers can relate to from episodes in their past. In particular, I wanted to see what the ten and twelve year-old bullies from the playground turn into in their adult lives. A few of the other authors in the Class used a couple of the bullies in their stories too and it was fun to see them embrace characters I invented and run with them. 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for having me today, Bea. This is a new topic for me and I very much enjoyed writing about it.

    2. My pleasure. I'm glad I could be part of your tour. I'm very glad I was able to give you a new topic for a guest post! I doubt that happens often.

  2. What a fun story. I am looking forward to reading it.

  3. MonJane, you make my day!
    With each visit, I look forward to hearing from you.

  4. Kat,

    Thanks for the behind the scenes. As one who 'took advantage' of some of your characters, they kinda wrote themselves for me. :)

  5. Great post Kat. I hope you have a successful blog tour! I'm wondering how you got revenge on those doctors and nurses now. lol May just have to read that book.

  6. I agree, villians are a blast to write, especially from their POV. You can show a side of human nature that you don't dare give to your hero! I loved this book. Have a great time on your tour, Kat.

  7. I guess most stories need a bully to move the story along.

  8. I enjoyed reading the post. The books sound very interesting.


  9. To all who stopped by today and left a comment: MomJane, Margo, Jannine, Renald, [new friend] bn100candg, Calisa:
    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. This is a somewhat difficult time for us Class of '85 authors. Your unconditional regard is a much needed boost to us as authors and artists.

  10. I really respect Kat's approach to villains. An author friend of mine once said that the best written villains are the ones who, if the story were told from their POV, would be the protagonist. Meaning, they believe their goals are worthwhile and worthy of pursuing, just like the antagonist. So yay for an author who understands that!


    1. Hi, Lori
      thanks so very much for stopping by and leaving a comment. and thanks for understanding the reason for 'understanding' villains!

  11. Hi Kat,
    I'm late in commenting but I wanted to say hi, and best of luck! I can appreciate what you said about creating a villain who's not so over the top that they become cartoonish. I'm working on a villainess right now and I'm finding it a fine line to walk!

    Much success,

  12. Hi, Jana
    my very first villainess was so over the top the editor I worked with was nauseous. It didn't help matters that she was deathly ill with morning sickness. Heh heh.
    That villainess eventually went away, likely with version #2, never to return. she was replaced by the villain who survived to see the light of day in Try Just Once More.
    thanks for commenting.

  13. Thanks for an interesting read Bea and Kat. Taking the darker side of your psyche and fleshing out a full character from what you find their is probably one of the greatest challenges a writer faces.

    I appreciated the insights.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing from my readers. Let's talk!