We’re so pleased to welcome author Annabeth Albert today on the tour for her latest release, At Attention, book two in the Out of Uniform series. She’s talking about character arcs and is also offering a giveaway, so be sure to check out the Rafflecopter widget for entry details.
Greetings! Thank you so much for having me! I’m so excited for the release of AT ATTENTION which stars a widowed Navy SEAL and his best-friend’s little brother. Apollo is my badass navy SEAL who happens to be a great father as well. When I started the book, I knew that the biggest journey would be made by Apollo who has to transform from a grieving widower to someone ready to whole-heartedly believe in love again. But how do you get a character to go to from point A (really sad and not trusting in love) to point B (a new happily ever after)? What goes into crafting a character’s arc?
The obvious answer is that you can drag the character along, hoping that tossing them in a room alone with their love interest will do the trick by the end of the book. You can also do a lot with plot—you know what situations you really want to show and then you can go back and try to work some character growth in there. But I’ve evolved a more organic approach, especially for complicated characters like Apollo who have a ton of growing to do.
First, rather than work my way linearly through the plot, I spend a lot of time thinking about the end of the book before I ever start writing. Who will Apollo be at the end of the book? What will he need to learn? Then I ask Apollo (seriously, yes, I talk to the characters) what scene with symbolism would best show that growth. This usually yields my resolution scene—the scene where we get to see the characters’ whole-hearted embrace of their happy ending.
Then, I go back and look at the midpoint. He should have made some growth towards where he’ll need to be at the end here, but something is still holding him back. Who will he need to be in this important scene to show how much potential for growth he has, if only he’ll embrace it? Once I know what emotions are at stake, who he’ll need to be by this point in the book, it’s easier to look for a situation that will really showcase these emotions and rising stakes.
Next I go further back and think about what steps the character could take to get to that mid-point where change is almost in reach. What turning points will be needed? This gives meat to the middle of the book, and knowing the character is continuing to grow lets the plot move along at a good pace.
Now for the hard part. The character has made great progress from where they started to the midpoint. Change is at hand if only they would embrace it. But wait! Something is going to happen that makes the character doubt their capacity for change and send the running from the happily ever after I have in store for them. It’s got to be big and scary on an emotional level. This will be the black moment for the character—the point where they could leap, but instead regress.
That’s also the part where I usually cry when drafting. The struggle is real. But now I have the bones of an arc—opening, turning points, midpoint, black moment, and resolution—I’m able to go back in and fill in even more growth for the character. What gesture can take him from the black moment to the resolution? How can we show the first turning point where he first starts to change? How will that lead to the midpoint? Where will the love scenes fall to show the progression of the love story and how will they impact the growth either positively or negatively?
I listen to the character through all of this. Apollo had lots to say. He didn’t want to change. At all. He kept telling me how he was just fine alone, thank you very much. And I could have dragged him through the plot, but instead I listened. I let him tell me all those reasons and fears why he couldn’t change, and I used them to make his arc stronger. To really grow and show growth, you have to confront all those fears and slay them one by one.
By the end of the outline, I couldn’t wait to start drafting. I knew Apollo’s story was going to be super special. You know that a story is coming together when you can’t wait to watch the growth unfold. And I knew the draft did its job when I finished the book and immediately wanted to re-read it, to go on that journey again.
So tell me, do you like stories where characters grow and change? Got any good recommendations of characters who have a long journey to their happily ever after? And if you want to see Apollo’s journey unfold, I hope you’ll check out AT ATTENTION!
About the Book
Title: AT ATTENTION
Series: Out of Uniform, book 2 (but stands alone well–different couple for each book)
Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: April 10, 2017
Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex
Genre: Romance, Military romance, contemporary, age difference, may/december, SEALS
Purchase Links: Carina Press || Amazon || Barnes & Noble || Kobo || iTunes
Blurb: Lieutenant Apollo Floros can ace tactical training missions, but being a single dad to his twin daughters is more than he can handle. He needs live-in help, and he’s lucky a friend’s younger brother needs a place to stay. He’s surprised to see Dylan all grown up with a college degree…and a college athlete’s body. Apollo’s widowed heart may still be broken, but Dylan has his blood heating up.
It’s been eight years since the teenage Dylan followed Apollo around like a lovesick puppy, and it’s time he showed Lieutenant Hard-to-Please that he’s all man now—an adult who’s fully capable of choosing responsibility over lust. He can handle Apollo’s muscular sex appeal, but Apollo the caring father? Dylan can’t afford to fall for that guy. He’s determined to hold out for someone who’s able to love him back, not someone who only sees him as a kid brother.
Apollo is shocked by the intensity of his attraction to Dylan. Maybe some no-strings summer fun will bring this former SEAL back to life. But the combination of scorching desire and warm affection is more than he’d expected, and the emotion between them scares him senseless. No fling lasts forever, and Apollo will need to decide what’s more important—his past or his future—if he wants to keep Dylan in his life.
Book Two of the Out of Uniform series
This book is approximately 73,000 words
**This is from the first chapter**
Hamburger. Onions. Pickles. Ketchup. Buns. Buns.
Well, hello, there. Possibly the most perfect specimen Apollo had ever seen was bent over in the bakery aisle at Sprouts, looking at a rack of organic cookies. High. Tight. Round. Attached to muscular legs poking out of board shorts, the kind of legs that suggested a serious investment in a sport or fitness. He wasn’t going to do more than look, but even when he’d been with Neal, he hadn’t been blind, and it was nice to know perfection like this guy existed in the world.
It was like swimming by a perfect coral reef on a dive or the blue of a cloudless sky right before a jump—
Wink. Fuck. The guy straightened before Apollo could look away and caught Apollo staring, and instead of blushing or serving him with the angry glare he deserved, he gave Apollo a saucy wink. It was the sort of wink that a decade ago would have had Apollo crossing the shiny linoleum and getting the guy’s number, but those days were long gone.
Instead he grabbed the closest twelve pack of hamburger buns and one of hot dog buns and headed to the next aisle. Those were the only kind of buns he had any business letting himself be distracted by. He was a father for crying out loud, not some single guy out treating the natural grocery store like his own personal pickup joint. Reflexively, he rubbed his ring with the side of his pinky, making it spin on his ring finger. Yeah. No more looking.
“Apollo! How are you?” Bridget from down the street almost ran her cart into his as he navigated the aisles. Her red-haired toddler waved at him from the basket.
Hell. He knew he should have brought at least one of the girls shopping. Then Bridget could have focused on the kids, and not his least favorite question in the universe.
“Hanging in there.” Apollo gave her a practiced a smile. “Good” would be a lie and no one wanted to hear “same as yesterday,” which was closer to the truth. But what the Bridgets of the world all wanted to hear was that Apollo was moving on—like time was the magic cure for the hole in his heart. “Having some people over for a barbecue later. Apologies if anyone parks in front of your place.”
“Oh, no worries.” Bridget patted his arm. “Having friends is so important.”
“Yeah, it is,” Apollo agreed because Bridget was a nice person, but inwardly his teeth gnashed together. He was so tired of well-meaning people telling him what was good for him when not a damn one of their suggestions would bring Neal back. “I better get on with my list.”
“You do that. And be sure and let us know if you need anything.”
Apollo nodded. Two years. It had been two years of neighbors and friends stopping him like this, making kind offers, but none of them able to do the one thing he wanted more than anything.
Fuck. Snap out of it, Lieutenant. No one wants your mopey ass around on this sunny May weekend. And it was an absolutely gorgeous day, perfect for playing with the girls outside and kicking back a few beers with his friends. He wasn’t on duty and had three consecutive days off for the first time in a long time. No sense dwelling on sad shit. Time to get stuff done.
Find something else to focus on.
Like that perfect ass?
No. Absolutely not that. Like…pickles. Lots and lots of pickles.
He saw Mr. Perfect Butt again in the juice aisle, and it was damn hard to keep his resolution to stick to shopping. The guy was model cute—curly hair falling just so over his forehead, sparkling eyes, chiseled jaw, and a tight T-shirt advertising a British soccer team showing off a defined chest and tight stomach. The guy smiled at him again and looked like he might want to speak, so Apollo grabbed the juice boxes for the girls and got out of there like he’d just launched a flash bang in the guy’s direction.
At the checkout, Mr. Perfect Butt was ahead of him in the only line that seemed to be moving. Apollo very carefully did not look at his butt again and busied himself grabbing some gum and trying to give off “don’t talk to me” vibes.
But those vibes seemed to be an utter failure as the guy turned, offering another movie-star-worthy grin. “You want to go first?” His voice was husky, like every word was a secret.
“I’m good,” Apollo said.
The man nodded, shy smile teasing the edges of his mouth, making his blue eyes dance. “You know—”
“ID please.” The cashier interrupted whatever flirtation the guy had planned as his six pack of beer went across the scanner.
“Oh, yeah.” A faint red flush spread up the guy’s neck. Oh hell. He wasn’t just younger than Apollo. He was a kid. A kid who still got carded, and rightfully so with that baby face. What the hell had Apollo been thinking, admiring his body?
Apollo focused on unloading his own groceries, making neat rows for the cashier, and making sure the buns wouldn’t get squished.
Buns. Nope. Not going there. The kid hung around after paying for his groceries, mouth moving as if he were debating speaking, but Apollo kept his attention squarely on the cashier.
No more looking. Remember who—what—you are now. When he finally looked up, perfect butt guy was gone, and if Apollo felt a twinge of regret for being a bit on the rude side, he squashed it quickly. Wasn’t like he’d ever see the guy again anyway.
About the Author
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.