Guest Blog ~ Michelle Griep ~ Build-A-Stud Workshop

by Michelle Griep

Malls. Gotta love ’em. I live in the land of the kingpin of them all—Mall of America, chock full of the usual Victoria’s Secrets, not one but two Bath & Body Works, and of course the requisite Build-a-Bear Workshop.

Most cities have a Build-a-Bear, but if you’re not lucky enough to be familiar with the stuffed animal creation retail business, let me fill you in. Think mall store full of cute little outfits on hangers, surrounded by deflated, fuzzy animal pelts. In the middle of the store is a big fluffy cotton machine.

Enter a small child who, once over the horror of the lifeless stares from plastic eyes, picks out a limp piece of fur. Said child gives this to an adult who then jams it onto the machine and shoots stuffing into the fabric carcass. Voila. Instant lovable plush toy. And as a bonus, the kid gets to put a felt heart into their new bundle of love before it’s sewn up.

Mildly entertaining, but what’s this got to do with fiction?

Plenty. Creating a heroic champion is a lot like going to one of these mall stores. First, the outside pelt must be chosen. Biceps, pecs, a six-pack, longish hair, and don’t forget the chiseled facial features and all-consuming eyes. Who writes a protagonist without breathtaking qualities…especially in a romance.

Add to this mix a resonant voice, some talent, and the smell. Every leading man has a smell, whether it’s spice, musk, possibly sawdust or leather. Take a sniff. Yep. Smells manly—and a good one at that.

There. Now we have the lifeless pelt waiting to pump in some guts.

My male characters tend to be deeply spiritual whether they’ve met their Savior or not yet. They also have dealt with or continue to overcome some kind of deep tragedy of the spirit.

And don’t forget the bonus of a heart. My heroes must have deeply sensitive hearts and questions that beg for answers lurking beneath their armor or leather.

It’s these qualities coupled with integrity that brings my leading man into direct conflict with their heroine—who inevitably does not understand him—and into a fair amount of conflict within themselves.

Finally, before my stud is complete, he must have some kind of flaw. Come on. There’s usually a man in every one of our lives and we know they’re not perfect. A physical imperfection works, but a spiritual or emotional blemish is even better. As the relationship between hero and heroine deepens, those flaws become either a battle wound to wear with pride, or a final issue that is laid to rest with humility.

The possibilities are endless and the combinations make for a lovable hero every time. Whew. I’m sure glad this doesn’t have to go on my credit card.

Minnesota author, Michelle Griep, has been writing since she first discovered Crayolas and blank wall space. She has homeschooled four children over the past twenty years, and teaches both Civics and Creative Writing for area co-ops. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s debut historical romance, GALLIMORE, released December 15, 2008.