What goes into writing a killer love story? Before you get to the meat of the relationship, you need two strong characters who work as individuals, not just as a couple. So when Katie McGarry started to write Beth’s new love interest in Dare You To, she knew she needed to make the guy interesting and believable. How did she work out what makes good-guy jock Ryan tick? Katie stopped by Figment to give us some insight into how she builds her characters — and how stepping out of her comfort zone helped her overcome writer’s block.
After a few failed attempts to make Isaiah and Beth, secondary characters from my debut novel Pushing the Limits, work as a couple in my second book, Dare You To, I realized that I needed to take a new route with Beth. And that meant a new hero…a new love interest.
So, mentally stuck, I lay upside down in a chair. My feet dangled near the top, my hair cascaded to the floor. The thought process went like this—who’s going to challenge Beth? Obviously a guy who doesn’t share her fascination with having a potty mouth. A guy from a supposedly great home with a great upbringing. Dear Lord, he’d have to be strong and patient to keep up with her, but more importantly he needed to be “perfect” on the outside and hide his demons inside.
Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to find another conflict for this new hero. Searching Beth’s past told me she’d have a prejudice against anyone who plays sports because of a previous bad experience with a jock. So who better to pair her with than a jock who defies all her expectations? Add all of this together and Ryan was born.
With the blood still dripping to my face, I turned to my husband and said, “You need to teach me baseball.”
I knew nothing about baseball, not a thing, so I threw myself into it. I spent long hours talking to my husband not only about the sport, but why he chose to play the game. We watched baseball movie after baseball movie and I’ll admit that my favorite was Field of Dreams.
After years of avoiding playing the game, I let my husband teach me how to hit a ball and he also attempted to teach me how to pitch.
A particular scene in Dare You To caused me to branch out in my research. Ryan was going to attend pitch lessons at a training facility and I had no idea what happened at a lesson or what a training facility was like. I found a local training facility, contacted them, and spent an evening doing two very important things: asking questions and observing.
I absorbed the sights and the sounds. The vibrations of the bat cracking against the ball. I inhaled the smells and more importantly, I listened. In these moments, trying to blend into the paint is awesome. When people forget you’re there, you hear important things.
I listened to the coaches talk to the teenagers. They broke down the lessons to their individual level. They talked to them about what pitching or hitting should feel like when it’s wrong and right and they encouraged them. But what I really saw was the soul of baseball.
In this warehouse, I watched as baseball stopped just being a sport and became a living breathing soul. This game meant something not only to the coaches, but to the players. It was as much a part of them as their arms and legs.
Being there, seeing how their eyes shined when they talked about their love of the sport, seeing how baseball was as crucial to them as breathing…it changed the course of my story because it made Ryan come alive.