Monday, September 19, 2011

Writing Characters - Hero Style

I. Love. Heroes.

Of course, what's not to love? They're big, protective, complicated and tormented, and sexy as hell. I could read about what's going on in the hero's head and heart from page one to "The End."

And that's why I love to write them, too.

Our theme around here this month is characters. For me, heroes come much easier than heroines, which is maybe odd, of course, since I'm not a guy! But in most of the books I've written, it was the hero who spoke to me first and most consistently. It was the hero whose motivations, backstory and feelings I understood best. It was the hero who I most personally identified with.

My love for writing heroes is part of what led me to write my vampire romance, Forever Freed, in first person point of view from Lucien Demarco's perspective. First-person POV romance is not as common, as you know, because the readers want to see the romantic relationship come together from both sides. And that makes sense. But Lucien insisted that wasn't how his story was to be told. And it truly was his story. The romance is absolutely central, but his character arc is, by far, the most dramatically transformed of the two. And, so, first person point of view...

But, for this story, that was what made the most sense. It allowed me to really delve into the depths of his thoughts, feelings, reactions, and needs. It allowed me to put the reader right into the heart and mind of a vampire and make them sympathize with him when he wasn't always acting good or moral.

Here's a passage that builds empathy for the hero's plight:

I entered my dark parlor, knelt down before the hearth and built a fire. Starvation clawed at my gut. The girl’s unprecedented observation nagged at my mind. I needed a distraction.
Pulling a chair closer to the radiating heat of the fire, I bent and flipped the latches on the antique case. Raising the lid revealed one of the few mementos I permitted myself from my human life. The neck of the reddish-brown instrument filled my hand and felt like the only home I’d ever known. Nothing helped fill my endless time like my violin.
The instrument smelled of pine rosin, reminding me of idyllic days in Italy. Whenever I played, my human memories echoed as loud in my head as the notes sounded in the room.
Any pain those memories brought…well, it was deserved.
Soon, rich yearning tones filled the room. The melancholy of the anniversary hung over me still, and my dire need for sustenance didn’t help. It didn’t take long, therefore, before the image of the smiling blonde girl transformed in my mind’s eye into another girl, with olive skin and chocolate ringlets.
A girl who had once been my whole life.
        A daughter whom I had failed.

Who's not feeling a heart pang after reading that? Now, in this excerpt, we know Lucien's on a very wrong path, but we empathize with why he's behaving this way:

This new source promised freedom from my ancient dependency on the weak blood of animals and the punishing blood of evil-doers. Imagining what that freedom could mean for me, I wound my way through the hospital corridors towards a side exit.
And gasped as I walked into a haze of pure bliss.
A young woman approached the same exit, wearing the green scrubs of a doctor or nurse. Her golden blonde hair hung in a thick braid well past her shoulders. Her arms were tanned and, as I caught up with her, I could see where the sun brought out a light freckling across her upper cheekbones and nose. The color of her eyes was striking—a dazzling blue-green with nearly black edges around the iris. She was young and vital and pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way.
As beautiful as she was, her most remarkable quality had captured my attention in the first place: the extraordinary feelings of joy, affection, gratitude, and contentment washing off her. Her emotions tasted sweet and gripped every part of my body in warmth and pleasure. My borrowed euphoria left me dumbstruck as she hurried through the door and around the hospital drive. The intensity of the feeling diminished in direct correlation to her growing distance from me.
I gasped for more. Having lived without such feelings for so long, this reminder of true unqualified happiness beckoned to me. So I followed her. I stalked her emotions, grateful for the cloud-covered evening, and learned the location of her residence.
And then an unbidden thought entered my brain: If her emotions felt this good, what would it be like to consume her blood?
Certainly I’d feel her regret. But what came out of her would also be life-giving, humanity-restoring, beautiful, and sweet.
The thought of it was intoxicating. She was a temptation of such magnitude, I lost all capacity for reason or rationality. I simply had to have her, had to have that one fleeting feeling of light in the darkness, that one richly sweet moment free from pain and grief.
In that instant, I was so far gone it never occurred to me that my efforts to avoid the blood of bad humans led me to plan to kill a good one.
Driven by the promise of rapturous relief, I lurked around the edges of the beautiful woman’s life that night, but had no opportunity to claim her. She always seemed to be surrounded, as if the humans she knew were equally drawn to her.
I wasn’t interested in taking out others to get to her—hell, going after her at all was unconscionable, violated the rules I’d created to try to bring meaning and structure to my unnatural life. But defying her pull was about as possible as a moth resisting the lure of a flame....

Stalker much? LOL But don't you still feel just the littlest bit of sympathy for his plight? That's selling your character, and making your reader care even when they're misbehaving. And I don't think that would've been as possible without the first-person approach.

Plus, for the vampire lovers among us, who doesn't want to spend the majority of their reading time in the vamp's head? Come on! Tell me I'm wrong!!! LOL

 So, that's my take on characters. For my money, I'd rather read a character-driven story with a more common plot, than a plot-driven story with characters I don't care much about, like, or identify with. What do you think?

Thanks for reading!
Laura Kaye

A multi-published author of paranormal, contemporary and erotic romance, Laura Kaye’s hot, heartfelt stories are all about the universal desire for a place to belong. Laura is the author of the bestselling contemporary romance Hearts in Darkness and the bestselling paranormal romance Forever Freed. Just Gotta Say is Laura’s third published book, and she has a fourth releasing in November 2011. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.


In celebration of the 4-month book birthday of Forever Freed tomorrow, TWRP author Calisa Rhose is interviewing Lucien at her blog and I'm giving away one signed copy of the book! Stop on over on 9/20 and visit me, Calisa, and Lucien!!!


Forever Freed is a dual finalist in the NJRW Golden Leaf Contest for Published Authors in the best first book and best paranormal categories! I'm thrilled!

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