I was going to discuss those irritating “kick ass” heroines today, and I do plan to very soon. But I was thinking about a question someone else asked somewhere else (if I can be any vaguer than that, please tell me and I will try) and decided to discuss that instead. Mainly because I’m not feeling very ranty. I’m tired and a little pensive and my MIL arrives tomorrow for the weekend so I’m apprehensive about that.
So here’s what I was wondering. When you write a hero (or, if you are a man, when you write a heroine) do you fall in love with them?
I do, at least to some extent. I have to. I can’t write a hero effectively if he doesn’t have at least some qualities that I admire or am attracted to or, you know, obsessed with or whatever.
A while ago I had a story in mind. I had an opening scene. It was a pretty good scene. It was a pretty good story. But the hero…I just couldn’t get into him. He was too much of a crusader. He cared too much about the poor and unfortunate. I just don’t find that sexy.
Which makes me sound kind of shitty, I guess, but I can’t help it. It’s not that my heroes don’t care about stuff, but the way this guy kept coming off was like some sort of Francis of Assisi or something. The kind of guy who would follow those silly permission guidelines that some college (I keep wanting to say Oberlin; am I right?) instituted in the early 90’s. You remember, the one where anytime anyone wanted to touch anything or remove any clothing they had to ask first?
This isn’t yet another discussion of manly heroes, though. It’s more about what kinds of characters we write and why. I think there can tend to be an idea that if you’re writing romantic heroes that you’re in love with, you’re basically writing a Mary Sue heroines to go with them, a thin stand-in for yourself so you can have this fantasy relationship with your perfect hero. That a real writer doesn’t fall in love with their hero because they’re writing someone who is perfect for their heroine, not for themselves. (And this is just the way my thoughts ran, it certainly wasn’t suggested or implied by anyone at this other place.)
I don’t think that’s true, though, at all. Perhaps I’m just not talented enough, but to write a character really effectively I think I need to either love them or hate them. I need to feel strongly about them in order to convey them strongly on the page, if you know what I mean.
I fall in love with the heroines a little bit, too, though. Not in the same way, of course. But isn’t making a new friend a little like falling in love? First you’re interested in the other person, then you want to get to know them better, and you get together, and then maybe start talking on the phone, and at some point you do go through that same “falling in love” thing where they’re basically the only person you want to talk to because it’s so much fun to talk to them, as you learn all about them and they learn everything about you.
That’s how it is with the heroines. Some of the things they do might irritate me but generally I admire and like them. I want to hang out with them. And–and this is something I’ll go into another time–I get a little irritated when people say writers inject too much of themselves into a character. I’m a pretty complex kind of a lady. I have a lot of interests and a lot of opinions, and when you get right down to it, how many character traits are there out there that we don’t all possess in ourselves?
So in a very roundabout way I guess that’s the crux of the thing. When you write, how much of yourself are you investing? Do you have to love or hate your characters-does it make it more fun when you do?
And I almost forgot: a big huge Congratulations! to my great friend SW Vaughn, who sold a romantic suspense novel to Wild Child Publishing! No release date yet, but I’m very excited for her!