Every writer is perhaps familiar with the process of character development depicted in the current film “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” From the human element that surrounds him, Charles Dickens collects names, overhears snatches of conversation, and observes quirks, all of which are transformed by the alchemy of story writing into memorable characters, like Ebenezer Scrooge.
With each new book the romance writer faces the challenge of creating a heroine and hero for her readers to love. How does she do it? I can tell you how it works for me.
My heroine begins in my head by standing up to someone in power or authority or by facing a circumstance that threatens her. I like a heroine who finds, as her sister-in-fiction Elizabeth Bennet does, that "my courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me.”
Once my heroine has spoken in my head, I must find a name that suits her. I try on names until the right one clicks. Because she does not live entirely in my head, my heroine must have a face and figure, eyes and a nose, a chin and mouth, and hair color. She has a way of dressing and a demeanor. Each of those details is an opportunity to cast her as the sort of heroine who holds things together, like Eleanor Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility, or the sort of heroine who shakes things up, like Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy. Pictures help my image of the heroine take shape, like this one that suggests Jane Fawkener’s clear-eyed estimate of her fallen hero, Lord Hazelwood.
You can meet Jane in the first Husband Hunter book, coming January 2 from Lyrical Press—The Husband Hunter’s Guide to London. Alone in London, with her British agent father missing and her family in disarray, Jane finds herself in an unlikely partnership with the disgraced Viscount Hazelwood, a spy.
Because heroines are never the only women in the hero’s life, or the reader’s, a writer must distinguish them from other women. Above all the heroine is the “alert consciousness” at the center of the book, the one who feels things and changes and grows. She’s perceptive. She has integrity. She’s resilient. She has a sense of humor and cares about the people in her life, even those who are difficult to love. She doesn’t have a lot of sexual experience, but she has sense enough to listen to her body and to distinguish between a shiver of awareness and a shudder of revulsion. Even if she has no immediate goal at the beginning of the story, she discovers what she’s meant to be doing, and prompted by love and courage, she acts.
RT says: “Kate Moore introduces readers to the cutthroat world of husband hunting in London and a heroine who refuses to accept marriage as her only fate. The female protagonist radiates with a quiet strength and is clever while maintaining her genteel ways."
I love to hear from readers. Let me know whether you prefer the heroine who’s “holding things together” or the one who’s “shaking things up.”