Perfect Heroes?

Bbookowl_1 From Pat Rice:

Merry asked a great question in response to Loretta’s post:  what makes a character memorable?

      I have a lamentable memory for names and titles, but I can recall great characters all day long.  I might not remember his name, but I remember the hero of a romance who appeared to be lazily lying about in a hammock drinking beer and rotting away, when he was actually sharply analyzing his life and what had happened to him and how to correct it.  And proceeded to do so, with a great deal of humor. That hero made me laugh and cry.

          As I mentioned in my earlier comment, there is Laura Kinsale’s hero from FLOWERS IN THE STORM, who suffers a stroke, transforming his tremendous arrogance and genius to incoherence. He’s reduced to accepting aid from a heroine he would never have noticed in his prior life, and when she helped him get his life back, he didn’t return to his previous arrogance but realized she was more important than all the things he had previously loved.  That one seared my heart.

         But I think—for me—what makes a character most memorable is the immensity of the flaw he must overcome.  The larger the flaw, and the more he/she has to suffer to overcome it, the more I admire them. Think of Rochester’s tremendous pride and how he was brought down and suffered.

        So apparently I don’t need righteous things like honor or nobility to enjoy a character—I like flaws.  Figures.  But beneath the flaws, the character needs a strength and nobility of character to overcome the flaw, so maybe there’s hope for me yet.  I just have difficulty buying into perfect heroes.  I think perfect heroes need to have suffered to have learned to make the choices that make them noble.

                       Since I seem to be on a hero kick, how do you like your heroes?  Besides hot, I mean. Smileylove_2  Do you want them perfect?  Wounded?  Flawed?  Do they have to be beautiful? How about nerdy?

Historical wallpaper

Magicman_2 From Patricia Rice:

Susan/Miranda started a thread I’d like to comment on, and I’m posting it here to keep the thread going. (and I’m playing with images, forgive me!)

When I first started reading historical romance, I was awed by the immense amount of details in books written by Anita Mills or Roberta Gellis or any number of other amazing writers.  I soaked in the historical ambiance like a dry sponge–which I was.  I used to research history for the fun of it, so soaking it up through fiction was thrilling.  But I was fairly uneducated in a great deal of history. If there were any anachronisms in the books I was reading, I didn’t know it.  I read for story, for romance, for wonderful characters. I was quite happy with romances that didn’t have much history.  The history was just a fun bonus.

When I first started writing historical romance, I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of research required.  So I began that book in the rural area where I lived, figuring the local library would at least carry local history.  I had limited resources, and this was before the days of the internet or big bookstores.  I suppose my historical research was doomed from the start.  Smileysmile_1 I had too many things I wanted to read about, too little time, and too little access.

All of which leads up to my saying that I don’t mind “historical-lite” as long as it’s done well.  I do mind contemporary characters in costumes.  I do mind egregious errors in fact.  I’m not thrilled with 250 pages of sex and drool, because I want story and characterization. “Romance” isn’t just about sex, it’s about relationships—how the characters deal with the realities of their lives and families and make the romance work. But if an author can give me those qualities I want, I don’t need to know how a mill wheel turns. 

But I believe our “littlest wenchling” is correct. Today’s younger readers haven’t had the same access to those older historicals, and in most cases, they haven’t had history taught to them in schools. They don’t know the terms “viscount” or the rules of engagement.  So, as writers, we have to decide if we want to write the detailed history we love—and explain it—or simply use history as wallpaper.  I’m sure there is some combination in between that we can achieve, but it’s a delicate balance.

Mostly, I believe historical romance needs to reflect a different time and place than the one we live in, a time when strange things can happen, a place where the wonderful and horrible might occur.  We want surprise, fantasy, horror—in other words, we want our emotions engaged.  If our minds are engaged as well, that’s a bonus.Purpleman_1

Does this mean that in the near future, we need to start separating true “historicals” from our “fantasy” romances?  Or is there some manner in which publishers can indicate which type of book it is so the purists can have what they want, and the romance readers can indulge without a qualm? Do we, as writers, owe it to our readers to separate the two, or are we allowed to muddy the waters?



We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,

These are the words that begin the document that is the basis for our Fourth of July celebration. The final version signed on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia by the Second Continental Congress did not end or begin the Revolutionary War, but simply and clearly stated that we are a free country–consequently severing our ties with the British crown for a long list of reasons.  Everyone should read the document in its entirety at some time in their lives, and feel in their hearts what those courageous men were feeling the day they signed their names to such a world-shattering piece of paper.            Wwlibertybellgif

The first declaration was greeted with bell ringing and bonfires in Philadelphia. The anniversary a year later was greeted by celebratons and fireworks in the same city.  The holiday spread rapidly and eventually became our day of leisure with barbecues and swimming pools and picnics, topped by the tradtional fireworks. 

I hope everyone has a wonderful, joyous, and safe Fourth, but I also hope that some time during the day, you stop and give thanks to the fathers of this country, the men of wisdom and courage who stood up and shouted THIS IS WRONG and then—did something about it. We owe them to never forget, and to follow bravely in their footsteps, always bearing in mind that all men are created equal, with the right to pursue freedom and happiness.    Wwbbqgif

Celebration Time

I’m starting a new book and having way more fun than should be allowed, so I thought I’d set off a few firecrackers early.  I adore the 4th of July and it’s never too early to celebrate! 


I’m throwing in that comment to make up for the other 360 days a year when I whine and bellyache and make like writing is such a mindbending, backbreaking profession.  Let’s face it, we’re being paid to make up lies for a living.  How much better can it get than that?  On top of lying for a living, we can throw ex-spouses, back-stabbing friends, and old bosses into the book and blow them up and torture them if we like.  Writing is what happens when you spend too much time daydreaming!Wwnightfireworksgif

    And since today is an unusually gorgeous day, I can take my pen and paper out to the patio or courtyard and scribble and rock while I work, listening to the birds cheap, watching the chipmunks scamper… until the neighbor turns on his leaf blower anyway.

    I know the heat and humidity will return tomorrow and my editor will call and ask just what I was thinking when I made the heroine smack the hero in front of an audience and my agent will call and tell me my new proposal is unmarketable, but in the meantime, Happy Fourth, Happy Birthday Whoever, Happy Life Everyone!

               And for the gardeners among you, here’s my ash tree… (Now, if only I could make these images stay where I put them instead of lining up like little soldiers…)    Ashtree2


   Professor Pat patters up to the podium. Whack, goes the gavel. “Class, come to order. I have been asked—for the thousandth time—how to switch point of view within a scene.  I thought I’d taught you that there is no Right way to Write.”

   Perky Pam waves her hand.  “But we were taught that headhopping is punishable by firing squad. It dilutes the emotional tension!”

   “Shoot that woman.” Professor Pat gestures to the firing squad. “Perky isn’t allowed here—but blatant self-promotion is,” she adds pertly. 

   Okay, so I was preparing an answer to a FAQ when it occurred to me that I could kill two birds with one stone, or two writers with one quill, or whatever metaphor you want to mangle today.  I have had people (including copyeditors who ought to know better) complain about my nasty habit of changing POVs without warning in the middle of a scene.  Since I examine all my work inside out and upside down, I have concluded I generally start doing this right about the time the couple start working together, so I’m quite happy to leave my style just as it is.  Pinkmanheart

   As the song says, there are a million ways to leave your point of view… The below excerpt at about the first quarter point of MAGIC MAN (Signet Eclipse—ON SALE 6/30 <G>) shows just one of many:

“If we could harness all the energy in this room,” Mr. Dougal murmured, leaning his elbow on the top of the secretary and speaking so only Mora could hear, “we could power Ewen’s flying machine.”

She fully understood his reference to energy.  The room bristled with primal vibrations that seemed to be affecting her as well.  She was amazed that their thoughts took parallel paths. “Flying machine?” she asked faintly, his closeness reducing the room to the two of them.

“I’ll show you later. Did they pry the rest of the message from you?”

She nodded.  “I’m sorry.  If it applies to their family, and there’s some real danger, I thought I must.”

“Let’s make the best of it, then,” he said without reproof.

Before she could question him further, he spoke loudly to break the chatter filling the salon.  “If we divide up for a search, I recommend the ladies stay in pairs.  If Felicity and Leila are confined to this floor, then Ninian should help Christina search the tower, if only to keep Drogo from flinging the duchess out of it.  Ewen, you take the public rooms downstairs.  Dunstan, the servants’ quarters and greenhouse.”

“That leaves Mora without a partner,” Christina pointed out.

“She and I will search the walls for hiding places,” he said with satisfaction.

Dunstan and Ewen hooted and whistled knowingly.  The ladies exchanged laughing looks.  Aidan disregarded the provocation.  He’d accomplished what he wanted.  Miss Abbott was looking at him with admiration and a hint of surprise.


   How do you like the way Mr. Dougal took command of that scene right out of our heroine’s hands? Head?

   Headhopping may dilute emotional intensity, but who in heck wants to be deep down in someone’s head or heart all the time?  It’s much more fun to see how they react against each other sometimes.

   See, be very wary what you ask me.  I just might tell you.