Creativity with Historical Details

Rice_Christmas200I’m at that stage of a book when I’m playing with characters, plot ideas, and digging into history for the mortar that holds historical romance together. And no, I don’t do wallpaper paste.

I realize readers often complain that historical romance has been reduced to costume dressing and wallpaper setting. I assume there must be some truth to that, but in the books I read, research surfaces in the details that readers might overlook or dismiss as fictional.

Just for one small example—Amanda Quick’s most recent historical Otherwise Engaged in which the heroine uses a Japanese tessen. How many of you had ever heard of a war fan before you read that book (or this blog)? 

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Ask A Wench — Secondary Characters

Hi all, Anne here, introducing a new occasional feature of Word Wenchery — Ask a Wench. As many of you know, we invite people to submit questions to the wenches, and if a wench chooses your question to answer, you'll win a free book.  We have a long list of these questions, however some are not sufficiently meaty to fill a whole blog. But we don't want to ignore you, so in "Ask a Wench" we'll pose just one question, and give a variety of wenchly responses to it. CatchBride40k

To start AAW off, we've chosen a question sent in by Susan Klinger: "Has there ever been a secondary character who has surprised you and sprung to life so forcefully that s/he has jumped up, grabbed you by the throat, and demanded his/her own book?"   (For this question Susan wins a copy of my latest book TO CATCH A BRIDE)

So, over to the wenches… 

Rake&refrmr Mary Jo said : Susan, my mental imagery is much less vivid than that—I tend to think in terms of “a secondary guy got really interesting and I wanted to work out his story,” but indeed, it happens regularly.  And it’s always a guy. <G> 

The first time this happened was in my very first book, The Diabolical Baron, when the semi-villainous cousin, Reginald Davenport, showed unexpected signs of decency and humor at the end.  Friends loved him because he was a bad boy, I pondered and realized his bad behavior always came when he’d been drinking, and voila!  I wrote my alcoholic book, The Rake and the Reformer.Shattrdrainbws

On another occasion, the brother of the hero of Shattered Rainbows moved from wallpaper to three dimensions toward the end of the book.  Stephen Kenyon’s story became my death and dying romance, One Perfect Rose.  The whole plotline of running away from home and joining a traveling theater company was inspired by Stephen making a remark about “Shakespearean tragedy” in Shattered Rainbows. Who knew my duke loved the theater? <G>   
 
 
And so it goes.  I don’t want to waste a good man! MJP.

Note from Anne: (There's an excerpt here from Shattered Rainbows)

Spywrsilk  Andrea said:

You would think that we could make our secondary characters behave, but against all reason, they often manage to take on a life of their own. In my most recent trilogy, the three heroines—who were all trained at a secret school for female spies— were the stars. Or so I thought. However, Alexandr Orlov had  other ideas.Seduced By A Spy

I had fully intended to keep him in the shadows, playing the role of a cynical nobleman whose motives are shrouded in mystery. He was meant merely to tease, to tantalize the heroines with hints that he might be in league with the villain they sought. Did he stay in character? Hell, no. He displayed such rakish wit, seductive charm  and swashbuckling charisma that when it came to writing the second book of the series, I simply couldn’t refuse his demand to strut his stuff (he’s a rather cocky fellow) as the leading man.

As it turned out that I was wise to listen to his husky murmurs—he’s turned out to be one of my favorite heroes. (You may read his story in ‘Seduced By A Spy’, written under my Andrea Pickens nom de plume. There's an excerpt here.)

MagicMan200 From Pat

Over the years, I’ve had a number of secondary characters spring to life and demand their own books. Sometimes I could oblige. Others, I unfortunately could not. I’d have to say one of the most forceful of those characters was Aidan in my MAGIC series. He simply walked out of the mists, onto the page, and completely took over a scene I was writing. I had no idea he existed until then, and over the course of the six-book series, he was enigmatic, mysterious, and thoroughly fascinating until I had no choice but to tell his story.  I love it when that happens!

From Anne:

I always have trouble with secondary characters wanting to take over a book or a scene and I usually have to prune them b
ack. I have particular trouble with eccentric dowagers, although they don't usually demand their own stories.  But I have had secondary characters demanding their own stories, and, as Mary Jo said, it's usually a man who does it, though not always. (I once had a small girl who wanted her own story once she grew up. She got it in Perfect Kiss, the fourth book in a series advertised as a trilogy.)The Perfect Kiss

 It even happened with the very first book I wrote (Gallant Waif) when the hero's best friend arrived on the scene and started to act heroic. In fact I had to prune him back quite severely so he didn't out-hero the hero!

I went to write his story in the next book, but the heroine I'd picked wasn't right for him and that hero morphed into someone different. I tried several more times and each time, because the heroine wasn't right for him, he morphed into someone else. It was very annoying because at the same time he (and readers) kept asking for his story.

Waif_us I was talking about this with a writer friend of mine and she said: "Francis is so self-assured and in control — what he needs is a heroine who doesn't play by his rules." And she was right.  Almost instantly a heroine popped into my head; a dusty little street-urchin who was a long lost daughter of an aristocratic family. And when my cool, in-command hero attempts to rescue her, she refuses — for very good reasons. So I had my heroine and the bones of my story, but I'd left that publisher and had started a new series by then.

However that story and that hero and heroine kept nagging at me to be written, so I changed his name, gave him a slightly different background and friends, and put him in my new book, with the heroine I'd dreamed up for him all those years ago. The book is called TO CATCH A BRIDE, he's now called Rafe, but in many ways, he's the same character, and finally his story has been told, and I'm so pleased it has. If you want to read an excerpt click here.

So it seems a number of us have encountered secondary characters who demand a book of their own, contrary to our initial plans for them. And some of those characters have got their books, others haven't.

What about you? Have you encountered (or written) any secondary characters who you'd love to see in a book of their own? And which is your favorite secondary-character-to-hero story? I think mine is Dancing With Clara, an old Mary Balogh book, where Frederick, the bad guy from Tempting Harriet becomes the hero.