Hugh MacPherson, the historical hero of my book A Desperate Fortune, was probably the most stubborn and difficult man I've ever written, taking "strong and silent" to a new extreme for me, sometimes refusing to speak at all when he was in a scene. And even though I'm writing from Hugh's point of view in this novella, and so at least have a better idea of what's going on in his thoughts (though he's still maddeningly non-talkative), I'm finding his actions and gestures are still more important.
So, in keeping with that train of thought, here's an updated version of what I first wrote at the now-resting group blog The Heroine Addicts way back in 2010:
Around that time, over at All About Romance, Leigh put up a post on The Art of Writing Believable Men that I found really interesting, not only because I happen to agree with a lot of her points, but because it set off a discussion of how men can tell you they love you without ever actually saying the words.
When I was interviewed once at the Historical Tapestry blog and asked about my own heroes, I explained,
“I can only draw from men I’ve known in my own life: my grandfathers, my father, and my husband and my friends, all different men, and yet with certain commonalities. If my heroes tend to be quieter men, it’s because the real men I know don’t go emoting all over the place – as a rule, they don’t talk much at all (though to be fair, I talk so much myself it may just be that they can’t get a word in edgewise). They don’t always say the right things, but they’re there, really there, when you need them the most. They’re dependable, trustworthy, decent, intelligent, honourable men with a good sense of humour. So I give these traits to my own leading men.”
I know there are probably all sorts of men out there who have no problem at all in expressing their feelings or saying "I love you", but in my experience men tend to do things, not say them. It's always a challenge for me as a writer to work in those small, quiet gestures that show what the hero is feeling, or wanting to say. Each hero is different, and how he expresses his feelings in action is different, as well.
Again in my experience, the simplest, smallest thing can show the deepest level of emotion. If my husband brought me flowers, I would be suspicious. But sometimes when we're sitting at the table after dinner and he nudges his sudoku puzzle closer to me so that I can help complete it, then I know he loves me.
That's likely why I love the song "When You Say Nothing At All" so much (here's the Alison Krauss version, played over scenes from the movie Dear Frankie, which is in itself a small masterpiece of how to speak without speaking).
Are your heroes, real-life or otherwise, able to say what they feel? If not, what do they do that translates to "I Love You?" Do you have a favourite scene from a book in which the hero shows the heroine he loves her, without words?