Saturday, August 25, 2007

What's in a Man?

 As romance writers, we have the undeniable pleasure of bringing the men of our dreams to life. This is what drew me to writing love stories to begin with. I wanted to bring my daydreams as close to live and living color as possible. Wouldn’t it be fun? How hard could it be?
I knew from the start my heroes would have to be as irresistible as fiction’s favorites. Historically, my heroes would be competing with the likes of Jane Austen’s deliciously broody Mr. Darcy and Margaret Mitchell’s simply irresistible Rhett Butler. In the contemporary world of romance, my boys would have to go up against the unswerving devotion of Nicholas Sparks’ Noah Calhoun and Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb’s most insurmountable and fascinating leading man, Roarke—for me, this name is synonymous to perfection.
My first hero, a young, World War II Air Force lieutenant named Charles Tyler was too much of a boy. He was almost too wimpy, and I quickly grew tired of him. I had to revise the entire book just to give him some “meat”—a tasty term for muscle as well as grit and fortitude. My second attempt, an Italian man named Alex Cappollo, was far too moody and complicated. As the heroine became increasingly exasperated with him, my own consternation began to churn.
Third time’s the charm, they say. For me, this was fortunately right on the mark. I was writing a contemporary romance about two wronged jewel thieves who form an unlikely partnership and eventually end up falling hopelessly for each other. This brought me face-to-face with Todd Orso.
Todd has all the ingredients for “dreamy.” He’s from Texas, and his yummy accent just can’t be beat. I’m not referring to George W. Bush twang here. It’s more rugged and sophisticated than that. Not only is my heroine, Celestia, melting on the spot; I’m getting pretty hyped up just writing the dialogue! The voice is just one of the delectable things about Todd. He has a penchant for worn jeans and whiskey and has a striking resemblance to Brad Pitt. (“Coincidence? I think not!”)
It’s pretty much love at first sight for Celestia…and me. I know she’s a goner because I am. It’s a good thing this man is fiction because he might give my husband a good run for his money if he showed up on my real welcome mat.
Since I finished my third novel, I’ve found it easier to create several different intriguing heroes. Cole Savitt, a haunted cop in search of solace. Gerald Leighton, a British writer on a quest for the perfect muse. Mark Welles, a burned-out bodyguard determined to protect a hunted woman. Brock Sullivan, an Alabama boy who does everything he can to wrangle the heart of a stubborn, childhood sweetheart. They get better and better every time. They are a joy to write. They are one of the main reasons I eagerly sit down at my desk every morning and stay there as long as I possibly can—on lucky days, that’s until after midnight!
I believe that a writer can only make readers love his/her characters if he/she truly does. A writer’s affection for his/her protagonists shows. When I entered Lt. Charles Tyler’s revised story into a summer contest, a judge commented on my score sheet, “I see your heart in it, so please keep at it!”
Love your characters. Have fun writing them. I can guarantee, when they finally do get the recognition they deserve, the reward will be all the sweeter because of it.

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