Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Writing the Silent Cowboy

As far as writing is concerned, I love a good challenge. When Judd Black from Blackest Heart walked into my head, it was like match to kindling. As I got to know him, I realized that I had to go about writing him carefully because Judd is more than just your average cowboy hero. He’s deep and damaged by a history that’s a mystery through most of the story, and Judd Black also happens to be the silent cowboy of Wayback, Texas. Writing a mute character would be no easy pursuit.

I was stunned when he turned out stronger than any hero before him. There’s something special about characters with disabilities. Whether their mute, blind (like Christina Dodd’s heroine in Candle in the Window), or physically disabled (as in Catherine Anderson’s heroine from Phantom Waltz who is confined to a wheelchair), they give the story a new layer of vulnerability and, at the same time, strength of character, creating all-around intrigue.

I’d never read a romance about a mute character so the territory was completely new. But I realized early that Judd is strong as well as empathetic and, the greatest discovery of all, unexpectedly seductive. The heroine, Stella, can’t stop thinking about him though sympathy has nothing to do with it. Her recent trauma and need for isolation melds well with his black past and loner bent and they grow together from there on an emotional as well as a hot physical level more quickly and easily than I ever expected.

Another advantage to Judd’s silent character: the actual writing grew stronger. I like to think dialogue is one of my strengths. It was the showing of emotions that I hadn’t spent as much time or thought on. Judd gave me the perfect opportunity to fix that. There were scenes in which the only way I could show the reader what he was feeling was by the expression on his face or his actions. Take this scene from Stella’s POV:

The amusement in his eyes had faded. They’d lifted to the scars she’d left exposed by combing her hair back from her face. His thumb traced the smooth, jagged line, tracing it to the corner of her eye.
She tried to read his face. The tender moment between them intensified. The tingles deepened. Though she wanted to turn his attention away from those imperfections on her face, she drew comfort from his whispering touch. His eyes darkened. There was anger there now. He was angry she’d been hurt. Her heart picked up pace, welcoming his fury.

Though Judd never speaks and we never get a glimpse into his head, we know what he’s feeling. His soft touch and attention to her scars shows an unexpected care and tenderness. His eyes grow stormy as he traces them, giving us a glimpse of deeper feelings, anger that she’s been hurt as well as an overwhelming protective urging she’s drawn to.

I was concerned that his lack of loquaciousness would hinder their physical relationship as well. My favorite predicament between a hero and heroine (and one played out oft in my stories) is the heated verbal, on the verge of physical, argument in which the characters are trying very hard to prove they don’t like each other when really they’re reacting to the fact that they, for some God-awful reason, actually do. It’s fun and works well to heighten emotional as well as sexual tension. But as seen in the following exclusive excerpt, all Judd’s disability did was drive me to seek other means to fan the flames:

She recognized the broad back and thick, black hair. Breathing a sigh of relief, she walked up to him. “You all right?” she asked when she was within hearing distance.
His head whirled around, his brows perking up in surprise at the sight of her. As she rounded the bench he was resting on, she saw he was wrapping tape around the hand Jack had tried to rip off. “That was a rough ride,” she said. She felt like an idiot. Of course, he knew that—better than anyone.
He nodded, dropping his attention back to the tape.
“Here, let me do that,” she said, stepping to him. He didn’t resist the hand that reached out to take his and the roll of medical tape. They were both silent as she wrapped his wrist, palm and thumb tight. Using her teeth to tear the tape, she bent her head down close to his to break it in two. She secured the bandaging and raised her eyes to his.
God, they were gorgeous. She’d never seen eyes that deep or rich. Their multihued depths left her throat bone dry. Her heart raced somewhere between her uvula and chest cavity. “That better?” she asked, voice no more than a hoarse murmur.
He nodded slightly, eyes searching hers. Had she ever noticed how full his lips were? She licked her own and watched his gaze travel down over them.
She sucked in a sharp breath and stood up, taking a step back from him. Jesus, she felt like horny teenager. She shook her head to clear it. “I just came back to make sure you’re okay.”
His brows quirked up again in surprise. She shoved her hands in her jeans pockets, feeling awkward. “That hand going to be all right?”
She was relieved when his gaze dropped from her face to his hand, unable to breathe right when he looked at her. He twisted his wrist around and ran his good hand over his thumb and wrist. She’d never really noticed how thick both were, how dark.
Swallowing hard to wet her throat though her saliva was still missing, words bubbled up on her tongue. She pushed them out on impulse. “Do you want to go to the party with me tonight?”
This time when his gaze rose to hers there was genuine shock on his face. He recovered after a moment, narrowing his eyes.
She shrugged and let out a nervous laugh. “Keefe couldn’t keep a secret to save his life.”
He studied her face for a long moment. As she waited on tenterhooks, her face grew hot. Her palms were slick with sweat…and not from the heat.
Yep, she was definitely reverting back to those unsteady, tempestuous adolescent years.
A smile moved over his mouth, stunning her. Her heart jittered hopefully. Standing, he closed the gap she’d put between them. She wanted to press her mouth over the curved line of his. Body humming from his closeness, she realized breathless inches separated them. She hadn’t felt this hot since her last fever.

Want more silent cowboy? Hop on over to The Wild Rose Press to purchase your copy of Blackest Heart, the latest addition to TWRP’s Wayback, TX series “Where A Cowboy Falls In Love Every Eight Seconds!”

Ride Back to Wayback:


For more excerpts and the book trailer, scroll on down and enjoy more sneak peaks :)


Helen Hardt said...

Amber, there's nothing quite like a silent cowboy! Congratulations on your Wayback release. I'm looking forward to reading it!


Amber Leigh Williams said...

Thanks so much, Helen! Happy Thanksgiving!


Amber Leigh Williams
Romance Across the Genres
Anytime! Anyplace! Anywhere!

K.T. Bishop said...

See that you've been on a run lately. Good excerpt.
Check out my latest interview:

Anne Carrole said...

Congrats on your Wayback release--I can tell from the excerpt it is a fine addition to the corral!:) Can't wait to read it!


I just bought this book and will start reading it tonight.


Amber Leigh Williams said...

Thanks so much, Loretta! Let me know if you enjoy it :)