Tuesday, August 20, 2013
When I first get an idea for a new story, it often originates with a character. It may be the hero or heroine. Sometimes they pop up in a fully envisioned scene or situation. And other times they come into existence with nothing more than a single specific trait or motivation. From there I ask myself a series of questions (Who are they? Where did they come from? Why are they there? What do they want? And so on and so on…) until I am able to flesh them out and get a sense of who they are in the world.
When it comes to plot, depending on what aspect of the character I discovered first, I may already have an idea of what type of conflict surrounds them, what danger lurks in their attic, or what they want most in life. But sometimes the plot must grow out of the relationship between the hero and heroine. We are talking about Romance after all!
Either way, perhaps the most important step in developing a new story (and certainly one of the most enjoyable for me) is in discovering that first character’s perfect romantic match.
When I was writing ROGUE COUNTESS, I knew right away that the heroine’s best friend, the wicked and irreverent Leif Riley, would need a story of his own. He was just too handsome, too arrogantly sure of himself, and way too naughty not to imagine him getting flipped on his arse by the right woman.
But who was she?
In considering any character’s ultimate mate, I want someone who will challenge them as much as they intrigue them. Someone who pushes them out of their comfort zone and forces them to be honest with themselves about who they really are. The perfect romantic counterpart has to be the one person capable of revealing some vital truth that the hero/heroine has never acknowledged before. To me, that is what makes a romance powerful and the relationship between the hero and heroine super sexy.
So when it comes time to create this person, I ask myself who might embody traits that are the exact opposite to my originating hero/heroine? If my heroine is a free-spirited eccentric, then perhaps her match might be someone steeped in tradition. If I have a hero who is reckless and more than a little wicked, maybe he needs someone unsophisticated and untarnished by the vices he has lived with so long.
In RECKLESS VISCOUNT, Leif Riley is an unrepentant scoundrel and womanizer. For him, sex has always been a means to an end. His intimate relationships are a matter of business and the skills of his trade; seduction and manipulation. Then he meets Abbigael Granger and discovers the only woman who rouses his passions to a point that he forgets to follow his own rules. Unfortunately, the innocent Irish debutante is on a serious mission to find a suitable husband, and Leif is as far from that as a man can get. She wants security, loyalty and a family of her own. All Leif can offer is a momentary diversion into a realm of sensual thrills where a girl intent on a respectable marriage dare not tread.
In romance, conflict is what sparks passion and ignites the change that must occur in our hero and heroine if they are to overcome the obstacles that limit their happiness. But conflict cannot be all there is. When two people are meant to be together, there has to be an undeniable thread of harmony that exists between them. It may not be visible at first, but it constantly draws them to each other despite their differences or cross-purposes. Discovering that connection as they challenge each other to reveal their own personal truths is what makes the hero and heroine fall in love.
Though Leif has always been certain of his goal to finance the restoration of his family legacy, in coming together with Abbigael, he is exposed to feelings he did not know he was capable of. This shoves him from his plotted path and forces him to consider his life in a new light. He starts to see in Abbigael the kindred spirit of someone who has also been judged unfairly by those close to them. With each other, they do not need to keep up the pretenses they developed to protect themselves. Their bond forms through a mutual sense of being alone together against the rest of the world.
Of course, this kind of revelation does not happen right away. In learning to trust each other, the hero and heroine first have to discover the truths they kept hidden within themselves. It is through their relationship with each other that this becomes possible as they realize that in spite of the differences which appeared to stand between them, buried beneath the surface, they are not so different from each other after all.
Here is an excerpt from RECKLESS VISCOUNT in which Leif encounters Abbigael for the first time. The differences between them are obvious, but there is something in their interaction that hints at the way they are attuned to each other on a level they are not yet aware of.
She was not a beauty by any means. At least not in comparison to the stylish ladies currently gracing the drawing rooms of London. Her forehead was a touch too high, but her arching brows, pert little nose and the soft bow of her mouth lent her an other-worldly attractiveness. There was even a constellation of pale freckles scattered across the bridge of her nose and the crests of her fine cheekbones.
No, not a collection of features that would bring her acclaim as a great beauty, but there might be some who managed to see past the oddness of the delicate details to appreciate their uniqueness.
The eyes, he realized belatedly, were easily the most unusual of her features. A green so pale and bright they seemed to be lit from within. They reminded him of the sea on those rare days when the brightness of the sun washed away the darker blues, leaving behind a crystal purity unmatched by even the most precious gems.
Uncomfortable with the poetic bend of his thoughts, Leif allowed his gaze to dip below her neckline. Just long enough to note that if he’d had a champagne glass, he could have proven that her breasts had the potential to rival the perfection of Marie Antoinette’s iconic bosom.
He broadened his smile into a roguish grin and was pleased to see her sea-foam gaze flicker in reaction. Enjoying the stunned look on her interesting face, he decided to see how far he could push the encounter. He gestured toward the door behind her with a sharp nod of his head and repeated his question.
She opened her lovely mouth as if to speak. When no sound came out, she closed it, took a deep breath and tried again. This time when there was no sound, she clamped her lips shut and eyed him warily. A subtle crease found its place between her brows.
The women of Leif’s acquaintance would not be caught dead displaying such an artless combination of embarrassment and helpless pride.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to call you out for misbehaving. I happen to appreciate bad behavior.” He smiled at her guarded expression. “Especially in fair ladies.”
“No,” she interjected abruptly. Her cheeks blushed a bright pink, and instead of detracting from her appearance, it made her more endearing. “You do not understand. It’s not…it is not what it looks like.”
There was a thread of emotional strain in her voice. Strain and the delightful lilt of an Irish brogue that unfurled in a lovely cadence.
He felt an urge to put her at ease, but he was not the comforting sort.
He cocked an eyebrow in disbelief. “You weren’t listening intently at that door just a moment ago?”
The woman’s stiff spine slumped just a touch before she straightened again. She waved a slim-fingered hand toward the door at her back with a graceful turn of her elbow.
“Well, obviously I was listening, but it was with no malicious intent, I swear it.”
“You were drawn in by irresistible curiosity, then?” he teased.
The woman licked her lips and her pale-green eyes slid to the side as she tried to find a way to answer him without incriminating herself any further.
“They must be talking about me again.” He offered with a swaggering grin that usually made women twitter with captivated interest. “You can admit it. I am a fascinating subject. But whatever they are saying, it is only half true. The more scandalous half, they know absolutely nothing about.”
His charm had no effect on the girl as she pursed her lush lips in growing distress and shook her head. A few strands of strawberry-blonde hair slid from her chignon to caress her pale cheeks.
“No, not you,” she insisted with a note of distraction. She paused to draw a swift breath and her hands fluttered before she clasped them together and continued in a nervous rush of words. “I do not even know who you are. They are talking about me. About my future. Or rather, whether or not I am to have a chance at a future.”
The smooth feminine texture of her faint accent slid like soft silk over Leif’s senses. If it were possible to bathe in the warmth of the rolling and dipping sounds he would have stripped naked then and there.
“Of course,” she went on, her anxiety seeming to loosen her tongue, “I would not typically listen so rudely to a discussion clearly meant to be private. Such behavior is simply inexcusable. It is just that…the conversation currently taking place in that room is infinitely important. At least to me,” she added slowly as her elfish features folded into a fierce little frown and she tilted her head to eye him critically. “But you don’t really care about any of that, do you?”
Leif blinked, jolted by her sudden sharp perception. In truth, he had only been half-listening to her run off of words. Why did women always feel such a need to explain everything? The entire time she had been talking, his attention had been ensnared by the movement of her lips, the full bottom one in particular, the delightful nervousness in her fluttering hands and the way that in spite of her obvious innocence and utter lack of social polish, or perhaps because of them, she kept her pale-green eyes fastened to his face.
Forcing himself to recall what she had said, he saw no reason not to reply honestly.
“You are right. Your explanations are lost on me. I am in no position to judge another’s behavior. I have done far worse than eavesdropping in my lifetime.” He folded his arms across his chest in a casual posture. “Hell, I’ve done worse already this morning.”
“Afternoon,” the Irish lass corrected, obviously comfortable with having found her voice.
Leif grinned and shook his head. It was not the first time he’d been corrected in such a manner. “I have been out of my bed for barely an hour. It’s morning.”
Her expressive gaze flashed with surprise. “And you have already done worse?”
Leif laughed at the innocent curiosity in her question. He couldn’t help it. The girl was so refreshingly…fresh.
“Irish, you have no idea,” he murmured in a sensual drawl. “I’ve committed half a dozen sins in my mind during the last fifteen minutes alone.”
Amy Sandas’s love of romance began one summer when she was thirteen and complained of boredom. She ended up with one of her mother’s Barbara Cartland books and an obsessive interest that expanded from there. Her affinity for writing began with sappy pre-teen poems and led to a Bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She writes in the early mornings while her young kids are still asleep. She dreams of a future when she can write all day instead of going to her “other” job. In the evenings, Amy is a full-time wife and mother who enjoys pizza, wine and dark brooding heroes … namely, her husband.
You can find Amy on her blog at http://amysandas.wordpress.com on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmySandas?ref=hl or Tweet her at https://twitter.com/#!/AmySandas
**GIVEAWAY** Visit Amy’s Facebook page between August 20th and September 3rd and leave a comment referencing the Nine Naughty Novelists and earn a chance to win one of three free downloads of RECKLESS VISCOUNT! (Winner chosen by random.org)
Posted by Meg Benjamin at 4:00 AM