How Do You Like Your Heroes?
Hi, y'all! I'm glad to be back and am throwing out a big thanks to Mary for inviting me to chat and to talk about writing. We're also here to celebrate my new release, THE RODEO MAN'S DAUGHTER (February 2012), which just debuted on Tuesday!
Last time I visited, we had a great discussion about children as story characters. Now, I'd like to move on to some grownup talk. (smile) Please remember, everything I say is only my humble opinion. Take what works for you and leave the rest.
Since we're all in a romance-y, Valentine-y mood, I'd like to focus on one of the most important characters in a romance novel—the hero. Just as it takes all kinds to make a world, we love to read about different types of heroes. In romance novels, we've got everything from boy-next-door best friends to bad boys you can't bring home to mama. I love 'em all!
And I've written a few of each.
But I—and we—have to go beyond types. We have to get to the hearts and minds of our heroes. That's how, for example, even though we may read about dozens of different bad boys, we can love each and every one. We get inside them and see what ticks. We do the same for boy-next-door heroes. And if we read vampires or shapeshifters or alien heroes, we connect with them by getting to know them, too.
The best way to explain is to give you some examples, and since I know my own writing best, here we go. First, a little background on the book:
THE RODEO MAN'S DAUGHTER is set in Flagman's Folly, New Mexico, and tells the story of ex-rodeo star Caleb Cantrell.
After growing up dirt-poor and looked down upon by folks in town, Caleb took off while he was still a teen, headed for fame and fortune. A near-fatal injury destroys his rodeo dreams, and he returns to his hometown with the goal of settling scores with the folks who’d done him wrong and then leaving them all behind for good. Despite his rocky reunion with his high-school sweetheart, he finds his interest in her still going strong. All of a sudden, he's got a hankering to hang around.
So. We have a hero out for revenge—which makes him not such a sympathetic character, right? Trust me, I worried about that. And I felt I'd better try to let the reader see right up front that Caleb's got reasons for his actions.
Here's a clip that appears only a few paragraphs after the opening of the book. He has just set foot in Flagman's Folly again after a ten-year absence:
After he'd left there, he'd slept in no-tell motels, lived out of tour buses and trucks and, eventually, spent time in luxury hotels. Didn't matter where you went, you could always tell the folks who took pride in ownership from the ones who didn't give a damn.
Even here, you could spot the evidence. Not a ritzy neighborhood, not a small community, just a collection of ramshackle houses and tarpaper shacks. A few had shiny windows and spindly flowers in terra-cotta pots. Some had no windowpanes at all. Here and there, he noted a metal-sided prefab home with too many coats of paint on it and weeds poking through the cinder blocks holding it up.
And somewhere, beyond all that, he knew he'd find a handful of sun-bleached trailers, their only decoration the cheap curtains hanging inside. The fabric blocked the view into the units through the rusty holes eaten into their sides.
Sometimes, the curtains blocked sights no kid should see, of mamas doing things no mama should do.
Swallowing hard, he retreated a pace, as if he'd felt the pull of one rust-corroded hulk in particular. It wouldn't still be there. It couldn't. But he had no intention of going over there to make sure.
End of that clip. Now, with luck, the reader understands a bit more about Caleb and—even if she doesn't buy into his need for revenge yet—she wants to know more, enough to turn the page. (Where she'll listen in on his conversation with a little boy that turns the screw another notch and really ought to make her feel for Caleb. (smile))
At the other end of the spectrum is the boy-next-door hero, the one who is always there for the heroine. He stays in the background but close by—which comes in very handy when he's ready to take center stage!
A good example of this is Ben Sawyer, the hero of the next Flagman's Folly book, HONORABLE RANCHER, coming in August 2012. He's been in love with Dana...well, for a while now. ;) You'll see in this next clip here. Again, it comes close to the beginning of the story. Ben and Dana are groomsman and matron of honor in their friends' wedding party:
Dana was no Cinderella. She hadn't left a shoe behind. Hadn't even dropped a button from that pink dress as something for him to remember her by. As if he could ever forget her.
She'd been the heroine of a story he'd once created long ago, a story he'd had to write in his head because he hadn't yet known how to spell all the words.
How did it go? Like in his niece's storybook...
Once upon a time, that was it.
Once upon a time, in the Land of Enchantment—otherwise known as the state of New Mexico—Benjamin Franklin Sawyer had high hopes and a huge crush on the girl who sat one desk over from him in their classroom every day.
No other girl in town, Ben felt sure, could beat Dana Smith, and most likely no other woman in the world could compare to her, either. In any case, without a doubt, she was the cutest of all his female friends in their kindergarten classroom.
Unfortunately, when the teacher moved his best friend, Paul Wright, to the desk on the other side of Dana's, Ben saw his hopes dashed.
The crush, however, continued. For a good long while.
Again, I hope that entices the reader to care enough about Ben to keep reading. Because, you see, even though he's the oh-so-vanilla boy-next-door, he's got a secret and a problem: he's in love with Dana. But Dana's his best friend's wife.
Though there's more to it than that, at first glance, he sure doesn't come across as the HONORABLE RANCHER of the book's title, does he? And I'm betting the Ben's desires will be in the blurb on the back cover. (smile) So I wanted to give the reader that insight into Ben's history early on.
And there you have it! Sort of a crash course on some things to keep in mind when you're crafting a hero.
Hope that was helpful. If you've got any comments or questions, toss 'em out here!
And let's get the party going!~~
Originally from the East Coast, award-winning author Barbara White Daille now lives with her husband in the warm, sunny Southwest. Find her online at www.barbarawhitedaille.com
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To celebrate her new release, THE RODEO MAN'S DAUGHTER (February 2012), Barbara is giving away an autographed copy of A RANCHER'S PRIDE, the first Flagman's Folly book. To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment/question here today.
Barbara wants to give you lots of time so she'll leave the contest open until VALENTINES DAY. We'll announce the winner of Barbara's book on Seekerville on Saturday, Feb. 18th.