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Friday, February 23, 2018

Creating Characters and Why Emmeline Devereux Drove Me Nuts by Victoria Chatham

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I’ve been lucky in that all my characters have come to me unbidden. I have their images, their names and I know their place in history. Just as people are not perfect, nor should our characters be. In building a character we need more than the color of their physical attributes. We need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are and how they build on the one and overcome the other. We need to know their greatest fears and what caused these fears in order for them to grow and change, challenge themselves to feats of extraordinary courage or deal with the realization of their failures. We have to uncover how their flaws have shaped them, find the humanity in them and then expand that on the page.

In the first of Marie Force’s Gansett Island series, it’s Mac and Maddie’s vulnerabilities that shape them and draw the reader in. In Georgette Heyer’s Regency romp Frederica, it’s her determination to find a suitable match for her sister that drives her to deal with several setbacks. Watching movies is also a great way to understand how to build your characters. You only have to look at the Star Wars movies, or Elle in Legally Blonde, or any of the characters in The Holiday. We see the changes in them with each beat of the movie. We feel for them, laugh or cry with them and hopefully, we can imbue our own characters with that same depth of realism.  

When Emmeline Devereux, my heroine in His Dark Enchantress, first came to me she was soaking wet. Her Empire line muslin dress clung to her body and her long, black hair was plastered to her head. Definitely not a picture of your typical Regency young lady of quality. For as clearly as I could see her, her story just would not follow, and I had several false starts before Emmeline, now dry and more appropriately dressed, gave me something to work with. Here’s a snippet from the book:

“What in hell’s name possessed you to imagine you could drive my horses?” he demanded. His voice cracked with anger.
“Imagination did not enter into it,” Emmaline returned.
Lucius was so furious he missed the tremor in her voice. “You could have overturned the barouche and injured my horses. You, Juliana and Noble, could all be dead. Did you think of that?”
“No, I did not.” Emmaline stood up on the box. “And don’t shout. I am not deaf.”
Lucius paid her no heed as she scrambled down from the driving seat. “What if you had been recognized? How would it look for my team to be driven by a woman?”
“Is it your horses, your people or your reputation for which you are concerned, my Lord?” Emmaline quivered from head to toe as she looked up at him.
His grey eyes glinted with fury under drawn brows and he lifted his hands, fingers outstretched. She took an involuntary step back from him, but he caught her shoulders in a firm grip and shook her until her teeth rattled.
“I take my responsibilities more seriously than apparently do you,” he shot back at her. He released her as quickly as he had held her, and she staggered back against the wheel of the barouche, felt the hard rim press between her shoulder blades. “I do not hide behind a borrowed tricorn nor pad my shoulders with a rolled sheepskin.”

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