Staying True to your Character's character

Monday, August 22, 2005

I finished a story, recently, where the author attempted to paint the hero as a cruel and hard man out for vengeance. Now, right away she's handicapped, because this a romance and the hero is "The Hero".

So, the question is: Just how far was she willing going to go to make me believe--*truly* believe--he was a sum'gun of a bastid?

Sure she could 'tell' me he was; but actions shown, speak louder than telling words, baby. So when he has the heroine locked up in a dark, rank, rat-infested dungeon? Good show! But when the author then has him take pity on the heroine, because she hasn't eaten for several days, and whisks her out of the jail and upstairs to a luxuriously appointed suite of rooms? Lame. The author just pulled her punches. Everything she'd written beforehand became null and void. A total fake-out. Where's the consistency? Where's my evil bastid, dammit!


Here's what would have worked better: Hero realizes that heroine is likely to die in dungeon but her dead carcass is of no use to him, he needs her alive. So his motive for moving her to more luxurious accommodations is presented as pure selfishness ( a character trait that bastids have in spades). Then, later on, as the story develops there's the question of ‘is he treating her nice because he's beginning to care, or are his action due to his own underhanded bastid reasons’? And once we (the reader) see that it may have started out selfish, but now it's caring, well wallah! Character Arc. See how that happens? Hope you didn't blink.

The reason I'm blogging about this 'going soft' on the character now, is because I just came smack dab up against something similar in my current project. I finally switched to the hero's pov and one of the first things that runs through his mind is how the heroine responded to him. She obviously finds his disfigurement disgusting, but not enough to affect her sexual/physical reaction to his touch.

Typical bodice-ripper bookcover'image'. Real old school.This is of significance to him because he's use to *commanding women to his bed*. urk!

As he expanded on that train of thought, it became clear that what he'd been engaging in was a “type” of.... cue music from PYSCHO shower scene..... Force Seduction.

*Gulp* Baby, I was backpedaling outta that scenario so fast, all you could see was smoke.

But then I thought, what was I gonna do, have the poor guy be playing with his meat puppet for the last 200 years? Sure, he's a beast, but I didn't fancy giving him the ole hairy palms. And his disfigurement in conjunction with his dark powers, made woman fear him. Plus, I figure, he's probably not the 'nicest' guy in the world, given what's happened to him.

So, no, women weren't knocking down his door, even if he did know how to Pleeeze da ladies. *ting!*

Which left only one logical choice, if I wanted to be true to his character: he's practiced, without qualm, forced seduction in the past. And, if the heroine hadn't already shown that she was responsive to him, that's probably what he'd be doing with her too. ::cringe::

I’ll admit to being relieved I’d already shown she wasn’t completely adverse to him. But the physical stuff between them isn't *really* about the seduction/sex (although, there'll be plenty of that given the subgenre). It's about one single kiss. And, about sacrifice.

Anywho, being true to character can be scary, and maybe no one’s gonna love what you’re going while you’re doing it, but they’ll respect you more in the morning.... ;-)
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raine said...

Excellent thought processes, chica.

You should review books on the side.
(well---anybody's but mine)

meljean brook said...

Okay, so at first I went to (for some reason I had to type it in, because I think hubby was messing with my saved sites (probably looking at porn, that jerk)) and I thought you'd had some kind of breakdown. Ah, but then I saw I was missing an 'e', and sweet relief, no you aren't a 12 year old girl.

Difficult, when your character is something maybe a bit--well, icky--but nothing sinks a book faster than forcing a character into something that isn't true.

And: "But then I thought, what was I gonna do, have the poor guy be playing with his meat puppet for the last 200 years? Sure he's a beast, but I didn't fancy giving him the ole hairy palms."

Dying laughing. God, I want to read this one.

Michelle said...

OMG, good thing I wasn't drinking coffee, or my screen would need some Windex. Meat puppet? LOL!!

The dungeon book sounds a bit like Johanna Lindsey's book where the heroine forces the hero to have sex with her...what was the name of that one again?

Anyway, it's a fine line to walk, isn't it? Good luck!

Steph T. said...

Wonderful post, Jaq!

Personally, I like the bastard-like characters, because of the 'harder they are the harder they fall' kind of thing. It's very effective when an author stays consistent.

Trace said...

Bastid! LMAO!!!!

Amie Stuart said...

It is a fine line but you do it soooooooo well babes. Meljean I promise you wont be disappointed (if she'd just write more so I could crit it).

Danica said...

Character arc? Who needs a character arc? LOL. I love your analysis there.

Jaye said...

Raine - I tried writing reviews once. I write crappy reviews, it's mostly me thinking out loud and either analyzing stuff, or raving. For instance, I some how always forget to mention what the durn book is about. g

Meljean: "but nothing sinks a book faster than forcing a character into something that isn't true." I'm 100% behind this statement. Give my edgy, interesting and true any day over conformity.

Thanks Michelle. It *is* a very fine line. One I struggle with, since all my characters seem to be getting darker and darker as time goes by. *sigh* Nope. Not a Lindsay book. I just used that cover to illustrate the 'bodice ripper.' I pretty much never name title/author name if I have an issue with a book. But I will talk in generalities about elements that bugged me.

Steph - again, totally agree. I think the darker, more complex characters will have a more interesting arc. I love all those shades of gray.

Hiya, Trace!

Cece, I don't pay you enough, you do such wonderful pr for me. ;-)

Amie Stuart said...

And i"m honest too!!!!!

Sasha said...

Great Post , Jaye!

I agree with you and Steph. The Harder they fall, the sweeter it is!

Dee said...

See, Jaye, the second I'm expecting a blog on home life or a quiz, you zap me with good solid craft! I love it. :)

Thanks bunches, no one really talks about this stuff this way. :)

PS--I'd be a wee bit afraid of your reviewing my books too, lol. ("The author has a boinkfest--good fun--and the hero is a total bastid...Heroine has good hair.") LOL! But you do have a way of pointing out where we all can improve. Isn't that what reviewers are supposed to do?


Jaye said...

pshaw! Dee. I've critted for you a time or two, you would have nothing to fear. I'm all hot air as you well know. ;-P

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