There comes a moment in the writing process when a character crystallizes. You can plot and plan, you can research and wring your hands, but until "it" happens, you're just putting words on paper. The characters have to come alive before you're really telling a story. It doesn't necessarily take much for them to spring into three dimensions, either. A behavioral tick. A bit of backstory. Sometimes that's all I need.
Here's how the hero of ALL U CAN EAT introduced himself to me.
"Chief of Police Jack West was nobody’s pretty boy. His nose had been broken (twice), his left knee (which had been shot) had more scars than the San Andreas fault, and the best that could be said about his face was that it was rugged.
"I love rugged heroes, so this was a good start. Pretty doesn't always add up to sexy for me. Plus, Jack's obviously the alpha dog. After the way my diner-owner heroine's heart had been stepped on, she deserved no less. And there was also the matter of her being a little bossy. Her perfect match needed a spine. Still, I knew there was more Jack had to tell me.
"The scars he kept inside him weren’t any better. He’d been a cop with the LAPD for sixteen years--a good cop, with plenty of important collars, but he’d seen things that had left him less than a fit companion for civilians. Coupled with the seriously dysfunctional upbringing he’d had, it was no wonder he was divorced, more or less inept at flirting, and hadn’t been laid in so many years he’d probably forgotten how.
"Now, this was interesting. Every hero should have have some psychic scars, or what is Frankie going to help him soothe? And that bit about him not having been laid in so many years he'd probably forgotten how--well, that was both titillating and neurotic. Tell me more, Jack, I thought. You've almost won me over.
"On the plus side, knee or no knee, he could run a mile in less than eight minutes, didn’t smoke, barely drank, and believed in opening women’s doors. He’d been told his shaved head was sexy, though he mostly kept it that way because his hairline was creeping back. He was tall enough to date a supermodel (not that he wanted to), willing to dance with the right partner, and rarely lied unless it helped catch bad guys. He also spoke fluent Spanish and could type with all ten fingers.
"Unfortunately, he didn’t think any of these assets was going to convince the woman who’d been playing leading lady in his recent dreams that she ought to be dating him."
And there he convinced me he deserved Frankie. This strong, sexy, chivalrous, besotted, and slightly insecure alpha dog didn't know it yet, but I did: He was going to get the girl.
So tell me, what makes a hero a hero for you -- in real life or in books?
***Encore! ALL U CAN EAT: Can sassy diner owner, Frankie Smith, survive her sexy smorgasbord of men? http://www.emmaholly.com for excerpts and news.
Encore due! Check out what Emma had to say about Nathan Kamp at CosmoChix, "Why I Dig Romance Novel Cover Guys" comments...