Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Do Authors Fall In Love With Their Characters?
I suspect that most of us do. After all, we’re writing about these people for months… sometimes years… so we’d better at least like them.
And that’s a good thing, because with that love comes the ability to convey sincere emotion to our readers.
For a romance writer like myself, I suspect we all carry a little torch for the alpha male in every story we write – the one the heroine falls in love with. For example, in my recent free release titled Forever Changed, I knew from the beginning that I was going to fall in love with Blaine, the tattoo artist. I fell in love equally with the other leading men in this series, but I don’t want this to sound like a roll call.
This is about a young boy, and I have a confession – I’m head over heels for him. When I’m exhausted after a long day of work, I sometimes call up the book on my computer and read one of the most delightful and heartbreaking passages I’ve ever written… at least I think so. It’s from Now and Forever. Our heroine has been swindled out of everything she owns and is temporarily living out of her car. Then Danny comes along…
Here’s an excerpt:
Exhausted, she fumbled for a tissue, dabbed at her eyes and blew out a breath of air. Feeling lighter, she reached for her coffee. It was lukewarm by this point, but she sipped it thoughtfully, wondering how soon she could repay Jodi for her kindness.
When the reality of her situation had sunk in four days ago, the first thing she’d done was count her cash. She hadn’t gone to the bank while visiting her friend in Nanaimo, as they had stayed home with Andrea’s new baby, so she still had the cash that had been in her purse when she left. Fifty eight dollars, and it hadn’t lasted long. Jodi’s generous gesture would allow her to eat for a few more days, and perhaps put something in the gas tank.
She picked up the hamburger, but she was still too upset to eat. Disappointed at herself for wasting even a few dollars, she set it down with a sigh and picked up the coffee.
“Are you going to eat that hamburger?”
The small voice startled her. Some coffee spilled down her hand but she ignored it, turning instead to look into the back seat. A pair of bright, dark eyes smiled at her.
“What the… who are you?”
Jenna assessed him quickly. She’d seen a lot of kids since she started taking portraits, and this one was seriously cute. Almond-shaped eyes regarded her curiously.
“Well are you?” he said, glancing at the hamburger. “’Cause if you’re not, I’m hungry.”
She wasn’t sure what to make of the request. The child was clean and well-dressed, obviously from a good family. What in the world was he doing in the back seat of her car?
“You’re not supposed to take food from strangers,” she said, handing him the hamburger. “You know that, don’t you?”
“I know.” Danny took a bite and hummed appreciatively. “But you didn’t offer it to me. I asked for it.”
Jenna tried to hide her smile. “Yes, I suppose you did.” She handed him the napkin. “Here, you’ve got some sauce on your cheek. My name is Jenna, by the way.”
The child finished the hamburger and wiped his face and hands. Digging into a brightly coloured backpack, he brought out a bottle of water, took a drink and erupted in a loud burp.
“Oops,” he said, eyes sparkling. “My dad says it’s rude to burp, but it feels good.” He put the water bottle back in his backpack. “Why were you crying?”
Jenna studied the cheery little face for a moment, then turned away. “Trust me Danny, you don’t want to hear my story.”
“Why not?” He moved forward, placed one arm on either headrest and poked his face between the seats. “It sure must be sad to make you cry like that.”
“It was sad,” she said, “at least to me, but it’s over now. That’s the last time I’m going to cry about it.” She turned to the young boy and was about to ask him to get out, but something about the hopeful look in his eyes made her stop. “Don’t you have somewhere you should be?” The moment the words were out, she realized it was a foolish question.
She gave him what she hoped was a no-nonsense look. “Then I guess you’d better tell me what you’re doing here.” She put her backpack on the floor and gestured to the other seat. “Come up here so I can see you properly while we talk.”
He crawled over the console and settled into the passenger seat, little legs straight out in front of him.
“How old are you, Danny?”
“I’m almost eight.”
“I see.” She almost blurted out that he was small for his age, but caught herself in time. No doubt he’d heard that often enough.
“Do you live around here?”
He hesitated for a moment, then turned his head and pointed behind them. “A couple of blocks that way.”
“So what made you get into my car?” It suddenly struck her that she must have left it open. “Was it open?”
“Yeah. I saw you go to the restroom, and I jumped in. You should never leave your car unlocked.”
Great, she thought. Now I’m getting advice from an eight year old. “You’re right,” she said, and you shouldn’t get into a stranger’s car.”
“I know, but you looked nice. I watched you for a few minutes when you pulled up.”
“Danny, please. You can’t trust people. Even the bad people look nice most of the time.” Why was she the one lecturing this kid? “Where are your parents? They’ll be going crazy looking for you.”
“My Mom’s in heaven,” he said, not meeting her eyes, “and my Dad works all the time. So I’m running away to look for a new family.” He gave her a look that was far beyond his years. “You looked like you could use a friend. So here I am.”
Good Lord, thought Jenna. I’m in the middle of a made-for-television movie.
She knew she shouldn’t get involved, but she couldn’t help herself. “Who takes care of you during the day?”
He rolled his eyes. “I used to have a Nanny, then when I started school we got a housekeeper, but today was her last day. The new housekeeper was supposed to come at ten o’clock, but Mrs. Jessup didn’t wait for her.” He shot her a sideways glance. “She left early so she could get to Bingo on time.”
“And you’ve been alone all day? The new housekeeper didn’t show up?”
He sat up straighter. “It wasn’t so bad. I have lots of video games.”
“Your father isn’t going to be pleased about this.”
Defiance flashed in the child’s eyes. “He won’t care. He doesn’t even look at me most of the time. That’s why I need a new family.” He made a show of looking around the car. “I could stay here with you. At least you talk to me.”
Jenna sipped at her now-cold coffee while she thought about how to deal with the situation. The young boy appeared to be seriously lonely, but she could see he wasn’t neglected. With no mother, a series of caregivers and what he claimed was a workaholic father, there was no doubt that he’d learned to manipulate. All kids learned that skill and Danny was no exception, but there was something about him that tugged at her heart.
She turned in her seat. “What about your friends? Where are they?”
He shrugged, “None of my school friends live around here.”
“No kids at all around here?” She widened her eyes.
“There are kids, but most of them are a lot older than me.” He scanned the small park as though a soccer game might magically break out. “So, can I stay here with you tonight?”
Jenna pulled back. “With me? In my car?”
“Yeah, why not?”
“Nobody lives in a car, Danny.”
He looked at her evenly. “You do.”
“Just temporarily,” she snapped, immediately regretting her tone. “Sorry. I’m a bit touchy about that.”
He lifted his small shoulders. “It’s okay.” He reached back to his backpack and dug out a chocolate bar. “Want half?” he asked, ripping the paper.
“No thanks,” she said automatically. The smell of chocolate permeated the car and she swallowed a sudden rush of saliva.
“Here,” he said, removing half of the bar and handing it to her. “I have another one.”
“Okay,” she said, with a faint smile. “I love chocolate.”
They sat silently for several minutes, eating the chocolate and watching the last rays of the sun fade from the park.
“I have to take you home, Danny. You know that.”
“Yeah,” he said, licking his fingers and wiping them on his designer jeans. “I know.” He offered her a grin. “But I still like you, Jenna.” He looked straight ahead as she started the car engine. “We’ll probably get back before my Dad comes home anyway. He won’t even know I was gone.”
“Really?” Jenna wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. She had envisioned answering some questions about why Danny was being brought home by a stranger. She’d also planned to ask a few questions of her own.
“Yeah. He works late a lot of the time. He’s a sturgeon.”
“You mean surgeon?”
Danny giggled. “When I was just a kid, I couldn’t say surgeon, but for some reason I could say sturgeon. So that’s the way I still say it.”
“When you were just a kid,” repeated Jenna with a wry smile.
“Yeah.” Something in the tone of his voice made her glance over at him. His head was turned and he was staring out the window. “It used to make my Mom laugh.”
When I found the above photo on a commercial photo site, I just knew the young boy was Danny. Those cheery little eyes stayed with me all throughout the book.
Is it any wonder I’m in love?
The Forever Series is available on Amazon, iTunes, B&N and Kobo.