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One of the most important aspects of any author’s writing is his or her ‘voice,’ the style, attitude and point of view that makes the telling of a story unique. Early on in my writing career, my critique partner defined voice for me with a marvelous quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “All the knowledge I possess anyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.”
I use this quote to inspire me not only to strengthen my individual voice as an author, but to assist me in creating strong, unique characters readers will love. One of the hallmarks of my stories is deep characterization. My stories spring from an idea of a character, and hinge upon making sure I let that character’s individual voice ring true.
In A SENSE OF SIN, my second Georgian romance from Kensington Brava set in Dartmouth, England, Rupert Delacorte, Retired Colonel of His Majesty’s Marine Forces, and now Viscount Darling, meets his match in a quiet local beauty, the Ravishing Miss Celia Burke.
Right from the start, Del has it in for Celia. He has come to Dartmouth in search of her, thinking she is responsible for the death of his beloved younger sister Emily, and vowing to have his revenge.
Both of these characters can be seen as archetypes. Del is an archetypical Avenger, while Celia can be seen as an archetypical mousy Librarian/Scientist. But such cardboard cut-out characters only work when they are personalized and made unique enough so the reader can see and hear them as individuals.
To make a character unique, I do two basic things: I ask myself how the character sees the world, and examine how the world sees the character. The answers to those questions involve the two things Goethe wrote about, knowledge and heart.
Del’s knowledge has been acquired in his upbringing as the son of a Duke, and in his profession serving in His Majesty’s Marine Forces aboard Royal Navy ships. All the things that are familiar to him come from that world. To describe Celia, Del would not compare her to a summer’s day. He would describe her as being “like a trim, nimble sloop.” When he thinks about exacting revenge, he would want it to be like his profession, “straightforward, violent and bloody.”
Celia Burke is a quiet country girl who is also a botanist devoted to the study of freshwater plants. She spends her time reading about scientific discoveries in ‘The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society,’ and she sees the world through her experience as a dedicated and detailed observer of the universe’s scientific fact. In her encounters with Del, Celia would never describe herself as having been ‘swept off her feet.’ She would think “the earth had ceased to exert it’s pull on her and ceded all it’s gravity to Viscount Darling.”
The events of the story, the seeking of revenge, the thwarting of blackmail attempts and the falling in love, provoke strong emotional reactions from our characters, and those emotions are filtered through the prism of their experience. And it is those strong, unique emotions give the characters their individual heart.
What character of romance fiction stands out in your mind for their strong unique heart?