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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Writing Multi-Heroes While Keeping them Heroic

The third book in my Gardella Vampire Chronicles, The Bleeding Dusk, has just been released. And I love the fact that readers are really taking sides about which of the two/three men in Victoria Gardella's life that they want her to end up with.

I take it as a compliment that there are people firmly on Team Max, and just as firmly stationed with pom-poms on the Team Sebastian side too. That must mean that both guys are hero material--'cause we all know that romance readers read for the heroes. Right?

So I thought it would be fun to write a little about how I've gone about creating two--really, three--distinct hero characters for my Regency-era vampire hunter, Victoria.

In a way, writing a parnormal series made it a little easier to create three different men. It allowed me to give each of them a different background.

One of them was a member of the peerage, and would have been a fine, very fine, hero in any other Regency-era novel. He was handsome, polite, had a history with our heroine, but was, in no way, a "lesser" man, or a boyfriend--or, worse, a villain--as often happens in romances when the heroine has more than one guy to choose from. Rockley is definitely hero material, and he acts like a hero.

Then there's Max, who's also a vampire hunter and who thinks Victoria, who's just learned of her own calling as a slayer, is nothing but a frivolous young girl who has no idea what she's getting into. And, really, he's not too far off--at least at the beginning. So he acts accordingly toward her: disdainful, arrogant, and critical. A friend of mine says that Victoria brings out the third-grade boy in Max. LOL.

And then there's Sebastian. He's a mystery all his own, and we don't know who he is, or where his loyalties lie. But we do know that he would love to get his hands down Victoria's gown, or worse. ;-) And he also has a self-deprecating attitude--borne out by his own secrets.

So as I began to place these men through out the book(s), I had to think about several things for each one:

  • What he wants (or doesn't want) from Victoria
  • How he would speak toward her
  • How he would act toward her
  • What is his secret (if any)
And as I wrote each scene, I made sure that Max always spoke shortly and grimly and sharply. I made certain that Sebastian turned everything into a double entendre, or an attempt (subtle or overt) at seduction. And I had Rockley speak politely as a man would, neither short and sharp, nor flirtatious and bold.

Even now, I test myself--and my characters. When I write a scene with one of the men, I stop and sit back and think how a different one would react or speak. What would Max say? How would Sebastian turn this into a flirtatious conversation? What is driving him?

A fun thing I do for myself is sometimes end a chapter with one of the men speaking--without the reader knowing which one. Or I even have their first appearance in a scene be them arriving unexpectedly and speaking to Victoria...but not telling the reader who they are for several paragraphs.

It's a little game I play with myself and my readers--and my critique partners are the ones who get to play it first. They tell me if they can tell who it is by what he says and how he says it. And if they can tell, just by his speech, then I know I'm doing my job and staying true to character.

Here's an example from When Twilight Burns, coming in August:

Victoria came awake sharply.

She didn’t move, kept her breathing easy and regular, and slitted her eyes a crack. Someone or something was in the bedchamber with her.

The room was all shapes and shades of dark gray, any detail that might be discernable in the pre-dawn light distorted by her narrow view. She’d have to turn her head….

“Good God. You might as well open your eyes, Victoria. A gnat could do a better job feigning sleep than you.”

And here's another example:

“Where’s Verbena?” Victoria demanded. She didn’t attempt to turn toward him.

“Sleeping quite soundly, I believe,” he said. “A comely girl, but repose is definitely not her most attractive state. Her snores are like to rattle the windows from their frames, and would be fairly off-putting to a gentleman who might wish to…er…lie…with her…though I’d venture to say that the poor beleaguered Oliver would seize the opportunity if offered.
So, I won't tell you who's who...but feel free to guess or comment in Or ask questions. Or share your own feelings about multi-heroes.

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At 1:57 PM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

Delightful blog, Colleen! And I absolutely can tell which hero is speaking. Well done! I have trouble enough keeping one hero consistent. ,-)

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

A good reminder, Colleen, and that's a difficult task, but worthy of being done right.

I did something similar in Sins of the Heart, but it's a more standard romance. And it wasn't all that hard to distinguish a dashing, hard-fighting aristocrat from a charming, adventurous Cornish smuggler. It does mean, though, that I'll have to write the Cornish smuggler's story if I want him to ever stop nagging me.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

I'm almost positive I know the first. I'm fairly positive I know the second..but hate to post it. Please do a bit later!

I haven't read any of these, but they are going to be my summer treat, the day after school gets out and all my paperwork is turned in. Right now I'm barely keeping my head above water with my own WIP and the day job.

I think it's brilliant that the question of the hero is up in the air. And when well done (as yours obviously are) there are never enough stories about vampires. I love them!

Your post ties into my question last week about how to make sure my characters have their own voice, when they're all using Regency tone. This helps, it really does.

What are your favorite ways to research, especially good ways to dig up special little details that bring period work to life?

At 5:51 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Max is the first, Sebastian must be the second, although I didn't figure him for an "er..." guy when talking about sex. ;)

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I love Colleen's books! I am totally hooked on the Gardella Vampire Chronicles and I've never been the least bit interested in Vampire romances. Just not my fantasy.

I am impressed at how Colleen has differentiated these men. They all come out sounding very authentic, as well as distinct.

Thinking of the mechanics of a hero speaks is a good idea (short vs long sentences, eg) and keeping in mind the motivation of the character (how he feels about Victoria) is another tool.

Verrrry interesting, Colleen.

At 7:04 PM, Blogger doglady said...

I have all of these books on my TBR stack and they are actually quite close to the top! I may have to move them up after reading your blog. I too have a character in my currently under revision novel Lost in Love who is already demanding his own story. I have to agree with Gillian that it must be SO hard to make sure everyone has their own voice. How do you do it, Colleen? I mean, do you have character sketches, interviews, something to help you keep it straight? Or do you just KNOW what one would or would not do that another might do or not do?

At 7:56 PM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

Norah, thanks so much!

Delle, I loved that Cornish smuggler, so I'm totally ready for that story! probably do. But I'll post later.

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

Thanks Gillian and doglady for thinking about my books. I do hope you enjoy them when you get to them!

Esri, of course you're right on the button. :-) And, yes, in that particular scene, Sebastian is waffling between trying to sound lofty and genteel and to make his point....because he knows Victoria's not happy with him.

Diane, thank you so much for your compliments! Have I ever asked if you're Team Max or Team Sebastian, or Team Rockley?

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

doglady, I don't really have character sketches or interviews or anything. The characters have just evolved for me.

Part of how it happened was how they acted when they first met Victoria:

Max was totally annoyed with her, so that came out in his cadence.

Sebastian was curious and delighted to meet her, and so he uses more florid words and tries to keep swinging the convo back around to sex.

And Rockley met her in a conventional Regency setting--a ball--so he speaks in that polite yet confident tone.

That was how they all appeared in the book for the first time, and that was also the first time I'd met each of them. *g* So since that was how they introduced themselves to me, I just ran with it.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

Gillian, you asked about research.

I research as I go, now that I'm well into the series and the setting.

I like to look at paintings when I'm researching a setting--like, for example, in The Bleeding Dusk, the story is in Rome. I looked at a lot of paintings or etchings of Rome that were done at that time, so I could get a good feel for how the city, the Colosseum, etc. looked at that time.

Nothing beats a picture to help paint an image in your mind.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Thanks, Colleen!

At 10:42 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

I knew which one was talking in each scene. It'll come as no surprise to Colleen that I'm a card-carrying member of the Team Max club. :)

At 8:12 AM, Blogger AndreaW said...

Hi Colleen!

I knew who was speaking in each part, too. Man, is it August yet?? Loved DUSK. You sure know how to keep us hooked! And like Trish, I am a very proud card carrying member of Team Max! ;)


At 9:07 AM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

Thanks so much, Trish and Andrea. I'm going to have to get you gals t-shirts that say Team Max on them. :-)

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Oh, that sounds like an awesome T-shirt. :)


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