One of the reasons that I like reading and writing romance is the character-driven nature of the stories. I like character arc. One of the reasons that I don’t usual watch TV series is the lack of character arc in most of them. If the focus of the show is on, say, solving crimes, like Law and Order or Criminal Minds, I don’t get annoyed with lack of character growth. I do get annoyed when it takes 5 or 6 seasons for two people who clearly have spark to get together. I understand why it takes that long, I just don’t like it so I don’t watch it.
I have favorite characters and there are usually the books that I go back and re-read, particularly when I’m struggling with my own character’s arc. What was the character like in the beginning? How was he/she changed at the end? How did the author show the change? Here are some of my favorites:
Gabe in Dream A Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. The first time I read this, I didn’t like it. For some reason, a couple years later, it popped into my head and I wanted to read it again. The second time, I loved it. Gabe is closed off from his family, depressed, and hiding out from living a full life by refurbishing an old drive-in, rather than renewing his vet practice. SEP gives him a good reason and it is understandable. Enter Rachel. She’s been through her own personal ringer, but she continues to fight with resourcefulness and spunk. Gabe initially tries to break her and when that doesn’t work, he realizes she’s tougher than he is. Although he acts like a jerk for a fair portion of the book, from the beginning the reader knows he is a caretaker. He provides Rachel with a house, car, job, day care, and food. In watching Rachel struggle through her life as it stands, he gradually comes around, drops the asshat act, and is in a better place at the end.
Royce in Angels Fall by Nora Roberts. Nora Roberts does a great job with traumatized heroines. Nell in Dance Upon the Air and Caroline in Carnal Innocence are other of Roberts traumatized heroines that I like. Royce’s arc is a journey pulling her out of post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s a fighter, but she doesn’t think she is. Part of that is due to being gaslighted so that she thinks she still crazy. She gradually overcomes her fears and faces her neuroses by facing them down and coming out on the other side. She usually pats herself on the back when she has done so, which is one of the things I like about her. She doesn’t (always) beat herself up when she has a misstep.
Emma in Prince of Dreams by Lisa Kleypas. I should note, Emma, and the hero Nicholas, are not favorite characters, but they both have fabulous character arcs. Emma started her arc as a selfish, spoiled brat. She blames everyone around her for what isn’t right in her life and she has very low self-esteem. She gets jilted, blames her father (actually says, “I hate you,” to him which is, IMHO, immature). She then marries an asshat (like Gabe, he has his reasons) against her families wishes and then lives in self-imposed isolation from her family in her new marriage. She realizes early in the marriage that her family was right and she is so screwed, but her plucky, feisty nature has her fighting back and making the best of a bad situation (I got myself into this, now I’ve got to make the best of it). Her work with abused animals helps her see why the people around her behave the way they do and the windows into others souls helps her to see her faults and shortcomings and fix them, and to see others’ faults and shortcomings and forgive them. Kleypas has an added bonus of having Emma be with a secret beau in the beginning who is very much like her. In the end, he hasn’t changed and the reader can see clearly the changes in Emma.
Who are some of your favorite characters and why?