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 five or six 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?
Helen in Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas. There are parts of this story that are stupid. They fall under the category of have-an-effing-conversation, but I like her character. She is very shy, but can hold her own with her domineering husband. She has a quiet strength that I find compelling.
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 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.
Bailey Wingate in Up Close and Dangerous by Linda Howard. She is another shy one. Or maybe, just a very private person. But when she is thrown into peril, she works very hard to survive and cares for the hero when he is incapacitated. She is resourceful and doesn’t complain. She just buckles down and gets the job done. She doesn’t need someone to rescue her. I love that about her.
Emma in Prince of Dreams by Lisa Kleypas. 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. 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.
I’m going to stray here to an author with a series about a custom bike shop that is a front for a black ops outfit. I’m not going to name the author because I’m going to bash her. So this isn’t about liking a character, but about hating a bunch of them. Because, you see, dear reader, that all of her black operators (former Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Snipers, Hackers, etc) are so freaking inept that they couldn’t save a dog from a kill shelter much less a damsel in distress in Detroit, Alabama, or Malaysia. In the Malaysia story, the hero rescues the heroine for a terrorist camp, they are fleeing through the jungle on foot with the terrorists on their heels and they stop to have sex against a tree. ‘nuff said.
Who are some of your favorite characters and why? Or conversely, you most hated characters and why.
Main character in City of Brass-tolerated in first book and dnf 2nd book because even though there was an interesting story and obvious sparks among characters, the author made the heroine change her character from shrinking violet to badass, sometimes on the same page and for no reason other than it delayed the next action. So frustrating to me. I don’t mind a character having doubts but to go from solving problems on a large scale to “I don’t think he likes me because I’m not good! Blah. After the umpteenth flip flop, I gave up!
Love your posts! (And thanks for letting me vent!)
No problem. You read my vent about the bike shop gang and the complete incompetence of the male ‘alpha’ heroes.
“In the Malaysia story, the hero rescues the heroine for a terrorist camp, they are fleeing through the jungle on foot with the terrorists on their heels and they stop to have sex against a tree.” UGH. I hate inept alphas. And I haven’t read these particular books, but I feel like inept alphas are everywhere.
It would actually be refreshing to have an openly inept romance hero. Like, a guy who kind of bumbles his way through things, like the inept alphas do, but who is aware that he is not that good at things and is just trying the best he can. Hugh Grant in Notting Hill style.
Nora Roberts has a clutzy, nerdy hero in Vision in White (book one in the Bride Quartet series). He is a fun character.
I’ll have to check it out! I know that these heroes exist – sometimes it just feels like they are few and far between
I like smart characters, and also ones that have a lot of forward momentum — their blind spots, or their over-enthusiasm gets them into trouble. Wodehouse’s Wooster, or Bujold’s Miles (or Miles’ mother, Cordelia). I guess I like them best when they are part of community, too — some people taking up the slack of others, and everyone getting a chance to shine.
In addition to smart characters, I like female characters who save themselves rather than wait around for the hero – like Bailey Wingate.