|WHY DOES THIS PHOTO GRAB YOUR ATTENTION?|
This definition is mine--I just made it up. Like the woman in the furniture commercial who interviews for a job: "I designed this chair at Haverty's," and she flips her hair, intimating that she is brilliant and should get this job. An interviewer would not expect an applicant to make such a statement. The female in the commercial immediately becomes the focus of the clip--not the furniture store. But she does get our attention.
Melanie in Gone With the Wind is the epitome of a predictable female character. She's always sweet and kind, nauseatingly so to a great extent. When does Melanie come alive? She grows in stature as a character when she must protect the others in war-torn Tara by picking up a pistol and killing a Union soldier who is trying to rob and rape them. We cheer for Melanie at that point, because..she has surprised us. And perhaps we like her better for it.
This photo is a study in contrasts--of objects, not personalities. But it does show the impact of unpredictable objects in a setting. If the black trunk were not in the photo, we'd see all green and probably pass over the photo. But it's the contrast that makes us stop and look.
I'm reading a romance by Pam Crook in which her heroine is 100% unpredictable. We know the character is not really a nun at the beginning--I don't know how, but we just know. As the plot progresses and becomes increasingly tense and complicated, suddenly the heroine acts seemingly out of character and does some physical things that really surprise us. In carrying out these acts, the heroine almost becomes...the hero. Good reading.When we read...or write...romances, we expect conflict. Any good fiction writer has learned this lesson early on. In romance novels, we expect conflict between the hero and the heroine. If that is absent, there is no story. I'll amend that statement: if conflict is absent between the hero and heroine, there may be a story...but most likely it's like weak tea--bland, tasteless, and colorless. But I digress from contrasts.
Do we expect our heroes and heroines to act entirely out of character? No, not particularly, but I say that in doing so, the character will make a greater impact on us as readers.
In Kat and the U.S. Marshal, Kat Cameron is living and acting like the town society leader and benefactress. Why? Because that's the persona she wants to portray--act like a lady at all times, as her mother tried so hard to teach her. But when Marshal Diego Montoya arrives, events force Kat to revert to her wild days of following her brother around on the ranch. She dons pants and boots, and buckles on her Colt .45 to help her lover Diego nab the suspect in the act. This is her true persona--the ladylike aura is more of an act.
Which story remains in your memory because of a character who surprised you? Was the character male or female? Was the contrast believable?
Happy reading and for you authors, happy writing!
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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