Since I started writing romance, I’ve realized I always name my heroes first, before I even think about an appropriate love interest for them. More often than not, I’ve also fleshed them out physically, too. I’d bet most romance authors pick one or the other main character, fairly consistently, and do the same thing. I also think it depends on what genre you write. For me, that’s contemporary/mainstream romance.
So, there I was a few weeks ago, ready to begin a new book. Did I have a vague outline of my plot? No. Did I have a tentative title? Nope. How about a general locale, narrowed down to either city or state? Negatory. What I did have was a tall, tanned, broad-shouldered man with a rangy build, large, elegant hands, shaggy brown hair that always seemed to need a trim, and piercing gray eyes. His wide smile showcased a dimple in his left cheek and sometimes he snorted when he laughed. And when he wasn’t laughing, his voice was a deep purr with a touch of Midwest twang.
I just created Tim O’Malley, who’s been in love with my heroine since high school.
There goes my hero.
It took me all of five minutes to compile Tim’s physical attributes, give him a name and figure out he’s been suffering from unrequited love for the last fifteen years.
I have yet to flesh out my heroine. I named her and that’s about it. After I gave her a name, I changed it twice, and I’m still not sure about the one I eventually chose. She might have short hair. She might be Italian. Or not. I think her eyelashes are thick. Or not. Freckles? Maybe. Maybe not.
So many decisions.
When I finish fleshing her out, I can only hope she’ll be the kind of girl my Tim O’Malley can fall helplessly in love with. If she isn’t, I’m going to have to rewrite her, because once I figure out my hero, he’s pretty much set in stone.
When I have my hero firmly lodged in my head (and in my heart), I place him. Region first, then town, then state. Region was easy: the Midwest seemed perfect for my Tim. I’m in absolute love with small towns, so there was no question Tim’s life would originate in one. As I gave it some thought, the town came to mind as easily as Tim’s gorgeous gray eyes, and Skitter Lake was born.
Now I have my wonderful hero, I know he’s a Midwest boy, and Skitter Lake is his hometown. As soon as I named the town, I knew I’d have to set my story in the past, and for some reason the year 1957 just made sense. At this point, my happiness knew no bounds, for I had an era, a hero, a town, and the vague beginnings of a plot.
Did I have a heroine? Uh-uh. Not quite yet.
I decided to email my critique partner and tell her I had the bare bones of my latest book. It took me about ten minutes to think up a synopsis, create an anti-hero as a contrast to Tim, and decide my story would begin with my anti-hero “getting the girl.”
Hey, I never said he’d keep her! Of course, I’m going to make him step aside. Just don’t ask me how. But I still don’t have the girl. Maybe this weekend she’ll come to me. Thing is, I know what her life is like and I know how I want my story to flow. I just don’t know her, yet. Not like I already know my Tim.
Thinking back on my last two books, this isn’t an unusual procedure for me. When I wrote Promises to Keep, I had Travis Quincy almost instantly. His sweet Annie, my young heroine, came to me weeks later. It was the same with Unsafe Haven, which is due to be released this fall. My hero, Denn Nulo, leapt from my fingers. His lady, the vulnerable Kendall, sort of crawled out from the keyboard after a few weeks of immersing myself in Denn.
I can’t wait to get started on Tim’s story. For now, my heroine is named Kathleen, but that’s subject to change. I hope I can see her soon. She’s a blank canvas and so I’ll have to look for that character palette I misplaced.
Yet for me, there’s nothing like those first few days of fleshing out a hero.
How about you? What comes first?
Char’s first novel, Promises to Keep, is available at Soul Mate Publishing, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Unsafe Haven, her latest novel, is due to be released fall 2012.