I wrote for fourteen years before my first novel was published, and I'm so glad I had that waiting period. I know it's a cliche to say that good things come to those who wait, but it's true. It wasn't until I was married to Mel and learned what a real live hero was like that I found the missing ingredient in my novels--tenderness with strength and a certain, optimistic focus. That was when I went back through all the manuscripts I'd completed--thirteen--and based the male leads, all of them, on Mel. And that was when the publishers took notice.
Now, of course, that could be due to the new subject matter of the books we worked on together--emergency medicine, which was all the rage at the time--but I still believe that the change of characters made all the difference.
Here's what I mean--see the picture above? (I hope I got it in the right place this time). What do you see? Mel was the photographer. He didn't see the dead trees. He saw the beauty of the flowers, the brilliant green of the living plants, and his beloved wife near the trail. So when I created a new hero for a series all those years ago, I created a widower who was still in love with his dead wife, and though his wife had been overweight, all other women were judged against his wife's beauty and found wanting. Until, of course, the heroine of the novel came along.
Mel doesn't see my gray hair--even when I let it grow out too much. He doesn't see the lines and wrinkles of a maturing body. He sees in me the woman he first fell in love with--the woman who was so embarrassed by her skinny legs and cellulite that he didn't get a glimpse of them until nine months after we started dating. He uses me as a pattern by which to judge the beauty of other women. What woman would not love a hero like that? Esepcially the older she gets.
So you see those dead, brown trees in the picture? Mel takes a lot of pictures like that. He pulls out the beauty and doesn't even see the scars or ugliness. Who could lose with a hero who focuses on the inner beauty of the woman he loves, and not on the fading outer shell?
Labels: a better hero, character, writing