I would like to thank Grace Burrowes for this lovely guest post!
How do you create such memorable characters?
What a compliment! It begs the question, what is a memorable character, after all? The answer from my perspective is that the best characters seize us by the heart and don’t let go even after the very last page of the book. We care about them, we believe in the them, and when they arrive to their happily ever after, we rejoice with them.
In short, they become--in a good sense--part of our imaginary family, and I think that has to be one aspect of my answer. I am the sixth out of seven children, and when you’re born that far down in the pile (I have brothers thirteen years my senior), you are aware of two things. First, your know you are a member of a family. You have a strong sense that family can be a positive source of identity, and that as a cradle for healthy relationships, family can be the biggest blessing a child has.
The second thing I was aware of, from a young age, was that healthy families fall apart in an orderly fashion, to quote John Bradshaw. By the time I was seven, my oldest siblings has left the nest. By the time I was eight, one brother has gone off to war; by the time I was ten, I was an aunt, and so on. For me as a child, this created tension between the conviction that the people I loved most in the whole world (and still move most) seemed intent in going off and leaving me, and the knowledge that I would grow up and bash forward into the big world when it was my turn, secure in their love and support.
As a writer, capturing that sense of conflicted emotions--between the self-centered and the generous, the happy and sad, the positive and negative--is what makes a character come to life. Most people don’t march confidently from one end of their lives to the other. We lurch and stumble, pelt and pause, and tear off that-a-way only to come up short and start mincing this-a-way. The things we want as youngsters are the things we shake our heads over as oldsters.
A character like Devlin St. Just is at a cross-roads (much like a single-parent attorney facing empty nest, say, just for example). He’s held himself together because there were wars to fight, an officer’s code of conduct to follow, and rules, dammit. But the guns have gone silent, except in St. Just’s head. His fellow officers are dead or in civilian attire, and the things he made himself excel at--command, brutal combat, following orders--are all turned to ash. How id he to go on? Why is he to go on when every day is painful, lonely and bewildering?
A character in this circumstance calls forth the moment in high school when we first realize, “My friends will all be scattered this time next year, and we will never be close like this again.” He harkens to the moment when two people who love each other and have made children together they realize they might--despite all effort to the contrary--become a divorce statistic. He anticipates any moment in our lives when we roll over in bed and wonder, “Does what I’m doing with my limited time on this planet have any meaning at all?”
A memorable character faces these questions with courage and honesty, accepts the ambiguities, and sorts through the answers to arrive at honorable conclusions. And if he’s one of my memorable characters, he earns his true love and happily ever after in the process--and that inspires me.
THE SOLDIER BY GRACE BURROWES - IN STORES JUNE 2011
Even in the quiet countryside he can find no peace…
His idyllic estate is falling down from neglect and nightmares of war give him no rest. Then Devlin St. Just meets his new neighbor…
Until his beautiful neighbor ignites his imagination…
With her confident manner hiding a devastating secret, his lovely neighbor commands all of his attention, and protecting Emmaline becomes Devlin’s most urgent mission…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Grace Burrowes is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of THE HEIR, also a 2010 Publishers Weekly book of the Year. She is a practicing attorney specializing in family law and lives in rural Maryland, where she is working on the next books chronicling the love stories of the Windham family. LADY SOPHIE’S CHRISTMAS WISH will be in stores in October 2011, and THE VIRTUOSO will be in stores in November 2011, with more to come in 2012! For more information, please visit www.graceburrowes.com
Thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks I two copies to giveaway.
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