Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Unwrapping: Wacky Wednesday - Conversing With My Characters

Daydreams have always been a great way to wile away the time. It's also a great way to have a conversation with my characters when I feel stumped.  My characters like to invade my thoughts at the oddest times to begin with but it's doubly strange when I'm already thinking about them. I love daydreaming and daydreaming about my characters makes it even more fun. 

I was actually getting some work done on my historical romance work -in- progress, when I suddenly thought about changing my hero's attitude toward love and marriage. I sat at the keyboard staring at the text on the screen in front of me and pondered the idea. As I wondered what the men at the turn of the 19th Century really thought about love and marriage, I began to hear my characters talking to me. I've had them lead me in my dreams while I'm sleeping and I've had them lead me while actually writing so it didn't surprise me to suddenly have them talk to me now.  I closed my eyes and allowed my imagination to take me where I needed to be.

"Miss Amy, don't ya worry 'bout Hawke, he doesn't think he wants love and marriage but he do ... every man do even when he say he don't." Michel LaRue was there, sitting on a barrel aboard the gently rocking ship. He held several lines of thick rough-looking rope in his large hands. He was quickly, and expertly, tying them together with efficient knots.

"Good day, Michel," I greeted him with a smile as I glanced around me. Men were busy seeing to their individual duties. I looked to the ship's bridge above us and saw the captain there, arms crossed and looking grumpy about something. "Hawke doesn't look happy, is there a problem?"

Michel leaned forward slightly and glanced up at the tall black-haired man standing on the bridge scowling. He rested back against the rail again and chuckled. "He just find out he supposed to get married."

"But he ...," I halted my speech and glanced around at the landscape. It was like nothing I had ever seen, even in my imagination. There were mountains and the air was delightfully warm but humid. This was hardly the Port of London in which we should be docked but someplace much more exotic. The buildings were made of something more like clay and mortar rather than wood and brick. "Where are we, Michel?" I asked curiously.

Ponta Delgada on the Azore Isle of São Miguel
"Ponta Delgada. Where else?"

"The Azores! What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be heading home to Louisiana?" I asked looking around me at the strange but beautiful place.

"Huh? You knows we gotta go to London first." Michel asked with a curious expression. "We only be stoppin' here for supplies.  'Course, right now Hawke be wishing he'd sailed right by 'stead of stoppin' here.  See, there be a letter waitin' for him and it be bad news. His grandpa, he died and now Hawke be the Earl. 'Course, Hawke, he be thinkin' the worst news be that his grandpa arranged for him to have a wife." Michel chuckled gleefully as he returned to his knots. How do they learn all those knots?

"So ... you haven't met Ro ..."  I clamped my mouth shut before any more words could escape. I suddenly realized it was as if I hadn't written their story yet. I was witnessing the events right after Hawke learned of his arranged marriage but before he returned to London. I smiled happily. This was my chance to gain some insight into what these men really felt about love and marriage.  I leaned against the railing and crossed my arms across my chest. "Michel, what do you think about Hawke's predicament?"

"Me? Well, I guess it ain't really none of my business." Michel said without looking up from his knots. Then he lifted his head and peeked upwards to see if Hawke was nearby. I leaned forward a bit and saw that Hawke was busy with the helmsman. Michel turned back to me. "Personally, I think it be good news. That boy, he need to be settlin' down and makin' a family since he lost all his own." I nodded my head for I knew about Hawke's parents and sister being killed in a fire in New Orleans some ten years earlier - after all, I wrote it. "I tell him he should meet the gal and if'n he don't like her then refuse it. But, oh no, he flat out say that he ain't goin' to be tied down to some female who only wants his name and his purse!" Having become rather animated and a little louder than he had intended, Michel lowered his voice substantially and leaned in toward me. "Hawke, he be needin' a good woman in his life. I be thinkin' anyway."

I smiled happily and then asked Michel about his own feelings on the subject. "So, how 'bout you, Michel? Don't you need a good woman in your life, too?"

Michel coughed and choked as if he'd swallowed wrong. I patted the big dark man on his broad backside until he stopped. "Thanks, Missy." He coughed again but only twice. "Don't be shockin' this old man with such foolishness. I be too old for love and marriage now."

"Too old! Michel, you're forty-two years old. Where I come from that's a young man yet!" I exclaimed, my voice rising in volume. I quickly quieted it and continued. "Okay, if a woman came along that captured your heart and stole away your breath, what then?"

Michel stared at me with his big dark eyes, he blinked as he considered what I had asked. Then his full lips parted and he smiled his most endearing smile. He chuckled softly and patted me on the back of my hand resting on my thigh. "Miss Amy, you conjure me up a woman who can do all that and I be fallin' in love and marryin' her in a heartbeat."

"Who are you marrying, old man?" A deep melodic voice rang out. I turned to face the captain of the ship. "How are you today, Mrs. Valentini?" Hawke is always so formal with me, it makes me smile. He gave me a quick bow and I bowed my head in recognition.

"I'm quite fine, Captain Boudreau. I was surprised to find you at port, here, in the Azores." I swept my hand indicating the beautiful surroundings.

"Well, we returned from Asia by way of the Cape of Good Hope and this is the best place to pick up supplies with the trouble along the Barbary Coast." Hawke explained as he stared at Michel who deliberately kept his eyes on his knots. I suspected Hawke surmised what his old friend had been talking about and wasn't too happy about it. "So what brings you here to visit, madam?" Hawke lifted his lash shadowed green eyes from the dark man's dipped head and met my eyes straight on. I swear my heart skipped a beat. Can a man truly be that handsome except in a woman's imagination?

"I ... uh ... well, I had been wondering what you really thought about love and marriage. I may have to change your, uh, a story I'm writing that is - if I have it wrong." I explained fearful of what the imposing man might say in response.

"Love and marriage!" Hawke growled. Michel lifted his head in reaction and when Hawke's narrowed angry eyes lit on him, he quickly lowered it again. "Michel, what have you been telling our dear lady?"

"Nothing I didn't already know, Captain, remember I, ... I mean, ... I coerced it out of him. He only spoke the truth." I resisted reminding the big man that I created the situation and that if I wanted to I could make sure he never enjoyed another woman as long as he lived. "I heard of your impending marriage ..."

"There will be NO marriage, madam!" Hawke interrupted angrily. "I refuse to uphold an agreement I had no party to especially one that means I must marry some silly twit who wants nothing more than a name, money and children. I will return to England and remove myself from there before the twit knows I've even returned."

Cringing slightly, only not wanting the imposing man to know it, I squeaked out my next words. "So I guess your opinion of love and marriage is ..."

"That it's for fools, madam! Love and marriage are best left to fools." When he saw my own green eyes narrow, he gulped and then added. "You are the exception, of course, Mrs. Valentini. I'm sure you are no fool and neither is your devoted husband." I relaxed and nodded my head accepting his apology. He calmed somewhat. I watched him take a deep breath. Upon releasing it, he continued, "Madam, I've had my chance at love, and almost married, but it only resulted in my heart being torn to shreds in the process. I'm a man of the sea now and have no time for a permanent woman in my life, despite what this old man has been telling you." He scowled at Michel who shrugged his shoulders in feigned innocence.   

"But, Hawke, ..." He lifted one black brow suspiciously when I used his familiar name. I proceeded cautiously, "if the right woman came along ... a woman who captured your heart, stole your breath and gave you a reason to live, wouldn't you want her with you?" I asked sweetly. Hawke stared at me for what felt like an eternity before straightening his back, squaring his broad shoulders and clearing his throat.

"Madam, there is no such woman." His deep voice was flat and that told me that the discussion was done. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a ship to ready for sail. If you'd like, you are most welcome to join us on our journey. For you, madam, are the only female I will ever allow to sail on the Belle Femme." He gave me a half-bow, turned and walked away. I knew I had been dismissed and so had my argument. I glanced down at Michel who was watching his best friend walk toward the steps that lead to the bridge. There was a look of sadness on his handsome bearded face. I placed a hand on his large shoulder and squeezed it affectionately.

"Don't worry, Michel, I think he might change his mind some day - especially with your help, dear friend." Michel looked up at me with a million questions in his eyes but then he smiled and placed his large hand on mine as it rested on his shoulder.

"I always be trustin' you, Missy." He said in a quiet voice that made me feel maternal even though I wasn't old enough to be his mother, then he added eagerly. "So you be sailin' with us to London?"

"I wish ... I wish I could, Michel. I'm sure it would be thrilling but I must return to my work now. Till we meet again." I told him with a smile. He smiled back and when he looked toward Hawke who had returned to the bridge, I quickly took my leave. I do hate farewells.

I opened my eyes. I was back at the keyboard with the screensaver sweeping across the monitor. Well, I guess I got my answer, at least how it pertains to the two leading men in my story but does that answer my real question and has that question really changed at all throughout time? 

Nature has created a natural instinct in women to desire a partner in life to share their love, their home and with whom to create a family but what about men?
I know there are some men who desire to marry and have a family even before they meet the woman of their dreams but what about most men? Are men predisposed to sharing their life with one woman or do they only come to that conclusion once they have met the right gal?
What about men who live in polygamous relationships? Do they only see marriage as a means to getting what they want, namely lots of children? Can a man really love that many wives or is there one among them that holds his heart and the others are just chattel?

I started out pondering if I had led my hero in the right direction. I suppose I have but now I'm wondering why it's so difficult to keep him on that path. He made it quite clear that he does not wish to have love and marriage in his life but when I asked him about refusing a woman who might capture his heart, he merely responded by telling me that such a woman does not exist. Hmmm, ... so, ... is it denial? Fear of commitment? Is this what plagues most people, men and women, who scorn the idea of marriage?

So ... which do you prefer - the hero who eagerly awaits the day he meets the woman of his dreams and perhaps rushes into things with the wrong partner? Or do you prefer the hero who scoffs at the thought of falling in love but falls the hardest when that certain woman walks into his life?

Hope I've given you something to ponder and a little escapism to help you over that mid-week hump. I love conversing with my characters and I hope you enjoyed my excursion. I think I'd like to visit modern Ponta Delgada someday.  It looks dreamy ... and very romantic!   : ) 

Happy Reading Everyone!


The_Book_Queen said...

Very interesting--I'd definitely read this book then, Amy! :D Lol. And no worries; it's perfectly natural to hear voices in your head and respond back to them. Assuming said voices are characters or possible characters, of course. :)If they aren't...well, I'm not at liberty to say anything more. LOL. *WINK*


Amy Valentini said...

LOL!! Thanks TBQ!
Glad you stopped by - I hope it took you away from it all, if only for a moment. : )

Maureen said...

Better late than never, so my assessment is I love both types of hero's if the story line is good. I am currently reading HIS MISTRESS BY CHRISTMAS by Victoria Alexander, and the hero WANTS the woman from the start, I love the chase, that is as it should be. But then of course there are those hero's and heroine's with flaws, whom I love to watch battle it out. This can add both intrigue and humor to a plot. Isn't there something special about the anticipation of such a match? I may not be a writer, but I love a lively conversation, with a lot of banter. Not too sappy of course. One of my favorite series is THE SCHOOL OF HEIRESS by Samantha James, her stories hit on both fronts. I can read those over and over.

Great post Amy, and look forward to the publication of this story, the men read delicious...wink!


Amy Valentini said...

Very well said, Maureen! Thanks. : )