In February, my first book in a new series about a fictional town called Accord in Colorado, IN FROM THE COLD, came out. It was the first story about three brothers, Gabe, Tyler and Nick Jordan. I imagined what I thought were good plots and good characters.
I soon faced a couple of challenges with this series, though.
One problem was that I couldn’t come up with a full enough story for the middle brother, Tyler, for the new 85,000 word length of Harlequin Superromance. What to do? I really liked Tyler and really wanted to tell his story. I decided to make Tyler’s story arc over the two books, which meant that his story didn’t finish in the first book and that, if readers wanted to know what happened to him, they would have to read March’s release, HOME TO LAURA.
This was not a ploy to get people to buy more of my books, but rather a way to give Tyler his story as written without having to use a lot of filler to write a separate, full-length novel. As a reader, I don’t like a lot of filler. I want story. Tyler became the peacekeeper, the go-between helping the two brothers. He wanted them to be a cohesive family. At some point, though, the two brothers had to learn how to heal themselves and their sibling rivalry.
The challenge I then had to face was that he is the hero in the March release, HOME TO LAURA. Wouldn’t everyone who had read the first book hate him?
Every character must go through a character arc and, ideally, they don’t start as super-nice guys who just become nicer.
We want our characters to grow, to be challenged enough in their lives to learn and change; therefore, they have to start with flaws, with those things that drive them to make mistakes in their lives that they must then rectify. Nick made some terrible mistakes in his past with both his brother and with the heroine of his story, Laura. He has made bad choices and done a lot of harm for which he must now make reparation.
How was I to keep the reader interested enough in this guy who had been so nasty in the first book, to give them a reason to read past the first chapter or two? Nobody likes to read about a hero they hate. It happens, but ideally…
So, I used his love of his daughter to make him sympathetic. He is a ruthless businessman, but his Achilles heel is his daughter. She figures prominently in the whole book. Then, of course, the first time he sees the heroine after he’s been away from town for a number of years, she knocks his sock off. Actually, pretty literally. They make love his first night home. They have a past and an attraction that they just can’t seem to shake or forget.
She becomes pregnant. She has wanted a baby for a long time, but not like this, not without an active, engaged father. All of the resentment she has harbored against Nick over the years rises up.
Nick finds himself in the unusual situation of having to convince her that, underneath it all, he’s actually a pretty good guy. After all he’s done, it’s going to be a tough job. Well, he has to prove himself, and in so doing, learns a lot about what drove him to be the way he is—and how to change.
As readers, which elements do you find humanize a character you might otherwise not be inclined to like?
One lucky reader who comments today on my blog will be randomly selected to win a copy of HOME TO LAURA. Good luck!