Why Characters Matter So Much To The Story

As I was writing The Earl’s Stolen Bride today, I suddenly realized the only reason why Lord Hawkins married Chloe (heroine in The Earl’s Stolen Bride) in The Earl’s Secret Bargain was because she was beautiful.  More than that, she was extremely beautiful.  I know Toby (Lord Davenport) didn’t think Chloe was as good looking as Regina, but then Toby was going to marry Regina so, of course, he thought she was better looking.

It’s all about perspective.  Over and over, Orlando has been telling Toby that Chloe is far more attractive, but Toby has refused to listen, which he should because he’s married to Regina and should think Regina’s better looking.  But when I brought in a minor character into The Earl’s Stolen Bride, he made a comment that made me realize Orlando was right.  Chloe is the prettier of the two.  In fact, she’s the prettiest heroine of all the ladies I’ve featured in all my Regencies.

And this was why Lord Hawkins (the gentleman who ran off to India right after marrying Chloe in The Earl’s Secret Bargain) married Chloe.  It’s also why he had no real interest in consummating their marriage.  To him, beauty was to be looked at and put on display, not touched.  Had I ever written Lord Hawkins’ point of view, I might have figured this out sooner, but I never did write in his point of view.

I’ve been in Orlando’s point of view, and he has been in love with her since before she married Lord Hawkins.  He’s spent the past three books of this series longing for her.  She had attracted a lot of other gentlemen, too.  I had a lot of them gathering around her everywhere she went, but I assumed it was because she knew how to flirt because that’s what Orlando thought.  Now I know it was because she’s incredibly attractive.  Had it not been for Dr. Harvey talking to Chloe, I would never have known this.

When I talk about writing in a character’s point of view, this is what I’m referring to.  It’s best for a writer to be so immersed within that character (seeing everything only from that character’s point of view) that they aren’t aware of what the other characters are thinking unless the characters either say something or if the writer writes in the other character’s viewpoint.  In real life, we only know what we are thinking.  We can’t read other people’s minds.  The only way we find something out is if someone tells us.  We can guess, but we can’t ever truly know.  (This is why they say, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”)

Finding out these surprises is one of the reasons why writing is so enjoyable, and it’s why secondary characters can really add something fun to a book.  Writing a story isn’t just telling a story.  It’s about living through a character, feeling and thinking everything that character is.  It’s being inside the character and seeing the story from their perspective.   The story is not the writer’s story.  The story is the character’s.  This is why I love the story as much as I do.  Without the character, the story has no meaning.  The story is only a series of events.  The character is what gives the story heart.  This is why I believe the character is the key to the entire story, and the focus should always be on the main characters.  Secondary characters support the story, but the main ones are the ones that really count.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to other genres, but her first love is historical romance. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and a couple of children. To find out more about her books, go to https://ruthannnordinsbooks.wordpress.com/.
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2 Responses to Why Characters Matter So Much To The Story

  1. That’s why if you have something happen to a character in the beginning of the book, sometimes you can’t feel for the character because you haven’t gotten to know them yet. Once you know them, they can even make you cry. Or laugh. 😉

    • That’s true. It’s why I don’t think it’s good to start a book with anything major. I can see if there’s a scene where the husband loses his wife because the point is he’s going to fall in love again with the heroine. The writer doesn’t need to connect with his love for the first wife. The writer should connect with his love for the next one. But if the writer wants to be connected with an event, it should definitely happen later in the story. That, or the writer should be prepared to go back and rewrite the big scene after they get to know the character. 🙂

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