When I read a romance, I want to be pulled so deeply into the story that I feel what the characters feel. I want to experience the world through their eyes, seeing what they see, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching what they hear, taste, smell, and touch.
Most important to me as a reader, I want to know what the main character thinks. I want to get inside her head. In essence, I want to become the heroine of the romance, vicariously living her life for the duration of the story.
My grandmother, who had some Native American heritage, used to say that to understand someone, you had to walk a mile in her moccasins. Nanny was on to something. If a writer can put me in a character’s shoes so that I experience everything she’s experiencing in such a way that I’m right there with her, I’m happy. I want to rejoice when good things happen to her, hurt when she’s hurting, laugh when she laughs.
There are many wonderful writers who put me firmly in their character’s shoes. Just recently I was in the combat boots of Catherine West’s journalist heroine, Kristin Taylor, in Yesterday’s Tomorrow, experiencing the realities of life in war-torn Vietnam in the 1960s. I ached with her as she fought to make sense of a seemingly senseless situation.
Sarah Sundin put me in another pair of combat boots when I was in the seat of a B17 flying over Germany during WWII, fighting to save the lives of the crew along with her hero, Major Jack Novak, in A Memory Between Us. I felt his fear as he flew through the flak, rejoiced with him when he returned from missions in which no one was lost, and wept for him when the war robbed him of close friends.
I trod the dusty streets of Spencer, Texas in a cute pair of Victorian boots with Karen Witemeyer’s librarian heroine in To Win Her Heart. Eden Spencer’s mission to reach the townspeople with Christian charity became mine. And I fell for her blacksmith friend, Levi Grant, right along with her. He’s an incredibly well crafted hero, one I will remember for a long time to come.
When I write, I attempt to become my characters. I do my utmost to slip into their shoes, boots, or slippers and see the world through their eyes. I keep in mind their likes and dislikes, their chosen professions, their hobbies and interests.
The heroine of my debut novel, Elenora Watkins, plays the violin. I’m not musically inclined. My sole experience playing an instrument took place in sixth grade when I spent a year trying not to squeak as I practiced my clarinet. However, although I’ve never even held a violin, when I was writing Ellie’s story, I couldn’t hear enough violin music to satisfy me. I walked in her shoes, loving what she loves.
In a way, Ellie got into my shoes, too, changing me and expanding my world. When I pick up a book, that immersion into a character’s life is what I crave, and that’s the experience I hope to offer my readers.
What fictional characters have so thoroughly captivated you that you felt as though you were right there with them? In your opinion, how did the writer accomplish that?