Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Falling in Love Again...

Obsession, n.[L. obsessio]
2. The state of being besieged; - used specifically of a person beset by a spirit from without.

Back in the Olden Days it was easy writing for Black Lace
Then we knew we were writing about sex. Hard-edged, transgressive, no-holds-barred, call-a-cunt-a-cunt sex that would get women hot and wet and breathless. Romance was irrelevant: this was Black Lace, not Mills & Boon. Our male characters could be handsome or ugly, attractive or repulsive, kind or cruel, comforting or provoking or downright frightening, just so long as they were, within that situation, finger-lickin’ hot. Hell, they didn’t even have to be human, or alive – In Cruel Enchantment I wrote sex with a dragon and with the walking dead (I wouldn’t get away with those nowadays, believe me).

So keen was I to avoid being seen to write about Love, as opposed to Sex, that even in situations where it was completely appropriate I wouldn’t mention it. It’s obvious to readers of Divine Torment that the two main characters are wildly in love, but I never once use the L-Word.

Everything changes … Nowadays romance is In and characters should live happily-ever-after together … eventually. I am actually very happy with the new paradigm (at least when I’m writing longer pieces of fiction) - partly because any character, male or female, who can shag their way through 80,000 words without ever becoming emotionally involved is one that I’m likely to find a bit repellent. Partly because there just isn’t anything more erotic than the experience of falling head over heels, obsessively, truly-madly-deeply in love. But it does result in some challenges for the writer...

First, you’ve got to make your male characters actually worthy of more than a one-night-stand. Not always easy: a pretty face and a big cock just aren’t enough.

And then there’s the emotional involvement… After all, I’m (mostly) writing about how a female character falls for a male. There’s the authorly obligation to write sincerely, and to feel what the character is feeling. Which means, since I’m currently working on two novellas plus a novel with rival male heroes, that at the moment I have to be hopelessly in love with four different fictional blokes: a werebear, a ginger eco-warrior, a Crowleyan chaos magician and a king of ancient Sumer… The hormonal overload can be painful at times. I catch myself watching eagerly in crowded areas for someone who doesn’t actually exist to turn up and meet me. And poor Mr Ashbless has to put up with me moping tragically around the house with a haunted look in my eyes and waking up at 3am for furtive liaisons with my computer.

Sometimes you just want to flee to the Arctic to get away from it all.

So, ’fess up, you writers – or is it just me?
Will anyone admit to Faking It instead – writing a hero they secretly found risible or boring?
Readers; it’s easy to fall for a fictional character you can see on screen, but do you ever get a real crush on a man who only exists in writing?

I’d love to know…

Janine Ashbless
Janine Ashbless on


Madelynne Ellis said...

I always fall in love with my characters. Some, like Vaughan from A Gentleman’s Wager, I adore from the outset, others, I grow to love over time. Of course, I don’t make it easy for myself, because I fall for my villains as well as my heroes, and I often have two heroes who have the hots for each other in addition to the heroine. Talk about complicated!

I’m not sure I could actually fake it. I wasn’t particularly fond of Dareth Sadler in Passion of Isis to begin with, and it really shows in the early drafts of the book. However, once I added a scene or two from his pov things slowly changed. I wouldn’t say I ever fell for him, but I did develop a certain amount of respect and affection for him.

Currently, I’m in a similar position to Janine. I’m working on two novels and a novella, so fantasyland is rather crowded. Let’s see there’s a pretty demon hunter, a voyeur, a fop, a man in stripped stockings, a highwayman, a thieftaker, a demon prince and oh, yeah – and the mad mercurial bastard. More than enough to keep me busy I think you’ll agree. In addition, there were two vampires on the list until recently.

Hey, bit of fun for you. If you follow the link to my blog, after you’ve finished up here, I’m having a little quiz, to see if you can guess which of the characters on that list are heroes and which ones are villains.

I wonder if anyone will get them all right!

Hmm, I’m challenging you, Tilly. You reckon you know how my mind works.

Anyway, as for falling for characters out of books as a reader – hell, yes, I could go on at length. Instead, I’m only going to mention two. Lord Wraxall from Lord Wraxall’s Fancy (yep, I’m him again. He's the villian if anyone's wondering) and Valentine Warleggan from Winston Graham’s Poldark books. He’s only a fairly minor character, but even though I hate most of what he does, I love him at the same time. Told you, I like the screwed up ones…

Great topic, Janine.

Madelynne Ellis said...

Grrrr! How come my links always get chewed up. I even tested this one out first to see if it'd work.

my blog

Nikki Magennis said...

Janine, this is totally off subject, but I once met a man who was in love with a polar bear. He was murderously jealous of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, because he thought he was engaged to this bear and Sir R was trying to steal her from him. And yes, he was clinically insane.

Sorry, what was the question?

Ah characters. I tend to base characters on real people that I'm already half in love with. Currently I'm in love with Paul Eddington as the Prime Minister, Will Self, Katherine Hepburn, the singer from Lush, James Dean and someone I used to hang around with at school. Should I be worried that half of these people are dead?

Right, off to do Madelynne's quiz...

Janine Ashbless said...

Ah, Will Self. You just so shouldn't, and yet ... mmm...

I have a thing for John Sessions too. I haven't worked out whether it has any sexual content or not, but he is just sooo cute, like a little puppy...

Anonymous said...

As a reader I don't have to like or love the characters always, although it certainly helps.

As a writer I don't fall in love with my characters, what am I missing out on? I can write sex, romance, whatever without actually loving them, although for good sex scenes my libido reacting is a must. I don't have to love them, but I do have to lust for them! I find it hard to write character I don't like. Ones I *hate* are easier, but the "weaker" "negative" emotions, (dislike, despise etc.) I find hard to write. The "weaker" "positive" emotions, like, respect etc. I find it OK to write too.

Although I'm far from a professional actor, I have acted a few times. I act different characters more easily to those I write. I find it hard to act characters I hate, but I'm pretty comfortable acting characters I despise and dislike. Petty bureaucrats and power-mad secretaries I can certainly act, but not write, unless they've got something else in there that lets me get a hook in.

Portia Da Costa said...

Well, for me it's a given that I'm besotted with my book's hero. There'd be no point in writing it otherwise. But then in my own mind, I've been writing romance - in my own twisted way - since Day One, back in the early nineties...

kathrynoh said...

I'm currently writing about a character that I can't fall in love with, but the protagonist in my novel would. It's very difficult to do and I think every "hero" needs a quirk that you can love even if the whole package doesn't do it.

Alison Tyler said...

I find that sometimes it's not that I love the character, but that I wish I were more like her. I really wanted to be like Nora in With or Without You. She's just filled with confidence, which is a skill I tend to lack. I found myself dressing in the way she dressed, wanting to cut my hair like hers. A total fucking girl crush. She ended up being more interesting (to me, anyway) than my main character.

Often my male characters have some resemblance to real people in my life. So I might not be in love with one now, but I was once. This happens more in short stories for me, than in novels.

But I think I'm more apt to fall in love with characters that other people write. I have a thing for Sam Spade (in the book rather than the movie) and Raymond Cruz in Elmore Leonard's City Primeval is one of my long-time crushes.

Anonymous said...

I know Madelynne's mind? Woah, that's a scary prospect - some nasty things live in there.

With me, yeah, I love them *all*. I am very quick to love. It takes nothing. Nicely turned ankle, nicely turned phrase.

My love is worth nothing. But is given very freely.

At the moment I love a vampire, 3 werewolves, a werewolf hunter, and still hold a torch for a grumpy young guy in a wheelchair.

Not to mention other people's characters... And Angel. And Gaius Baltar. And Lee Adama. And at least two authors. And two political activists. And the postman. Actually several of those people are real.

And I am in love with all the pictures on my hard drive. I mean, you all know what my hard drive looks like by now, don't you?

I am nothing if not a woman of emotional stamina.

Nikki Magennis said...

No, Tilly, I don't know what pictures you mean. Could you show us please?

t'Sade said...

There are characters I fall in love with and there are characters I write that I'm watching through a sheet of plate glass. I found, since I write some stories based on requests and commissions, that I deal better with characters that I create instead of writing up someone else's ideas. I enjoy both, but its those characters that just pop up when you are crawling out of a shower or working that I just fall in love with and have to write about.

I will mention, I'm not always fond of "falling in love" endings. Actually, I'm not always fond of happy ending. On occasion, I think even good romance and erotica needs to have a proper samurai drama ending: everyone dies. Sometimes, you don't need to know that it always works out perfectly at the end, but then again, I see that most people would prefer the soft endings that leave the sunset blinding your eyes instead of the rainy bittersweet ending.

I do fall in love with the ideas of characters. I know they aren't real, but I think they reflect some trait that I want to find in someone. So, I find myself look for those traits, specially right after reading something just... perfect.

However, I just had to add your stories to my "to read" list. Cruel Enchantment sounds so cool, plus it happens to be in the same genre (sex with walking dead) as my own published novel. And werebears... yummy.

Madeline said...

Interesting topic. I've only published one erotica novel, WILD CARD, and it featured three main female characters and ONE main male character. So my guy, Ray Torrington, had to be horny as hell, since he was the main man for all three women. Oh, and the novel takes place over ONE weekend! I actually counted his orgasms to be sure it was believable - he's forty and a stud, and he comes 6 times over the weekend. (I made sure he got naps and food in between.) Doable.
I didn't want to write the dark, nasty stranger guy. Ray is the 'one who got away', the sexy,hard-working, 'help the world' guy who won't commit. So, while he is intensely likeable (I hope) or at least, intensely attractive, his inability to commit makes him a heartache for any woman who falls in love with him.
I imagine that all women encounter that guy at least once in their lives. Or, perhaps I should say, all women fall in love with a guy like that once (?) and learn, the hard way, that when he says he isn't into commitment, he means it.
After that, the wise woman listens when she hears that statement, and doesn't risk her sanity on such a man, again.
Do I love Ray? Well, yes. He's a composite of men I've lusted after in my life. I gave him a beautiful cock, too. And, because he's so sexual, he's great in bed. But he's a heartbreaker and a bit of an egomaniac. Like many men, he hides his inability to commit by working so hard (for the good of the world) that he doesn't have time for love, even if he had the inclination for it, which he really doesn't. And that makes him, for the smart gal, unloveable.
Since WILD CARD is about obsession as much as it is about love, the main male character wouldn't HAVE to be loveable, but I wanted the reader to understand why Victoria was obsessed with him. The other two women, Penny and Lonnie, aren't in love with him, so they can fuck him with unabashed enthusiasm. That's what a man like that is best suited to. It's the woman who loves such a man (and I guess I believe that every woman has come across a great guy who isn't into committment) who suffers.
And by the way, I don't think that 'being obsessed' by someone means you aren't really in love. I think obsession can be part of love.

Alison Tyler said...


So embarrassed to admit that I did not know a single reference in your list. I just looked up Gaius Baltar on Wikipedia. Do I live under a rock?

Or just a hard place?

:) Alison

P.S. I couldn't find a picture of your postman, though.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, Alison, I live in a geeky bizarro world, but you are more than welcome to visit anytime.

Gaius has just recently spent a lot of time on the show crying and he also has hair that is made for pulling. I have kinks and I am weak. What can I say?

MM xx

My postman should have his own website

Janine Ashbless said...

Madeline, by the sounds of it I'd fall for Ray Torrington too.

This one's a bit out of date (and VERY geeky) but the fictional character I fell most in love with was a bloke called Hile Troy from the second Thomas Covenant book. He was a blind wargamer,and really smart (I have an IQ fetish), and had the whole "saving the world" thing going in spades:in the face of insurmountable odds he just would not roll over and die. Oh, and he turned into a forest-spirit in the end. What more could you want from a guy?

Jeremy Edwards said...

I love Alison's account of emulating her own character! I can relate to this, as most of my characters have personalities that embody traits I tend to value and, in my writing, idealize. And, now that you mention it, I'm usually infatuated with my female characters. Since I write short stories and not novels, it's an open question whether the infatuation would ever blossom into love over the course of a higher word-count. : ) (This is actually another good reason for me to stick to short pieces, since I'm cheerfully married and monogamous and really don't need the emotional complication of falling in love with a creature of my imagination!)

Nikki Magennis said...

Ah, you dilettante, you, Jeremy! Flirting with the short stories with no intention of committing to the long haul!

I think you might find over the course of a novel you rather want to kill all your characters periodically. At least, that's my experience. : )

Anonymous said...

Jeremy, I know you are almost certainly not the british actor of the same name, but I wanted you to know that every time I see you in the blog comments it makes me smile to imagine that you are.

This is because this is what that Jeremy Edwards looks like

(If you don't look like this - please don't tell me)

Jeremy Edwards said...

: ) No worries--though I am not the same person as celebrity Jeremy Edwards, for your purposes we can assume that I look remarkably like him. This is thanks to section 486(b) of the Pseudonymous Writer's Code, which states quite clearly that any pseudonymous writer looks exactly like a given reader wishes him or her to look.

Kate Pearce said...

ME-frothy romance girl-always falls in love with her male characters.-apart from one complete jerk I wrote in an early Regency who when I tried to revise the book was such a domineering fool that I just couldn't bear to deal with him anymore.

I'm currently in love with the 3 Regency guys I'm writing who are are all-how can I put this?- willing to have sex anyway they can get it. I'm totally fascinated by the whole m/f/m angle and love them all for their sexual ambiguity.

I'm still in love with Rhett Butler from GWTW and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy (and Take That of course) if we're getting into fiction/art!

Madeline said...

I'm usually in love with movie stars, not characters in books, my own or anyone else's. I've never wondered why that is, until now...
I'm still sort of in love with Dennis Quaid and I'm in love with Vincent Donofrio (Law and Order CI). I'm lucky in that I often have celebrities visit me in my dreams...not daydreams, night dreams. I love it.
Here's something I find odd, perhaps because I'm not a kid anymore. Girls fall in love with anime characters now, like Inyuasha. I sometimes write for tv and when I was working on a kid's animation series the production co-ordinator told me she's had crushes on some of the characters in the animated series she's worked on. And she's a grown woman!

Portia Da Costa said...

Holy Moly, another Vinnie fan!

Madelynne Ellis said...

Ah, you've caught me out, Madeline. Yep, to anime characters and video game sprites. I'll spare everyone the naming names. Just everyone assume that they're all very pretty bad boys, with long flowing hair and, nice fingernails and you'll get the picture.

t'Sade said...

Oh, I have to agree on that one. I love the anime. I like them a bit more wild, like Alucard, but they are the type that I just clutch at the television, whimpering that they'll step out.

kristina lloyd said...

The sleb thing just doesn’t work for me (although I confess I once had an erotic dream about Pete Doherty which scared me somewhat). Their lives seem fundamentally dull – too much money, too many friends, not enough secrets – and if I enjoy, say, an actor in a role, when the film’s over, their sleb-ness comes to the fore and that puts me off. I like ordinary – or at least, ordinary on the surface, extraordinary when you delve. My imagination’s more likely to be snagged by someone I pass in the street or half-meet at a party. And I’ve never understood why writers put pics by their desk of a someone from a magazine who resembles their character. Obviously, for a lot of writers this really works. I guess it inspires or reminds them but I would actually find it off-putting and mildly oppressive. (I’m very sensitive, you know.)

I’m not sure if I fall in love with my characters. I’m obsessed, infatuated, intrigued, fascinated, oh yes. Fascinated because, as I write, I don’t yet know who they are. And I’d very much like to be having sex with them 8 days a week, even the villains. Especially the villains. (Madelynne, we should form a support group. We could hang out, chatting shyly about Lord Wraxhall and swapping doodles.) But, Janine, yes, characters do come alive. Because AFT was set in Brighton where I live, the actual and the imagined got very blurred. For a long time, I had false memories and expectations – ‘Oh, Ilya lives around here’ and ‘I remember bumping into him down that street.’ And then I had to remind myself that Ilya was one of my imaginary friends from a story I once made up.

T’sade, a voice in the wilderness but I’m right there with you. I find the HEA overrated as well. There’s an argument for emotionally satisfying and positive endings where they don’t necessarily run off into the sunset together. But, even worse than that, are the bleak, bittersweet or devastating endings that knock the breath right out of you, and leave you wishing life were prettier. I like those. Not fashionable and anyway, you wouldn’t want too many of them. But I do like them. I think the market tends to be for escapist feel-good fantasy fiction. Which makes me think that maybe I write feel-bad fiction. Oh dear.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

I certainly have to like my heroes and heroines in order to write them effectively, but I'm not sure I've ever fallen in love with any of them. Lust, absolutely; love, not so much.

Why? I think perhaps because I know their foibles and problems to well. It's my job to convey their emotional development to the reader. If the character didn't need to grow and change, there would be no story to write.

In a way, it's kind of like the example of Gaius Baltar. Gorgeous, yes, but so incredibly fucked up that in RL, I wouldn't go anywhere near him. Ditto Starbuck. I wanna do her, not live with her!