A Different Kind of History
As historical novelists, the Hoydens all spend a good portion of our writing time delving into the past and finding creative ways to bring it to life. I did that on my most recent project, but in a different way from my usual historical research. The project, His Spanish Bride, is a novella about how my characters, Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch/Mélanie and Charles Fraser, became betrothed and married. At this point, I know Malcolm and Suzanne/Charles and Mel very well. One of the joys of writing about them is that their dialogue and interactions come very easily while at the same time I feel I'm always finding new aspects of them and their relationship to explore.
Several of the books I've written about the Rannochs/Frasers have been out of chronological order, and I've always found it quite easy to pick up with them at different points in time. But in all the stories they've been married and the parents of at least one child. There are secrets between them, yet in many ways it's their familiarity with each other and shared history that defines them. With the novella, all that was different. Malcom and Suzanne barely know each other at this point in their story. They have yet to develop any intimacy, physical or emotional, They are just coming to know each other, awkward and uncertain. And I felt awkward and uncertain as though I was just coming to know them. Interestingly, I think I had an easier time writing another character, Raoul, because I think he changes less over the subsequent books (though he too changes).
Many writers, including my fellow Hoydens, excel at capturing the magic of characters meeting and falling in love. But even when my books were historical romances rather than historical suspense, I've always preferred to write about characters who already have a shared history. I love creating and exploring a backstory for my characters. In the novella, I was writing that backstory. In the process I learned new things about Suzette/Mel and Malcolm/Charles. including the fact that they were both quite different people before they met. Being married, working together, and being parents changed and shaped them both. In its own way, the novella was research for further books in the series. And like all research it helped me develop a richer, more complex world for my subsequent books.
Do you ever find yourself wanting to know more about characters' backgrounds or to see their backstory dramatized? Writers, do you find it easier to write about characters who share a history or characters who are getting to know each other?
photo credit: Raphael Coffey Photography