History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

02 November 2012

Pictorial Felicity

Every now and again, I'll run into one of my heroes or heroines on the wall somewhere.  Usually, it's well after I've already created them.  There will be a thrill of recognition at seeing just that right person in just that right time period.

This happened to me in Paris when I was researching my eighth book, The Orchid Affair.  I'd gone to an exhibit at the Musee Cognac Jay on Marguerite Gerard.  I can't remember exactly what it was called.  Something along the lines of "Marguerite Gerard: artiste en 1789".  My book was set in 1804, but an important part of the back story involved my hero's dead wife, who had been an influential painter who rose to prominence during the Revolution.  

And wouldn't you know it.  I walked in and found a sketch of Andre, my hero, just as he must have looked in 1789.  Of course, it wasn't actually Andre.  In real life it was Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson.  That didn't matter.  I knew who it was.

The same thing just happened to me today.  I was looking through portraits of ladies from 1849, the year of my current work in progress, when I stumbled upon one that looks pretty much exactly as I imagined my heroine, from the hairstyle to the modest collar (although not the fur cuffs; my heroine's would be lace, like the collar).

And I thought, "Oh.  There you are!"  

It's not just me.  At the wonderful Morgan Library exhibit on Jane Austen a couple of years ago, they had a letter of Austen's in which she spoke of stumbling upon Jane Bennet in a gallery.  She saw the portrait and knew straightaway that it was Jane.

Do you ever encounter fictional characters out there?


Blogger looloolooweez said...

Nope, not just you... and I'm relieved to read that even The Austen suffered from this same thing.

Actually I never considered writing until recently. A story came to me, and I thought nothing of it beyond a pleasant diversion during my work hours... until I stumbled upon a portrait of the "main character" one day, and now he won't stop haunting me! Isn't it odd how those things happen?

9:33 PM  
Blogger Reina M. Williams said...

I certainly do! I have a postcard of a 19th century portrait of a British officer who reminds me of my wip hero. Sometimes I find such pictures later, or sometimes I get inspiration for characters from portraits, or actors, I'm already familiar with. I didn't know the tidbit about Austen--thanks for sharing!

9:33 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

Nope. I do it too. I don't seek out actors or models to base my characters on before I write, but often during the months I'm working on a book I'll stumble across a period portrait or a modern photograph and there's that moment of *recognition* you spoke about. Love when it happens!

9:43 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I love that letter of Austen's, Lauren, and that she thought about her characters that way. I also like her saying she looked for "Mrs. Darcy" but couldn't find her, and then something like she put it down to her husband not liking to share her likeness. I love that she, like so many of us, thought of her characters having lives outside the novels. I cast my books with actors as I start writing, but I've also come across pictures or actors after the fact who seem just right for a particular character.

Your Victorian heroine looks like a wonderful character!

4:16 PM  

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