Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bad Habits As Devices

One of my old favorite books was a Debbie Macomber called STARLIGHT. I had the great fortune to meet her at a Fort Lauderdale conference three years ago and told her it was my favorite of hers. She laughed and then told me it was her very first published book. We talked about how nowadays the book probably wouldn’t be published or at least not without some big changes. Why? Because the hero was legally blind and was a bastard (figuratively). But that wasn’t necessarily the reason. There were two scenes that involved the hero being under the influence of alcohol and doing things unacceptable. I can’t remember if the hero smoked--it’s been a long time since I read it--but when it was published in the 80’s, it wasn’t unusual to read a cowboy or two who did.

Have you noticed you rarely read a romance where the hero or heroine gets drunk or smokes? Sure you can probably come across one or two out of hundred or more books where the hero drinks or smokes but rarely the heroine. I admit I read more paranormal and historical than anything. So maybe that’s the reason. And I figure authors are trying to be PC and not romanticize such bad habits.

Anyway, this all came to mind because of a wonderful book I recently read, the hero smoked a cigarette whenever he was stressed out. Then I realized in all the books I’ve written, not one character drank to an excess or smoked. What a great device to use on occasion to create tension or make a point. How strange I never thought to use it. Hmmm.


Paula said...

One of Kris Robinette's books featured a secondary character who was a smoker. I really liked the character and got to thinking about how she could use that bad habit in making him a hero--what if you had a hero who was trying to quit smoking? That could be a great character tic.

Suddenly, into my mind flashed this hero whose tic was popping antacids. Which made me wonder why he had to down so much stomach medicine. And that took me right to the character of McBride, the hero of my first Intrigue.

So character tics aren't only useful, they can actually help you create a character from whole cloth.

Carla Swafford said...

So true, Paula. And that was a great book.

Louisa Cornell said...

Hmm. I may be in trouble here. The hero of my very newest just started third book gets drunk and goes to bed with his ex-mistress's secretary/companion. Of course it does happen right after his mistress dumps him by SHOOTING him at the end of a very bad night for him and the secretary. Hmm. Could be problematic. Not that he is a drunk, he just gets loaded and sleeps with the woman he has been attracted to for quite some time.

You are right about most books being completely politically correct these days. I have a friend who wrote a great book where the hero was addicted to laudanum and while she has had trouble selling it, it really is a great book of survival and redemption.

Carla Swafford said...

Does that friend have the initals LR and writes under another name with the same initials? I read an unpublished book of an author's friends that had an addicted hero and it was awesome. Don't understand why it's not published. The prologue was awesome too.

M.V.Freeman said...

I tend to like my characters to have the not so politically correct things going on. I have a character (main) who likes to smoke and drink. Why not? He's the bad boy...and they do that.

Louisa, that story sounds like fun. :) I'd read it!

Carla Swafford said...

You know, Mary, I realized after I wrote this, I do have a few heroes and heroines who drink, but not to an excess. But no smokers. My hubby smokes, so I'm not sure why I don't use that habit in my books.

Christine said...

How on earth are we supposed to write about REAL people when we are in a politically correct world? But there you have it. We must play to the masses... or...???