So, it’s Valentine’s Eve, and it’s time to think about some of the characters that have inspired me to create my own. What is it about certain fictional heroes that get my heart pumping and my blood rising? I make no apologies for the somewhat mainstream nature of this list – although perhaps one or two might surprise you :).
p89, Rivals, Jilly Cooper
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Jilly Cooper’s presentation of the character of Declan O’Hara from Rivals hasn’t influenced my own creation of Matthew Carter. Ferociously gifted, charismatic, broad shouldered and dark haired, passionate…how could he not? And by the end of the novel he’s been broken, battered and nearly defeated, only to rise from the ashes to be at the head of a new TV production company, and reclaim his feckless wife Maud from the clutches of arch rival Tony Baddingham.
I’m a sucker for a brooding, dark haired hero, and Declan gets his brood on more than most His utter fidelity to a wife who doesn’t deserve that loyalty (well, almost utter fidelity!), is a deeply attractive, if frustrating trait. Yes, Declan, you make my list for your height, your hair, your integrity, and your ability to recite Irish poetry from memory. Oh, and the fact that you are so utterly broken at points like this:
I think I even fancy him more than Rupert Campbell Black, these days ;).
And so we move on to another brooding hero; if not the brooding hero. I refer, of course, to Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. There’s nothing new I can say about Darcy that a million other people haven’t already said, but his enduring appeal as a romantic hero speaks for itself. Tall, handsome, liked by men and women, but also aloof, borderline disagreeable at first impression and curt with those for whom he has no tolerance, this is a man of layers.
‘Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report, which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.’
Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3
Is it any wonder that this is a character who spawned a million love-hate relationships, and almost as many televisual interpretations? Ah, Mr Darcy, will anyone ever match up?
And while we’re on the classics, let’s skip to John Thornton from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South.
‘Now, in Mr. Thornton’s face the straight brows fell over the clear deep-set earnest eyes, which, without being unpleasantly sharp, seemed intent enough to penetrate into the very heart and core of what he was looking at. The lines in the face were few but firm, as if they were carved in marble, and lay principally about the lips, which were slightly compressed over a set of teeth so faultless and beautiful as to give the effect of sudden sunlight when the rare bright smile, coming in an instant and shining out of the eyes, changed the whole look from the severe and resolved expression of a man ready to do and dare everything, to the keen honest enjoyment of the moment, which is seldom shown so fearlessly and instantaneously except by children’
‘Margaret’s attention was thus called to her host; his whole manner as master of the house, and entertainer of his friends, was so straightforward, yet simple and modest, as to be thoroughly dignified. Margaret thought she had never seen him to so much advantage. When he had come to their house, there had been always something, either of over-eagerness or of that kind of vexed annoyance which seemed ready to pre-suppose that he was unjustly judged, and yet felt too proud to try and make himself better understood. But now, among his fellows, there was no uncertainty as to his position. He was regarded by them as a man of great force of character; of power in many ways. There was no need to struggle for their respect. He had it, and he knew it; and the security of this gave a fine grand quietness to his voice and ways, which Margaret had missed before.’
Yes, I can definitely see Gaskell’s influence on my writing, too – sudden smiles that lift serious features into something more lighthearted :). And then the change in perception; when a heroine sees a hero in a different light after only having seen him at a disadvantage. Not that I’d presume to compare myself, obviously, but it’s interesting to see what I’ve taken on board in my reading!
And so to Heathcliff, the ultimate in brooding males. Arguably more of an anti-hero, you can feel Bronte’s passion for her creation.
‘He had grown a tall, athletic, well-formed man; beside whom [Edgar] seemed quite slender and youth-like. His upright carriage suggested the idea of his having been in the army. His countenance was much older in expression and decision of feature than Mr. Linton’s; it looked intelligent, and retained no marks of former degradation. A half-civilised ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire, but it was subdued; and his manner was even dignified: quite divested of roughness, though stern for grace.’
The notion of colossal internal fires being kept under control, just, is another one I find irresistible. Oh, the passion!
So, who are your favourites? 🙂