A lot of people – read friends, family, coworkers – ask me how I come up with some of my characters when I’m in the process of starting a new novel or story. The answer to this question is: I don’t. My characters tend to find me, usually when I’m not looking for them, like…3am in the morning when I’m trying to sleep.
You see, my characters tend to come waltzing into my brain like they own the place. They’ll go put on a pot of coffee, raid the refrigerator, flip the channels on the television…kinda like my husband without the marital bliss. They never announce that they are going to show up. They just appear and make themselves at home.
The way Crispin Yates did.
Crispin Yates is the love interest of lead character Maggie Warner in my forthcoming romance novel The Loch. Anyone who knows me well knows that sometimes a particular actor will inspire a few characters. If you read my Finding Inspiration: Sucker for “Supernatural” blog post, you’ll understand what I mean. In the case of The Loch, Crispin was inspired by British actor Richard Armitage (“The Hobbit,” “Berlin Station,” “MI-5”). As a matter of fact, I decided to name my hero using Richard’s actual middle name.
Crispin Yates is the eldest son of a titled lord who is a member of the House of Commons. He is a professor of literature at the University of Strathclyde as well as the estranged heir to the vast Yates fortune and will one day gain the hereditary title of Viscount. To say he doesn’t see eye to eye with his father is a bit of an understatement.
Tall, dark hair, brilliant blue eyes…he is the first person Maggie meets when she arrives in Scotland for a six-month sabbatical. One of my favorite conversations between them, takes place while they are getting to know each other at a local fish and chips shop. Let’s take a look.
“What about you? How did you get started running a pub?”
“Actually, I do that only when Michael has been deployed. It’s his pub. I’m a professor of literature at Strathclyde in Glasgow. I’m on break right now until the spring,” he stated as he clasped his hands in front of him. “I know. I don’t look like a university professor.”
Maggie considered him as she nibbled on a chip. “Oh, I don’t know. You might’ve been the literature professor I actually paid attention to,” she quipped with a smile. She popped a chip in her mouth in a cheeky fashion. “So, what do you specialize in?”
“18th Century to 20th Century literature. Cover everything from “1001 Arabian Nights” to “Harry Potter.” Basically, everything that covers the romantic period through the Victorian era to modern day.” He leaned back in his seat. “I’m a voracious reader as it is, and I enjoy the variety. So do my students.”
“I like to read too. Of course, I probably enjoy different books than you do,” Maggie remarked. She took a long sip of her Guinness, her eyes challenging him over the bottle.
“The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Maggie started.
“Which version?” Crispin asked a slow smile curling his lips.
“What do you mean which version? There’s only one version that I know of,” Maggie argued.
“There was a recent version released that included scenes Oscar Wilde wrote that was not considered polite in Victorian literature. I have a copy if you’d like to read the true version as Wilde meant it,” he offered.
“Yes. Okay.” She thought about if for a moment. “Wuthering Heights.”
He wheedled for a moment. “The first time it’s good. After that it gets predictable.”
“Ah…now that is a discussion for an evening in front of the fire with a bottle of wine.” Crispin raised an eyebrow at her. “Full Tolkien including the Silmarillion.”
Maggie lips twitched. “Red or white?”
“Red. A rich port. With chocolate.”
Maggie laughed and leaned forward towards him. “Are you flirting with me, Crispin Yates?”
“If you consider a discussion about Tolkien over a bottle of port wine and chocolate in front of a fire flirting, then yes, I’m flirting with you.” Crispin took a sip of his beer and grinned.
She watched him for a moment, the way his eyes twinkled at her. “We haven’t known each other for 24 hours.”
“Then this is a perfect way to get to know each other.” He set his bottle down. “If you’re game.”
Maggie had not had anyone even remotely interested in her in years. She was looking for a new start so why not enjoy herself. She met his gaze and her heart skipped a beat. “Yes, I am game. You bring the wine. I’ll bring the chocolate.”
© 2020, Beth A. Freely. All rights reserved.
From here, Crispin began to really take shape in my mind, and I got to know him. He is a passionate man who has no interest in the family business, the family fortune or the titles that go with it. He enjoys teaching and shaping young minds. He has no problem tramping around the Highlands of Scotland with Maggie, and he is willing to sacrifice everything to keep her.
Of course, they will have a happy ending. I do know how the book will end. It will end with Maggie on a train heading back to Crispin, with Crispin trying to catch her to keep her from leaving. He sees her and, in true romantic fashion, recites the following poem to her:
“Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty Lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
A belt of straw and Ivy buds,
With Coral clasps and Amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.
The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.”
The poem is “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe. If you enjoy audiobooks, go find “Classic Love Poems” on Audible.com and you can hear Richard Armitage read this poem. If his rich baritone doesn’t make your little romantic heart flutter when you’re done listening to it, then you better check your pulse to make sure you’re not dead.
As with all my characters, Crispin is very much a part of me, as is Maggie. In this case, he’s my inner literature teacher. I can sit there and discuss literature with people for hours. Case in point, the recent conversation I had with a co-worker about the new “Dune” movie that is about to hit theaters and how it looks to be closer to the original book by Frank Herbert than any in the past. Of course, it didn’t take us long to move from movie to book.
So, what’s your favorite part of creating a character? Do you use a long character bio sheet to flesh him or her out first, or do you let them reveal themselves as you write?
Drop me a line and let’s talk about how we bring characters to life.
Ta for now.