After a brief hiatus to address some work and health issues, I’m back to welcoming characters to my couch. Georgia Romance Writers colleague S.L. Morgan brought me this interesting young policeman, who isn’t being cooperative.
Character name: Brady
Brief description and relevant history:
Brady is a police detective, he became a cop to solve crimes as his sister’s abduction, rape and murder (when he was a young teen) was never solved. Although he would like to go to college, he doesn’t have time. However, he doesn’t believe a formal education necessarily makes a person smart. He sneaks off (tells no one) on his days off to go visit cultural and historical sites and museums to learn on his own. He doesn’t want anyone to think he’s ignorant because he never went to college. He believes his job is detrimental to a relationship as he was dumped by an intelligent person and due to his odd working hours. He is extremely turned on by intelligent women, they feed his desire for knowledge.
Where you’re stuck, or why your character needs a psychologist:
I need to understand what drives his desire for knowledge and why he’s afraid to tell anyone what he does on his days off. He needs a hobby other than visiting museums and I’m not sure what to have him do that would intrigue my heroine (she’s a linguist).
I asked the following questions to get more info:
Brady believes a formal education doesn’t necessarily make someone smart, but he’s into self-education. Where did he acquire both of these values? Were his parents educated but didn’t have enough common sense to balance their book smarts? Or did he get messages from uneducated parents that book-learning isn’t real education? Was either of his parents, likely his father since boys tend to identify more with them, a self-taught, well-regarded expert?
Brady wanted to go to college. But, he gave it up to become a police officer due to his sister’s tragedy. He did not have the time, money, nor grades to get into college, so he’s educating himself with his weekend trips.
Brady’s sister’s abduction, etc. obviously had a profound effect on him. How did he feel at the time it happened? Did he take any responsibility? Did he feel that if he had only known _____, he would have been able to save her? Or was he in school at the time and blamed himself for putting learning above family, like maybe he was at an honors club meeting the day she wanted him to take her to the pool and ended up going by herself and disappearing? This could be an interesting little flashback from both the crime’s perspective and to illuminate his motivations.
Brady was doing boy things (I think I had him working on his bike) and his sister went up to a car of other teen boys. She jumped in the car with them before he could stop her. But, since they were kids from his school, he didn’t think much of it and didn’t say or do anything until she never returned. He feels guilty for: 1. Letting her go alone with a bunch of boys. 2. Feeling relieved that she was out of his hair. 3. Feeling guilty for not telling his parents until it was too late where and when she left (she was eventually raped and killed and her body left under the bleachers at school. No one was convicted.). 4. He became a cop to protect other “sisters”.
What area of linguistics is your heroine in, and how do she and Brady meet?
Andrea is focusing on the dead languages (Old English, Latin, Sanskrit, and the fourth I forgot). She is a favorite of the linguistic teachers as her parents were involved in the acquisition of authentic dead language documents. She and Brady had a one time meet at a presentation she was giving at a museum where Brady was visiting. He actually approached her and asked her out to coffee. She chickened out and stood him up by leaving by a back door.
Ouch! Poor Brady. Here are my thoughts on how to move him and his story forward:
It seems to me that you’re stuck with Brady’s internal conflict, which Leigh Michaels calls the “long-term problem.” She defines it as having come up before the story begins and is connected to the character’s past or personality. You have the good makings of one because he does have a bad past experience in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of his sister, and his actions indicate a lot of potential for internal conflict. You need to clarify motivation and how it connects to his current self-educational efforts beyond that he’s engaging in them because he missed out on going to college.
When people feel guilty or undeserving, they can get defensive and act like they don’t want what they really crave. For example, Brady could feel that he doesn’t deserve a college education because his sister won’t have the opportunity for one. Also, he could be getting his informal education because going back to school for a formal one would mean he’d have to admit just how badly the incident with his sister affected him emotionally, which is contrary to his professional persona.
Since internal conflict is something a character needs to move beyond to resolve the external conflict, it seems to me that Brady’s going to need to embrace this smart, education-craving side of himself, both to make the romance work and address another external conflict. Since he’s a cop, I’m guessing your book has some sort of crime as part of the plot. You’re right that you do need to figure out why he’s keeping his weekend museum trips secret. Has he been mocked for his intellectual pursuits, either by his colleagues or friends? Or does he not want to admit to himself or others why he’s engaging in them because he might have to acknowledge some unexpressed grief or unaddressed trauma?
With regard to the romance, you have the piece that will drive the heroine away – that he doesn’t believe education makes people smart, which is an attitude educated people tend to get annoyed with. Also, you mentioned he was dumped by an intelligent woman, which means he may be defensive around Andrea even if he is attracted to her. Yes, you need the piece she can connect with. If she’s a professor, she may sense that he wants to learn and relate to that. Or perhaps he needs to consult with her on something related to her field, which helps her see that he does respect her knowledge and education. A third option would be that she has an affinity for “lost” things due to what her parents did, and it currently shows because she is a scholar of dead, or lost, languages. Brady does sound lost in a lot of ways. You also need to clarify her internal conflict, to which you give us a clue with her sneaking away on their date.
Brady and Andrea sound like a really interesting couple, and I look forward to reading more about them in the future!
Do you have a character you’re stuck on? Or a fascinating already published one who wouldn’t mind coming by for an interview? Email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com