Jennifer’s character from The Seduction of Esther is a klutz…
One of the points people make to writers is to make their characters realistic. In fact, this blog talked about that last week.
In real life, we’re not perfect. We have bad hair days, we get cranky, we’re not a whiz at every little thing we try. While readers want escapism, they don’t want to read about a character that makes them feel inferior. They want ones they can relate to.
With that in mind, I created Samara, the heroine of The Seduction of Esther.
Samara is a klutz. If there’s something to trip over, drop or mess up, she does it. And the more attracted she is to someone, the worse it gets. When she first meets our hero, Nathaniel, she spills potatoes in the grocery store, and runs away, leaving him to clean up her mess. Later, she spills wine down the front of his shirt in temple. Despite that, he forgives her and they get to know each other and develop feelings for each other.
Her hair isn’t perfect. It’s frizzy. No matter what she does to it, it won’t stay in place. Unlike her sister’s hair, which is always exactly as styled. But rather than fret over it, she embraces her flaw and learns to make the best of it.
When she prepares for her first date with him, she gets the hiccups. As she takes a drink of water to try to get rid of them, she spills on the shirt she was planning to wear. And when she goes to change, her hair gets caught in the button, leaving her hiccupping, wet and stuck.
Below is an excerpt. But tell me, do you like imperfect characters?
Samara stared at her reflection in the mirror, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. The breath was supposed to relax her—to calm her nerves, lower her blood pressure and help her handle Nathaniel’s impending arrival. However, her body didn’t get the message, because all she achieved was a case of the hiccups. Terrific. Her stomach flopped and her hands trembled. She took another deep breath, opened her eyes and hiccupped.
This was not happening. She could not go out on a date with Nathaniel with a case of the hiccups. No way, no how. She turned on the tap, filled a glass and took a sip of water. Hiccup. She brought the glass into the kitchen, put a spoon in it and took another sip. Hiccup. She drank from the opposite side of the glass. Hiccup. Moisture on her chest made her look down. Wonderful, now I’ve spilled on my blouse. She put the glass in the sink and raced back into her bedroom to change into a sweater. She undid enough buttons to fit her head through the opening and yanked.
Her hair caught on a button. As she lowered the blouse, more hair got stuck. Now the blouse hung in front of her face, neither fully on nor fully off.
She reached her arm in front of her, felt for the bed so she could sit and untangle her hair. As she floundered, the doorbell rang.
Please, please, please don’t be Nathaniel. The three days since his phone call asking her out had made ketchup falling out of a Heinz bottle seem quick. Despite her manner on the phone with him, she’d been so excited for today. Her mind wandered to him at the most inopportune times, like when she sang, worked on the spiel, walked down the street. She examined every note she sang and wondered how he’d receive it; she contemplated, and refused, moving scenes around to give Esther more time with Mordecai; she examined every man she passed and compared him to Nathaniel.
No matter how she hid it or reason it out, she could no longer deny her feelings for him. He made her laugh, he made her relax and he made her feel like the most important woman in the room. She could stare at his hands all day and watch the way they moved when he spoke. When they touched her, her whole body tingled. The air she breathed with him was fresher, filled with more oxygen. Time froze, yet at the same time, sped by. Her worries faded away; he made her feel invincible. If he were here now, he’d laugh and have her untangled in an instant. But she would be mortified. There was no way she could let him see her like this. There was nothing she could do—she’d have to skip the date and make up some excuse later. She held her breath as her stomach dropped with disappointment. She didn’t dare move, for fear of alerting him to her presence. The doorbell rang again, accompanied by a scratchy, jingly noise.
“Hello? Anyone home?”
“Miriam?” Samara’s voice screeched from relief.
“Sam? What the...?”
“Please, please don’t say anything. Just help me! He’s going to be here any minute. In fact, I thought you were him, so I hid because I couldn’t face him like this...ow, ow, ow!”