‘How To’ books for novice writers are quite big on creating lifelike, sympathetic characters.
I think the best advice I ever read in one – I think it may have been James N Frey, but I’m not sure – is that you can’t create a likable character without putting in some human weaknesses.
As I like to write Gothic, and about over the top, incredible adventures and situations, it struck me as all the more necessary to make the characters real by contrast.
One good way seemed to me to make them make fools of themselves on occasion; after all, we all do in real life (I make a speciality of it with IT especially).
I always found it disappointing the way the main male characters in traditional romantic stories never look silly . The idea of any of them slipping on a piece of orange peel, suffering from a runny nose or seasickness is unthinkable. And as for their trousers falling down in public…
Perhaps the authors feared that would detract from that cool invulnerability and make them less attractive to the female reader – but I found that hard to believe.
Also, I thought a jolly and convivial, as distinct from a Mean and Moody, main male character would make for a refreshing change, and one with a lively sense of the ridiculous, who could laugh at himself, too.
So, I made my swaggering and macho Emile Dubois a gallant highwayman of the romantic tradition, with every reason to become a brooding hero of the Byronic type, but he is unable to take himself seriously (he refers to himself, as he begins to become the vulpine sort of vampire, as Sophie’s ‘tame wolf’).
While a take-off of the traditional romantic displaced and wronged hero as highwayman, brigand or smuggler – Emile is all three, spending some years running a sort of eighteenth century protection racket in the Paris – and expert shot, duelist and appealing rogue though Emile may be, he can certainly make a fool of himself.
While suffering from the nasty side effects of prolonged exposure to Ceridwen Kenrick’s vampire bite, he has the misfortune to be sick all over Georges’ favourite boots.
The vain Georges is outraged – he’s convinced himself that he cut such a dash in those boots that respectable woman propositioned him in the street because of them, and that he even set a fashion at St James’.
Georges, of course, often looks equally silly, as does the Byronic Captain Mackenzie, Ceridwen’s most ferverent admirer, but they can’t see it…
I think human vulnerability is very appealing, even in romantic rogues and Man Vampires…