When developing a new character changes your entire story.
I started writing a book I tentatively named The Bishop Committee in 2012 as strictly a conspiracy/suspense novel. The protagonist is a vice president of a large armaments company. He uncovers evidence his CEO is in league with a cabal of notorious arms dealers selling weapons to terrorists.
I like to include in all my books a strong female character who is the opposite of the protagonist and therefore the two of them have conflicts they must work out. Characters in conflict and how they will resolve their issues keep the readers turning the pages. However, I was having trouble creating the female character for this book. Until I did I couldn’t continue writing the book.
I put the book aside and went to explore one of my favorite pastimes, local history. Shrewsbury, NJ, a town twenty minutes north of mine, was having an Octoberfest. Shrewsbury was founded in the 1660s and one section of the town is on the National Historical Register.
In the historic district was a Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers) meeting house. The congregation was founded in the 1660s. Their current meeting house was constructed in 1816 because the original one burned. (Don’t confuse the Quakers with the Amish. The Amish have mostly withdrawn themselves from the modern world. The Quakers participate fully in present day society.)
The festival was Saturday and the Friends were giving a tour of their meeting house. During the tour, informational brochures were passed out.
As I listened to the guide explain the Quaker religion it hit me, why not make my female character a Quaker. What could be more opposite and create more conflicts between the two major characters than have one working in the military weapons business and his love interest a pacifist.
I did more research and found, as in most religions, there are orthodox, traditional and reformed followers. I decided to make her a traditionalist, adamantly opposed to war and fighting and believing what happens in the world is God’s will.
I had my basic plot. The conspirators would be chasing my protagonist trying to retrieve the evidence. There would be fights and escapes. When I started to write in my female character the entire story began to change as did the characters.
Love’s Sweet Sorrow is not a religious book or Christian themed book. There is no preaching. It is a romantic suspense novel with strong divergent characters.
Here are excerpts from three consecutive chapters:
Set up: The main characters are Jason and Ariel. It was Ariel’s birthday. Jason had planned an evening with dinner and a Broadway show, and of course he had bought her a gift.
She reached for the pink ribbon.
He took her hand. “Open it when we get back.”
“Because it’s to cap off the evening, not start it.” He had agonized for hours over what to get her. Ariel was constantly testing the waters. “Experimenting,” she called it. He hoped this gift would help her make the ultimate transition.
(Note: As a traditional Quaker, Ariel avoided as much as possible anything that excited her senses like provocative movies, art museums, wearing makeup and she was a virgin. However, upon meeting Jason she had let him take her to Broadway shows art museums and she began to wear a bit of makeup.)
What if she took it the wrong way? It was too late for those negative thoughts. He had made his choice, and would have to live or die with it.
Ariel’s eyes bounced from the box to his face then back to the box. “What is it?”
“You’ll have to wait until we get back to find out.”
Her upbringing didn’t make her a recluse. She had gone on dates, but when the boys started pawing she broke it off. In high school she garnered a reputation as a prude. In college the groping that had struck her as childish and infantile in high school became much more seasoned and smooth, full of lust, but devoid of affection. She wanted more from her partner than what she saw between a stud horse and a mare on her farm. She wanted to feel love like the women in the romance movies. (Note: She loved old romance movies from the 1930s and 1940s.)
When Jason sat next to her at that conference a month ago (note: where they met) she had thought of him as handsome and rugged, like the leading men in the movies. She wanted to find out more about him. As their relationship progressed, she could sense the desire in him, but she also sensed he had more to give. She didn’t feel as if all he wanted was to get her into bed. He seemed to truly like to talk to her, understand her. When he held her hand, when they danced, even when he drew her to him, there was tenderness in his touch unlike any other man she had dated. She liked it.
(Note: They were in her apartment. The evening was ending.)
“Can I open my present now?”
He sat forward, crossing his fingers behind his back. “Go ahead.”
She pulled the pink ribbon. The bow dissolved. She lifted the top. The tissue paper rustled as she unfolded it. Cautiously she touched the lace trim on the shiny, jet-black garment and quickly withdrew her hand as if her fingers had been burned by a red hot branding iron.
She smiled meekly. “Thank you. It’s very pretty.”
Ariel took her present into her bedroom and placed the box on the heirloom bedspread. Ever so carefully she removed the black silk camisole, laid it on the bed and smoothed it out. She placed the tap pants below it. Slowly she undressed, dropping her blouse and skirt on the carpet. Reaching behind her back, she unhooked her bra then stepped out of her panties.
Slipping on the tap pants, she trembled as the sensuous silk stroked her long legs. Holding the camisole by the thin straps, she extended her arms over her head and released it. It floated over her torso sending a shiver through her.
Turning toward the mirror, she stood tall, her arms dangling next to her thighs. Will wearing this blind me to the hungry, the homeless? Will it prevent me from working toward a more peaceful world?I don’t think I will change my convictions because I put this on, or wear makeup, or like movies, art, TV, dancing and…
Her fingers fluttered against her thighs. She closed her eyes and envisioned Jason caressing the fabric against her hips, her waist, stomach, breasts.
“Jason, I want to, but…Lord, what should I do?”
(Note: On his walk home.) She certainly was not the type of woman he was used to dating. With his other dates he couldn’t care less about where they came from, what they wanted out of life or anything at all about them. He was only interested in one thing.
With Ariel it was different. When he realized she was not going to have sex with him on that first date, or most likely anytime in the near future, he was still drawn to her, wanting to learn all he could about her. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get the picture out of his mind of her lying naked next to him.
He wanted to scream, What are you waiting for?
None of the other women he had dated left him with feelings like he felt for Ariel. She danced in his thoughts every minute he was away from her. He longed to hold her hand, talk to her, kiss her, smell her, draw her close to him, consume her with his love.
There was no doubt in his mind that he loved her. But what if she didn’t love him? Her reaction to the gift had made him feel he had destroyed their relationship….
Patience! If you love her you can wait even if it’s until our wedding night.
As the story progresses, Ariel is caught up in the kidnappings and killings from those trying to retrieve the evidence from Jason. Throughout the battles and harrowing escapes their relationship dramatically changes.
For example: Jason and Ariel have been taken captive and are locked in a basement. He sees something he can use as a weapon and asks Ariel to help him. She refuses citing the Friends’ Peace Testimony read to King Charles II of England in 1660.
Until this point they have been getting along well despite their differing points of view about the world. This is their first verbal blowup:
“If I am not successful in making this weapon, we are going to die.”
“If that is God’s will.”
He jumped up. “God’s will! That’s the excuse you Quakers use to let someone else do your fighting for you.”
“I didn’t expect to hear that from you. I thought you were different.”
It was the first time he ever saw her angry. He hadn’t meant what he said and wanted to suck it back into his mouth the instant it came out, but he was so frustrated with her because she wouldn’t help him. “I’m sorry.”
“No you’re not. You said what you thought.”
He started to reply.
She raised her hand to silence him…
The questions you will be wondering throughout the book is, when the battles are over, will Jason be able to help her restore her faith; will Ariel change Jason’s cynical philosophy about mankind? Or, will they break up?
One early reviewer said, “…I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see if they were able to resolve their differences or if they would split up…”
In conclusion, the introduction of a new character can change the entire theme of your book. With the help of my publisher I changed the title to Love’s Sweet Sorrow which perfectly fits the sorrow both characters are feeling throughout the story.