Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Repressed Hero

We were talking about heroes last week and the week before, and I don't think we've said all there is to say.

In fact I know we haven't.

And while I was trying to articulate the problem my current hero, Sebastian, is having with the woman who is turning his world upside down, I discovered that Pam Rosenthal had done it for me.

A Rita Finalist this year for her long historical, The Slightest Provocation, the talented and insightful Pam wrote a wonderful blog piece about Jane Austen, Mr Darcy, Colin Firth and repression (which I am not going to link to here because it's on an over-18 blog and this will doubtless be the day my teenage grandson decides to visit granny's blog!).

In it she quotes Colin Firth who, as we all recall, created a Darcy for the ages in the 1990s BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.

When asked how he got into the character, Firth said, "I thought to myself: 'This is where he wants to go across the room and punch someone. This is where he wants to kiss her. This is where he wants sex with her right now.' I'd imagine a man doing it all, and then not doing any of it. That's all I did."

He repressed it.

And with that, I knew that Pam -- and Colin -- had nailed Sebastian's dilemma.

Like Mr Darcy who didn't want to fall in love with Elizabeth Bennet, Sebastian doesn't want to fall in love with Neely. Fall in love? He doesn't want to be anywhere in the same universe. She is everything he distrusts in a woman. And he's sure she's about to destroy the life of the man who has been his mentor for years.

And yet, even as he is convinced that she was the last woman on earth he would ever want anything to do with, he finds her getting under his skin.

He can't stop looking at her. He is always aware of her. If she's in the room, he knows exactly where.

He wants her. Wants to touch her. To kiss her. To go to bed with her.

And at the same time, damn it, he doesn't want to want any of it!

Like Mr Darcy, Seb is mortified by his attraction to this wholly unsuitable woman. And at the same time, he can't quite stay away.

Well, the fact that they're sharing digs makes it difficult anyway, but he can't get away from her at work either and that makes his life even more difficult.

Then there's the inkling that perhaps she isn't exactly what he thought . . .

Perhaps there's more to her than that. Or perhaps he's misjudged. But how was he to know? And now that he thinks he does know . . .

Well, life will get more complicated before it gets less. Poor Seb.

Poor Mr Darcy.

But we, as readers, Pam points out, love the repressed hero, the mortified hero.

"And we especially love it," she says, "when the author has first introduced him in all his smug, hunky, thoughtless toughness and now shows his inner writhings and torments."

Indeed we do.

And we want to be there to witness him stick his foot in his mouth, then have to extricate it, regroup, rethink, and know, all the while, that he deserves the very torment he is experiencing because he once spurned the woman he has come to love. We want to see him grow, change, and learn to value her as she deserves to be valued.

I just hope Seb is hero enough to do it.

Thanks, Pam, for giving me the words to articulate what Seb is going to be going through in this book.

I told him to take notes. I wish he could take a master's acting class from Colin Firth. On the other hand, this won't be an act. It will be his life as I write it.

What do you think about this 'repressed hero' idea?

We get very used to expecting heroes to 'go after what they want.' And of course they must. But does it alway have to be overt? Jane Austen seems to prove that it doesn't. And Darcy certainly convinced me.

Do you remember other similar 'repressed' and 'mortified' heroes? Of which books? By whom? Tell me. I never mind adding great books to my TBR pile, and I definitely want to read more Darcys.

And if you want to read the article from which Pam quoted Colin Firth, you can find it here.

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Blogger Cat Schield said...

I love the repressed hero. I adore Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (and anything else). He "resists" better than any man on the screen.

I think the repressed hero is very hard to write because it's a balancing act between icy cold and smoldering hot. He must be compelled to act, yet not act. Of course, when he does act, kaboom!

Yet it's fun to write because the more the heroine challenges his beliefs, the more tormented he becomes. Until that kaboom moment.

Thanks for the great post. I'm going to go take a cold shower now.

08 February, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Hi Cat,
Thanks for your comment. You're right -- it's a balancing act, trying to get the right subtext of smoldering hot beneath the icy cold exterior.

I feel as if the bar is set VERY HIGH INDEED. Poor Seb. I hope he's wearing his jumping shoes for us to pull this off!

08 February, 2008  
Blogger Cat Schield said...

Anne, if anyone can do it, I know you can. Just finished The Santorini Bride and LOVED it. I can't wait to read Seb's story.

08 February, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Thanks so much, Cat. I'm glad you loved Theo and Martha's story. I had a lot of fun with them.

The book I just turned in is about Martha's brother, Peter aka "PJ" who had a small part in The Antonides Marriage Deal.

I hadn't expected to ever write his story. Shows what I know! He's the one who stepped right up when Seb ran afoul of my editor. So I definitely have a soft spot for PJ.

08 February, 2008  

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