What’s strange, though, is that I don’t do detailed character sketches. Actually, I don’t do character sketches at all. Sure, I know the basics: the heroine and hero’s personalities, their professions, what they look like, and the key parts of their backgrounds as they relate to the story, but that’s about it. Going into a new book, I couldn’t tell you my hero’s favorite color or whether he sleeps on the right or left side of the bed. I also couldn’t tell you my heroine’s favorite food or her best childhood memory. I learn these things—if they become relevant—as the story progresses. I like the freedom that comes with not having my characters cast in certain molds going into a book. And through the writing process, they often think, feel, and do things that surprise me as I uncover more about them.
There is, however, one characteristic that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about early on in the writing process: the kind of vehicle my hero drives. I’m not exactly sure why this is—I don’t know much about cars myself, as my husband would surely tell you. Particularly after that time I drove our car into the garage wall. Twice.
I think the fascination with my hero’s vehicle has to do with the fact that so many men are obsessed with cars. I find anything that gets the majority of the male species so revved up to be. . . intriguing. For me, researching the hero’s choice in transportation is a great way to get into his head. Essentially, it’s an easy way to start thinking “like a guy.” And oddly, the trick works every time. Once I have the car, I feel like I have big piece of his character locked down: whether it may or may not be true in real life, the cars that my heroes drive say something about them.
For example, the hero in my first book, Just the Sexiest Man Alive, is the biggest movie star in Hollywood. He’s confident, larger than life, and what I like to think of as “amusingly arrogant.” His car of choice? An Aston Martin Vanquish.
Okay, so I might not be a car girl, but hot damn that’s a nice-looking vehicle.
One thing I like about men and their cars is how possessive and protective they get of them. Kind of sexy, that whole “Hands off, this is mine”-thing an automobile can bring out in a guy. Take this scene in Just the Sexiest Man Alive, when the heroine (who drives a PT Cruiser) asks to drive the hero’s car:
As Taylor followed Jason out to his car, she tapped him on his shoulder. “Hey—can I drive the Aston Martin?”Then there’s J.D. Jameson, the hero in my second book, Practice Makes Perfect. J.D. is a driven, ambitious, confident lawyer from a wealthy family. But he separated from his family’s money and chose to make his own way. He’s proud of his success and not afraid to show it. His car of choice is a Bentley Continental GT.
“But isn’t that what friends do?”
Jason opened the passenger door for her and walked around to the driver’s side. As he got in the car, Taylor glanced over.
“My, my, you’re awfully grumpy today... Is something wrong?”
Jason looked at her, sitting by his side. Actually, it was the best he had felt in the last two days.
He grinned as he fired up the Aston Martin.
“Buckle up, sweetheart,” he told her. “This ain’t no PT Cruiser.”
Whew. And like Jason, J.D. is a tad protective of his car (and who can blame him?), as shown by his assessment of the heroine’s home the first time he visits her:
Standing aimlessly on her front stoop with nothing else to do, he looked around, checking out the neighborhood. There were several row houses on the block, including the one that presumably belonged to Payton. The tree-lined street had a quaint yet urban feel to it.
He liked it. Not as much as his downtown high-rise condo with a view of the lake, of course, but he found it an acceptable place to leave the Bentley parked on the street. And for J.D., that was saying a lot.
With my third and upcoming book, however, I found myself in an interesting predicament... the hero in this book doesn’t make the same kind of money as my two previous heroes. And none of the cars I tried out for him seemed to fit. So I decided to go a different route with him, and as soon as I tried this vehicle on for size, I knew I had it:
A Triumph Rocket III. Granted, I don’t know a lot about motorcycles, but 132 horsepower sounds like a lot of muscle to have raring between a man’s thighs. But I won’t say anything else, for now, about the man who rides it. You tell me, ladies—what would your first impressions be of a man who pulled up to your door riding this? What does it say, to you, about him? One random commenter will win a signed copy of either Just the Sexiest Man Alive or Practice Makes Perfect (of his or her choosing.)