One of my favourite love stories is Paul Gallico’s Love of Seven Dolls (pub 1954, so we’re going back somewhat). His two main characters are Mouche, a young innocent who’s lost all belief in life and thinks herself worthless, and Michel, a cynical survivor and user of women, who can only express his feelings through the 7 puppets he has created and operates. Their lives cross and she gradually develops inner strength and helps him to own his vulnerability and need.
So how does a writer create such characters to engage the reader and make them care about their fate? Lots of ways, I’m sure, including having them face challenges and giving them (hopefully redeemable) faults. I draw on a personality type theory called the Enneagram, which defines nine basic types, each of which has positive and negative aspects and suggests ways in which they might develop balanced, healthier traits.
Do you like male leads in male/female historical romances to be forceful, alpha male types? I guess I do because half my male leads are based on Enneagram number 8. This is defined as a forceful, confrontational, intimidating character who sees life as a power struggle and avoids displaying weakness. The theory suggests type 8 needs to discover a gentler side and commitment to helping others. What better way to do so than through encountering the right kind of woman? Examples include George Kemble in Rose Glace, James Forsyth in The Baronet’s Daughter and Matthew Harcourt in Her Secret Commission.
Interestingly, three of my female leads have also been based on type 8—Lady Olivia Charlton in Heiress to a Duke, Charlotte Milford in The Regiment’s Forgotten Daughter, and Lady Georgiana Fox in His Haughty Lady.
Search Enneagram for more information on the theory.