CREATING FEMALE CHARACTERS FROM A MALE PERSPECTIVE
By Roland Colton
When the plot for my historical novel, Forever Gentleman, began to form in my mind, I imagined two very different female leads with extraordinary beauty---one whose physical beauty was astonishing, and the other who had great inner beauty. Jocelyn Charlesworth arrives on the scene after spending four years at an elite finishing school in Paris. Not only is she beautiful, but she comes from great wealth. However, it soon appears that her beauty is only skin deep. In the opening chapter, she is introduced to the male lead, Nathan Sinclair, and she publicly humiliates him when she learns he lacks wealth or station.
Soon after, Nathan meets Regina Lancaster. She is no great beauty, but Nathan senses a tenderness and innocence in her eyes. Regina comes from humble circumstances but now lives with her wealthy uncle after losing her parents as a young girl.
I was intrigued by the contrast of beauty between the two women and how Nathan Sinclair would respond to each. Both women came alive to me as I began to write the story. Their personalities and character began dictating their actions and dialogue.
As the story evolved, so did the ladies. I wanted the story to be told from a male perspective, to help the reader understand Nathan’s first impressions of the women and how these impressions evolved as he became better acquainted with them. While Nathan’s first impression of Jocelyn is that she has a withered heart, he begins to view her in a different light during subsequent encounters. Although she can be temperamental and mischievous, he also experiences her generosity and thoughtfulness. Jocelyn’s frank modesty about her own lack of inner beauty is unexpected and foreshadows her desire to develop such a trait. I visualized Jocelyn as a woman constrained by privilege and wealth, who longed to be able to pursue her true passions. I tried to portray the insecurities of a woman who laments that her physical beauty blinds men to her other qualities; she fears that her future husband will treat her as a possession and not value her for he she truly is. As the book progresses, we observe Jocelyn maturing through the eyes of Nathan.
Nathan’s initial response to Regina is much different than to Jocelyn. When he first meets her, he is immediately drawn to her virtue and lack of pretension. Wealth and station are of no consequence to Regina; rather it is a man’s character and heart that attracts her. As Nathan becomes acquainted with Regina, his respect and admiration for her grows, especially after seeing her grace and noble work in the aftermath of great tragedy. We also see through Nathan’s eyes Regina’s goodness in dealing with the adversity of others. Nathan also senses a reluctance on Regina’s part in forming a romantic attachment, not realizing she harbors a secret that she believes will disqualify her from ever marrying.
In creating the female characters for my book, I drew on some of my own experiences with women. I recall dating a very attractive girl when I was a young man, whom I tired of quickly because of her shallow and dull personality. Her outward beauty eventually diminished in my eyes.
I remember a few years later getting to know a woman who was plain in appearance, but had a keen mind, character and maturity. As I got to know her better, she became more beautiful. However, the development of Regina and Jocelyn went far beyond those reminiscences, as I attempted to create multi-dimensional, intriguing women who would develop as the story progressed.
In my story, a shocking twist brings Nathan back into the company of Jocelyn, while he is pursing Regina’s love. Jocelyn makes a tantalizing proposition to Nathan that offers him the fulfillment of his wildest dreams, but also places him at risk for losing the woman he truly loves. Nathan must play his role perfectly, or he may lose his reputation, livelihood, and his life to the powerful echelons of Victorian society. As the story reaches its climax, we observe how Jocelyn and Regina deal with their respective destinies in light of Nathan’s defining choice.
About the Author:
An experienced trial attorney and musician, Roland Colton attended the University of Utah on a baseball scholarship, graduating cum laude in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. He received his Juris Doctorate from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1978, where he received scholarships and awards for academic excellence. An avid pianist and composer, Colton performs for public and private gatherings around the world. He resides in Southern California and France. Forever Gentleman is his first novel.