Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Bio/Backstory Blahs

I really want to start writing! I've done some research on my characters, I've got lovely pics of them, I've got music to play like a soundtrack while writing scenes, and I've got the location built in my head. Scenes are flocking towards me like crows, (did I mention I love crows? Visit my Facebook album and take a peek) each crying for my attention. I'm using recipe cards to capture them and I'm stuffing them in my "Plot Box." But I can hear them rattling about, wanting my attention. *sigh* I must resist.

Why? Well, from what I've read and researched so far on the Craft of romance writing, the key is to know your characters. Not just know what color hair, eyes, and shoe size, but REALLY know them. Know their history. Know their likes. Dislikes. Their Goals, Motivations, and Conflicts. Their personality traits. Basically, know them inside out. Now, you probably will not use even half this information when you write, (that's what the books say) but it will help when writing scenes. If you know your characters well, like a best friend or a sibling, THEY will help you write believable scenes. If these characters seem like real people to you, it will show in your work and your reader will believe it too.
So, without much further ado, here are Jenna's and Duncan's Bio/Backstories. Which will probally change. And grow longer. Sigh

Jenna truly loves her home. It symbolizes family to her. It keeps her safe, and makes her feel like she is not alone. Or so she thinks.
The small apple farming community where Jenna grew up in is very beautiful. Jenna loves the charming farm houses, the rolling fields and the untouched wooded areas. She is a country girl through and through. Though she loves her simple life, secretly she does yearn for adventure, and to see the world. HINT: this secret desire is what helps with the attraction for Duncan.

Jenna Maria Dunavan was born January 16, 1980 in the small city Georgeton, New Brunswick Canada.
Her mother, Anna Maria Dunavan was 19 when she gave birth to Jenna. Anna was a wild and as hedonistic as they come. Jenna’s birth certificate states “father unknown” and that is true; there were simply too many men at that time for Anna to know one way or another. Anna discovered shortly after Jenna’s birth that she was not meant to be a mother; she gave her newborn daughter to her mother. Anna left town and was never heard from again, except through infrequent birthday and Christmas cards and few awkward short phone calls.

Ida Rose Dunavan raised her granddaughter the best way she new how. She installed in Jenna a sense of humor, family honor, and the will to succeed. She never criticised Jenna’s mother; her daughter was just who she was, and she loved her dearly, even though she did not understand her or agree with her choices most of the time.

Jenna was picked on and made fun of at the small country school she attended from grade 1 to grade 9. She was different. She did not have a father and her mother did not want her. This malicious teasing hurt her deeply, though she hid it well. She compensated by aggressively achieving academically and by developing a keen sense of humor. Funny thing about Jenna; she laughs when nervous. The more nervous or upset she gets, the harder she will laugh.
From an early age, Jenna did not understand why her mother would not come home and be with her. As she grew and learned more about her mother through Grams and Gramps, neighbors and her mother’s journals, Jenna vowed she would never be like her mother. Selfish. Deserting her family and her obligations. Leaving. Even when Jenna finished university, she did not want to leave her home. Throughout her childhood her Grandfather and Grandmother encouraged her to fallow her dreams. If nothing else, Jenna is practical. She can see that her Grandparents are aging and are having a hard time maintaining the family farm. Jenna tells them her dream is to stay home and take care of her family, while working her way up the corporate ladder at the bank she works at in the city. This way she can stay close to the wonderful, proud people she loves and take care of them. They need her. Even more so when Gramps died of a heart attack during her first year of university.

Jenna does have a few good friends, but most of them have moved away or are raising families of their own. There are a few acquaintances at work, but no one she would confide her secrets and her dreams too. Grams is her best friend, and when she develops cancer, Jenna is devastated. And when Grams dies, Jenna is completely alone. She is now floundering, questioning her life.
Money is a huge issue for Jenna, now that Grams is gone. The house is aging, and needs repairs. Costly repairs. Here Grandfather had taken a mortgage out on the home years ago when there was a dry spell to save the farm. The year he died, there was a early thaw, then a sharp frost that killed most of the apple trees. The farm no longer produces. Now the mortgage is coming up for renewal, but she needs proof of house insurance to renew the mortgage. And she cannot get the insurance until the electrical in the house is modernized and brought up to standards. There is not enough equity in the house to pay for the repairs. Jenna had used up what little savings they had to pay for Grams’ medicines. Without Gram’s old age pension and her widow’s pension, Jenna is in dire financial straights. She cannot even get a loan; with her student loans and the mortgage payment, she is sufficiently obligated. Gram and Gramps were too old to get life insurance on their mortgage.

Jenna needs more money, and quick. She saw this coming almost a year before Gram’s death. She set her sights on a promotion to the credit department at the bank. And she got it. The money is excellent. She works hard, and takes overtime when she can. She and Gram do what little repairs on the house they can, working with the little extra money and around Gram’s health. But as Gram’s health declines, so does the money. Jenna refuses to take the overtime; she wants to spend as much time with Gram as possible.

Grams dies and Jenna is alone. She is barely making ends meet. And there is a problem. She is pregnant. She’d love to take the full year off, but she would only receive half her pay. She cannot afford that. Plus, there is a rumor that her department may be moved to the head office in Toronto. She cannot move; her home is here. She would have to take a pay cut. She cannot afford that. She decides to take in a boarder to help with the money shortage.

How did she get pregnant? Jenna does not have a boyfriend. In fact, she has not had a boyfriend in over two years. Sure, she dated. Had fun. But nothing serious. When Gram got sick, well, there just wasn’t time. So how did she get pregnant? It started with a Cosmo magazine.

Just a month after Gram’s death, on the morning of the huge Achiever’s Gala, a celebratory ball work throws each year to highlight the bank’s and individual’s success. Jenna was grocery shopping. She had been feeling, well, she didn’t know how she was feeling. Lost, maybe. Overwhelmed, definitely. And so terribly alone. When standing in line to pay, she noticed a Cosmo magazine. One title on the glossy cover jumped out “How To Have An Affair To Remember.” She found herself leafing to that article and read it. Scoffing, she set it back and paid for her groceries. But, she couldn’t forget what she read.

She wasn’t going to go to the party, but after work, she just couldn’t go home. The house was just too big, too empty, too full of sweet, painful memories. And that stupid magazine article had plagued her all day, niggling at the back of her mind. On a spur of a moment decision, Jenna goes shopping and buys a knock-out dress and heels. She goes to the gala.

At the gala, she is miserable. She laughs, chats and eats. All while feeling hollow. Just when the presentations were about to start, she slips away, looking for a quiet spot. The hotel was teeming with business people, all whooping it up. All of the hotel ballrooms were booked with business functions.

Fending off drunken advances from a group of balding businessmen in Hawaiian print shirts, Jenna finally finds a quiet spot in one of the hotel’s bars. She sits at the elegant bar, determined to feel… something. The soft, sexy music almost drowns out the sound of revelry outside the bar door.

Jenna is accumulating an assortment of tiny colored drink umbrellas when a man sits down beside her, giving her an old and tired pick up line. Jenna is determined to ignore him. But he says something that makes her look at him. He is a gorgeous stranger! He flirts with her. Amazingly, she finds herself flirting back. While talking to him, Jenna decides something. HE will be her “affair to remember.” He asks her to dance. Duncan James’s song “Amazing” is softly playing (want to see the video?). Electricity practically sparks between them. He playfully challenges her to pick up him, saying he is not easy. Jenna accepts. They share a night of incredible passion. But in the wee morning hours, Jenna is filled with remorse. She is scared. There was a connection here between them, something stronger, more frightening than just sex. She leaves the sleeping man, fleeing to the safety of her home. She takes comfort that she does not know his last name, and he does not know hers.

But the consequences of her lapse in judgment become apparent when she misses her period. How can this be? They had used protection. Several times. But the fact remains; she is pregnant. With a stranger’s baby. Just like what her mother did. But Jenna vows she will never leave this baby. She will give it a home in the home her Gram gave her, and raise this baby so he/she will know Jenna loves him/her with all her heart and be there for her/him.

Jenna throws herself into work, driven by her need to make as much money as possible before the baby’s birth. She gets a coveted position in the mortgage underwriting team, an awesome job with awesome money. She is worried it came too late.

At eight months pregnant, she is in the elevator at work, going home when the father of her baby gets on. Her catty co-worker, the one Jenna beat for the underwriters position, is in the elevator as well. She introduces Jenna to him. He is her boss. The man who might take her job away from her. By moving it to Toronto.
Duncan was born August 17th, 1975. His father was an architect of a huge firm he built himself and sold for millions when he retired. His mother was a foreign affairs person. They had Duncan latter in life, and he is an only child. Much of his early years were spent traveling to other countries with his mother. When he was old enough, he was sent to boarding school in England. School breaks and holidays were rarely spent with his parents; they always seemed so busy. Instead, he would holiday with friends or with a guardian arranged by his parents. Many of his school friends admired his independent lifestyle, but secretly Duncan wished he had a more normal kid life, with parents that were not so busy and could pay him some attention, give him more affection. This desire is what causes Duncan to become very competitive; maybe if he was the best, his parents would notice him.

Duncan went to university and studied business. He entered into banking and worked his way to where he is now with blazing speed. He never lets feelings cloud his judgement at work. That is why at work they call him “Ice Man” though no one would ever call him that to his face.
Duncan has always lived in cities. He loves the fast paced, modern lifestyle. But for some reason, he is unhappy. And he doesn’t know why. This makes him furious.

Everyone loves Duncan. He is rich, athletic, and has tons of friends. But he still feels like he cannot confide in any these friends. Sometimes, even when he is sitting in his modern condo overlooking Toronto, he feels like he should be somewhere else. He feels like a fish out of water. To get rid of this feeling, he travels and parties.

Sometimes Duncan wonders when it will ever be “enough.” Money, power, parties, women, and the list continued on. His parents cannot help him with the answer. They expect so much of him. He has a strange feeling, either they don’t care, or he hasn’t reached a point that will impress them. He tells himself it doesn’t matter, but it does.

Duncan ended a two year relationship several months ago. Dating on and off, he hasn’t found anyone that really caught his attention.

At the bank gala, this time held in Georgetown, New Brunswick, Duncan feels lost and alone among a sea of smiling faces. After he does his part with presentations, he seeks solitude in one of the hotel’s small bars. This is where he sees the most beautiful woman sitting by herself at the bar.

He goes over and gives her the first pick up line he can remember. Unfortunately it is a really lame one. When he gets her attention, he challenges her to pick him up. She does, and they share a night of mind blowing passion. But sometime during the night, she slips from his hotel room. Duncan is upset; he didn’t even get her last name. There were too many business functions that night to know what company she works for. He cannot trace her. He feels cheated. He really thought they had a connection, more than just the excellent sex.

Months later, back in Toronto and behind closed doors, Duncan is told the vice-presidency for the bank he works at is coming up for grabs. It is a toss up between him and his rival at the bank. If Duncan can come up with something to wow the higher powers, it will be his. He comes up with a plan to potentially save the bank millions of dollars. He must travel the newer branch in the Maritimes and see how effective it is to have a separate mortgage underwriter division there. His hunch is he could move that division to the head office hub in Toronto, and merge it with the existing underwriter division there. It would cut down in the processing time for mortgages and therefore save millions.

He is back in the Georgetown, at the bank division he is evaluating, when he sees Jenna again. He is in the elevator when she gets on. She is carrying a plant and a fist full of ridiculous balloons. And what shocks him to the core; she is pregnant. Heavily pregnant. A business associate of Jenna’s introduces him to her. Before he has time to react, she bolts out of the elevator, leaving him stunned. He just knows that baby is his.


Cari said...

Good Job Melissa! Your characters are flying high. Now where does the plot go from here? what are the conflicts of the story? I can't wait to see what you write. Cari

Melissa Leavitt said...

Thanks Cari! *big grin*

I've got scenes in my PLOT BOX that I'm visiting today, but here is a hint: Jenna is in despirate need of a boarder. Duncan hates living in hotels. He's a cheeky, manipulative bugger, (hey, he wouldn't get to be boss if not) and he uses oppartunity to move in with Jenna. Something happens where he gets in, pays up front and the money is spent. When she finds out, she cannot pay him back. Now she will HAVE to listen to him; she can't get away!

HE-HE, poor Jenna, I'm so mean LOL

bewilder said...

What character charts do you use?