A 'heart character' is basically a character you write about and keep coming back to in story after story. Or, it's a theme you keep returning to.
I've noticed this with Marion Zimmer Bradley's characters. She had a character in her modern supernatural novel (can't remember the title) named Simon, I think. He was a pianist. And he was the worst parts of Lew Alton and Dyan Ardais, as far as I was concerned.
For me, my main heart character is Aerden--no surprise there. I adore him, and I have never had a character grab hold of me, the way he did. Writing him is like riding a locomotive going at warp speed. He is very certain of what he wants and how he intends to get it or achieve it.
Linnius is another heart character; he's shown up in various things I've written. The first time was in the very first SF/Fantasy story I ever wrote. He was a character named Chavis Yerritt, chief advisor to the Queen, whose hobby was playing the harp.
I also stuck him in a Sherlock Holmes story idea I had, but I never did anything with that. Usually, I don't actually write down my crossover stories, beecause, to me, it's a waste of time. Crossover stories can never be published professionally, so I have no interest in working on them. Pern is a major exception to this rule, for me. :)
Myradin is sort of a heart character. He had a previous incarnation as a mage named Kendon, whose employer's castle was being overrun by barbarians. Kendon was a bit more ascerbic than Myradin is, though, kind of like a very pleasant Tarran.
My last heart character is Ephram--but I keep returning to him mainly because I'm trying to find a world of my own that suits him as well as Elspeth Sapphire's interactive story "Heaven's Republic" did. It was a creepy, repressive society, but there's something about the theocracy setting that really appeals to me, kind of like The Handmaid's Tale, but twisted in a different way.
- Amnesia - I love amnesia stories. Even if it's horribly, horribly bad, if one of the characters has amnesia, I will read it. I could cry about the fact that romance publishers have backed off from publishing amnesia romances, because they became too much of a cliche. I could read them like eating potato chips.
- Grief - All I can figure is that I must have read too much Emily Dickinson in my youth. Whatever the case, grief or some kind of suffering makes a character come alive, for me. Which is weird, because I have never, thank God, experienced that kind of crushing loss. People I've loved have died, and I have mourned them, but never with the kind of 'tear out the gut' grief that I sometimes include in my characters' pasts.
- Guilt - I put this in, simply because it's a great way to motivate a character. If a character feels guilty about something, he will go to great lengths to atone for it--and going to great lengths is what makes for a great story.
- Male Characters - I don't know why, but I prefer writing male protagonists over writing female protagonists. I'm not sure why that is. My very first protagonist was female. Then I discovered Chavis Yerritt (aka Linnius), and he was so fascinating that I started writing about him, instead.
- An Old Personality - This is Linnius, through and through. It's like he has an old soul, or something. I'm not sure what it is. He's existed in my mind since I was about 12 or 13. His original name was Chavis Yerritt. I don't know why this is there, but it's an old, wise person. Weirdly enough, now that I think of it, I believe my pianist character David Young is a melding of Linnius and Myradin.
- Healers vs Killers - I've done this with
Myradin and Tarran, though I don't think they will ever come to conflict against each other. I also wanted to do this with Micois and Renaver in Children of the Vortex. They would have been in deep conflict with each other, if COTV had not folded.
::Talking to self::
Damn. That last sentence gives me an idea for Ealdru that I had not thought of, before!
I think I've come up with another secret of writing a breakout novel--Write about a heart theme.
God, I am so pissed that COTV folded! How in the world can I recreate the conflict between Life Cavalier and tragic Saignier Vortecien? (wail!!!) It is so grand, so operatic.
::/Talking to self::
Heart Color Schemes
My archetypes have color schemes:
- Aerden/Micois - black hair, blue eyes
- Zeldon (The dark side of Aerden) - black hair, black eyes
- D'mir (non-magic Myradin) - dk. brown hair, brown eyes
- Myradin/Kendon - black hair, green eyes
- Simon (guilt-free Myradin) - black hair, green eyes
- Tarran (The dark side of Myradin) - black hair, green eyes
- Ephram - black hair, gray eyes
- Linnius - gray hair, brown eyes
- Renaver - blond hair, gray eyes
I also have a female character whose coloring is archetypal:
- Alys - blonde hair, blue eyes
How do I know her coloring is an archetype? Because her eyes glow when I see them in my mind, just like Aerden's do. There's something significant about them. Darned if I know what. And her hair is luminous.
Someday, maybe I'll figure myself out...