What Josephine Bonaparte Taught Me About Writing

Josephine4I’m beyond thrilled that Becoming Josephine has released into the world, in the hopes of entertaining and inspiring readers. This week, my lovely friends and fellow debut authors here at The Debutante Ball have talked up some of my favorite aspects of the novel. Now it’s my turn to share what my beloved protagonist, Josephine Bonaparte taught me about writing.

Josephine loved details—the beautiful beading on a gown, the favorite sweets of an influential politician, the manner in which an ally might enjoy entertainment. Historical novels are often ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS and I did my damnedest to show them.

My heroine yearned for love and stability. Every good story has a protagonist that YEARNS for something, and I made sure there was plenty of yearning in Becoming Josephine.

Josephine was strong, brave and she always STAYED THE COURSE. Writing novels is not for the faint of heart, the weak-spirited and easily swayed. To succeed, you must press on as she did.

So thank you, fair Josephine, for your exciting life, your engaging voice in my ear, and the many lessons you’ve taught me about writing along the way. Your story has changed my life.


What about you, fellow writers? Have you learned anything about writing from your protagonist(s)? Readers, have you been inspired by a favorite character in some way?

Author: Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around RomanceUniversity.org as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

7 Replies to “What Josephine Bonaparte Taught Me About Writing”

  1. I remember Sherlock Holmes told Watson at one point that he was a creature of pure reason, whereas (as many critics have pointed out) his actual life reveals that he was obviously full of emotions and urges and quirks. The Nero Wolfe books are (among other things), the story of a man’s attempt to exert absolute control over his environment, and his ongoing failure to do so (at least as far as his standards).

    Yearning is okay, but I find it works very well if the characters don’t actually get what they want (though you can’t let this get predictable, of course). Give them something else instead (you know, like in real life 🙂 ). My detective character, Jan Sleet, grew up convinced that she would never have a husband or, especially, a child, since those would be impediments to her life as an internationally famous amateur detective. Well she’s got the whole package, husband and child and unsolved murders, and the tension between her imagined life and her real one provides interesting tension (mostly in the background, but it’s there). I learned that from Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe.

    1. Great point, Anthony! Yearning is a must at times and keeping that goal just out of reach is what makes the story interesting. Your detective sounds like someone I’d love to read about!!

  2. I love how you tied Josephine’s qualities to the qualities that are necessary to the writing life. There’s a certain amount of bravery and perseverance that’s necessary, too, and if that doesn’t describe Josephine, I don’t know what does!

  3. The yearning, yes, for sure — we all yearn, but as you amply show in Becoming Josephine it action that matters. Josephine was a doer. Things may not have always gone her way, but she always rallied and stepped forward once again. Essential traits for novelists!

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