How I Created my character John Dorr
Updated: Aug 31
If you haven't read my novel A White Room yet, John Dorr is the man our heroine Emeline must marry. My novel is written from Emeline's perspective so the reader only knows what Emeline does, and she doesn't know much about John for the majority of the book. So here's a close look at this character.
rom This is the actual photo I used as my inspiration for John Dorr. I often use photos of real people or places to figure out how to describe characters and settings. John's character was also inspired by the character Walter Fane from The Painted Veil, the husband in "The Yellow Wallpaper," and lets not forget Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. This classic, gothic archetype is called the Byronic hero. John is cold and distant, and we don’t know what he is thinking most of the time. I have to admit that many of my readers have expressed that they just don't get him, so that's why I thought we should sit down and get to know Mr. John Dorr. I had many intentions with John's character. First, I wanted to play with an intoxicating type of relationship, the kind that takes you on a roller coaster of vulnerability and ultimately revenge, at least in my personal experience. I'm referring to the situation of wanting someone who doesn’t want you back, and when you finally decide to stop pining after that person, he suddenly wants you. You have the power. What do you do with that power? Exactly what he did to you. ;-) I have something of a fixation with this type of relationship because (uhumm, feel free to laugh) it’s what my now husband and I had when we first met as teenagers. Yes our ignoring and revenge cycle turned into love, awwww. Honestly, the experience of it so very intense and kind of thrilling. I don’t think I did it enough justice on this first go, so don't be surprised if you see him come up in future work.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of relationship that is wild and passionate but often turns toxic after the initial drama dies down. But there aren't consequences if it's the characters who are dealing with it and not you. Another thing about John's character is that he shows us things aren’t always what we assume, and women's inequality also had an impact on men. Sometimes, it's difficult to acknowledge discrimination and ignore the man's side. When you really look at both sides, however, men were going through their own sexist and historical struggles too. I intentionally wrote John as a mystery, but the reveal of his side at the end was really supposed to help people see who he was and what his previous actions actually meant. He shows up to console Emeline the day her father dies. He was there to see her, but shy about telling her directly. Instead he suggests his parents sent him to check on the family. At the funeral, he helps her get out of the party before she gets sick, and before that, he is trying to offer himself as a shoulder for her to cry on. If you go back through the book, you can see how all his actions were really misunderstood by Emeline. He liked her, but then his father informs him that he will marry her to save the Evans family. Even though John had feelings for Emeline, he wasn't yet in love with her, and he was told to marry her. Naturally, he felt resistant emotionally and even though he liked her, he subconsciously rejected her to rebel against his father. His father also insisted he go to Lebellum to work under a shark of a lawyer because John was acting like a guppy. He felt like a failure. We are only seeing things from Emeline’s perspective and in many ways her perspective is very flawed. She doesn’t know what it’s like to be poor, or to be married, or to be a mother, or to have an unwanted pregnancy, or to be a man. She has her judgments and her grudges, but in the end all of those things are stripped away. She realizes John was going through almost the exact same thing she was. He was struggling with an arranged marriage, a lack of purpose in his life, and an emotional rebellion that prevents him from becoming a husband or a lover. Some readers weren’t very happy that I had Emeline and John come together in the end. In fact one of my test readers and a dear friend used some pretty shocking language to describe her objection of this ending. =) Some test readers thought I should have given Emeline a secret lover, but that just seemed too easy. Plus, my intention with this novel was to reveal what life was like for women and to some extent for men, during this time, and turning it into a romance would not create an accurate portrayal. Plus, it's just such a popular way to go, and as I continue to publish books, you might notice that I don’t like to do the popular thing, at least not in my novels.