When I was a baby author, I really liked my characters to fight ALL THE TIME. Why? Because I liked the angst and conflict and the torment and the anguish. It was awesome, plus I got to write hot, angsty love scenes which is always a bonus. Unfortunately there was also a problem with this approach. Like, where is the freaking romance here???
Angry, fighty scenes are all yummy and angsty and delicious but if there’s too many of them, you start to wonder why these two people are together if they hate each other so much and/or you just know their HEA is going to last all of five seconds. That, people, is not a romance. That is a soap opera.
Now, I’m not dissing soap operas here but if you want to write a good romance, you can’t have fights and angst all the time. You have to have some moments where the characters love being together. When they make that all important emotional connection that tells the reader that these two are made for each other and when they sort out their issues, they will be together forever. And not in a ‘eat every meal in total silence cos they can’t think of anything to say to each other’ kind of way, but a ‘still having lots of nookie way into their 80s’ kind of way. 🙂
Anyway, the reason I’ve been thinking about this is because I’ve hauled out my chess ms with the idea of submitting in a contest and am wrestling with the beginning of it. I’ve rewritten the first three chapters of this wretched thing 50 million times already and it still isn’t right. Why? Because it’s a one night stand story and I just have NOT been able to nail down the emotional connection. When you find yourself writing paragraphs of justification and reasons for the heroine to sleep with the hero, you know something isn’t going right. In fact, I figured that if couldn’t write down her motivation in one sentence then I needed to stop writing until I could!
Now, I reckon emotional ONS stories are very difficult to get right. It’s easy to get them to have the sex but to get two complete strangers to connect on an emotional level? Nup. Because what has to happen, in order to get that emotional connection going, is that both your characters have to drop – at least momentarily – their armour and be who they truly are with each other. You know that Michael Hauge thing about essence and identity? That essentially characters hide who they truly are behind a mask? What I mean is that in order for them to connect, each of them has to drop that mask. But because a ONS happens usually at the beginning of the book, it’s actually very difficult for them to do that because as far they’re concerned, they don’t wear a mask. Their identity IS their true self (and I’m not talking dropping it all the way, I’m talking glimpses here. Flashes that intrigue and fascinate the other character enough that their emotions are engaged). Grrrr!
The other thing you have to get right in order to get that emotional connection is motivation. There is debate about whether guys need less motivation – it probably depends on the hero – but like it or not, the heroine has to have it (I know, I know, double standards). And it has to stem from something emotional, something to do with her conflict, because otherwise it’ll end up being ‘woohoo, sex!’ which isn’t bad if you’re writing for Blaze. But it is if you’re writing for some of the other categories (and hey, I know, I’ve got the Rs to prove it).
The reason this particular story has been difficult is partly because of the type of people my hero and heroine are, and partly because earlier, I didn’t actually know them well enough. I knew their identities, but not the people they were inside. And without knowing that, I couldn’t get them to connect on a deeper level. It was a bit like I’d taken two random strangers, put them in a room together and told them that they were hot for each other and could they make love now please. So not happening in other words.
It didn’t help that my hero is not wanting sex at this particular time in his life and he’s also EXTREMELY guarded so getting him to drop his mask for a bit (not to mention his trousers) was very, very difficult. Weird, I know. I eventually had to change the setup so he met the heroine at a moment in his life where those guards were perhaps lower than they would be normally. And then, because he wasn’t into casual sex at that particular moment, I had to figure out what it was about the heroine in particular that affected him because mere sexual attraction was not enough for him (yes, he’s a pain in the butt). But in order to know those things, I had to know him.
All in all, it was a very tricky business and no wonder I had difficulties at the start. Because what I was trying to do was make two people who would walk through boiling lava rather than admit to an emotional connection, have a bloody emotional connection!
But then isn’t that what makes writing fun? Making our characters worst nightmares come true in the nicest possible way. 🙂
So, what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever made your characters do? And when I mean, ‘you made’ I mean that they did it themselves because of course you would never, ever, make your characters do anything… 🙂