I’m huffing and puffing along with my WIP, in which every word, action, relationship, plot twist, and characterization is driving me nuts. This week my nightmare is the relationship of my hero and heroine. I can’t seem to find a reason why they shouldn’t get together. And sometimes I can’t find a reason why they should.
My hero is a wealthy guy, very successful in his first career, and now, embarking on his second, looking to make a fortune there, too. My heroine is a Spunky Girl, also in her second career. She made a spectacular splash but not a fortune in her first job and now, having located to be closer to the hero, is determined to become the best in her new line of work. Because Backstory, it’s important to her that no one think she’s a gold digger or riding on the hero’s coattails, so she’s careful to take things slowly.
This is book two; in book one they cemented an attraction. My plan for book two is that they get engaged. To move that arc, my plan is that in the beginning, the hero wants her to move in and she won’t, and by the end, he’s proposed and she’s accepted. But why won’t she move in? If she doesn’t want to be perceived as a gold digger, all she has to do is not act like one. She’s being an idiot.
And because she’s behaving like an idiot, I’m having trouble seeing why they should get together. If she’s got a problem demonstrating her independence with people who earn a lot more money than she does, she should just marry a nice civil servant. Problem solved.
I’ve been revisiting the old goal, motivation, conflict ideas to get over this hump, but nothing has gelled so far. So I cast around looking for help on the internet, and I ran into an interesting article. It turns out that if your romantic relationship has hit rocky ground, the way to fix it is to celebrate more, and celebrate the small stuff. According to a bunch of researchers who’ve looked at this question, divorce isn’t usually caused by an increase in problems, but a decrease in positive feelings. If you want to build a better relationship, spend more time celebrating the good and the small.
Okay, my peeps can do that. They’ve been mired in work. They need to have more fun. Check. And if they have fun, appreciating the good things they already have and doing or saying something to show how they feel, they’ll be happier. Expressing good feelings multiplies the happiness, according to those who study such things.
So my hero wants the heroine to move in with him. How can he reach this goal? By providing celebratory rewards, according to one researcher. Every time he encourages the heroine to do something at his house—behavior he wants to replicate—he reinforces that behavior with a reward. It works like this: if you exercise first thing in the morning, and you treat yourself to a coffee or some chocolate after, you’ll be more likely to exercise again tomorrow.
How can my hero do this without seeming like a manipulative bastard? Perhaps if he thinks about what the heroine needs and supplies it at his house. Too creepy? I’m working on it.
As a treat, here’s a 12-minute TED talk on happiness. It’s not exactly related to this post, but it’s funny, and it made me happy. I hope you enjoy it.