One of the reasons that I like reading and writing romance is the character-driven nature of the stories. I like character arc. One of the reasons that I don’t usual watch TV series is the lack of character arc in most of them. If the focus of the show is on, say, solving crimes, like Law and Order or Criminal Minds, I don’t get annoyed with lack of character growth. I do get annoyed when it takes five or six seasons for two people who clearly have spark to get together. I understand why it takes that long, I just don’t like it so I don’t watch it.
I have favorite characters and there are usually the books that I go back and re-read, particularly when I’m struggling with my own character’s arc. What was the character like in the beginning? How was he/she changed at the end? How did the author show the change? Continue reading
Last week, a friend of mine, who happens to be a writer (quelle surprise!) posted in her Facebook group about being obsessed with beginnings and endings as she starts a new writing project. I’m in the same headspace right now for a couple of reasons. The first is that I’m about to embark on my own new writing project. The second is that my husband and I finally got to watch a proper ending for an HBO series we loved that died an unexpected death thirteen years ago.
We were Johnny-come-latelies to the prestige TV phenomenon of the series Deadwood. But after years of having the story recommended to us by trusted friends, we eventually watched the first episode. And we were hooked.
The very first scene* had a twist I saw coming but couldn’t quite believe would really happen. The first season introduced a community of characters who were sometimes repulsive but always magnetic, storylines that focused on character minutia but were simultaneously sweeping, dialogue that was vulgar while also Shakespearean. And as we watched the last episode of the third and final season, we realized with dismay what the show’s early fans had experienced in 2006–this amazing story, unexpectedly canceled after the third season had wrapped, never got a proper ending. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I attended a book talk at Paragraphs Bookstore in Mt. Vernon, Ohio with Donna MacMeans, a member of my RWA chapter and former treasurer of RWA National.
Donna’s first novel, The Education of Mrs. Brimley, won the Golden Heart® for Historical Romance back in 2006. She has since followed it up with nine more published novels.
At Paragraphs, she described the book as “a book-length strip-tease.” She went on to explain the premise: unmarried Emma needs to escape London and the twisted domination of her uncle. She discovers an advertisement for a teaching position in Yorkshire, but the successful applicant must be a widow. Desperate, she applies anyway, forging a reference that nets her the job. Then, attired in her late mother’s widow’s weeds, she heads for Yorkshire. Continue reading
It seems to me that the second-chance-at-love trope, by its very nature, calls for more backstory than fresh-out-of-the-box romance. (Even Jenny Crusie, who dislikes backstory more than any other writer I’ve ever known, wound up including a dash of it in Maybe This Time, her second-chance-at-love romance.)
Possibly because I had a bias against backstory drilled into me during the McDaniel program, I tend to minimize it in my books. But if you have characters who were once together and broke up for some reason and you’re now attempting to join them back together, I think the reader needs to know what caused problems the first time around.
And if they’re going to achieve a happy-ever-after ending, readers need to know what caused their problems the first time around so they can watch for the character arcs that will address those problems.
Right now, the main characters in The Demon Wore Stilettos (cover reveal coming soon!) broke up because she got him to help her negotiate a contract to sell her soul to Satan by telling him it was a literary exercise for her MFA program. Underneath, though, the bigger issue is that she tends to conceal information and he has a driving need to expose the truth.
This shows up as a problem from the first time they meet, in the scene below: Continue reading
Romance may be the single most complex genre of fiction there is.
A romance author has to juggle five different arcs:
- Story (plot) arc
- Character arc for the heroine
- Character arc for the hero
- Relationship arc
- And within that relationship arc, both the emotional arc and the physical arc of the romance
That’s at least double most other genres, which have a plot arc and character arcs for only one or two characters (and sometimes no character arc at all).
To make things even tougher on the romance writer (though easier for the reader), some of those arcs should line up, sharing common turning points. Let’s do a hypothetical example:
Our Heroine wants to open a bakery in the perfect location in her little town. She has a character flaw, though. She hates confrontations and backs away at the first sign of conflict.
Our Hero wants the same spot to open a mobile phone franchise. He’s a good guy, but he’s very competitive. Continue reading