How alpha do you like your heroes? If your favorites are uber-dominant types, do they inhabit a sub-genre that expects or requires that behavior?
In my reading life I greatly enjoy alpha male asshattery. There are provisos: obviously the asshat in question must be a good guy deep down, he must have brains and a sense of humor, and he must be enlightened enough to respect and enjoy being challenged by a heroine who’s his equal and maybe even stronger.
Even with those provisos met, though, most of my favorite heroes indulge in the kind of high-handed, obnoxious behavior that I would find totally unacceptable in real life. It’s been on my mind this week, because I’m in the first draft of a new story and I’m gradually filling in all sorts of details about my hero. As I’m writing contemporary romance, it’s closer to home, and I’m finding it tricky to get the balance right. I found it a struggle with the previous book, too: after reading my opening scene from an early draft (a McDaniel College romance writing assignment), Jenny Crusie said she’d keep reading, but only in the hope that my hero, Ian, would get hit by a bus. Continue reading →
Think back to a book you read ages ago. What has stuck in your memory?
As I predicted last week, I’ve been mining some good stuff from Joseph T. Hallinan’s fascinating book Why We Make Mistakes. It’s a collection of popular science that explores human error, perception, memory and behavior. I bought it hoping I might find some handy hints about how to iron out the wrinkles in my writing process. I wasn’t disappointed (more about that next week), but I also picked up some interesting thoughts about how to make my characters and descriptions more memorable.
One snippet that caught my attention was a discussion of what we find it easiest to remember about people, and why. Continue reading →
We know that a character with a negative goal usually makes for a boring read. What about a character with a strong, positive goal that’s clearly destined to fail?
When I curl up on the sofa with a romance novel, two things are a given (and if not delivered there will be major Book Sulk). One is that the relationship between the hero and heroine will be front and center. Their love story will provide the spine of the book and all the major turning points; all subplots will feed this central story in some way. The other cast-iron guarantee is that no matter how dark matters become, everything will turn out beautifully in the end. Our Girl and Our Guy will make a commitment to one another and will live happily ever after.
I expect that Our Girl and Our Guy will both have a goal, and a motivation that drives them tirelessly towards that goal. The story will get its juice from the clash of those goals, which must be so important to them that neither can give up, so they push and challenge and change each other in an escalating battle that most likely ends with a victory for one and a psychic death and reinvention for the other.
Which brings me to my question.
If Our Girl has a goal that’s incompatible with her attraction to Our Guy, then no matter how credible that goal is, we kind-of-sort-of know that by the end of the story she’s not going to get it (or want it). Does that detract from the story? And if not, Continue reading →
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