Characters Behaving Badly

I wrote a very nice scene for Will & Meg two nights ago, but I realized that it would have been a much better scene -- one with more impact -- if they hadn't already been getting along so well. If they'd been snippy and fighting, a quiet, oddly peaceful scene sharing dinner would be a welcome wake up call that maybe they actually... get along. And hey, that sexual attraction thing doesn't hurt either. But as it is, the quiet, oddly peaceful scene sharing dinner comes across like an old married couple. Argh! That's right, my WIP suffers the worst of all possible genre romance nightmares: characters who get along.

Gasp! But darn if I don't find it difficult to give my characters suitable levels of conflict. I want them to get along almost from the start and work together to solve problems. My mom once described my husband and I as "two oxen in the same yoke" when it comes to how we approach the mutual responsibilities of life and family. I love that analogy, and I get along best with couples in similar situations. I enjoy seeing their unique ways of working toward shared ends, even if those ends are 180 degrees off from what I would do. I admire cooperation and domestic diplomacy. Ten years of marriage doesn't help with my need to create tales of conflict and romantic woe.

The most heinous of all romance conventions is the "I can do it myself" heroine. This becomes particularly egregious when you consider that my heroine is blind. Of course she cannot do everything herself, and I need to pump up the instances where relying on the hero, while perhaps necessary, galls her. And I need to set it up so that he comes around to better understanding her world, her aptitudes.

Following not far behind the "I can do it myself" heroine in the parade of bad romance conventions is the Big Misunderstanding. I cannot base their conflict on some contrived miscommunication, which my plot does include. But I don't want to play up. I have to work on creating characters who start their relationship fundamentally at odds with their personalities and world views.

Luckily, I've realized all of this before putting this WIP in front of beta readers. Now I understand where I need to go back and make their comments toward each other more hostile and unforgiving. My goal is Han and Leia before their first kiss -- and even after. "I am NOT a committee!" Of course my characters like each other, but they don't need to finish each other's sentences. Not yet!

Last night I spent the night writing detailed motivations for them, the progression of their maturities, and the dynamics of each relationship. I have a better idea of how to proceed. Write, write. Edit, edit. I'll get them there, naughty creations.

1 comment:

Ann(ie) said...

Yeah, you need some arguing!