Well it was back to the 3rd draft of my gothic novel. Draft 2 was a complete rewrite and I was a bit terrified to see what I had to work with this time around. It was a relief to find that the plot is mostly working, but it took more time than I expected to get back into the swing of it.
Momentum really is a thing. Taking 6 + months away from this story meant that it took almost all of June before my subconscious started cooperating on this story . By that I mean: random lines, dialog, and character improvements started coming to mind, and I was no longer preoccupied with the previous book I’d been working on.
But also it’s summer and I’ve got a bit of travel interruption coming up. I hope I don’t lose it.
Sometimes reading feels like eating vegetables (good for me, but I’m not always in the mood), but every once in a while you can find a streak of books that are just what you needed at that time.
This month was heavy on the romance, so it’s time for some random craft analysis…
In terms of plot, romance can be a very powerful story tool: a way to raise the stakes, and make them more personal. Falling in love with another character, or beginning to care for another character deeply should always change something in both the external story, and the main character’s personal motivations.
Sometimes romance is just a B plot, but if it’s the A plot, then the two main characters should be thrown together in every chapter or think about one another in each chapter, because that is where the main tension comes from. Maybe they weren’t planning on running into each other, but they do (tension). Maybe they don’t want to see each other, but they do (tension). Maybe they do want to see each other, but they can’t (tension).
But how do you get people to believe that two characters are made for one another? Wow romance writers do a lot of psychological heavy lifting. Translating a nebulous idea like compatibility into something concrete is difficult business, and I find that non-romance writers sometimes cheat and use physical attractiveness as a shorthand for compatibility. My favorite take is when it feels like something about the other character just does it for the other. When it’s combo of personality and physicality, and it feels like personal taste — that no other person could ever be a better fit for the other (Roni Loren is very good at this).
I’m not an expert, but I’ve observed three components that make character compatibility feel realistic:
A) Strong physical reactions and observations. For example, ‘his hand was hot on her back’, ‘she could almost feel his eyes tracing across her lips’. Even if the characters are confused, or perhaps may not realize their attraction to one another. (Alyssa Cole and Stephanie Garber do this brilliantly.)
B) Complimentary character traits. For example, he is a snob that only respects a superior mind, and she is clearly brilliant, willing to engage him in scientific or philosophical debate (A Hope Divided). Or they are both uncommitted flirts, who enjoy tormenting each other, but never ever plan to get together (Legendary). You know they’d be so good together if they just got over themselves (conflict).
C) Moments of intimacy / sharing / bonding / trust. For example, characters could be dealing with similar past traumas they haven’t quite gotten over (The Ones Who Got Away). A character confessing her fears of the future, because a fortune teller told her she’d never find love (Legendary). Or a character taking his love interest to see his ailing parents, when he never introduces them to anyone (Warcross).
- Warcross by Marie Lu
- A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole
- Legendary by Stephanie Garber
- Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh
- Quackery by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen (Non-Fiction)
- The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean
- Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh
- Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
- The Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson
Wow June felt like it lasted forever… is it just me? I really don’t know how I managed to fit in that much reading.