06-18 Sarah Raplee – WHY PSYCHIC AGENTS?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Crafting the Perfect Romantic Couple

Hi everyone! 

I am YA, and now MG author Barbara Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for adolescents and teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them.  My newest book, Courage, is fiction for kids in grades third through seventh coming out July 31, 2018 from Harper Collins.

I give it six months, maybe less.

Have you ever closed a romance book and said that to yourself about the relationship? You just know this particular hero and heroine, who may be happy together right now, will never last as a couple. Roarke and Dallas, the couple in J D Robb's incredibly popular In Death series, are obviously a forever couple. An after they ever actually die, their ghosts will still hang together kind of couple. On the other hand, it comes as no surprise that in Jurassic World 2, Owen and Claire, the couple who saved the world and resumed their on-again, off-again romance in the prior movie are off again, they barely stayed together longer than the roll of the credits.

All characters—in all types of stories—need motivation for their actions. Otherwise they are simply an actor’s puppets, and most adult readers are beyond the puppet show stage. That's certainly true of romance readers.

Because they’re the hero and heroine and I need them to fall in love.

Readers see through that kind of thing fast. Author motivation does not count. Readers are not interested in what the author needs. They want to feel that the love is real. No matter what happens to people in the real world, in our stories, characters should fall in love for a reason. Love doesn’t happen just because two people are "hot". It's not enough to pair an insanely beautiful heroine and square-jawed, heavily ripped hero and call them a match. Look at the Bachelor/Bachelorette reality TV shows for proof of that. The hotness factor on those sets has thermometers exploding. The love, not so much. The HEAs they have produced are almost nonexistent.

Instead, lets think about he impostor syndrome. Writers (and many other people) know all about feeling it would be a disaster of untold proportions if the world ever found out the truth of our incompetence. So we wear masks and pretend that all is well. Don’t we rejoice when an agent or acquiring editor says they LOVE our work? That’s the high, when someone sees our real ability and and believes in us.

In our stories, intimacy can begin when one character sees behind another's Identity mask  they present to the world and accepts them for who they really are; their true Essence. (Can you tell I’ve been to Michael Hauge’s all day story mastery seminar? Twice actually, and I’d go a third time in a heartbeat.)

If you have never had the privilege, let me say he shows authors how to run the emotional arc in tandem with the plot while characters break free from their Identity and let their inner Essence shine through.  In romances, the feels authentic and long-lasting to readers when characters see the Identity but also notice the Essence and loves them more as they break free from that Identity to their true self.

A few definitions.

The IDENTITY is the mask, the thing your character puts on like a suit of armor when he/she rolls out of bed, to protect them from the worlds harsh reality. It's not about being weak, the decorated SEAL has an identity, so does the cowboy or surgeon, or the boy next door. This is the person you show readers at the start of your story. You should also show a hint of what they could become, the ESSENCE hiding the armor, the “impostor” who will not face the world without the benefit of the identity mask. That Essence is the character's potential and their only hope for real intimacy

That's because every character should also have a WOUND. Something back happened in their backstory, an emotional injury that still brings pain. The Identity pushes back the pain and guards against having the wound reopened.

The hero/heroine has a BELIEF or world view, shaped by that personal pain. The past, backstory, colors how they view life. Some parts of the belief may be correct, some horribly wrong, but it is how they see the world.

NEED: The character must want or need something. This may be subconscious, so they do not even know how much they need this thing, just that something is missing in their lives. In other words, in addition to having a goal like defeating the villain and saving the world, there is an inner goal they probably can’t articulate at the start of the story.

Last, but absolutely not least, what they FEAR. That's why the armor is necessary. Yes, even your stalwart, sturdy Shape-shifter or Alien has some secret fear. It's usually tied into the potential for experiencing that Wound again. Better to hide safely inside the mask of false identity than risk proving their Belief is true, that the Fear is real, and wind up Wounded again.

The love interest has to see inside the Identity mask and cheer for their Essence as it reveals itself.  Find it, cheer for it, and fall in love with the true self. Does it get any better than knowing someone sees the real you, and loves you anyway?

BTW, this love interest, male or female, may have their own Identity/Essence crisis going on.

Your job, as writer, is to force your character to challenge that belief system. Use the plot elements to to make them pursue their Need, push through the Fear and risk being Wounded again. During this battle, the Essence hidden inside begins to come out. When the love interest sees this and recognizes love for the Essential self, readers will have no problem believing that this is a love for the ages.

NOTE: By the time you read this, I will be on my way to the 2018 Romance Slam Jam Booklovers Convention  http://rsjconvention.com/authors-attending-romance-slam-jam-2018/  . The conference keynote speaker is  USA Today Bestselling Author Farrah Rochon (https://sites.google.com/site/farrahrochon/) . I will be presenting an extended version of this information in a workshop entitled Crafting Heroes and Heroines.

For more about Michael Hauge, because I just gave tiny taste of the awesome information he gives in his seminars,  he is giving a workshop titled: Identity, Essence and the Heroine's 3 Journeys  at the RWA conference in Boulder, Co next month. This is part of the YARWA sponsored Day of YA. https://www.storymastery.com/events/michael-hauges-identity-essence-and-the-heroines-3-journeys/ 

1 comment:

Judith Ashley said...

Barbara, Thanks for the reminder. I took a day-long Michael Hauge workshop a few years ago. Always a good thing to have the key points reiterated. I particularly like your beginning and the importance of our characters interaction with each other making sense. So true, beauty queen and handsome hunk is not necessarily a match made to last.