What Romance Writers Understand
EmotionPeople read romance to feel the emotion of first love all over again. They love the anticipation, the disappointment and subsequent journey to repair and reunite the lovers, and finally the pay off at the end.
The emotions in our novels might be slightly different, but we all need to ensure our stories are cram-packed with them. If someone picks up a horror tale, they expect to be scared so bad they can't sleep that night without the bathroom light on. Those reading suspense in any form want to be kept guessing while sitting on the edge of their seat in concern for the characters.
Getting the picture?
So how do we ramp up the emotion?
ConflictWe talk about this one all the time on UB, but has it sunk in? Conflict doesn't have to be high speed chases, kidnappers, and explosions in order to keep readers interested. Here's a quick refresher course on the two types of conflict.
External--Something outside of the character (another person, the environment, etc) that forces them to take action or change. This conflict MUST MATTER, not be something stupid (like Sharknado, just saying) that is simply a tool to push your characters somewhere. Make it realistic.
The external conflict should make the character face what they fear the most.
The introduction of the external conflict often brings the internal conflict out into the open. This conflict is solved by external means--they cut the right wire to shut off the bomb, the cops/FBI/CIA/detective catches the bad guy, and so on.
Internal--In many genres, including romance, this is the most important type of conflict. Internal conflict is all about what your character brings to the story intellectually and/or emotionally. It comes from their experiences, beliefs, personalities, and prejudices.
This type of conflict is solved by character growth.
Identity vs. EssenceThis is perhaps the most important concept of them all. It follows perfectly that last statement referring to character growth. Here's the best way to start talking about identity vs essence.
Just like ogres, all of our characters need to have layers. We start with Identity, or how the character sees themselves or how they think the world sees them. As the story progresses, conflict peels away the layers of identity until we are left with Essence--the character's true self. Reaching essence is reaching their potential.
I don't know why, but I'd never considered character arcs quite in that way before. The presenter didn't talk about Shrek, but when she mentioned peeling away the layers to get to the essence that's exactly what I thought of.
QUESTION For You:
Share one of your favorite character with us and tell briefly how their identity from chapter one changed to essence by the end of the book or series.