This week we’re continuing our dive into character building. I’m putting my beta reader’s comments to work, trying to iron out some of the rough patches, and one that I must work on is attraction.
Writing emotions with depth is a balancing act. This is where I write from real life. I think about the physical cues I see when my friends and family feel emotion. When someone is happy, what do you see? Bright eyes, laughter, and smiles.
And when we’re happy, how do we feel? Energized, confident. We’re always slightly giddy when we have a little crush coming on and even happier when it blossoms into a romance.
The trick is to combine the surface of the emotion (physical) with the deeper aspect of the feeling (internal). Not only that, but we want to write it so that we aren’t telling the reader what to experience. We allow the reader to experience the emotion as if it is their idea.
Fantasy is a popular genre because it involves people. People are creatures of biology and emotion. When you throw them together in close quarters, romances can happen within the narrative.
I’m not a Romance writer. I write about relationships, but Romance readers will be disappointed in my work. My tales don’t always have a happily ever after, although most do. Also, while I can be graphic, I’m usually a fade-to-black kind of writer, allowing my characters a little privacy.
I flounder when writing without an outline, and even though I’m in the second draft, I’m floundering now.
Writing intense, heartfelt emotions is easy for me. I begin to have trouble when I attempt to write the subtler nuances of attraction and its opposite, repulsion. I find myself at a loss for words.
The problem is, if you write intense emotions with no buildup, they come out of nowhere and seem gratuitous.
So, how do I foreshadow these relationships and show the buildup? I go to Romance writers and ask questions. I’ve attended workshops given by romance writers and learned a great deal from them. However, being autistic, I understand more from pursuing independent study.
Also, I’m a book junkie—I can’t pass up buying any book on the craft of writing. I bought two books on writing craft by Damon Suede, who writes Romance. These two books show how word choices can make or break the narrative.
In his book Verbalize, he explains how actions make other events possible. Even gentler, softer emotions must have verbs to set them in motion.
Emotions are nouns, and so I need to find and use the right verbs to activate them.
Therefore, matching nouns with verbs is key to bringing that romance to life. I must get out the dictionary of synonyms and antonyms and delve into the many words that relate to and describe attraction. ATTRACTION Synonyms: 33 Synonyms & Antonyms for ATTRACTION | Thesaurus.com
So, now that I have all these lovely words, the next step is to choose the words that say what I mean and fit them into the narrative.
This novel was accidental, so I didn’t plan the relationships out the way I usually do. I have five people in this convoluted tale. I’m a bookkeeper, so doing the math, if we end up with two couples, one character will be left out.
Now my beta readers tell me that while the final matches work, I need to hint at sexual tension from the opening pages on to better show the attraction.
Also, they pointed out that the odd-one-out creates endless opportunities for a real roadblock to the final event. This is something I hadn’t seen, but wow–what a great way to inject some power into the finale.
Each of us experiences emotional highs and lows in our daily lives. We have deep-rooted, personal reasons for our emotions, for whether we are attracted to or repulsed by another person. Sometimes those interactions can be highly charged.
Both the protagonist and the antagonist must have legitimate reasons for their actions and reactions. There must be a history of some sort. Failing that, there must be an instinctive attraction/rejection.
Our characters must have credible responses that a reader can empathize with, and there must be consequences.
For me, this is where writing becomes work.