We are finally at the end of what heroes and heroines do and don’t do for love. Because that title was such a mouthful, I broke it up into 4 segments. Again, I welcome all comments and thoughts below. Without further ado:
Five things your heroine should never do because she’s in love and that makes everything okay (because it, in fact, does not):
1. String two guys along. Not speaking of menage stories here. I’m saying a heroine does not spend the entire story unclear on whether she loves the hero enough to cut loose her backup guy. I don’t like women who do this in real life, I don’t respect them. I will not respect a heroine who pulls this trashy crap.
2. Run away. I know, I know this one happens all the time. I’ve read them. And enjoyed them. But… it’s not entirely satisfying. Yes, he chases her down and she knows he really cares. But… what did she put on the line? She’s gone. It’s all on him to solve the black moment. What’s going to happen the first time they hit the next crisis in their relationship? Because happily ever after doesn’t mean easy ever after. It means this couple has proven they will stick it out and make their relationship work.
I have to clarify, though, that this isn’t the same as the heroine offering him her sacrifice and giving him the choice, then going so that he can make his decision. On the other hand, I’ve also read books where the heroine arced and ran away for no other reason than that it was time for a black moment. If that’s the big crisis they need to solve, there’s no motivation for her to run–it’s not really a crisis. Your story already ended and you forgot to write it that way.
3. Stalk him. Caveat: Stalk him in a way that doesn’t involve an external plot detail. For example, if she’s a detective hired to follow him around, then that’s not stalking. She’s doing her job. If she’s sneaking around to see what he’s up to because she’s a jealous psychobeast or she doesn’t trust him–there’s not a happy ending in their future.
4. Belittle him. Remember, I’m describing actions after the two have come to care for one another, whether they admit it or not. She doesn’t have to realize she likes him yet, she doesn’t have to stop with the witty banter. But she does have to not be cruel, demeaning, or humiliating in the way she speaks to him.
People have arguments, you say. Might these things not slip out? I suppose they might. But she’ll feel bad for it. And when we truly feel remorseful, we make sure not to repeat the mistake. You’re supposed to be writing a character who is growing, who is learning from her mistakes. This is a mistake.
5. Trade sex/her body for anything. I don’t care if it’s the house her grandmother grew up in. I don’t care if it’s the last jelly doughnut. Don’t do it! Don’t send the message that the heroine’s only worth, especially to the love of her life, is her body. It’s demeaning and sad. Do you think it’ll crank up sexual tension? Yeah, someone having sex they don’t want to have because it’s a trade-off for what they need, because that’s the only shred of power they have left, is not at all sexy.
Sure, it happened in Pretty Woman (a romantic comedy). But, the writer made a distinction between the sex she was paid to have and the sex she wanted to have (with the kiss). Not to mention that she spent the entire movie fighting against everyone’s belief that she held no worth because she traded sex for money. And, come on. You know and I know, that was prettied up for a story. Sex workers don’t do that job because it has perks. They do it, often, because life or bad choices have led them to a place of desperation and, more often than not, a man takes away their choice. I could rant all day on this. But, I won’t. Just don’t do it.
But writers break these rules all the time!
That’s because they’re not rules. First of all, I made them up and who am I to give anyone rules? Second, like most of writing’s rules, they can be broken with wonderful results. But you better be good. And I don’t mean talented. You don’t send the fella who is a genius at filleting fish to the hospital to remove a brain tumor. Talent does not equal skill. Skill is acquired through learning and practice. So, you’d better be
And you don’t break any rule because it makes the story easier to write or it puts this character where you need them to be. There are only three reasons to break a rule: character, character, character. Yeah, I lied. There’s only one reason. Because your character is well-motivated, fleshed out, and it serves their story. Good writing never serves the writer.
And this concludes my
whackadoo ideas series of blog posts on how heroes and heroines should and should not show love. Next week, my fantabulously brilliant daughter will be guest blogging (unless she stands me up) about stories in video games. I’m excited.
“Lady love gone bad in romance | The Black Moment is a Restraining Order P2” ~ Click to Tweet
“Five things your heroine should never do in romance” ~ Click to Tweet
- Previously: Romance Writing Don’ts– The Black Moment is a Restraining Order, Part 1
- Related: Show Me More Love: Writing Heroines
- Related: Show Me the Love: Writing Heroes
- Related: What is love in Romance
–Credit for suggestions 1,2, and 3 go to my critique partner, Landra Graf (Twitter, Site). She thinks way faster than I do, apparently. Because, while I was coming up with 4 and 5, she was rattling them off.