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He sees things in her that others don’t. Maybe that she doesn’t even see in herself. Take my super independent chick from above. Everyone else thinks she cold-hearted, calculating even (because, hey, that’s what our society thinks of women like that–but that’s another post). But he sees that she has a soft side. Maybe he recognizes it in the way she take time to comfort a person because she can relate to them. Maybe, instead of kicking someone when they’re down and climbing on top of their unconscious body to plant a conquering flag in their backside, she offers to help.
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To me, especially when writing romance (which, I do), the two main characters have broken places*. It’s not that they couldn’t get past what’s dug in deep or that they’re incapable of healthy relationships. It’s that, just like in real life, we sometimes make bad choices when it comes to who we date and those bad choices can often be seen through a filter of our experiences. I know people can grow into their thirties, forties, fifties or older before finding what makes them choose people who are wrong for them.
In romance, to me, it’s about coming upon this person who is actually a perfect fit. Not perfect. Perfect is dull. But perfect for the character. And then it comes down to this push-pull that they’re just right because of how they not only soothe, but embrace, the broken places except the character isn’t ready yet because they need to grow. Need to arc, if you will.