Quirks, Kinks, or Commonalities?

What is it about our heroes that make them:

1)      Likeable

2)      Endearing

And most important,

3)      Worthy of our heroine

I’m in the process of revising my second book, ON THIN ICE, due out in December. One issue this story has had for me, is that Carter, my bad boy match for Penny, who is my good girl making bad choices seventeen year-old protagonist, is a bit…well…flat. Don’t get me wrong. Carter is cute, sweet, and sympathetic, but since he doesn’t get a lot of on the page time, I don’t know him well enough to fall for him.

 Not that Penny does either.

Teenagers don’t always have to know the nitty-gritty depth of a person to let their hearts be swooped up and carried away. In fact, they are usually ruled by hormones, attraction, and instinct. But that isn’t enough for the fictional world of Contemporary YA Romance. We need to have a reason for our girl to fall in love with our guy.

In Heaven is for Heroes, Jordie and Alex had the benefit of a past—a friendship turned romance that was left unresolved, so they already had conflict and tension built in.

Conflict is King

So what about characters that just meet, fall head over heels, and jump into bed right away? Where is the conflict, the build-up of tension, the oh-so-satisfying push and pull required for us to root for our couple to find their hopefully ever after?

I know there are tricks—like giving your hero a quirky habit, something about him that makes him real and more three dimensional. Maybe he’s nice to animals or shares a common emotional journey with our heroine, but how do we make him really deserve the love of a young girl who is putting her heart on the line for someone she barely knows?

Any ideas?

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19 thoughts on “Quirks, Kinks, or Commonalities?”

  1. Paula, how about guilt for jumping into bed? He/she pulls away, the beginning of disdain and disrespect. Or, she has a brother or some male friend, someone she trusts, that gets on her case about not knowing her new love. Trouble is brewing in Kansas city. What do you think?

  2. Oooh, that’s good Gail. Thanks.
    Of course, he has no guilt over the sex because he is under the mistaken impression that she is older. He’s 20 and thinks she’s 19. She has some guilt over the act initially, but with her home life such a trainwreck feels deserving of a little happiness, and just like the lying, she uses her relationship with Carter as an escape. I’ll ponder the possibility of his having a guilty conscience of sorts. Guilt is always such a powerful motivator…hee, hee, hee.

  3. This one’s a toughie, PJ. I know something about this story, so I know the issue you have with Carter. (And no, I’m not going to give anything away, Scribe Peeps, so don’t be askin’!) Can Penny witness him doing something sweet for some poor bullied kid at the skating rink? How about if he does something wonderful behind the scenes for that suffering family member of Penny’s, something Penny only finds out about later from a friend? Is he working toward entering a noble or heroic profession (doctor, firefighter, search and rescue helicopter pilot — sigh! maybe that’s just me thinking about Prince William again!)? Any of these things would give Penny reasons to love him, even though he doesn’t get much page time. Can’t wait to see how this story turns out!

      1. Good idea, J! Even though he’s balding, I mean come on. He’s a Prince-gonna-be-King. That means he’s got access to JEWELS (see my post this coming Thursday for more about that!). Plus he wears a uniform, and flies a helicopter, and rescues people! And he seems like a really decent guy who genuinely loves Kate. I think I know who our next Gratuitous Hunk may be . . . Is there a shirtless picture floating around out there somewhere????

  4. Having read the story (no spoilers from me either), I would make the pages where Carter appears count as much as possible. Have you considered giving Carter face time in other ways (through social media, through Penny’s thoughts, good old fashioned word of mouth)?

    1. The mind-bond continues to be strong between us, Casey. I was thinking after I made my comment that it would be very current for Penny to be getting her information about Carter (or from Carter) through Facebook! :)

  5. All good ideas, and I’ll just add strong dialogue when he is on the page. Open him up and show he trusts her with everything, but also, show he “gets” her. He sees her beyond what she is saying, and maybe even calls her out on her weaknesses…and then loves her more for them.

    India Arie has a song called, “He Heals Me” that I recommend any romance writer getting and memorizing. It is a song about the perfect man. And it is so beautiful. Whenever my husband hears me blaring it, he jokes with me that men aren’t really like that, but I just say they are in my worlds.

  6. Obviously not all hereos will fall into this boat, but it you’re writing only from your heroine’s POV there will need to be a point where she feels some of these expressions (or the like) coming from her man in order for us to believe she really loves him…and for the reader to fall in love with him.

    Lyrics from India Arie’s He Heals Me

    Told him my biggest secret
    And he told me four.
    He smiled at me and said that makes me love more

    And then he made me laugh
    And I knew it was a sign
    That he was a man,
    That I wanted in my life
    And with every passing day
    I feel more and more of that way

    He heals me
    He knows the real me
    And he accepts me, he never hurts me
    He heals me
    He knows the real me
    And he accepts me, he never hurts me

    I can play him songs, all through the night,
    And he will listen to every line,
    And even when I’m wrong, he is still kind
    He chooses his words wisely when he tells me I’m not right.
    And yes he is a beautiful man,
    But he is also a beautiful friend

    The moment that we met, he made me smile.
    He has so much compassion in his eyes
    I have no idea, how long he’ll be here
    A season or a lifetime, forever or a year
    But for the first time in my life I’m not worried about the future
    Because we have such a wonderful time when we’re together
    However things turn out, it’s all right
    Cause he’s already changed my life.

  7. Thanks, Patti.

    Katy. All of those things are so true. I actually have incorporated several of those elements into Penny’s internal narative. I think I just have to amp up the dialogue scenes I have between them and give Carter some more interesting qualities. I’ve got several ideas brewing…must go write them down…You’ve all been so helpful. I knew you were the right people to ask:-)

  8. Thanks Alica. I’ve done that to some degree and much of that information is in the story, but it just comes across as information. I think the part tht’s missing goes back the Show don’t tell problem. I’m working on it, but I think I’ll read back through that character sketch and see what I’m missing there as well. Great idea.

  9. I agree with showing his qualities. Maybe have her find out he volunteers at an animal shelter? Oh, the softer side of the bad boy. There must be something otherwise why would she like him, and why would we?

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