Romance Month continues here at Urban Fantasy Land with Meljean Brook! Leave a comment to win a copy of Wild Thing. I will pick winners at random from the comments on Monday, February 23.
Ah, romance. I love it. Even when I’m pounding my head against my keyboard in frustration and wondering how I ever thought that my main characters would get a happily-ever-after together, I still love it. And I’m a firm believer that, in a romance series like mine, every book needs to end with a happily-ever-after. My readers want it, my characters deserve it.
But sometimes the best thing I can do for destined lovers is to rip them apart … and never, ever let them have their happy ending.
Whether you’re a writer or a reader, you’ve probably been there — going along in a book, and suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see it: secondary characters who are just perfect for each other. They strike sparks. They smile at each other just right. And the big words OH MY GOD I WANT THEIR STORY pops into your head. It must be destiny.
Other times, you plan for it to happen. You are a writer, you are a god, and you have decided these two are a match! Ah, the sweet, sweet power, to determine the fates of mortals.
At times, that feeling is right. Other times…not so much. And the best thing you can do is to rip those destined lovers apart.
I had one of those not so much romances brewing when I first began writing DEMON ANGEL. The setup was perfect: Selah, a Guardian, had been chained to the bed of the vampire Colin, and he fed from her for a few days while she pretended to be unconscious. Later, she accidentally teleports him to a hellish realm, and to save his life, has to leave him there alone.
The whole time, I was bouncing up and down in my writer’s chair with glee. With a setup like that, they were obviously meant to be together. And I couldn’t wait to tell their story. It would be so fun! She’s a by-the-book angelic warrior, he’s a vain, irreverent, cursed vampire who deliberately shuns responsibility, and the romance between them was going to be hot, and funny, and … probably really freaking boring, because there was no real obstacle to their happy-ever-after.
So in my sacred golden notebook of Couples-To-Be, I ripped out the page that said “Selah+Colin=4EVA,” and gave them each a different page, instead. Because I loved those two characters, and I still wanted to tell their stories…but they really deserved better than each other. And luckily, I made this decision before the final manuscript had been completed, so that there was no real expectation for my readers that this couple would get together, despite a setup that, in many other books, would have almost guaranteed them starring roles in the sequel.
I’m one of those writers who tries not to be too heavy-handed with the sequel bait, and this is partially the reason. As a reader, I know that certain expectations are set up when romance flourishes between secondary characters, and as a writer, I know that, despite our best intentions, sometimes those romances just don’t work out.
The question becomes — do you forge ahead with two characters who just aren’t clicking anymore, hoping that they strike that spark again (without the taking the drastic measure of giving one of the characters a personality transplant) or do you scrap the whole idea (and maybe spark the ire of your readers, instead?) Which is worse: an unconvincing and flat romance, or trampling your readers’ expectations?
As a writer, my answer is always going to be that a crappy romance is worse, and that forcing out every word to get the two characters together is my idea of Hell.
As a reader, though — and only when I’m reading in the romance genre — I’m like a bitch on fire when a romance I’ve been rooting for is tossed away. If the new romance ends up being great, I can be mollified. But if the new, unexpected romance sucks ass, then I’m pitchforks and screaming and RAWR YOU HAVE FUCKED WITH MY HEART AND YOU WILL DIE!!!
So, tell me if you’ve ever written/read about one of these destined-to-be-ripped-apart lovers. Was it difficult to do? Did it work out? And if you wave a flaming pitchfork over your head, what are the chances that you’ll be bald the next morning?
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