I’m happy with my life.
I wasn’t that hurt by my ex.
My parents did the best the could and I don’t hold any grudges against them.
I just want to have a sexual relationship with the heroine/hero.
Lies. Every single last one them. Except most writers fall for those statements. Here’s how it usually happens for me. I’m writing like the wind. It’s all banter and conflict and charm. The beginning is solid and great. Sometime around chapter 4 there’s a clap of thunder. I can barely hear it over typing so hard and furious on my keyboard.
And then the typing slows to a halt.
Why? Because the character has lied and the conflict falls apart. Or their character just doesn’t make sense once the new and shiny wears off. Or I’m looking at the GMC and there just seems to be something missing. No matter how you slice it, there’s not enough meat to last a full book. You simply cannot sustain anything over 30k if you’re working on the emotional premise your hero is over his ex when actually, he’s not. Because then what is his arc? What are you writing toward? In the scheme of things, the ex is the surface level problem to begin with. Right beneath it is the heart of the hero’s conflict—he can’t trust anyone.
What’s the solution?
First, I usually end up staring into the ether, despairing that I’m stuck in chapter four. The biggest hurdle is figuring out that you’ve been lied to. The second is trying to suss out which “truth” the character has told that is the bold-faced lie. So…I cheat. I look at the GMC because it involves the plot, the character and the story as a whole.
I’m sure many of you have heard of this but I’ll spell it out: Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Every character has one. I tend to write out both the external and internal GMC.
Heroine wants to renovate her house so she hires the hero.
The heroine wants to make a home.
The roof is falling in, the baseboards are antiques and need to be fixed.
The heroine can’t make a home when it’s falling down around her.
She can’t date the man who is renovating her house. She won’t get what she wants because relationships always implode for her.
After a string of bad relationships, heroine wants to focus on something that will stand the test of time, like a house.
Seems legit. Feels like the truth. I can definitely write a book about a heroine who falls for her handy man. Except, what happened in those bad relationships? Everyone who has dated has come across some toads. They get back out there. They don’t buy a house as stand in boyfriend to keep them warm at night. At this point I become good cop/bad cop and I poke the bear. (Yeah, I know.)
What relationships turned her off dating?
Why did they end?
Did she love them?
Why this house?
What is it about the hero that sends up red flags?
In short, I interrogate my character until I get the truth. And I will get it this time around. It never fails because my characters always lie. When I did an impromptu poll, my writerly friends suffered from the same problem. They all had various solutions, but the first step was always despairing and staring into the ether.
What lies have your characters told you? How do you get to the truth?
Mel Blue is the risque pen name for Melissa Blue. Her writing career started on a typewriter one month after her son was born. This would have been an idyllic situation for a writer if it had been 1985, not 2004. She penned that first contemporary romance, upgraded to a computer and hasn’t looked back since.
Outside of writing, Blue works as a mail clerk for the federal government, has a paralegal certificate (that she has more use for as a dust pan) and is a mother of two rambunctious children. She lives in California where the wine is good and, despite popular belief, is not always sunny.
You can find her camped out on Facebook or Twitter. Check out her website to sign up for her newsletter and get updates on new releases.