Uncooperative Characters

For all the years that I have been writing romance, most characters quickly take on a life of their own and dictate how they story goes.  They usually lust for each other early on, which means they wind up in bed within the first few chapters.  Then life intrudes, they discover things about the other they don’t think they can handle, want to handle, or their own demons come back to life.  Either way, they find each other, leave each other, yearn for the other, then find their way back to each other [sometimes through a very circuitous route].  But Drayton and his duchess seem to reach an impasse more than they get along.  While I usually have no problem letting the characters take the lead, this time they seem to have gotten stuck [in a rut – haha!].  Since this is the one I want to enter into ABNA2013, I need to take a firmer hand, which is uncustomary in my writing.  Yet I am not sure where to start.  This is a romance and so far there is very little of that going on.  Books like this are not supposed to be a microcosm of real life.  They’re supposed to be an exaggeration but with enough realism, the reader is supposed to root for hero and/or heroine.  Everyone wants an HEA – reader, writer, characters.  Right now, the Duke and Duchess of Bainbridge need more of the happy than they have at this moment.

There are times when life as a romance writer is more stressful than living real life.  At such impasses, marital counseling would be a standard option.  But in 1826, there was no such thing as marital option unless one sought out their pastor.  Few did; they just sucked it up and went about life as if nothing happened.  If husband or wife was miserable in their marriage, it was kept quiet, ignored, for such was married life.

At the moment I am at a loss what to do with these two.  They are beginning to love each other, yet continually put up barriers.  Throw an unexpected miscarriage into the mix and you have one very combustible situation.  Fireworks is only good for 4th of July [USA] or New Year’s Eve.  I have even trouble trying to keep track of all the characters [main and secondary], main plot and the occasional sub-plot.  Fireworks just throws a huge monkey wrench into everything.  But I shall persevere.  After all, “happily ever after” is the only acceptable ending.

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7 thoughts on “Uncooperative Characters

  1. Happens to me too, though I haven’t written in romance. Characters do act uncooperative sometimes, and sometimes you do really have to throw them into a hell before they’ll start moving toward where you want them – not unlike herding cats with a broom.

  2. I am writing my first romance novel and the characters names are driving me crazy. I want to be as realistic as possible without divulging too much information and making it a memoir. This is so new too me. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate them. By the way what is ABNA?

    • What era is your romance set in and what geographical setting? There are a number of good books on the market to help with name selection. If you’re into Great Britain, I would suggest “The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names” by E.G. Withycombe as a good starting point. There are other ones I may be able to recommend once I know the date and place. ABNA stands for Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It’s been around for a few years, but this is the first year that Penguin Books is on-board. The advances for winners are larger, etc. and Romance has been added as a category this year [no more lumping us into General Fiction]. YIPPEE!!! FYI – entries are open as of 1/14/13 and will stay open until the maximum number is reached.

    • It’s set in today’s 1990’s. Rural farming America. Small community where everyone is either inbreed or immigrants, outsiders aren’t readily accepted.

    • Interesting setting. I spent my formative years in a small town near the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains [New York State]. A group called ‘Jackson’s Whites’ lived in the mountains, supposedly inbred descendants of Jackson and his slaves dating from the early 1800’s. As to names for your characters, I would feel safe in using any of the popular ones of the time, though you might want to consider more biblical ones. Sarah, Jane, Faith, Eve, Patience, Chastity might be okay. Do a Goggle search for names in 1990 or thereabouts.

      Years ago I bought a great baby name book [paperback], “The Best Baby Name Book in the whole wide world” by Bruce Lansky. It gives name meaning, origin, variations. Frankly, unless you are writing in a highly specific olden time [e.g. Regency England], you need not worry so about the names. Just try to avoid the odd or unusual, unless the character can justify it by explaining it’s a family name, grandparents were hippies and lived on a commune, etc.

      Choosing names can be difficult and most annoying. Hopefully my suggestions have helped a little. Email me [chrystamane@gmail.com] if you need any other help or just need to vent your frustration. As they say “been there, done that”.

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