What I’m reading: Silencing Sam, by Julie Kramer
My current writing obstacle: character arcs. A character has to change over the course of the book. My heroine begins as woman who’s fled her abusive husband, taking their son with her. Her ‘inciting incident’ happened before the book opened, when the husband started beating the son as well, which was her last straw.
Ultimately, she’s going to have to change from being afraid (since her husband might be looking for her) and defensive (because that was her coping mechanism for dealing with him) to self-assured and independent.
Two issues: One stems from the abbreviated timeframe of writing a romantic suspense. Things happen quickly. The author has to be able to convince the reader to suspend disbelief that a romantic relationship, complete with the requisite HEA will take place between Page 1 and The End. In order to keep the tension and suspense moving, things unfold over relatively short periods of time.
The second is making the character change believable as well. My heroine’s reactions to the hero will start with her not wanting anything to do with him. By the end of the book, she has to be in love with him. Her situation isn’t exactly conducive to allowing a man into her life. So, as I write, I need to show the gradual change. Sure, she can find him attractive from the get-go. She might have been abused, but she’s still aware of a good-looking man.
In the book, she’s not only running away, she’s supposed to be dead (helped by the good people of Blackthorne, Inc., of course), and she’s got a totally new identity. So, as the character grows, she goes from being the old Julie Ann to Elizabeth.
In my notes, I’ve listed some of the important obstacles she’ll need to overcome—kind of like the 12 Steps to Intimacy. Will she look at him? Talk to him? When she does talk to him, is she comfortable? What’s her reaction if he touches her? Does she flinch? Pull away? When will she allow his touch? When will she enjoy it? How will she be reconciling her head, her heart, and her ingrained conditioned responses to the kind of man her husband was?
And, of course, there are the usual romance conventions: the first kiss, the lovemaking. In reality, it’s doubtful a woman would be able to move through the emotional upheaval as quickly as she’ll have to in the compressed time of a romantic suspense, but it’s the author’s job to convince the reader that in this case, it would work.
Right now, I have her responses being inconsistent. She’s aware that she needs to be Elizabeth, and sometimes she’s successful at forgetting she was Julie Ann. Other times, her former conditioning intervenes. I’m hoping that by showing readers it’s not a magical transformation, that she doesn’t cross an invisible line and everything is all sunshine and light from that point forward, will help bring readers into the suspension of disbelief zone.
What about you? What does it take to get you to suspend the necessary disbelief with regard to “book time” vs. “real time”, both in plot and character development? Has television, with it’s wrap-up of a story in under 45 minutes made it easier to accept how quickly things happen in books?
What else is going on? On Thursday, Hubster and I will be leaving in the very wee hours (6:40 am flight) for Greensboro for the Writers' Police Academy, put together by Lee Lofland whose blog, The Graveyard Shift, is an invaluable resource for anyone writing about any aspects of crime and law enforcement.
And shortly after we get back, I’ll be heading to Seattle for the Emerald City Writers Conference. You can be sure I’ll be posting recaps, but it’ll take a while for me to get them written and posted.
I hope to keep the blog up and running, although I might not be able to respond to comments in a timely fashion. I hope that doesn’t stop you from stopping by. I’ll have my usual Tuesday guests and Friday Field Trips.
Tomorrow, my guest, Jim Ingraham, will be talking about a recent trip to Alaska, and how travel can influence writing.