Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Currency of Romance

What I'm reading: The Arranger, by L.J. Sellers

Don't forget my book giveaway. It runs through Labor Day.

Last weekend, Jaxine Daniels spoke to my local RWA chapter. Her topic: The A,B, C's of Romance Heroes. After going through different interpretations of different types of heroes, including the all-too-prevalent alpha male, and quoting a good number of authors, all of whom had their own categories and definitions, the takeaway gem was that there is no need to sweat whether your hero is Alpha, Beta, or Theta. Or a Thinker, Ruler, Warrior, or Sorcerer. Or a Chief, Bad Boy, Best Friend or Charmer.

Write the character you love. Let others worry about where to pigeonhole him. I would say that her description of the Warrior Poet seems to be closest to the heroes I write and love to read about. They're strong when they need to be, but aren't afraid to show their sensitive, loving side. They have the courage to walk away from an unnecessary fight.

However, the biggest gem I carried away from her presentation was that women express their feelings using words, while men show their feelings in actions, using their currency. In this context, currency is what matters to a person. (It's almost another example of "show, don't tell.")

An example: The man absolutely loves fishing. A perfect day (or week) would be spent on the river, lake, or boat. For him, inviting the woman on a fishing trip is the way he shows her he cares about her. She may think otherwise, but he's actually saying, "I love you."

Another example: Jaxine's husband accompanied her to her talk and after setting up her computer/projector system, sat in the back of the room until she was finished, when he dismantled everything. It's highly unlikely he enjoyed listening to her talk, but he was paying her in his currency—helping her with setup, something she wasn't comfortable doing on her own.

Or take the Hubster. For our recent anniversary celebration, he came up with the idea and made all the reservations. Normally, he prefers if I take care of things like this, but once he confirmed that I was happy with his suggestion--a night at the Cliff House at the foot of Pike's Peak, with dinner and then a ride on the cog railroad the next morning--he went ahead and made the requisite calls (or web searches) so that we had reservations for everything. And since I know how much he dislikes doing it, the payoff was that much greater.

The lesson here: The heroine in your story must learn to interpret and understand the way the hero is showing that he cares for her.

A few other tidbits:

Powerful characters create powerful drama

Create conflicts. Take away what your hero values most. She gave an example that to Donald Trump, being second best is failure. Others might consider themselves successful at a much "lower" level.

Find out what it would take to make your hero violate his own sense of honor or his own beliefs. Then shove it at him!

You can create a hero OR a villain using the same set of circumstances.

So, what examples, real life or fiction, of men using their own currency can you share?

Tomorrow, we'll go to the top of Pikes Peak.

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Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I know my husband is always thinking of me when he makes appointments to take my car in for wheel alignments, oil changes, etc. :) Because I'd never think to do it, myself! Good points in your post.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - yes, car maintenance is another great way to show love. Mine checks my tires and keeps the washer fluids full.

Justine Darkholme said...

Great post, Terry. I agree: authors should write the characters they love and let other people worry about what archetype they fit into. :-)


Terry Odell said...

Justine - yep. Never did like coloring inside the lines.

Karyn Good said...

Great post! It's a great idea to think in terms of male action versus female words.

My husband phones me everyday on his way home from work and asks if I need him to pick anything up. Quite often I have a couple of requests and he never complains when I know he'd probably rather come straight home after working hard all day!

Terry Odell said...

Karyn - that IS nice, because I don't think there are many guys who like to shop, especially if they're tired after a full day at work.

Vonnie said...

Great post. Sensible, succinct.