I recently and, I admit, somewhat reluctantly, attended a workshop led by Mindy Starns Clark. Her bio cast her as a romance writer, a Christian romance writer. I’m a thriller writer, so I wondered if what she had to say would be relevant. Then again, she had mentioned on another conference panel that one of her books sold 75,000 copies, and she was a former stand-up comedian. I decided to give it a try. As it turns out, her talk was both entertaining and enlightening. Here’s what I learned. As you review each one, think about how you can use these elements to enhance your novel.
Writers make Three Common Mistakes in writing the love interest:
1. Creating a perfect guy for you and not your character.
2. Using classic romance novel clichés, like the feisty redhead butts heads with but ultimately falls in love with the tough guy.
3. Using common idioms to describe relationships. “I love him with all my heart” vs. “He carved off the crust of the peanut butter sandwich before giving it to her.” Love is very specific.
So how should you define Mr. Right?
First, define the heroine’s arc, her journey, her growth and change. She may start out stifled, repressed, bored, but in the end she breaks free and is happy (think Beauty and the Beast). Defining her arc defines Mr. Right.
To build the heroine’s arc:
1. Sometimes it’s easier to start at the end of the arc, then decide on the beginning, like working backwards on a tricky maze.
2. If love is part of her journey, Mr. Right is the one who gives her what she needs when she needs it. He will get her to the end of her arc.
3. Make him the right choice for her, then lead her to see why he is the right choice for her. Where she is weak, he is strong. Where she is strong, he is weak. Together, they complete the puzzle.
As I listened, I realized that these principles can enhance any thriller. The key to a compelling story is to bond the reader with the lead character and, as I mentioned in another post, one key element drives us all, the desire to be loved. It is a part of all that we do, and every story we read.