Wednesday, June 2, 2010
YOU DID NOT DO THAT!
Romance writers have to think a lot about apology and forgiveness. Somebody has always got to be forgiving somebody for something—being obtuse, being unsure, being stupid, not trusting enough, not being honest, not opening up. (Never cheating, though; not in our books. We hate cheating so we don't write about it. It's hard to bring a character back from cheating.)
Plotter and I are at the very end of our work in progress. The heroine has had her black moment; the hero has had his. He is so, so sorry. Here's the next question: Is he one of those who can't say he's sorry? You know the kind: "I'm sorry you took it like that." Or "I didn't mean it like that." Or "I didn't realize." Or "That never happened. You are mistaken." Or my personal favorite, "That's just how I am and you have to accept it." That can be a whole new busload of conflict within itself.
And what about her? Can she easily forgive him? Or does he have to make some grand gesture? Or does she psychoanalyze him and decide that he pities her and is only saying he's wrong out of guilt? Must she watch him walk away, dejected and broken, before she realizes she can get over it, after all? Conflict Bus number two.
And then, after rejecting him, when she goes to gift him with her forgiveness, is he going to forgive her for not forgiving him in the first place? Or has he married and impregnated a woman he will never love, but felt he had to settle for? (In this case, you know there is about to be one dead bride.) Conflict Bus number three.
The more words you're allowed, the more complicated you can make it. I love complicated. Plotter, quite correctly, keeps having to blow her Word Count Police Whistle. Poor Plotter. She should kill me.
Sometimes all that agony is called for. The more anguish, the happier the ever after.
This time, we've decided to keep it simple. He's genuinely sorry and says so. He's willing to do whatever it takes. To his surprise, she's going to accept it because he's never lied to her and why should he now? Besides, she loves him. I guess he had her at hello. Sound anticlimactic? Believe me, it's not. They've been though plenty.
Here's a thought: Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? I wonder if anyone has ever thought of a Choose Your Own Angst-filled Road to Happily Every After? There could be a market.
How do you handle apology and forgiveness in your stories?