Today I have the joy of bringing you Ginger Monette, author of Darcy's Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, set during the period of WWI, whose 100th Anniversary we just noted. Her post is perfect for both writers and readers who want to know more about the craft behind the books they love.
Falling in Love: Plan it, Plot it, Show it—in Four Phases
As romance novelists, it's our job to weave stories that give readers a front row seat to watch the unfolding of a beautiful love story.
So what's the best way to show a couple moving from “Hello my name is” (or even “I despise you”) to “You're my soulmate and I want to spend the rest of my life with you?”
Having been disappointed by numerous novels where the couple claimed to suddenly “be in love” without actually “falling in love,” I went on a quest to investigate this mysterious process of falling head over heels. What I discovered changed my writing.
I dissected some fifty romance novels and made notes. All the couples had hefty doses of attraction, but the most satisfying stories went beyond attraction to something deeper. They showed the characters passing through four phases that moved them step by step from “meh” (or downright hatred) to “wowie-zowie he's the most wonderful person in the world.” And each phase seemed to be characterized by distinct thought patterns—particularly if at first Prince Charming seemed to be more of a frog than a prince. Here are the stages I observed:
Acknowledgment of him:
-Acknowledges some good quality about him (talented, kind, generous, etc)
-Finds him attractive
-Hyper aware of him, or hyper-critical of his shortcomings (which often signals preoccupation or a subconscious denial of admiration)
-Acknowledges an attraction, but blows it off
Appreciation of his good qualities:
-Is genuinely thankful for a good quality
-Beginning to warm towards him
-Not so judgmental towards him
-More willing to consider his opinion on a matter
-Takes his advice
-Imitates quality or action of his
-Admits her initial criticism or objections were exaggerated or biased
-Curiosity grows—willing to spend more time in his company
-Acknowledges similar values or mutual interests
-Finds she is thinking (fondly) of him more and more
-Openly acknowledges her love/warm feelings for him
-Desires to be in his company
-Thinks he is wonderful
-Thinks he is perfect match
-Misses him painfully when he is gone
-Thinks about him constantly
So how did this awareness of stages change my writing? In my novel Darcy's Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, I kept these stages and behaviors in mind as I crafted scenes. They became an outline of sorts that I wove with compelling action, mystery, suspense, and historical detail. When my characters (Jane Austen's iconic Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet) are reunited at a WWI field hospital, Elizabeth is none too happy to encounter Darcy. And although she disdains him, I had her acknowledge that he is handsome and there is something between them. This cracks the door to romance and gets readers rooting for the couple.
Then, I moved her into the appreciation stage by having her surprise herself by praising and defending Darcy to a colleague. After she directly benefits from his wise leadership, she comes to appreciate him, even though she still doesn't like him. Readers can feel her slowly warming towards him and eagerly turn pages to find out how the couple will sort out the baggage between them.
As truths of Darcy's past are dramatically revealed and she comes to understand him better, I have her admit that her initial criticisms were misplaced. Now, with a softened heart, she's able to look at him more objectively. Then I set up an ah-ha moment where she realizes they both share a similar deep-seated insecurity which turns her reservations about him into empathy. Now that her appreciation has turned to admiration, her feelings are almost there! And readers are waiting with bated breath to find out what it will take for him to fully win her heart.
I gave him some scenes that show off his admirable qualities, so not only does she find herself attracted to him, she admires his leadership, work ethic, and drive. Then I purposely played up the things they have in common and showed her enjoying his company. In short, I showed them building a relationship. Finally, after they share a heroic act and laugh over a tent whipping in the wind, she realizes that in fact she adores him.
Intentionally crafting scenes that follow this four-stage progression of romance enables readers to sense her falling in love, so it's no surprise when she finally declares it. I think a lot of romance authors make the mistake of never showing the characters moving beyond physical attraction and chemistry. It's not easy! But to write a fulfilling romance, the characters need to interact on a deep level and share common interests. Readers should see the couple building a relationship and hear their internal dialog as their thoughts and feelings evolve.
Using this four-step model, I think Darcy's Hope has succeeded in providing readers a deep sense of satisfaction as they watch the heroine's tiny bud of acknowledgment open into appreciation, then expand with admiration, and finally blossom into full adoration.
What challenges do you face showing a couple falling in love?
Blurb:Downton Abbey Meets Pride & Prejudice!
Escape to the era of Downton Abbey and experience all the drama of World War 1 alongside Jane Austen's iconic Elizabeth Bennet & Fitzwilliam Darcy. You'll watch their tender love unfold as they learn to work together and reconcile their differences at a field hospital only miles from the Front. When injury and espionage separate the couple, Darcy is crushed. But Donwell Abbey holds a secret that just might change everything.
“…a stellar example of fine Austenesque literature. …an exceptionally moving story complete with a compelling plot, danger, mystery, action, introspection, vivid detail, and an emotionally wrought romance.” ~Austenesque Reviews
Darcy’s Hope Beauty from Ashes:
The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she's hooked on writing & World War I.
When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.
In 2015, her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library's “Picture This” grand prize.
Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.