Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Getting Rid of the Ex
No, I'm not talking about that former spouse you may wish you could chop up and bury in the Mojave Desert. I mean our fictional characters' past relationships.
Most characters in a romance novel start out with a past. And, unless the characters are super-innocent, that past usually includes at least one serious relationship. This is especially true when it comes to pregnant heroines, or those with children, for obvious reasons.
Which leads to my question: What went wrong with the old relationship?
Often a bad past relationship is a major part of the internal conflict. Maybe the ex was a lying, cheating scum, and the heroine is afraid to love again. Or maybe he fell down a flight of stairs, and the heroine is now terrified of stairs. Enter our hero, who lives upstairs and the elevator is broken….
Okay, I haven't seen anyone try that one. But it's a rare book in which either of our main characters are coming off of a positive relationship. Not that I haven't seen it done, and done well. (Usually because the ex has passed away. Could this mean the only good ex is a dead ex?) But I'm wondering if sometimes it's a little too easy for us to negate our characters' past romances. Maybe it's the notion that true love only comes around once, so those other times don't count.
I admit I've done the same thing, especially in my current book, MEG'S CONFESSION. I wanted to have a pregnant heroine … so in order to have her ready to love again so quickly, I figured had to be something wrong with her marriage. Light bulb! They had a fight just before he died, and he said he didn't want children. When he dies, Meg is still angry and guilt-ridden, which is what leads her into the confessional.
And what do you know, my latest work in progress has a heroine who's had some bad experiences and doesn't especially trust men….
Okay, an ex from a good relationship is pretty hard to pull off in a book – maybe even harder than in real life. But since we're all products of our experiences, I'd like to think some good can come out of those past involvements, even if they didn't last. So in my next book, I'm gonna try to include at least one former romance that ended on decent terms.
What about you? How do you usually deal with your characters' old relationships? How do you get rid of the ex?