UPDATE: The winner is…Tamara Kasyan!
Growing up, my parents would often tout hardship and struggle as “building character” opportunities. At the time, their philosophy seemed self-serving and entirely unfair because 1) I was a teen and already knew everything so didn’t need character, 2) it was surely just an excuse to get me to do housework, and 3) they never said at what point I had accrued enough character… My life was just a series of opportunities.
Flash forward a few *cough*cough* years and, as a romance author, I’m still building character… but this time, it’s on the page, and without all the unfounded teen angst and attitude. However, the concept remains consistent in both writing and real life: greater suffering equals more character. I’m not talking the kind of character I built while cleaning the cat box the night I won a local scholarship pageant, even though the image of being up to my white satin elbow gloves in litter-crusted poop still sticks with me and is good for a chuckle. Nor am I talking about the character I automatically build by simply having tweenagers, even though that character is most often called gray hair.
I’m talking the kind of suffering we put our characters through before they get their happily ever after. Authors talk about making characters earn their HEA. When in doubt, make them suffer more. When the going gets tough, make it worse. If it’s clear sailing until the end, throw another road block at them. Kill off your [non-main-character] darlings. Not unlike those movie chase scenes where the pursued knocks over shelves and lamps and grandfather clocks… whatever they can get their hands on to stall or slow their pursuer. We authors try to slow the progression of our characters toward their happy ending. Because if their journey is too easy, they won’t appreciate the destination.
I’m sure my parents spouted something about better appreciating what was earned versus what was given, just as I’m sure I’ve said the same to my own tweenagers.
As an author, it’s crucial that my characters earn the end-prize, which in romance is… well… the romance. The emotionally satisfying and hopeful ending where the two (or more) characters are assured that for at least their immediate future they are safe and in the company of someone who loves them unconditionally. This is what we want: for our characters to have overcome the most overwhelming, insurmountable obstacles, so that when they finally fall into the arms of their loved one(s), they fully appreciate it because they’ve experienced first-hand how sh*tty their life could otherwise be.
Really, it’s also what we want for ourselves, but without all the overwhelming, insurmountable obstacles. Yet while it’s far more satisfying to read about fictional characters being wrung through the wringer for their HEA, doesn’t life imitate art? Don’t we as individuals better appreciate what or who we have when we personally experience how much our life would suck otherwise? Don’t we suffer and come out on the other side with more character?
So, in spite of my teenage eye-rolling at the concept, building character is a good thing, in both fiction and real life. Now, if only I could convince my tweenagers 😉
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Blood King: Revamping the Monarchy
Below is an excerpt from my third book, Blood King: Revamping the Monarchy. My hero, Rune, is an alien vampire king who begins the story dead. My heroine is a hair stylist on a getaway vacation. And it all goes downhill from there. 😉
In a blink, she was on her back, prone on the couch with Rune’s powerful body above hers, his hips wedged between her legs, pressing against her instantly throbbing core. She clutched his taut biceps, breathless from the swift change in position and the overwhelming heat of summer lightning which started where his erection pulsed against her clit and zapped along her nerves. He lowered his head to her neck, his hot breath like some snarling predator about to slake its hunger on its prey.
He was going to bite her. The moist warmth of his tongue trailed along the column of her neck. The slight scrape of fangs against the tender skin tickled and alarmed. Her skin prickled and her nipples tightened. She held her breath, her heart racing with an explosive combination of fear and arousal.
“You are so demanding, Kazandra.” His soft murmur vibrated straight to her core and he rocked his hips along the sensitive nub. A needy whimper escaped her lips.
“Should I drink from here?” He nibbled the space below her earlobe.
Kaz held her breath.
“Maybe I shall drink from here.” His fangs gently raked the chord where her neck met her shoulder.
She hissed in a breath, her heart galloping as if it could run away.
“No, from here would be best.” His mouth widened around the jugular, his fangs pressed against the thin bit of skin and muscle protecting the artery.
His body tensed for the attack.
Her body flinched.
Bloody hell, this was it.
Rune straightened to a stand in one fluid motion. His expression transformed from simply Rune to Vahsiil Lahdunae, powerful monarch of an entire species. A frown tugged at his lips and the earlier warmth in his eyes frosted over. His voice was similarly icy. “Please understand if I do not abide by your command, Kazandra. You are not ready to be a benefactor and I will not drink from you.”
Ava Cuvay writes out of this world romance featuring sassy heroines, often-alien-but-always-sexy heroes, and an alcoholic beverage or two… Set in a galaxy far, far away. She resides in central Indiana with her own scruffy-looking nerfherder, kiddos who are growing up without her permission, and two kitties that make her laugh. She believes life is too short to bother with negative people, everything is better with Champagne, and Han Solo shot first. When not writing, Ava is thinking about writing. Or wine. And she’s always thinking about bacon.
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Ava-Cuvay/e/B01E5OIZ0I/
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15051407.Ava_Cuvay