by Tami Cowden
In the real world, a lasting romance rarely happens in the few days or weeks over which a romance takes place. Yet over and over again we read about the accelerated development of a loving bond between two people. Why do some books make us happily sigh as we read the last page, while other make us shrug and murmur, “I give it a few months?”
More than simple sexual attraction is needed to make me believe that Jane Heroine and John Hero are going to live happily ever after. Not that I have anything against good old-fashioned lust, but people can’t live their lives on bearskin rugs in front of fireplaces. I need to understand why Jane and John were meant for each other, and pheromones alone won’t convince me. And won’t convince my readers, either.
So how does a writer show the progress of the relationship from lust to love in a believable way? Well, as in real life, once you start with that nice chemical attraction, there are three more steps to a lasting loving relationship.
The first step is respect. Something should occur in the story so the hero and heroine develop mutual respect. For example, the hero notices her compassion; the heroine notices his bravery. The basis of the respect can vary depending upon the needs of your story.
For example, think about the movie Romancing the Stone, a great romantic story where the hero, Jack, and the heroine, Joan, fall in love over the course of just a couple of days. Remember the scene where they are in the plane? Joan is berating Jack for his lack of finesse, and general ungentlemanly conduct. She realizes he’s not listening, and starts to scold him for that too – just as he pulls out his machete and kills the snake that threatens her. She begins to respect him at that moment – she realizes that while he doesn’t fit her idea of a “gentleman,” by golly, he’s one helluva a man. And Jack looks at the whining writer with new eyes a few scenes later, when the drug dealers shower praise on her for her books.
This movie has a several other scenes in which their mutual respect continues to grow. The novelist can add as many scenes as appropriate to her story.
Next comes trust. Here, the hero and heroine each not only learn the other is worthy of his/her trust, but also display the trust they feel..
In Romancing the Stone, Joan shows their relationship has advanced to trust when she agrees to hunt for the treasure itself, rather than simply focusing on getting the map to the people holding her sister. Jack shows that same trust when he – already having possession of the map – puts it back under the mattress when she agrees to go with him. Her confession that he is the best time she ever had is also an exposure of herself – a demonstration of trust, which touches him. Joan also demonstrates her trust by agreeing to meet Jack in Cartegena with the treasure, once the river separates them.
Finally, comes love. All defenses removed, the hero and heroine realize and demonstrate their love for each other. In Romancing the Stone, Jack realizes/shows his love when he 1) gives up the stone to the bad guys so Joan would not be hurt, and 2) lets the alligator (crocodile?) that swallowed the stone go so that he can save her. Of course, she’d already saved herself, but he didn’t know that.
Joan’s demonstration of love is subtler. On the one hand, she probably wasn’t the sort to sleep with him at all if she didn’t already love him. But also her entire changed demeanor after this ordeal demonstrates her love. She is now a “hopeful” romantic – and shows no surprise when he and his boat arrive outside her building. Just as though she knew he would come – and I think she did know it.
Even though Jack and Joan fell in love over only a couple of days, it is entirely believable that they would be happy together, because we understand why they grew to love each other.
Keeping the progression of a lasting relationship in mind is a great tool for plotting. At minimum, three scenes are necessary to show the development of the relationship. But, because you may have separate scenes to show the progression for each character, you might have six or more scenes with which to keep that middle from sagging.
So, to get your hero and heroine to the point where the reader will heave that satisfied sigh, make sure you’ve included the steps to a lasting relationship in your love story.
Want more of Tami’s stuff? Check out Tamicowden.com!