Huge thanks to The Novel Approach for hosting me today. It is an honour and a pleasure to be here.
To bastardize a famous quote(1), there are a million romance stories in the world, mine is but one. It truly is the same old process: person meets person and those two people fall in love. The prose is as old as time itself, as overdone as my grandmother’s lasagna, and yet somehow the need to read, write, watch, or listen never seems to fade away. So how to present this format, this already massively represented genre, in a way that will continue to pull in readers? It’s a question I struggle with. On one side of the equation, anything too similar becomes tiresome. In other words, if there was an actual formula to follow, readers would have already become sick of it and moved on. Yet at the same time, there’s a distinct *thing* about romance that draws people in, so an author has to keep somewhat consistent with expectations.
I try a couple of things to keep my characters offside of the norm. One thing I’m very fond of is writing characters with flaws. They are however, traits that I consider to be “realistic character-isms.” In life, people do things they aren’t proud of, things that are ingrained into their nature by reason of past experiences or negative beliefs. My characters will root through people’s cupboards. They’ll make regrettable choices. They will let fear of reprisal and societal expectations take too strong a hold. They make other characters feel bad, and occasionally forgo trust for suspicion. Because as good of a person as we all like to believe that we are, many of us, if not most of us, have done the same along the way.
Another path my MCs tends to take is what my mother used to refer to as “the long way around.” Basing fiction off real life yet again, I try to imply that my characters, even in a moment of epiphany, may not have completely learned their lesson. Issues don’t get solved over night. People don’t do one-eighties ninety percent of the time. I’ve often joked that there’s a reason people confuse the term “one-eighty” with “three-sixty.” More often than not we find ourselves right back at the point from whence we started and have to start all over again. I try to leave my characters in a state of learning and considering rather than suggest that they are reborn and newly-saint-like.
Ian’s hands were shaking as he fumbled the key into his ignition. “Can I buy you a drink?” he’d asked, still panting from release, still trying to convince his legs that he could, in fact, remain standing.
“Nope,” Jordan had said, tucking away body parts and straightening his clothes. “Now you can piss off.”
It had caught Ian off guard. It shouldn’t have; Jordan had made it more than clear what the game was. But his tongue hadn’t stopped even though his brain had begged it to. “Maybe your number? I could call you sometime?”
Jordan had just shook his head, clicked his belt closed and unlocked the door. “Nope.”
Ian had stood alone for a long minute, willing breath and heartbeat back to normality while cock had softened and Ian’s confidence had died just a little more.
He’d tried to stop at the bar for a drink. To kill the trembling. To quiet the nervous hitch in his guts. The shot just made it worse.
So when he finally laid his head back against the seat of his car and stared into the rear-view mirror, his mind’s eye replaced his own brown pair with the blue eyes of his ex and he sighed. “Madison, I’ll never figure you out.”
Because how could a person want this? What was the point to a random encounter? Where was the attachment, the meaning?
Or was he the crazy one? The only person on the face of the earth that actually felt worse after blowing a load into a willing stranger? Maybe he was the anomaly.
“Fuck,” Ian hissed, shaking his head at his reflection. With gritted teeth and a headache starting in his temples, Ian slammed the car into reverse, revved the engine and peeled out of the parking lot.
If a protagonist is filled with realistic shortfalls and issues then they are, at the very least, relatable. And if they are, in fact, relatable then what a cool thing it is to watch them begin the journey of self-realisation and adjustment. After all, if they can do it, maybe we can too. If I can ignite the hope that true love just might be waiting for us at the far end of this tunnel we call existence; suggesting that there’s a possibility that in spite of flaw, with the help of the Universe and perseverance, we can find success with the hand we’ve been dealt … well, then my job here is complete. :)
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
M/M Contemporary Erotic Romance
At thirty-six Ian feels done with the world. When a night at a bar goes as poorly as expected, he wants only to return home to be miserable in peace. Instead, he encounters Jordan. Hot, young and interested, Jordan is everything Ian’s ever wanted and nothing he believes himself capable of actually obtaining.
Jordan has enough going on in his life trying to scrape together a living for himself and his autistic son. When he meets Ian, all he wants is a brief, erotic moment and nothing else.
But fate throws them together again and again, and Ian finds himself determined to do whatever it takes to give their story a happy ending – no matter what secrets Jordan’s past has waiting for him.
What’s your personal take on flawed characters? Do you prefer Mr. Perfect as your main character or do you go for Mr. Needs-To-Work-On-It? What flaws do you hate to read about and what are the ones that get to your heart each time? I’d love to hear what you think. All commenters will be entered into a draw for a free copy of their choice of my Less Than Three Press publications, including the new release Sonata, in the ebook format that best suits them. Entry Deadline is midnight Pacific Time on Friday, August 9, 2013. The winner will be drawn on August 10, and notified via email.
Here’s hoping that you’re all managing to keep your eyes on the sky and a song in your heart. Thanks for reading.
AF Henley <3
1. The Naked City; Mark Hellinger Productions, Universal Studios, March 1948
“There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”