Like most human interactions, it’s all about power

Gah, sorry about the lack of posts. I have no real excuses, life has been about the same level of busy as always. I can only chalk it up to the fact that I’m starting a new novel, and whenever that happens I suddenly have nothing to say. SO, let’s switch the subject entirely and talk about that other other new novel I’m thinking about writing (only once I finish all my contracted work, but of course!)

So I’m thinking about a new novel, and it has a romantic plot as its central element. Well, actually I’m thinking about 5 or 6 new novels, and they all have romantic plots (new ideas are not a problem writers have, it seems). The trouble is that, traditionally, I tend to fail at romantic plots. I can do sword fights pretty darn well, I think. Cliffhangers, no problem. Same for political tension, magical apocalypses, so on and so forth. But romantic tension? Not so much. I just can’t hear it in my head like I can other things, and it drives me nuts.  I love love stories. I’ve never been a romance reader, but I eat books up when they have tasty romantic twists (see Reason #354 why I love Nora’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, aka “Can I have a Nahadoth?”). So why can’t I ever seem to write one?

I was thinking about this a lot this weekend (ok, I was being emo about it a lot this weekend), and in the course of boo-hooing, I realized something. Looking back at all my books where I tried and failed to write romance, I was writing the wrong heroes. All of my heroes were guys I’d love in real life – nice, clever, responsible, talented, earnest young men with pretty faces. But that’s not what I want in my romances. If I look at the love stories I love, we get a very different type of hero. So I sat down to take an inventory — what turns my crank in a leading man? To start, I made a list:

  • Mr. Darcy (Austen, P&p)
  • Jareth the Goblin King (Labyrinth)
  • Wolverine (X-Men)
  • Nahadoth (above mentioned 100k kingdoms)
  • Alucard (Hellsing)
  • Mr. Thorton (North & South)

I could go on, but you get the point and I need to stop swooning. The next question is: what do these men have in common? I mean, Mr. Darcy and Wolverine? Jareth and anybody? Other than Jareth, they’re all dark haired, but I think that’s more coincidence than any marked preference on my part. So, what? I ruminated on this for a while and then smacked myself, because the answer was staring me in the face. It’s power. All of these men have great power in their own ways. They all have different kinds of power, Mr.Darcy and Mr. Thorton have money and status, Alucard and Wolverine are inhuman combat monsters, and Nahadoth and Jareth are otherworldly gods (Naha literally, Jareth more or less). All of these men can be very cruel with their powers, and most are, but they can also all be won over by an intelligent, determined woman who doesn’t care about their power and can not be won by it. That’s the angle I go for, apparently. Powerful men humbled by love.

Once I figured this out, I started scrapping my heroes. They were nice boys, but they weren’t leading man material. They just couldn’t hold up their end of the conflict. They were too nice, too good, too earnest. There wasn’t enough danger. The new heroes were much, much more messed up, and way more interesting. Soon as I got that in hand, the stories suddenly snapped into place.

Once again I learn the fundamental lesson of writer’s block: It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just that I don’t understand it yet. Once I understand it, everything falls into place.

So, does anyone else have a type of hero they gravitate towards, or am I just weird?

4 Responses to “Like most human interactions, it’s all about power”

  1. June 21, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Fallen angels — people who used to be powerful and then blew it somehow and are all broken. They get tedious in real life, though.

  2. 2 Lindsay
    June 21, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Oh man. Television, more than anything, has taught me EXACTLY what I like in a romantic hero. I like the ones who present themselves as off-limits, but who are sekritly yearning for a connection, even though they may not know it. (Hello, Doctor Who.) I like the ones who have Deep Dark Secrets that put them firmly in a morally grey area. (Hello, pretty brothers from Supernatural.) I like the ones who have larger-than-life reputations, and have to (a) live up to them, and/or (b) convince people that no, they really aren’t that bad. (Hello, Slings & Arrows.) Teacher figures. (Buffy.) Shapeshifters with angst. (True Blood.) I could go on and on…

  3. 3 Matt B
    June 22, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Mr. Darcy, Mr. Thorton, and Wolverine also have pretty sweet sideburns / chops, I’d like to point out! I somehow imagine Nahadoth as having full mutton chops too… hmmm…

  4. July 13, 2010 at 1:18 am

    If that’s the kind of character you are going for why not do a character study of each one? Then maybe it will become apparent to you which characteristics are the ones you are looking for. With Mr. Darcy I would read Jane Austen for Dummies its an eye-opener when it comes to her work. Other works you may like on the romantic yet strong you may want to look into Lynsay Sands Argeneau Series (read in order). The men from that series are an interesting lot.

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