What if, around the time of the brother’s death, the hero gets really reckless and has a one-night stand that results in pregnancy? Could it be feasible for him to feel he could atone for his brother’s death by marrying the woman for the sake of the child in a marriage of convenience? In other words, “he’s been responsible for the loss of one life and he’s not going to destroy another.”
Alice then wants to know the following: What could happen to change his stance on not allowing himself to enter into a loving relationship with the woman and his unborn son? What emotional stages would he need to go through to get to a place where he gradually changes and ends up as a committed, caring husband? How could the heroine aid the change?
Alice, I say it’s more than feasible. GO FOR IT. People are always looking for ways to atone for their sins. To the observer, maybe some of the ways they choose have no outward correlation, but as long as you give him sufficient internal motivation, and let the reader know that this man firmly believes he can atone for his brother by making sure his son is taken care of, then it’ll pass with flying colors.
Even more so would be if you up the stakes for the hero by giving him a backstory full of angst with his own father. Maybe his father only tolerated him, or didn’t show him any affection, or was always blaming him for things. Maybe he was adopted, and all he was told about his biological parents were that they didn’t want him or couldn’t take care of him. Then, when he sees that he has the means to take care of his son, he feels he can somehow even atone for his own biological parents’ downfall.
You could really play with his backstory quite a bit to make for even more tension-filled reading. If his bio dad was a player and left his pregnant teenage girlfriend who then later gave up the hero for adoption, that would add a different dimension to the hero’s decision to enter into a marriage of convenience than would the scenario where he enters into the marriage simply to prove to himself that he can do right by his son…or that he can be a better father than his own, who never told him he loved him or was proud of him.
One thing to remember about parenting is that you learn from modeling. Typically, you either grow up to be the exact same kind of parent as your own parent (scary thought, huh?) or you do a complete 180 degrees and do the exact opposite as your parent because you remember how it felt. So think about that dynamic as you make the hero a future dad. What was his own father like? Why or why not would he want to behave similarly or the exact opposite?
Going on the assumption, then, that he feels sufficiently compelled to enter into a relationship with this woman, you’d need to make his change of heart believable…so he’s not just going through the motions of marriage…he really wants a marriage in all sense of the word.
For some potential plot points, I’d consider allowing him to come through for this woman during a critical time in her pregnancy. At a time when she really needs him, he’s there for her and she makes it clear she wouldn’t have made it without him. Or perhaps he even saves the baby somehow by rushing her to the hospital to get attention for a symptom she didn’t consider all that unusual, but if he hadn’t made her get a check-up, the baby could have been in danger. Something like that would really give you a great opportunity for the heroine to encourage and compliment this man on his care and support of her…something he’d feel surprised about, because he considers himself unworthy of it. But praise is powerful…especially from a beautiful woman who happens to be carrying your child. :)
If they marry before the baby is born, then I think having her do little things to take care of him would really go a long way. Especially if his childhood was more “every man for himself,” then when this woman, whose belly is growing because of his own recklessness (well, that’s a mutual recklessness…but you get the idea), begins to pick up his socks or do his laundry or have him supper when he gets home…I think that would be something his solitary soul would really crave deep down. Of course, you’ll have to have this almost insurmountable obstacle at the end of the book where it looks like it won’t work out, and you could have him in the house, missing her feminine touch. The socks are piling up, that sort of thing. This isn’t as dramatic a change of heart so much as a gradual one that he suddenly realizes…one in which the heroine might not even realize what a role she played.
People are relational. God created us that way. He created Eve for Adam and said it was GOOD. He doesn’t intend for people to be isolated. Now, not everyone is made to marry, but they are made to have friends, to have relationships. So you’ve given your hero a great “flaw” of selfishness and self-sufficiency. He doesn’t want others to rely on him, but deep down, he really doesn’t want to rely
on others, either. Why? Because somewhere in his past, someone has failed him. So he masks his own hurt and insecurity internally by saying he’s not trustworthy or reliable.
This is a defense mechanism called reaction formation. (Read more about it here.) He behaves in such a way (playboy lifestyle) that is the exact opposite of what he really wants (love and security). The beauty of reaction formation is that it’s only an effective coping style for the short term…it eventually will break down and this will feed your character arc perfectly.
Hope this has been helpful. As always, any questions are welcome in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.
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