For the first time, I've had a repeat write-in! Laura, who had her first assessment here, wrote in again to get additional feedback on her hero's backstory. Laura's hero is the son of a drug trafficker and the boyfriend of a girl whose father is a politician actively campaigning for stricter drug laws. (Talk about a great juxtaposition!) The hero discovers that his father's wealth has all been gained illegally, but worse than that, association with the hero could bring down the heroine and her entire family, probably ruining her career and her father's. Motivated by this urge to protect his love from this type of exposure, the hero decides he must walk away from the relationship. He reasons that if they stayed together to "weather the storm," so to speak, than the stress and resentment would eventually become to much for the heroine and she'd leave him. He tells her that he's too young to be tied down and goes abroad, out of her life, with a heavy heart.
Laura wants to know: Is this credible? Is the hero's fear of ruining/harming his girlfriend's life compelling enough to make him walk away from her? Is there anything I can add/change to make the hero's reactions and beliefs more credible? The whole story hinges on this, so I need to get it right before I start actually writing!
I'm glad you wrote back in, Laura, because I think your questions are dead accurate. If you don't establish why he left the heroine back when he was 18, then at best, you're reader won't care about their history and at best, your reader won't like him.
Let's piece together a little of the flesh surrounding the bones of your plot.
The way it's written now, your your hero will be larger than life in that he is willing to risk losing happiness with the girl he loves to ensure that she stays happy (i.e., doesn't face social and economical ruin). He's relatable in that this theory is flawed from the get go. When he whisks off, leaving her behind, this is bound to bring her considerable unhappiness and heartbreak.
That doesn't mean his reason for leaving is flawed. Or is it?
Let's take a look at two possible reasons why he would leave, one of which I theorized based on something you wrote above in your sketch.
1) He leaves her for purely selfless motives. (HERO) He genuinely doesn't want to cause her any pain, and figures it would be best to leave before the engagement is announced and the paparazzi descend to start digging into his background. He didn't want his father's association to taint her life, end her career or jeopardize the work her father is doing against drug lords.
2) He leaves her for purely selfish motives. (HOSER: click here for Urban Dictionary definition if you are unfamiliar.) You wrote, "He reasons that if they stayed together to "weather the storm," so to speak, than the stress and resentment would eventually become to much for the heroine and she'd leave him." Could it be that the hero didn't want to abandoned? I mean, his dad had already "abandoned" him by choosing a life of crime and having to go to jail. You didn't mention his mom or any siblings, but just what if he leaves her because he wants to have a little control over the situation and never feel as powerless or helpless as he did when his dad "left?"
I'd think about option #2. It would make sense. Nobody would blame him, yet it's still inherently flawed. And it would give him quite the character arc to come to terms with trusting someone with no proof but their word that they won't leave.
You can up the believability factor for either option, of course. For option #1, maybe he selflessly leaves her because he saw what happened to his best friend's high-profile mom when her association with a less-than-savory person from her past comes to light...and how it ripped up the family and ended up moving his friend across the country as his mother sought to get away from the media. I mean, this could happen in any political arena...and with his dad's connections, it's not unlikely that the hero would have friends in high places.
For option #2, maybe he had a bad relationship prior (less likely, since he's only 18). But what about if his mother left when he was younger? Or his pastor got transferred? Or someone else died who he really looked up to? Maybe his dad's betrayal was the last straw as the world he thought he knew so much about crumbles around his ankles. He decides then to break free--and only tells himself it was all for her good to make himself feel better about the truth: he left because he was scared she'd leave him if she knew about his dad. That somehow his association would crime and drug trafficking through his father would make her love him less or lose her respect, so instead of bearing the premature brunt of her hostility, he saves himself.
If you go with option #2, he could still leave her with a heavy heart, but maybe it would be a mix of sadness and relief. Relief that he extracted himself from the relationship before she had a chance to do so. Sadness that he really did love her, but tempered with the idea that he's better off. He could tell her he's too young to be tied down, and actually reason that excuse away in his head and doing her a favor.
People are so complex...just about any way you write it would be feasible, but I think you can play around with it to give it more psychological impact and power. That's essentially all I've done here, but boy, is that fun. I love brainstorming!
Leave questions in the comment section if you have any. I'd be happy to try to help out more.
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Q4U: Any of your characters ever ran off from the best thing that ever happened to them because they were too scared?