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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Two for One

This week's assessment is for Annika. In the spirit of Christmas, this will be a two-for-one special. :)

She's writing a fantasy romance about Anna* and Reed*. Anna has issues with men because she was raised in a place where women were inferior and cowed. She has a gift for healing, but due to her status, can only find work as a midwife. Reed grows up in a land where men are inferior, play toys, pretty boys, and breeders only. He has gift of being a Shaman, even though this is traditionally a position held by a woman. Both resent the fact that in each of their societies, one gender is given preference and dominance over another. Both of them have gotten into repeated trouble for their views, because neither of them is very quiet about those views when pushed. Anna is the more vocal of the two, simply because she's managed to escape the kinds of torture and emotional trauma that Reed faced.

* Names have been changed to protect the fictional.

Annika wants to know: What would draw these two together? The story hinges on them learning to trust each other, work together, and ultimately fall in love. What would make them take notice of each other? Anna barely realizes Reed is in the house with her because of the way Reed was brought up to fade into the background and never draw attention to himself. How do I turn around the kind of physical and emotional abuse that these two went through, that completely twisted their personalities, and get them together as a couple?

I think the answer to your question is in your premise. You've got two people who are alike in their differences. Both shunned, both tired of it. Birds of a feather, flock together. Misery loves company. The bad clich├ęs can keep coming, but the idea is the same.

Anna and Reed are likely to find some commonality in their plights. The beginning evidence might be slight, but eventually, especially if living together, they will see each other's frustration with the society they live through small nuances. Why not have them commiserate with one another?

I think the dynamic is interesting, because it's not like Reed is going to live in a home with a woman who knows to lord her power over him. Anna will be the opposite. She will expect Reed almost to lord over her, right? So the fact will be that they will steer clear of each other initially, or at least I'd expect them to.

In order for them to connect with one another on a different plane, I think it will be important for both Anna and Reed to witness each other behaving in totally non-stereotypical ways, doing something that gives them that initial JAR and makes them look closer at their "roommate" to see that there is something more there than the average expectation. Since you know your story world better than I, you probably already have some idea of how Anna can just really take Reed aback with some action, some kindness he didn't expect. Vice versa for Reed, some courtesy he extends Anna that she never saw coming.

People take note when someone doesn't conform to societal expectations, and you need them to take note in order to develop a romantic attachment. In all honesty, you've got a formula that I think many romance readers enjoy. You've forced the hero and heroine together (as roommates) and the reader will expect their love to grow slowly. Drawing out that tension is what'll get your readers turning the pages. (I'm reminded of many romances where the hero and heroine couldn't be more different, yet find their common ground eventually. Lori Wick's Sophie's Heart comes to mind, with a heroine of a different nationality and socioeconomic background from the hero.)

You know, it might be fascinating to give Reed some affinity for shorter people, maybe because his Shaman qualities make him lean toward protecting who in his mind he perceives as weaker? It might give you some interesting tension to deal with, because Anna would be very uncomfortable with a man who erred on the side of looking out for her. She's never had that before, wouldn't know what to make of it, and wouldn't trust it at first.

But how beautiful it could be, as well as metaphorical, for Reed--a giver, not a taker--to symbolize the male connection she has been missing all her life! Not to say that a woman has to have a man to look out for her, but that true love overlooks gender roles and stereotypes to meet needs.

I think this can work. In my practice, I would never say this aloud (because it could have dire consequences), but I think people want to believe that two damaged halves can make a complete whole. In my faith, though, and in my romantic nature, I believe this wholeheartedly, and I believe a lot of other people do too.

Good luck with this story! As always, any additional questions/comments are welcome below.

Wordle: signature


Jaime Wright said...

Jeannie, you always have such FANTASTIC answers - you've taught me so much! :) <3

A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods said...

Thanks, Jeannie. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer me. This is going to help a lot with those two.

Shannon said...

"People want to believe that two damaged halves can make a complete whole..."

That is SUCH a sweet and true statement.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.