One piece of advice fiction writers hear a lot is, “Give your characters goals in every scene.” To me, that dictum shades a little toward visual media, because the idea is that an audience will become invested in the character’s striving toward the goal, and in the repeated disappointments and surprises as the scene goals elude Our Hero/Heroine.
I don’t know as book characters need to be that obviously running gauntlet after gauntlet, because readers can peek inside the characters’ minds and hearts more frequently and deeply than a screen audience can. The interior landscape, particularly in romance, women’s fiction, and YA, can be more compelling than a race to Boston to win the jackpot.
But goals do matter, whether the goal is tangible like that race to Boston, or intangible, like self-acceptance or the courage to fail. It strikes me as I’m writing, writing, writing my way through the pandemic, that my goals lately have taken on a different feel. The past year has been tough, whether you are struggling with how to manage kids/work from home/elders-at-a-distance, whether you are in Texas, or whether your cousin’s restaurant has gone bust.
Or whether you have lost loved ones among the half a million casualties.
Our objective has been to survive, to endure, to make it through, or to recover. Virtually every disaster movie and thriller ever conceived has exactly that goal, and unless it’s a tragedy, after significant hardship, the protagonists prevail. Where I am, the vaccines are in very short supply, but we’ve been conscientious about masking, distancing, keeping the schools closed, and handwashing.
Our positivity rates are at about 3.5%, and hospitalizations and new cases are on the wane. The election is behind us, and there’s a sense that the worst is behind us too.
And yet, we could still blow it. We still have major economic readjustments ahead, many people have lingering recoveries to make, and there are those variants lurking in the bushes. Now is not the time to let down our guard, but I find myself looking for some way to ease up a little. To exhale, to have that happy scene in the middle of the book where optimism and courage forge new ground.
There are other names for that scene, but in a romance, the point in the middle of the book is to give the characters a glimpse of the emotional riches ahead if they will remain loving, brave, and true to their honorable selves and each other. To fortify myself at this seventh-inning stretch, I’m writing a little novella. All the happily ever after, but in one third of the words. A frolic, and one I haven’t indulged in for a while.
I’m jealously watching the crocuses sprinkled around my yard, and they have rewarded my vigilance. I polled my sisters about a family trip in 2022, and the reactions are enthusiastic. Next we’ll research destinations… I’m launching a new series in June, and hope to have my first mystery series on the shelves–the whole six book series–by autumn. I’m looking forward in ways I haven’t for the past year, and it feels good.
Are you feeling the urge to indulge in a seventh-inning stretch? What does that look like? I’m starting my ARC list for Miss Delectable (already!), so pass along those comments and think spring!