Staying True to Our Characters

Romance readers have expectations. The majority of readers want a happily-ever-after or a happy-for-now resolution by the end of the book. I know I do. After all, I invested my time and emotions into these characters. I want a satisfying ending.

Yet, I realize the most memorable books were the ones that had me thinking, rationalizing, and questioning what I would have done in that character’s situation.

My editor attaches a disclaimer to the manuscripts she edits. Basically, take what sounds good and toss the rest. I have to admit the issue she brings up regarding my heroine’s action in Reclaimed is the same dilemma I had struggled with after I wrote the scene.

How can I get readers to relate to a heroine who commits an act of betrayal? How can this woman be a leader or a protector of mankind if she can commit this immoral act? Does committing a wrong for the sake of love make her betrayal right?

In the end, I realize I must be true to my heroine and validate her decision by keeping the plot and scene as is. She is guided in her choices by her young age, limited life experience and perspective. Love is new to her. Loyalty is ingrained in her. Yet those ideals are tested after two near death experiences. She makes her choice. To us, her choice is morally wrong.

But rather than making our stories black and white, isn’t life more interesting inside and outside the pages when the lines between right and wrong are various shades of gray? And why should I impose my moral beliefs on my characters? Shouldn’t that discussion be had by the readers? If I write stories to be what I believe is right or wrong, I’m essentially limiting my characters.

So let them be flawed, imperfect, immoral, immature or downright evil. As long as they learn or, accept and deal with the consequences, I’ll let them continue to steer me in my story telling. Certain reader expectations, such as a happily-ever-after or a happy-for-now, I can certainly meet. However, the means to the ends is fair game. Reclaimed will be released in two weeks.