by Beth vogt
(Dani Pettrey, author of the gripping debut romantic suspense novel, Submerged, blogged yesterday about real issues in Christian fiction. Today I’m continuing the conversation about our characters’ lives before they ever appear in our books.)
In every romance I’ve ever read, someone’s heart gets broken.
• Charlotte in The Wedding Dress by best-selling author Rachel Hauck? Heart broken by her fiancé.
• Noelle in The Shadow of Your Smile by award winning author Susan May Warren? Heart broken by her husband.
• Lindsay Porter in Lakeside Reunion by author Lisa Jordan? Heart broken by her first love.
Doesn’t that seem like a contradiction? Romance is all about falling in love, right? Not heartache.
But here’s just one of the ways fiction is true to life: The hero and heroine in a romance don’t have an easy path to their happily ever after. They often hurt each other along the way to realizing they’re (imperfectly) perfect for each other. And, just as often, God uses their love for one another to heal their past hurts.
When I developed the characters for my debut novel, Wish You Were Here, I considered more than just who the hero and heroine were from chapter one, page one. I had to know who they were before the story ever started. What hurts, what mistakes, made them act and react the way they did?
I first “met” the heroine, Allison, decked out in a wedding-dress-gone-viral, struggling to get the words “I do” past her lips. How did she get here? And would she go through with the wedding?
When I asked her the question, “Why are you having doubts?” I didn’t have to make up something in her past. Nope. I thought of real life experiences. The stories I read in the newspaper. My life. Friends’ and families’ lives – the stories I’ve listened to that are tucked in my heart and prayed over.
This is one of the beauties of writing fiction: weaving real life into our novels. Allowing our characters to struggle with the same problems we do. Ask the same questions of God that we do when we are afraid or heartbroken. I chose a specific issue for Allison to deal with. (No, I’m not spoiling anything by saying what it is). But I will say why my heroine is haunted by her past choices: because people I know have made the same choices – and live with regret and shame. They need God’s healing grace even more than any imaginary character in a novel.
And that’s one of the reasons I write fiction: to offer truth and hope to readers through the power of story.
Beth K. Vogt’s contemporary romance novel, Wish You Were Here (Howard Books), debuted this month. She’s the Skills Coach for the My Book Therapy writing community and an established nonfiction writer and editor. Join the conversation over at Beth’s blog, In Others’ Words, at bethvogt.com.