Welcome back to Handsome Hansel . Today he’s talking about compassion and how well it works with your characters and the world of romance.
I took a little heat recently when I shared what the title of this post was going to be with a writer friend. Right away she asked, “What does feeling pity for someone have to do with Romance?”
In case you haven’t heard, I’m a pantser when it comes to writing. I’m also a pantser when it comes to sending Carrie the titles for my next post and I was afraid this one had come back to bite me.
When you’re a Pantser, you just know and trust in yourself to get you where you’re going with a story. You know what you want to achieve and you believe enough in yourself to get there without a cork board, index cards or stick pins to get you to your destination. (No offense AT ALL to those who use those tools in their writing. I’m actually envious.) So, when I sent my title to Carrie I knew what the gist of my post would be yet my friend’s question had me worried.
I don’t believe in throwing definitions (or song lyrics) into writings as I feel they show a weakness in the writing and here I was, afraid I was going to have to quote Merriam-Webster in order to make my point.
So, in an effort to save face with, well, me, and at the same time explain what exactly I mean by Passion needing Compassion without copying and pasting a definition from my dictionary app, I intend to spell out what I mean and why I feel it’s important in romance writing.
While I feel “Pity” can be a derivative of Compassion, it’s no where near what I feel IS compassion. All my life I’ve been one to try and save people. No need to get into specifics but by default, empathy for someone in need consumes me. When we read a great romance novel, whether we realize it or not, the attraction between the characters solidifies itself when one or the other commiserate with one another on an intimate level and realize true love is beginning to take hold. While we may get all hot and bothered during the steamy love scenes and, if you haven’t made the leap to e-reading, actually break the spine on your paperback during those moments, it’s those intimate, private, soul-revealing pages where our hearts actually sink and we ourselves fall in love with the characters even more.
Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, and because a few of my writing friends wanted to challenge me with this… we are talking about romance writing, not erotica. Compassion almost never exists in erotica. Although there was that one Saturday at 2am in college where I complained about a hangnail with a very empathetic Gamma Phi Beta member, but I digress.
When we write romance, we not only need to draw that compassion out between our characters but we need to have compassion for our readers. We ARE their evasion. They entrust us with what I believe to be one of the greatest responsibilities, escapism. They don’t want to just read about a couple falling in love through the course of 400 pages, they want to fall in love with the characters and believe it can all happen to them. Even if they’re in a committed relationship, they still need the fantasy.
I think sometimes as writers we forget we are also readers. Somewhere along the line, we flipped from, “That was such a great book! I’d give anything to know what happened with the characters after it ended!”, to, “I wish I would have written that.”
We forget what immerses us in a great story to begin with and, as writers do, we spend more time dissecting story lines, plots, and character motivations. (Actually, I’m happy to be a Pantser. No longer envious.)
Just as the stories we immerse ourselves in, we have to immerse ourselves into our own stories. Not over-think. (A writer’s kryptonite.) Get back to what made us writers in the first place…Compassion. Yes, Compassion. We would see a couple at the local theater during the previews with his arm around her shoulder sharing a tub of popcorn, he checks his phone, his body language reeks of a personal problem, and we watch as she, in solidarity, gives a gentle squeeze to his forearm. All of a sudden that couple becomes a story. Why? Compassion.
As writers, we give a damn. We are our readers balance between reality and fantasy. Our stories are based in a reality we see but our readers don’t. Yet. It’s up to us to show our readers how to care by simply caring ourselves for our characters. But doing it well.
So, how do we do that? By giving a damn…again. Showing our readers the things they may not notice on their own. Or think about on their own. We’ve shown compassion for our characters in their timelines and plots, we’ve shown compassion for our readers in the story of our characters, now we need to show compassion in ourselves with our final product. The ultimate reveal. The ultimate exposure: Asking for our readers to accept us no matter the circumstances.
We write romance. Something everyone has the chance of achieving. We don’t write period pieces. Westerns. Sci-Fi. We write potential. We give people hope. And in order to give them hope we have to understand, not only where they are coming from but where they would like to end up. As writers, we are a compassionate bunch by nature; as we should be. Quite frankly, that’s from where the best writing stems.When we have a passion for what we do we have compassion for what we do. Our writing is elevated.
Where do you find your inspiration? How is it you become relatable with your characters?
Join us on Monday for Hooray for Hollywood with Robin Covington
Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.
I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at http://thedanceofromanceonline.com
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