Welcome welcome Tessa Shapcott!! I LOVE second chance at love stories, don’t you? When everything comes together and they sail off into an HEA..sigh. =) Here’s Tessa to show us how to make that happen.
Have you noticed how much of literary and movie content is based around stories of second chances at love? It’s not surprising, given that love is one of the most profound emotions we humans experience, and our society has long prized monogamy and longevity in relationships. Yet, all the same, breakups and divorce are a fact of life for many. So no wonder we crave the opportunity to experience another shot at this goal that is so fundamental to us, and relish fiction which reclaims the concept of lasting love through gentle fantasy, engaging characters and an entertaining plotline.
That’s the draw for romance readers. But second-time-around stories are also great for writers too, as they bring so much rich emotional material to play with. Sometimes it’s hard to get a relationship going on the page when the characters have never met before—even then, there needs to be some kind of common link that helps set the jelly. However, if the hero and heroine are re-connecting with their first or a past love, there are a whole heap of emotion and unanswered questions to work through!
If you are considering writing a second-chance romance, there are a few signposts and pitfalls to look out for on the road to rekindled love and a happy ending.
- The one that got away. To be motivated to climb back on that horse, your characters have to have experienced intense feelings the first time around—carry the knowledge that somebody unique slipped through their hands—and also emotional turbulence on some level when the relationship failed. If they just drifted apart, ended things amicably (‘it just didn’t work out’), then there’s no real story to tell. There need to have been intoxicating, powerful, maybe difficult emotions that have caused your characters to linger in each other’s psyches: love, hate, happiness, regret, sadness, anger, frustration, and more. There may be resignation, but never indifference, and a reckoning will come.
- Let it go. By the same token, there are a couple of opposite qualities that also need to be present in your main characters as they deal with unresolved conflicts: flexibility and maturity—the potential for them to come to see things differently. One of the most common mistakes is to create characters who stay stuck; trapped in old issues or viewpoints, perhaps still behaving just as they did before, or lacking in the will to say sorry. A little bit of stubbornness initially may add to the emotional charge, but the most resonant and satisfying romances are where characters grow and let go to become the wise people for whom love will last, this time.
When you do visit the past relationship, expose but don’t dwell; avoid too much internalizing and introspection. Make use of flashbacks to bring immediacy to what happened then, and also the power of dialogue and realization to bring about change now.
- The catalysts. The overall pull of lost love is central in a book of this kind, but so must be the initial reasons to reunite. A chance meeting or a coincidence is not enough. Think of a dramatic inciting incident that adds to the draw, and that will provide plenty of meat for conflict in the ongoing story. What will re-ignite a shared experience or understanding? Line up a secret or two to be revealed.
- Are you ready for love? Reunited characters must possess an emotional open door somewhere within themselves in order to let love in once more. Sure, they may have been so hurt in the past they believe it’s safer to declare that love doesn’t live here anymore. Or now that they are older, they may have concerns or responsibilities which erects a barrier to their former lover returning. But beware of putting your hero or heroine in a tower so high there’s absolutely no way it can be scaled; a protagonist who remains invulnerable is a turn-off. There have to be pinpoints of light that suggest healing is possible. So a heroine who is wary but thawing, feeling she’d like a partner again could be a good beginning. Maybe she’s brave enough to have started dating, but her choices have been deliberately safe, and the arrival of her former partner challenges that control. Or perhaps her life in unravelling and she needs a shoulder to lean on—but the only one available belongs to the guy who broke her heart once before. The reader wants to believe and hope from the get-go.
- Honesty and trust. For any relationship to work first or second time around, these are the two things that are essential, so make sure they feature in your developing central relationship too. With every chapter, push that emotional door open a little wider by getting your hero and heroine to talk about what happened and admit their mistakes. Create situations in the present where they are able to prove to one another that they are reliable and true.
- The path to true love. In any romance, it never runs smoothly. Just as there were obstacles in the past, there are still fences to be jumped in the present—and those hurdles will develop your story and make it all the more compelling. Make sure to help this process by having plenty of fresh conflict that arises from the present, ongoing situation between the hero and heroine—strong issues that emerge and provide new flashpoints, also move things along.
- Coming home. It’s no coincidence that many second-time-around romances are set in small home towns and involve one or other protagonist going back to their roots, mirroring the senses of belonging, familiarity and safety to be found in a former lover’s arms. Your lovers reunited novel doesn’t have to take place in a setting from the past, but it does require you to generate a climax where your hero and heroine realize they’ve arrived at where they belong, were always meant to be.
Do you have any thoughts on why you like to read or write second chance at love stories?
Bio: Tessa Shapcott is a freelance publishing consultant editor and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tessa also writes as Joanne Walsh, and her latest romantic novella, Christmas in Venice, will be released in the Holiday series by Tule Publishing on 30th October on Amazon.
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