Why must we breakup? Isn’t there another way?


If you tuned in yesterday, you know we talked about the Breakup in writing a Romance.  Why is the Breakup Important?…




After the breakup, they’re going to realize Beat 8:  the Great WHY.  They will, after their hearts are breaking, realize they belong together.  If you’ve set up Act 2 correctly, the reader will see why they need to be together (because you will be showing us those essential scenes – covered in the Act 2 blogs).  This Great Why will suddenly trump the Why Not (the reason they broke up) and convince them that they can’t live without each other.


They will also realize what is holding them back from love – their flaws.  (and, perhaps, their lie).  And, in order to win back the WoTD (Woman of Their Dreams), finally, they will embrace the truth.  (and this goes for the heroine, also.)


Which allows them to do Beat 9: The Big Gesture/Sacrifice. The Hero or Heroine  makes the Big Gesture/Sacrifice to stay together.


I often talk about finding that thing that your hero can’t do at the beginning of a book…and then showing him overcoming (because of the heroine’s love, or some truth) and doing it at the end.


So—what is the Big Gesture/Sacrifice they make at the end, for love, that they can’t do at the beginning?  It might be letting go if something, or doing something brave…


In How to Lose a Guy, she quits her job and leaves, pursing something “Significant”—he goes after her. Except he’s never gone after a woman in his life (that he wanted to keep in a relationship).


Ghost of Girlfriends Past also has a pivotal moment like this: Matthew (who plays the perfect playboy, as evident in all these movies), goes after the woman he loves!


In Return to Me, the hero flies to Italy and tracks her down and she lets him listen to his wife’s heart.


Ask: What can they do at the end of the book they can’t do at the beginning?


Now you’re set up for Beat 10:  Happily Ever After, in which they find the love they’ve always longed for.


How do you end well?  We need to believe that the romance has changed them, forever, and made them into better people.  And, to epitomize this New Man/Woman, their New Life, I try and find something that epitomizes their romance.


One of my favorite endings is in Chasing Liberty—when she goes to London and asks him for a ride—just like she did at the beginning of their romance.


Or, of course, Return to Me…him listening to her heart, and then the gorilla park dedication (and the waitress and the cook getting married! That’s the best!)


How about A Walk in the Clouds…when the fahter gives the hero the grapevine root and says to the heroine, “teach your husband how to plant it.”


The key is, they have to do something that makes us understand that the romance has impacted them, and they are better off for it.


So, there you have it, the Act 3 Huzzah ending that should make your reader curl up with your book and give a contented sigh (if they are into romance, that is!)


If you have any questions about any of these beats, I’d encourage you to search the archives under Romance. 


Over the next few weeks, we’ll be analyzing some of our favorite romances to recognize the beats and how the writer has put them together.  If you have any topics about romance that I haven’t covered this year, I’ll be glad to answer them on the blog.  Send your questions to:  susan@mybooktherapy.com


Have a wonderful thanksgiving!


Act 3: Breaking up is hard to do…(but it makes him a better man! (or woman).)

 (Editor’s Note: You may want to go back and read the previous blogs on putting together all the beats of a romance into Act 1-2 before you read this blog.  Just as a recap, over the past two months, we’ve talked about how to incorporate the 10 beats of romance into the three act structure, covering the elements of Act 1 and Act 2.)


It’s time for the messy ending.  The breakup.  The Breakup is Beat 7 in our romance lineup.  This is when the biggest WHY NOT rises to push them apart. Every romance has a Breakup. Without it, we have no triumphant run into each other’s arms! We have no giant sigh of happiness.


I was fortunate to only have one bad breakup before I met the Man of My Dreams.  (and thankfully, once we met, we never broke up. J  22 years and still going….but that’s another story.)  I thought I was going to marry this other guy, spent a year crying my eyes out.  (yes, a year.)  But, after I figured out that this was probably a good thing, a couple things happened.  1.  The breakup helped me realize what I wanted in a guy.  2. The breakup allowed me to see my own areas of weakness.  And 3. I  was able to surrender my dreams of romance to God.(and incidentally met the MoMD only three weeks later.)


Your breakup for your character should function in the same way.  A great breakup in a romance should cause your characters to see what they want, see their flaws and surrender to the truth.   A breakup is essential to the romantic growth of your character, to allow him/her to finally be the person they need to be to live happily ever after with the person of their dreams.


I know there are a few novelists who don’t want to be mean to your characters—but you must make your hero/heroine break up because if you don’t, then they don’t see why they need each other, see their own flaws, then hit their knees, find the truth and change into better people. And we want them to be better people, right?


How do you create the breakup?  We talked about the Black Moments/Epiphany and how to create them earlier this year, but as your sketching out your novel, pick the biggest WHY NOT.  It is this element that causes them to break up. (The Black Moment archived posts: http://www.mybooktherapy.com/index2.php/?cat_63)


If you need a hint, try relating the Why Not to their wounds from their dark moment in their past. Here’s an example from a recent WIP:  My hero’s mission is going to get an untrained person hurt. AND, he can’t fall for her, so he stages a breakup. This fight embarrasses and hurts her, and she believes all his feelings for her were just an act, which gets at her core wound that she’s unlovable.  In response, she does something that makes him think she is betraying him (his wound).  With both of their wounds bleeding, they can’t be together anymore.  They breakup! 


So, how do you incorporate the Breakup?


The Breakup is separate from the Black Moment Event – that event that causes the Hero and Heroine to believe their lies and their greatest fears are revisited – but it is integrally tied to the BME.  They affect each other.   


The Breakup can either happen before the Black Moment Event – something that then moves the character into their BME…e.g.; they break up, and then (in a romantic suspense, for example) the villain captures the heroine and the hero (because of the breakup) isn’t around to protect her, thus leading to his Black Moment. 


Or, it could happen during the BME – using the same scenario, they break up while they are both being held hostage by the villain, because they realize that neither of them trusts each other.  (or some other reason). 


Or, it could happen as a result of the BME – after the hero rescues her, he realizes that it is too dangerous for her to be in a relationship with someone who brings danger to her door, thus, he breaks up with her. 


Where ever you put the Breakup, it needs to affect, or be affected by the BME in some way.  


So, you need to ask:  How does my Breakup affect the BME?  Or, vice versa.  If there is no connection, then you need to find one in order to use the Breakup to the fullest potential. 


            Because…(Stop back tomorrow to find out why!!)

Susie May

Managing the Muddle

How is your NaNoWriMo manuscript is going?  I thought I’d take a break from our romance structure today and offer a bit of encouragement. 


Just keep writing, Just keep writing….(that’s my Dorie impression). 


But, I know, once you get to the middle, it can be a challenge to keep the tension high, the reader turning pages. 


I call it…the Muddle. 


How do you manage the Muddle?  If you find yourself stuck, writing the same old scenes, rehashing the same issues, the same tension, I have a solution. 


You may be missing an element of the Tension Equation. 


Tension is what drives every scene.  You’ve heard it over and over.  But what is Tension?  It’s a combination of a Sympathetic Character + Stakes + Goals + Obstacles + Fear of Failure.  If any of these are missing, you don’t have tension, you are simply muddling along. 


Without a Sympathetic Character, we don’t care about what happens to him.  Without something to lose, (stakes), it doesn’t matter.  Without a reason to be there, (Goals) they could go home.  Without something to push against (Obstacles), there is no conflict.  Most importantly, without the real fear of failure – if we know they will accomplish their task, then why even both to show us the scene? 


The Tension Equation is why we love football or sporting events.  We have our team (Sympathetic Character), we have the game and our record to defend (Stakes),  the goal is to win, the obstacle is the other team, and of course if they are not good, if they are not fighting back just as hard, then it’s not a great game. We love games where we win by the skin of our teeth, don’t we?  A hard fought battle?  We have to believe we could lose in order for the game to take on resonance.  This is how the Tension Equation Works in your scene. 


Let’s define each of these elements just a little:

Sympathetic Characters:  Building Sympathy isn’t just about putting our characters in sympathetic situations – it’s about seeing ourselves in our characters. We need to build emotion into our scenes in a way that strikes a chord with our reader and to build in one magic moment that capture the emotion in a profound way. Our reader has to say….that feels real – aka, a reader has to be in the character’s skin.  (for hints on how to do this, read the blogs on Emotional Layering in the archives.  Or, pick up a copy of Deep and Wide: Advanced Fiction Techniques).


Stakes: What will happen if the character doesn’t meet their goal?  What fear hovers over the scene?  Both the character and the reader must see what might go wrong in the scene to create tension. This involves using the Push-Pull, a MBT technique for creating the right motivation.  (in short, it’s the PUSH away from something negative, and the PULL toward something positive.)


Goals:   What does POV want?  Emotionally, physically?   What do they need?  Why?  Answering these question gives the character a quest – something that pushes them forward. 


Obstacles:  can be People or Situations, (weather, or machines, or even government) – but at the end, they lead to the biggest issue, and that is a person’s own conflicting emotions/values, something called Inner Dissonance.  Inner Dissonance is when two values or emotions are pitted against each other. 


Consider a married man on a business trip.  He goes into the hotel bar to watch the football game.  He’s been on the road for three days and just fought with his wife about problems at home.  A nice waitress takes his order.  Maybe she sits down with him, has a conversation.   The tension comes from the conflicting value of him needing to stay true to his wife, and the emotion of an attractive woman caring about him.  The longer the waitress sits there and the more he pours out his woes to her, the more the tension rises. 


Fear of Failure:  This is the secret ingredient to keeping tension taut in a scene.  Without this fear, and this believe that it could happen, the scene is flat.  If we know the outcome is a sure thing, then why bother?  Even if the tension is only inner dissonance, it’s that fear of losing themselves that keeps the tension high. 


How do you build in the Fear of Failure?  First Ask: does your character achieve their goal, or not? 


If they achieve their goal, then you want to hint at failure (that they won’t) at least two times in the scene before they win the day. 


If they fail, then you want to hint at victory at least twice before they fail. 


So easy.  But it’s the key ingredient to the Tension Equation.


So, if you’re stuck in the Muddle, take another look at the Tension Equation and turn your Muddle to uh, Magnetic?  Magnificent?  Magic?  Muscle? 


Oh, you get what I mean. J

Write On!


Susie May

Hi from Your Therapist

Hi Everyone,

Happy Friday. For those of you writing in NaNoWriMo, how’s it going? Are you keeping up? I’m doing my best to run with the challenge. So far so good. I keep getting halted by the need for research. Oy.

I know I’m supposed to keep going, but I’m not willing to go down any ole path just to get words on a page. I encourage you to make sure you’re going in the right direction as you blaze through your book. It will do you NO good whatsoever to start out with a suspense and end up with a sweet romance. I’m just saying…

My new book trailer is out for Dining With Joy. Check it out if you have a few minutes!

Also, next week over on my blog, I’ll be running a contest for a chance to win a KitcheAid Mixer and a cook book, plus signed copies of Dining With Joy! No, I’m not at all uncomfortable with this shameless self promotion!

Hey, I lost out on a really great opportunity yesterday. I can promo if I wanna. 😉

Okay back to work. I have another few thousand words to write. Susie will fill us in on Cancun (oh, such a hard life) when she’s back next week.