Process – #3 Emotional Arc

I just…and I mean just…as in 38 seconds ago…sent revisions for a particular project to my editor. It wasn’t a long story, or a complicated one, but working on it reinforced two things for me.

The first is that it’s absolutely, utterly, completely vital that I understand the main character’s emotional arc before I get too deep into the story. Romance usually has two main characters, the hero and heroine, but in my case the story really belongs to one or the other. In Liberating Lacey, it was Hunter’s emotional arc that drove the story, Lacey’s less so. In my first person POV stories with Spice Briefs, the heroine’s emotional arc drives the story. We may see change or growth in the hero (okay, not really – they’re pretty kick-ass to start with) but it won’t match the heroine’s. I’ve written these shorter stories without a good grasp of how essential the emotional arc is to the writing process…and paid for it in revisions. This time I got it. I wouldn’t have had to rework the story if I’d thought that through before I wrote 14,400 words.

I define emotional arc as “from x to y”. As in “from wounded soldier to healed lover” or “from fearful victim to strong survivor”. It’s how your character grows as the story progresses, and you can’t tell a good romance story without it. Romance is driven by character growth. We want to see how accepting love has changed the characters. Hence the need for an arc.

The other thing I learned is that there is a moment, a tangible, memorable moment when I know I’ve internalize the main character’s arc and the story runs on its own. This moment often comes after 95% of the work I’ll put into a project and lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of hours. This is not much of a reward for weeks or months of work, but it stays in my gut and motivates me to start something else.

Which is what I’m going to do right now. The novel I mentioned a few posts ago? It’s time. The kid’s back in school, no more travel for a few weeks, unbroken days of silence in which to work. It’s time and I’m ready. Let’s do it!

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