I seem to have a writing tips theme at the moment. Apologies to blog followers who are not writers or interested in writing! It’s nearly the weekend, so normal parenting-chaos blog posts will resume!
One of the articles I read on Jungian Archetypes, after writing my post confessing I didn’t know what they were, talked about the use of archetypes in romance (where there isn’t traditionally an antagonist, in the way there might be in a crime or thriller novel).
On ArchetypeWriting.com there is a post on understanding the Anima / Animus Archetype to create riveting romances. The author, Carolyn Kaufman, explains:
Psychological research shows a mere three things are crucial to human happiness, and one of them is love (The other two are a/ satisfying work and b/ personality, most notably the qualities of high self-esteem, extraversion, and optimism.)
This, I suppose, explains why love stories are so compelling. Even in fantasy novels, thrillers and other genres, a love-story theme is often present, if not central. (I think about my favourite TV shows, Stargate SG-1 and NCIS: the interest comes from the characters, particularly the undercurrents of forbidden love, more than the specific story lines. I digress.)
Kaufman goes on to explain:
This basic human need for romantic, sexual, and marital connections is reflected in Carl Jung’s anima/animus archetype. In essence, Jung believed there is a psychological construct in males (the anima) that creates a strong draw to the feminine as it’s embodied in real women, and a matching construct in females (the animus) that draws them to men. One of the best visual metaphors for the concept is the yin-yang
So far, so good. Romance is about ‘Losing and Finding One’s “Other Half”‘ or ‘Chemistry’. However, Kaufman warns of the danger of making the attraction too physical, too related to an expectation of the perfect man or woman, rather than understanding what draws protagonists together.
I know I’m guilty of this. I read a lot of Georgette Heyers, and there is an element of strong man meets quirky, vulnerable female. Or strong woman fights then falls for equally strong man. There isn’t much depth. (The good Heyer books are the ones where love develops unexpectedly, through friendship, humour and shared experience, like Frederica).
What all of this means is that, just like in real life, your characters should be attracted to their love interests for a reason. The potential love interest’s traits and behavior must resonate with your hero because they somehow make him or her more whole.
This idea of resonation has been in my mind since I read this. Trying to understand what draws my protagonists together. In Baby Blues, Helen is drawn to Marcio because he is a family man: he likes children and therefore stands in contrast to her ex, who told her to get rid of her unborn baby. However, their real resonation moment is early on, when they talk about their creativity. Helen is a photographer, Marcio a freelance journalist / author. Both confess that things don’t seem real in life unless they have either put words around it (Marcio) or photographed it (Helen). It gives them a shared view of the world that transcends their moment in time (the fact that Helen is pregnant and Marcio wants children).
In my notes I have written, “What is the ‘Memoirs of a Geisha Moment’ in Class Act?” This refers to a moment in my relationship with my husband when we knew we were destined to be together.
Early on in our relationship we were discussing the novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, which we had both read and enjoyed. However we said, at almost the same time, “Gutted it wasn’t a true story”.
That shared reaction was like a cartoon bell ringing: we understood something about the other person because of that moment.
I don’t know what that point is yet, in Class Act. My protagonists, Alex and Jenny (? I haven’t decided on a name yet. It was Rebecca, and then Katie!) are drawn to each other physically, (initially for Jenny, against her will). After that, they share an interest in literature. But I haven’t discovered their ‘Geisha’ moment yet.
Kaufman’s final point, that I need to take to heart, is this:
[T]he danger is that sometimes we’re actually creating love interests for ourselves rather than for our characters. We may assume that everyone would be attracted to the same things we are, and that little explanation is needed to justify why our heroes and heroines would fall for each other
Guilty! I adore Marcio. It’s the main reason I didn’t just bin Baby Blues when I got frustrated with it. Alex is very similar (physically, he’s almost identical). My protagonists (like my husband) all tend to be 6ft tall with dark hair and brown eyes (although Marcio’s eyes are blue). There are parts of Marcio’s dialogue which are almost verbatim to things my husband might say to me. But, then, most of the female protagonists are at least partly me, so that’s okay. I just have to make sure I explain why they love each other, rather than assuming it is obvious!
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
“Yes, Carl, I know I took holiday at Easter to care for Sky. Now I’m asking for a few more days. I can continue with the blog – I have plenty of extra material – no one will even realise I’m not still on the road.”
Claire regretted answering the phone. What was Carl doing checking his email on a Sunday, anyway? And on a bank holiday weekend. Didn’t the man have a life?
“Just admit it, Claire, your heart isn’t in this project. You’re dashing round the country here and there, with nothing more interesting that castles to write about. That isn’t fulfilling the brief. If this continues, I will be forced to take action.”
Claire laughed. “What action, Carl? You don’t have the balls to do anything. If you did, you would have sacked me already. And good luck with that, by the way. I’ll have you in court for unfair dismissal before you can say ‘you’re fired’.”
After the words were out, Claire wondered if they were entirely wise. He was still her boss, after all. With everything that had happened recently, it was hard to take it seriously. What had once seemed so important – her career, her reputation – now felt like a shackle around her leg.
She heard the in drawn breath, and waited for Carl to begin his annihilation. The attack didn’t come. Something she couldn’t fathom was churning in her boss’s mind. When he did speak, his words didn’t make sense.
“Look, I appreciate this task has been challenging and I understand that you have some family issues. I’m willing to be lenient in the circumstances. You may take a week, in lieu of the weekends you have worked during the assignment.” He paused, and when he spoke again, his voice was sharp.
“But I want you back on the road immediately after that. And I expect you to continue your posts.”
Claire’s head reeled. What the…? She couldn’t have been more surprised, if Carl had told her she had won employee of the year. What is his game?
Realising the phone was dead, Claire dropped it away from her ear. Was Carl really concerned that she might take AJC to court? It had been an idle threat, she knew what legal action did to a director’s reputation. Not that I care about that much anymore.
For some reason the offer made by Roger Hazleton kept floating through her mind. Her explanation to her mother about why she had come home had been an excuse. It was an unrealistic dream, in the aftermath of the wedding fiasco. Yet still it tugged at her mind.
She thought about Ruth and Sky, and tried to imagine being a 24-hour plane flight away, should something happen. No, travelling to the other side of the world was not an option.
- Anima and Animus (carljungdepthpsychology.blogspot.com)
- Awareness of Our Divided Consciousness, Part I: The Introduction (lostinafantasy.wordpress.com)
- Writers, Know Your Archetypes: The Trickster (debravega.wordpress.com)