Friday, April 21, 2006

Second chances

You can never get a first impression back. It's an indelible item. But you do get a second chance at a lot of other things.
And second chances are valuable. It's that moment to right a wrong or try and fix a problem. To adjust in some way to make it better. Because odds blew the first chance.

Our books are filled with second chances. First loves being reunited. Another chance meeting when the characters think Fate has played a part. There's always unfinished business and the chance to make it better.
And if the characters don't know each other to begin with, one of several things may happen. 1. Instant attraction. 2. Instant loathing. 3. A wait-and-see attitude.
But then down the line, something upsets the apple cart. And that's when their second
chance(s) come(s) into play.
If the only tension or conflict you have in your book is at the beginning, then you've got a wee bit of a problem. Because conflict makes for a great story.
And I'm not talking about "You left the cap off the toothpaste" type stuff. That personally drives me bugsh*t. But I refer to something so problematic the reader is left wondering what will happen next.
You can't fix a problem in one page. And how you let your characters tackle this says a lot about them. And you.
Too much problem solving early leaves characters twiddling their thumbs. Too little means they'll cram pack the end with so much action, a reader's head will spin.
I personally don't care for the "fall into bed" solution. Well, okay. It's a pleasant one and all that. But an orgasm or two doesn't solve anything. Though it does tend to make one more pleasant.
Readers already know the ending to the book, to an extent. That's why they buy romance. But how the characters solve the problem can be as delicious as any other part of the book. It's like unrolling a ball of yarn with a hershey kiss inside. (I'll use chocolate as a prize because we can all relate to that.)
Sure, it gets knotted. And there are times you have a cluster. But when your characters are given second chances, unwind the yarn slowly. Don't be in a hurry. Don't give it a tug and let it fall apart in your hands. Slow and steady.
Because the characters' second chance can make the book a worthwhile read. If they handle it correctly. And who doesn't want the hershey kiss?

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