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Epiphany at a workshop

IdeaOver the weekend, my local RWA chapter hosted bestselling romance author Virginia Kantra for an interesting workshop on characterization, gender roles, and the struggle our characters face between developing intimacy and maintaining control.

She talked about starting with gender stereotypes to meet reader expectations, but taking it further to create unique, compelling characters. She discussed how gender differences can be a source of conflict (e.g. her desire for independence vs his need to protect/provide, their different attitudes toward sex, and so on). And she went over the three character arcs in a romance: his, hers, and theirs. (And people think romance is easy to write.)

But the biggest value I got from the workshop was possible insight into one of my characters. Tara starts out as a secondary character in Blind Fury and becomes the main character in my second manuscript in that series. She has a fairly promiscuous background—something she’s trying to move beyond because it eats at her self-esteem—and the main reason is her desire to feel loved. Unfortunately, all she’s getting is a temporary connection.

(I think the motivation is important for making characters unique. For example, another woman might gravitate toward casual sex to avoid the intimacy and loss of control that comes with a long-term relationship.)

My epiphany was that Tara’s willingness to keep jumping in the sack on the first date—despite her desire for a lasting relationship—might also stem from the sense of feminine power she feels during the seduction and the act itself. I like the idea of having another layer to her behavior.

I don’t even remember what it was Virginia said that made me think of it, but I’m glad I was in the workshop.

This is the reason I often attend chapter meetings and conference sessions, even if they’re not strictly a topic of interest for me (though this one definitely was). Ideas often come from the most unexpected sources. An offhand comment by the speaker, a conversation with another workshop attendee during lunch. You just never know.

Had any serendipitous moments of your own lately?

Image credit: By Producer at ar.wikipedia (Transferred from ar.wikipedia) (Public domain), from Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Reply

    You are so right, Gwen. It’s often some random comment or aside by a speaker that triggers something brilliant. I think it was at a plotting workshop at my local RWA where the speaker said something and that lightbulb went on telling me, “I know what happens when…!” I must have missed the next 15 minutes of her talk while I scribbled furiously in my notebook all the ideas that were bombarding me.

  2. Reply

    Hi Gwen, this happens all the time to me. The last time was at the WRW retreat. Something Kathy Seidel said suddenly resonated and I realized that in my current WIP my heroine is experiencing a journey into the spring. The season is turning in the story, but the seasonal change is a metaphor for what going on inside her. She moving from cold to warm, and brittle to pliant. This theme made everything kind of gel for me. I love conferences precisely because of moments like this.

    • Reply

      Hope: What a great realization! I remember when you told the group about it (I was sitting a couple rows behind you). 😉 Moments like those are why I keep shelling out the dough to go to conferences, workshops, etc…

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