I do think that far too many authors are so concerned with the external elements of the plot, that they forget the central focus of the relationship between the hero and the heroine. When they do finally get the characters together, the rationale for the relationship is often very weak. I read one just recently where the hero and heroine had been working in an office together for some time now. But suddenly, one single day they bumped into each other in the elevator and "BANG" they were suddenly attracted to each other. Really? The author then had to create a relationship so a "project" for the office was created, they had to work late, they had sex and then then struggled with this. Sorry, but this is not a relationship.
As an author, it is crucial to sit down BEFORE you write and start thinking about some answers that you have to have to be able to effectively guide your characters through their relationship:
- Would these characters ever get together in the first place? You cannot simply throw together two characters just to create a story. People like a certain type of person in their relationship. There are also people they would never get together with due to personality types, ethnic backgrounds, job situations and yes, even looks. This is human nature. Your characters in your books need to do just the same thing. Before you even start into your story, you have to take the time to know who your characters are and then decide if they would ever be compatible. Start with one and then find that perfect match.
- What do they find attractive in the other person? This goes along with the first idea, but it is crucial you understand what your characters like and don't like in a "significant other". You cannot simply pretend they don't have likes and dislikes. Along the same line, if they do have certain patterns, they will not likely change that pattern just for your story.
- Why haven't they seen this in the past? You have to create a real reason for why this relationship has never happened so far. This is especially true of the hero and heroine have been familiar with each other prior to this time. I would also add that if they have had a relationship in the past, was their first "break up" real or manufactured? If it was significant, what has really changed in BOTH of their lives to make them willing to look beyond that past?
- What would prevent them from having a relationship? This cannot be external. This needs to be internal. We have to see the characters struggle with this relationship. The more they fall in love, the more they should see that something may need to be sacrificed.
- Will this relationship stand a chance after the "external conflict" is wrapped up in the story? This one happens a lot in romantic suspense stories. Characters are thrown together in the heat of the crime revolving around them. The sex is unbelievable and they need each other to "get through this tough time." But what happens when the conflict is over. Will they really have anything in common to connect with other than the sex and the horrific crime that got them through the novel? You can't just slap on a "and they lived happily ever after" at the end of the book and hope for the best.