Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Clueless Ones -- Romance from a Guy's Perspective Part V

Make sure you look at the post below this one too. This is a two-post day, and I don't want the earlier one to get missed.

Yesterday Susan Quinn asked how to portray a romantic conflict with a guy who's completely clueless about said romantic conflict. If I interpreted that wrong, please let me know and I'll edit this.

In SON OF MAGIC, the male hero (Swain) is utterly clueless that his best friend (Astrid) is head-over-heels in love with him. That said, she's still his best friend and he quite clearly cares about her. He doesn't know he's in love with her .... yet ... but he is.

I thus made Swain an all-around good guy who watches over Astrid without really thinking about how she might view his attention. All the while, she's agonizing over when to tell him her feelings, how she should tell him, or whether she should just grab the boy and kiss him until he forgets his name. I think the last one would be the funniest, personally, but that's me.

Swain knows something's bothering Astrid, but he chalks it up to being forced from their homes and not any sort of romantic inclinations. In this way, he's clueless of her feelings for him.

It really depends on how close the characters are in the first place. Are they close friends? Acquaintances? Is the boy the older brother of the girl's best friend? The closer the connection between them, and the more time they spend together, the more aware the guy will be of something bothering the girl. The clueless guy will not, however, think what's bothering her have anything at all to do with the girl being absolutely bonkers for him. This is a general statement of course, and not entirely true, but it's at least believable enough to make a story out of it.

Hopefully that helped, Susan. I love it when you folks ask questions in the comments, by the way. That's one less blog post I have to make up myself!


Joshua McCune said...

Those Joe Clueless characters usually have epiphanies when the Rico Suaves come in to the picture and do their romance dance.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

The Rico Suave romance dance - I am totally using that sometime!

Matthew - I love the post! Although my question wasn't specifically directed to the romance conflict (I was actually thinking of my MC, who is a girl with conflicted feelings about her mother-caretaker-figure), I like the way you fleshed that out for us. I think the key, as you pointed out, was to use his actions to show that he is doing things that would indicate, to any non-clueless person, that he was in love, even if he doesn't realize it himself.

It's difficult to get that balance just right - where you show your character doing things that speak to a buried emotion (love, anger over a lost mother, grief over a lost child) without explicitly speaking to that emotion on the character's thinking-emotional-conscious level. Difficult, but gives the character more depth when you can pull it off.

Thanks for answering my question!

Matthew Delman said...

Susan --

You're welcome. This is one of those situations where "show don't tell" really comes into its own.

Figure out what actions denote the emotion you want, and run with that until the cows come home. It makes for a much better story.

Julie said...

I loved this post and all the previous (which I just went through and read).

I have some very different female MC's and in my latest novel the female MC is very scientific, unromantic and quite volgur when it comes to language but the love interest guy have very idealistic views of love and romance.

Basically the book opens with a hot passion filled experience which he assumes will lead to more and she's trying her best to stick to her guns and believe that it was just a physical response with no emotional connection.

Both are wrong but neither exactly fall into the sterotypes you have pointed out but since the plot realy revovles around the fact that they are different it might be okay?

Matthew Delman said...

Julie --

Yes, that does sound OK for the most part. It's worth remembering though that no matter how idealistic about love and romance a guy is, there are still some things he won't say in public (or maybe even to your female MC).