Ah, the thing that can’t be undone. Ringing the bell that can’t be unrung. Saying the thing that makes people stare. Doing the thing that makes you scared. (Hmm, I didn’t mean for that to rhyme. I’ve been reading too many kids’ books.)
There is nothing like doing something people will remember. Because that means you can't take back. It means you’re committed. In for the long haul. The act, however unconsidered, is now binding.
It’s part of the reason why, as Hannah was saying in her May 25 blog, heroines don’t scrub toilets. (Additionally, we all know cleaning is something that, whether you do it or no, is utterly irrelevant, because you’re going to need to do it again. In about 15 minutes if you have young kids or dogs. Cleaning is almost the antithesis of irrevocable.) Scrubbing toilets, and all the other mundane tasks of daily life, are revocable. Nothing ‘turns’ on them. You could take them back, and no one would know or care. Nothing is fundamentally different as a result. They’re forgettable.
They never made a difference.
You can walk away from a clean OR a dirty toilet. That is . . . unless you found a diamond ring resting there, after you’d pushed back the hair from your sweaty forehead with a forearm and knelt to scrub your 20th toilet of the week. And then you saw it. Sparkling. A diamond ring. Which means someone lost it. Or tossed it. And your rent is due.
NOW you have a story. Now you have a protagonist. Someone with a choice to make.
Make the right ones and you have a hero. And a heroine.
In all our ‘keeper’ books, I think one of the things we’ll find is characters actively getting themselves deeper and deeper into worse and worse trouble, particularly with the hero/heroine, and there’s simply no backing out. Nothing they do can be reversed.
Sometimes this is hard for us as authors. We actually like our heroes and heroines. We discover their histories, and fall deeply in love with them. They’re part of our family. We want them to have a happy life.
But we also like you, the reader. We know you want a good story. Happy, easy things happening to nice, good people is not terribly dramatic.
And, in the end, we’re storytellers at heart. We know true heroes and heroines have to walk through the fire first. Sure, they can have their Happily-Ever-After, but the old-fashioned way: they have to earn it. :-) The happy endings in our stories are earned, they are not handed out.
Check out the books on your ‘keeper’ shelves. I’ll bet you can find at least three or four places the storyteller had the characters make irrevocable, un-take-back-able choices. Decisions that—even if done in the spur of the moment, especially if done in the spur of the moment--pushed them closer to the dark edge of What They Known, then straight off the cliff, into peril and danger and their worst fears, right in the hero’s arms.
Big thanks to Hannah for having me here today!
My sophomore release, The Irish Warrior, comes out tomorrow, June 1. It was the winner of RWA’s 2008 Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical Romance, and is a super sexy, adventurous medieval romance. You can check out an excerpt here (http://kriskennedy.net/143) !
My debut, The Conqueror, came out last May—and Hannah’s quote is on its cover! I am currently at work on two more books for Pocket, both medievals. Please stop by the website (http://www.kriskennedy.net/), check out excerpts (http://kriskennedy.net/143) , sign up for the newsletter ( http://kriskennedy.net/subscribe-to-newsletter), and I’d love to hear from you ( http://kriskennedy.net/contact-me)