I’ve been hitting the character development a lot lately because the characters are what propel the plot. Lousy character development = boring book. I just finished reading a manuscript where the author left too much to the imagination, and I couldn’t make the connection as to why Chick Main Character and Dude Main Character belonged together. Because of the disconnect, the story fell apart for me.
It made me think of Bridgett Jones’ Diary; Mark Darcy and Bridgett Jones don’t make sense to me because Mark is a precise stuffed shirt, and his personality is in direct contrast to Bridgett’s bumbling, slapdash free spirit. I understand the law of opposites, but the author must connect our dots for us to make the relationship believable. One way to accomplish in this in BJ Diary was if I could have gotten into Mark’s head long enough to understand his evolution from being attracted to an equally stuffy and proper woman to being attracted to Bridgett.
I’m a fan of relationships that make no sense because of what each can learn from the other. Heck my own book pairs together a very unlikely couple. That whole “opposites attract” thing makes for great conflict, evolution, and resolution within the plot. But it’s vital that you give us enough insight to your characters’ psyches so that we’re willing to take the ride from implausible to possible.
And this is where show vs. tell comes in. It’s very common for writers to tell us that everything that Dude MC previously found irritating about Chick MC is suddenly cute and endearing. Logic and experience tells me that readers aren’t going to accept characters who are polar opposites that easily. We need to be shown how these characters change; what elements make it possible for them to develop a relationship.
It can be hard to do this with fictional characters, so I always tell authors in my seminars to think about someone who is the exact opposite of them and define what makes their relationship/friendship work in spite of those differences. The differences between Dude MC and Chick MC have to be big. I’m talking total deal breakers. Things like religion, belief systems, politics, family issues, psychological baggage.
The cool thing about these polar opposites is that you have a 100% chance that your readers will love 50% of your characters, and they’ll align with them while hoping the other half “sees the light.” I had a lady write me to say that she actually shouted at one of my main characters in my novel, telling him to “grow the hell up.” Wouldn’t have been so bad except she was on a crowded plane, and her fellow passengers turned and stared at her. Now that’s what I call engaged. And this is what you want for your book.
Regardless of your plot, if you have a Chick MC and a Dude MC, and they’re meant to be together, you gotta make sure it makes sense for them to do so. Let us inside your characters’ brains so we can empathize with their evolution. If you do, you’ll have readers screaming for your next book. And honestly, doesn’t the idea of fighting off your adoring fans sound like a hoot? I’ll even get the beagle to supply the margaritas.