Roller Coaster of the Heart
A couple of days ago, I wrote a scene for my current work in progress, Serenya’s Song. I honestly thought I might cry before it was over. It wasn’t like I didn’t know it was coming (though sometimes my characters do surprise me). The scene really pulled at my heartstrings. Today, I thought I’d delve into just why that is.
Hormones? Maybe. Fatigue, perhaps? Stress? All of those might factor into my emotional state while I’m writing. Really, though, I think the crux of the issue lies in how deeply entrenched I become in my fictional characters’ lives.
I write character-driven stories. Their decisions, hopes, dreams, flaws—all of those things carry the plot along. My heroes and heroines, flawed as they are, become like a second family to me. I sincerely want them to succeed and have a happy ending. So much so that it hurts me when I apply another obstacle to their journey.
Now, I realize that an entire story devoid of conflict and filled with “toothbrush moments” wouldn’t exactly be a page-turner. Let’s see:
Jayden took a long soak in the tub. He picked up the book he’d been reading and read from page fifty to one hundred twelve. The water grew cold. Grumbling, he got out of the tub, dried himself, and went to bed. Serenya pecked him on the cheek, and they fell asleep.
See, I really want a nice, peaceful night like that for them, but a whole book of those happenings would make even me yawn. Now if we spruce it up and add an obstacle of Serenya being married to the mix (from the WIP itself, subject to editing):
Jayden paused and waited while some townspeople walked past. He stepped closer. The sharpness in his gaze both terrified and excited Serenya. She envisioned them together, wrapped in a passionate embrace—with that same smoldering fire heating his sapphire eyes.
Then he spoke, with a bitter edge to his voice. “I have no interest in the apothecary, but why are you still with the Earl? It’s obvious you don’t love him, and he could care less about you. Are you that afraid of someone actually loving you?”
“I wouldn’t expect you to understand. Love’s come easy…numerous times for you. What makes me any different than the others?”
“Because I love you enough to let you make your own choice. It’s me or him. I won’t force your hand or heart. But, I can tell you now, if he ever lays a hand on you again, he may not live to tell about it.”
While this was not the scene that brought tears to my eyes, I use it as an example of throwing curve balls at my characters—not making it too easy for them to reach that happy ending. For the romance genre, at least, it’s necessary in the long run to give them challenges that they really have a hard time overcoming. They may not ever overcome them fully. But, that’s what makes them more real, more relatable (at least that’s my opinion). The guys and girls aren’t perfect, and their lives aren’t fairy tales…yet. For this couple, I’m pretty sure I’ll be shedding some more tears.
I know I did with my first couple, Caliphany and Galadin, from A Ranger’s Tale. So, question time—as writers, do you find certain scenes pulling at your heart strings? As readers, what types of scenes have made you cry or at least need some chocolate to recover from?
A Ranger's Tale
by Mysti Parker
In the fantasy world of Tallenmere, the high elf Caliphany Aranea, nearly a century old, has never been allowed to travel farther than a few miles out of the capital city of Leogard. Her father, Sirius, leads the Mage Academy, and after losing his only son, he expects Caliphany to take his place one day. The trouble is, she doesn't want to study magic and doubts she'll ever be as good a wizard as her father. She dreams of leaving Leogard to explore the world and strike out on her own--lofty goals for Sirius' daughter, who also happens to be King Leopold's niece.
When two brutes at Leogard Harbor attempt to kidnap her while she dreams of faraway lands, half-elf ship captain and ranger, Galadin Trudeaux, comes to her rescue. From their first chance encounter, to the finale, where Caliphany must decide where her heart truly lies, she and Galadin will face more adventure, more love, more heartache, than they ever thought possible. Through it all, they discover the power of forgiveness and of a love that stands the test of time.
(from Chapter 7, in Galadin’s POV)
Caliphany followed me to the worn-out archery targets. Behind us, I heard a familiar step and figured that nosy wood elf wouldn’t leave well enough alone. I was prepared to ignore him, but Caliphany heard him coming and turned.
“Greetings, Captain!” Arven smoothed out his hair. All those damn elves took pride in their pretty hair; his was dark brown and hung to his shoulders. He eyed Caliphany like she was a prime cut of beef. “And who might this be?”
I stepped between her and the golden-skinned wood elf. “This would be my apprentice, Caliphany, uh—”
“Just Caliphany, thank you,” she said. “And who might you be?”
Arven laughed. “I’m Arven.” He winked. “Just Arven.” He punched my shoulder. “You’re moving up in the world, Trudeaux—got yourself an apprentice now, and a fine one at that. We don’t get a lot of lighties out here.”
I glared at him. “Watch your mouth around the lady.”
Arven bowed. “Humblest apologies, my lady. Have a look around. We have all your tracking and hunting needs right here.” He turned back to me. “We got your arrow order ready, Trudeaux.”
I nodded. “Good. I’ll get them when we’re done here.”
Arven gave Caliphany one last look-over and headed back for his cabin. She ignored it and walked over to the targets. If she’d been offended, I couldn’t tell.
“Sorry about Arven. He’s a bit rough around the edges.”
She shrugged. “I’m used to being, um, looked at. Can we start?”
I stood there like a dummy for a moment. I didn’t doubt men enjoyed looking at her. She was breathtaking, to say the least. Regardless, the woman had given me a heck of a lot of gold, so I owed her some lessons. If I enjoyed the view while we were at it, all the better. Her identity didn’t matter to me either. A few days, maybe a week or two, and she’d get bored with her little game. I’d have a hefty sack of gold to show for it. We’d both be happy.
“Here you go.” I handed her a bow.
“This is lighter than I thought.”
“It’s ebonwood—light, but sturdy and flexible. Go ahead, “ I said, handing her an arrow, “try it.”
Caliphany held the bow and tried to nock the arrow. She dropped it. I rolled my eyes, but stood still, letting her pick it up and try again. Carefully, she nocked the arrow on the string, pulled it back as far as she could, and let go.
She stuck her finger in her mouth, then pulled it out and examined the injury. Blood pooled under her fingernail. The arrow had not even made it halfway to the target. Her eyes shot daggers at me when I started laughing.
“What is so funny?”
I crossed my arms, smirking. “You. You’re doing it all wrong.”
“Well then show me, oh exalted trainer.”
I sidled up behind her, positioning my body against hers. I imagined how smooth her bare skin would feel next to mine. She was tall, like all the high elves, and matched my height. Catching a glimpse of her cheek, I noticed a blush, and my own heart sped fast as a hawk’s dive. I pressed my chest against her back. She caught her breath. I wrapped my arms around hers, positioning her hands. Caliphany might have been accustomed to men’s probing eyes, but it was clear she hadn’t been handled by too many of them.
My lips brushed her ear as I instructed her. “Here, lift your elbow, it’s like jelly. Yes, good. Now, turn your hand like this. Find a comfortable anchor point, right here under your ear, probably.” Goosebumps rose along her neck in response to my breath. I tried to remain serious, but making her react that way was quite fun.
“Now, relax your shoulders, pull back, aim, and release.”
The arrow flew toward the center of the target, but bounced off. She beamed. I couldn’t help but smile as pure joy danced in her sea blue eyes. At least she was enjoying herself. Better than her cursing at me. So many of her kind wouldn’t have given me the time of day.
I gestured toward the target. “Again.”
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