This week: The Independent Main Character Edited by: Dawn Embers
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|Romance/Love Newsletter by Dawn|
Strong characters can be great for stories but it can also present some challenges. The independent main character is one often found in romance, so let's consider the less romance focused character who struggles to break from other focus in order to allow love.
|The strong, independent character is a common occurrence when it comes to a variety of stories including romantic comedies and even can be heard in a few pop songs. For this newsletter, while there is some reference to the strong, independent woman, there is no gender rule for the character so any gender identity can qualify. There are times when this can become a little on the cliche side, someone who claims to not have time for romance falls in love despite their qualms for the concept.|
In music, the song that comes to mind (though it's not the only one) is Miss Independent. The focus of the song is the female who focused much of her life to other things but despite insisting being on her own, she falls in love and that changes things. While the music is pop style and catchy enough for many to enjoy, there are some aspects that seem on the odd side. With the line of "oops, she fell in love" it does make it sound like an accident, which is an option for the approach as it emphasizes the lack of intention for romance.
In romantic comedies, you could consider movies like The Proposal. The super bossy, obsessively focused career woman who pretends an engagement for the purpose of being able to keep working is an example of an independent character. She didn't really think about romance or even family love but along the way of pretending something changes.
While it is a somewhat common concept, the independent character (main character or even the love interest, secondary point of view) has a few things to offer for a romance story. With the reluctance for romance you get personality, conflict and story arch plus character growth/development.
Why this type of character is shown in movies and such, like the romantic comedy, has in part to do with the personality that can be shown. Not just what Sandra Bullock can do in a role either. The independent person tends to have a strong will or aspects of personality that stand out through their dialogue, actions and way they express the views involved in the story. They tend to have opinions and aren't afraid to admit certain aspects of what they want or don't want. That doesn't mean they aren't vulnerable. In fact, there often may be aspects of their life, bad experiences or emotional elements that they keep a secret that may have an influence on the initial disinterest in romance.
It is almost too obvious but the strong character who isn't focused on love in a romance novel does have a potential conflict just from this personality construct or focus. Since the story is in the romance genre, there is an expectation for focus on romance and conflict that makes it difficult to achieve. if the main character is reluctant, not interested, or even determined against the idea of falling in love, this creates the conflict for the story. The reason can vary too. Often it's work, with the independent woman focused on their career instead of romance, but that isn't the only focus one could take that isn't romantic. There are also the emotional and physical struggles that may come up depending on the character that lead to a lack of interest when it comes to love.
3. Character Growth/Development
The conflict then can lead to something we want to see in most stories and that is for the character to grow from the story. The struggle through any conflict, the way a character adapts or learns from the experiences, it works together to create development. We like to see how the person changes based on the story to understand themselves and the world a little more. For this, it's easy enough for readers to see, often not very subtle though there can be nuances with how it's written, when the independent character changes from the story. It is simple: they fall in love.
While this is an enjoyable story concept for many, there are some drawbacks to the independent main character and the storyline of the strong, business focused person finding love inspire their best efforts to avoid it at all costs. It can feel over the top, cliche or give an impression of forcing the romance. When it's not something the character thinks they want, it can be tricky to show them developing a change or finding the interest. Does the character have to compromise their beliefs or self just for love? Consider that question because even though we want to see growth of character, that doesn't have to mean them doing a 180 and forgetting everything they care about or believe. The right partner for the love story can help here too because they can let the character shine or be strong but still have that romantic connection.
For romance, the characters have to find love in some way but don't be afraid to show different kinds of love and different levels in the romance. You can even have an independent side character who stays aromantic and doesn't find love. Representation is important too because not everyone is going to follow the lines of the romance story and there are different ways to write the variety of experiences. But we'll talk more on that some other time. For now, consider how you could have a strong, independent character and what what that can do for a story. Then go write.
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|Do you have an independent main character? Does the change in finding romance go against the main character's views too much or is it a good source of growth?|
Last month for the Romance/Love Newsletter, I discussed comfort levels as writers and readers. Here are a few comments sent for that topic:
Comment by Maddie Spring in my Step Stone
Good points to be made and well said. Great newsletter!
Comment by Osirantinous
To be honest, I'm not sure I have any limits on my writing comfort level. Hang on - I do have one: I will not allow animals to be harmed. If such a thing does happen, then it would be by a secondary character who'd get their butt kicked hard and fast by the protagonist. I was also intrigued by your other comment on writing comfort level - allowing others to read your writing. I'm the same, I've realised. I write gay fiction and have totally no issue with it, but I'm pretty limited on who I let read that work. Don't mind telling people, but I have difficulties describing any of the plots let alone giving pieces out to read. Well, face to face. You all here on WDC see a far wider frame of my writing mind that RL people do.
Comment by dogpack:saving 4 premium: DWG
Stepping out of my comfort zone isn't as much an issue because I've read and written in many different genres. True there are still a few things I approach with caution, but my sense of adventure takes over and over the edge, I go into another adventure.
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