How to matchmake in fiction?

by Judy Duarte, author of A Baby Under the Tree (Harlequin Special Edition, December 2011) and Red Rock Cinderella, the brand-new FREE weekly online read on Harlequin.com

People often ask how I come up with story ideas for my romances, and the secret is:  some careful matchmaking—but not in the usual way.

In real life, we spot a handsome bachelor and immediately run through a mental rolodex of all the single women we know.  We consider physical attributes, knowing they’ll need to be sexually attracted, and common interests, realizing they should enjoy the same hobbies and activities.  Then, if we don’t anticipate any future conflicts, we become matchmakers.

But that’s not the kind of matchmaking I’m talking about.

Romance authors need to first create two wounded characters who couldn’t be worse for each other, then force proximity, pump up the sexual tension and torture them until they are forced to change.   It’s not until each character grows and wounds are mended that the couple is free to truly love.

The trick is to start out with two flawed people.  Let me give you an example using my December Special Edition, A BABY UNDER THE TREE.

After Shane Hollister’s ex-wife insisted upon a divorce, she moved out of state, taking their toddler with her.  Six months later, the little boy was killed in a car accident.  Shane was crushed by the loss.  In fact, he took a leave of absence from the Houston police department and moved to Brighton Valley to put some distance between him and his memories.

So who would be the worst possible match for him?

Why the woman who is having his secret baby—a virtual stranger to him.

Newly divorced Jillian Wilkes has her own sad memories and betrayals to deal with.  After spending one glorious night with a handsome stranger, she finds herself pregnant with his baby and vacillating between telling him and keeping the precious secret to herself.

Shane and Jillian have commonality—they both desire a child and a family.  But their wounds, internal conflicts, and methods of dealing with life are at odds.  The plot pushes them together, and as sexual tension increases, they are forced to change into two people now perfect for each other.

It’s not always easy to torture characters and force them to grow.   And it can be tough not to step in too soon and fix things for them.   But it’s important to create a story that makes them face those old fears, wounds and baggage because, in a romance, it’s not the set-up that produces a perfect couple, it’s the journey they must take.  Then, by the time the black moment erupts, those characters will finally be ready for and worthy of true love and a happy-ever-after.

I’m thrilled to be blogging with you today on Harlequin.com for several reasons.  First of all, A BABY UNDER THE TREE, which kicks off another Brighton Valley series, is available now.  My online story also begins this week.  RED ROCK CINDERELLA is a great lead-in to the new Fortunes of Texas series coming out in January.  I hope you’ll check out both of my stories, as well as the new Fortunes of Texas series while you’re at Harlequin.com.

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Comments ( 2 )
  1. MarcieR
    December 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm
    Reply

    Enjoyed the first chapter of your online read!

    Baby Under The Tree sounds very interesting. I’ll have to pick up a copy and put it under my tree!

  2. Kaelee
    December 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm
    Reply

    Oh yes I love it when authors torture their heroes and heroines. I’ll be getting this as I love your stories.

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