Hello Campers! Are we back from holiday vacation yet? No, are we REALLY back from holiday vacation? Big confession – I forgot my deadline last week for this column. Rude awakening, that. Many thanks to Rachel for not beating me! Now I’m REALLY back.
Remember at the beginning of this series, we talked about the very basis of the three-act structure: Get your hero up a tree, throw rocks at him, and get him out of the tree. Now that we’ve crossed over into Act 2, it’s rock throwing time. But recall, last month we also said: until the Midpoint, the hero and heroine are confronted by “tests, allies, and enemies.” And up until that Midpoint, the hero and heroine are still trying to live their lives with their old pre-romance ways. So, going back to our rock throwing: up until Midpoint, our hero and heroine are dodging rocks individually. At Midpoint, they’ll team up and work together to dodge rocks.
We also pointed out that Act 1 = first quarter of the book; Act 2 = second and third quarters of the book; and Act 3 = last quarter of the book. In a 300-page book, Act 2 takes 150 pages. And getting to the Midpoint takes 75 pages. It’s the time when, according to Jami Gold, “the protagonists react to the new desire, but suffer from one step forward and two steps back.”
Susan May Warren, in her book How to Write a Brilliant Romance, says that Act 2 is made up of wooing, sparks, and sexual tension. Of course, the devil is in the details of the three of those, depending on your subgenre. Wooing looks different in a historical romance than it does in a contemporary suspense romance. And wooing may not mean what you think it means. It could mean small compliments, small gestures, or flowers and dating. But remember, H&H are still operating as separate individuals and maybe still thinking they can get back to the status quo they left.
Along with the wooing, there’s the sizzle. By this, Susan doesn’t mean sexual sizzle. She means conflict. During this time, the hero and heroine have goals that are at odds, and that causes conflict. Or, they have similar goals but their approach is at odds. At odds is key during this phase of the romance. Susan writes about having them fight and fight some more. I’m not sure I agree. Fights are fine, but I don’t see arguments as being a way to fill these pages. But you do some homework – read through the second quarter of your favorite books and see what goes on there.
Then there’s sexual tension. This is a critical ingredient, and how you do it depends, again, on the subgenre and how much sex you want in the book. But remember that sexual tension doesn’t automatically mean sex. Susan further states that this is the building of awareness and desire and the realization that they are definitely not repulsed by each other – even though they may want to be.
Next month, we’re going to chase a rabbit before we return to the second half of Act 2 – we’re going to discuss sex.
Until then, keep studying romance books and movies, taking notes, and sharing your aha moments. And don’t forget BiC-HoK – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.