The Love Interest: A Character Archetype
In the fandoms, we have a term that many are very confused by; OTP.
It stands for "One True Pairing" and it's the relationship, cannon or not, that you ADORE and is your favorite of ALL TIME.
The question on every author's mind: how the HELL do I make a character that does that to your readers?
Well... let's dive in, shall we?
We all know it and we all want to achieve it! While details will probably vary from genre to genre, let's break it down!
Confidence vs Timidity
This depends on who your protagonist is and whether or not you want them to have someone EXACTLY like them or someone who will lift them up.
Take John Green and his love interest from "The Fault in Our Stars; August. August has LOTS of confidence to counter Hazels anxiety and depression. This makes him just a little dangerous and therefore DREAMY!
But if we look at Suzanne Colin's "Hunger Games" trilogy. Peeta and Katniss have, I would say, the same amount of confidence, though in different arena's. Katniss is more confident in her ability to survive and to fight.
However, Peeta is more confident speaking and leading through words and shines on the stage. This allows he and Katniss to work everyone in Panem to their advantage, getting everyone to fall for their combined personas.
So, you have to pick what dynamic will progress your characters, and therefore, your story, in the direction that works the best. If your pairing causes your story to stall out because your character loses agency, maybe you need to break up that relationship.
Looks vs Brains
BUT WHY CHOOSE?
Take my friend, Striid, for example. She is TALL and a VIKING GODDESS! And she does things like MODELING and was the Fourth Runner-Up in the Mrs Alaska Pageant.
AND SHE HAS A BACHELORS DEGREE IN MEDICAL LAB TECH SCIENCES AND IS THINKING ABOUT GETTING HER MASTERS DEGREE.
You should go check her out. She's @labchik.ak on Instagram and she's amazing.
But to my point...
She is SCARY smart and she is GORGEOUS. So why can't your main love interest be that as well?
Honestly, the choice between the character who has a good brain and the character that is pretty wrung out. There are FAR more interesting choices for your character to make. Maybe both of them are pretty and smart, but one has some serious daddy issues and the other has a terrifying addiction to rubber ducks. It would be far more compelling.
Fire vs Calm
We have all had that boyfriend. The one that goes on rants and shouts a ton about the thing he loves. We all know he is super passionate about everything he comes into contact with. Hell, I've only ever dated two people and I've had this boyfriend!
And then there's the other guy; who is still passionate, but he doesn't freak out if someone says they liked the Star Wars Prequels. (Which you shouldn't like the prequels, just sayin'). This one you can actually take out in public.
But I'm also the one who you can't take out in public. Soooo...
Anyway, both characters have their merits. Again, it matters to the main character's needs and motives. It's probably best to go through a decision tree or a free-write to decide which one would be better.
Skilled vs N00b
This entirely hinges on the needs of the story.
If you need a character who knows exactly what they are doing; a skilled fighter, hacker, chef, or ferret breeder. Whatever will propel your character to their main goal.
But don't go crazy. We don't need a Deus Ex Machina romance here...
"The only way we can beat this guy is to have an entire army of ferrets!"
"Luckily for you..."
That would be freakin' hilarious. Can someone write that short story? That would be GREAT!
Motive, Motive, Motive
Honestly; I CANNOT stress this anymore. If your love interests motive doesn't track with the rest of the story, NONE OF IT MATTERS.
We have an post apocalyptic story and the love interests main goal is to be an Uber driver? Yeah. No. Maybe you can tool the motive so that he's trying to put the world back so he can re-create Uber and be an Uber driver. But still. It doesn't work.
Anyway, working with a motive generator or doing a really good motive free-write will be your friend here. It's a tool that I use all the time. Just dig out a piece of paper and start writing about your character.
Do this in fifteen minute stints for a few HOURS.
I'm not talking about one fifteen minute stint of free-writing.
Write. Write some more. Keep writing.
Are you following me on Instagram? My username is @gingerwordsmith and I'd LOVE to see you there!
Also my kids are heckin' cute and they brighten my day. Maybe the will for you, too!
Okay, we've talked about a couple of the versus. But let's get into the process of making your love interest. Get the PAGES of paper that you've written on this character and sit down to map it out.
Step 1: Get my Printable and Your Bullet Journal
Hahahaha! Yeah. You KNOW I was gonna plug this shit.
Honestly, though; I wouldn't be plugging this if I didn't use it ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Allow me to prove it to you!
Step 2: Fill Out the Printable
This is self explanatory, but I'm going to break down each section REALLY briefly. I want to do a more lengthy post on each part of this worksheet later.
Your character probable has some nicknames. These often come out naturally when you’re writing.
... I shouldn’t have to explain this. Yes. You need to have an age for your character. Because if they don’t remember their age, it’s worth noting, too. Otherwise, your character will probably remember their age, especially in YA novels, it can become a large portion of their identity.
The height of your character really does matter. If your character is taller or shorter this will determine SO MUCH about their life.
Are they stocky or skinny? How does this effect their views of their own body?
Natural or dyed? Magical? Normal? Curly? Straight?
Caucasian? African American? Freckled? Green?
This is about their clothing style, which can speak LARGELY to who they view themselves as a person and who they aspire to be. Be as detailed or vague as you like here.
Obviously there are TONS of things you can do here. Think about the things that your character is going to NEED for their journey
This is all about SKILZ. What can your character do?
People usually walk around with a general mood. Some people are perpetually angry and others creepily happy. Some are shy but happy and others are outgoing and SAD AND THEY WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT IT.
Some people talk fast and other slow. Some use big words, some just can’t.
This IS worth mentioning. And if they are unemployed, it’s worth noting that as well.
As off the wall as you want, or run of the mill? Collecting stamps? Or collecting anniversary tea pots?
Maybe they are interested in how the trains are scheduled or maybe they study the mating habits of earth worms.
This will determine not just how other characters will meet your character, but your readers as well. You can tailor this very carefully and determine some pretty big things for your character!
YES. PLEASE. DO THIS. Your characters must be flawed! Good and bad! A perfect main character is SO BORING. There are TONS of flaw generators and thesaurus out there for you to use! Just runs google search. I’ll do a list post later on it! 😉
Do they have any family? What is their relationship with their family?
Where do they live? Do they frequent other places?
Write a brief history of who they are and where hey come from.
Its fun to write in the future of your characters! Grim or happy! Take a moment to decide the fate of your creation!
Step 3: Now use THIS Character Sheet
This is something that use AFTER my first draft and I take DAYS to fill this out complete this character sheet. And when I say days, I mean like the hours of a full work week. Per character.
This sounds excessive, but if you have a good handle on your characters, they have a voice and a personage that’s much easier to write.
When you’re done with this sucker, it’ll be about 20+ pages!
Takinf the time to outline who your love interest is, along with your main character, will be time well spent!
I’ve linked to Her whole resource library because HOLY SHIT I LOVE ALL OF THEM. But you are looking for the “Deteiled Character aprofile Queationaire”
Step 4: Tweak, tweak, tweak.
You have GOT to be flexible about your characters. I did a gender bend exercise a few months ago and found out it solved MULTIPLE problems to change the gender of my main character.
If you can’t be flexible AT ALL during the drafting process, honey; editing with a professional is gonna be a WAKE UP CALL. So learn to roll with it now, while you still can
Step 5: Beta Readers!
This is a step most often taken by those embarking on the insane task of self publishing. They take some worthy volunteers through their book and ask for feedback.
id you need a template for taking beta readers through a process, go check out Jenna Moreci on YouTube. Her series on this is PERFECT! She’s also my favorite WriteTuber.
As you go through this process, the beta readers will be very good at poking holes in your romantic plot.
The trick is to NOT BE AN ASSHOLE ABOUT CRITICISM.
I’ve seen this happening in critique groups a TON of times. Writers just are not prepared for the amount of criticism that other writers can give and the depth to which readers can go.
The first time someone offers you criticism, it feels like they are saying they don’t like your book.
That is probably not it! They just don’t like ONE element. You nod and say thank you, write it down, and figure it out later. You get home. Have a drink and keep off the computer so you don’t email something you’ll regret.
Taking critiques is a crucial part of being a writer. If you can’t take it now, grow a spine and get used to it.
I know this one was a little all over the place, but it can be hard nailing down an OTP. Just be patient and keep tweaking. And LISTEN to your readers.
See you next week!
The Ginger Wordsmith 🐙