Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Guest Blogger Crista McHugh - Vulnerability

In this day and age of alpha heroes and self-sufficient heroines, showing moments of vulnerability can be tricky. For example, you don’t want your kick-ass, vampire-slaying heroine to suddenly need to be rescued over and over again by the hero, right? Nor do you want the alpha hero to act like he’s completely pussy-whipped. But if they both keep their walls in place and act tough all the time, where can the romance bloom?

I was at a Mary Buckham workshop in February where she mentioned that in developing a character, an author needed to identify what the character valued most in his or her life. Then, as the romance develops, the character should be willing to part with that thing for the sake of the other person. It could a physical object like Arwen’s necklace in the Lord of the Rings movies. Or, as in the case of so many of my characters, it could be allowing one’s self to become emotionally vulnerable and risk getting hurt.

In my latest release, Heart of a Huntress, Lana lost her former lover to a vampire. His death wounded her so deeply, she hasn’t been able to open her heart up to anyone since then. She focuses her energy into her job (slaying the vampires that plague the Las Vegas Strip) and never realizes how empty her life has become until she meets Byron.

Byron, on the other hand, has a secret, something he’s terrified to share with Lana. Would she still want to be with him once she learns he sprouts fangs and fur every full moon? But the stakes are a bit higher for him because if she rejects him, his broken heart could prove fatal.

Both characters have reasons to keep their walls in place, to protect themselves from getting hurt. But there is no reward without some risk. Once they make the decision to let the other person past these barriers, they discover a new love they never imagined possible. It’s neither simple nor easy. There’s some pushing and shoving and flared tempers as they feel each other out. But in the end, they both learn trust that piece of themselves they’ve guarded for so long to the other person.

Vulnerability extends beyond the paranormal genre. It’s something that can play a role in any romance, real or fictional. For example, I always joke that my husband is the one-night stand who never left. I was always into playing it safe, never hooking up with someone until we’d dated a while, etc. Then I met him at a party. He was not only smart and sexy, but I felt so very comfortable around him that I gathered my courage and asked him back to my place. I’d never done such a thing before. I was making myself both physically and emotionally vulnerable, but I took a gamble on him, and the reward was worth the risk. We got married two years later. :-)

I’d love to hear some of your stories about vulnerability. It could be a favorite scene from a book or a movie, or it could be a real-life moment where you took a chance on another person, opened yourself up to them, and had a happy ending.


Crista McHugh writes paranormal and fantasy romances that are smart, sexy, and anything but ordinary. She maintains her alter-ego as a mild mannered physician during the day and writes during nights and weekends. She refers to it as “therapy”. She lives in the Audi-filled suburbs of Seattle with her husband, her daughter, a 95-lb golden retriever, and a black cat that bosses them all around.

She loves hearing from readers and will occasionally bounce ideas off them. Check out her website (www.cristamchugh.com) for more information.


Meg Benjamin said...

Hi Crista--welcome to the Naughty Nine. I'd say an alpha male who can admit he needs someone becomes even more attractive than an alpha male who pretends he can get along very well without anybody else.

Kelly Jamieson said...

Welcome back Crists! Great post, and I lover your personal story! I agree that a little vulnerability makes most characters more sympathetic, even those alphas!

PG Forte said...

Great post Crista!

You know, I don't much care whether the alphas ever admit to being vulnerable, as long as we (readers) know it.

Here's something I thought about with regard to Erin's post yesterday and Christa's today. The scene at the end of My Fair Lady really bugged me the first time i saw it. I thought if anyone should be doing some major, major groveling it was Henry Higgins! I mentioned this to my mother who pointed out that it wouldn't have been in character for him to have done that but it was still fairly obvious how he was feeling. And she's right. Once I was looking for it I could see it very clearly--how he tilted his hat over his face to hide his eyes, the absolute relief that shows in every line of his body. Sure, he's an emotional cripple but he loves her--and they both know it. And, at the end of the day, that's what really matters.