Friday, December 04, 2015

Friday Fun - Love Actively Hurts

Pink Heart Society columnist, Nicole Locke, is talking about the difficulty of getting love just right...

Last weekend, the family did the annual ice skating at Somerset House. We’ve been skating for almost a decade now. It’s fun, festive and a bit of a challenge.

So odds were eventually one of us would get hurt. That’s what happened to my son as he happily zipped around the ice. A misstep and he fell back with enough force to send us to hospital. All’s fine now. But when asked if the injury gave him pause about skating again, he answered with a one shouldered shrug and a curt nod. 

His affirmative answer surprised me. If I hadn’t been looking at him, I would have missed it. Hours of fun and one painful shock had him wary of the festivities in the years ahead.

Yet, I also understood his wariness. In fact, I’m wary when writing about pain. Something I noticed when editing the last manuscript. 

As my fearless heroine acknowledged and discussed her personal pain, she suddenly sounded timid. It was so subtle. If I hadn’t been editing, I wouldn’t have caught that it wasn’t the heroine, who was wary. It was me. So enters: Active versus Passive Voice.

I’ll not mention transitive verbs (shudder). Writers need to write: ‘She stabbed him.’ Not write: ‘The man was stabbed by her.’ That’s clear enough.

But for the life of me, I couldn’t edit my passive voice during the painful scenes. At first, I was sympathetic. After all, I heaped plenty of past agonies and current conflict on the heroine. I could barely write about it; how could I expect her to talk about it? Except…every time she did, she didn’t sound like herself. The passive voice had to go.

So where did I find an example of a heroine, who acknowledges vulnerability, wariness, pain and yet remains strong? Julia Roberts.

It’s been my theory Julia Roberts got the role in Pretty Woman because she delivers similar lines in Mystic Pizza. Yes, she tells Gere at the elevator: ‘You hurt me. Don’t do it again.’ But previously, she told Storke: ‘You lied to me. Don’t do it again.’

Julia displays her pain with active voice. ‘You hurt me.’ Not ‘I was hurt by you’. But visually she reveals her vulnerability: trapped tears, eyes looking everywhere else, fidgeting, repeating sentences, slight speech hesitations, etc. 

I knew what I had to do. Keep my heroine’s thoughts and actions vulnerable, but keep her speech strong. 

Even knowing what to do, I can’t say it was easy. There was a lot of hurt to write about. But on the next story, I’ll look for that subtle shoulder shrug and curt nod of wariness in my writing and address it. 

Because I want my son to zip freely again when he skates. Just as much as I want my characters to stay true to themselves. After all, there’s years of fun, festivity and happily ever afters in the years ahead.

Do you like to see vulnerability in your romance heroines and heroes?  Join the discussion with Nicole in the comments.

Nicole's latest novel, Her Enemy Highlander, is out now:

In the wilds of Scotland...

Impulsive Mairead Buchanan’s only goal is to track down the man responsible for her brother’s death. Until a shameful encounter with Caird of enemy clan Colquhoun proves a distraction she can’t ignore...

Nothing could prepare Mairead for the path she’s thrown onto when the secrets of a jeweled dagger are revealed and she finds herself kidnapped by this sexy highlander! With Mairead’s recklessness a perfect foil to Caird’s cool command, can these two enemies set their clans’ differences aside and surrender to the desire that rages between them?

To find out more about Nicole Locke, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter.


  1. I have to see vulnerability to care about them - but I like it to be hard for them to show. So tricky!

    1. It was really tricky to write. The whole book was an emotional roller coaster I avoided like the plague. Like my editor said to me, I had no plots to hide behind. How do you get through those scenes?

  2. This is so true. It's not always easy to spill our hurts on the page.
    Your ice skating tradition sounds fun! I recently tried skating for the first time since I was a kid. A LOT of wall-hugging! But I eventually was able to skate on my own. I hope your son gets right back into it. :)

    1. Did you enjoy it? Are you going again? I love it. Fortunately/unfortunately, my DS won't be able to avoid it. We're going to Paris after Christmas and the Eiffel Tower has their ice rink open (haven't told him about that bit).

  3. I love the oxymoronic nature of the title of this post, and I think some of these points are very profound!