The damaged hero and heroine in romance is gaining momentum with readers for more reasons than we have room to list, particularly in the New Adult genre. Today's guest, author Season Vining, puts her finger on some of the reasons why we love reading about people with damaged lives, even though the read can be painful. Season's Beautiful Addictions offers both a damaged hero and heroine, and hopefully allows each of them to heal through loving the other. Thanks for being here, Season!
Many romantic stories–whether they be novels, movies, or television–involve people whom society deems as damaged. Individuals with troubled childhoods, nasty secrets, or miserable past relationships make up a large percentage of our beloved protagonists. There’s the painfully shy girl who never makes eye contact and hints at her discomfort in social situations, the man crippled with fear, the young woman who acts out, or the mysteriously dangerous guy who lets his anger and rage rule him. These tortured souls are only words on a page or actors on a screen, yet we find ourselves cheering them on. We don’t know them personally, but once we’re emerged into their stories, we feel tethered to their hurt. So, why do we do it? Why put ourselves through that?
There’s more here than feeling pity and sympathy for these characters. There’s the common practice of attaching ourselves to them and identifying with the smallest similarities to our own lives. We want to understand what makes them who they are. We want to live beside them, become their best friends and heal them. This is easiest to do when we can find common ground. While not all of us have damaging pasts, we have all suffered. Through that suffering we are able to associate our hurt with theirs. It drives the reason why you wish to wrap Noah Calhoun, of Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook, in your arms and kiss away his lonely despair, or why you feel such rage towards the one who hurt Eva Tramell in Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series.
Sometimes, we only identify with our favorite characters through curiosity. We may know nothing of drug abuse, infidelity, or mental illness, but our thirst for knowledge and our inquisitiveness drags us into that world. Remington Tate, in Katy Evans’s Real, pulls us in with his smoldering good looks, but when we discover what he’s been through, what he fights inside, we are left wondering what it’s like to find yourself sliding down that slippery slope. We immerse ourselves in the story so that we can identify with these characters and take on their heartache as our own. We do this all the while knowing that we are safe in our own reality once we close the book or turn off the television.
In my debut novel, Beautiful Addictions, right away we are introduced to Josie Banks and all the ways she self-medicates. Nameless lovers, drugs, and graffiti work to keep her sane in a life that she resents. Her pain is blatantly worn as armor to protect herself and protect others from her. When she meets Tristan Fallbrook, she recognizes the hurt inside him–a kind of counterpart to her own. The colorful inked images on his skin give only a small glimpse of his torment. His damage is more of a tiny hidden box wrapped up and locked away in the deepest recess of his soul. Tristan finds it easier to hide behind his quirky intelligence and infallible memory. However, it is their memories that whisper for them to keep their distance, remain indifferent, let no one in. This sheltered approach to life makes them feel safe, and at the same time grounds them in fear. Fear is a powerful beast and it is the inevitable victory over that fear that makes these characters feel human again.
Whatever brings harm to our damaged heroes and heroines, will eventually bring joy. It is their courage, their spirit, their determination that leads to triumph over these demons. It is discovery of themselves, of their own strengths and will, that leads them out of their personal hell and into the world with the rest of us. As voyeurs, we sometimes see the good in them before they do. We want to yell at the movie screen or shake the book bound pages until they see it too. But we must sit back and let them explore on their terms. We must let them take what they need and lead us on a journey.
Every time you encounter these characters, try to remember that they shouldn’t be identified by the damage done to them, but by their potential to overcome it. Take nothing for granted. Listen to them, read between the lines of prose and dialogue to find what they’ve forgotten exists. Love. It is what guides us all. It is what makes life worth living and what makes us claw our way through the darkest times just to find the light. In the case of fictional characters, love is one of the most noble reasons to exist. It shows you, the reader, the watcher, that though the fight is difficult and the pain is hard to bear, we are all worth it, damaged or not.
Learn more or order a copy of Beautiful Addictions by Season Vining, out in digital now (and available in print in June):
SEASON VINING is a writer, a bookworm, a cook, a night owl and always a student. Beautiful Addictions is her first novel. She lives in Louisiana, where she works as a graphic designer. Visit her at www.seasonvining.com.