Defining Character Development

The emotional issue

A hero and heroine (hero/hero or heroine/heroine), now referred to as H1/H2, must each have an emotional issue, a painful wound deep within their hearts, that has been caused by relationships with family or friends, and/or past events in their backstories, and which must heal during their emotional journey before they can attain their happily ever after or HEA.

The emotional journey

The broad umbrella theme of all romance novels is “love conquers all” and everyone knows the ending, so the fun part of the reading experience is about the journey, the twists and turns that cause and allow the hero and heroine to earn their HEA.

Character arc and emotional growth

Since the romance plot is entirely character driven, most of the conflict must happen internally, and it can be difficult to create believable conflict that drives the H1 and H2 apart—particularly in a contemporary romance. One way to discover and create such believable conflict is by understanding the emotional issue at the start of H1 and H2’s character arc, and how it links to all of the events in their backstory and relationships, and to mine those for goals, allowing for the creation of obstacles/conflict specific to H1/H2. This in turns allows H1/H2 to each face obstacles tailored to their personal fears and goals, and gives them the opportunity to gain emotional growth and a clear character arc on their journey to their HEA.