Beth Fantaskey is the author of Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side and its sequel, Jessica Rules the Dark Side. In this latest novel (which you can begin reading for a limited time on Figment here), former ordinary girl Jessica Packwood has married her vampire prince and begun to rule the vampire world. The job comes with its share of challenges, but at least Jess has her husband, Lucius, to help her out–at least until he’s accused of murder. Jessica loves Lucius enough that she’ll risk everything to clear his name . . . but they didn’t start out quite that chummy. Below, Beth explains how to take a relationship from hate to love.
Everybody knows the old adage, “There’s a fine line between love and hate,” right?
But as a writer, how do you believably move characters from the “hate” side of that barrier to the “love” side?
To be honest, I didn’t have a conscious strategy when I wrote my first book, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, which is about a down-to-earth girl who discovers that she’s a vampire princess by birth–and secretly betrothed to marry an arrogant vampire prince who grates on her last nerve.
Meanwhile, privileged Lucius, the prince in question, can’t believe he’s stuck with a “rational” commoner who doesn’t even eat meat, let alone crave blood.
To me, creating that dynamic–two opposites who are stuck together, and who bicker and banter their way from loathing to passion–came naturally. When I was a kid, I discovered a bunch of classic movies that played that theme to perfection. Desk Set, with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The African Queen, with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. It Happened One Night, with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Oh, gosh, the list goes on and on.
There was a time in the 1940s and 1950s when film writers really understood how to take two people who should’ve despised each and make you believe they ultimately couldn’t live apart.
Without even realizing it, I must’ve internalized lessons from those movies and applied them to my own work. And basically what I learned was, if you want to make that kind of shift believable, you need to give both characters in question legitimate reasons to start out at hate–and real reasons why they fall in love. In my opinion, it’s not enough for a girl to simply have a visceral, negative reaction to a boy. I ask myself, “Why does she dislike him?”
In Jess and Lucius’s case, Jess dislikes Lucius because he’s overbearing, treats her like a servant–and, most importantly, serves as a constant reminder of deceased birth parents whom she can’t bear to think about, because their rumored lifestyle mortifies her.
As the book progresses, though, Jess realizes that Lucius’s aloof arrogance is rooted in profound suffering, and is actually a form of strength that she comes to admire. He also proves to be fiercely loyal and self-sacrificing, giving up his own chance at happiness to protect her.
Lucius, for his part, learns that what he initially perceives as Jessica’s weakness–her compassion–is its own kind of strength and what his brutal childhood sorely lacked.
I don’t like to give advice to writers, because I’m still learning myself, so don’t take this from me. If you want a great case study, rent The African Queen and pay close attention as the uptight missionary played by Hepburn falls for Bogart’s hard-drinking riverboat captain. It always leaves me thinking that love that blazes up right away is great, but that there’s something about watching sparks fly–then slowly, believably smolder into a bonfire–that’s incredible.