But it’s tricky, because the need can’t be desperate. No one likes a clinging vine. Besides, if someone is intensely needy, it messes up the escapist aspect of your story. Co-dependency is not the happy ending most women readers are looking for, particularly because we’re usually the ones holding the short end of that stick.
And anyway, who wants a Mama’s Boy? In real life needy men are everywhere. No one wants to read about one. Okay, so you could make him the villain. But dang, you’d better be at the top of your writing game when you portray him.
Men who bleat “But I need you!” are probably telling the truth. Especially if the woman has a trust fund or a savings account to invest—in his elite portfolio, right? And there’s always luxurious European travel for two…at her expense. Back away from the gigolo!
Any thinking woman recognizes too much flattery. Keep it out of your fiction, unless, of course, you’re bent on high comedy. Like I was when I wrote in today’s excerpt. Enter William Elliot, the weasel. He’s being pressured by the father of his mistress to marry her, so he needs a wife, like, yesterday. He’s determined that his beautiful cousin will suffice.
Mr Elliot slid into the seat beside Elizabeth. “Ah, Elizabeth,” he said softly. “You become prettier with each passing day. Truly you are without compare.”
Elizabeth pursed up her lips. Her cousin was the most complimentary when he wanted something. She took a swift look out the window. “We’ve not much time, Mr Elliot. “What is it you wished to say to me?”
“How unromantic you are,” he complained. “We’ve all the time in the world, my dear.”
She gave a sigh of exasperation, which caused him to say, “Very well, it shall be as you wish.” His expression softened somewhat. “I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe we are meant for one another.” His gloved fingers reached for hers.
Elizabeth recoiled. For one heart-stopping moment she saw not her cousin but Mr Rushworth, and she again felt his groping hands and greedy kiss. But she did not remove her hand from beneath Mr Elliot’s—not yet.
“Meant for one another,” she echoed. “Is this the sort of thing you said to Anne?” The words slipped out before she could stop them.
Mr Elliot’s jaw hardened, but only for a moment. “You never hesitate to put me in the wrong,” h said lightly. “I admit, I found you sister’s gentle ways to be charming. But upon reflection, I’ve come to see that what I desire most in a woman is spirit.”
“Have you?” said Elizabeth. “It seems to me that Penelope Clay is the every oppos—”
“—whom we shall leave out of this discussion!” he flashed.
“There have been rumors concerning the two of you, Mr Elliot,” Elizabeth said. “Surely you know that.”
Mr Elliot clicked his tongue. “Ho, now,” he said. “If you have a tail of straw, you’d best stand clear of the fire! Might I remind you that the gossips are having a heyday with the Elliot name?”
“No thanks to you!” Elizabeth cried. “You placed that wretched announcement in the Gazette!”
“In obedience to your father’s instructions,” he replied smoothly. “But we are wrangling over trivialities. Let us get down to business, shall we?”
“Business?” she repeated. “I thought you were speaking of romantic notions.”
For Thursday, we’ll discuss another Romcom staple, Overheard Conversations.
[excerpt from Mercy’s Embrace: The Lady Must Decide by Laura Hile, 2010]