Quite a few blogs around the IntersphereTM have been talking about the comeuppance, or the grovel. Well, maybe not quite a few…more like two…but still, totally counts. Anyway, the comeuppance. The grovel. The moment where a character has to apologise for the wrong s/he has dealt another. This is awesomeness.
The thing about the comeuppance, though, is previous to this you need the scene where you break people’s hearts. The wrenching moment when the character’s world falls around them, caused by the person they love the most. In a romance, either the hero or the heroine will deal the blow.
I have just such a scenario in one of my books. The hero has suddenly realised how much he has let the heroine into his life. This CANNOT happen!!!11!!! – but way more dramatic. You know these overly emotional types ;p Anyhoo, he delivers a smackdown that breaks her, destroys her and tears them apart*.
However…she doesn’t let him get away with it. Oh no, this is the other part of the smackdown – the non-doormat portion, if you will. This delicious bit is where the character dealt the blow won’t let the other get away with it. This can be done to the face of the blow dealer (heh- totally inappropriate joke there) or as a realisation within themselves. In my novel, the heroine confronts the hero and tells him she knows what he did. In Buffy, Buffy realised the Angel she loved is gone, consumed by the Vampire Angelus.
You must always ensure that your grovel et al are commiserate with the damage done. There is no point dealing a relationship-ending blow, something so devastating the character can’t recover, and then have the person dealing the blow say a simple ‘I’m sorry’. NO ONE will believe this.
So break your characters hearts, destroy them, make them cry – and then have the person doing the bad stuff grovel. It will be worth the anguish, I promise!
*and of course I have Joss to thank for this – Buffy Season 2, ep 14 “Innocence” when Buffy and Angel finally sleep together and the next morning…well, lets just say that indifference really IS the other side of love.