It got me thinking about past relationships - we all have them and in many cases they even define who we've become. So it makes sense that romance heroes and heroines have past relationships that have played a role in defining who they are.
But what's the best way to handle the dreaded ex in romance novels? There may not be a 'best way' to handle exes, but there are a few things I think authors should endeavour to avoid.
Before I go further, let me start off by saying these tips are entirely my personal opinion (and not backed by any formal research). Number 2, these are only tips - I have, in fact, broken at least one of these rules before, but it was a conscious decision, which I believe was critical to the plot:
- (For Pete's sake) Don't start the novel with the ex. To me, this is a no-no. If the book is about Peter and Dora, I don't want to start with Peter and Susan's toxic relationship, or Dora and her undeserving ex.
- Don't dedicate a chapter to the ex. Again, the story is about your hero and heroine, a flashback to a past relationship is okay, but it doesn't need an entire chapter, even if it's not chapter 1.
- Don't stereotype the ex: I get so tired of reading about bitchy ex-girlfriends and abusive ex-boyfriends. Yes, they exist, and, no, they must not be ignored, but they aren't the only kinds of exes. There are people who just don't work out, not because they are evil, but because they weren't meant to be.
One of my favourite movies is The Wedding Planner (because... Matthew McConaughey, duh! ♡). The thing that stood out for me the most was the fact that Bridgette Wilson's character wasn't your typical bitch. She was actually a very nice woman, which added to the hero's conflict. Why would he even fall for someone else when his fiancée is such a great girl? That equals conflict!
So there you have it - my top 3 things to avoid when writing about the ex in a romance novel. Agree? Disagree? Any personal tips to add? Please leave me a comment.