The Combustion Point

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I was working on a scene today. 

It’s the lead-up to THE scene.

You know.  The love scene.

TensionA lot of romance authors can toss two characters on the page and within a few paragraphs, have them…well…entwined with one another and it’s a fantastic read.  Thus far, when I’ve tried that setup, none of my characters have cooperated. I wish they would. 

I always write two characters in fairly strong conflict, and yes, there’s always explosive chemistry.  That’s what I like to read in romance, so that’s what I write.  But it’s not just the chemistry that makes it work for me.  Since these two people have issues with one another, the tension has to build to a point that it’s just irresistible.  The pull takes over.

And something has to tip the scales.

Y’all know from my blog posts that I often write about misperceptions and how simple things can hold much deeper meaning than the surface lets on.  Those ideas permeate my characters and my stories too. combustion point greenhouse

In this scene I was working on today, the hero,(let’s call him Erik, for now) is taking over a failing nursery business  where (let’s call our heroine Adelaide) is a horticulturist—a plantswoman.  To put it simply, Erik believes Adelaide is up to something, and that something includes stealing large amounts of money from the nursery.

Adelaide is exhausted from the recent death of her beloved mentor, the stress of holding the nursery together, and keeping her nasty ex-husband from destroying her career.  On top of all that, and for very good reason, she has a secret and she’s keeping it from Erik. Something Combustion Point Porch Swing from DutchcraftersErik has a right to know.

Of course, there is chemistry.  Loads of it.  And they’ve been dancing around it for days.  It’s so uncomfortable that Adelaide ducks out of her own birthday party to avoid him. Exhausted and sick of all of it, she falls asleep on her porch swing.

Erik follows her to see if he can catch her in the act of thievery, and instead finds her there on that swing, asleep in the warm evening breeze, with a glass—something melting and watery –on the table, and through the screen door he can hear music on the stereo. 

There’s a book open in her lap.combustion point iced tea

None of it looks the least bit nefarious.  And none of it is even remotely like what he expected to find. Not the kind of house. Not the music. Not the book.  Not what she’s drinking. Not what she’s wearing. None of it.

And he’s so thrown by finding her to be so different from the picture he’s painted in his mind from seeing her at work, that his guard drops.  He forgets himself.

She’s surprised at the sudden appearance of the real Erik—the unmasked, unguarded person she’s never seen before—and she’s just plain too tired to get the walls up in time.

CPhoto by C Murray 8-2013POOF.  The momentary connection between the real people they are pushes the chemistry over the edge. Combustion point.

It’s gotten warm in Kentucky this week.  Warm the way it is at Adelaide’s house. I’m sitting here in the early evening, looking out my window at the long shadows stretching across my spring-green yard, at the hackberry leaves completely still on the trees.  I’m thinking about Adelaide sitting in a porch swing reading, and taking sips of something cool as she looks out at a view not too different from mine, and I’m wondering…

Would you play the What-If game with me for a bit?  Tell me what you think…

What kind of book–or what specific book– might Adelaide, the horticulturist at a small-town nursery, be reading that surprises Erik so thoroughly?combustion point screen door

What music could be on the stereo in her little country house—something he’d never have guessed the hard-working, calloused-hands, dirt-on-her-face flower monger would enjoy?

What do you suppose he expected her to drink, and yet to his surprise, what’s actually in the glass?

Have you ever been so completely surprised by something about a person that you were thrown off guard?

Tell me about it, and help my muse along as I ponder the scene that causes Erik and Adelaide’s chemistry to push them over the edge.

Porch swing photo from Dutchcrafters.com.  Fire photo by Cassondra Murray. 

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Comments

44 Comments

  • Amy Conley says:

    I need a good luck charm for tomorrow, do Ii get him?

  • Jane says:

    Hello Cassondra,
    Looking forward to the big party. I’m going to try to hang out at the party whenever I can sneak away. I’m going to say Adelaide is reading Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” and she’s listening to a smooth jazz on her stereo. He’s probably expecting her to sip on a mint julep, but she prefers an extra dirty martini.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Oooo. OOOOOO! Jane, I love the way you think!

      The Art Of War. Interesting!

      And an extra dirty martini….I can’t say I like them, but Adelaide just might.

      Yes indeed. She might. Excellent suggestions!

  • Amy Conley says:

    I would expect her to be reading something steamy, along the lines on our own Anna C. What he would be expecting her to be reading would be something along the lines of her job.
    He ‘d be expecting her to be drinking an iced tea, instead she’s drinking a bourbon on ice.

    I’ve been thrown off guard too many times to count, mostly by hubby. The first time he knocked me for a loop was when he asked me to marry me after our first and only date…I’ll admit, I was drunk and easy that night. He kept telling me he loved me, and had felt that way since before “that” night, but I kept telling him it ws just lust. 30 years later, he still surprises me by loving me.

    • Ooh, great suggestion, Amy! Actually I already have a writing friend who included a character reading one of my books in her story. That was such a buzz!

      • Cassondra Murray says:

        Oh, Anna! That has to be SO cool!

        When I see performers on stage, and the audience is singing their song to them, I think, “that has to be the pinnacle of a career accomplishment.”

        I think this is that same thing!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      OH AMY! You cannot leave us hanging that way.

      You have to tell the whole story. What was the “before” that night? Did y’all know one another? Was he watching you from a distance?

      What? WHAT?

      It’s a love story that’s lasted 30 years. Tell.

      • Amy Conley says:

        OMG. OK. This is a bit convaluted to begin with, but I’ll try.

        I moved back to Indiana because Erie, Pa is just too damn cold. Dumb me agreed to go back to ex, whom she’d basically moved over 600 miles to get away from.
        The first day I was back this large and loud group of guys come into this teeny tiny trailor. Hubby was one of those guys. He wasn’t really a friend of the ex’s but hubby’s best friend was my ex’s cousin. They all grew up together, little, teeny tiny town, like less than 500 ppl. Cassandra, pretty sure you’ve heard of the town since you probably drank the milk from the dairy in said town.

        Anyway the ex was worse than he’d been before I’d left him the first time and it wasn’t long before he got thrown in jail. While he was in jail, hubby would come over almost every night to check on myself and my 3kids. I was in a town where I knew no one and had no car. Hubby had just gitten his job (and has just celebrated 30 years with them), and it was close to his work, so he’d stop by to see if I needed anything or needed to go to the store or anything like that. He’d just stick around and watch tv and talk until 10 or 11pm, go home and do it again the next day. He had a gf at thd time, he even introduced her to me one night. LOL

        But, that trailor was SMALL. I knew I wasn’t going to be stayinv there and as soon as I could I was heading for Texas and one of my best friends. I knew hubby had a date in the city St Patrick’s Day so I asked him if I could get a ride and I,’d be ready whenever he was ready to head back. I had a sitter, and she’d agredd to spend the night so he wasn’t on any time constraints. He agreed. He came after work, it was a Saturday and he worked til noon, but came by to tell me he was canceling his date. I asked if he was planning on going out at all, begged him to take me along, swore I would not get in his way and at least I’d get out for a bit. He agreed. We went out, HE kissed me first (he swears I kissed him first), and the rest is history. We moved in together right away, in iur own place, and got married June 23rd the same year.

        • Cassondra says:

          Holy SMOKES!

          Amy, what a story!

          So had he been in love with you all that time? Did he know it? Did he cancel his date because he wanted to be with you? Or was it just the universe putting the smackdown on the man, saying, “this is the girl for you, dump that other woman!”?

          • Amy Conley says:

            He swears he knew from the first time he saw, he WAS going to get me. Heck the night of what I call our un-date, he not only canceled his other date he even gave up on seeing KISS in concert. He sttil hasn’t seen them in concert, but since I’ve been going to concerts since 1974, I was 14, I’ve seen them 100 times since they always opened for everyone in E’llle during the ’70’s and early 80’s. Same thing with RUSH.
            So yes, he was a man with a plan and he wasn’t even going to let me turning him down 3 -times stop him. After I turned him down the 3rd time he said I had to ask him. I did, even got down on my knee.

          • Jeanne Adams says:

            Oh, Amy, that is just fabulous. I love it!!

          • Cassondra says:

            Amy, I just love that.

            Just. Love. It.
            Thank you for typing all that. What a wonderful story.

        • Amy, that’s a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Cassondra, I don’t know about Erik and Adelaide but I’m salivating for what happens next! I think you’re so right about the progress of a love story being the people gradually seeing through the armor we all put on when we face the world to the real person beneath. I love those aha moments. I’m currently writing a book where my heroine starts out convinced that the hero is a rotter to the bone. It’s lovely showing her that he’s not and watching her battle against the attraction. I love reading that stuff myself! Good luck with the big bonk scene!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Ah yes, the bonk scene.

      Is it out of bounds to say I like the lead-up and the tension better than the actual mattress dance?

      I mean, there are only so many ways to insert tab A into slot B. But there are SO many ways to make you want that. Yaknow?

      Anybody else feel that way?

      Bueller?

      • Cassondra, I think a really well written love scene is wonderful – and a really well written one still has tension in it to keep you interested. As you say, the physical stuff is basically the physical stuff. Having said that, I think my favorite scene in most romances is the first kiss. By the time they’re doing the tango, you pretty much know where they’re going, but the kiss has so many possibilities.

        • Cassondra says:

          Anna, I agree completely. The first kiss is always the most powerful scene in a romance for me.

          And the best love scenes really take the reader so much deeper into the characters (no pun intended) and the intimacy to a completely new level….and not just the physical. You are one of those writers who uses the love scene so well to advance the story. Every time I read one of your love scenes I go, “dang I wish I’d written that.”

          • Wow, thank you, Cassondra, that’s a lovely compliment. I know when I run writing courses and I’m talking about writing the naughty bits, I always say to people that things should be WORSE after a love scene rather than better. They need to ramp up the tension! And as you say, reveal character. There’s something about people naked emotionally as well as naked physically.

  • flchen1 says:

    Oh boy, Cassondra! I’m intrigued already 🙂 And I do love when a story presents characters that get to know each other through the course of the book–that peeling back of layers and revealing and learning which initial assumptions are wrong are such a fabulous part of the story!

  • Helen says:

    Cassondra

    I like the sound of this story and I would guess Adelaide is reading a hot and steamy romance and there is blues music on and maybe she is dtinking a margaritta 🙂 I don’t think anyone has surprised me that much I would have to think on that one 🙂

    I do hope we get to read this one soon

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Cassondra says:

      Aw, thanks Helen.

      I love the blues music! Hadn’t thought of that. And yes, she may well be reading a romance. I know she READS romance, but I’ve been thinking about her character and wondering whether that would surprise him or not. Good thoughts!

  • Shannon says:

    The kind of book would be romantic fantasy see in a vivid jungle world, with orchids in the tree canopy and wound around tree trunks and carpeting the floor. The story conflict would be between a developer race and the woodland spirits.

    The music could be electronica, with a hint of romantic jazz. Or maybe Weird Al Yankovic.

    It’s too early for me to remember something that surprised me.

    He expected it to be ice tea, but is surprised to find it to be rum and coke.

    • Shannon says:

      see=set

    • Cassondra says:

      Ooo…I love the fantasy romance story! Now I want to read THAT! *grin*

      Electronica–my husband loves that! He plays it on his pandora station a lot. Cool suggestion.

      And I like the rum and coke idea!

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    I think she should be reading something like The Art of Seduction or How To Achieve the Big O or a book about the male anatomy. Instead of a cold glass of OJ, he picks it up and can smell the vodka, realizing it’s a screwdriver. As for music, either rock or the oldies like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, etc.

    • Cassondra says:

      Woops, Debbie, I hit the wrong reply button. Talking to you in comment 9, below.

  • Cassondra says:

    Haha! Debbie, that would be quite the lead-in. Reading about the Big O and getting caught. *grin* I love it.

    I’m a fan of Sinatra and his ilk, so it would be really easy for me to go there.

    Screwdriver–now see? That’s why I asked. I woudln’t have thought of that on my own. Love all these ideas!

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Oh, Cassondra, what a FABULOUS lead in!! I love it!!

    I’d have her reading something really unusual, like a book on politics or a classic like Jane Eyre or maybe even something in a foreign language like Le Petite Prince in french. Grins.

    As to music, maybe they play soft jazz at the nursery, but she’s listening to bluegrass or KISS. Grins.

    And drinking neat whiskey.

    Surprises all around.

    Love it, love it love it, can’t wait to read it!

    • Cassondra says:

      Oooooo…good ideas, Jeanne.

      I love the idea that she’d listening to what they DON’T play in the greenhouse all day.

  • Rae S says:

    Books: Calvin and Hobbes – any would do but for fun – Attack of the deranged Killer Monster; Dr. Zhivago, Sylvia Day – any 🙂 or for something really out there a book about fixing cars

    Music: Wherever I May Roam (LIVE with the SFSO by Metallica, Vivaldi Four Seasons, Bob Dylan or AC/DC

    Drinks he suspects she’d be drinking: something blended or fruity, a wine cooler?, perhaps nothing alcoholic at all….

    Drinks: Whiskey, Gin (a slow gin fizz) or a
    Sunshine Cocktail (vermouth, gin and bitters)

    Can’t wait to see what you decide 🙂

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Rae S, I love your suggestions !! Esp love that it would be the SFSO or Metallica. Grins.

    • Cassondra says:

      Rae S, I love all these suggestions! Especially AC/DC, as they are an old flame love affair band for me. I love almost all their music.

      Also love the idea about the fixing cars book, as she’s so NOT mechanically inclined. LOVE it.

  • Becke says:

    Cassondra,
    WE all love to finish a scene… So I’ll turn this on it’s ear.
    What if she’s drinking milk and there’s a half-eaten Oreo on the table where she’s dipped it?

    Music- maybe opera

    Book- A Book of Baby Names

    That should blow a bachelor right out of the water.
    You must be having a ball with these.
    b

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, Becke, that’s great!!!

    • Cassondra says:

      Becke, I’m having SUCH a good time! I actually called Jeanne last night to say, “Do you think I can set the scene up without actually putting the scene itself in the blog?” (because I haven’t finished it yet) and she said absolutely, so I did it.

      I love your suggestions, by the way. The oreo cookie and milk might be perfect!

      Baby names…hmmmm…I’d have to work to set that one up, but I bet I could do it. And yes, it would throw him for a loop. And be really fun for ME, the author to torture these two. *grin* I like your devious side.

    • Becke, these are great! I’d forgotten the pleasures of Oreos and milk.

  • Cassondra, what a great setup!

    I think Adelaide is reading a cookbook and drinking lemonade with Celtic music on the stereo. Maybe not bagpipes because they’re hard to sleep through, but fiddles would work.

    Can’t wait to read the finished book.

  • Marcy Shuler says:

    My first thought was to have her reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting or a book on what you need to do to get pregnant with a specific sex baby. LOL Maybe I just have a strange mind. :p

    She’s drinking tea made by steeping hibiscus.