Those of you who remember the good ole days of Moonlighting back in the ‘80’s – age alert! Yes, I remember it, too well – will know what I mean here. Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd were electric in the roles of former fashion model Maddie Hayes and private detective David Addison.
Their connection, their attraction, the sizzle every time they hit the screen together, made a nation return episode after episode, anticipating that first touch, that first kiss, that first admission of interest – and dare I say it – love.
And when it happened?
Maddie and David finally gave the viewer a sense of their life as a couple. Their consummation ended an anticipation that had captivated millions through two and a half years of romantic tension, and those next few episodes were among the highest rating shows the network had ever seen. If Cybil hadn’t taken a break to have twins and Bruce hadn’t made it big with Die Hard, perhaps the show would have continued. The sizzle on the set, the anticipation of this couple together, would have brought those same viewers back for more.
Now, let’s return to the present.
I’ve recently discovered the pleasures of Netflix, and my obsession right now? Gilmore Girls.
Anyone else love this show?
I watched and loved this show when it first hit TV back in 2000, and I couldn’t resist another wander down memory lane.
So I began to watch …
I finally reached season 5, episode 3; made it through five whole seasons, waiting for the moment, the kiss, the relationship of relationships – Lorelai and Luke.
The anticipation was a mixture of sweet bliss and torture. I survived every one of Lorelai’s failed affairs. All of Luke’s bumbling, his insecurities, his realization. I loved and sweated through every minute of it.
In situations like this, it would be oh, so easy to skip ahead and start at the moment. But where would be the fun? The blood-heating, nerve-tingling anticipation?
I watched every episode. Didn’t miss a minute. Waited and worked my way through each season until I got to ‘the one’. That entire episode held me on tenterhooks, waiting for it …
And when it came – Oh. My. God.
Even thinking about it my heart races, my blood heats and I have a huge grin on my face.
I watched, felt, melted, my mind railing over how they’d taken so long. Yet not once did I regret the four previous seasons. The waiting, knowing all-the-while what would happen. The journey made the end all-the-more sweet.
Luke and Lorelai don’t own the rights on nail-biting, blood-racing anticipation. We saw much of the same with Ross and Rachel in Friends. Richard and Kate in Castle. Meredith and Derek in Grey’s Anatomy. Carrie and Mr Big in Sex in the City. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the gist.
And so, finally, we arrive at the much anticipated point of this post. Is anticipation of the ‘known’ overrated? After all, we entered each one of these fictional worlds knowing that at some point the network would give in, and give their characters their happy ever after.
So, does ‘knowing’ lessen the suspense? The anticipation?
I’d hazard a guess you already know my answer, but I’ll give it to you anyway.
In fact, I’ll take this point a step further and say not only is anticipation not overrated, but it’s the lynchpin of any good story, and in particular, any good romance.
So, how do we as writers build anticipation in our stories?
The lynchpin of lynchpins. Without conflict in romance, the central couple have nothing keeping them apart. And with nothing to keep them apart, there’s nothing to prevent their happy ever after at page one.
Not much of a story when there’s only one page, right?
Every character – whether central or secondary – should have a goal. Something to drive them through the plot. Something to make the reader care for them and cheer for them and give a damn. Something to give them drive, direction and determination.
But it’s not enough for a character to have a goal. They need a rock-solid reason to not just need that goal, but crave it, hunger for it. They must be lost – unable to live – without it.
And if that’s not enough, there’s more. Something – physical, emotional or spiritual – barricading their path to that goal. As writers – our characters’ scriptwriters, their directors – we must make it difficult, challenging, near impossible, for them to achieve whatever it is that drives them through their story. We need an external conflict, something – perhaps even their soon-to-be partner – standing in their way. We need internal conflict – insecurities, fears, emotions – holding them back, feeding their doubts and the little voice in their ear that says they’ll never do it. We need the reader to believe that goal is way out of their reach – there’s too much standing in their way – yet all-the-while the reader must know it will happen, because – newsflash – we write romance, so the happy ever after is guaranteed.
Talk about anticipation!
Talk about a right riveting read.
Whether it be Lorelai’s story, or someone else’s, we need anticipation to feed our hunger and imagination. Without it, we won’t stay riveted, waiting, hungering, for the moment our couple enact their metaphorical ‘I do’.
Without it, the happy ever after won’t taste half as sweet.
So, who are your favorite TV couples? Your favorite big screen couples? Your favorite novel couples? How long till they got together? How long is long enough?
Luke and Lorelai kissed after eight years. Would you wait that long? Watch a show that long? Savor the wait until satisfied?
Share your thoughts. Is anticipation overrated?
Michelle loves hearing from her readers, so please visit www.michelle-somers.com, or chat with her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Michelle's latest release, 'Murder Most Unusual', a seductive romantic suspense set in Melbourne, is now available (click on cover to purchase)