Push, pull and ethics in fiction

Push and pull make for a great love tale.

After all, if the two main characters are strongly attracted to each other and nothing is keeping them apart, there is no story!

Barriers to love may be internal or external, or—for a more richly rewarding reader journey—a combination of both.

When I was writing House of Hearts, bringing my “opposites” (Lisa the serious psychologist and Will the playboy) together was the easy part.

In a previous day job, I’d helped publicise the work of gambling addiction therapists, so I gave Will a mild gambling problem and placed Lisa in the clinic he attended in Las Vegas.

Image courtesy Farrinni

I found a barrier for their budding relationship. The trouble was it was too convincing! 

In common with the Australian Psychological Association Code of Ethics, the American Psychological Association stipulates a ban on client and therapist dating for two years, and for good reason. As with many professional relationships, the therapist client power imbalance is extreme, with clients potentially far too vulnerable and open to exploitation.

Handsome Will had his own powers. He was a master of persuasion, especially when it came to women. 

But anything goes in fiction, including in romance, a genre both popular and vast—or does it?

My aim is to write believable, “feel-good” and “ethical” fiction at the “clean and wholesome” end of the romance spectrum.

For House of Hearts, to ignore or conveniently reduce the length of the ban was not an option. I had no wish to distort facts nor potentially create harm.

However, I really struggled with how to make Lisa and Will’s relationship both ethical and plausible—so much so that I seriously considered ditching the whole quest.  

It was a beta reader who challenged me to stay the course; to stay true to reality and still make the story work, despite Will and Lisa’s sizzling mutual attraction.

Though Lisa was familiar with establishing clear boundaries with her clients and insisting they respect them, when it came to Will, she was astonished to discover herself transgressing.

How did Lisa wield control?

And if Will—famous for fooling around—really wanted Lisa in his life for the long run, Will had to embrace the reality that if he really loved Lisa, he had to respect and protect her career as well.

Would Will comply?

With House of Hearts now complete and out in the world with House of Diamonds, I’m putting finishing touches on House of Spades. 

The third book in the House of Jewels series will focus on the push and pull between Flame the drifter and Ross the hermit, who clash before finding common ground in the Byron Bay hinterland.

Thanks again to my VIPs for your interest in my work and wonderful words of encouragement!

Find my books.

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