“We can go back to my place,” he said. “If you want to give it a try.”
After dinner we’d gone on to a bar. It was our first date, and we were talking about in-line skates. When the clock is closing in on midnight and a guy you hardly know asks you back to his house to go rollerblading, well, what do you think? I could hear the question everyone would ask the next day–good grief, what did you expect? To go rollerblading?
But I wanted to go rollerblading. Turns out that rollerblading in the moonlight is fun.
“Did he kiss you?” my friends asked.
“No,” I said.
They exchanged looks. “Must be a nice guy,” one said. “You think he’ll call?” said another.
I shrugged the way that you do when you’re trying to act like you don’t care. It was just rollerblading, after all. He did call though. And over the next few months he introduced me to his friends. His sister. His parents. “This is Marta,” he said. “We like your girlfriend,” they said, and he didn’t correct them.
“Has he kissed you yet?” my friends asked.
It got harder and harder to answer. “No,” I said, day after day. They speculated–he’s gay. He’s got a disease. He’s impotent. He’s saving himself. Later, they said, “For crying out loud. Why don’t you kiss him?”
All those women’s studies classes were for nothing. “No,” I said.
“Break up with him,” they said. “No,” I said.
For my birthday party they bought me a pin that read–Kiss me. It’s my birthday.
The next morning, “Well?” they asked. I looked at the wall. “No,” I said.
My roommate sang, “Marta and ___, sitting in the tree–looking at each other.”
One night my roommate introduced me to a coworker of hers. The woman looked at me. “So, you’re the girl whose boyfriend hasn’t kissed her yet.” Another night I ran into my boyfriend’s friends. “We don’t know why he hasn’t kissed you yet,” they said, though I hadn’t brought it up.
I just kept shrugging, sighing, and rolling my eyes. “It’s not the most important thing, now is it?” But of course I knew why he hadn’t. It was obvious. A guy doesn’t kiss a girl he doesn’t think is pretty.
Motivation. Why do characters do what they do? Why would a girl stay with a guy who doesn’t want her? Why would the guy hold her hand and bring her flowers if he didn’t like the girl? Why would she stand on the doorstep every night for months thinking that this time she wouldn’t end up crying?
In real life, I don’t know. In fiction, I have to find out. In fiction, understanding and conveying motivation is difficult, but I love that moment of knowing–Yes! This is why. This is why he is able to dash her hopes every night and this is why she lets him.
But it isn’t me or him in the novel (not in a direct and conscious way as far as I know). The bad guy isn’t just a jerk. The traveling companion who came later isn’t the sum of my experience. Why does your bad guy want to ruin everything? Why does your hero try to stop him–or her? The reasons are probably not as simple as we might think.
The only thing left is to convince the reader.