Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why People Cheat and How to Use That in Your Novel

I came across an intriguing article that spurred my plot-line thinking. “An Expert Look at Why People Cheat” (http://bit.ly/1sqLGy3) got my attention because of the relationship Carrie and Harlan share in my erotic romance series. In Streetwalker, Carrie senses something is off with Harlan’s sexual appetite and his continual search for more and different sexual experiences. His sexual behaviors make it very difficult for him to commit to a monogamous relationship with Carrie, even though he wants it. In Sex for Sale, book two, more is revealed about Harlan’s condition and the two seek help in dealing with it.

But, back to the article, in situations where there is not a medical condition, what makes people stray? Why do they cheat even when they know they’ll be caught? Can’t you see how you could build a great plot line and interesting characters with that information?

In the interview with Dr. Gilda Carle, she shares the research on cheaters and addresses issues like what qualifies as cheating, what are the signs of cheating, how do cheaters justify their behavior, rebuilding trust after cheating, can cheaters change, and more.

So to extend the information into our own books, let’s take a look at some of these elements.

The signs of a cheating partner include taking more care with personal appearance, regularly makes excuses for being late or not showing up at all, and stops listening to you. Probably your gut knows before you do.
Of course, not everyone with excuses is a cheater. We would hope attention to personal appearance is for your benefit. But, if flags go up, the partner should be attentive. In a book this can look like an ordinary-looking paranoid wife expecting her gorgeous husband to stray. She drives the wedge because of her unjustified jealousy. Or he slowly begins to notice that she is absent a lot and when he calls her cell, she doesn’t answer. He wonders if she is faithful. Lots of ways a writer can go with suspicion, paranoia, and found evidence.

Cheaters may not feel guilty at all because they rationalize and justify their behavior.
In your book, the protagonist is feeling neglected by a workaholic boyfriend. One of her co-workers is sympathetic and gets her to go out with a group to form her own life and associations. If the boyfriend isn’t available, don’t sit around waiting for him. Develop other interests and friends. Of course, this has the potential for meeting another lonely guy who girlfriend travels a lot. See where it’s going?

What qualifies as cheating?
Any behavior that splits your time, attention, and/or affection is cheating. So imagine a guy whose wife goes to bed early, but he’s a night owl. He finds some dating sites and decides to play around using a pseudonym--just for fun, he tells himself. Then he happens on a high school friend on the site. She was a queen, back in the day, but appears to have had a rocky time with relationships since high school. They connect. Wife finds out. Hubs claims nothing happened, nothing will happen, just re-connecting. But he spends more and more time on the computer with his friend neglecting communication and time with his wife.

“Once a cheater, always a cheater” is not necessarily true.
People can and do change. A book premise might be that she really wants to change but he doesn’t believe her. Another is that he doesn’t want to change but he wants her to believe he does so he can have it both ways. A third premise is that she doesn’t want to change but he really wants her to so he goes to extreme measures to help her change. See how each story line and the concomitant characters will be very different?

I could go on, but I think I made my point. Click on those Internet articles and quizzes and then let your mind play, “What if …”.

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