I need two characters to confess their love for each other, but I can’t figure out how to do that without it being some kind of deus ex machina. How do I make it realistic?
For clarity’s sake, and so as not to assume you’re writing about cis straight characters, let’s label your character “Love 1” and “Love 2”. Cause we progressive like dat.
As with all writing, it depends on the circumstances of your story. First and foremost, the point of view and narrative mode are important—has the whole story only been told in first or third by Love 1? Is the story in the omniscient third, so we know what’s going on in both of their heads? Is the story written in close first, alternating from Love 1 to Love 2 and back?
Let me back up a little bit and tell you why this is important: As with twists, surprises, and anything gratuitous in a story you’re writing, deus ex machina is considered “cheap” and unrealistic because there’s no context. If reading a story is like a relationship—you meet, you warm up to each other, you get involved—deus ex machina, twists, etc. are like learning 6 months in that your significant other was in prison for 5 years right before you met. Basically you’d be like, wtf, where is this coming from.
So what I’m saying is that you need to give this “reveal”—Loves 1 & 2 professing their love to one another—context before it actually happens. In other words, you need to do that lovely thing that we call foreshadowing.
Think about mysteries—the best ones are the ones where you can figure it out yourself before the big reveal, and the most annoying ones are the ones with some big twist at the ending you never could have foreseen. And the best “big love reveals”, of course, are the ones we can see coming and are biting our nails to see happen (I’m looking at you, Jim and Pam!). Kurt Vonnegut famously said, “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.”
In your specific case, you need to make Love 1 and Love 2’s affections for each other known—or at least plausible to the reader—before Love 1 and Love 2 reveal it to each other. Hence why the narrative mode and point of view are important, because how you’re going to present foreshadowing information will vary based on how your story’s being written.
If anyone has anything to add, send an ask!
Whenever there’s an advice page like this, it’s automatically added to the list of topics on our Advice page, which can always be accessed under “Writing Advice” in the navigation or at yeahwriters.tumblr.com/advice.