So, I have a kinda loudmouthed character who's always the first to fight and first to go on the offensive (This is a fantasy, so she fights a lot.) But, later in the story, she comes across someone she truly fears, and finds that she must fight that person in order to free the townspeople of an oppressive ruler.

Thing is, I want her to have a moment when she's weeping on her bed, and the MC/her love interest comes to comfort her. Then again, I don't want (insert group here) screaming in criticism and tearing that scene apart.

My question is: How do I show her vulnerability, and have a comforting moment, and tease the romance, without being overly cliche or overboard?

  • 2
    Does your narrative structure allow for an imperfect narrator? Assuming she is the narrator you might avoid cliché by having the dialog clearly being him comforting her but the description of the dialog make it seem like she is comforting him.
    – Myles
    Commented May 30, 2019 at 15:09

5 Answers 5


There is a trick for this in The Emotional Craft of Fiction.

It's called 'me centered narration.'

Essentially, you have the character express at length in narrative (protest too much) what she wants everyone to think about her, in this case the opposite attribute of what she is actually feeling.

He came into my room and I quickly wiped my eyes, before he could see my tears. I refused to show any vulnerability, I was nothing like the girls in town, who constantly needed help for the least little thing. That wasn't me.

"What's wrong" he asked gently.

"Nothing." I busied myself about the room, not looking at him, afraid that doing so would lead me to another melt down. Where had that come from? I wasn't a frail little girl who needed saving. I'd saved myself long ago--knew plenty well how to stay ahead of trouble.


"All right," he said at last, "I'm glad you're okay."

He made to leave, and I said, "No, wait."

Of course if you did something like this it'd be in your style, which this isn't. I think what it might do for your case is to keep the screaming hordes from saying your girl character is acting out of character. Instead, the scene serves to deepen her character and show that she has inner conflict.

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    +1 never heard of this. I've been struggling to write the inverse scene (hero comes to apologize, ends up talking only about himself).
    – wetcircuit
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 19:31
  • 5
    Works in third person too. Commented May 29, 2019 at 19:41
  • This is great, but "not like the girls in town" is cliche xD. Edgy teen. By the way that's a great example
    – Tasch
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 16:16

Switch the bravery. For this scene, her love interest is the brave one. As always, create a conflict between them. First draft of a long example:

Marcie heard something, a gasp, and moved to the back of the house. She heard it again, from Lexi's room, and moved to the door. Crying. Muffled crying. It sounded like Lexi. Was she crying? She thought she should walk away, respect her privacy, but the thought of Lexi actually crying was too much. She opened the door and walked in.

Lexi jumped, wiping her eyes. "Get out. Get out of here!"

"You're crying. What happened?"

Lexi wouldn't meet her eyes, she turned her head to the side. "Nothing."

"No, something." Marcie took a slow step toward her.

Lexi stood and faced her, eyes red, then strode to meet her. She raised her voice. "I said, get out!"

Her fists were clenched. She was angry. Marcie felt herself flush, she almost turned and ran, but stood her ground. Her knees felt weak. Her voice trembled. "I won't. You don't cry. So something's really wrong, Lexi. Tell me what's wrong."

Lexi's expression changed, from anger to ... is it sorrow?

"I'm sorry," Lexi said. "I shouldn't scare you." She turned back and sat on the bed, then fell face first into the pillow. She didn't say anything else.

Marcie hesitated, then moved to sit on the bed beside her, and put her hand on Lexi's shoulder, which made Lexi twitch. "Tell me."

Lexi's voice was muffled through the pillow. "I'm afraid. I have to fight Petrovski, and I think he might kill me."

Petrovski. Holy shit. "Wow. That's a really good reason."

Marcie was silent, thinking. Lexi sat up, and looked at her, half amused. "You think so?"

Marcie's hand had fallen to her lap. "Well. I would cry."

Lexi sniffed. "You cry if you spill coffee on yourself."

"Coffee stains, and that was my favorite dress!"

Lexi nodded, and leaned left to gently bump into Marcie, then looked away toward the window. "I know. What do you do when you're afraid?"

Then, however her love interest comforts her, proceed.

  • 1
    Amadeus you're so awesome jeez. Thoughtful and amusing answer
    – Tasch
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 16:22
  • 1
    Very well written sample! I often have trouble with emotional scenes (not very emotional), so this helps me too. Commented May 20, 2020 at 18:26

I think it depends on the build up whether it seems fake. The character shouldn't just jump to tears. They should go through the whole grief cycle. This should happen even maybe in the span of a single conversation to show how upset she is.

She should seem put off but hopeful she can change it or something isn't real. Then she should be stand offish but depressed as she comes to understand something isn't working out or isn't changing. Then she should be angry at the world or something in particular, potentially irrationally angry even at the person that eventually comforts her. How could he understand what she is going through?! Then finally she should break and the tears should flow. As the tears flow, despite being attacked, he pulls her close to his chest. He may not understand what she is angry about, but he understands her.

Have some build up showing this is brewing a bit before it suddenly unravels, or do each stage longer and over several days. Just depends on how you want this scene to exactly play out.


I always search for words that would convey or express the characters emotion when the character is in an emotional state. For example, if I have a sad, crying character but I don't want the typical "sad, crying" character to be depicted, then I search for words such as: sad, crying and I look at the synonyms to those words- and for sad, I would use despondent EX: She was in a despondent state causing a few tears to slip from her eyes," or something like that.

  • 2
    Can you expand on this a bit? How does this help you avoid being cliché or mushy?
    – Meg
    Commented May 30, 2019 at 15:27

Put emotion into it, but don't do it the way so many people (I mean the mushy ones) do. Learn what they do and avoid it.

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