The Apology

I have noticed that The Apology is a common theme in romance writing of all kinds: novels, movies, songs.  So I thought I would explore what it takes to write a great apology scene.

Context is the first big feature of a good apology.  Let’s just imagine it is a guy who is apologizing (another pattern I have noticed, and the context may explain why).  A good apology comes from the recognition that something of value has been damaged or broken and he has the power to fix it.  An apology given from a place of “I’m dogmeat and you don’t really understand how hard it is for me” never works for me.  I want to feel like the guy is on his game and steering the ship. Apologizing from a position of strength, a knowing what is ultimately important and that he has the power to fix it, is much better.  Receiving an apology should actually be enjoyable.

Once the guy is in the right frame of mind, there are four steps to a good apology. This comes from psychology and my own experience.  If he covers all the bases the woman (and every readers who is imagining she is her) will actually be glad the bad thing happened because it was a catalyst for this great event.

1. State what you did wrong.

“If I hurt you I’m sorry” is the opposite of accomplishing this step.  What are we talking about here?  Put it on the table.  “I never meant to hurt you” is a statement of self-protection.  Why would that be the big point in an apology?  Focus on the girl and what the experience was like for her.

2. Fix the damage.

Whatever mess has been created, undo it.  If you humiliated her in front of other people, go to them and state that it was wrong and she deserves to be treated with respect.  If you broke something, get it repaired.  In whatever physical what you can, restore things to the way they were before the offending event occurred.

3. Give reasonable expectation there will be no repeat performance.

This could be signing up for AA is excessive drinking was the problem.  Reading a book, taking a course, talking to a friend, making a commitment to give up something of value if it ever happens again.  And then his word is his bond.  If a commitment is made and he doesn’t follow through, the girl has to accept the answer she is being given through his actions and find a safe place for herself.  Forgiveness shouldn’t happen until you know you are not vulnerable to the same damage again.  It is good to receive an apology and give a person you care about a second chance.  It is also good to receive what he is saying through his actions and take appropriate actions. When a character turns a blind eye to abusive behaviour she becomes unrelated-able (invented a word there) and sometimes less likable.

4. Ask what you can do to make it better.

Even when the damage is repaired physically, there is an emotional piece that still needs to be taken care of.  This is also where the girl has to decide what would it take for her to let go of her pain.  There is an imbalance between them and he is saying he is willing to do what it takes to bring that balance back.  She has to know not to make the price so high that she does damage in return.  The fact that he asks is a big message that what she feels matters to him. What she asks for is a visible expression of how strong her connection is to herself (is he going to have to make her feel better about herself of just better about the situation?) and what she sees as valuable in the relationship.  Be careful what you ask for takes on a whole new meaning here.

Have you ever been given this kind of apology?

I can actually say I have.  Most often I get a few of the steps, but when I get the whole enchilada it is magical!

Happy writing!

About Kim Hudson

KIM HUDSON Author of The Virgin’s Promise I grew up in the Yukon, as what I would describe as a Hero’s daughter with a Cinderella Complex. Basically life taught me many of the things I needed to know to write my first book, The Virgin's Promise. It is on a story structure for a character that needs to connect to who she really is, separate from what everyone else expects of her. It uses movie example and is equally applicable to any kind of story telling. I spent the first half of my career first as a field geologist and later as a federal land claims negotiator. It was the 80's and I was proving I could do whatever men could do. I also learned that I am fascinated with masculine/feminine dynamics. Exploring my feminine side became important to me as I raised my two daughters. This lead me to study Writing for Film and Television at Vancouver Film School, and take courses on mythology, feminism and psychology including a Jungian Odyssey in Switzerland. The theory of the Virgin's journey was developed by closely observing the archetypal expressions that are all around us in movies, music, television, advertisements and stories of personal growth, including my own. In my posts I want to introduce an archetypal structure that expands the work of Joseph Campbell on the Hero's journey to include a feminine archetype. I hope it will create stories about women and men who follow their spiritual, sexual or creative awakening, otherwise known as their feminine side. I’ve tried to use examples of male and female Virgins to show this. So go ahead and explore the ideas, tell me what movies you liked and what stories you think is also a Virgin pathway, or stories of your own personal Virgin journey.
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3 Responses to The Apology

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    Kim, my first thought reading this was that I should put up these steps on the refrigerator for my husband to see. Then I thought, maybe I should put them up for myself. lol I don’t like the “I’m sorry but…” and that’s probably what I’m guilty of. The only good “but” replies are “but I was an idiot” or “but I was wrong.” Maybe that’s what I should put on the fridge. And I very much like Nr. 4 about doing something to make it better. That’s the ultimate apology. 🙂

  2. Amy Knupp says:

    Hi Kim, really good points. I hadn’t thought of apologies like this before, but you’re totally right! I love when a book hero gets the apology right, and yes, when a real-life person gets it right, it’s even better. 🙂

  3. Mary Hughes says:

    Hi, Kim,

    Thanks for the post! Great topic, and you’ve given me a new way to look at apologies!

Comments are closed.