Posts Tagged ‘OSNB’

January 27, 2012

Musings, OSNB

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I’m afflicted — cursed, if you will — with being that most heinous of attributes: Nice.

Too nice.

Some people — normal people — might think nice is a good thing. And that is, indeed, the case when you’re dealing with fellow human beings. A little kindness can go a long, long way.

But when you’re an author trying to make life difficult for your hero and heroine, a nice streak as wide as the mighty Mississippi just gets in the way.

Trust me, I know. That’s my CP’s main complaint with the MS she’s reading for me right now — and it was the main point of one of the agents who gave me detailed feedback on my 2011 Golden Heart finalist.

Obviously, it’s a problem for me.

I think it boils down to this: My characters are like old friends (some of them very old, having been knocking around my head since the mid-1990s). As I wrote in a guest post on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood last spring, they’re folks I’d enjoy meeting for coffee or dinner.

And because I like these people, the last thing I want is to see them suffer.

But suffer they must. In the words of my CP, I need to  “Make them wiggle. Make them squirm. Make them unhappy. Uncomfortable. Put roadblocks in their way. Conflict is what drives a book and keeps the reader wondering how they will ever end up together.”

I can see her point. There’s not much keeping someone reading if they know the hero and heroine are meant for each other halfway through the story, is there?

That means I have to accept that torturing my characters — as much as I hate to do it — will make the story stronger in the end.

So I’m taking off the gloves. Now I just need to figure out how to channel the meanest person I know.

My writing output seems to drop in direct correlation to any increase in blog reading. That’s a problem, I know — but if I don’t take the time to read a few blogs, how can I expect anyone to read mine?

Besides, if I stopped reading, I’d miss out on gems like this one from Janice Hardy’s blog, The Other Side of the Story. She writes:

Choices that don’t cause trouble are wasted opportunity. The whole point of a book is to show someone overcoming adversity to win. If there’s nothing to overcome, there’s no point in the winning.”

What a way to put it!

It’s no secret that I struggle with conflict. (I blame it on being a Libra. Libras strive for fairness and avoid conflict.) Judges’ comments I got on my first completed MS — even after several new drafts — consistently said “not enough conflict to sustain the story.”

What? You mean a girl falling for one guy when she’s trying to “snag” another one altogether isn’t conflict?

Not according to Hardy. She writes, “A choice between two good things with no consequences for making that choice is probably not going to hold your reader’s interest.”

Well, I already knew Brad and Erin’s story needed help. I tried to remedy it in subsequent drafts by casting suspicion on him … I even hacked out their original “black moment” (such as it was. The “Battle of the Birth Control” was pretty silly when I look back at it with a more experienced eye.)

The key for me is to remember that my hero and heroine have to make choices. And those choices have to mean something. The potential for disaster should loom around every corner.

I think that is the case in my more recent stories. Bethany’s decision to talk Cody into applying for the TV show lands them in a heap of trouble. When Kenny asks Kristi to pretend to be his fiancee, things get out of hand quickly.

Hmm. All my blog reading must be teaching me something about the craft.

Thanks to one of my NARWA sisters, I found another contest to enter … a chance to win a pitch with a Harlequin American editor. Since I’ve long envisioned “Operation Snag Mike Brad” as an American Romance, I decided to go for it.

I can’t say I always envisioned it in that line. When I first wrote it, I had the Love and Laughter or Silhouette Yours Truly lines in mind. But since those are both defunct (sadly, if you ask me), I switched to AR.

The entry requires a one-page synopsis — something I’m getting better at writing, I think — and a logline.

Having never heard of a logline before, I did a little poking around at eharlequin.com. Apparently it’s also known as a “concept line” and is designed to give the editor a broad picture of your story.

One way to write one is to start with a well-known storyline, then reveal the twist that makes your story stand out. You can also use a familiar book or movie as your starting point, so you come up with something like “Elle Woods meets the Terminator” or “Beauty & the Beast set in outer space.”

The advice is straightforward enough, but I’m finding myself confused. Maybe it’s just because my MS is a big, confused mess.

I hope not.

Anyway, here’s the logline I’ve come up with so far:

“Operation Snag Mike Brad” blends “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” — but in reverse.

In “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” you have a reporter working on a story and using outrageous advice to get dumped. (Erin is a reporter following a book’s outrageous advice to snag “the man of her dreams” while she’s chasing a big story that’ll get her out of small-town Indiana once and for all.)

In “Some Kind of Wonderful,” you have a guy who thinks he’s in love with one girl but ends up realizing he’s in love with his best friend. (Erin thinks she’s in love with Mike but ends up realizing he’s more like her best friend and she’s really in love with with Brad instead.)

So both flicks apply — at least loosely. The “reverse” part is the whole using the book to snag the guy (not lose him) and the fact that it’s the girl, not the guy doing the falling.

I’m still not wild about it. At least I have a few more days to play.

Over at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, my writing blog home away from home, I read a fantastic post the other day. It was all about what editors want from a category romance.

After reading it, I wonder if Brad and Erin’s story is as ready as I thought. I break nearly all of the guidelines:

  1. Stir internal conflict on EVERY page.
  2. Minimize secondary characters.
  3. Let your main characters be active.
  4. Get them together.
  5. Keep them together.
  6. Give them reasons to love each other.

Hmm. I already know the story is a little thin on conflict. For the first several chapters, the main one is Erin thinks she wants Mike to notice her but she’s starting to like Brad, too.

My secondary characters, including Mike, all play what may be too large a role. Not surprising, considering they each have their own story. Brad and Erin’s is the first in a series.

Are they active? I don’t even know how to start thinking about that. That means the answer is probably a big, fat “NO.”

As for getting them together, Brad and Erin don’t have a scene together until page 12 — and that’s after Erin has her first scene with Mike. And keeping them together? Well, they go out on several dates (including an ill-fated trip to Chicago for a concert), but there are plenty of scenes in between with one or the other talking to someone else.

Do I give them reasons to love one another? Well, they’re both good people, and fine upstanding citizens of these United States. And it goes without saying that they’re beautiful (most heroes and heroines are, after all). He likes her sense of humor and honesty; she’s attracted to his body and soul.

Hmm. That may also be a little on the thin side. I’m beginning to wonder if this book will ever sell without yet another overhaul … Ugh. That’s a horrible thought, not least of all because I’m way too invested in these characters. Of all my characters, Erin is most like me (education reporter with no luck in love — all me when I wrote the thing).

On the plus side, I thought of a way to make Meg & Matt’s story, “Beauty and the Ballplayer” more closely adhere to the guidelines I just discovered. I’m going to lop off the first several pages (which I’ve decided are all backstory, despite the fact that I love the first line:

Meg looked at the pregnancy test stick in her hand, hoping like hell she misinterpreted it.

The rest of the first few pages have her thinking about how, at 32, she’s too  old to be pregnant and alone, and about how her ex ran off to Vegas to become a professional poker player.

I think I’ll start with her and Matt meeting at the bar instead.