Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

Change of plan? December 26, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 2:06 am
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So I’m awake at 1.30am Boxing Day morning. Don’t want to be. My husband and one of the cats are snoring with varying degrees of quietness by my side, but I’m struggling with a sinus headache that the painkillers don’t seem to touch. Plus a couple of characters who won’t sit to one side quietly and let me get going with another story. 

Luk and Emma are demanding that I have another try at giving then their happy ever after. It feels like they are going to keep nagging at me until I do it.

I don’t want to be one of those never-to-be-published writers who keep rewriting the same sorry story for years, refusing to move on to something new. I do want to keep trying to get this story right though. This is supposed to be my “learning story” , and I really want to crack it. One more try is all it gets.

The clues should have been there. Like that post a few days ago that was supposed to be about Adam, my new hero, but morphed into a discussion about Luk. Like Luk staying put, smiling that killer smile of his, telling me he can change if I want him to, he’ll be whoever I want him to be.

I’m just not ready to let go of these characters yet. The plan was to have a break, first draft a different story during January, then come back to them fresh in February. That would be sensible. But I’m thinking about Luk and Emma far more than Adam and Kate. I want to go straight onto working out what doesn’t work and another rewrite.

My biggest problem is that form rejection. I have no idea what is wrong with the story.

Is it that my voice just isn’t right for Presents and I need to target another line, but the premise isn’t bad? Is it that my hero just isn’t heroic enough, his motivation is all wrong? Is it that my heroine is too weak, too pathetic and sorry for herself? Is my plot too convoluted, and my characters forced to shape themselves to fit it, rather than the other way around? Is there too much sexual arousal (even though the only touching in that first chapter is a brush of hands) and not enough genuine emotion? Do those things I thought were clever, actually work against the story because they are a form of authorial intrusion pretending to be the heroine’s thoughts, that drag the reader out of the flow? (Okay, I already know the answer to that one!)

Or all of the above?

I know for sure that not enough happens in the first chapter, they sit and talk for most of the time, and there’s a lot of introspection, with not enough physical beats. Even though what they are discussing is crucially important to them both, it goes on too long. Something I see in Susanna’s winning Presents chapter that’s not in mine, and would have grabbed the editors- there’s a lot of story being told and shown, and a lot of physical and emotional action.

I know that Luk’s behaviour and motivation needs a lot of work. Even if his initial motivation remains to avoid taking on the additional responsibility, he needs to grow up a helluva lot faster than my original premise called for. I feel that Emma isn’t a truly sympathetic character yet either. She’s telling the reader things in her internal monologue that could come across as “Poor little me”, or too self-conciously aware to be believable. Maybe she needs to be more the character she was in the very first draft, who even had a different name.

So- Luk’s motivation needs to be different- more noble, less self-serving. At the very least, he needs to have better and more obvious reasons for his reluctance to go back to the island. Though maybe as Eileen suggested in a comment on the last discussion of this, it doesn’t matter if his motivation is less heroic, so long as his actions are. Emma needs changes too, needs to be feistier, more of a fighter than a victim. I’m not convinced by the way she was in the first chapter that she could make a good princess.

I’m seeing how the opening chapters and a few key scenes can change to work better. Island politics are going to be more complicated than they looked on first appearances (I need to be careful not to turn this into a poor copy of Marion Lennox’s Royal Marriage of Convenience, which I read when I was looking to see how other writer’s managed similar themes).

The conflict, especially good strong relationship blocks, need a lot more development. Luk not wanting to stay on the island longer than he has to to keep the country safe, and his belief he can’t be a good husband, just doesn’t feel deep enough. And Emma doesn’t have a good relationship block right now. Her low self-esteem makes her see herself as unlovable, but it wouldn’t take much to get over that. Her success in her new role as princess works a lot to build her self-belief. So somehow Luk’s behaviour needs to feed powerfully into that particular self-doubt in some way. It needs to come from within the relationship. I have loads of ideas for external stuff, from scheming PR people to paparazzi photos, but that’s not going to cut it!

The rewritten story will be a Romance, not Presents. Another issue with my competition entry was that the tone wasn’t Presents. but it wasn’t Modern Heat either. I think the Romance voice may be more natural to me. Still a massive challenge, to bring out the sweet magic of falling in love, the emotion and yearning for each other, the heartbreak of feeling it can’t possibly work out, without relying on dramatic sex and sensuality.

Would you do me a favour please? Here’s my competition synopsis. I know it’s weak and corny in places. The story was rejected, so I’m not going to be precious about it! Shred it for me. Tell me what you think doesn’t work, what needs to be stronger, what doesn’t ring true for you.

The last thing billionaire Luk di Aquilegia wants or expects is to find himself in line for the throne of the Principality of Melusia. He left the Mediterranean island years before, and has no intention of returning. But when a series of tragic deaths wipe out the Royal family, he may have to choose between loyalty to his country, and his jet-setting lifestyle. Then he discovers there is another heir, unsophisticated Emma Constantin, living in a quiet English village. All he has to do is persuade Emma to become princess. That should be simple enough.

Except Emma’s not so sure she’s princess material. So what if the only excitement in her life is in the romances she reads to Alice, the elderly lady she cares for? She can’t just drop everything and go off with a stranger, no matter how gorgeous, can she? But Luk is not taking “No” for an answer. Emma is swept off her feet and onto his private jet.

Luk takes her to Melusia and returns to London, his problem solved. The island and its people entrance Emma, she finds projects to work on, and a makeover gives her confidence. When Luk returns to Melusia for the Ball to welcome the new princess, Emma has changed. She’s sweetly sexy in a naïve way that arouses and frustrates him. Getting involved with the virgin princess is definitely a bad idea. One impulsive kiss gets them into even bigger trouble.

The kiss was seen, and Emma is now ineligible to be Princess under the strict laws about female Royals. Luk is back where he started, faced with being Prince. He sees one way out- if he marries Emma, she will be the ruler. He can go on with his business and living his own life. A marriage of convenience, on his terms, is his best option. Now he just has to convince Emma of that… before parliament meet and declare she cannot be crowned.

Emma knows this can’t be a marriage in name only- there must be an heir to secure the succession. Can she deal with sex without love? Reluctantly, she agrees. A wedding and a coronation – one ceremony changes Emma’s life forever as she becomes both princess and wife. That night, things change even more as Luk fully awakens her to sensual pleasure.

Luk is startled by how good sex with her is. Emma arouses his passion and emotions like no woman ever has. That bothers him. Love wasn’t part of his plan. At twenty, he was unable to save the life of Bianca, his first wife. Love to him means pain and guilt. He never wants to feel that way again. He has a built in safety net. After the month together they agreed on, he will go back to London, to return for only a few days each month, until she’s pregnant.

Emma is breaking the rules of their marriage. She’s in love with her husband. Her harsh upbringing has made her believe she is unlovable, and she’s convinced Luk will never love her. As the date of his departure nears, she is hiding a secret. She hasn’t told him she has already become pregnant, fearing he will leave sooner. The night before he is due to go, Emma makes the biggest gamble of her life. She tells Luk she loves him, testing him, hoping he will stay. But he leaves her alone in her room, and departs the next day as planned. Luk finds he misses Emma more than he thought possible. Now he has his freedom, he realises it’s not the most important thing. His life is nothing without her, family and relationship are what he really wants. Then Emma emails and tells him she is pregnant, that he needn’t bother coming back, as he’s kept his part of their marriage deal. Knowing Emma is expecting his child deepens Luk’s feelings for her. But can he allow himself to love again? Can he be a good husband and father, after the way he failed Bianca?

Emma is determined to carry on without Luk. At least she will have his child to love. That won’t make up for the lifetime of lonely nights ahead, but it will help. And she has work to keep her busy. Like her air ambulance scheme. When the helicopter lands in front of the crowds at the opening ceremony, Luk gets out, and reveals he’s the mystery donor who’s made it happen. But why is he there? Is it just a feeling of responsibility towards her now she’s pregnant? Or even worse, a publicity stunt? She can get along without him, if he’s there for the wrong reasons. She wants all or nothing from Luk. If he doesn’t love her, he can go.

At last they are alone together. Luk tells Emma how much he missed her, how he hasn’t been able to stop thinking of her while they’ve been apart, and why he resisted falling in love with her. He kneels before her, the princess of his heart, and asks her again to be his wife. A true wife, in a real marriage for the best possible reason- a love that will last forever.


17 Responses to “Change of plan?”

  1. Jackie Says:

    Hey Jane, these two still bugging you huh? 🙂

    I’m looking at this from an MH POV so feel free to take with a healthy grain of salt, but it looks like, from the synopsis, that their internal conflict isn’t developed.
    Why does Emma want to look after her old lady? And why is she unsophisticated? Why is she lacking excitement in her life? Why can’t she drop it all to go off with Luk? What’s all this about a harsh upbringing?
    For Luk, why did he feel he failed his wife and how does this mean he can’t be a good husband?
    My feeling is that you need to put more about their internal conflict in the synopsis and less about the external factors keeping them apart.

    Speaking of external conflict, it IS sounding very complicated. It wouldn’t fly in MH, not sure about Romance. Any way to make it less so? Or maybe this is a Desire story – they have a lot of external stuff happening there.

    Righto, that’s the end of my inspiration for the day. Probably more hindrance than help. 🙂

  2. waitingforthecall Says:

    No, that’s great Jackie! I want other people’s viewpoints as a way of bouncing some ideas.

    There are reasons for all that stuff, but it clearly hasn’t come out in the synopsis. *Sigh* I hoped this time I’d done a better job of keeping it focused on the internal stuff!

    I was up till 5am this morning doing some character development and looking at the story- those two really won’t leave me alone! I used one of the exercises from the online course I just did with Susan Meier, and it helped loads.

    The internal conflicts are there, but I’m still not sure they are strong enough yet. I had the same thought about Desire, as it’s still too external- more so if anything! But having plenty of external conflict doesn’t mean it can’t work in other lines, just that I need to work hard when I’m writing it to be sure that the internal conflict is the main thing keeping them apart, while the external stuff all works to keep throwing them together, and also that the external hooks deeply into the characters’ internal issues. In Luk’s case because he is a reluctant hero, the external stuff is what keeps him from leaving Melusia. Because without that he could just walk away as fast as he can from his attraction to the heroine, from the chaos he senses she is going to make of his controlled and organised life. But it’s not actually the external circumstances that keep him there at all. It’s his strong sense of duty driving the decisions he makes in response to the external events, that won’t let him walk away.

    I think that’s a key difference bewteeen MH and the other lines is that you don’t have the external events keeping characters together to the same extent. Their own attraction keeps them together, stops them walking away. I see MH characters as like two magnets- what attracts them is also what can push them apart.

    I guess at core it is an internal need that brings Luk and Gabi (I’ve changed her name back to the original version) together too. His duty to his country and a sense of justice that he can’t ignore means he has to ensure that the missing heir is found. The fact that the side effect of what he does is allowing him to keep his life as it is should be periferal rather than his main goal here. Then he has a sense of duty towards Gabi when he discovers that he’s actually taken her into a dangerous situation on the island.

    Luk’s character has done a 180! He’s gone from avoiding responsibility to being overly responsible and controlling. That works, because he had these unconvincing traits of being overly controlling in his work but of avoiding any responsibility otherwise before, his motivations initially were primarily selfish. Now what conflicts within him is his sense of responsibility to his country and to Gabi, and his unwillingness to fall in love again. Luk says these new traits fit him much better- I was making him act out of character before.

    Oh, yay, more stuff coming together- just had a good flash about Gabi’s personality and how that pushes all his buttons- she is sooooooooo like his wife who died! I knew she needed to go back to being Gabi for a reason. I started off with one heroine, but then changed to another for some reason I can’t remember now. Gabi was not a carer in a remote village, she lives and works in London, and is an impulsive, look before you leap type person. The heroine’s character has done a 180 as well, but it works too.

    I hope!

  3. waitingforthecall Says:

    Ah- just realised- I still have no idea what the Black Moment and resolution is!

    That could be a slight problem.

  4. C Says:

    Hi there, I’ve been a lurker for a while — never commented, but have appreciated your blogs during the contest (form rejection for my Modern Heat attempt).

    My first thought after reading your synopsis is that the style you’ve used with lots of rhetorical questions doesn’t work very well in this context; I’d say it’s a better marketing copy ploy aimed at readers rather than a synopsis style for editors. I got the immediate sense that you might not have the answers, which raises red flags — as an editor I’d want to know why/how about the character’s inner conflicts and motivations so that I could see where you were going with the story.

    Also, if Emma/Gabi really has that many questions about his motivations, honestly, Presents angst or not, I’m not sure it would be a good idea for her to be with him! 😉 He sounds a bit dodgy to me!

    Rewriting for a different line sounds like a great opportunity to re-explore Luk and rediscover why you and your heroine should like him 🙂

    Good luck with everything.

  5. This one has a lot of problems. And I suspect that editors would not know where to start in order to get it fixed, particularly because you are an aspiring author.

    For example, why would a kiss make M inelgible to be a princess? This after all is the 21st century (and I would be hard pressed to get away with something like that in a Victorian)Being a princess is a matter of birthright. I also do not understand why Luk has to persuade as again surely it is a simple matter of yes or no. For example, were her parents actually married when she was concieved? Also why wouldn’t she want to be a princess? What does she feel her mother was running away from when she left the island? Why is she going to fall for Luk? Does he have to be a prince? Or could he be the son of the chamberlian, called into fulfil his father’s dying wish and recover the lost princess? Why is having to get married to the new princess the worst thing that could happen to him?

    YOu are also focused on the hero’s journey, but not the heroine’s or their mutual growth. There is little evidence of mutual attraction or internal conflict. Instead you rely on contrived circumstances and having things happen rather than having the characters be proactive. They need to take charge of the story.

    MOC is very difficult to pull off as you do really need a strong reason for both parties to marry. Right now the reasons are weak and there is little evidence of growth in the synopsis. Why is the reader going to be desperate for this pair to get together?

    The reason for the form R I suspect is that there are so many things wrong, that you are better off starting again.
    Now what is it about the story that won’t leave you alone? Is it the royal premise , the characters, what precisely do you need to write about?
    You can sell a book after a form R. Donna Alward’s HIred by the Cowboy was a case in point because the premise would not let her go. BUT she changed just about everything in that book except the premise. And she wrote four or five mss in between times so her ability to control her voice grew.

  6. waitingforthecall Says:

    Thanks for your comments, C and Michelle. I need honesty!

    I think because I’m so close to the story, I haven’t seen the problems in my chapter or synopsis as clearly as they appear to someone new. Possibly the same with my crit group too, as they’ve been along for the ride with me and know some of my reasoning behind what is in the story. Or they are just being too kind to say- “Jane, that sucks!” There are answers to all the questions you both raise, which I’ve dismally failed to get across in the synopsis. For example the medieval laws of the island, about six hundred years behind on equal rights for women, set up to prevent there ever being a ruling princess, which precipitate the MoC.

    I do think the central problem is the hero. His goals and behaviour are so far off what they should be. His reasons are sound, to him, and he changes massively, but his growth needs get in the way of him being truly hero material for too much of the story. There isn’t enough reason for the heroine to fall in love with him. He’s rich, handsome, and good in bed. Not good enough reasons for more than infatuation- because the emotional connection is lacking in the story as it is now. As he tells her, she’s lived a sheltered life and met few men, let alone young reasonably attractive men, and how she feels about him is mixed up with the glamour of her new life, and her first sexual experiences – she can’t possibly know that she loves him.

    As to why I want to keep writing this story- sheer bloody-mindedness. I’m not going to let this story beat me! I feel I will learn more by keeping on trying to get this one right than working on something new that will most probably have just as many problems, at their core not new issues, but identical ones about character and conflict.

    I know there are some stories that will simply never work out and need to be abandoned, but I’m not ready for that yet with this one. The characters do keep popping up with suggestions! They’ll fade away once I start work on the next story, I know, just as they replaced the characters before them. I want to give this one more try.

    What story do I want to tell? A fairy tale, about a girl taken out of her drab ordinary life to the enchanted castle by the sea where she can fall in love with her handsome prince.

    Except the hero was not at all heroic, and the plot had holes I could drive a red bus through! In some ways the first draft made more sense that this version- I took out the original reason for the MoC because it was too long and too externally based. What I didn’t realise was that taking that out took a crucial chunk of heroic behaviour from Luk too, and left him looking offensively selfish.

    The changes I have made to the characters, their conflict, and the plot since I put this post up last night should fix a lot of the problems. The next synopsis will look very different. I suspect even if I write it well enough, it won’t be publishable, as it may be too similar to other stories by far better writers.

    But I hope I will learn enough in the process not to make the same mistakes on my next story!

    Edited to add- Good luck with your next story, C!

    And Michelle- There’s a point I skimmed over the first time I read your comment- thinking “Nope”. On second look, it’s perfect! Why does Luk have to a prince? He has been in line for the throne all along all along, but I retrofitted the crazy thing about him not wanting to be prince because that would mess up his perfect life. It’s never rung true for him and just created some weak artificial conflict. Either he’s next in line but a strong sense of justice and principle drive him to find the missing heir who would be ahaead of him; or he’s not in line to inherit himself at all, but has been trusted with this task by the old prince. That may work far far better with the new ideas for the story and the characters.

  7. Eileen Says:

    Who knows what editors are thinking? But I’ll tell ya what bothered me as a potential reader/buyer 🙂 Making the highlight of Emma’s pre-Luk life reading novels aloud to an elderly lady made her come off as pathetic (and not in a way that I can sympathize with). I’d be more intrigued hearing about some other aspect of her life in the synopsis. Does she work? Is she a social worker overwhelmed with work or a kindergarten teacher who is so overwhelmed with five year-olds that she’s too tired to have a life of her own? If she’s much older than 20 she really should have a job or extenuating circumstances.

    I was also not a fan of the bit about Luk only noticing her after the makeover. I think you need to describe some sort of spark in their interactions pre-makeover that can turn into a big lusty fire post-makeover.

    The really big plot question for you is going to be whether or not your plot needs this marriage of convenience. Either she’s the heir and he shows up for the coronation ball and then keeps finding excuses not to leave (including seducing her into his bed). Or she’s sort-of the heir (I think someone before me asked whether she’s an illegitimate heir or not) and when he realizes that (she’s already agreed to go back and do princess duty) they get married so that she can still do princess duty.

    Just thinking about it, you’ve got a prince, a marriage of convenience and a secret baby …

  8. waitingforthecall Says:

    LOL, my synopsis obviously did not do the story any favours at all! Looks like I chose to chop all the stuff I should have left in out, and left in all the stuff I should have chopped.

    I feel like I’ve locked myself out of the house in a skimpy towel that doesn’t quite cover the bits I want it to, showing everyone how bad my writing is!

    I’m low and frustrated tonight- my work on the story has made it worse by overcomplicating things, making the hero unheroic and the heroine unsympathetic. The main problem was- I was trying to write to a line that is natural for me. I do need to write more to discover my voice than keep trying to target publication.

    Maybe I should give up on this story, it’s too fatally flawed, but I’m determined not to let it beat me.

    In the Presents version, Emma has been brought up by her grandmother, and leaves school at sixteen to care for her after a stroke, up to her death a few months before the story starts. Her grandmother was a narrow minded woman, made bitter being left a widow with a baby by her irresponsible husband the runaway prince. She gave Emma a home out of a sense of duty but not love, and made sure Emma is well aware of that. When her GM dies, Emma is in a remote English village with no family, no transport, no money, no confidence, and no qualifications, her only asset a decrepit unrentable cottage her GM made her promise never to sell. Her only job skill is caring for the elderly, so that’s what she does. She genuinely loves the people she looks after, and knows that if she wasn’t there, they wouldn’t be able to stay at home any longer and would need to move into residential care, as Emma doesn’t charge as much as she should for what she does.

    And Luk definitely does feel an attraction to Emma before the makeover. It’s Emma’s attitude that is changed more by the makeover- she’s far more confident, flirty, almost daring him to act on the attraction she hopes he feels.

    She is definitely the real heir, ahead of him in the precedence. But she has no idea at all of this, until he tells her.

    Anyway, all this irrelevant as it’s going to change. I’m going back to something far closer to the original version which was more of a Sweet Romance in tone, before I had the urge to make it more Presents (well, the characters did, by suddenly hotting things up in chapter 4!)

    Emma’s character was very different and was called Gabi in the first version, and Luk wasn’t the second in line, just someone important to the country who’d been given the job of finding the lost heir and bringing them home. The original story also included the MoC, but the reasons were different. That version would have needed around 80,000 words- it was very busy with external conflict. I’m not sure when and why I decided it worked better to have Luk as next in line wanting to avoid becoming Prince- clearly a bad idea. I think I felt it made the internal conflict stronger.

    In the new version, they will most likely plan a MoC to secure the throne for her, but won’t actually marry. The black moment will be after they overcome the external forces (the corrupt council, in the pay of the gang masters) and each of them thinks they are giving the other what they most want by cancelling the wedding.

    Probably no better than the last crappy version of course!

  9. waitingforthecall Says:

    I’m overcomplicating things again!
    If I keep the focus on the developing relationship, there are only two things to think about- what draws then together, and what keeps them apart.

  10. Jane —
    You have several stories here.
    1. The story about an irresponsible prince made responsible through the love of a good woman.
    2. A Cinders type fairy tale where an ordinary girl is whisked away to a castle and her inheritance and falls in love with the one man she shouldn’t. (This one does not have to be a royal story btw. There are many scenarios where a woman suddenly inherits a beautiful house after her parents were estranged)
    And possibly a third MOC one. Too many story lines shows a lack of confidence in your characters and their basic conflict with each other.
    YOu need to decide which story you want to tell. Also you need to make sure that your heroine holds some cards. The heroine needs to be aspirational. She has to have dreams. Even today, living in a remote village in England, women can have an education and dreams. Why is the sophisticated prince/hero going to fall in love with her? What is she good at?
    With Romance in particular, the reader needs to be able to walk in the heroine’s shoes and clearly identify with the heroine’s problems, hopes, desires and dreams.

    And yes, sometimes you do have to work with a story but also sometimes, that story takes more work than if you start out with something fresh. The best way to rewrite something like this is to start from scratch rather than trying to rework old material. So save those parts that you love/need to have to make the story your but rewrite the words. It is the pink sourdough method.
    Been done there done it.
    Rewrote my first ms after a form R because I thought I knew the answer, got to revisions, got rejected (gained an editor), sent it off to Avalon, got a stinging personal R which was right on the money, about a year later cut it down and sold it to DC Thomson. It was a 35k novella instead of a 50 k novel and the conflict was not there.
    But ultimately it is up to you and where you want to put the time and effort in.
    And truly sometimes, you do have to wait for your knowledge of craft to be able to do justice to your ideas.

  11. waitingforthecall Says:

    Thanks Michelle!

    I got disheartened last night, looking back on earlier versions. It’s clear I’d made the story far far worse instead of better by overthinking and overcomplicating things, and making the characters less sympathetic.

    I’m a little more hopeful today- I have seen this pattern before when I am learning other things. I am a learn by doing type, but I take more than a few goes to get it right. I make mistakes, and my attempts to fix the mistakes just get me in more of a mess. Then there’s that moment of blessed clarity, “Oh, so that’s how I do it!”. Doing it all wrong is part of the process of gaining the skills to do it right next time.

    But I hear what you are saying. I need to keep it simple, focus on the developing relationship, until I have the craft skills to deal with more complex conflicts and make more difficult characters work. Just because I see experienced authors do it does not mean I can!

    The story I want to write is the Cinderella fairy tale, that’s the one that really calls to me, the others are add-ons. I do this every time! Panic that my conflict is weak, and instead of going back to the basics of character and what stops these two getting together, I add more and more “stuff”.

    I do plan to completely rewrite, not try to cobble bits of old story in. The characters and their conflicts are too different for it to work without making a clean start.

    I haven’t heard of the pink sourdough thing. I though when sourdough starter went pink it was bad?

  12. When you have pink sourdough, you have to throw out all but about 2 oz. YOu can use that to leven the next one. So basically you are getting rid of the vast majority. Been there done it, and will possibly have to do it again. You need to know what makes the story yours and what themes interest you. Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices.

    Right, Cinders is a lovely premise. YOu need to decide IF she is a princess in truth or a *princess* because of her father’s wealth. If you want your billionaire, I would suggest the second and then you can have the whole joining of companies thing.
    For example, why would your Cinders want to go to the ball? What is she hoping to gain? WHy is it important? What does she believe she will gain and what does she actually gain instead? Why is she attracted to the hero but why does she think he will prevent her from getting her heart’s desire? How is her perception of her father going to change? What lesson does she need to learn? For example does she need to learn that there are two sides to every story, and that her father had no wish to abandon her? Where does her loyality lie? Where does she think the hero’s loyality lies? Why? What is she prepared to sacrifice?
    Look for low tension traps and start your story where the relationship between the hero and heroine changes/starts. And remember it is all action/reaction and your main characters are proactive. They make choices and those choices drive the story.

  13. waitingforthecall Says:

    Thanks for that advice Michelle! I’m going to cut and paste it to come back to again and again when I forget what this is all about- a man, a woman, a relationship, with the characters as the drivers, NOT their circumstances.

    I’ve loved the Cinderella fairytale since I was a tiny girl (that and my absolute favourite, Beauty and the Beast). I got fixated on the princess in a castle bit, but it’s not necessary at all.

    I appreciate the time you are giving me with your comments very much! Those questions sent me off thinking about what it is I really want to write and how to approach that.

    I fell into the trap of trying to “write Presents”. I don’t need princesses or billionaires at all. My sort of Cinderella has a run-down boarding house in a seaside town, inhabited by eccentrics, as her palace by the sea ( a new story idea your questions triggered!).

    I realised there is a Cinderella aspect to the story I have decided to write instead of keeping on struggling with Luk and Emma, too. This heroine’s Ball is a fundraising dance in the village hall, with a battered 4-wheel drive as her pumpkin coach. She’s finally decided she trusts the hero enough to let her true self be seen, so her best friend does the fairy godmother bit. And I also realised that every time I saw this scene I had external conflict keep them apart at the end of the evening. Hmmmm….

  14. Minka's Tail Says:

    I don’t think this plot is bad at all. I would publish it if I were a publishing company. I think women would like it, it’s very dramatic and filled with fun subplots like hidden babies, marriages of convenience, princesses, etc. I can’t imagine any men reading it, but that’s OK, they can read about cars or robots or something like that.

    The only problem I have is this (pointed out by my mother): the plot is similar to Shrek III. The reason it wasn’t published may be because they feared a lawsuit from Shrek’s producers.

    If I were you, I’d write whatever story flows from you organically, then find a line that fits it and prune it a bit as needed. Worrying obssesively about all those rules is nerve wracking. I once read a book where the black moment came when the heroine’s sister ran off with the jerk who tried to run off with the hero’s sister. Another book had the hero’s crazy wife burning down the house and blinding him. Talk about external conflicts! Nobody says those books are bad. 🙂

  15. waitingforthecall Says:

    Thanks Minka’s Tail! I haven’t seen Shrek III so I’m not sure about that one. Your advice about writing organically is spot on. I’ve been worrying too much and overworking everything.
    I’m trying to figure out the stories you refer to- Sense and Sensibility, and Jane Eyre?

  16. Minka's Tail Says:

    You’re right about Jane Eyre. The first one is Pride and Prejudice, very close!

  17. waitingforthecall Says:

    LOL! I knew it was one or the other!

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