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!

What now? December 4, 2010

No writing this week. Not wasted time- I’ve read two Blazes which I loved, as I wanted to get a feel for the line and I hadn’t read one for a while (they were Sam Hunter’s Taking Care of Business and Kathy Lyon’s Make Your Move). I’ve also done a lot more reading and thinking about a whole lot of stuff that goes into making stories with strong proactive characters who drive the plot. Main things seem to be good conflicting goals for the hero and heroine, something that drives them to act and therefore drives the plot. In my stories at least one character always seems to have the goal of keeping their life how it is when the other character erupts into it. I’m not sure that’s good enough, as it’s almost always going to make that character reactive and not proactive. Unless they can then come up with an active plan to stop their life being disrupted, which is something I only just thought of…

Anyway, all that thinking and I can’t decide what to do next!

Option 1– Do I use what I learned so far to have a go at rewriting the rejected Superromance story? Reasons for- I love these characters and have a completed first draft. It may not take too big a change to fix the issue of reactive rather than proactive characters and too much external stuff. It’s hard to explain that one- it is a big change, but I know how to do it so it won’t be hard,  just a lot of new words, if that makes sense. Reasons not to- I suspect this story has other problems besides the key one Megan mentioned. Mainly that a lot of the heroine’s internal conflict hinges on her big sekrit, which she keeps from both the reader and the hero until the big reveal at the 3/4 mark, which triggers the Black Moment. That needs rethinking too. She can’t reveal it to anyone else, that’s not at all in character, but maybe the reader needs to know, needs to understand her conflcit, why she’s so torn, why she can’t accept what the hero is offering her. The other issue is that while she has a big character arc, a lot of growth and change, as it is the hero does not.

Option 2– Do I keep going with the WiP, which I know has the same problem of at least one essentially reactive character,  the additional issue of not being clearly targetted to any line ( it’s feeling too sexy to be a Super, as the sex is the way into the relationship; yet not sexy enough to be a Blaze), and also conflict that just doesn’t feel strong enough to carry the story? I know the basic internal conflict can’t be right yet as I needed to add something new in- the heroine can’t have kids and the hero wants them- what I am doing is an old problem of combining lots of conflicts rather than one core conflict. I did think of one thing that would tie it all together for the heroine and make her key issue one of seeing herself as a defective woman so rejecting her femininity and any sort of traditionally female role. Lots of backstory in her family of origin that created this, topped off by her discovering a health issue aged sixteen that meant she would never menstruate and could not have a child. Needs to be worked out more. Her issue will be self-acceptance then. The hero needs more work too- his issue is more around being willing to roll with change, and the heroine is a change agent. It’s all a bit messy. Odd that when I started writing I thought I had a good clear-cut conflict- it just gets messier and messier- which tells me I don’t have it at all! I did have a good aha moment when I realised in my plan as it was I had the heroine’s resolution of her conflict looking like it came from an external event. I know now that it can’t- she has to decide to change. I want to keep the external event, but she needs to have already decided to change. All the external event does is delays her being able to tell the hero, and gives her more emotional grief and some deep regret- she’s ready to be with him, all her excuses have fallen away, and now not only can she not tell him, their chance of a future together might be gone. It feels kinda powerful that way. Almost will give a double black moment- it looks resolved, then this external event gets in the way. She needs to have made the decision to go to him, be feeling happy and relieved and as if it’s all going to work out before she hears about the external event that puts the hero in danger. Not sure if it will work like that (though now I think about it I do remember reading a Sarah Mayberry- Home for the Holidays- that had something similar) but it feels like it would.

Option 3 -Do I start over and try to get it right from the start with the new story idea?  Build in strong organic conflict and goals that will drive the characters into action. Have both characters needing to change, and their impact on each other forcing that change. This new idea seems to offer that, good opposing goals, the hero and heroine both have much the same internal issue and need to change (both of them have their whole personal identity and self-esteem wrapped up in their work, and they both want the same external thing- to run her father’s hotel chain), but I can’t see what the resolution will be! Also, is that enough of a relationship block? Neither allow close relationships, neither want to fall in love or be in a committed relationship. I need to know more about why.

She has been burned too many times by men who only wanted the heiress and not her, which is why she doesn’t tell the hero who she is when they first meet, and also doesn’t feel she is lovable (both because of the jerks and more fundamentally because she’s spent her whole life not measuring up to her father’s and her own memories of her perfect, beautiful, dead mother). He doesn’t want to let another person into his heart because his sensitive older brother committed suicide in his teens due to the pressure to succeed in their family. Mace succeeds easily, feels he owes it to his brother to be even more of a success as he took on the role in the family company that was meant to be his brother’s. Giving that up will feel like betraying his brother again. Allowing himself to love means risking the same hurt again he felt when Adam died. Hmm, there’s some potential there.

I want to go back and read the fabulous blog series the even more fabulous Julie Cohen wrote on character arc.  She shows how she plans character arc and then the key plot events flow for that. I want to see how that works with my characters for all these stories.

I’m inclining towards starting a new story. Of course, that shoots down any chance of entering SYTYCW, with a closing date of the 15th. I could possibly have a first chapter (though not really polished) and a synopsis- but not anything resembling a completed story! So maybe I should try option 2. Now I’m thinking that would be better- want to see it the double BM works.  Or why not option 1?

And now I’m back to being confused again!

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10 Responses to “What now?”

  1. Janet Says:

    Hi Jane,

    Here are my thoughts on your dilemma.
    OPTION ONE: “It may not take too big a change to fix the issue of reactive rather than proactive characters and too much external stuff. ”

    This will probably end up being more work than it seems. Every change will have a big knock-on effect

    OPTION ” : “…problem of at least one essentially reactive character, the additional issue of not being clearly targetted to any line.”

    This too could be hard to fix, especially finding a line to fit the story.

    OPTION : “…start over and try to get it right from the start with the new story idea? Build in strong organic conflict and goals that will drive the characters into action. Have both characters needing to change, and their impact on each other forcing that change.”

    I say go for this. Then you’ll be working with characters with strong goals , strong conflict (and both your characters w taking turns to be antagonist and protagonsit)

    Very interesting blog post again.

  2. Nas Says:

    Hi, read more blazes and then blaze your way through, come-on we all cheering for you.

  3. waitingforthecall Says:

    Hi Janet, I think option 3 may be the one I’ll go for. I want to do a bit of character arc planning this evening (Julie Cohen gave some excellent ideas for this), then go for it!
    What are you writing at the moment? Are you entering SYTYCW?

  4. waitingforthecall Says:

    Thanks Nas! I’m cheering for you too!

  5. Janet Says:

    Hi Jane,

    Character arc planning sounds good, especially giving both characters strong goals . I’ve printed out Julie’s workshop –so much easier to study than a computer file)

    I haven’t a finished story so can’t enter SYTYCW. (And I write too slowly to send in an entry and rush to finish if I got a request) I’m not very enthusiastic about the story I started,working on so I’m going to do lots of reading in a last ditch attempt to get some ideas and get writing again.

  6. waitingforthecall Says:

    Hope it all works, Janet! What is it that’s made you lose enthusiasm?

  7. Janet Says:

    Hi Jane,
    ”What is it that’s made you lose enthusiasm?’

    I’m struggling to find that modern twist on the well-worn themes and keep coming up with story outlines that are too just ordinary. 🙂

    I started a secret baby story but it’s turning out to be just like all the other secret baby stories I’ve read. The minute I realised that, I lost enthusiasm.

  8. waitingforthecall Says:

    Oh, that’s the trickiest thing, isn’t it! I feel that about everything I write. It’s competent enough, but where’s the spark, that oomph or twist that makes it different to the thousand and one similar stories in the slush pile. Haven’t found it yet! On the other hand, those tried and true hooks work well if you have strong appealing characters with good motivations. I often find when I feel like that spending more time just talking to my characters gives me more insight into them and I get enthusiastic again.   Maisey was just stuck on revisions for a story and she found the key breakthroughs came when she wrote stuff that wasn’t for inclusion in the story- just let the characters riff on anything. Suddenly, they told her exactly what she needed to know about the essence of who they were and what their driving motivation is.   I had a good breakthrough thsi morning on the heroine for the new story (yes, I’m taking your advice and going for option 3!)- I asked her what the definiting incident in her life was, the thing that made her who she is. Got an unexpected answer! Now on to the hero…

  9. Janet Says:

    Thanks Jane. The more I read your blog post the more convinced i am that I need to kick my own story off with an active H or h. At the moment it has a secondary character bringing them together and they merely react to the situation. Not good, I can see that now.

    So I’m going to start a new story and make sure this time that the H and h have very active and strong goals.
    (I love your blog posts on this topic–they’re so helpful)

  10. waitingforthecall Says:

    Glad I could help, Janet!
    Like with all stories, “It’s All In The Execution”. I’ve read good romances where a secondary brings the characters together (Marion Lennox’s “Royal Marriage of Convenience” immediately comes to mind), but I do think it’s stronger and less risky for unpubbed like us to have characters who make things happen.
    Fingers crossed I managed it with the lastest sub!


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