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.


Would you still respect him if… December 21, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:14 am
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Okay, I’m supposed to be doing character developement for Adam and Kate, and I am, honest! Though poor Kate is getting just a little neglected.

I’ve spent waaaaaay too long looking at hero photos.

Can’t quite decide if Adam is the boy next door gorgeousness of Steve Leonard-

or the smouldering sexiness of Dylan McDermott-

Tough decision, hey?

At least I know what sort of car he drives and which leg was shattered by the bomb blast. so some progress has been made.

I think Steve Leonard suits Adam best, though Dylan is definitely getting a starring role in one of my stories soon!

But while I was in the bath I got thinking about Luk and Emma, my rejected Presents contest entry (I find it hard to let go of old characters).

I eventually want to rewrite their story as a Sweet Romance. But I wonder if part of the problem (besides the crap writing, crap dialog, and the fact that nothing happens in the whole chapter apart from Luk and Emma talking) is that essentially, Luk’s motivation appears unheroic.

His primary motivation is to avoid  a responsibility- becoming prince of his small island birth country. Heros are meant to shoulder responsibilities, not avoid them!

Does that make him not really hero material?

His reasons, in order of the likelihood of him admitting it to himself or anyone else are-

  1. he has a billion dollar multinational business, that he couldn’t run if he was prince
  2. he doesn’t want to go back to the small town life of the island, especially being with his overwhelming large family again
  3. going back means confronting memories from his painful past- especially his guilt over not being able to prevent the death of his first wife

He’s not completely bunking off from responisbility. When the tragic and unexpected deaths of the other heirs to the throne put him next, he searches for another heir, knowing that the prince who disappeared after the Second World War may have descendants somewhere. And if it was choosing to give up his life and become prince or see his country taken over by a neighbouring kingdom, he’d make that sacrifice. But if making a marriage of convenience with the female missing heir and then leaving her to run the country while he gets on with his own life solves everyone’s problems, he’ll do it.

So, the question is, can he behave like that and still be a hero, or is that just not what a hero would do?


Breakthrough? September 25, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 9:11 pm
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breakthroughStunning image from photographer Mark Tweedie’s site.


















I’m feeling a sense of freedom and release today- I’m on vacation at last. I love the new day job (not so new now, I’ve been there four months!) but it’s brain numbingly busy. I haven’t done any writing at all for a while.

Today,  I gave advice to one of the writer’s in my writing group. Emailed a post to the group while on my train commute to work this morning, telling her what I thought she should do. Laughable, as I’m the least prolific and the “girl least likely to succeed” in our group! No-one with any sense would take my advice.

But I took my own advice. I’m a big believer that what we most want to advise or teach others is what we most need to learn ourselves. Proved it true this morning.

What I wrote was- Sit down with your characters. Read what you have already writing. If you feel stuck, get them to talk to you, tell you how they feel and what they intend to do about it. Then have them do the thing that’s going to get them in most trouble.

Within a minute of writing that, Luk, the hero of my abandoned Presents story, told me the answer to a key scene in the story, the one that really sets up all the big problems for the characters and precipitates their marriage of convenience. The scene I’d gotten stuck on in my edits because my plot device required him to behave so stupidly out of character he just wouldn’t do it.

He told me why he did it.

I didn’t even ask, hadn’t been thinking about the story. I had asked my subconscious, back when I decided to take a break from writing,  to please work on a solution to the problem.

Hopefully, I’ve found it!

The heroine needs to be quite different in the lead up to the scene, but that’s good too. She was nice enough, but maybe a touch insipid. This change gives her a lovely touch of fire that she needed. She’s suddenly come to life as a character too, very differently to how I first saw her. Her strengths were a little too “do-gooder”ish before. This gives her a real and very believable weakness, that gets them both into big trouble.

I realised I’d been playing it too safe, being too kind to my characters, wanting them to be too perfect. They needed to be allowed to make dangerous choices, but given damn good reason for doing it.

I think Luk and Emma (or Gabi, I’m still not sure which heroine it will be- but the new insight fits Emma’s character better) will be coming on holiday with me!


Reasons to be confused August 30, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:11 pm

I’m still trying to decide what to write next. Only just home from an evening with my mother-in-law, but I have tomorrow free to write. But which story?

Something about Luk and Gabi/ Emma’s story just keeps me stuck and confused.

I mean, two different heroines to start with! But poor Emma is just a bit too pitiful and tragic, so I’d rather write Gabi. Luk can’t decide if he’s a nice guy who just happens to be a self-made multi-millionaire, or a ruthless win at all costs Alpha. Something keeps me attached to this story, I do want to write it.

But I keep coming back to what is probably the main flaw in this story- I started off wanting to write about someone who found out she was a princess, got kidnapped, and forced into a marriage of convenience. I had no idea who the story was about, just that I wanted those things to happen. Then I created the characters to fit the plot.

I know now that is not the way to do it. Maybe the biggest lesson from my struggles with this story is the importance of having things be character driven, not plot device driven. I kidded myself I was doing that when I sat down and replanned the story in April. I started with character sheets and then wrote a synopsis of plot events. It was better than what I had before. But still not right. Because I wasn’t really starting with characters. I was starting with trying to find out more about these characters I’d come up with because I thought they would fit into the plot I’d already planned.

I’ve been thinking all along that the reason I’ve been stuck on this story and going round in circles with it is that I’m not a good enough writer yet. Maybe  that’s true. Or maybe it’s that I’m coming at the story from the wrong direction. Forcing Luk and Emma or Gabi to act like puppets, not like real people. To make the story work, they have to behave out of character. They whole story hinges on Luk making a  stupid mistake, doing something he just would not do, and Emma/Gabi responding in an equally stupid way. Bacuse that’s what the plot calls for, not what I know these people would do.

Of course, everyone does something out of character at times. Part of good writing is taking characters and putting them in situations where they have to choose to do something they wouldn’t normally do. I wish I could remember where I read the advice to think of five things the character would never do, then make sure they are put in situations where they have to, where doing that is the least bad of two bad choices.  That’s not what I did in this story though. I needed a reason for them to be pushed into a Marriage of Convenience. so I had them act out of character. That’s not the same thing as setting up a conflict within the character where they have to chose to do things they normally never would. In this story, they didn’t really choose, I just made them do it!  

So I have two options. Try one more time with this story, but make sure I’m setting up believable motivation for everything that the characters do. Or give up now, recognising I’ve learned some valuable lessons, and it’s been one helluva ride, but it’s time to stop.

No matter how hard I try, forcing characters to fit the plot will not work, plot has to flow from character.

Anyway, I need to stop over analysing everything and try just writing! Once I decide which story….


Confused (again!)

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 11:08 am
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I sat down to write a plan for the new version of the Princess story and what I wanted to write today.

LOL, plan? I don’t have one. I am totally confused, yet again.

I thought I was going to take parts of the MH version, and parts of the original version, and mix them together in a first person LBD version.

But I read some of the first version again, and it’s surprisingly good. Pure Presents, but not too badly written at all. That’s where the confusion comes from. I thought I’d decided my voice wasn’t really Presents. But what I read suggests “Hey, maybe the girls were right, maybe that is where I fit best.” I can see where I went wrong with it too. It was never going to work as I first planned it, with way too much external conflict and a villain who was the driver of the plot. But actually if I take all that out, there’s enough internal conflict already there to carry the story.

So Emma goes back to being Gabi from the first version, who grew up in a loving home and misses that so much since her grandmother died. She’s just lost her job, can’t pay her rent, and has just broken up her lukewarm relationship with her boyfriend too. Her external goal at the start of the story is to get a job and a home. Her inner need is to be part of a family again, to feel that sense of love and belonging. Her relationship block is the unrealistic idea of a perfect love her grandmother has brought her up with.

Luk stays the man he is in the second version, but gains some of the ruthlessness, the “do anything as long as it’s within the letter of the law to obtain my goal” quality of the first Luk. His external goal is to avoid having to become Prince of Melus, by getting Gabi to become Princess. His inner need, though he is not aware of it, and if he was aware of it he’d die before admitting it, is to feel loved for himself, not his wealth. He really wants to be part of a family again too, but feels he lost the right to that when his first wife died. His relationship blocks are the walls he’s put around his heart, his unwillingness to trust, and his guilt over Bianca’s death.

Well, I can see straight away when I write it out like that- this story is Presents and not single title. It’s all about Luk. Who has the furthest to come before they can be in this relationship, the biggest blocks to overcome?

Presents is about the heroine being the catalyst for the hero to chance, she grows and changes too but he is the one who has to change the most to allow the relationship to be possible. Single title is all about the heroine, her emotional journey. Unless I rethink it, this story won’t work as single title. Though of course, I can see what I am doing is still working from Presents “rules”. I have created the perfect Presents hero. LBD Luk would be different.

The starting point is always always always the characters, what they want and need, what stops them being together, what needs to happen to change that.

So what do I do? Do I have yet another try at this story, writing it as Presents, maybe for this year’s competition entry? Do I just put it aside for a while, because part of me wonders if I’m too close to it, if I can’t see the right path through the forest because I’m stuck in a tangle of trees? 

I can kiss any hope of getting something in for the RNA New Writer’s Scheme (I had this mad idea I could write like a maniac this weekend straightening out a partial of Luk and Emma, then hand deliver my entry tomorrow, the closing date!), so why not start on the new story? Which, coincidentally, will work far far better as a single title than a Presents or Modern Heat, because I have a conflicted heroine (though her life looks just fine on the surface) and a relatively straightforward hero, who is steadfastly resisting my efforts to give him more conflict.  

Or why not still write like a maniac on a Presents version of Luk and Emma/Gabi, put the partial in for the NWS, and use the feedback from that to strengthen it before I send it off as my competition entry? I can then start the new story while I’m waiting for feedback.

I think a big part of my conflict is coming from feeling I have to get something in for the New Writers’ Scheme. Not because I don’t want to waste the money, but because I feel so guilty about taking a place that another, more orgainised writer, could have used. In mitigation, m’Lud, can I say that if I’d had any idea how my year was going to pan out, I would never have joined. I didn’t know what a huge but hopefully ultimately productive muddle about this story I was going to get myself in, either. If I could forget about the NWS, forget about the HMB competition, and just let myself play with the story and have some fun with it. maybe by year end or even sooner, I’d have a clear view of what and how I want to write, and could move on forward with my writing. And set some more realistic writing goals for next year. This year’s were ludicrously optimistic, even without all the other stuff going on.

I gotta laugh at myself! Does everyone else have a clear idea of their writing plans and goals, unlike me?

And does anyone have strategies they can share for keeping to one’s writing goals even when depressed, stressed, and juggling home responsibilities, a long commute, and a brain-frying job?


Finding my voice August 23, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 11:17 am
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Just when I thought I had figured things out, I completely confused myself later yesterday.

This story has been through so many different incarnations over the past ten months, though only one made it past chapter 4. I went looking for one of the earlier versions as I remembered a section I wanted to cut and paste that would work well in first person. I found something surprising.  

One of the early versions was better! Not just a little bit, it was much, much better. And the voice is pure Sweet Romance. I got stuck with that version for the classic reason- I’d started with just two people in a situation, but hadn’t thought through the internal conflict. Basically, there wasn’t any, it was all external. No reason at all these two couldn’t get together, apart from the evil bad guy keeping them apart. Oh, and the heroine being a bit miffed that the hero manipulated her early on to get her to agree to what he wanted. When I realised that I stopped, and (shock horror, first time ever!) actually did some plotting, kept my basic premise but changed a lot about the characters. 

Now I’m back to being confused again. I seem to spend a lot of time being confused about my writing! I need to welcome that, because it will get me to the truth of what I really want and need to do.  

I loved writing first person, but by the end of my writing day I wasn’t completely happy with my first chapter. Reading the other version, I knew why. I was trying to infuse a false “sexiness” into it. It doesn’t come naturally to me. My voice is more Sweet than Modern/ Presents. So a lot of the heroine’s slightly OTT physical reaction to the hero can go. And though my hero’s background and motivation was not strong enough to carry the story in the first version, my heroine was stronger. I gave her a pretty miserable loveless life in the latest version, although I think I’ve still managed to show her as strong and likeable. I really want to make her a couple of years older though, and that does not fit. If she’s older than twenty-four, she’s pathetic to have stayed in that situation so long.  In the first version, her life sucked at the start of the story, but she’d had a happy childhood and it was only recently that things had gone wrong in her life. That was mainly due to the hero manipulating the situation to force her to do what he wanted.

Hmm, I have a real mish-mash here, don’t it! A Sweet heroine, a Presents hero, and I want to write it as single title. So I somehow need to pull together the strong parts of each version- give the hero the background and motivation of the second version, so the manipulation of the heroine’s situation from the first version is understandable; keep the city setting and combine the best parts of the background of my heroine from both versions; stop trying to impose a falsely sexy tone, and see what I come up with.

I also need to think about the characters, their internal conflict and motivations more (can’t ever get away from that one!) Writing the story as a single title isn’t just a matter of changing all the “she”s to “I”s. The focus switches from the hero to the heroine. It’s her journey that counts, her emotional growth, her overcoming her blocks to being in a relationship. Not just with the hero, but with anyone. I think I’ve just seen what that could be, if I go back to the first version heroine (she even had a different name- Gabriella). Instead of the seriously unhappy childhood I gave Emma, Gabi had a happy loving childhood. Yes, she was orphaned aged eight, but her grandmother, Ellie, who she adored, gladly took her in. She was raised on stories of her grandmother and grandfather’s fairy tale perfect love, which ended after only a few years when he tragically died. So her relationship block is that she seeks the same impossible perfection, the love at first sight, “you just know”  fantasy her grandmother raised her on.  It probably needs to go deeper than that, but it’s a start!

I can put back all the secondary characters I cut out, add in that romantic subplot between even more unlikely lovers that I planned for the first version, and I have a feeling the ghost of Gabi’s grandmother has a part to play too.

Of course, this means unless I get some sort of Groundhog Day loop that stops time for everyone else but me until I get it right, I won’t be submitting even a partial to the New Writers’ Scheme. But I’m not sure there’s any point getting feedback on something I already know is broken, and I have a plan for fixing. On the other hand, my reader may see other things I can improve on that I’m not even aware of yet. I’ll just have to see what I have by next weekend.


Heroes- sweet or sexy? February 28, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 3:21 pm
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davidgandy3091I’ve been thinking about internal conflict and Luk’s motivation, and it’s changed him a lot. I noticed as I was writing that he was becoming softer, less hard edged Alpha, more the sort of man I’d marry in real life (if I wasn’t happy with the DH, of course), only better. Far better looking, taller, a helluva lot richer and more successful.

I love the new Luk! Only problem is, his internal conflict seems to be disappearing by the minute. He’s just too ready to fall in love with Gabriella, so what is there to keep them apart? Maybe this is going to be one of those stories where it looks like it’s all going to be fine halfway through then the really big conflict whams them. Problem is, I have no idea what that conflict is going to be! One plan was going to be that he didn’t want to stay in his birth country, where Gabi, as the Princess, must stay. And that he was emotionally walled in after the death of his first love, so he would let Gabi so close but no further. They could have a relationship, especially when circumstances force marriage on them, but love wasn’t part of the deal. I’m just not sure now. He isn’t coming across as a man who is emotionally closed off!

He is definitely not a Presents/ Sexy/ Modern hero any more, the line I was originally aiming for. He’s now very much a Romance hero, for the sweet and tender line. The guidelines for the Romance line are different depending if you look on the North American Harlequin site or the UK Mills and Boon site!

The US site says this about the Romance hero, they call him the “Tender Alpha”-

Hero: He’s always strong and charismatic, successful in his own way and aspirational — a man you’d want to be with! Tower of Strength: He has a steely core, is not easily manipulated and uncompromising about the things that matter
Aspirational: The guy with whom women aspire to spend the rest of their lives with; definitely Mr. Right
Code of Honour: He has a strong sense of right and wrong, is reasonable and fair
Sense of Humour: He can laugh at himself and life; he’s often understated and modest in manner
Status: Definitely successful, can be wealthy or just comfortably off; perhaps a specialist in his field
Examples of the Tender Alpha Male in Film/TV: Nick (Dermot Mulroney) in The Wedding Date; Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

I like this hero! Whether I can write him or not is another matter. Whether I can give Luk and Gabi a convincing and emotionally real conflict (and one the Richmond editors will like too!) is another matter again. The only ideas I have now for conflict are so outrageous that I am getting into very different territory. I know it has to hinge on his sense of honour, on doing what he sees as morally and ethically right, that steely and uncompromising core. The risk in making him a softer hero is that he becomes less of the driver of events. He still needs to be in command, he needs to be the one making things happen. Gabriella too, of course, but my feeling is it is very much his issues or his decisions that force situations.

Hmm. It’s a challenge. I don’t want to keep on writing and find I’ve written myself into a dead end.  But I don’t want to stop writing yet again to figure this out either. No way am I going to meet my self-imposed deadline of submitting a partial by March 31st, if I keep going as I’m going. I want to just write, and hope the characters tell me the story. Magical thinking? You bet!