Well, the workshop yesterday is obviously having an effect already.
I was doing my morning pages (I’ve got in the habit now- at least 3 handwritten pages, first thing I wake up, every day), and thinking how there are a couple of elements in James and Cassie’s story that are also in the Trish Wylie book I’m reading Claimed by the Billionaire Bad Boy. Trish super generously gave me a copy yesterday. It’s a fab book- I haven’t managed to finish it yet as I just got too tired last night, so that’s my bedtime treat for tonight.
Anyway, I was musing about coicindental similarities and how if James and Cas’ story ever got published I wanted to have said in advance that I didn’t copy, honest Trish, those things were in my story long before I read yours! But my feeling is that saying anything was totally irrelevant anyway, as I know in my heart that this story isn’t going to be the one that cracks it either. Even though I’m only a few thousand words in, I can feel it isn’t working, there’s something lacking, this one isn’t going to be publishable either unless something changes, big time. I hadn’t been worrying about it too much, thinking well, I’ll keep going and hope I figure out what the problem is so I can fix it in the edit. But I knew something was off, and couldn’t quite put in finger on what it was.
Thinking about it this morning, I realised a big problem is the hero, James. He just isn’t strongly enough drawn. I don’t know him deeply enough, haven’t peeled back enough layers of that onion of internal conflict Kate Walker talked about. I know he is cynical about women, he doesn’t really trust them, and I knew the reasons why, which are pretty good ones. But it wasn’t coming out in my writing. This guy is a billionaire, he managed to make millions as a self-made man when his father disowned him for refusing to marry the “suitable” girl he’d chosen, and now he has inherited the family business and property worth billions, and is battling to gain full control of it. He’s going to be used to giving orders, the whole reason he split with his family was that he wanted to be his own boss and not kow-tow to his father.
Except that’s not coming through. He’s being nice. He’s asking, not demanding. He smiles and laughs a little at Cassie, he’s realaxed as he asks her to act the part of his girlfriend about to become fiancee, when he should be grinding things out through gritted teeth, he’s so angry and frustrated to be forced to be dependent on a woman to get what he wants. And not just any woman, this woman. Cas, who he picks for the role because she seems stable and reliable, presentable, just the right side of frumpy, but not the sort of woman who is going to run around and cause him grief. But it turns out he’s read her totally wrong, she’s an artist, for crying out loud, she normally dresses like a gypsy and lives in her studio. He got the wrong impression the day he met her. And it turns out she’s beautiful, once she stops hiding it, with a body a man could lose himself in, and a cloud of dark hair that makes him want to bury his hands in it and drag her close. Plus there’s something going on, something she’s not telling him about, some mystery about her. She’s not at all the woman he thought he was getting when he decided on this arrangement, and now he’s stuck with her. He has to follow-through, if he’s to get what he wants. Unwanted complications, in what was supposed to be a sensible business arrangement. Oh, and he’d really prefer to be called Jack.
Meanwhile Cas is reacting to the situation how I would, not how she would. She’s not really going to be happy when she sees how she transforms into a beautiful woman, almost accidentally, in order to play the role she’s agreed with James. That’s me talking in what I’ve written so far, I’d be delighted. She’s not. She doesn’t want to be beautiful. Beauty equals danger. She’s hidden it away, hidden herself away, since her foster father died trying to save her from an attempted rape when she was seventeen. She stares transfixed at her reflection in the mirror, not in wonder at what she sees, but in horror. Her reaction is a tormented “Oh my God, no, put me back the way I was, please,” not “Hmm, nice.”
This went on for a few more pages in my Morning Pages. I realised what was wrong. The characters weren’t talking in what I’d written so far, I was talking. Putting on accents maybe so it didn’t sound quite like me, but it was still me. Not them. Not James. Not Cassie. Maybe from here on it can be more of them and less of me. Maybe now the internal conflict will come to life. I realised there was plenty pulling them together, and plenty of external forces keeping them apart, but if I kept going as I was, they were going they were going to get togther and resolve their internal conflicts early on, then defeat their enemies. Which isn’t what makes a good romance story.
Nope, sorry guys, its not going to be that easy for you. I hope I have the skills to write the story you are telling me. Even if I don’t, thank you for helping me learn.