WANT vs NEED

Last month we took a step back from Boy meets Girl to focus on some preliminary work. Although you can certainly throw your Hero and Heroine together on the first page, it may be better to show them apart first.

Then, when Boy Meets Girl, you’ll have the opportunity for SOMETHING to catch your characters attention - and that SOMETHING will directly relate to what is missing in that characters life. Just be careful not to be TOO obvious about it.

Remember, your hero and heroine go into this story ready for love. Even if they don’t know it. Love is what they NEED, not necessarily what they want. If you asked the hero and heroine on page one if they’re looking for love, they would categorically deny it. Might even say HECK NO! I never want to love again. (Oooh, backstory.)

But in that first meeting, you can give the reader a glimpse into why these two are perfect for each other. Which means you have to know all that before you start writing.

If you look at the beat sheet I introduced last month (http://jamigold.com/2012/11/write-romance-get-your-beat-sheet-here/) you’ll see that the very first thing listed is the “Opening Image/Hook: Opening scene or sequence of story; create empathy with characters by showing they lack for something.”

Now this lack that you introduce in the first scenes will be made up of things the character thinks he or she NEEDS. To save the ranch. To get that promotion. To fix a relationship. To attend a crucial event. You get the picture. (Quick assignment - go pick up a handful of romances on your shelf - read the first few pages and jot down the initial WANT for those characters.)

In these first scenes, you want to “introduce protagonists, hook the reader, and setup the romance conflict (foreshadowing, establishing stakes).” Does that sound daunting? It can be. But that’s why we read a lot of romance - to analyze and absorb how that’s done. And that’s why we do all that preliminary character work.

In these initial pages, you want your characters to come across as likable and to have wants that the reader can identify with. To do that, you have to know your characters. REALLY know your characters.

Why does she NEED to save the ranch? What’s in it for her. What’s behind that need/want? If you don’t allow your reader in to see the why then you won’t keep them reading, you won’t keep them caring. Most people never have a NEED to “save the ranch” - but most all of us can identify with keeping memories alive or fulfilling a responsibility that we’ve carried for a long time, or simply the need to make a living.

Are you confused by my interchangeable use of WANT and NEED? Remember, rarely does a character go into his/her story knowing what he truly needs. He knows what he thinks he needs. But that’s what the character arc is all about. The missing link in the hero’s life will be in the possession or person of the heroine and vice versa.
You’ve heard the phrase “he completes me.” Well, there it is.

A hero or heroine will likely go into the story not even guessing that there’s a huge hole in their life. One that only the “other half” will fill. That’s what the story is all about. That’s what the character arc is all about.

So, make sure you know what the true need is. But you don’t have to play that card yet. Please don’t. Simply open the H/H’s story with their normal world - skipping happily through life oblivious to what’s coming.

Make sense?

And if you’re still not sure how it’s done - keep reading great romance novels - the ones on the keeper shelf. Read them. Analyze them. Go through with the beat sheet in hand and figure out how that author did it. And don’t forget to WRITE.

Until next month - BiC HoK - Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard.

The Beat Sheet

As I thought about this series, I realized in retrospect that I wanted a plan.  And I wanted something for you readers to be able to follow along.  And I wanted it to be totally available.  AHA - a Beat Sheet.

If you don’t know what beat sheets are, here’s the short description:  The “beat sheet” is a way to sequence your story, using bullets instead of whole sentences or paragraphs. Very quickly, though, those bullets becomes sentences and paragraphs. And when that happens, you have an outline on your hands.  (From Storyfix.com)  You’ll find a lot of talk about beats and beat sheets in the screenwriting world.  I won’t get into it here, but it’s certainly something to check out if it sounds like gibberish to you.  I often use beat sheets to do some preliminary plot work once my character work is well in hand.

Jamie Gold is the queen of beat sheets online.  She has made a variety of them in Excel format so you can fill in your page goal and it will calculate where all your beats should come.  Obviously, this is a tool.  Don’t get stressed about having to follow it exactly.  Jamie even has one for romance.  Good information in the entire post.

Here’s why I’m sending you there.  It occurred to me as I was looking at this beat sheet that I may have jumped the gun last month with Boy Meets Girl.  Yes, Boy Meets Girl should happen in Act One, but there should probably be some preliminary scenes before that happens.  Note:  In the “olden days” of Romance, the requirement was that hero and heroine meet in the first pages of the book.  I don’t think that’s the hard and fast rule anymore.  But if the line you’re targeting wants it - give it to them.  You’ll have to weave the other preliminary stuff in as you do so or shortly after.

Alright.  So here’s why I’m making a U-turn – it’s only temporary.  It’s not because I’m requiring - or even suggesting - that you have to use this beat sheet.  But I will be using it as a guideline for this series of article.  It’s all about me 🙂

Last month we talked about Boy Meets Girl.  That event usually happens as the Inciting Incident in your plot outline.  Before that happens, you may want to introduce your reader to one or both characters and set up the romance by showing what your character is lacking - or what he (she) thinks he’s lacking.  In the opening scenes of the story, you’ll want to create empathy.  Showing what the character is lacking/longing for is a way to do that.

As an aside here, most of the time, the goal that the characters go into the story with is what they WANT but not what they NEED.  Over the course of the story, you’ll bring them through a character arc from what they thought they wanted at the beginning of the story to what they actually NEED.

In the spirit of taking that step back, I’d like to talk about WANT and NEED before we go further.  So that’s what I’ll tackle next month.

Hope you’ll forgive the blip!

Cheers, Jax

 

 

Writing Romance – the Warrior Poet

The last romance hero archetype we’ll look at is the Warrior Poet.

The website TVTropes says this about the WP, “He's fought in a battle and is no slouch at war making, but he thinks about the purpose behind all the bloodshed and philosophizes on the meaning of life and death.

Remember the last line of Braveheart?   "They fought like warrior-poets. They fought like Scotsmen. And won their freedom."

This hero archetype isn’t just broody, though he may be broody - he isn’t your Theta or Delta.  He’s a warrior, but not your Alpha.  He’s genuine and courteous, but not your Beta.

The WP is fighting for something bigger than himself.

Here are some more examples from TVTropes

  • “D'Artagnan gets the Musketeers to like him in The Three Musketeers (1993) by tossing out a one-liner. D'Artagnan: I may not wear the tunic, but I believe I have the heart of a Musketeer.
    Porthos: Warrior.
    Aramis: Poet. “
  • Captain America - thoughtful and introspective.
  • Picard in Star Trek with “the heart of an explorer and the soul of a poet.”

Eileen Charbonneau really nails this when she states that “his roots are in the Irish Fianna, an ancient society of professional protectors of the poor and voiceless.”

She points to Robin Hood and King Arthur, and St. George.

This hero may have darkness in his past.  But he has also had light and love to show him the way.

Susan Sarah calls him the M&M Hero - crusty on the outside, soft on the inside.  She notes that he is restrained emotionally but has a deep capacity for love.  Of course, his heroine will bring that out in him, giving him a safe place to be himself.

William Wallace is often pointed to as this Warrior Poet hero.  Real quick, let’s look at his life (in the movie Braveheart, of course.)

  • A father that loves him.
  • An uncle that loves him and takes care of him when his father is killed, raising him to love books and education.
  • He comes home to build a life - take a wife - have a family.  He doesn’t want trouble.
  • He attends the wedding and, in one of my favorite moments, has his eye on Murran but when he’s interrupted by another village girl asking him to dance, he says, “Of course I will.”
  • He falls hopelessly in love with Murran and only goes to “war” when she is murdered.
  • Even though the “war” starts with her death, it becomes something much bigger.  Scotland.  Freedom.
  • This Warrior Poet makes those around him better. More courageous.  He does this with his friend Hamish, Stephen, Robert the Bruce (Unite the clans) and even Queen Isabella (“If I swear to him, then everything that I am is dead already.” And, “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”)
  • He inspired the Scots with this infamous speech

“Wallace: I AM William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight?

Veteran soldier: Fight? Against that? No, we will run; and we will live.

Wallace: Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you'll live -- at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!!!”

Again Susan Sarah:  “In some ways, the Warrior Poet is the most realistic of heroes, the most balanced, the most attainable and familiar sort of hero. He is everywhere, on the news every day, and living in our own homes. He has strength and gentleness, courage and hesitancy, power and tenderness. He’s fascinating, and he can live without his heroine: and therein lies a great challenge and journey for her, and the writer, and the reader too.”

Of my own heroes - I think Daniel Fraser (Book 4 of True Heroes series) is the Warrior Poet.  He’s an ex-Navy Seal - who gave up “Sealing” for the love of a woman.  He’s introspective - his team calls him Professor.  But he’s courageous, kind, and his whole being is wrapped up in helping people.

I hope you've enjoyed this look at our wonderful romance heroes archetypes.  I imagine you might be ready to jump into something more.  No more archetypes, I promise.

Until next month, remember BIC-HOK - Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.  Scribendo disces scribere.

Writing Romance – the Delta, Theta, and Beta Heroes

Welcome back, Campers.  This month we'll look at three other types of romance heroes:  the Delta, the Theta, and the Beta heroes.  (And how about those Oxford commas!)

The Delta - the dark and dangerous. His past is so dark, so damaging, and combines with such a darker temperament that he exiles himself from society and takes on loner/outlaw status. His issues have to do with the past and how to overcome it - guilt, shame, rage, isolation versus need for love.... Delta means change, and these heroes most of all must change to be able to give and accept love freely.

Conflicts for Delta

•Guilt vs Trust

•Outlaw vs Authority

•Freedom vs Home

•Self-sufficiency vs Family

Trust/Love/Intimacy

He lets no one see inside.  Trusts no one.

 

The Theta - the wounded. Theta means both death and art. These are the wounded creators, the ones too sensitive to put on the Delta's armor, and too passionate about life to kill themselves. Their very vulnerability to life's suffering makes them creative. They can be artists or writers or healers, but

their way of dealing with pain is to create with it. The Theta's issues have to do often with the self-destructive nature of the artistic temperament--substance abuse, loneliness, the need to stay open to life without dying of the pain of it.

Conflicts for Theta

Addiction vs Pain

Art vs Life

Past vs Future

Care-taker vs Care-needer

 

Then there's the Beta, and him I define not as a wimp but more as a good-time guy. He's the open, friendly fella always willing to lend a hand or a shoulder to cry on. He likes a party and has many friends, most of whom take advantage of his good nature. His issues have to do with 'self' boundaries - care-taking, giving too much, and not planning for the morrow because today is too involving. He could be a leader but is too lazy or too busy or too uncaring to do that. Mostly he just wants to enjoy life today.

Conflicts for Beta

Commitment vs Freedom

Loyalty vs Loyalty  (friend/job/girl)

Trust vs Betrayal

(Delta expects betrayal – Beta doesn’t)

 

My favorite Beta hero - Jack (Bill Pullman), the nice younger brother, in "While You Were Sleeping"

Example: He's playing cards with his comatose brother and says, "Whoever gets the high card, gets Lucy." (No direct confrontation.)  Love this guy!

Feel free to leave comments about these heroes – your favorites – and any questions you have.

That does it for our Romance Heroes for this month.  Next month, we’ll talk about the last one.

Until then, remember BIC-HOK - Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.  Scribendo disces scribere.

 

All you need is #love … by Rainey Hall

All you need is #love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.
Charles Schulz

How exciting. That time of year where I buy my own chocolate, and one exotic looking flower.

However, unlike my cousin who fancies a direct line to 1-800-SEXPERT, I am truly in love with a real man.

The MOST important definitions of romantic:

adjective

• stressing or appealing to the emotions or imagination

noun

someone who is not realistic or practical (ouch)
• a writer, musician, or artist…

I guess I’ve known my guy for almost 20 years now. We were introduced by a mutual friend.

But alas, he doesn’t really exist.

Estoy en amor con un hombre que no existe. Je suis en amour avec un homme qui n’existe pas. Jag är kär i en man som inte finns. No matter which syllable the accent is on, nothing changes.

Who is this tall, strong, stranger?

#Ranger. He’s “walking sex,” wears the best smelling cologne, great with electronics, and rich enough to buy Stephanie Plum a new car all the time. And yes, he’s concerned about Rex, Stephanie’s hamster becoming an orphan. Long live sensitivity! Plus, I always fall for a man in a uniform, even if said uniform consists of 1) a taut T-shirt worn over well-developed bicep and pec muscles, 2) black PDU (patrol duty uniform), and 3) guns. Real guns.

Oh sure, there’s Morelli and well, you know what they say about Italians. The down side to Morelli? His grandma is always giving people “the eye.” Frightening enough that I opt out on choosing him to love.

Anyway, thank you, Janet #Evanovich for the 23 fun reads in the #StephaniePlum series although you leave me with mere memories and rereads of Ranger.

Yeah, you figured right. I’ve moved on to other men.

Jack #Reacher. Even though he has no uniform, he used to wear one. Besides, Reacher can tell time without a watch or clock, lives by intuition and isn’t in a contest for the most materialistic possessions one man can collect. He’s a man’s man. And a woman’s man. My man.

Gabriel #Oak. I thought my imagination outdid itself when I read Hardy’s 1874 classic, Far from the Madding Crowd. Then I saw the 2015 movie version. BE. STILL. MY. HEART. Those eyes! That face! That voice! That honesty and humor. That…that manly, outdoorsy, confident way about him. Sheesh!

(Excuse me, I need to taste a pound or two of chocolate and get some fresh air, but mostly cool air. Or cold.)

Hey, sex sells.

Moving on...

Oh, the sensuous tension that writers like Diana #Gabaldon (thanks Judith) creates. OOOO!

Since Ranger and Gabriel are reruns now, I’ve decided to invent yet another gentleman. My own guy. But to do so, I plan on attending the Colorado Gold Conference (September 8-10, 2017) to learn a thing or two from Diana!

Come on, pleeeeease share the names on your list of fictional hotties.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

A special thanks to #LindaHoward wherever you are. I hope all your designs were built.

Your Fantasy, Or Mine

Some of my friends talked me into entering my latest book in the RITA, the Romance Writers of America’s annual contest. One of the requirements for entering is you have to judge seven books. And since they don’t want you to judge the category you’re entered in, the books they send are a random mix of other sub-genres. The entries I received were all over the place: I had a short historical romance (the same genre as I write although with fewer words), two short contemporary romances, two contemporary novellas, a romantic suspense and an M/M romance (love story about two guys).

You might think the M/M romance would be the hardest for me to evaluate, because it’s a genre I don’t read and also completely outside my own experience. But actually, the only trouble I had with the M/M romance was deciding if it really was a love story or a mainstream, coming-of-age novel that featured a romance. (One of the RITA eligibility requirements is that the book has to have a romance as its main focus.)

The books I really struggled with were the short contemporaries. At first reading, they seemed hopelessly clichéd. For one thing, in both books the heroes were billionaires, and in a position to provide the heroine with a life of total ease and comfort. Right. And we know how often that happens in real life. And there were other well-used tropes: a secret baby, a mix-up between twins, and a hero who is a shallow playboy until he meets the one woman, the heroine, he can’t live without.

I sighed as I started the first short contemporary. Then I began to get depressed. Both of these books were published by the biggest romance publishers out there, and had worldwide distribution. I’m sure the authors have made several times as much money on their books as I made on my romance published by a small press. But that wasn’t really what discouraged me. What got to me was the realization that these books were much more successful than mine because of the fantasy they presented. No matter how trite and ridiculous it seems to me, that fantasy is clearly shared by enormous numbers of readers. These books were successful because they gave those readers what they wanted, and what those thousands of readers wanted was a fantasy that had no meaning for me.

This realization put me in a tailspin. I began to wonder if there was any point to my continuing to write romances. For a couple of days, I considered changing genres. But the vast majority of the story ideas that come to me are romances, and they’re what I enjoy writing. They are also the only genre in which I’ve ever had any real success. So it seems stupid to stop writing romance now.

I shook off the mood of gloom and defeat and finished reading the two contemporary romances. And one of them, I have to say I actually enjoyed. It seemed silly in places and some of the plot twists made me roll my eyes, and the author changed viewpoint so much that any editor I’ve ever had would have thrown up their hands in despair. But overall it was a fun read. A bite of cotton candy compared to the dark, gritty mysteries that make up a large portion of my reading fare.

The book was gone from my mind nearly as soon as I finished it. But while I was reading, I have to admit I experienced a pleasant escape from real life. I can almost understand why books like this are so popular. Because it is fun to completely forget reality for a time and pretend. Fantasies are wonderful things that can get us through our often unlovely, sometimes miserable lives.

I still struggle with the fact that my preferred romantic fantasy is a lot different than most readers. But I remind myself that there are some people who share my vision. Who want a love story where the characters are a little more flawed and realistic and face real danger and conflict. Over the years, I’ve sold quite a few books and some have been nominated for awards. I’ve received fan mail and interacted with a number of readers who thoroughly enjoyed my books. Not many, maybe. Not enough to make this a career that will pay my bills. But enough to make it worthwhile for me to keep writing. Because although the number of readers may be small, as a writer, I’m providing an enjoyable escape for more people than simply myself.

On a final note, one of the novellas was exceptional, and the historical romance was pretty good, too. And I learned a lot, not only about romance and romance readers, but about myself.

Romance – my addiction of choice … by Desiree Holt

DesireeHolt200x263Okay, okay, so I’m a sucker for a happy ending. But here’s how I look at it. Every day there is so much pain and misery in the world, not to mention the problems we face dealing with everyday life. When I curl up with a book, I want to know that the ending will be happy and satisfying and the hero and heroine will end up together. Oh, their road to happiness will certainly be filled with rocks and thorns. Where’s the fun in having them meet, fall in love and just trot off into the sunset? And who’d believe it , anyway?

Because romance, for all that it’s fantasy, also has to be grounded in reality. The readers I know who love romance want to change places with the heroine. They want to meet the hero, flawed though he may be, and be the woman he falls in love with. They want to be tall, short, thin, curvy, blonde, brunette, redhead—something they are not in real life. Because even in the happiest and most fulfilling relationships, there is always the desire to dream and fantasize. Romance gives women that opportunity.

I didn’t come to the romance genre at once, though. I thought I would write mysteries, because that’s what I read growing up. But when I finally sat down to write that first book, I could not get past chapter three. Then I read my first romantic suspense and I thought, This is what I am going to write. I wrote that first book in an effort to create my own hero like the one I’d fallen in love with—dark, dangerous, self-controlled except in bed. A bad boy who did good. And so sexy I wanted to find a way to bring him to life.

It certainly wasn’t all skittles and beer after that, though. There were far fewer opportunities to “break the barrier,” so to speak, then there are now. Self publishing wasn’t even on anyone’s horizon. But I plugged away at it (totally necessary) and eventually got my first break. Others followed. And as my backlist grew along with my readership,. I discovered I could spread my wings and test other subgenres.

Maybe it was my age. I was seventy years old when my first book was published, arriving at a time in life where I didn’t feel constrained to be bound by strict rules. I read two romances about wolf shifters and fell in love with the genre. Five series have been born of that. I love the wolf. I think he is a magnificent, romantic animal so writing about wolf shifters was easy for me.

2015_Holt_DH_RawEdgeofDanger_KindleI enjoy action adventure movies and television, and read thrillers by several authors, so it was natural for me to say, okay, let’s try that subgenre. And what fun that turned out to be. No one told me I couldn’t do it, because by then the marketplace had changed drastically. I loved creating those darkly adventurous men who jumped out of helicopters, fought terrorists and took down the bad guys. And of course, were incredible lovers. As a writer I was free to let my imagination run wild and I did, drawing with words the kind of heroes I wanted to drag into my house and lock the doors!

Then I got a little more adventurous, and created heroines I wanted to be myself. They practiced at gun ranges, were crack shots, could take down criminals without blinking an eye. And were rewarded with a romance that sizzled their toes.

It has been and continues to be such fun letting my imagination run wild. As I said before, you reach an age where you ignore restrictions and create in the pages of your stories the kind of life experiences you’d like for yourself. And romance is really the only genre where you can do this unfettered.

I’ve met a lot of people on my journey. I should probably dig out my tee shirt that says, Careful or you’ll end up in my next book. Because that happens so often. I meet interesting or good looking people and immediately start creating a story line for them.

But let’s complete the circle and get back to romance. In a romance story you can push the boundaries, give your imagination free rein, write scenes that your readers can live vicariously. As you get older, it becomes so much easier to do that. To “cast off the bonds of restriction.” To write yourself into a story, playing out your fantasy.

Do you have a story in your head? A character you’d love to create? Or meet? Then sit down and put your fingers on your keyboard. Let your imagination flow and go wild. I promise the end result will be worth it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Known as the oldest living author of erotic romance, Desiree Holt has produced more than two hundred titles in nearly every subgenre of romance fiction. Her stories are enriched by her personal experiences, her characters by the people she meets. After fifteen years in the great state of Texas, she relocated back to Florida to be closer to members of her family and a large collection of friends. Her favorite pastimes are watching football, reading, and researching her stories.

Learn more about Desiree and her novels at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook and her Facebook author page, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

Note from Desiree: I will pick one commenter at random (using random.org) to receive a $25.00 Amazon.com gift card. This giveaway is open to anyone anywhere, but please post your comment by midnight U.S. Mountain Time on Thursday, December 17th.

Honoring Your Contract

By Katriena Knights

One of the most important things you can do is a writer is honor your contracts. I’m not talking about your contracts with your publishers. I’m talking about your contracts with your readers.

Wait, what? Authors don’t sign contracts with readers, do they? So what am I yapping on about this time?

Readers have expectations. These expectations vary depending upon what kind of book you’re writing. Or, in some cases, the kind of book you claim to be writing. Violating these expectations can lose you your readers—sometimes permanently.

Of course this is more true with genre writing than literary. Most mainstream books have some built-in expectations, as well, but they’re a bit more fluid. Still, when you move from writing for yourself to writing to an audience, it’s a good idea to keep those audience expectations in mind. Most of these expectations have to do with the book’s ending.

For example, in a romance, your reader expects a happily-ever-after ending—an HEA—or at least a happy-for-now—HFN. If your romantic couple decides to go there separate ways, or if one dies horribly, your book isn’t a romance. If you market it as a romance and it lacks the HEA or HFN, your readers will discover you’ve violated that contract and probably won’t come back.

Mystery readers expect the crime to be solved, whether it’s a murder or petty theft. The solving of the crime should drive the plot, and the solution should drive the climax. Loose ends might be left here and there, but the main crime should be wrapped up. If you decide to be extra “edgy” and “realistic” and leave the crime unsolved, you’ve violated your contract. (There are mystery writers who’ve successfully published books that don’t wrap everything up, but they were long-time, established authors with a fan base willing to go along for the ride.)

With any book, of any genre, readers expect a conclusion of some sort. If too much is left hanging, plot points are tied up, or characters are left without resolution, you’ll lose some readers. This is why my copy of Trumpet of the Swan fell apart after about ten readings, but I only read Stuart Little a couple of times. Louis got a nicely constructed happily-ever-after, but poor Stuart didn’t get a nicely tied-up ending. I suppose maybe it was appropriate for his story, but I’m still bitter about it.

However, that’s an example where the genre didn’t dictate the ending. It wasn’t a violation of a genre contract, but it didn’t live up to my personal expectations. As a writer, there’s nothing you can do about that, so there’s no point trying. But do keep in mind the expectations of your genre and of your average reader when you’re stitching that plot together.