Tag Archives: Heroines

Country of the Mind

Thea Devine today. On this past Monday morning, around 11am, we drove into town for the annual Memorial Day parade. Perfect day: bright sun, blue sky, warm weather, fresh breeze — and people. Town was jam-packed with people all along Main Street, two, three, five deep, and there wasn’t a place to park anywhere near. We finally got a spot in a little field about a quarter mile from Main Street and joined a crowd hiking toward to the main event.

It hadn’t started yet, but the staggering number of people lining the street was an event in itself. Kids, parents, teens, tweens, boyfriends, girlfriends, dogs, grandparents, town officials all merging and mingling, looking for friends, space, refreshments, for the parade to begin.

This, I thought, was the essence of why hearth and home books resonate so vibrantly in romance. This is the country of the mind; it is a Norman Rockwell painting come to life, a place that exists in the imagination, in the heart, and sometimes in life.

A place, perhaps, one has been seeking without even knowing it. The place you know is home in a deep visceral way, even if you don’t want to admit it.

In fiction, it takes a good three hundred pages for the heroine to come to terms and admit it. The reader is already there, because those tropes tap into our deepest desire for community and acceptance in a place where everybody knows who you are. Your family, as it were.

Standing on the sidelines and watching the parade — the bands, the old timey cars, the re-enactors, the antique fire trucks, the members of the Service clubs, the staff of the Library, everyone who marched — I turned to John and whispered, I love this place.

I do … love this place. I feel like the heroine who has finally found her home. I’ve had deep yearnings to gather my cousins here, in my place, so we can be as close as our families were when I was growing up in Brooklyn and Sunday was mandatory visit grandma day.

But a visit or an email isn’t quite the same as noisy family dinner on a Saturday night. Like any beleaguered heroine, I never thought I’d miss that after all these years, or wish I could recreate those times. I’m sad my sons will never experience them too.

After the parade was over, everyone poured into the street which had turned into a traffic-free plaza — either to meet friends, or see who was there, or to wend their way to where they’d parked, stopping to chat with neighbors, friends, parade participants, along the way.

I took lots of pictures, grateful this wasn’t the small town of my imagination, or a small fictional town in a future novel I might write. It was my town, here and now, my place, my home.

Did you go to your Memorial Day Parade? Do you feel like you’ve found your place, your home? Is it what or where you thought it would be?

PS re: RT. I’m pleased to say I was one of the thirty- year “pioneer” authors honored by RT at this year’s convention in Kansas City. It was a well attended convention, I heard estimates of as many as 1500-2000 attendees, and there was a spectacular number of workshops to suit every taste, every genre and every level of experience, plus receptions, parties, meet and greets and a special fan event.

The big booksigning was HUGE and swarming with avid readers. The hotel was lovely with lots of places to sit and chat. The 30th Anniversary Gala was fun; we were all asked to say a few words to the attendees after Kathryn Falk spoke about the thirty years that Romantic Times had been a force in the industry.. You might have heard EL James was there — she was, but I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her. I had a wonderful time.

The Man I Love…

Sigh… I fall in love twice a year. That day dreamy, can’t- stop- thinking- about- him, long- to- see- his- face kind of love. You really should meet him. He’s strong and tall. Sensitive but in a manly way. And sexy. He’s got a killer smile and eyes that seems to pierce the soul. Oh sure, he’s got flaws but they are so gosh darn adorable they only make him more lovable.  And it’s only through a cruel twist in fate that we cannot be together.

Much to my mother’s disappointment the man I love doesn’t exist. Sigh… (No grandbabies this year.) That’s because the man I love is my hero. The one I spent months creating and he belongs to somebody else.

One of my best friends says that I’m so picky when it comes to men because I read too many romance novels.(I disagree!!!!) But there is some truth in that statement. It takes me a long time to fall in love with my hero. When I first start writing a book it’s a little like a first date. I meet my hero. I find out that he’s kind of cute and he’s got a cool job and his bottom looks super fine in a pair of jeans. Dates two and three are like chapters five and six. I find out a little more about him. Stuff that is slightly more personal, like he’s got a fear of cats and a dimple appears on his left cheek when he laughs. Then after a couple of months I learn that maybe his relationship is not so good with his mother and that his 5 o’clock shadow appears around 7:30. And despite the fact that he never puts away his shoes he still a really good guy.

It’s a this point I’m in love with him.

As a romance writer I have to be in love with the guy I’m writing or my book is not going to work. I’m not sure how it is for writers of other genres but I have to love my hero because I am giving him to my heroine. And she’s a girl that I really like. She’s is somebody I would want to be friends with if we ever met.

I have to know them both inside and out. Their favorite colors, what they smell like, what they look like when they wake up in the morning. What makes them afraid. It’s why for me, writing those first few chapters is so torturous. It’s like a first date, nerve-racking, anxiety producing torture. First chapters and first dates are where you make first impressions. For singles it’s when you decide if you want to see them again and for readers it’s the time you decided whether you want to continue with the book.

So do you see why I have to love him? Because I can’t expect my heroine and more importantly my readers to. Non-writers might think I’m nuts but Scribes fan you understand me, don’t you?”

And since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow I thought I’d ask you: Have you ever fallen in love with your hero? Are you friends with your heroine? Do you get what I’m saying? Do you feel the love? Any and all comments are welcome. Chocolate and roses are too!

Quirks, Kinks, or Commonalities?

What is it about our heroes that make them:

1)      Likeable

2)      Endearing

And most important,

3)      Worthy of our heroine

I’m in the process of revising my second book, ON THIN ICE, due out in December. One issue this story has had for me, is that Carter, my bad boy match for Penny, who is my good girl making bad choices seventeen year-old protagonist, is a bit…well…flat. Don’t get me wrong. Carter is cute, sweet, and sympathetic, but since he doesn’t get a lot of on the page time, I don’t know him well enough to fall for him.

 Not that Penny does either.

Teenagers don’t always have to know the nitty-gritty depth of a person to let their hearts be swooped up and carried away. In fact, they are usually ruled by hormones, attraction, and instinct. But that isn’t enough for the fictional world of Contemporary YA Romance. We need to have a reason for our girl to fall in love with our guy.

In Heaven is for Heroes, Jordie and Alex had the benefit of a past—a friendship turned romance that was left unresolved, so they already had conflict and tension built in.

Conflict is King

So what about characters that just meet, fall head over heels, and jump into bed right away? Where is the conflict, the build-up of tension, the oh-so-satisfying push and pull required for us to root for our couple to find their hopefully ever after?

I know there are tricks—like giving your hero a quirky habit, something about him that makes him real and more three dimensional. Maybe he’s nice to animals or shares a common emotional journey with our heroine, but how do we make him really deserve the love of a young girl who is putting her heart on the line for someone she barely knows?

Any ideas?

Take This Critique and Shove It…

Why I oughta....
Say what?

Not everybody is going to like everything you do. It’s simply one of the laws of nature. For writers this certainly proves to be true. Go on Amazon and type in your favorite book and when the reviews pop up you’ll see that the book you loved somebody else  hated. Why is that? We all have different tastes.

For my last work in progress, something I agonized over, I had six people read my first three chapters. Three of my fellow Scribes. One published author. An editor and an agent. All star line up, right? Of course, I wanted them all to say that they loved everything and that there were no faults with my writing. (Sigh.I’m such a dreamer.) In reality I knew that wasn’t the case. I knew I had some plotting issues. Some scenes that needed to be scrapped, but I thought my first three chapters were strong and that if I started off the right way my manuscript would be salvageable.

Here’s what happened…

About my heroine…

The editor said, ”  I didn’t feel that Trinity was a heroine I could really identify with, because her mother issues seemed extreme and bordering on mental illness.”

The agent said. “Dive deeper into the issues with her mother. That’s the best part of all of it.”

One Scribe said, “I like that she’s kind of a nut over her mom dying and that she doesn’t know what to do.”

Another scribe said,”Trinity is very sympathetic.”

About my hero…

The agent said, “He’s just a bad character and I would rework him altogether. He comes across as someone without a lot of class.” (OW!)

One Scribe said, “Dan is very hunky and an honorable man to boot.”

Another Scribe said, “I like the guy, Dan. I like that he’s having a personal crisis at the moment too.

The editor said nothing about him at all.

About my third chapter…

The published author said, “I loved your ending.” This person also said. “It was well done and I enjoyed reading it.”

One scribe said, “Actually, this sentence (the ending ) is probably unnecessary.”

One person said the meeting between the hero and heroine was flat. Another said “Oh my!”

I got a bunch of other comments.Most of them conflicting. The only thing everybody agreed on was my writing style, my voice. The agent said (I’m paraphrasing here) ‘Your actual writing isn’t bad. I once told somebody to not quit their day job’.  I took that as a thumbs up. Phew… That’s the only thing I don’t know how to change. Some people loved my supporting characters, one absolutely hated them and went as far to say that I should scrap them all together. The agent also said, “I’m not a big fan of all your snappy dialogue and funny stuff.” (Ouch, darn it!) He also really, really, really hated my hero. ( I kind of love him.) He also told me that he thought it would be much better suited as Women’s Fiction rather than Contemporary Romance. And that if I eliminate the unnecessary relationship that I would be in good shape. The editor’s only real advice was that I should look at what’s currently selling and write that. (Bad Advice! Bad editor!)

What did I take away from this? Not a gosh darn thing! Well that’s not entirely true but for a while I didn’t want to look even look at the manuscript. All the comments, all the different points of view threw me into a total tailspin. Here’s what I did take away…

1.I write romance novels.  Contemporary, kind of funny, Romance novels and after years of genre jumping I feel like I have finally found my place. I will not write women’s fiction because it’s not what I do best. Write what you love. Write what you do best.

2. I learned that if more than two people say the same thing it’s probably true. If everybody says it then you might want to revise.

3. Not everybody is going to like everything you do. It’s impossible!

4. I won’t ask so many people to critique my writing. (You probably won’t be seeing me at the next critique group.) For me one or two trusted writers/ Scribes is all I need. It might be different for you. Do what makes you feel comfortable.

5. The most important thing I learned was to take everything they said in and let it go. Ultimately, I am the one who is putting my name of the work and it’s up to me decide how it goes. (I’m The Decider! And you can be too.)

6. I am greatful for their help. They took time from their own writing to help me with mine. Most people don’t critique to purposely hurt your feelings, only to help you become a better writer.

I want to hear from you. What do you think about critique groups? Critique partners? Love them? Hate them? Has someone said something about your work that will always stay with you?  Do you take criticism well.? Any comments are welcome.