(To learn, to earn, to reach your goal)

June 1, 2021
Volume I, Issue 5

Copyright 1999 (C) Tracy Cooper-Posey

This issue's contents:

2. SPOT CHECK -- Does your book comply with your market?
3. WOW! ... REALLY? Incredible fiction facts
4. INTERESTING LINKS Weird and wonderful websites.
5. FIRST RITES A celebration of successes.


Editor's notes:

In keeping with the frivolousness of early summer, this month I feature an article culled from a lecture I attended many years ago. The keynote speaker was Miranda Lee, a well established leading author for Harlequin Presents. She had many of us rolling in the aisles with her cutting insights and wry comments upon the best and worst of romance writing. Although her humour probably doesn't translate well onto the written page, her wisdom certainly does.

The last thing you need on a hot summer's day is to tax yourself worrying about the fine degrees of what is and what is not acceptable in romance writing. So, to make your summer writing days a little easier, the feature article is a set of ten rules to guide you on your way to the happy ending, and take most of the sweat out of it.





From March 12, 1994, Romance Writers' Conference. Currie Hall, Crawley, WA.

Ten rules of romance writing, in short:

1. Create a heroine you genuinely like and that the reader can care about and root for.
2. Create a hero your reader will genuinely fall in love with or at the very least fanaticise over.
3. Give your hero and heroine believable and involving conflicts.
4. Give your story a provocative, intriguing or surprising opening.
5. Keep the focus of the story on the central relationship.
6. Keep minor characters minor, but with purpose and integrity.
7. Give your story pace.
8. Give your story suspense.
9. Make the amount and style of sex fit the story you have chosen.
10. Give the reader satisfaction in the climax and ending of your story.

In full:

1. Create a heroine you genuinely like and that the reader can care about and root for.

Give her qualities that the reader will admire, goals that they will respect, weaknesses that they will understand, past problems the reader can sympathise with, and present problems they will empathise with.

Show that your heroine has "best friend" potential, or that she is someone you always want to talk about.

Scarlet and Melanie from Gone with the Wind both represent the good and bad extremes of heroines. Somewhere in between is best. Vivienne, the heroine from Pretty Woman, if you overlook the fact that she is a hooker, is probably an ideal heroine.

Anything given the heroine via her birth - eg; brains, beauty, money - she shouldn't be unduly proud of. Maybe these gifts could even create problems for her. Be wary of making her rich.

Let her make mistakes - even mistakes that lead to regret and remorse. Always have the hero falling in love with her essential goodness and quality.

Give her a nice, individual name - not created names like Storm, and so forth.


2. Create a hero your reader will genuinely fall in love with or at the very least fanaticise over.

Harlequin Presents and Harlequin Romance like obnoxious, arrogant heroes. If your hero is nice, you will have to fight hard for him.

Two heroes from the classics, Rochester and Heathcliff, are probably too dark and melodramatic for today's heroine. If your hero is obnoxious or arrogant, make sure these qualities are well motivated. For example, Edward in Pretty Woman is a baddy turned good. Let your hero show remorse for disgusting behaviour.

No wimps or SNAGS. (Sensitive New Age Guys)

He can be as heroic, and as horrible, as you like as long as he's motivated. But beware... it can be difficult to redeem a hero on page 180 who has been a complete relentless pig for the entire book and make him sound believable.

He should be good looking, mature, successful, strong, decisive, enigmatic, cool and controlled, (but ruffled by the heroine), with a sense of humour. He is a great lover, and could be a great father. He is a man of honour, even if he has been led slightly astray. And he is a challenge to the heroine.

The hero should change over the course of a novel, which shows the power of love to change him.

Make sure the name matches the character.

Sheik books make $$$$$!! (and this probably still applies in the late 90's, too! - tlc)


3. Give your hero and heroine believable and involving conflicts.

The main conflict is the reason why they don't declare their love up front. This conflict should be credible and have realistic reasons. Internal conflicts are the most realistic, and are usually she had got the problem. Make this conflict devastating. Something serious should be at stake (including, always, her happiness).

For instance; She loves him, he doesn't love her (very difficult to write!).
She loves him, and he's engaged.
She thinks he's a womaniser and only interested in sex.
He believes she is a gold digger.
She is embittered by previous affairs.
She thinks she's frigid.

or if you have both him and her with internal conflicts, solve hers first, perhaps, and then his pops up.

External conflicts are situations, such as disasters, accident situations, etc etc. But no misunderstandings!!! Don't make external conflicts either stupid or excessively naive. If the reader can see the truth, why can't he or she?

Don't solve the main conflict too early.


4. Give your story a provocative, intriguing or surprising opening.

Check story openings that grab you ..... why?


5. Keep the focus of the story on the central relationship.

Sexual tension doesn't have to be explicit, however.


6. Keep minor characters minor, but with purpose and integrity.

Don't have too many. Make sure any characters you do have are there for a reason.

The other woman; Don't make her a bitch; if she is such a bitch, what does the hero see in her?

Beware of making villains too black. Just like your arrogant pig hero, a completely ruthless villain looks cartoonish and unbelievable.


7. Give your story pace.

The modern reader is impatient. No long pages of description/narrative/scene setting. Also try to turn long pages of thoughts into dialogue.

Have action/a crisis/turning points in each chapter.

Enhance crises with moral dilemmas (eg Dirty Dancing, when the Jennifer Grey character had to admit to spending the night with the hero to save him from accusations of thievery).

End each chapter with intriguing notes.

Use the active voice, not passive. EG; Prince Valiant kissed her on the lips (active). The Queen was kissed on the lips by the Prince (passive). In other words, show - don't tell.


8. Give your story suspense.

Sustain worry throughout the book. This means, always leave the final, happy resoluation of the romance in doubt, until the end. Add unexpected twists to plots, especially the classic plots, such as the amnesia one, log cabin plots.

Sexual scenes; Don't stop them artificially. This is a trite cliche, and it's better to have your hero and heroine show constraint and consideration for each other than to be "saved" by coincidental interruptions by the phone, the secretary, the future mother-in-law....



9. Make the amount and style of sex fit the story you have chosen.

Remember there will be a difference between married couples and a sweet nineteen year old virgin making love.

To increase effectiveness:
a; Build up sexual tension
b; Provide a solid, realistic relationship
c; Tell the scene effectively.

And don't forget protection!


10. Give the reader satisfaction in the climax and ending of your story.

Make the hero and heroine solve their problems in strong confrontation.


SPOT CHECK -- Does your book comply with your market?

Miranda Lees' rules are honed and focused on one particular market -- hers. That is, Harlequin Presents, and Harlequin Romance novels.

Can you draw up rules for the market you are writing for?

Sit down and go over Ms Lee's rules -- how does your market differ? You can have a little bit of fun with this, too -- and double your fun by sitting round a table with a couple of other romance readers and/or writers who know your market, and poke fun at it. What are the cliches that constantly repeat themselves? Does your imprint have at least one amnesia plot per month? Do all the heroes come from working-class backgrounds and talk with a twickle in their eyes? Do the heroines constantly buckle at the knees with one look at their potential mate?

Being able to dig up the dirt on your target market requires a deep familiarity with their product, so you can't avoid the research (but research is a great way to spend a lethargic afternoon swinging in a hammock under the shade of a tree). It's fun, and it's also educational. Not only will you pinpoint the cliches it's best to avoid, but you will also build an understanding of the trends and expectations of your market.

Re-write the list of rules to suit your market, and apply them to your book, and you will go a long way towards pleasing the next editor you submit to.



Scott Trurow, bestselling writer of legal novels such as *Presumed Innocent*, which was made into a feature film staring Harrison Ford, and *Pleading Guilty*, wrote his first novel on his laptop during his daily commute to and from work on the train. It took him two years.

Despite his success as a novelist, he still continues to work in the legal profession.



A site specializing in writing courses held via email, with percentages of money raised going directly back to RWA chapters of your choice.

The Freelance Writer
Has a section for bookwriters, and a free newsletter.

Novel Advice
A cyber-journal for writers.

The Internet Movie Database
Because you can't write all the time!



Margaret Moore, a Canadian, has published a dozen medieval historicals, including THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS in the Harlequin Historicals anthology, THE KNIGHTS OF CHRISTMAS, November, 1997. She had another two historicals released in 1998: A WARRIOR'S BRIDE, Harlequin Historicals, January, 1998 and A WARRIOR'S HONOR, Harlequin Historicals, July, 1998, and continues to write and publish for Harlequin Historicals.


How did I first get into writing?

Well, I think it started in childhood. I loved Errol Flynn/swashbuckler movies and in fact my girlfriend and I used to play a game called "Red Sheik Barbie." Barbie (appropriately attired in what we referred to as "daring" clothes -- ie revealing) was kidnapped by "the Red Shiek," JoAnne's Alan doll (remember him?) and taken to his
lair, where of course she fell in love with him. I was about 8 years old when we played this.

Then I fell for Mr. Spock, but I prefer not to talk about that <g>.

Then I went to university and studied English Literature (graduated with distinction), but had no plans at the time to be a writer. I just loved to read, so hey! Give me a degree that requires lots of enjoyable reading (Austen, the Brontes).

Later, after a short career in the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, I was home with small children and read THE WOLF AND THE DOVE by Kathleen Woodiweiss, given to me by a friend, which of course I had "poo-ooed." But you know what? It was like those Errol Flynn movies, only with sex(!!). It was fun. It was exciting. It had sex.

So, like so many other people, I thought it would be fun to try to write one. I took a course in Popular Fiction at the University of Toronto that turned me on to the RWA. I met some editors from Harlequin. At this point, I had wandered off into Contemporary Land, which I should have realized was not where I belonged (see above). Fortunately, a Harlequin editor did and she suggested I send my ms. to Harlequin Historical in New York. I did.
(At this point I had been writing and trying to sell for about three years.)

About 4 months later, in a burst of efficiency, I wrote a nice little letter inquiring about the status of my ms. and mailed it the same day I wrote it (rare at that time). THAT VERY AFTERNOON, Tracy Farrell from Harlequin phoned. She said, "This is Tracy Farrell from Harlequin Historicals. We love your book and we want to buy it."

How does it feel? Like a great big Christmas present when you thought Christmas was over months ago. Absolutely wonderful. Every sale is exciting, but nothing ever equals that moment. Poor Tracy was probably deafened for a day, although I tried to sound businesslike and professional (in our family, our voices get louder when we're excited and excited doesn't quite convey my feelings!). I then called my conservative IBMer husband to screech in his ear. He muttered an obscenity, proving that he was overwhelmed, too.



Is there anything you would like to see in this newsletter? Do you have an inspirational story regarding romance writing that you'd like to share?

Email me at mailto:tracy@sashaproductions.com with your ideas and suggestions.

Keep any stories to 250 words, and cut and paste it into the body of your email.


YEARNINGS is a free monthly newsletter for romance writers. To subscribe or unsubscribe, send email to: mailto:tracy@sashaproductions.com

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The editor is Tracy Cooper-Posey, who can be reached at mailto:tracy@sashaproductions.com, or you can visit the website at http://www.sashaproductions.com