Saturday, January 19, 2008

Writing for Presents 1

Ever since the Instant Seduction Contest was first announced over on the I heartPresents blog, people have been writing to me, asking for advice about their entries. Not to read them of course - I just don't have time for that and I wouldn 't be able to do it because if I did it for one person, I'd have to do it for all - so I don;t do it!

(Pause for a quick aside her - just in case you live in the UK and need the reminder. If you want a professional critique on your manuscript, don't forget the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme. Join the RNA, and as an unpublished writer (ie New Writer) your fee includes a reading fee for the NWS. But get in there quick - like now! This scheme sells out fast and there is only room for the first 200 entries to sign up to the scheme for 2008)


OK - so I feel the same about giving advice for the contest as for reading mss - if I'm going to do anything for anyone I have to do it for all. So I'm not going to answer individual letters - but I will put up a couple of posts here that are for everyone to read. There is just about a month to the closing date for the contest so there's still time to take another look at your work before you send it off.




The first question I was asked was: what is the most important thing to think about when writing a Presents novel?


Many people who know me would believe that I would answer, without hesitation - the characters. And yes, that was my first thought.


But I'm going to slightly amend that - the real answer is that in any novel, for me, the most important element is the characters. You need to know them inside out, through and through and that's why in my 12 Point Guide I have given a double page Character Questionnaire - one that delves deeply into the charactres and what makes them tick.


But why I paused to think here is that we're talking about writing for Presents (Modern Romance) and so you need to consider what it is that sets the Presents novel apart from the Romance line etc. I've been asked, or I have asked this question so may times and just about always the answer comes back - or is expected - that it's the sex that makes the difference in a Presents novel.

The Romance line has very little description of the moments 'beyond the bedroom door' , while Presents novels deal with that in much more detail and far more explicitly.

So the sex is what makes the difference - right?

Wrong
It's not the sex and it's not the money. It's not that the hero is a billionaire - or the fact that he's Italian or Greek or Spanish or A Sheikh . . .


It's not the sophisticated international settings . . .

Or the much vaunted, terribly misunderstood and badly misrepresented at times Alpha Male . . .


Yes, a Presents novel is made up of all of these things - but what marks it out from so many other lines can really be summed up in two words - EMOTIONAL INTENSITY


It's the emotional intensity that makes a Presents novel - and to create that emotinal intensity you need to have a strong and emtional conflict.

Again, if you read the 12 Point Guide, you'll see that I have a problem with the word conflict as it tends to make people think of characters arguing, arguing, arguing - throwing insults and abuse at each other until they finally buckle and say 'I love you.'

No!

A good conflict is one where it springs from the characters' values, from their inner thoughts and feeling and clashes with the feelings of the other person. A conflict thatdeep down, in their heart and soul really matters to the hero and the heroine - one that is worth being at oddds over. One that matters enough to be worth running the risk of losing the love of your life over.
One that will get deep inside the characters, into their hearts, souls and minds, and create a real deep, life altering , emotional change in them by the end of the book.

It's not silly or petty or mean. It's not being angry for the sake of being angry. It;s not blackmail for the sake of getting a plot going. It's not taking revenge out on the wrong person . .

It's something that matters, and that creates the need to fight - if not for the characters' lives, then for their emotional lives. And that is what creates the emotional intensity that is the hallmark of a Presents book.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post Kate. I always have a lot of light bulb moments after reading your posts. Looking forward to reading more. Your twelve point guide is a constant companion and always within easy reach.

Hope you're keeping well.

Chris.

JT Schultz said...

Thanks so much for the words of wisdaom, Kate. The fact that you took the time to offer your gems of information mean a lot. Thanks again.

christina said...

That was great, Kate. I would go as far as to say your book is indispensible for anyone writing romance!

Anonymous said...

CarolC said...

Christina I completely agree. When I first read the 12 Point Guide it felt like a 'secret' weapon. Anyone who is serious about writing romance should definitely read it.

And thanks again Kate for sharing your brilliant expertise with us.

 

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