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Friday, September 17, 2021 character archetype book writing

Different character sketches

 

Characters are the foundation of every story. If your readers can’t connect with the characters, they’ll put down your story. Some characters change and grow over time, and other characters remain the same. Howard Tayler of Writing Excuses calls characters that don’t change over time iconic characters. Think of a James Bond or a Conan the Barbarian character where the world changes around them, but not the main character.

Before moving on, let’s establish conceptual clarity between a stereotype and an archetype. A stereotype relies heavily on using widely believed characteristics of a person from a recognisable group. In the case of French Canadians, there’s a stereotype that we are all lumberjacks, spend our time making maple syrup, are farmers or work in menial jobs. Think of a group that is “other” than you, and you’ll come up with an image of how they dress, talk, where they live, and their general vocations. Some of those portrays may be accurate to a degree, but most won’t be.

Stereotypes can be harmful to individuals in that group, and the reader can find them boring to read.

Character archetypes are different. Archetypes are characters that share common characteristics across the human experience. People across cultures and time recognise a leader, healer, or warrior (among other archetypes). Archetypes play a certain role in society.

Archetypes are different from stereotypes because all cultures have healers and warriors (and so on). However, how each culture expresses its “warrior-ness” differs. A Canadian soldier in 2021 has certain equipment, extensive training in specialised fields (paratrooper, infantry, tank commander, etc.), and a certain mentality that draws them to work and that particular position. An Aztec warrior has different equipment, different training, and but likely the same motivation to be a warrior.

I was asked by @LouSchlesinger if and how I use archetypes to build my characters systematically. The simple answer is that I don’t use archetypes. The more in-depth answer is that I build my characters from the trope and setting out. For Novella 2 of Heartened by Sport, I decided to write a second-chance romance in which the sport of choice (remember it’s part of the Heartened by Sport series) would be pickleball. I thought this sport was unique enough to create interesting circumstances for the characters to interact while engaging the reader. From there, I fleshed out the characters to understand their deep hurts (the reason why they aren’t in a romantic relationship {at all} and, more specifically, why they aren’t in a romantic relationship with their counterpart in the book).

I strive to make unique but believable characters. I often pick careers that aren’t top of mind in romances. Even when I write historical romances, I strive to give the women plausible means to sustain themselves that remain in keeping with the time and social constraints. If they are upper class, I aim to give them unique hobbies that make them stand out.

Why? The simple reason is that I work to create unique characters that readers will relate to and cheer for.

I don’t write to archetypes, but I play around with the dynamic between conflict, career/occupation, and setting. I explore ways that certain careers (combinations of his/hers) create problems for the individual and a romantic relationship. Perhaps someone is a salesperson who is always travelling. Long-distance relationships can be tough. Perhaps one is an early childhood educator who always catches colds and cases of flu from their young charges and hampers their social life. Perhaps the characters work opposing shifts, which adds complications if they are parents and trying to keep a strong marriage while coordinating childcare responsibilities and staying in touch with family and friends.

Each occupation has certain benefits and hindrances. Certain personalities (archetypes) are likely to gravitate to certain professions. There’s also a push-pull between the characters, their interests, their professional interests, and the relationship (in a romance) they seek to establish. Map out the conflicts between these layers and have fun with them. You’d be surprised how you can make each character, personal development arc, and romance unique.

Sure, certain themes are common in romances, but how each character and couple overcome them makes them memorable (or not) to readers.

When developing characters, I focus on unique events in their lives, how those events lead to decisions, and the consequences of those decisions on the character as they mature. What happens if a nurse (healer archetype) is also in desperate need of healing because of a chronic illness? What happens if the character who is a teacher (college instructor, corporate trainer, university professor, the most senior person on the team responsible for onboarding new staff, etc.) is the one who needs to learn the world isn’t the same and they need to adapt?

There are many dynamics to explore to add depth to your character. I choose to start with the trope, theme, and setting of the book. I drill down to career and hurts, and from there, I sketch their layers of conflicts, personal goals, deep hurts, character beats, and plot beats.

Archetypes are interesting to expand and explore. Delve deeper into a character’s background and occupation to highlight what makes them unique. They’ll be more interesting characters, and your readers will be more engaged.

 

How do you use character archetypes in your writing? Reach out on Twitter @reneegendron to continue the conversation.

 

Thank you, @LouSchlesinger, for the topic suggestion.


Thursday, September 2, 2021 romance location milieu setting worldbuilding

 

We’ve all heard of romances with dukes and ladies dancing in London ballrooms. Perhaps there’s a small town by the beach with an ice cream shop where a couple falls in love and shares their first kiss. There’s also the possibility of a ranch where a cowboy/cowgirl falls for a city slicker. These are all tried, and true settings of romances and romance readers eagerly wait for the next story.

What of other romance settings? What of unconventional places that offer unique constraints and obstacles to the main characters seek love? Let’s consider a chicken coop. (Thanks @DewayneKizzie) for the suggestion. There are all types of chicken coops. If you’re writing a historical, a chicken coop can contain a dozen hens. If you’re writing a contemporary on a large farm, a coop can contain tens of thousands of hens. What kinds of hazards does the romantic pair face in a coop? Perhaps a rabid fox or air quality issues? Perhaps there are challenges with collecting so many eggs in such a large facility. If it’s a modern facility, workers may resent working conditions, come from multiple nations, and experience communication issues, seek to form a union, or face health and safety hazards. (Chicken manure is considered hot because of the high concentration of ammonia).  

Original settings engage the reader because they can’t anticipate the hazards and obstacles. Romances are driven by internal, interpersonal, and environmental conflict. Let’s say there’s a plane crash in a swamp. Each romantic lead needs to address a particular fear or trauma. Each lead also needs to develop a relationship with their counterpart. Often the relationship-building is rocky, full of miscommunications, challenges, and baggage.

On top of that, they need to address environmental constraints. In a historical western, the leads might face foul weather. In a contemporary boardroom romance, they may face a tight deadline from an overbearing client. In a plane crash in a swamp, they may face venomous snakes, apex predators, and disease.

The more unique hurdles you can throw at your characters, the more challenging it will be for them to reach their happily-ever-after. Great work!

Let’s look at some unconventional settings for romances. Perhaps your MCs work at an airport. One works as a baggage clerk loading the planes, and the other works for an airline company at the front desk checking in customers. One obvious constraint is time. Both are likely to work opposite shifts and have unsocial schedules. The person at the counter may also have to work for some flights. Here are some additional stresses: working at an airport requires a security clearance. If one or both of the main characters engage in risky behaviour, they may lose their clearance and jobs. Depending on the clearance needed, if one romantic partner loses their security access, the other person’s access is also revoked—known associates and all. How would that impact the romantic relationship if both lost their jobs because one did something reckless like drunk driving and wounded someone?

I’ll take a stab at another unconventional romance setting to illustrate how much fun they can be. Let’s use the example of a food assembly line. Each day the romantic leads stand in front of a conveyor belt and examine canned or packaged goods for quality control. They have quotas, stand all day that might hurt their knees and lower back, the job isn’t all that interesting, and the pay might not be that great.

What kind of problems does this romantic pair face? All sorts from financial stress, to challenges in wanting to move up in the company, to stressing over being replaced by further automation and being uncertain which career paths to take after they are made redundant, to worries over having their work outsourced overseas, to wanting to develop their food product and starting their company.

Don’t be afraid to put your romance in new settings. It allows you to explore different social dynamics, different economic challenges, different ecological constraints, and most importantly, keeps your reader engaged.

Readers appreciate characters who have lives beyond the love interest. By that I mean, they can’t always drive across town to be with their live interest. Most people need to work for a living. Sure, you can take some time off or work flextime, but the time needs to be made up. Most towns have rush hours and road construction and detours that cause delays. There’s rotten weather that impedes the ability of a love interest from leaving their residence, reaching work, or going out after work. Quite a few people have children and need to take into consideration childcare responsibilities before accepting to go out for drinks after work. Most people must be careful with their money. They can afford to go to a restaurant that isn’t fast food every now and then but can’t afford to go every night.

When writing in a unique setting, be sure to:

-present the setting in a slow and gradual way to not provide an info-dump

-present unique obstacles to your romantic partners

-don’t skimp on character development. Excellent romances thrive on strong characters

-don’t neglect dialogue and banter

-get real about the setting and research it. The more authentic details you can provide, the more immersive of an experience you can provide your reader

-get creative in the roles and responsibilities your characters have in the setting

 

What kind of original settings do you place your characters in? Reach out to me on Twitter @reneegendron

 

Thank you, @Sstaatz and @DewayneKizzie, for the topic suggestion.

 


Multiple maps on globes

This post will be about the confessions of a fantasy romance author. At least, that’s how I first pegged my writing career to be ten years ago when I started writing again. One of the major issues I must fix in the fantasy series is world-building. There’s simply too much of it. Pages of it at a time. I became engrossed in explaining the world (a rather cool world) in detail that I lost the plot.

There are twenty-nine books (!) in that series, fully written but needing deep edits before I can publish them. That’s 2.5 million words to rewrite but rewrite I must because I botched the world-building.

I will find the energy to do it because that series is near and dear to my heart. Somehow, I will find the energy. I promise.

Rishab (@elkloriaseries) asked me to go into detail into some of the cool worlds I’ve built. I won’t add any spoilers, but I’ll include some hodge-podge snippets in the different worlds I’ve created. I’ll lean more towards scenery as information on culture, economy, and social set-up for the romantic interactions tend to need more space than a paragraph or two.

 

Fantasy Series ~ The Nearer Realms (Book 1 publication date - unknown)

North of the settlement, Sanders stood on a boulder, his head angled towards the night sky. Thousands of fireflies blinked blue and purple in a vastness of sparkles. Transfixed on the inky blank above, the vastness of the night twinkled millions of points of golden light, but only one home of the true and proper gods. A planet, pink with rings, to the east was the eternal Home to those he knelt daily in prayers.

 

Cyberpunk series (series is yet unnamed (Book 1 publication summer 2022)

Hunched forward, João inspected a silver spoon. Two hundred years old with the mark of an unimportant silversmith, the spoon was tarnished and from the defunct kingdom of Britain. Its only value was for scrap to be repackaged into low-grade wiring.

The door to his shop opened, and silver chimes sounded a not-quite-welcoming sound.

Clad in black leather and a low-cut tank top, Angelo strutted towards him. He has his mother’s almond eyes, and his father’s means streak, and the same grit and edginess all Stranded had. Never at home in Nippon, but unable to return to Brazil. Stuck in a place that didn’t know what to do with them and unable to go to a place they’ve never seen.

 

Western historical (Mines and Metal series and Book 1 publication winter 2022)

At the edge of the unending Prairies was a series of rocky cliffs and land so inhospitable that the earth cracked open for miles, barring all travel. Pocked and scorched and ragged, the gouges on the ground were three-thousand-year-old scars that shied away from existence.

 The wind didn’t howl, more of a low-grade eerie whistle that blew in the ear. Deep and powerful, the desolation of the end of all rolled up and down the mountains into a swirl of opportunities and hope. No sweet-nothings, but a low hum that was constant and rattled the bones to ensure the desolation that was outside reverberated and sunk into one’s marrow.

The end of pocked earth led to an abundance on the Prairie. The foot of the mountain that sprawled into an unending carpet of swaying grass that spanned all realm of possibility for those who had the backbone to withstand lung-seizing cold and endless calving season of labour that left insomniacs asleep for days on end.

 

Contemporary Romance (Book 1 of the Outdoorsmen Series release fall 2021)

James pumped his legs up the incline of the hill. The ground parched from three years of mild drought was loose and full of exposed roots. He pressed upwards. To his left, a bog with swaying cattails from the breeze blowing across the St Lawrence. A vast forest jutted out of rocking outcroppings, rolling hills, and ringing inlets and coves to his right.

A haze hung over the region, part smog blown out of the Ottawa Valley, part heat captured on the kilometres of the 401. Tractor-trailers leaving their marks on the region in an endless plume of belching smoke and cars zooming by farting out their exhaust, pretending no one noticed. The trees noticed.

On top of the incline, James stood, puffing air. The majesty of the landscape captured his imagination, touching on some past of ancestry, connecting him to them and the reasons they kept pushing west from Halifax until they reach this spot. This spot of contrasting greens and tall trees. This spot where forest sounds soothed and inspired. This spot in the middle of nowhere that offered enough abundance that if the farm failed, there would still be enough to provide for a wife and children, and parent, and grandchildren, and neighbours, and parishioners, and the occasional settler who wandered too far as to exhaust their funds.

This spot. Of beauty and abundance and history and future.

 

Contemporary sports romance (Novella 1 of the Heartened by Sport Series released in December 2021/January 2022)

Miranda hoisted a hip on a barstool with a broken leather cover. The entire place smelled of the 1960s—old pot, a house with a smoker in it twenty years ago, and stale beer. Yet the blue and white colours of the Toronto Maples above the bar were bright and modern. The patterns of the hockey jerseys lining the bar ranged from modern to when the Leaf’s were called the Toronto St. Patricks, were white on green still ruled.

She bit into her gourmet burger, ignoring the outdated paper placemat under the plate.

The flat-screen televisions above the bar were muted but displayed sportscasters adamant in their views on who would win this game or that. Politicians debating the merits of going to war never had such fervour.

A drop of warm grease trickled out of the corner of her mouth. She dabbed it with a paper serviette, uncertain if she caught it all, indifferent if she had.

Somewhere behind her, a pair of men shouted at the television screen. The Blue Jays gave up three runs on a single play, and the patrons had lost their reasons to live.

 

I have 16 worlds in the works (no word of a lie!)  I hope you appreciated snippets into the worlds I’m building.

Thank you for reading. Please note that I have a newsletter you can sign up to to receive updates, advance snippets, and writing advice.  You’re welcome to reach out to me on Twitter @reneegendron to continue the conversation

 

Thank you, @elkloriaseries, for the post suggestion.

 


Wednesday, August 4, 2021 time management writing productivity time

Time

 

A few people have expressed their surprise at my production cycle. I’m going to share with you some insights as to how I maintain production. I’ll touch on making time, time management, time-saving techniques, and neurology.

 

Context

How did I write a 2.5-million-word fantasy series (in need of deep edits), one western historical, one contemporary mystery, one 60k-word collection of romantic short stories from different genres (Heartened by Crime), one contemporary sports romance, contributed to 3 anthologies with more on the way, and have more works in the ways?  (I’m writing a 15k-historical fiction romance short story, a second contemporary romance 70k-word novel, a 40k- word historical western romance, a 35k alternative history supernatural romance, a 70k-cyberpunk romance, and that’s my goal between now and February 2022. All first drafts).

 

Making time

The first thing I did was cut down my television time to a few hours a week. By a few hours, I mean I only watch three to six hours for the entire week, even on days when I’m dog tired.

You would be amazed at how much free time you have when you cut down on television. At first, it seems a bit weird to not sit in front of the television, but the productivity boosts you get from doing more exercise, writing more, and partaking in another activity sheds your mind of dead weight.

Sitting and staring at a television for twenty-three hours a week (the average for Canadians, or thirty-five hours per week for the average American or twenty-eight hours for the average European) drains a mind of imagination, harms the body with aching joints and sore necks, and reduces opportunities for a person to engage in meaningful activities.

Sure, people need to switch off now and then. Absolutely, people need to be entertained. But, in my experience, watching so much television drains a person’s willingness to engage in other, more soul-inspiring activities.

I significantly reduced my television watching time about six years ago, at about the same time, I decided to make writing a part-time job. Do I earn enough from writing to have it considered a part-time job? As of yet, no. But I strive for it, and I feel better about myself when I’ve written than when I’ve only watched television.

Playing computer games is another time sink. Again, you can have fun and enjoy playing them. I recommend you be mindful of how much time you spend playing them. 

 

Time Management

Now that I have more time on my hands (from not watching television), I spend it wisely. I keep a schedule where I build in slack. One of the most comment errors in creating a schedule is being overscheduled. Pad your schedule to allow for slower traffic, time overruns, cranky children that don’t want to leave on time, poor weather, construction, and life’s regular ups and downs.  

I plan slack throughout my day. It’s guaranteed that slack is consumed by answering emails, responding to voice mails, and addressing other concerns. However, I stay on top of things because of the slack.

I build slack in my work life to not carry anxiety after hours. I have a full schedule, but a productive one. At the end of my workday, I can itemise what I’ve accomplished, stay on top of things, and still have wiggle room to play for the next day, week, or month. I also build slack in my non-work life. That sense of control reduces thoughts that crowd my brain and frees space to think creatively.

Sometimes this kind of slack can’t be negotiated. There are, however, other ways to reduce the stress you experience, such as taking up meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong, among other restorative practices.  

While I walk (or drive or grocery shop, or do other activities), I stack my time. I use my exercise time to listen to audiobooks to keep current on what’s happening in the market (or to listen to books on writing to improve my craft). I average one to one and a half audiobooks a week. I sometimes use dead time (such as waiting for a Zoom call or showering or cleaning) to ruminating about what I’m going to write about.

Slack. The more you can build it into your schedule, the less rushed you’ll feel, and the less stressed you’ll be. Stress is a huge drain on energy—both physical and mental.

By the time I sit to write, I’m prepared. I’ve built in enough slack in my day to feel productive and non-rushed. I’m a prolific plotter and have an excellent idea of what I will write before I sit down and write it. If I’m stuck, I have a series of notebooks in which I write word associations, wordplay, and ping the Twitterverse to get me over a hurdle. I write in sprints. Often, sprints are 45-60 minutes intervals in which I write as many words as I can. I average 1,000 to 1,5000 words during that time.

For those who don’t have that amount of time free at once, consider writing shorter sprints on your cellphone or in a notepad. There are always five-minute chunks of spare time or moments where you can dictate the outlines of a scene or come up with the back and forth for some zippy dialogue.  If you’re a discovery writer, you can dedicate that time to think over the first scene you will write.

 

Time-saving techniques

Make batches of food. Plan your meals in advance and have some nutritious meals available in the freezer so that anyone in the house can prepare dinner. It takes just about as much time to prepare a dinner for four as it does to make the same dinner for eight. Use that time to write.

Do other things in batches. If you blog, write a few blog posts one after another. If you have social media posts, create one or two weeks’ worth of content simultaneously. Your brain is already in the mindset to work on it—why not make more?

Get everyone in the house on the same routine. Routines might be difficult to establish, but once put in place, everyone knows the rules, responsibilities, and expectations. Conflict often arises from ambiguity and unclear expectations. Routines help navigate this.

What if your schedule is more rigid? Look for downtime—waiting for medical appointments, sitting in traffic, cooking, ten minutes here and there. Negotiate with your family for fifteen or thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to write. Negotiate for different responsibilities, if not every day, then for a few days a week to give you more time. Before you write, use that downtime to ruminate and know what you’re going to write. There’s nothing worse than having the time to write and staring at a blank screen.

Develop supports to look after the kids, reduce the amount of cleaning (if everyone cleans up just that much more after themselves, there’s less housework to do), and create boundaries around your time. It’s hard at first, but it will help boost your self-esteem, give your more agency, and help create a healthier balance.

 

Neurology

Writing at the same time every day gets you into the rhythm of writing. Patterns help your body and brain adjust. If you think more clearly in the morning, then get up thirty or sixty minutes early to write. If you think more clearly in the afternoon, do your best to adjust your schedule accordingly.

Quality sleep has boosted my productivity. I have at least eight hours of solid sleep a night. I borrowed some time from my television-watching to strive for nine hours of sleep. That extra one hour of sleep has yielded extraordinary results in other areas, including focus, creativity, and over well-being.

Once you have time to write, get used to writing faster. If you improve your baseline skill, you’ll be able to write faster and better. In turn, you’ll need fewer revisions to produce excellent work. I’ll include a list of books at the end of this blog to help you write faster and better.

How do I accomplish so many writing projects? I’ve made writing a priority. I regularly take craft-related courses to boost my craft. I listen to craft-related books.

You have friends and a social life. Yay! It’s important to stay connected to the real world. It’s healthier to maintain genuine friendships and laugh and play and experience life. Is your child at a birthday party? Great! Negotiate parameters. Stay awhile, slip out of the party to sit in your car for fifteen minutes to plot or write on your phone, then pop back into the party. Instead of bumming around an entire afternoon at your friend’s place, say that you’ll be there one and a half hours. Build-in slack for two hours and then get back to your place to do other things.

Find a way.

Maybe you can’t dedicate as many hours per week to writing as I can. That’s okay. You can dedicate thirty minutes or two hours or whatever it is you can per week. Guard that time with your life. Those are sacred hours. Build a fort around them. Have archers walk the parapets to protect your time.

Know your brain. I cannot write one project and edit a second on the same day. That’s not how my brain works. I need to see a project through before I can switch gears to a second. Knowing this, I structure my work to have one writing project (plotting, writing, editing, etc.) done before starting another. It helps my mental hygiene, and I find I write better.

Dedicate some time (even if it’s 10 minutes) every day to your craft. If you’re too tired or rushed to write, find something writing-related. Come up with some social media posts, plot, listen to a craft book, participate in a writing exercise, edit one paragraph. Whatever it is you can do for that day, do it.

Lastly, commit to your craft. It takes time and effort to develop your abilities. I view writing as a work in progress where every day I get better, and I (hope) will get better until I die. I decided to be a writer, and with that decision came the decision to improve my skill. I strive to be better tomorrow than I was today. I don’t see the changes day on day, but I do see them year on year.

Writing is discipline. Defend it. Cherish it. Embrace it.

 

How do you maintain your productivity? Reach out to me on Twitter @reneegendron to continue the conversation

 

Thank you, @LouSchlesinger, for the topic suggestion.

 

Here are some great books on how to hone your craft to write more with less time:

Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron

5,000 words per hour by Chris Fox

Point of View in Fiction by Marcy Kennedy


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Heart Beats

 

I love plotting romances. I love the ways you can writes twists, the conflict and the ways you can stack plots. In this article, I’ll write about the common romance beats.

I’ll start with a basic romance’s plot arc in a three-act structure. MC1 meets MC2. The first time romantic characters meet is called a meet-cute and establishes the interpersonal conflict that needs to be resolve for the couple to have their happily ever after. Depending on the pacing of your romance, it can be in the first paragraph, the first page, or the end (hook) of the first chapter. Modern reader tastes lean heavily towards a meet-cute coming early in the book.

In the first third of the book, the characters engage with the romance and non-romance arc. They leave their normal world and get a sense of the conflict that will drive the plot. The second third of the book starts with the decision to engage the plot or problem. The characters face individual obstacles and challenges and increasingly work together to address the plot.

The climax occurs at the beginning of the book’s last third, after the black moment. The black moment is where the possibility of a romance breaks down due to conflict, and obtaining the non-romance plot/goal appears to be out of reach. There is a rallying call, sometimes a grand romantic gesture, and the characters work together to resolve the plot.

If you use a four-part plot, then the meet-cute’s beats occur before the 25% mark. The decision to engage the non-romance plot occurs around the 25% mark. In the first quarter of the book, each MC views their plot as separate with occasional interactions with the romantic interest. During the second quarter of the book, the MCs interact more frequently and begin to see themselves as a couple or at least as a potential couple. At the 75% mark, a crisis occurs (black moment) that significantly hampers both characters’ ability to resolve the non-romance plot and stay together as a couple. The book’s last quarter is spent resolving the plot, experiencing a new normal, and finding a way to make their happily ever after work.

If you’re adding another genre to your romance, you’ll need to stack those beats with the romance ones. The more layers there are to a scene, the richer the writing and the more engaged the reader. One of the best pieces of advice an editor gave me was that it’s okay (in fact desirable) to stack romance and non-romance plot elements into every scene. It seems like simple advice, but it was an eye-opener for me.

Prior to that, I wrote romantic conflict and beats in one chapter and the next chapter, I wrote the non-romance arc. As an aside, I strive to write novels that are 50% romance and 50% non-romance arcs. My short stories have a different balance because I don’t have the word count to flesh out both plots.

The more I wrote, the better I got at adding tension and conflict of both non-romance and romance plots in all scenes. People think about home when they are at work and vice versa. We are whole beings, and it’s very hard for people to separate the different aspects of themselves. Your characters can’t always do that either. Sure, they’ll focus more on work-related things at work (especially if they are in a high-concentration profession such as doctor, soldier, bomb squad agent), but if they fought with their significant other before going to work, it would impact them.

That was a bit of a tangent, but it’s to say that each scene has the potential to add elements of both romance and non-romance beats. Romances are driven by conflict, and there is ample opportunity to explore the tension between internal conflict, interpersonal conflict (between the romantic leads and between other characters), the antagonist or villain, and the other plot.

In addition to the common romance beats, each romance trope has its beats. Let’s say you’re writing an enemies to lovers trope. The conflict that keeps the romance leads apart must be strong enough to drive a wedge between them throughout the book. If you’re writing a historical novel, a common enemies to lovers setup is an arranged marriage between noble houses to end a war. This trope can manifest in a marriage between rival clans, merchant families, or two kingdoms. The beats for the trope include: a deep hurt that fuelled the war is manifested in the romantic lead. Perhaps he led troops in the battle that killed her brother. Perhaps she was a healer and is perceived not to have healed wounded soldiers on his side (leading to needless suffering, or perhaps a physical injury on his part that leaves him limping, or unable to fight, or scarred).

The beats for an enemies to lovers: meet-cute, high-intensity conflict/avoidance of the other romantic lead, something compels them to work together, get to know one another, attitude change, black moment causes people to revert to old ideas or patterns of behaviour, try to resolve the plot alone, failure or catastrophe, work together to resolve, new normal with happily ever after.

There are many romance tropes to play around with. Nothing is stopping you from stacking romance tropes and then layering multiple genres. It’s fun to do and create rich and engaging stories. Make sure that the beats align. By that, I mean, if you’re writing an enemies to lovers trope that involves amnesia, make sure that the MC recovers flashes of memory throughout the entire book to build up the tension and have the reveal that the MC remembers (the war, the conflict, the role of the other MC in the war) comes as part of the black moment to tear the lovers apart. If you have the reveal of memory too soon in the book, it’s not a full amnesia trope, and it can cheat your character’s development and reduce your readers’ enjoyment of the book.

TV Tropes.org, Gwen Hayes’ Romancing the Beat, Write your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell, and The Last Fifty Pages by James Scott Bell are terrific resources to identify the beats of your book.

 

If you would like to be on the advance reader list for James' and Mirabelle's story (contemporary mystery romance, 90k-word), please contact me. I have also have a contemporary sports romance novella being relased in late Fall 2021/Winter 2022. 

I was interviewed by Writers Bloc on the matter of tropes. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @reneegendron  to continue the conversation. You can listen to the podcast here.

Thank you, @DavidJSinter, for the topic suggestion.