I’d like to share a light bulb moment I had a last year after reading a document from Natasha Kern, my fabulous agent. What she said was like a knock upside the head for me.
And I’m sharing this, knowing good and well that some of you may think, well, duh, Missy, you should have known that. But I’ll take the risk. :-) Because haven’t we all had those moments where you hear something over and over, and finally it sinks in? So here’s hoping what Natasha said is light bulb moment for you, too.
Failure is an option. And she’s not talking about us as writers. She’s talking about our hero and/or heroine. The hero must be in an “I can’t but I have to" situation. I must save the maiden but I can’t because I’m afraid of dragons (burning desire vs. inner obstacle or vice). Keep the outcome in doubt. Failure is an option.
I love that! Can’t you just see a hero who knows he has to save the heroine, yet he’s deathly afraid of dragons? You have instant conflict! And it’s not easily solved. It can’t be solved by a conversation or clearing up a misunderstanding. It can’t be solved by sharing a secret. It can only be solved by this hero overcoming his fear/obstacle/vice—either that or giving up on his burning desire.
And if the outcome is in doubt, what do you have? You have a reader who’s going to keep plowing through the pages to find out what that poor hero is going to do. And the reader will be cheering for your hero the whole time—rooting for him to overcome his fear and win the hand of the maiden.
I write inspirational romance, so the stakes aren’t so much life and death as they are emotional. In my April release from Harlequin Love Inspired, A Family for Faith, my hero, Gabe, is an overprotective widower father of a twelve-year old daughter who’s fighting for independence. He must learn to let go, to deal with “girl things.” But he can’t do it without the help of his neighbor, Faith, who makes him long for the one thing he absolutely cannot risk—loving again.
Okay, so what about your work in progress? Can you boil it down to a statement? I think if you’re writing a romance of any genre, the statement, and thus conflict, should include the other main character so that the hero is causing conflict for the heroine and vice versa. And the outcome needs to be in doubt. Failure IS an option.
Will you share your statement? Or maybe figure out the statement for one of your favorite books you’ve read?
Cinder-Bella Theory, presented by Missy Tippens and Lindi Peterson, runs from June 6, 2011 through June 20, 2011
A version of this blog post first appeared at http://seekerville.blogspot.com. Missy would like to thank Natasha Kern for the light bulb moment and for allowing her to share this tip.
Missy Tippens is a pastor’s wife and mom of three. She has a story included in Blessings of Mossy Creek, published by BelleBooks. After ten years of pursuing her dream, she made her first sale of a full-length novel to Harlequin Love Inspired. Her books have been finalists in the ACFW Book of the Year, Bookseller’s Best, and Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. A Family for Faith (April 2011) is her most recent release from Love Inspired. Coming next, A House Full of Hope (Feb. 2012).
Missy has presented workshops at RWA National and Moonlight & Magnolias conferences. She will be co-teaching a workshop for FF&P in June. You can find her at http://www.missytippens.com. And she blogs all over the place: http://www.lifewithmissy.blogspot.com, http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com, http://www.thefaithgirls.com. Be sure to look for her Missy Tippens Readers page on Facebook.
When Faith Hagin sees widower cop Gabe Reynolds every day in her coffee shop, she can't help but feel for the struggling single dad. She's raised a teenager of her own—and sadly, knows what not to do. But thanks to his matchmaking preteen daughter, Chelsea, the whole town's praying for Gabe to find a wife! Even though Faith thinks she's content being just friends, spending time with him and Chelsea starts to feel like a fresh start at having a family. And their love may be the answer to everyone's prayers.