I’m looking for recommendations, please. I need inspiration, and I’m looking for great friends-to-lovers, colleagues-to-lovers, or even enemies-to-lovers stories. A hero and heroine who haven’t previously been lovers, but who have a long shared back-story; characters with a strong underlying connection who don’t think of each other that way, until they finally get a nudge in the right direction and…light fuse and stand well back.
It’s been a frustrating week at Casa Jilly. As predicted, my honeymoon period with the new WIP (read my January post full of dewy-eyed optimism here) didn’t last very long. I’m happy with the characters and the broad strokes of the story, but so far I can’t get the first scene to a good place. I know it will need multiple re-writes, but if I can nail the basics now, it will make my life sooo much easier in the weeks and months ahead.
The premise is fine. In my head, it’s a riot. On the page, not so much.
The good news is that at least I’m not making the same basic mistakes I made the last time around.
🙂 The heroine and hero are on the page together immediately. Yes! The first scene is Mary, the Executive Assistant and all-round miracle worker at Gilded Lily v. Cam, her stand-in boss and acting CEO.
🙂 There’s a juicy bone of contention: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Gilded Lily. Mary knows that her regular boss (Ian) would kill for a shot at it. She has no doubt they have to go all in, but the person who’d have to lead the charge is Cam, and he has no intention of betting the farm while Ian’s away. He intends to play safe and hand the business back in the exact same shape Ian left it.
🙂 The scene is a microcosm of the book. The main plot is Mary and Cam’s love story; this initial confrontation establishes their characters, their personal chemistry, the obstacles to their becoming life-long lovers, and offers a hint as to how the problem might be resolved. From a craft perspective all the elements are in place. When I’ve solved the other problems, I should be making the right story promise.
So far, so good.
😦 My problem is that right now, Cam and Mary are not people you’d want to spend time with. They have engaging personalities, but you wouldn’t know by reading this turkey of a scene. They talk at one another. Mary tracks Cam down and says ‘Hot news! We should do this.” Cam says, “Hell, no, we won’t.” “Should.” “Shouldn’t.” “Yes.” “No.” If I try to elaborate, it turns into sniping and cheap shots which make her read like a nagging bitch to his passive slob.
As a love story promise, these two are doomed. There’s zero chance of them being credible as a couple. I can imagine their future twenty years hence. He’ll be buried behind the newspaper. She’ll be haranguing him about household jobs he hasn’t done, and he’ll be ignoring her. Not exactly the HEA I’m seeking to project.
I have a few theories about what might be wrong, and I’m going to work through them until I fix this. I think a big part of my problem is that I haven’t figured out how to set up characters who already know each other well, or think they do. In Dealing With McKenzie, the reader met Ian and Rose as they met one another, so the story was a mutual voyage of discovery. It’s different with Cam and Mary. They’ve known each other for a decade, they’re bringing a boatload of preconceptions into the story, and I have to get those in to play right away while simultaneously bringing the reader up to speed.
I’ve spent a whole week trying different takes on this scene, and I hate them all. I need a break, and I’m thinking today would be well spent reading a great romance, or two, or three, by writers who can show me how to nail this.
I’m thinking of starting with the romance sub-plot of Jenny Crusie’s Crazy For You: the hero and heroine live and work in the same small town, and he’s her sister’s ex. That’s the kind of story I need, not unfinished business ones about characters who come back to town and pick up the pieces from long ago. I love those, but it’s not what I’m looking for today.
So – do you have any recommendations? Please help my Girls get their act together. They (and I) would be most grateful. Thank you!