I made it to my mostly annual homage to RWA for a hefty shot of fiction-writing craft. I, however, made it late as my flight was delayed for three hours. (Note to self – come a day early next year.) I missed the session I really wanted to hit today (Writing Emotion: Opening a Vein with Virginia Kantra) which was a double whammy because it isn’t a recorded session. But my first and only session for today was worth the price of admission. Michael Hauge’s Seducing Your Readers in Chapter 1 was exactly what I needed in the here and now for two reasons. The big reason is that I’m rewriting my first manuscript, which sucks because I wrote it before I had taken any craft classes. The bones are good, but it needs work and I’ve been working on the opening with some success. Today’s session gave me fabulous ideas and motivation and confirmation that I’m on the right track. Woot! The second smaller reason is that I’m reading an old Christina Dodd, and when I came back to the room tonight for some much needed down time (this conference is extremely intense), I picked it up and found a passage that is a good example of one of the things Hauge talked about.
I’ll start with the smaller thing. Hauge said that an important aspect of a believable romance HEA is the hero seeing through the heroine’s identity or mask to the essence of her and vice versa. His theory is that in fiction, a hero/heroine/protagonist (whatever you want to call the star of the story) that the reader will connect with is one whose identity is rooted in a painful event/situation that through a process he explained (that I won’t get into because it would give away a big chunk of what people pay him for) ends up with a mask to hide it – in Jungian terms, a persona. When I got back to my room after his session, I read this in Just the Way You Are by Christina Dodd:
“But the Hope he knew wore a mask. Beneath the seeming candor and cheery front, a frantic woman strained toward an almost unattainable goal. She wanted to find her family. More than that, she wanted to reunite her family.”
This line is at the 65% mark in the story (reading on my Kindle). And it is exactly what Hauge was referring to. Zack sees through Hope’s mask to the person under it – who she really is. This portion of his discussion was slightly off topic from the focus on securing the interest of your reader in the first chapter, but it still worked for me. Aha!
My personal confirmation was related to his discussion on one or two protagonists. So much craft-related info out there really only focuses on one. His point of view is that if you have two characters with equal page space, and equally important goals, you’ve got two (e.g., Pretty Woman – he’s a screenwriting guru so he thinks in movies, not books). If you don’t, you’ve only got one (e.g., Erin Brokovitch). He confirmed for me that I have two. In that case, in his opinion, the reader needs to meet the hero and meet the heroine before they meet each other. My opening scene(s) in my revised starts in Matt’s POV in which he’s doing things and thinking things that set up who and what he is (his identity, not his essence) and the next is in Bridget’s POV setting up hers.
There is another woman in this manuscript. Hauge gave me some thinking points about how to show that Gwen only sees Matt’s identity, which I think I’ve already done. And, as a bonus, that’s all she wants to see because that’s what she wants. I don’t think I have it on the page quite so well for Bridget seeing his essence and wanting that. However, in the first scene rewrite, I already have the “Reflection Character” (Hauge’s term for the BFF/sidekick) telling Matt, “Stop playing Dad and start being Matt.”
I frame all my stories through Carl Jung’s universal archetype and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. An added bonus for today is that I picked up Hauge’s CD seminar The Hero’s 2 Journey’s. I have high hopes for more inspiration when I get back to my keyboard in Maryland. Too much going on in Orlando to focus on my big story.
Confirmation, ideas, and some directional cues. I got a lot out of today. Anyone else in Orlando (or anywhere else) have an Aha!?