Jeanne: Writing the Unlikable Protagonist

Some of my very favorite books have unlikable protagonists:

  • Ain’t She Sweet, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby
  • Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn,
  • Girl on a Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy O’Toole
  • Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte.
  • Citizen Vince, by Jess Walter

But, you point out, most of those novels are literary fiction. Only one is a Romance.

True, but I’ve never subscribed to the notion that Romance can’t take on the same challenges as other genres. The only two rules your book has to follow to be a Romance are:

  1. Must have a central love story.
  2. Must end with a happy ever after.

That’s it. Somewhere along the way, a lot of romance authors (and, to be honest, readers) have added a third, unwritten rule: The protagonist must be likable from Day One. I beg to disagree. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Stock Characters

Image designed by Freepik.com

I’ll admit it, I’m an anglophile.

I like books and shows set in England/Britain; I like to travel there; I enjoy the accents when I watch the BBC; and don’t get me started on scones and clotted cream.

Naturally, one of the pages I follow on Facebook is The Royal Family.  They post lots and lots of pictures that enable me to enjoy a curated fairy-tale like royal experience from a distance, without being bothered by those pesky less-than-delightful details of real-life.

Periodically I am foolish enough to read the comments people make on the pictures, usually when it is a photo of someone I don’t recognize, like the Earl and Countess of Wessex in today’s photos.  They are apparently well-liked, because the comments were polite and positive, but other photos seem to bring out the worst in the commenters. Continue reading

Kay: Quiz for Y’all: Must I Show the Wedding?

Dear readers, I need your help again. I have finished book three of my interminable trilogy about Phoebe and her steadfast beau. Brimming with triumph, I showed the final two chapters to my critique group last night, and…they didn’t like it.

Here’s their problem. After three books of Phoebe’s not being ready to get married, now finally at the end of book three, she’s ready. Our hero has a Plan, and she says, surprise me.

The surprise is taking all the book’s characters back to Las Vegas, the city where they met, where they will be married in the wedding chapel by the people who first employed Phoebe when she arrived in Vegas at the start of book one. (Now they live in Washington, D.C.) The final scene of book three is everybody just boarded the plane, ready to rest up from the vigorous trials of the day before and me tying up loose ends. Continue reading

Michaeline: Wise Old Characters

Elderly African American Couple from 1899 or 1900 on their front porch. She's strong and has her arm on his shoulder.

Is there a dearth of wise old characters in fiction? What are we doing to fix that? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Whoo-hoo! Three-day weekend here in Japan courtesy of “Respect for the Aged Day” on Monday. It got me to thinking about the old, wise characters in fiction. Currently, my favorite senior citizen is Nana Strong from Jeanne Oates Estridge’s new book, The Demon Always Wins.

Nana is feisty without being senile, is frail of body but strong in her beliefs, and offers a very real sort of “best friend” – not an all-knowing one, but one who knows a lot, and gives it to Dara Strong straight.

Other than that, though? Who are my favorite old folks in literature? It took me a little bit of thinking.

Werewolves? Nah, not a long-lived race, the werewolves. Vampires? Not what you’d call role-models, particularly. I am fond of MaryJanice Davidson’s young Betsy, Queen of the Vampires, but she’s not old.

So, I did what any 21st century philosopher would do, Continue reading

Jilly: Alpha Males Revisited

Is anyone up for more discussion on the evergreen topic of Alpha Male heroes in romance fiction?

Mr. Alpha has been on my mind recently, thanks to a combination of circumstances. I lost a chunk of writing time earlier this year following the death of my mum. Dealing with her estate has been a time suck, so the books I had hoped to self-publish this year are now rescheduled for 2019. Which means that I will still be unpublished at the end of 2018. That’s frustrating, but the upside is that the RWA has decided to run the Golden Heart contest for one more year, and now I will be eligible to enter. I would love, love, love to final in the Golden Heart, to join the supportive and welcoming sisterhood that Jeanne described in her recent post, The True Heart of the Golden Heart.

In planning my final assault on the contest, I decided that in addition to entering my Alexis paranormal stories, I’d dust off the English/Scottish contemporary romance I worked on at McDaniel and which I haven’t read in the last three years or so.

I got fairly close to snagging an agent with that manuscript, and it finaled in a number of local RWA contests, so I thought it should be relatively easy to tweak.

O.M.G. I am sooo glad I never sold that book. It didn’t need a quick edit so much as a comprehensive rewrite. I think the general premise, the characters, the community and most of the plot points are solid, but among other things, the hero (who is, obvs, a very good guy) made me cringe. He was guilty of arrogant asshattishness rather than the kind of consent offences Jeanne discussed in her excellent post The Thin Line Between Alpha and Predatory, but still. Even if his BDE showboating was a persona rather than his true self, the patronizing way he interacted with the heroine was simply not okay. I had to give him a thorough makeover.

The thing I found curious is Continue reading

Kay: Creating Conflict in the Next Book

from moneycrashers.com

Now that I finished the book I’ve been working on (yay!), I’ve been casting around for my next project (eek!). I have a few ideas lined up—mostly centered in worlds I’ve already written—but I’ve been thinking about who my characters are and how I should develop their relationships.

I’m lousy at writing conflict, and conflict is crucial to any good story. Where should my hero and heroine converge? Where should they struggle? Over what, and how?

Continue reading

Michaeline: What’s BDE?

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert on a bus for It Happened One Night.

Clark Gable’s characters had it. Do yours? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

BDE doesn’t always mean “Best Day Ever” – allow this old lady to rant just a little bit. I can’t believe we’ve come to a time and place where the phrase Big Dick Energy is not only allowed in public discourse, but actually celebrated.

But so it is, and here we are, and I have to admit, BDE has its uses.

Justine talked here recently about how alpha males are really not arrogant dickheads. The ones Franz van der Waal studied were also good at building community and consensus. Sometimes that meant pounding a few heads, but it also meant knowing when a thump wasn’t going to make a difference.

Many sources have noted that Big Dick Energy isn’t about having a dick; it’s about having an attitude, and can used to describe people who are rumored to have big dicks (like Pete Davidson and David Bowie), as well as people who have never had a dick, and probably never will, like Rihanna.

What characterizes Big Dick Energy? Continue reading