Jilly: Resisting Holiday Romances

Are you a Happy Holidayer? I suspect I’m the token Grinch among the Ladies. While my fellow bloggesses are decorating their homes with emotionally significant ornaments, baking seasonal treats, and recommending feelgood stories, I’m counting the days till it’s all over.

This week we’ve been chatting among ourselves about the Hallmark Channel’s holiday programming, aided and abetted by this article from slate.com, and this review of A Princess for Christmas (Sam Heughan!) on smartbitchestrashybooks.com. I have to confess that even reading these intelligent and amusing pieces sent me screaming in search of Dorothy Parker, or Saki, or EF Benson.

Our discussion did, however, make me examine why Christmas stories make me froth at the mouth. It’s not intellectual snobbery or political correctness. I love genre romance. I adore fantasy and fairy tales. I seek out happy endings, and I’m a sucker for community. I prefer tales told with intelligence and wit, but while that might rule out some of the more saccharine offerings, it should still leave me open to classics like Michaeline’s suggestion, Christmas in Conneticut. Nope, not even that.

I always thought I read romance for the kindness, the community and the hit of happy. This week I realized there’s another huge reason: many romances (and all the ones I love best) involve defying expectations and resisting peer pressure. Continue reading

Jilly: Writing Flawed Sex and No Sex

The birds are singing, the sap is rising, and we’ve been talking a lot here on the blog about writing great sex scenes.

Kay started the party by sharing her battle to reward her long-suffering hero and heroine with a gold-plated, caviar-coated, champagne-drenched, Lamborghini-driving, high-quality, meaningful one-on-one. Last Saturday Michaeline shared her thoughts on the sex scenes in Charmed and Dangerous, an anthology of short gay fantasy stories, and yesterday she told us about a pair of happy couplings she decided not to write. In between, Nancy gave us five points to ponder about writing sex in the romance genre.

I’d like to drop another suggestion into the mix.

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Elizabeth: After the Inciting Incident

Stories Yet To Be WrittenHas it only been a week?  Feels like a life-time has flashed by since my last Wednesday post.

Nancy’s Writing is our Superpower post on Monday, with her message about using story to help people make sense of the world around them got me looking at real life from a storytelling perspective, which led me to thoughts about how people react to conflict.

If the events of the past few weeks were something we were reading in a story, then last Tuesday would have been that inciting incident or initial conflict that blasted our protagonists out of their stable-state existence on Monday and drop kicked them into a whole new world on Wednesday.   Like “innocent, optimistic, naïve Nancy of November 7”, those protagonists can’t go back to the people they were before; they must now figure out what to do in what is their new reality.  They can refuse to change, but they can’t un-change the world around them.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  ~ Heraclitus

So, if this were just a story, once the shock and blaming were over, what would our protagonists do next? Continue reading

Jilly: Villainous Villains

Villainous VillainsHow bad do you like your bad guys (or girls)? Who are the fictional characters you most love to hate, and are they out-and-out villains or strongly motivated stop-at-nothing types?

Baddies have been much on my mind this week as I’ve been trying to come to terms with the challenges of writing fantasy instead of contemporary romance. The stakes are much higher for my heroine and I’m trying to get my head around writing a world where her liberty and her life are at risk, instead of her creative ambitions. In particular, I’m trying to decide how bad to make the baddies.

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Jilly: Chemistry Lesson

Chemistry LessonI’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. Continue reading

Jilly: Would You Let This Woman Invade Your Story?

Would You Let This Woman Invade Your StoryDo you enjoy strong secondary characters in romance novels, or do they distract you from the love story between the hero and heroine?

I reported last week that the most thought-provoking feedback I got from the judges in the Fool For Love contest was about scary Sasha, who has plans for my hero, Ian. Sasha is a powerhouse who will stop at nothing to get at what she wants, which means a whole heap of trouble for Rose, my heroine. All my judges enjoyed reading about Sasha and wanted to know more, but the general consensus was that she was hogging limelight that would otherwise have belonged to Ian and Rose’s romance.

The judges’ reaction to Sasha seems to have been stronger because I gave her a point of view, which means the reader gets a glimpse inside her head rather than simply judging her by her actions. I thought long and hard before I did that – I even wrote this post about it in October last year – because Sasha is Continue reading