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: Strong Women and Alpha Heroines

Alpha HeroinesHow strong do you like your heroines? Do you think there’s a difference between a strong heroine and an Alpha? If so, do you have a preference?

Last Sunday I wrote about my theory that Alpha Male heroes work best in sub-genres like paranormal romance, historicals, or romantic suspense, the idea being that extreme manifestations of dominant behavior are fun to read about in worlds where such behavior is not only expected, but necessary. In a setting that’s closer to real life, like contemporary romance, the reader’s tolerance for macho chest-beating is much, much lower.

In last week’s discussion, regular 8 Ladies visitor Rachel Beecroft said “the other BIG reason I love Alpha men is because it generally takes an Alpha woman to tame them (at least in the stories I like – I can’t be bothered with Alpha man being tamed by ‘little me’ heroine). Yes! Exactly what Rachel said, and we agreed we’d follow up today Continue reading

Jilly: Alpha Males and Guilty Pleasures

Alpha Males & Guilty PleasuresHow alpha do you like your heroes? If your favorites are uber-dominant types, do they inhabit a sub-genre that expects or requires that behavior?

In my reading life I greatly enjoy alpha male asshattery. There are provisos: obviously the asshat in question must be a good guy deep down, he must have brains and a sense of humor, and he must be enlightened enough to respect and enjoy being challenged by a heroine who’s his equal and maybe even stronger.

Even with those provisos met, though, most of my favorite heroes indulge in the kind of high-handed, obnoxious behavior that I would find totally unacceptable in real life. It’s been on my mind this week, because I’m in the first draft of a new story and I’m gradually filling in all sorts of details about my hero. As I’m writing contemporary romance, it’s closer to home, and I’m finding it tricky to get the balance right. I found it a struggle with the previous book, too: after reading my opening scene from an early draft (a McDaniel College romance writing assignment), Jenny Crusie said she’d keep reading, but only in the hope that my hero, Ian, would get hit by a bus. Continue reading

Jilly: Did They Live Happily Ever After?

Did They Live Happily Ever AfterWhat makes you feel confident that a relationship will stand the test of time?

Last week my husband and I celebrated a landmark wedding anniversary. You don’t need the numbers – suffice it to say that we were teenagers when we met, and twentysomethings when we tied the knot, so it’s been awhile. Then a few days ago I had lunch with a friend who’s managing the fall-out from two family divorces within the first year of marriage. The juxtaposition set me to thinking about what makes a relationship work – or not – in real life, and how I could use that information to give my fictional characters every chance of a genuine, lasting HEA.

We judge relationships instinctively all the time – for ourselves, for our friends, families and colleagues. How many times have we been introduced to a new ‘other half’ or attended a wedding and thought privately this will never last? Or Continue reading

Jilly: The Fine Art Of Story

The Fine Art of StoryEver since I read Kay’s fascinating post about Tim’s Vermeer, I’ve been thinking about art and artists, and what a rich source of inspiration they are for story-tellers.

Works of art are fabulous story fuel. It’s one of the few subjects where you could stretch your writer’s imagination to breaking point without ever threatening suspension of disbelief. Artworks can be distinctive and visual, enriching the plot as well as helping to move it along. They’re subject to the whims of fashion, passion, politics and expert opinion. They could be worth a fortune today and a pocketful of loose change tomorrow, or vice versa. They’re highly portable (for which read steal-able), and can disappear for years and reappear just as mysteriously. They’re susceptible to forgery, offering a wealth of opportunity for foul play Continue reading