Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Battles by Juliet Waldron

This is the title because sometimes that is how I feel about the work of writing.

I’ve been bashing my head against one particular story for months. In this case, it’s a book that was “supposed to be” a romance, the second in a projected series. As everyone who has ever tried to construct a basic, old-fashioned romance novel knows, this can be trickier than it seems.  

Conventionally, for starters, you have the heroine and you have a couple of guys who will be Mr. Wrong and Mr. Right. You will, eventually, in the course of an engaging, warm-hearted story, find a satisfying resolution.  Sounds easy, right? Just a formula!

(And, if you think that, I have a bridge I think you'd like to buy.)

I now understand that I set myself up for this by creating a heroine whose problem is that she is too pretty. She’s the girl who fits every 1870’s guy’s idea of the perfect box of candy. (From a historical perspective, perhaps her good looks have gone out of fashion, but we're in another time, so how would we know? All we do know is that she turns them on.)


For the young lady I created three principal suitors. I’d decided in advance which of the three would be the one to win her hand. Her choices: a wounded veteran who is now a minister, a farrier/farmer whose pride and joy is his trotting horse, or a natty gentleman with an inheritance, good looks and a few bad habits.  

If you are a writer, you’ve probably had characters rebel, take issue with your plans. First came the young lady, who tossed her head and told me that she was a material girl and not at all like her earnest elder sister, sweet Sophie of Hand-me-Down Bride.   The men proved difficult to bring to life. Their outlines stubbornly remained vague. Finally, the heroine, tapping her cute little foot, said that for various reasons not one of these men, as now drawn, would do.  On top of the heroine's dissatisfaction, the skeptical old woman inside me kept muttering how not one of these potential unions had "a snow ball’s chance in hell” of enduring for the long haul.

This was/is discouraging. It messes with my sleep, so I lie for hours each night trying to get a scene with this cast of actors to run.  I've tried many ways of making this story work. I've lost my temper and tried to hammer my square pegs into round holes. I've added more angst and then taken it out again. I've thought of writing in (and a job of work is that!) Suitor #4 and/or changing one of the Mr. Wrongs into Mr. Right.
In the meantime, other stories keep knocking on the door bearing strong images and smart bits of dialogue, dancing seductively in the costume of another time period, all calling for attention. Potential solutions--the light at the end of tunnel--disappear just before I arrive. Clearly, the secret is hidden inside one of these characters, something about one them remains undiscovered. 

And now it's time to go to bed and think about it a little more. I have faith. Sooner or later, one of these guys will set me straight . Then the rest will be duck soup.

~~Juliet Waldron  


All my historical novels Hand-me-Down Bride




Ginger Jones Simpson said...

Funny you should mention keeping you awake It's 2:30 a.m and I'm trying to get Sarah to help me tie up her story. Unlike your problem...I don't plot. My characters come to me with a story, names and a ttle...I just have to keep them talking. I'm writing in Sarah's POV and she's been a mute a lot of the time, and unless she talks to me, I have no idea in what direction to head. I'm not sure what's harder, plotting or depending on voices in my head,
Hope everything works out for both of us.

Juliet Waldron said...

Thanks! And good to hear I'm not alone -- was hoping for some writerly input here. I plot--to some vague extent--romances. Historicals, in contrast, are easy --the story already has happened, the plotting is done for you by God. By instinct, I'm a pantser too. The story of the three sisters has been in my head, with, as it turns out, a lot of detail absent. And the fact that this girl is kind of calculating ;) isn't helpful.

Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews