The closer I get to properly querying WTCB, the more I’m finding I procrastinate. For the most part, the ideas are the interrupters. Ideas for new stories or for characters, all chattering away incessantly.
Yes, it’s good to change tack for a while, and I do want to. One particular idea bloomed today from a bigger collection of thoughts: I want to write a straight NA romance, 50-60,000 words and FAO small romance presses. I’ve even tentatively tilted this growing plan Under The Carrington, inspired by the student resources building on my own campus, except in the book it will be an archaic architecture building where the MC has her main lectures.
However, I’ve had the same general idea of straight romance before, and it’s always petered out. Why? The simple reason that most romances go the same way. Sure, there are exceptions – one of the reasons I like Nicole Helm’s style of writing is that she chooses more unusual locations and occupations for her protagonists – but quite a lot of the contemporary has already been done.
Even my plan sounds worn: MC with troubled past comes to uni, is attracted to a guy older than her in a small position of student responsibility, knows she’ll never get him…something happens…confronts metaphorical demons, happy ending.
Okay, it’s a rough plan. I’ve got a long way to go, but – give me credit! – I have only just thought up the idea. Titles tend to be the inspiration in my beastly world.
Still, it’s filled with clichés and I don’t know how to push them away for a fully story.
Is there a way to change this? Some of my ideas that other romance/contemporary writers might appreciate/agree with:
1. Don’t concentrate too much on backstory. Yes, it’s great to have someone troubled – after all, a lot of both fictional and real-life romance stems or is mistakes, shaping our future actions – but a lot of romance nowadays centres on characters trying to change each other or prove to the other that not all guys/girls are bad. I can see how it works and adds to realism and depth, but I, personally, couldn’t extend that idea to more than a few paragraphs or a scene in which the protagonist is uncertain whether she can let her attraction take over her sense again – simply because people have already spun that thread.
2. Add in a ‘meaningful’ element. This is where I am currently falling down. I want my story to not only be a light-hearted romance and life-experience story, but I also want it to have depths beyond its characters and settings. In WTCB, the meaningful element is the philosophy that the characters bear. Phillip insists on finding, rescuing and loving Aidelle even when he understands that some love, including that of another character in the book, can be false or incorrectly assumed. He simply knows that his heart is true.
However, in contemporary, this element – often a good is better than evil in more ways than one; good forgives evil - is oft lost. How can we, in a rushing, modern environment, see the philosophic and graceful in the land? How can I, in writing of this present world, note the mysterium tremendum and weave any sort of meaningful thoughts into my story?
Well. Every writer is different, and, although my tip #2 is more thinking aloud, I think many writers can take away that some novels need an extra element to draw them away from the pack. The trick, though, is in the delivery…
3. Please do not make this a mundane life. Yes, some people live uninteresting lives, but their daily business is not for writers to record. I am tempted to have my MC study Archaeology, as that would give her a talking point for more than the average NA student. What I mean to say with this point is that a lot of generic romances nowadays provide the same settings and the same interests for every character. We have the duty to work at providing another layer to the romantic backdrop.
Check out Emily Mead’s summary for her story Mutual Weirdness. Even the title is awesome, right? I’ve been chatting to Emily recently about my WTCB query, and the main difference we’ve noticed between ours is that Emily has a better eye for picking out what makes her contemporary story unique. Wall of Orange Things…
Amusingly enough, one of the results of my Google image search ‘bad romance stories’ was a picture of Meyer’s The Host film (link to an article about weak modern filmatic romance story-telling).
4. Yes, this is romance, but can I add another edge of drama? Similar to the above, except in major plot, rather than minor characterization. What I really enjoyed about writing and having readers for Triangle was that one of the MCs has OCD and that drastically affects the way he treats the female Main Character, especially when they first meet, as he believes that he needs her in his life. As the protagonist has a BSc in Psychology, she has an inner-conflict obligation to help him. This meant that, whilst their romance was the forefront of the story, the twists and turns of their love were connected, and opposed by, his illness. One reader even likened it to Austen-ian style storytelling. *grins*
I’m still working on what will be UTC‘s twist(s), though.
5. Pretty obvious but let’s not stereotype or cliché our MCs. I was always certain that my MC would not be blonde, both in personality and in hair-colour. Perhaps a fool at times – but, really, aren’t we all? I say some stupid things because I have trouble censoring my mouth in today’s free-word country.
Of course, some characters might fit their image stereotypes, but purely by coincidence. In my observations of human nature, I have seen that people tend to act the way society sees them; one boy with whom I once auditioned had a strong personality when he spoke, but told me that his was an act in itself to hide his insecurity around people. Red-heads tend to have a sparky personality because of that expectation on them. Perhaps I can play with expectations. Perhaps one part of a writer’s job is to use what has been overplayed and subvert it.
One SC will be a girl with pink hair, to show the diversity of university nature and possible prejudice. But even these thoughts could be considered overdone. Writing is walking the thin line between being different for its own sake and being the same as everybody else.
Lastly, 6. Romance doesn’t always mean sex. More importantly: New Adult does not mean raunchier Young Adult, either. I’ll be writing strong attraction as I have done in my other romance-led novels, but I won’t craft a sex scene. Romance doesn’t have to be led by the carnal, and this is an idea I still uphold, unless my characters are deliberately carnal. In Rion’s backstory novella, I have contrasted the outgoing nature of his relationship with the fact that, even when confronted, he cannot speak the word.
Anyway, thanks for reading. Check out the ‘tips’ tag for other posts on ideas and advice, even when I simply think through any ventures onto which I may be journeying.