Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Creating warmth in your ms

If you are writing series romance or really commercial women's fiction in general, one of your most important tasks is to create warmth. You want the readers to love your characters as much as you do. Remember these are comfort reads or escapist reads for people. It is not about making readers feel uncomfortable.
My senior editor sometimes says to me that often I have the warmth in my head and not down on the page until after the revisions.Apparently I talk about my characters with great warmth and humanity but sometimes it is not translated on to the page. It is a lesson I learnt well when I had that ms rejected (asked to put aside) last December. Part of the problem was a lack of warmth, particularly in the early chapters.
So how do you go about it?
First love your characters. Sympathise with them. Understand where they are coming from.
Second, make sure you give the readers early on a reason to like your characters. Writers often write lists of points of conflicts but you also need to know why they will get on. What is there to like about this character? And why? Why should the reader like this character and feel sympathy. A small note; Depressed heroes or heroines can be hard to like. If you are writing a redemption story, show possibly via a prologue that character is capable of being redeemed.
Show a small act of kindness. Give an insight into why the character is angry with the other. If you are doing a revenge story, show the reasons why the person feels driven towards the revenge? Why are they doing it? The other character doesn't have to know but the reader should.  Have a *Save the Cat* moment for each character in the opening chapter. The heroine doesn't have to fall for the hero straight away but the reader does. Why is the reader going to love this hero?  Why will she want to walk in the heroine's shoes?
You are the character's best friend. What little thing do you notice about your friend and how can you show that in the first few pages? How is the reader going to identify with that character? As Orson Scott Card says in his book Characters and Viewpoint  we like what is like us. First impressions in books as well in real life matter.  It is hard in a series romance to overcome a bad first impression. In longer books, yes you might, but it takes a lot of work.  To create that moment look to the character's dreams and hungers. What is their motivation? Why is that dream important?  Where is the integrity? What about courage? Dependability? Creating warmth and likability starts with the very first time the character walks into the story.
Above all make sure that warmth is on the page and not in your head!
Donald Maass did a brilliant blog last week on warmth on Writer Unboxed. It is well worth a read.


Caroline said...

Thanks for this Michelle- it was most enlightening! Sometimes it's hard to make an alpha hero not come over as too well...hard/nasty etc. on the page just because we *think* that's what the hero should be like. If we make him vulnerable does that make him "weak"? It's a thin line I think, and not an easy one to write. Thanks again. Caroline x

Anonymous said...

Lovely post Michelle - thanks for that. Sometimes when I'm stuck I just need a nudge - and your post provided it. Looking forward to more writerly advice from you.
So pleased your latest was accepted.
xx Chris

Judy Jarvie said...

Great post, Michelle. So pleased you've just had your latest through.
I can heartily vouch for the points you made. Just had a ms accepted by MW Pocket Novels. The very clever editor hated my heroine but liked the hero. She suggested I try again with less battles and more getting along. It worked. I think the 'alpha' thing morphed into grumpy on the page. It's taught me heroes can just be plain drop dead gorgeous and good! And heroines can ease up.
(Your mentoring of course has helped hugely!)
All best, Judy