Thursday, September 07, 2006

Characters and Setting

I love it when discussions make my mind work.

The latest is a discussion of characters and setting. Some of the M&B lines stress no small town settings. THe books have to have a cosmopolitan feel.

The key word here is FEEL, and I can't stress that enough.

What the lines like Romance, Presents, and Modern Extra want are not Home and Hearth stories. They don't want a "slice of small town life". But that doesn't mean that your books have to be set in New York, Paris, London, or Vancouver.

What comes to mind for me is "larger than life". Your books have to have that feeling about them, a solid, larger than life feel for your characters. Alpha guys are high on the list, and the focus has to remain on your characters and a high pitch of emotion. It's about the tone that you set for your setting, rather than the actual setting that you choose.

Which is a good thing, because my romance that was bought is set on a ranch in small town Alberta. By focusing more on the industry rather than the day to day running of the ranch, by keeping my secondaries to a minimum and keeping everything centred around my two main characters, it works. It's keeping the internal conflict driving the story that really counts.

Further in the discussion someone mentioned being inspired by a setting and thinking up a book around it and whether or not it would work. Kate Walker made such a great point that I have to credit her with it. She remarked that stories grow from CHARACTERS, not PLACES. I have been guilty of this in the past. I have had a setting in my mind and manufactured a story line to fit it, and it hasn't worked that well. Then Kate said this, and I quote: "Can you picture your story – your characters’ story – being played out anywhere else? If you can then you have the right balance of character/setting - but if your setting is almost a third character then I suspect you should be looking elsewhere to place it."

This is particularly true for me, in reference to Hired By The Cowboy. I first wrote this storyline as a shipping magnate in Southampton and a Canadian girl in London. It just didn't work. I was writing what I imagined would be wonderful and not what I knew. But when I took that same idea...pretty much kept my heroine the same, changed my shipping hero to a cowboy...everything fell into place. It was the RIGHT setting, but the setting wasn't as important as the fact that when I developed a new hero, and developed the internal conflict DEEPER, that became the book that sold.

FWIW the setting obviously wasn't a problem, because it's also the setting for my wip right now. THe hardest part I think is going to be keeping the characters I established in book one QUIET. LOL

Ever since the new guidelines came out for the Romance line last spring, this question has popped up probably half a dozen times, and will again. The best thing to do is to read what's being published NOW within the Richmond lines to get a feel, and compare it to other lines like Supers or American.

Will be MIA for a few days...just a hectic schedule and some planned R&R on the weekend. ANd SLEEP. Thanks to everyone who commented this morning. LOL Nothing like a bitchy grumpy blogger to bring people out of the woodwork! :-)


  1. One thing that is difficult to convey to the aspiring writer is how to inject the "larger than life" aspect into the writing without making it cliched or cheesy.

    Subtlety itself, I think, is an art form.

  2. I think you were so brave to completely revamp HBTC like that -- those were some momentous changes! x

  3. Jessica, not brave at ALL! I loved the story so much that I knew I had to do it. AND, I also knew I had to write it from scratch and not try to REVISE. Honestly, except for a few chapters that I struggled with, it wasn't difficult to write.

  4. Anonymous2:31 p.m.

    Great blog, Donna! Thanks, I needed that. :-)

    All the best,
    Gail from Canada

  5. It's good to come here and see you talking about sensible and refreshing after I've been struggling all day with suckage.

    Hope you've managed to get some sleep and relaxation. And thanks for drooling a bit about Oz, below. :-)