Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Modern Heat Q&A Pt 2.

More Modern Heat type questions to answer while the competition is running and we wait to see if anyone reads my post about dialogue when it appears on IHeart Presents ;)


Melissa asked: How do you keep the light, fun, flirty tone throughout the whole book? I've done it once and not sure how I can recreate it.

And then
Aideen said: ... is the conflict in Modern Heat really a lighter version of the conflict we see in Modern? Or is it just dealt with differently because of the editorial guidelines? Does that make sense to you? If a person has to think of ways to draw out a sustaining conflict for a whole book, does that tell you something?

Now. You may well be reading those questions and thinking HUH? They're not the same Trish - get off the cough medicine! But work with me here. There is usually method to my madness. Mostly. More or less. Okay then - it makes perfect sense TO ME.

Cos for me the one kinda comes from the other. In Janet's question in the last post we touched briefly on how a heavy backstory/conflict can weigh down our story with angst. Simplify the conflict and you may think it means it's harder to maintain throughout the story but I'd disagree. To prove my point I had a think back to the conflicts I've used in Modern Extra's/Modern Heat so far. Pre-present editorial guidelines I had Firefighter whose job and firefighting family were his life versus Firefighters daughter who refuses to get involved with a firefighter who might die like her father did... then we had lacking in confidence stay-at-home overweight self-help book writer versus uber confident never-stays-home gorgeous Middle East Body guard... So in the first one I had the heroine fall for the kind of guy she swore she would never get involved with and the hero fall for the one woman who might cost him everything else he held dear - simple but effective I hope you'll agree. In the second I had polar opposites and yes, it was pretty much as simple as that when it came down to it.

The fun and games then came in showing they couldn't fight the attraction between them regardless of the reasons they already had for not getting involved. Sometimes the wit came from things they said to fend each other off. Sometimes it came from sarcasm (but that was probably mostly ME). Sometimes it was because their 'other half' had done or said something to remind them of why getting involved in the first place was a bad idea... But every single time it was action and reaction - bouncing back and forth from each other in the same way the sparks are flying. Does that make sense?

Break it down a little more in a Modern Heat context. 50k odds of a word count. Now, how many K is the average sex scene content for me... Lemme just go look up the stats on that from a couple of my last ones (the current editorial ones)... *snigger* okay 7600 and *ROFL* 12K!!! I KNEW Adam had made Gabe look like a puddy cat! But I digress...

Let's just say 10k is sex. That leaves 40k. And that my friends is not a whole heap of room. Trust me. 4500 for my first chapter set up and 1400 of an epilogue and that left me 32 odd k for the whole rest of the story in my last one (less actually cos it was the one with the higher sex word count). Consider how much of that is dialogue from a dialogue heavy author like moi and are we seeing where we might have a little bit of a problem fitting in anything too heavy or convoluted conflict wise??? Mmm-Hmmm... And that book had a PLOT too!!!

So what did I do? Let's break it down into the basics. I presented my heroine with the kind of guy she would never in a bazillion years have seen herself getting involved with. I gave a woman who believed in love and happily ever after even though she'd been bruised a coupla times the kind of guy who was too sexy to deny but who was never, ever gonna be a happily ever after and made no bones about that fact. There was a small misunderstanding at the beginning that she allowed to continue for safety sake. He drove her crazy, she fought back. He discovered the truth and pursued her, she discovered that when it came to sexual attraction and a potent male mother nature was on her game and the imperative to mate with the strongest of the species was tough to fight... (by now understandably I WANT HIM)... getting horizontal is of course amazing and has an emotional impact (much to my alpha male's surprise and of course he fights it) and suddenly perceptions and convictions CHANGE. The last part of the story then becomes how they overcome their initial perceptions of each other (showing growth) and move forwards into a future that goes beyond the last page (often with compromises on both sides). TA-DA!

Now this book DID have back story. It was fairly heavy emotionally. It also had a father with Alzheimer's... which technically was one step towards a body count but it wasn't over done on
the page. You'll hear TV show fans talk about what happened in 'Offscreensville' and with this book there was plenty in Offscreensville that was touched on on the page and hinted at but never explained in detail. You have a clever, smart, savvy reader with an imagination of their own (they picked up your book so they're obviously beautiful and have excellent taste too!!!) and they're more than capable of filling in any blanks on their own should they feel the need to. The crux of the conflict of this book was simple. End of.

Sustaining it? Ahhhh.... now that's a whole other blog....

More questions answered when I have more words on the page. Keep em coming ;)


Janet said...

Theses answers are so helpful. The book you used to illustrate must be One Night With The Rebel Millionaire? Not out until 09.
I have a copy of Gabe's story. Is that recent enough to fit the most recent guidelines?

Trish Wylie said...

I'm SO GLAD Janet! And I love talking about writing - you've met me so you know that ;) I think when we talk about it it often leads to a light-bulb moment in our WIP. That's why blogs are sooo useful. I find the same things at talks too - have so much to blog about on the subject of Save The Cat when I get my schedule back on track... one day... soon... hopefully THIS YEAR.

Yup that is indeed Adam's book used in the example. But I think from Alex to Gabe onwards is bang on the editorial for me about now. Though with Adam I am probably veering to the steamier end of the line. Quite a leap for the girl who once had a post it note on her laptop screen that said DON'T REPRESS.

Soooo titles wise His Mistress: His Terms, Claimed and One Night are all as current as current can be (and remember the turn around for MH's is faster than Romance) But I'd say even Return Of The Rebel was darn close (though if I was doing it now there would be less angst)

I'll talk professions et all in the next post and will fire off an answer to your email later tonight when I come back up for air ;)

Barbara said...


Just wanted to say thanks for this information. It is extremely helpful.

Your examples, to me, highlight what I think the editors are emphasizing about MH. The conflict is about the characters. Well, I think I am right about that.

And, WOW, 10,000 words on sex. That's 40 pages. I'm in trouble.

Barbara Burnham

Aideen said...

I'm going to say it again and I want no further comment on it; NOBODY is gonna make Gabe seem like a puddy cat. Not now, not ever. It just ain't possible.
Yes to everything you said, you're not bad at all at this advice stuff you know?!
Action Reaction. You said that in Dublin and reconfirming it now actually pushes me in a good direction.
Thanks so much, it's absolutely brilliant to have this help on hand and it's very appreciated.


Trish Wylie said...

Hi Barbara! And WELCOME!!!

And again, as I said to Janet, am SOOOO GLAD this is proving useful! When I started writing the pubbed authors were always amazingly open to questions and all I'm doing is continuing that tradition. I have an open house policy here as many of the gals will tell you ;) Though just so you know - you bring your own cake. Any cake already here is MINE.

I'm glad the examples highlight it's all down to character. I attended a lot of talks this summer by comic book writers/graphic novel writers/prose writers (that would be us btw) and screenwriters and in ALL genres and ALL forms it came down to character every single time. I found that both fascinating AND reaffirming I have to say. And within the restrictions of our word count I really do feel we learn the art of characterization the hard way. There's no time for long drawn out prose or plot or page after page of back story. We get to the heart of it pdq. (no pun intended)

As to the sex word-count fear not! It really does vary from author to author and book to book in Modern Heat and I LOVE THAT about this line. And again I'll blame my characters. Though if I was faced with an Adam I doubt very much I could resist those ten pages worth either... ;)

Trish Wylie said...

Aideen. About Gabe. Wanna bet? Bwahahahahaha.... Have you read the excerpt of One Night on my website yet? And that was the TAMEST THING I COULD FIND to put on there. Yuh-huh...

LOL to the advice. Here's hopin. S'pecially seeing as I have not one but TWO panels at Literary Festivals in the south next month. But yes - action and reaction is what it's all about imho. Life is like that in general I've found having suffered my way through the angst years.

Am SO CHUFFED you've got that good direction now! Now grab that feeling and RUN WITH IT. Give yourself permission to do what I do from time to time and just vomit it all out on the page for a few hours. Editing comes later ;)

Will keep answering questions so long as you guys keep throwing them at me...

Janet said...

Save the cat. Yes!!! I love this book. I've got a copy and been through it with a highlighter pen. I bet you have loads of info on how it can be applied to romance writing.