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Sunday, 17 June 2018

Building yourself a hero

Do you have a constant procession of imaginary people walking through your life?

Annoying, isn't it? When you start to feel that they are better than your real friends (well, of course they are, they do everything they are told!), more amenable, probably richer and better looking too, unless your real friends are - I dunno - the Beckhams or something. Because imaginary people have to be like real people, only more so.

Now I'm here to talk about heroes in books, particularly in romantic fiction (because those are the books wot I write, and therefore I have a vague idea what goes into them).

The men can't just be normal men; ok most of the time, bit crap at helping with the housework, fairly clueless when you are upset but basically decent. No. They have to have hair of ebony, eyes like liquid chocolate, muscles that fill their clothes out and generally they smell of something luscious and exotic, like lemons and cold air. They are always empathic, touchy-feely, as full of hugs as a HobNob is full of crunch. They are, not to put too fine a point on it, sickening. If they have a flaw it will be one that makes them that little bit more attractive - they will be devoted to the memory of their dead wife, or single-minded in their pursuit of the life that they want (and the heroine).
Like this. Only with a puppy in one hand, a bunch of flowers for his mum in the other, and a tea towel over his shoulder.

If they have a physical flaw, like a scar or a missing limb, it will have been sustained rescuing orphans from a housefire, being caught in crossfire whilst serving in a military unit somewhere troubled or saving a puppy from a runaway vehicle. It won't, for example, have been sustained falling downstairs while catastrophically drunk. Because your average hero doesn't get drunk, unless he's drinking to forget his (equally picturesque) sorrows. He doesn't overdo it at a party, walk into a lampost, sustaining a nasty cut to the forehead which scars in an unpleasantly puckered way, and then spend the rest of his night with his head down the toilet. No! For he is a Romance Hero...

So. When you come to Build Yourself a Man (can I recommend putting the eyeballs in last?) consider not just the muscles, they way his thighs bulge in his jeans, his sparkling eyes, the way he loves his mother, his dog and his job and how fabulous he is at everything he does. Consider, instead, making sure that he feels REAL to your reader. Even readers who are reading for the pure escapism and want their heroes to be billionaire sex-gods with biceps of iron, designer suits and an orphaned niece who needs bringing up, want a hint of believability in this man. They want to think that they just might run into him (or his poorer, slightly less muscly and dressed in Top Man younger brother) down their High Street on a Saturday night. They need a thread of believability running through their general Weave of Perfection.

Give him something he's bad at. Whilst a man being good at something is ineffably sexy, a man who isn't afraid to admit his imperfections is just as sexy. Show him making mistakes (and putting them right). Yes, he can be attractive, but he has to feel attainable. 
Okay, maybe not THAT attainable.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Quick, Quick, Slow...

I've had several reviews lately, describing the beginnings of my books as 'slow'. I don't have any problem with this, especially as the rest of the review has been stellar, but it did make me think.

Why do they say my books are slow, and is there anything I can do about it?
This is my actual face as I asked the question
And then I sat down and though again, and I thought 'no. I understand why they say the beginnings of my books are 'slow'. And I'm not going to do anything about it...' This is why...

You know that girl? The one you briefly met on a train once? Well, she's just madly in love with a bloke. Oh, I don't know which bloke, just a bloke. Anyway, she's madly in love with him, but there's a problem, because his sister hates the girl, you know, the first, girl, the one you met once on that train.

Do you care? Thought not. Okay, try this...

Your best friend, the one you've known since you were five, the one you've had loads of in-depth conversation with, whose hopes and fears you understand, the one you know inside out? Well, she's just met a man. And, you'll never guess, but he's that chap that you got friendly with over a coffee, the one who told you all about how afraid he is that he'll never find anyone to love him because of his background? It's him! And they are in love!

I bet you care a lot more about those two. About whether they get together, and the story of their relationship, because you know them. You know about the struggles they've faced and how much they both deserve their happy ending. The girl on the train, I mean, obviously, you hope she's happy too, but you can't get too invested in her romance, because you don't know anything about her. All you know is that she's pretty and she seems nice.

Now, there's a place for the first type of story, of course there is. And there are people who want to read it. People who want their couple to meet quickly, for there to be loads of intial attraction, but something that prevents the couple from getting together.

But that's not what I write. I write about the second kind of relationship. About characters you already know by the time they fall in love. Characters you are cheering on, because you know how hard their lives have been and how much they deserve their happy ending.

And that is why my stories have 'slow beginnings'. Because I think readers need to know the characters before they fall in love. Otherwise, why should they care?
Because sloths are adorable, that's why...