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Thread: Aunt Cathy's Lecture Series - 3: What's Love Got to Do With It?

  1. #1
    Ooo! Shiny new cover! Absolute Sage Cathy C's Avatar
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    Aunt Cathy's Lecture Series - 3: What's Love Got to Do With It?

    Subgenre Lecture 3:

    WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

    By Cathy Clamp


    Romance writers often get confused when writing subgenres, because the individual elements that would normally make the book an excellent romance or an exceptional suspense novel sometimes creates a . . . well, lackluster romantic suspense that is difficult to sell. “If only you’d concentrate more on the plot!” “If only you’d spent more time on the characters!” are comments often heard in judges comments or rejection letters. It’s extremely frustrating to both the editors and the writers that a book with promise didn’t live up to the plan.

    So, how does a writer bridge that gap? What elements from each are the perfect marriage to create a stronger whole?

    Traditional, contemporary romances are often a straight line plot. Unique boy meets unique girl, unique circumstances throw them together and they stick. The plot revolves around them working through their past or working through circumstances to come to the realization that they want to be together.

    But subgenre romances become a braided plot. Unique boy meets unique girl, unique circumstances throw them together and they stick. But then the first curve in the road hits. The plot revolves around BOTH them coming to the realization that they want to be together, AND the resolution of a secondary plot that is taken from the “sub” in the subgenre. Whether that “sub” is suspense — the solving of a puzzle; chick-lit, where the advancement of wealth or self is critical; or even paranormal — where otherworldly things must be overcome before the HEA, subgenre can only stand when it’s a partnership.

    In subgenre, the first question you have to ask yourself is “Why?” This is often a difficult question to ask when the story is burning a hole in your soul and struggling to come out your fingers. But you must ask it. Both parts must contribute to the whole. If you can remove the romance and have the plot stand, you need revisions. If you can remove the plot and the parties might still get together, you need revisions. The romance arc and the plot arc are two parts of a whole, whether it’s 50/50 or 60/40 or even 90/10. One must exist for the other to exist or you don't have a romantic suspense (fill in the sub for your own writing). Otherwise, you have a suspense with romantic elements. Or a paranormal with romantic elements, etc., etc.

    So, how do you go about asking why and what things do you ask why about? Well, pretty much everything. Oftentimes, when I’m asked to critique samples, the thing I notice most is that there is a serious lack of reason. The conversation often goes like this:

    “The heroine is in danger and the hero saves her. Why?”

    “What do you mean, why? He’s the hero.”

    “But why did the hero save her? Why didn’t she call the police? Why didn’t she walk out the back door and go to the neighbor’s? Heck, you’ve made her a karate expert; why didn’t she kick the villain’s butt?”

    “Well, because otherwise how would they get together? He had to rescue her so they’d fall in love.”

    “Uh, yeah but...”

    “It’s just the way I wrote it, okay? Fine, then I’ll make him one of the police and she does call the police. Does that make you happy?”

    “No, not really. But good luck with it.”

    Do you see the logic gap here? This is where form fails to follow function. The romance has to be there and the suspense has to be there, but there’s a problem with blending so that each of the genres are interdependent on each other. There is nothing so difficult to write than a double arc book. Each has to perfectly mesh and logically work within the world you’re writing.

    Knowing what your subgenre is means understanding the elements that make up the story and being able to ask yourself why the elements you’ve included create the subgenre. When there are many different elements, one must rule over the others for it to be part of that subgenre. That’s going to be today’s assignment. You’re going to be the ones asking the why on blending four genre bits to create a logical single genre. Let’s see how well you do!


    ***************
    Today, we're going to go ahead and include the assignment that was part of the original class. Participate if you want or just read along as others do! (Yes, I'll provide the correct solution --- there IS only one correct solution --- in a day or two.)

    ASSIGNMENT #3:

    We’re going to turn a stand-alone mystery into a romantic suspense.


    The first part of this bit is an existing mystery short story that appears in an anthology on the shelf (so no stealing! )


    Dan is an assistant district attorney who has just been handed a case for prosecution. A woman (NOT the heroine) has admitted that she’s responsible for the death of her boyfriend, a married local pool shark who was cheating on his wife. But the woman didn’t know how he died (he was poisoned). She didn’t know where he died (under a bridge). She even has an unbreakable alibi, but she still confessed and is sitting in jail. Dan decides that she can’t have killed him, but probably knows who did. He happens to be taking his vacation in the location where the murder occurred, so he decides to poke around a little bit. He finds just the right people to talk to and discovers the murderer at the end (the former fiancé of the girl in jail who used to work at the same bar where the victim was a pool shark.)

    The story stands alone and is fine as is. But we’re going to turn this mystery into a contemporary romantic suspense. Now, this was a “cozy” mystery, with no danger to anyone other than the deceased. We’re going to change it a bit so that the villain knows the hero is after him and wants to eliminate him.

    Pick any three of the following elements that can all be added to the plot to create a viable partnership for a contemporary romantic suspense. The criteria will be based on the subgenre definitions in Lecture #2. Presume that the hero and heroine will be automatically attracted to each other and wind up with an HEA. Just select (for example) #1, 3, 5.


    1. I think I’ll make the heroine work in the bank where he stops to cash a check before visiting the police station. They used to date in high school and haven’t seen each other in twenty years.


    2. The hero talks to the villain without knowing it and gives away his plan to catch the murderer.


    3. What if the heroine is a psychic?


    4. Maybe the girl in jail used to be best friends with the heroine?


    5. The setting is a hundred years in the future and they’re all trapped on board a spaceship.


    6. The heroine is on the local police force and arrested the villain for assault at some time in the past?


    7. How about if a ghost in the old hotel where he is staying witnessed the murder and tells him?


    8. The heroine worked in the bar where the villain and hero talked and knows he was involved with the girl in jail but lied about it.


    9. I think I’ll make the setting the 1800s in the California gold rush.

    *********
    Good luck!


    Go to Lecture #1 - Genres
    Go to Lecture #2 - Romance Subgenres
    Go to Lecture #3 - What's Love Got To Do With It?
    Go to Lecture #4 - Master & Servant
    Go to Lecture #5 - Lord & Overlords
    Last edited by Cathy C; 08-10-2006 at 02:23 AM.
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    Smiles!
    Cathy Clamp
    USA Today bestselling author
    ILLICIT, coming 7/16!
    My Website
    Follow me: Twitter
    Now on Facebook! Come friend me!



    "An entertaining (and occasionally very dark) mystery." -- Locus

    "[Shapeshifter] fans are about to hit the jackpot as Clamp returns to re-energize this amazing series. Searching for layered plotlines and complex characters? Look no further, as Clamp truly delivers!" -- RT BookReviews

    "Cathy Clamp is a visionary author, creating new worlds that are both strong and vividly drawn. Adventure and excitement at its best." -- Yasmine Galenorn, New York Times Bestselling Author

    "A struggling community under attack, compelling action, characters struggling with dark secrets ... FORBIDDEN hit all my favorite notes, and I love the rich world of the Sazi!" - Rachel Caine, New York Times Bestselling Author

  2. #2
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    First I would like to thank you for taking the time to post these. I'm new here, and just found them. They were extremely helpful.

    Next I'd like to thank you for THIS one in particular. It really helped me to see an area that I'm having some particular problems with in my own plotting a lot better.

    Tami

  3. #3
    Ooo! Shiny new cover! Absolute Sage Cathy C's Avatar
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    You're very welcome! So, what are your choices for the assignment above, to turn the story into a romance...?
    Want FREE reads? Click here!

    Smiles!
    Cathy Clamp
    USA Today bestselling author
    ILLICIT, coming 7/16!
    My Website
    Follow me: Twitter
    Now on Facebook! Come friend me!



    "An entertaining (and occasionally very dark) mystery." -- Locus

    "[Shapeshifter] fans are about to hit the jackpot as Clamp returns to re-energize this amazing series. Searching for layered plotlines and complex characters? Look no further, as Clamp truly delivers!" -- RT BookReviews

    "Cathy Clamp is a visionary author, creating new worlds that are both strong and vividly drawn. Adventure and excitement at its best." -- Yasmine Galenorn, New York Times Bestselling Author

    "A struggling community under attack, compelling action, characters struggling with dark secrets ... FORBIDDEN hit all my favorite notes, and I love the rich world of the Sazi!" - Rachel Caine, New York Times Bestselling Author

  4. #4
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    2,3, and 6

    I only chose 3 because the rest of them didn't appeal.

    I think I would make it where maybe even she was irritated by this guy (DA) nosing about in her business. She's had enough of nosy men trying to tell her how to handle her job type thing. Maybe she's even more than just an officer who arrested the villian in the past. Maybe she's got her eye on the actual villian too, and think the DA is going to get in the way, even if he is cute, and yummy, and she wouldn't mind an early breakfast of him.

    Well, anyway, I've never attempted murder mysteries. LOL But just my guess.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW kmm8n's Avatar
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    I think it is 2,4, and 6.



    Kathleen
    _____________________

    The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. -Dante

  6. #6
    Ooo! Shiny new cover! Absolute Sage Cathy C's Avatar
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    Okay, I'll end the suspense. The answer is #s 4, 6 and 8.


    Here's why, by the numbers:

    1. I think I’ll make the heroine work in the bank where he stops to cash a check before visiting the police station. They used to date in high school and haven’t seen each other in twenty years.

    Okay, this might lead to a romance, but doesn't help solve the crime. So, since the goal is to turn the story into a CONTEMPORARY ROMANTIC SUSPENSE, it fails, because the parties don't both have input into the mystery.

    2. The hero talks to the villain without knowing it and gives away his plan to catch the murderer.

    Lots of people picked this, both here and in the original workshop. While it does add to the suspense, it's ALREADY a suspense. No help to the romance.


    3. What if the heroine is a psychic?

    Once one of the parties becomes a psychic, the whole story is shunted into paranormal -- moving it OUT of contemporary (here and now, real world). While it might possibly create a reason for the hero and heroine to get together, by itself it does not cause romantic tension.


    4. Maybe the girl in jail used to be best friends with the heroine?

    This one is a good bet to add a NEW party into the suspense aspect! The hero is already part of the mystery, but the heroine is a new character. This gives her a reason to WANT to help solve the mystery.


    5. The setting is a hundred years in the future and they’re all trapped on board a spaceship.

    Obviously, this moves the whole story into either science fiction or fantasy -- and out of contemporary. It also does nothing to turn the story into a romance.


    6. The heroine is on the local police force and arrested the villain for assault at some time in the past?

    This is also good to add the heroine into the action. As a cop, she would have access to information that the hero could make use of. Therefore, it gives the pair the opportunity to spend quality time together...


    7. How about if a ghost in the old hotel where he is staying witnessed the murder and tells him?

    Again, this moves it out of contemporary into paranormal (and doesn't do a THING for the romance! )

    8. The heroine worked in the bar where the villain and hero talked and knows he was involved with the girl in jail but lied about it.

    Another good possibility! This is a small town, so cops often work second jobs. Once again, this gives the hero and heroine the opportunity to meet and talk about the case. With this valuable information, the hero is likely to begin to trust the heroine and allow her to help solve the case.

    9. I think I’ll make the setting the 1800s in the California gold rush.

    This moves the story out of contemporary into an historical setting, and does nothing helpful to make the story a romance.

    **********

    So, now that you know, do the reasons make sense to you? Do you think they can help you look at your own story critically and think of things that could be changed to make it more romantic?
    Last edited by Cathy C; 12-13-2005 at 07:46 PM.
    Want FREE reads? Click here!

    Smiles!
    Cathy Clamp
    USA Today bestselling author
    ILLICIT, coming 7/16!
    My Website
    Follow me: Twitter
    Now on Facebook! Come friend me!



    "An entertaining (and occasionally very dark) mystery." -- Locus

    "[Shapeshifter] fans are about to hit the jackpot as Clamp returns to re-energize this amazing series. Searching for layered plotlines and complex characters? Look no further, as Clamp truly delivers!" -- RT BookReviews

    "Cathy Clamp is a visionary author, creating new worlds that are both strong and vividly drawn. Adventure and excitement at its best." -- Yasmine Galenorn, New York Times Bestselling Author

    "A struggling community under attack, compelling action, characters struggling with dark secrets ... FORBIDDEN hit all my favorite notes, and I love the rich world of the Sazi!" - Rachel Caine, New York Times Bestselling Author

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Lolly's Avatar
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    I'd like to echo WriteStuff. Reading this has helped me identify a problem area.

    As for the assignment, I did guess that number one wouldn't work. However, I'm a big fan of shows like Battlestar Galactica, so I have to confess my instinct was to go for #5. Whoops!

  8. #8
    figuring it all out
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    Im totally late to the party, but I picked the correct ones...yay

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