Monday, April 8, 2013

What do you mean I can’t blow stuff up??


Let me begin by saying that I love being Jesse Hayworth, and I’m so excited to share the new books with you, starting next month with the e-release of SUNSET AT KEYHOLE CANYON, a novella romance set at Mustang Ridge.

But … (Yeah, you knew the ‘but’ was coming, didn’t you?) while writing the third book set at the ranch, I’m finding that I really, really want to blow something up. Not because I’m bored with these lighter, gentler romances (no way!), but because amping up the danger is a really great way to throw together two people who might otherwise avoid each other, setting us up for sparks to fly.

The third book (title still under discussion) is a reunion romance between the dude ranch’s mastermind, Krista, and the hunky cowboy who broke her heart. Now, I’ve written a lot of reunion romances—first because I love them, and second because it means the characters already know each other’s flaws (or think they do), so I can focus on the plot without spending lots of time on first date-style conversations.

Sounds good, right? Except that I’m now realizing that this works really well when there’s a big, loud plot forcing the characters to work together. In the Nightkeeper books, there is usually a prophecy or some aspect of the magic that makes it imperative for the hero and heroine to team up. In my Intrigues, there’s a mystery to solve and a damsel in distress to protect. Which makes it easier to take two people who really don’t look like they mesh well, and stick them together until they figure out that they actually mesh very (very!) well, indeed.

But … well, what about when we’re not on the brink of apocalypse and there’s no villain to vanquish?

You see, as Book Three and I cautiously circle each other, testing for weaknesses, I’m realizing that I need a different sort of reason for Krista and her ex to team up when it would honestly be easier (and more comfortable) for them to avoid each other. Because I don’t know about you guys, but if I ran across an ex, my first thought wouldn't be, “Hey, we should totally team up to train this mustang.”

Sure, I could use a trope or two: They’re trapped in an elevator! They woke up in Vegas, married! They’ve inherited a place together! The thing is … Krista and her man need something hotter and more intimate, yet at the same time more subtle. And, well, as the author of forty-some “when in doubt, blow sh*t up” books, subtle isn’t exactly my middle name. So I’m pulling on my Big Girl Writer panties and doing some brainstorming, and I’m getting excited all over again at Doing Something New.

So how about you? What new thing have you done recently? What was the best (or worst) reason you’ve come across for a hero and heroine sticking together even though they’re butting heads? 

26 comments:

  1. Jess, I KNOW! It's so hard to trap two consenting adults who own cell phones! I happen to be struggling with the exact same thing. Zombies? No. Terrorists? No. Snowstorm? No, just did that, plus it's summer. Let me know if you hit on something great.

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    1. ZOMBIES! Knew there had to be an easy answer. Or if you're using zombies, I could go with an alien abduction, easy on the probing.

      Nice to know that a) I'm not alone, and b) this isn't just because I'm coming from suspense/urban fantasy. (Anyone out there who hasn't read Higgins's fabulous contemporary romances really ought to!)

      Then again, maybe that's daunting, because it means this isn't going to get easier. Ack!

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    2. Maybe they hate the same thing/person? Of course, there's always having them bet something. (Crusie's Bet Me.)

      All I have. When I doubt, I shoot someone or blow stuff up. Oddly, writing comics is making me more subtle because it's forcing me to set the scene better.

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    3. Hm. Liking the idea of a side bet. That's always a good way to get oneself in trouble! Interesting insight into your comics experience. Very cool!

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  2. If you're looking for a sweeping conflict, I like "common good" (a we'll-bury-the-hatchet-and-work-together for the greater good conflict...this works especially well if they have dovetailed special skills)...the old "3rd party interference" trope a la "Much Ado About Nothing" can lead to consternation for your H/h, but fun for your reader who is in league with the plotter...the "3rd party bet/dare" trope a la Taming of the Shrew is fun too - the fact that the H/h is unaware that they are a "project" leads to a good dark moment...

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    1. Ooh, nice analysis, thank you!

      These two could definitely work together for the common good, though introducing a greater-good conflict might make things feel too busy, given the other plot threads I have planned. And I can see some 3rd party input from Krista's twin sister, Jenny ...

      *pondering*

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  3. All roads lead to Shakespeare this morning, apparently...

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  4. I'm working on a story where the hero buys a company that happens to be a client of the heroine's. As much as she wants to resign the account immediately, she has employees and payroll to meet. So she has to just Suck It Up and work with him.

    I love reunion romances because there's just so much baggage to overcome! And they know exactly how to get on each other's nerves.

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    1. Ah, yes. I heartily approve of the Suck It Up factor (which may be the common good in Shakespeare's world?). And LOL on the knowing how to get on each other's nerves. Soooo true!

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  5. Could it be the hero has special skills (related to the horse...sheesh...clean it up) that Krista needs in order to train this particular horse? Or whatever it is that's going on. My understanding...small town, so maybe he's acquired some special skills while he was away that she needs and there is no one else in town with them. She'd have to give and work with him then, and of course, he'll help, cause how could he not.

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    1. Thanks for this! (And now I'm totally trying to figure out what *other* special skills he could have- lolol.)

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  6. It is really hard, isn't it? I'm always wishing an escaped convict or an earthquake will magically appear on the page to create that zing of urgency. I'm doing a riff on the Taming of the Shrew right now. Lord knows what I'll come up with for the next book in my series.

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    1. Well, heck. I guess it really doesn't get easier, does it? Sigh. LOL on the escaped convicts and earthquakes.

      Okay, new list for adding urgency to contemporary romances:
      zombies
      alien abduction
      snow storm
      earthquake
      escaped convict (which I just wrote as 'escaped conflict'--more truth than poetry there!)

      Help, help, my conflict has fallen and it can't get up!

      (Getting. Punchy. Time. To. Eat. Something...)

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    2. You know Laura, you have set your story in the land of earthquakes... just saying, it's not above the realm of possibilities.

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  7. LOLing my head off at Gail's "sheesh...clean it up..." sidebar!

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    1. Katy, wait till you get to know some of these people. Then you too will know that it takes nothing, nothing I tell you for their minds to veer off into the dark side. ;0)

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  8. I think I was drawn to writing dystopian for this very reason. Nothing like an apocalypse to force people to "work together or die alone." How about something like this:
    1) A sick mutual friend, aquaintence, or horse forces them into a caretaking role together--I like Gail's special skills idea.
    2) Some well-meaning matchmaker keeps throwing them together covertly
    3) one or both are trapped in a mine collapse and must depend on each other for survival...oooh...I like that one!
    Okay, that's all I've got. In the end; it's usually the characters who figure it out for us anyway.

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    1. *breathes deeply* I love the smell of apocalypse in the morning ... LOL! Some great ideas here, thanks :)

      Updated list of disasters that could add urgency to a contemporary romance:
      zombies
      alien abduction
      snow storm
      earthquake
      escaped convict
      mine shaft collapse

      Wonder if the hero's special skillz work against zombies?

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    2. You know, Jesse, you could go ahead and blow something up anyway.
      In this case, maybe the barn catches fire and they have to save the horses together.

      If you use that, I want credit in the acknowledgements, LOL.
      Good luck finding your way, my friend!

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    3. It's a deal (on the acknowledgements) and thanks for the good vibes! Things are starting to unravel. Or knit together. Whatever it's doing, it's a good thing.

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  9. Well, electrical storms are known to wreak havoc with cell phones...
    and sometimes critters in danger bring out the best in otherwise bad people...
    equipment breakdowns, fires, and all kinds of calamities that pop up...in nature and in our human world, like defective equipment, etc...

    (LT Camlann)

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    1. Ah! So true about danger to critters (even two-legged ones, or at least the nice ones) being a good way to bring people together. I've met some pretty neat people that way. Thanks for the thought-food!

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  10. I vote for the danger-to-critters, danger-to-business. But it's difficult to do life-and-death in a bright, sunny world. Here's another possibility - let's say one of the original ranch horses somehow got sold back in the day and has fallen on hard times. It happens. They slip through the cracks when the economy tanks. Let's say she's a mare - got sold from the ranch to make babies somewhere else, but that buyer fell on hard times and sold her. So Black Beauty gets passed from owner to owner. But now she's home. She's in rugged shape, but she's home. And she's lost her trust. (I know. It can't get "too" sad.) H/H come together for her. Even hard-nosed hardboots get sentimental about some of their horses. Sort of Black Beauty meets The Horse Whisperer.

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    1. Thanks for this, Rhonda! Your "it's difficult to do life-and-death in a bright, sunny world" really resonates with me (hey, you should totally be a writer!). I mean, we all know that life-and-death stuff absolutely does intrude on our (hopefully happy) lives, but there's that fantasy-escape element to a romance that makes the balance challenging sometimes.

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