Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Today we are welcoming Lily White LeFevre to the blog. Yesterday I had the opportunity to review two of her short stories – What You Will and Twelfth Night. I really enjoyed both of these books! I asked Lily to write us a guest post so that we can learn more about her and her writing!
Writing Between the Cracks
By Lily White LeFevre
Gary Larson, the cartoonist who wrote the comic The Far Side, was once described in an article as being quiet but obsessively observant. He simply looked at everything, wanted to know about everything, wrote notes about everything. He did this because he knew that ideas are all around us, just waiting to be exploited. They’re everywhere.
But what do I really mean when I say “everywhere”?
I see a young woman ride past me on a bike, and her face is covered with a birthmark or masque of disease that looks like a butterfly. I want to know who she is. I want to know what her story is. I wonder if her coloring might be the mark of a curse (like Harry Potter’s scar) or the sign of some paranormal power.
Watching a music video about a guy who loves a girl when she doesn’t really love him makes me wonder how a hero with that particular baggage might play out in a romance…not someone who was tricked or used intentionally, but someone who simply had his heart broken by the awful lesson of the world that not all love is reciprocated.
When I read Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night for the first time, I thought, “How can I write a story that involves multiple mistaken identities and siblings impersonating one another?”
This kind of curiosity is reflexive; it’s simply part of how I interact with the world. Part of my brain always filters my experiences through the writer glasses. It’s not conscious; I’ve been surprised by the thought “That would make a great story!” more times than I have been consciously looking for a new idea.
The ideas really aren’t the hard part. Figuring out which ones make a viable story is.
The process I use is to work from what I know and go forward and backward with questions. Why would someone pretend to be her twin? To get a guy’s attention? Why can’t she get it on her own? She’s too shy? Or maybe they have a bad history together, and she wants to confess her feelings in a way she knows he’ll listen to? … Okay, so she impersonates her sister. What then? He thinks her sister is even more awesome than he did before. Oops. Drama!
That’s the sort of conversation I have with myself when I’m outlining a new story. Often I will get one of the answers “wrong”—that is, I will posit a scenario that either turns out to be a dead end in terms of plot options, or turns the mood of the story into something very different than what I’m after—and so I will go back to that question and answer it again, and play out the scenario(s) the new answer leads to.
So that, in a general sort of way, is where I get my ideas, and from the ideas, the stories.
One of the most fruitful places for me to look for ideas is actually within the romance genre itself, and, specifically, the stories it has not covered. Have you ever read several romance novels on similar themes and then wondered why the flip side of that theme is not explored?
Such as widows. Oh, good grief, the misery of widows. 95% of them in romance came out of abusive or neglectful relationships, and the rest were married to men who had no idea how to give a woman sexual pleasure. Really? There weren’t any women who had great first husbands whom they loved and had great sex with? That is an obvious lack, which in turn creates the most basic idea: write a story about a woman who truly loved her first husband.
Another overused theme in romance is the “rake” hero. The population of men who are not immoral man-sluts is greatly undeserved. That’s another idea: a man who is most definitely not a rake for the hero.
What about sexual dysfunction, or just really terrible sex even between two people who have feelings for one another? (The few instances of bad sex I’ve seen are “accidental” sex that is a plot catalyst, not the “tension has been building for 200 pages so it can’t possibly be underwhelming” sex scene.) Still another idea: they don’t have an immediate sexual compatibility but (gasp!) actually have to get to know one another as lovers to make fireworks.
The best part about finding ideas in the gaps of the genre is that doing so creates a built-in hook for the audience. If you as a reader have noticed a lack of certain character types or scenarios, then you can be sure other readers have, too. Some may not care, but others may be hungry to see that trope turned on its head. And those who didn’t consciously notice the absence of an alternative scenario might simply be curious when presented with it. One thing readers do love is to find a common story with a twist, so making a tweak like one (or more) of the above can easily create a story that is unique, memorable, and effective.
In a genre like romance, where at least part of the story is predetermined by genre definition, the real key is not trying to come up with some sweeping redefinition of the form that readers have never seen…it is taking them into territory they think they know and then changing it just enough to make them really look at it again. That’s what finding ideas between the cracks is all about.
Lily blogs regularly about romance, writing, and self-publishing at www.lilywhitelefevre.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @lilylefevre.
You can check out her two Twelfth Night-inspired novellas at Amazon or Smashwords today!
What You Will at
Twelfth Night at