Friday, July 8, 2011

Words of wisdom from Trish Wylie - Part Three

This is the final part of our Friday series on how to start your romance novel, with Trish Wylie. It's been great fun having Trish here being Minxy-next Friday will be lonely without her!
I know everyone is dying to read what she has to say, so without any further ado, here's the final section.
Take it away, Trish!

8/ Back-Story.

The trick with back-story is to remember it is in the past. While relevant to the characters and containing the key to their emotional conflict, it is the ‘here and now’ the reader is most concerned with and for that reason the writer should focus the story on what is happening as it happens. Think of meeting someone for the first time and having them tell you their entire life story in one sitting and you’ll get an idea of how it would be for the reader to wade through a back-story dump at the beginning of the story. Instead, as it is in real life, the characters will get to know each other better as the journey continues, with hints of the past and the experiences that made them the way they are trickled through conversations, inner point of view (to assist the readers understanding) and their reactions to the things that happen.

9/ Theme.

Every story has a theme. Since more often than not this is used to help the publisher title the book and create appropriate cover art, the easiest way to get an idea of the themes used in a specific line within category romance may be to look at how they are marketed. For example, if there’s a baby or children on the cover or the mention of a father or mother in the title, there’s a good chance the theme is family. Put the word ‘Cinderella’ in the title and the theme may be self-image, self-acceptance or a character discovering the truth in the old adage that looks aren’t everything. Put the word marriage in the title and it’s pretty self-explanatory. Outside of category romance the theme may not be as obvious on the cover or in the title, but since every story ever told has themes based in mythology as far back as when the first stories were told around a campfire, I can guarantee there will be one.

10/ The Hook.

Quite simply the hook is a question that requires a reader to keep reading in order to discover the answer; curiosity driving them forward as it would for any of us in real life. The easiest way to create a hook is to start with something that profoundly changes the character’s world, the question becoming how they deal with it and what they will do next. If an external problem is solved too easily, the PLOT comes to a standstill, so every time something seems resolved, there must be something else to take its place so the story can continue and the characters have something to do. Think of it as a domino effect; the external problem leading to reaction and action which in turn leads to another action and another reaction and so forth until the internal problem comes to the surface in the black/all is lost moment and the characters are able to deal with it.

It may seem like a lot to pack into the beginning of a story, but pick up any book at random from your keeper shelf, read the opening chapters, and you will discover each of these points are there. Having said that, when starting out on a new story, many of us don’t get it right the first time, even when we’re supposed to know what we’re doing. But don’t panic if that happens! Beginnings continue to be a weak point for me, but theoretically, now that I know what I’m looking for I can go back and strengthen it with my trusty check-list at hand. Hopefully you’ll find it helpful too and if you do, my work here is done...

Trish’s long-awaited book, ‘The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction’, will be out in the UK and Ireland in December 2011.
In the meantime, her third book, ‘Her Unexpected Baby’, is available for the first time in the USA and Canada direct from eHarlequin RIGHT NOW!
You can pick it up here.

You can find out more about Trish and her books at or follow her between deadlines on Twitter @TrishWylie


Maria said...

Thank you Trish. Lovely and useful post. I was waiting for this!

Teresa Ashby said...

Another great read, Trish, thank you! This has all been very helpful.

Madeline Ash said...

Very helpful reminders, Trish. When planning, it's The Hook that I have the most trouble with! But as you said, sometimes it's a matter of developing it through rewrites, rather than from the outset :)

Romy Sommer said...

I love that comparison of meeting someone for the first time with an info dump. You are so right: if I met someone who proceeded to tell me their entire life's story in the first ten minutes, or worse, every detail of what they had for breakfast, I'd be rolling my eyes! And I'd do the same for a novel that opens the same way.

Tina said...

Yay! Now I have all these handy tips... saved and printed ... thank you very much. :)
I really enjoyed this.

Sally Clements said...

I've said it before, but thank you Trish for all your tips - greatly enjoyed!

Trish Wylie said...

Oh my goodness, look how on the ball you all are today! Or maybe I'm just late... I have to pop out for a sec but will be back to answer comments when I have a coffee in my hand and animals fed :) Thanks guys!

Trish Wylie said...

Sorry to take so long coming back to answer comments. Between a cat with an abscess yesterday and a new baby pony today, it's been a busy 24hrs! Thanks to EVERYONE for reading a commenting. It's been fun being here and I'm really glad you found the tips useful!

Madeline I totally think a lot of the trickier stuff becomes clearer when you have words on the page you can look at with a more critical eye during the editing stage. I change the start of a book DOZENS of times before I'm anywhere close to happy with it. It's why I consider one of the best pieces of advice given to me is to finish the book before you send in a partial. Also a bit jolly useful for when the request for a full comes, right? ;)

Romy, speaking as a gal who has been on dates where the back-story dump happened, I totally agree :) Also think it takes some of the 'fizz' out of that exciting 'getting to know you' stage of a relationship, so it makes sense in a story, doesn't it?

THANKS AGAIN everyone and again APOLOGIES for the delay in coming back to answer comments! If anyone has any questions please don't hesitate to ask. I'll keep popping back the next few days at least :)

Nas said...

Thank you for this lovely post, Trish!

Trish Wylie said...

You're most very welcome, Nas! And a HUGE THANK YOU to the Minxes for inviting me over to play :)