I love this time in autumn when the leaves start changing colour and the landscape is transformed.
I saw the same thing in the Ionian in the autumn when the bright hot colours of the spring wild flowers are replaced by wild cyclamen and yellow autumn crocus as well as the garden flowers in full bloom on stone walls in the olive groves. Swallowtail butterflies were everywhere.
One of the delights of being a romance author is receiving author copies of different reprints of books which were published some time ago and are now finding new readers around the world.
Truth or Date.com is one of my favourite Modern Tempted stories.
What would you do if your lady boss asked you to write her emails for an online dating service and then skipped town an hour before the first coffee date? Run away and try not to think about the poor bloke sitting there on his own waiting for a girl who does not show up? Or turn up in her place to apologise and face the music?
You will have to dip into one of these lovely new releases to find out more – either in French or German, or as part of a scintillating Christmas special with the lovely Heidi Rice and Charlotte Phillips.
I first came across the technique of using an ‘Hierarchy of Opponents’ in a Screenwriting class given by *John Truby in London, and have used it ever since as a means of challenging the levels of conflict and Internal/External Opposition in my crime fiction.
It works something like this:
- Create an Hierarchy of opponents, which are linked together by alliances
- Hide this Hierarchy from the hero and usually the reader – except for flashes which indicate just how much danger the hero is getting into.
- Hide the TRUE Agenda of each opponent
- Have the hero go up against a main opponent early in the story
- As the conflict escalates, allow the hero to discover that there is a secret, STRONGER hidden opposition which then attacks him.
If you link this to a sequence of Reveals in the crime, this should help to increase both the personal stakes for the protagonist AND the plot. No sagging middles here, thank you.
Example – The use of Opposition in the excellent crime movie Michael Clayton.
Although it could be argued that, in many ways, the antagonists for the first half of the movie are Micheal and Arthur, the story still builds around the use of Hidden, Stronger opposition.
Here are a few I have come up with. I have not added the moral dilemma, social drama aspects since these are conceptual but they are there for the audience of course.
Hierarchy of Opponents
Their True Agenda which is revealed as the pressure grows
His own self-disgust at having taken the bribe of 80K and a 3 year contract from his boss to forget that Arthur was killed and suppress any evidence.
He knows that Arthur was murdered. He found the evidence in the champagne glasses, the farmer girl Annie witness, and the report Arthur had printed up.
He knows that he can convince Karen to believe that SHE can buy him off because he is capable of it. Especially for 10 million.
‘I sold out Arthur for eighty grand and a three-year contract and you’re gonna kill me?’
For me, Michael becomes his own most powerful hidden opponent, since by going to the Police, he has almost certainly lost his job re the non disclosure contract he signed as part of the 3 yr deal. No job. No certainty as to what he will be doing next.
The head lawyer at the U/North Firm – Karen, played by Tilda Swinton
Karen knows that they are guilty and so is her boss, and has to cover up their joint culpability. And her own terrifying inadequate weakness and insecurity.
To do that, she has to remove the evidence = the audience knows that her henchmen followed Arthur and killed him, and are now following Michael and blow up his car.
Michael has no idea that he is a target, even when he starts to investigate Arthur’s murder.
THIS is one hidden, powerful opponent.
His boss at the law firm, Marty, played by Sydney Pollack
He needs to keep his biggest 3Billion dollar class action suit client. To do that he pays Michael off with the money he needs and a 3 yr contract.
Arthur – the Manic Depressive lawyer who is having a breakdown since it stopped taking the medication
Arthur has discovered that they represent is guilty and cannot deal with it.
He has built up a report with one of the key witnesses Annie and believes that he loves her. Of course he also believes that he is ‘Shiva the God of Death.’
Arthur may be Micheal’s friend, but he is going to bring him down and he cannot see the depth of that at the beginning – it will build.
The fixer, Zabel, who wants his money back on the restaurant
Just doing his job. His boss wants the money. Zabel is powerful enough for Michael to be afraid of him. And he wants to protect his brother Timmy. Possible physical threat.
His brother, Timmy, who has cost him his restaurant and his get-out money, which will drive him to take the bribe from his boss.
Family conflict. His closest social system.
Linked to his failure as a husband, as a father to Henry, as a brother to his cop brother, Gene, and as a son to his sick father.
The family are also the symbol of how far he has come. Humble beginnings to a public lawyer to private jets and the contacts needed to become a janitor lawyer in a 600 lawyer firm.
You can use the same technique to develop a series of revelations and surprises. It works! Have fun.
Jake Sully and his Avatar – all ready for his character arc – Image Copyright 20thCenturyFox
Transformational CHARACTER ARC
The Mystery Man on Film and Joshua James have been engaged in a fascinating dialogue on the concept of ‘Transformational Character Arc’ as opposed to ‘Emotional Connection’ – that unique aspect of story telling which we, as readers and viewing audiences, find so compelling and compulsive, but which may not, necessarily, involve a deep, visible, character arc.
There are a huge number of articles online about to create character arc, including excellent notes from my pal Julie Cohen, but for me, some of my light bulb moments have come from studying screenwriting, where character arc is seen as a fundamental component of any screenplay.
Read more ›
In January this year I decided to take a six month break from writing romance fiction.
Why? Because I felt that something was not working.
Hard work does not bother me – it never has. But there comes a time when it is taking longer and longer to finish a romance project and I had to face up to a hard fact. It is taking longer because I didn’t want it enough.
I love writing. I love making friends with the characters who come alive inside my head. That’s why I have written 19 romance novels in 5 years, plus countless proposals and story notes and partials for more.
But somehow along the way I had jumped onto a hamster wheel of my own making which was turning faster and faster, powered by the stories and the contract deadlines. Deadlines I had pushed for. I know how important it is to be prolific in today’s publishing world.
Now it was time to jump off that treadmill and take some time to catch my breath.
Read more ›
I seem to recall that after 5 years of being married, the traditional wedding anniversary gift is something made of wood.
But what about the 5th anniversary of your first book being released?
Amazingly it has been 5 years since ‘Always the Bridesmaid‘ was released in July 2009.
It would have to be something writing related… or perhaps linked to romance fiction?
Most of all it would have to be part of all of those “first” moments.
Like the time you open your first box of author copies.
And then you have your book launch at your local RNA chapter with the pals who supported you when you were still slaving at the day job and writing in every spare moment? And yes, the chapeau is a Nina one-off creation.
The icing on the cake? When “Always the Bridesmaid”- my debut book – was shortlisted for the RNA Pure Passions awards. A wonderful chance to share the fun and excitement with my pals such as the lovely Kate Hardy and Rosie Dean and fellow shortlisted author Nell Dixon who won the award.
Amazing to think that “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boss” is my 18th romance for Harlequin!
Since then there have been more wonderful moments and fantastic times but you never forget the first. So perhaps the best present would be a photo album to capture those moments which represent the culmination of a lifetime of reading and writing.
So. Raising my beaker of tea to the screen. Here is to the next 5 years!
It’s summer time. You are tackling your ToBeRead pile and dusting off the BBQ.
Perhaps in your Pimms fuzzy brain you think that you should really get around to self-publishing that manuscript which has been waiting for ages for you to get to work on it?
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You know how there are some stories that are a joy to write from start to finish?
My July Harlequin KISS/Mills and Boon Modern Tempted was a delight.
Let me give you an insight.
The hero is a cartographer adventurer working in Alaska and the story starts with him driving a team of sled dogs across what should be frozen sea ice on the way to make his flight back to London.
My photographer heroine is in the middle of a lingerie and bedroom toys birthday party in a borrowed house, organised by her sister.
And guess who walks in on them?
The only sad thing is that since the KISS Line is closing in January, this is my last series book for Harlequin.
But it is great to go out on a high! Enjoy!
About the Book:
Enemies make the best lovers…
Scott Elstrom craves freedom, adventure and exploration…so leaving the wilds of Alaska behind to save the family company isn’t top of his list of priorities! And getting the traditional CEO portrait painted by one feisty, quirky, sexy fireball…? Not in a million years!
Toni Baldoni needs this commission – just because the new boss won’t play along, it doesn’t mean she’ll back down! But suddenly Toni’s not sure if it’s determination that’s got her pulse racing – or something altogether less appropriate! Trouble is, this battle of wills is not so much hard work…it’s a lot more like fun!
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