Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Writer's Wednesday: A Debut Author talks about Emotional Punch

Debut Author Nina Harrington talks about drinking at the emotional punch bowl.

Okay. I confess.
My name is Nina Harrington and I am a total writing craft junkie. Can’t get enough of it. I NEED THOSE TOOLS! [And a stylish tool belt of course]
I am a brand new author to Harlequin Mills and Boon, and although I completed ten single title novels before I submitted my Romance Line story, I do feel that I am still on a steep learning curve.

I need those Craft tools to make my work as compelling as possible for the reader!
And I am also a trained scientist who has now taken a change in direction to create fiction full time. Put the two together and you have a checklist queen extraordinaire.
Yes. I really do have several key checklists which I use at various stages of the writing process. Nice Lists. Lists can be your friends.
As an example, I am now in the strange world of ‘Re-Write Land’ for my third book.
One of the key elements that I am working on is ‘Emotional Punch’ – that hard to define concept that makes Romance Fiction so unique, compelling and entertaining.
Here are some of the questions I have come up with, to try and convince myself that I am not a complete duffer, and I can create Internal Conflict and Emotional Development for my hero and heroine. These are personal to me, so it would be interesting to know if other authors ask themselves similar questions.
I recognise that I am a newbie – but here goes.

Emotional Punch: Nina’s Ten Questions during Revision
What draws the Hero and Heroine together?
What will keep the Hero and Heroine apart?
What are the complications within the relationship which are making it difficult for this couple to be together?
Why do they feel that they cannot be together? Or cannot be?
How will they get around this?
Have I created believable and gripping obstacles to the romance what will keep the reader turning the pages and staying awake to read what happens next? Is the pacing right to keep the readers interested?
Why should a reader care about my Heroine?
Have I made her sympathetic? Empathetic? Likeable?
Is her motivation crystal clear and believable so a reader can relate to her situation and want her to succeed? Can a reader identify with my heroine?
What does my heroine want – passionately?
What is stopping her from having it?
How is my heroine unique and still relevant to the modern woman and what her aspirations are in the world?
Why should a reader care about my Hero?
Have I made him aspirational? Admirable? Likeable?
Is his motivation crystal clear and believable?
IS HE HEROIC? Would I want him to knock on my door and ask me out?
Have I revealed these characters through their actions, interaction with other characters and reader insight? Action not just reaction?
Have I revealed his and her backstory through a moment of great emotional tension, rather than just telling it as narrative?
Have I used exposition as ammunition?
Does each scene have an emotional turning point, and not just a plot turning point, to move the story AND the relationship forward, while telling the reader something new about that character?
What does my hero want – passionately?
What is stopping him from having it?
What beliefs and values (both good and bad) has the hero learned throughout his life and how do they impact his relationship with the heroine?
Which of his beliefs and values will he have to change as he battles both inner demons and outside conflicts, as he continues to grow toward a resolution that has him living happily ever after with the heroine?
What is my hero’s some inner torment?
Is he vulnerable? What is his weakness?
What would happen to these two people if they did NOT commit to each other? What difference would it make to their lives?
Have I created a real and believable struggle for my couple, that will end in an emotional catharsis for them – and a reader- when they commit at the end?

I find it useful to think about these points, while reclining in my boudoir eating bonbons.
With a blanket over my head.
Now all I have to do is put all of this good advice into practice. GULP!
Here is a little piece of fat free chocolate substitute to keep me on track.

And VERY EXCITING – July marks the release of Nina’s first published book and her debut for the Mills and Boon Romance Line - Seven years after taking a career break from her work as a professional scientist!

Always the Bridesmaid’ is out NOW in North America, reader service in the UK and Online.
To find out more about ‘Always the Bridesmaid’ and read an abstract , visit her website at
Nina’s second book for the line, ‘Hired: Sassy Assistant’ will be released in January 2010 and she is currently working on book three. Set in an Italian Bistro. Do we see a common theme here?


  1. Congratulations on your first book, Nina. Hope it's just one of many to come! And excellent revisions questions to ponder, too. I'll keep them in mind when my next lot show up which should be -- gulp! -- any day now.


  2. Nina, congrats on your debut and also many thanks for posting these questions! They're incredibly helpful. Like Anne, I shall be pondering these as I am wading through my current WIP. :-)

  3. Thank you Anne and Jackie. I am totally excited that my first book is now released.
    These questions are VERY much working tools which can be changed and updated depending on the particular book, but I have found them useful - hope that you do too.

  4. Nina --
    COngrats again and your eye candy is fantastic.
    I was forced to watch it before I put up the post! And then again...and again...

  5. Nina - thanks so much for those wonderful questions. As Jackie said, they're brilliant. Will be having a check through my current wip.

    Also congrats on your debut - can't wait to devour it...


  6. Nina - a debut and Richard Armitage in the same post. Well done! And huge congrats from all of us at Romance!

  7. Thank you for your welcome Donna, Rachel and Michelle. I am willing to share Mr Armitage- now and then.LOL

  8. Hi friend, peace...
    Your post very interesting.
    If you willing visit my blog, and read my post at
    And... if you love books, read The Holy Qur'an please...

  9. Hmm, I posted and didn't appear. Congrats on your first book, Nina. May it be the first of many.

  10. What a wonderful list of questions, Nina. So very useful. Congrats on your book. May it be the first of many.

  11. Great questions, Nina. Your blogs always have something really interesting for us to copy and save.

    I'm trying to figure out what this question means: Have I used backstory as ammunition?
    I'm guessing it means that if the H or h has hurt the other in the past, then memories of that event will keep them apart emotionally. --and give one very good reason not to trust the other.


  12. Oops, copied that wrong. I meant: Exposition as ammunition