Friday, January 06, 2012

Date With Kate - Starting Again

Happy New Year! 

 I hope you had a lovely holiday,  plenty of rest, relaxation and fun, and that  having seen  the new year in in whatever way you choose, you are now ready to take on whatever 2012 might bring.   You might even have decide on some new year resolutions and are determined to put them into action.

If so, well, congratulations – and good luck. I’m not a  great  person for resolutions. The whole idea of  ‘paying for’ the fun and indulgence of Christmas by launching into a period of dieting, detoxing,  denial, all seems a bit  puritanical to me.  After all, how many of us really need to do much more than just ease up on the eating/drinking/inaction we’ve enjoyed over the holidays, which we would have done anyway, simply because we (well OK, I know I can’t!) can’t keep this up for much longer without feeling ill.

But I do think that it’s a good time to draw breath, to take a look at where we’re going/how we’re living, and whether it’s the best way for us.  And if anything is really wrong and damaging us or blocking the way forward then to change it, rework it. But I also think it’s a time for looking at just what is good and right in our lives and planning how to keep those – get more of them if necessary. And as a famous astrologer  said on January 1st, we can do that any time – and at  some far more auspicious time than the arbitrary date decided long ago as 1 – 1 – 2012.

What has this to do with romance writing? I’m not going to write about plans and projects, goals and ‘must try harders’. I’m not even going to declare the need to lose X pounds  or write XXX words. What I’m thinking of goes deeper and is far more essential than that – at least where we as writers, and our characters are concerned.

It’s most important though when we are looking at our characters.  When we write romances we are going to give our hero and heroine the best of all possible chances to start again. We start them out on a journey where everything seems stacked against them,  when they are in conflict and possibly even hating each other – seeing no way out of the situation into which they’ve got themselves -  and show  them how to  take the necessary steps to the ending we have planned  for them – that Happy Ever After ending that all good romances have. Just as at the start of the new year – or any other date – we can set out  on the road towards the changes we would like to see in ourselves

But new year, new you?  Well no, not really. I’ve never truly though that  I needed to create a ‘new me. That implies that the ‘old’ one was not worth having. But a few tweaks here and there,  a fresh approach, a bit more discipline – more hope, more belief . . . that’s what can be implemented. And it’s just the same with our characters. They don’t come to their HEA by total transformation. I’ve never been a real believer in  the total ‘redemption’ approach of a happy ending – one where  the hero (it’s usually the hero but it can be the heroine )has to ‘grovel’  in order to win his lady’s love. Where he has to refute all he ever was, how he has behaved, his thoughts, his beliefs, his actions, in order  to deserve to love her and have her love him.  In a short novel,  these transformations have to be so dramatic (I’m tempted to say melodramatic ) as to be  verging on the miraculous, unbelievable, unconvincing – and I’m inclined to think that they’ll never last.

But a steady, strong-rooted change that comes about gradually as bits of their characters change and adapt, see things through a new perspective, consider different ways of thinking, those are the developments that lead to a HEA  that convinced me and makes me feel this one really can be ‘ever after.’  And those changes, those  ways of thinking need to be there in the characters right from the very beginning of the book so that they  each can bring the ‘new’ – the best out of each other as they get to know each other and grow closer.  Personally I don’t want to see, say,  a dramatic   declaration that ‘I hated  all women, thinking they were shallow, promiscuous, and money-grabbing’  but now  because of you I see I was wrong,’ as a declaration of love – for me that’s like   an alcoholic declaring he will never touch a drink again when so many times  they go back on their word and are not to be trusted, no matter how forcefully they vow to be different.  A man who has lived with  such a low opinion of woman isn’t likely to be converted overnight  - and stay that way.  The changes that come in our characters need to have strong foundations, to be there in their characters from the start – they just need a little digging to bring them out. So  we need to show the potential for the ending has been there all along and not suddenly spring it on the reader at the very end in a flash of lightning and explosion of enlightenment.

Just as at New Year, if we’re not careful, we  can rush into the self-improvement with a range of resolutions that can make us seem as if we’re  too fat, too lazy, too untidy,  too  . . . too everything that’s possibly wrong. . . so we need to make sure that, even with the most alpha of males, the most conflicted of couples, there is something in there, something to be unearthed, that can make the hero or the heroine – the hero and the heroine – into two people who can actually fall in love with each other,  and stay that way  for the rest of their lives.

So just as when you are  considering possible New Year resolutions, you need to consider  what is already in you that is fine, that just needs a bit of tweaking or polishing to be everything you can be proud of, not uprooting , reworking and totally transforming, so too with your characters. You need to start the story with the end in mind – knowing how these people are going to change, adapt, how they are going to bring out the best nits of each other and bring them to the fore – not totally create another persona who is not the hero or heroine we started out with. Only then will you convince your reader that these two truly will be happy ever after.

One way of looking at it is perhaps to consider giving your hero and heroine  their own personal set of resolutions for the new book, just as they might make them for a new year. Does she need to trust a bit more?  Have more confidence in herself? Does he need to lose the cynicism a past relationship left him  with and realise that applying it to all relationships now just doesn’t work? Or can he accept that because one woman broke his heart it really doesn’t  mean that everyone else will do the same? Not – I must  trust everyone I meet – but I must learn to let trust into my life more.  Not I need to stand up to everyone I meet and defy them – but I should  accept that I am worth better than this and make sure I don’t let people walk all over me.  If you think about the resolutions they need to make to change their way of thinking, their mistaken beliefs at the start, then you will see the way they need to grow and develop  -to become someone who can fall in love – and someone with whom their hero or heroine will fall in love. Because that, after all is the emotional journey that a romance novel tells, the story that a reader is looking for.

So what about you? Are you a great resolution maker – wanting to aim for the new you? Or are you like me, more likely to think I’m doing OK as I am -  just a bit of  dust and polish will bring out the best?

And what about your hero and heroine?   Can you list the resolutions they want to make  - or, perhaps more importantly, the resolutions they  need to make but are not yet able to see or are running away from  right now and need to be brought face to face with them before they can head towards that Happy Ever After?
I hope 2012  is a wonderful year for you.
Kate Walker’s next title - The Devil and Miss Jones - is out in the UK in March and published on April 3rd in Presents Extra in America or Sexy Romance in Australia. You can find out more details over on Kate's Web site – with all the most up to date news on her blog.


  1. Hi Kate - loved your post! Perfect timing for me - I've just finished my current mss and about to start a new one.

    You've imparted some wise words which I can use for both mss - thanks :)

    Wishing you all the best for 2012

  2. My resolution is to NOT make resolutions. I break them & feel disappointed.

  3. Congrats on the release of The Devil and Miss Jones, Kate and all the best for the 2012!

  4. Hi Joanne - I'm glad that my post helped. Good luck with the new ms - well, with both of them! I always find starting is both a delight and a challenge - I hope my advice helps with the challenge bit!

  5. I'm in agreement with you there, Mary! I'm not one to make resolutions myself

  6. Thank you Nas - The Devil and Miss Jones isn't out until March but I'm looking forward to seeing a copy soon. And the bets to you for 2012 too.

  7. Hi Kate

    Compliments of the Season!!! This year I’ve decided to skip resolutions *lol*

    I've decided to have a 'word’ for 2012 which I've selected GRATITUDE – giving thanks to the Lord for all my blessings that have come to me and my family, and many more yet to follow.

    I’m grateful today for the opportunity of assisting my sister!

    All the best for 2012 and your resolutions. It goes without saying but I love your stories!!!

    Rita from South Africa (aka bitemeash)

  8. Hi Kate, Happy New Year. I'm not a great one for resolutions. Whenever I make them I usually break them too quickly. I do think a new year is a time to look back on the past year and find the joy in it. Even if it wasn't the best year there is bound to be somethings that made you happy.

  9. This is an appropriate post for me to read right now. How people change the way they look at things is very important in romantic fiction. In my current wip, the hero comes from a culture where arranged marriages are the norm and he puts the heroine off initially by his calculating approach as she needs more emotional input from him. It's a reunion story, so when they meet up again, he has to learn that falling in love is not just a thing you can control or arrange, but something to do with the emotions while she has to learn how to understand that underneath his practical approach, he is in fact a very emotional person. So how do the pair of them get it together? It's the writers' job to convince the reader, basically.

  10. Hi Kate
    I admit to being in tears reading this blog. As I often am in reading your books as your characters go through the growth needed for their HEA. It is so much more real to see character development like this as they learn and grow together. So much more emotionally engaging to believe in the essential goodness of the characters who may be flawed or struggling with demons of the past (cos you have to have a conflict if the story is going to last past the first chapter)