Beginning writers often fall into the trap of writing too much about the minor characters and not enough about the hero and heroine. The hero and heroine, either separately or, preferably, together, should be the most important people in the book at all times.Remember, readers are paying for a romance. It's impossible to have a romance between two people who are never together.
If you are getting a lot of rejections and you don't know why, count the sections in your book. Then count how many sections have the hero and heroine together, and how many have them apart. If you don't have 90% of your sections with the hero and heroine together, then this is probably where you are going wrong.
Even if a section has the hero and heroine together, it is not enough for them to simply spend a page together and then go on to see other people. They must be together for most of the section.
They must also be together with no one else around, or at least no one else near enough to hear what they are saying or join in. It's easy to think of ways to get them alone - early morning rides, with the heroine not taking a groom, would be acceptable in the country, or retiring into an alcove at a ball etc.
If this is your problem - if the hero and heroine are rarely together - then you need to write more scenes with them together. If you're not sure what kind of things to put in the scenes then here are some tips.
If you are using the section to move their relationship forward, then if he is wary of women because his fiancee betrayed him, perhaps a renowned flirt could come up and start speaking to the heroine, and she turns away from him, or makes an excuse to leave him The hero can then start to think, 'She's not like everyone else.' When you do this, be careful you don't go too far. You don't want him deciding she's different in chapter 2, or your book is over. So if he sees this at the start of a section, and warms to her, maybe by the end of the section she's hugging a childhood friend, making him wary all over again.
Keep the problem moving forward and back, forward and back. Don't do it too often, or you will irritate your reader, but once or twice, spread over half a dozen chapters, and mixed in with the rest of the plot, will set up the problem and begin to address it.
This is from Titanic Affair. Notice that both the hero and heroine have good reasons for their points of view. This creates a dynamic conflict.
She and Carl reached the port side of the ship, close to the stern. There was a boat being loaded.
'This is it,' Carl said, turning her towards him. 'This is your boat.'
A cry of 'Women and children only,' rang out in the night.
'No. I'm not going unless you go,' she said.
'Yes, you are. You are going to do exactly as I tell you. You are going to get in that boat, if I have to lift you in myself.'
'No,' she said resolutely.
'If you think I'm going to let you drown you're mistaken,' he said, taking her face between his hands and looking deep into her eyes.
'Carl, there aren't enough lifeboats for everyone,' she said. 'I'm not going without you.'
'Now listen to me. You're right, there aren't enough lifeboats to go round, but the wireless operators have managed to get off a number of distress calls and the Olympic's coming to rescue us. She'll be here soon. If I don't get off in a boat, I'll get off some other way. There are tables, chairs - all things that float.'
'But the water's so cold,' she protested.
'It doesn't matter. It's calm - thank God its not a stormy night. I'm strong, and a good swimmer, and if you think I'm going to drown just when I've met the woman I love then you're mistaken. Now get into the boat.'
'Love?' she asked.
'Yes. Love. I love you Emilia. Which is why I'm going to put you on a boat. And why you are going to get in it. Because once I know you're safe, I can put all my thoughts, my time and my energy into saving myself.'
She didn't like it. She hated it. The thought of losing Carl was too terrible to contemplate. But she knew that what he said was true. If she went into the water with him, she would only be a burden. She could not swim very well, and he would have to expend much of his precious energy on helping her. Whereas if she was safely in a boat, he could save himself. Reluctantly she agreed.
In this particular example the hero gets his way. It's important, throughout the book, to make sure that sometimes the hero gets his way, and sometimes the heroine gets her way. Then the relationship will be balanced.
Look through your favourite Regencies. See what types of conflict the author uses. What do the hero and heroine disagree about? Who 'wins'? How often do they 'win'?
This is from Harstairs House
Looking up, she saw that the wind was driving clouds across the sky. The spell of bright weather was over, and it looked as though it was about to rain in earnest.
'I think we should turn back,' she said.
He agreed. They wheeled their horses and headed for home, but they had come so far that the house could no longer be seen. Susannah glanced at the sky again. It seemed like only a few minutes ago it had been blue, but now it was already half grey. The light dimmed as the sun was obscured, and the air became colder. The first drops of rain were few and far between, but they soon came more thickly and the horses bowed their heads. As Susannah tried to control the chestnut, her hands slipped on the wet reins and her horse took advantage of it by trying to turn his head against the wind. She pulled him back on course, but he was becoming increasingly skittish, and he was shaking his head as the rain went into his ears.
'We need to find somewhere to shelter,' said Oliver, shouting over the rising wind to make himself heard.
'I agree, but there isn't anywhere,' she called back.
'Yes, there is. Follow me.'
He wheeled his horse and began to ride away from the shore. She had no idea where he was going, but as he knew the estate better than she did, she had no hesitation in following him. The land dipped ahead of them, and in a hollow she saw a ruined farmhouse. There was very little roof, but what little there was would afford them some shelter. There was a blasted tree growing out of it, but the walls appeared to be sound.
When they reached it, Oliver dismounted in one lithe movement and then crossed to the chestnut, putting his hands round Susannah's waist. She gathered up her skirt then jumped down with his help, sliding from the wet and slippery saddle and stumbling against him as she did so. He righted her, but not before she had felt the hard muscles of his chest beneath the soft fabric of his coat. The contrast was like the man himself, his dual nature containing more on the inside than was apparent on the outside.
She was now standing facing him, and her hands were still resting against his chest. As though drawn by an invisible string she looked up into his eyes and the world changed. Instead of the two of them being on the open cliffs, a part of the wild and stormy landscape, she felt as though they were in a place far away from the real world. The look in his eyes made her pulse flutter. She had never seen a look of such burning intensity before. It lit his blue eyes with a flame, deepening the blue rim and brightening the centre. She noticed how long his lashes were, and saw the blackness of the lock of hair that tumbled over his forehead. It seemed natural when he took her chin between his fingers, as though somehow she had been expecting it, and even wanting him to do it. She felt their soft pressure, and her skin tingled. She saw his face lower towards hers, and felt his breath hot and sweet on her cheeks . . . and then he released her, and she stepped back as though she had woken from a dream.
She watched him lead the horses into the lee of the wall to protect them from the driving rain, and then she went into a small room at the back of the tumbledown cottage which still had part of its roof. Having tethered the horses he joined her, and they stood in silence, their conversation having evaporated. But the silence was not dead. Instead, it seemed a living thing, charged with some potent force that made the air round them start to crackle. There was going to be a storm, Susannah thought. Thunder rolled far off, and soon afterwards, lightning forked down over the sea.
She stood and watched it as it moved closer and closer to land, heralded by torrential rain. She was already damp, but the downpour found its way through the roof and wet her through. Her hair flattened against her head, and rivulets of water ran down her cloak. Her dress was soaked. The lightning flashed almost directly in front of her, but she felt a far more potent force behind her. She turned instinctively and found herself dragged into Oliver's arms. The thunder paled in comparison to the storm of emotions that consumed her, and the lightning was as nothing to the energy that coursed through her when his lips met her own. They moved over hers gently, tantalizingly, and then with more firmness, until she was lost in a maelstrom of new sensations. She felt his arms crush her more tightly against him, and revelled in the hardness of his body pressed against her own. She felt him pull her closer and she tangled her arms around his neck in response, until they were so firmly joined she could not say where Oliver ended and she began.
She felt his hands slide down her back, down, down . . . and then they stopped. The intensity of his kiss lessened and she began to surface. She took her arms from his neck as he pulled away from her. He remained standing facing her, looking deeply into her eyes, then raising his hands he pushed her wet locks of hair back from her forehead and held her face between his strong fingers.
'We should go,' he said at last.
She nodded mutely. The storm was passing. Already the lightning was disappearing into the distance, and the thunder was no more than a distant rumble. The rain was slackening, its rushing torrent lessening to a pitter patter as it struck the cottage.
Still they did not move. It was not until a gleam of sun shone through the clouds that Oliver dropped his hands from her face, and they walked back to their horses silently, side by side. He helped her to mount, and without another word they rode back to the house. It was not an easy silence but a turbulent one, still charged with the energy that had gripped them in the cottage. Susannah did not dare break it. If she did, she felt she would not be able to control the things she said.
This is from Titanic Affair
'I was wondering what experiences you must have had in your early life to make you the man you are today,' said Emilia.
He raised his eyebrows.
'And what exactly is "the man I am today"?'
'A man who is the equal of anyone here, though he wasn't born to wealth or position.'
'Ah. You noticed,' he said teasingly.
She smiled. 'Yes. I did.'
He laughed. 'You're right. My beginnings were very different to this.'
He glanced round the opulent dining-room, with its flower-laden tables, its sparkling glasses, its gleaming silver, its glittering lights and its immaculate guests. Then his expression changed, and just for a moment she caught sight of something that lurked beneath the surface, a boy driven by need and want, clawing his way out of difficulties to be in a position where he could sail on the finest ship in the world, on terms of equality with some of its wealthiest and most well-connected people.
'Yes?' she prompted him.
'My family lived in a poor neighbourhood in Southampton, struggling to survive. My mother took in washing and went scrubbing floors for a few coppers to help feed us - there were eleven of us, all told. My father worked on the docks. When I was twelve he was crippled in an accident and couldn't work. I did what I could, making myself useful, running errands, making coppers. And then one day I found a bicycle It was bent and rusty, and had been abandoned in an alleyway.'
He broke off as he whirled her expertly past two other couples.
'I mended it,' he continued, 'and used it to help me ply my trade. I delivered parcels quickly and I could go further afield than the boys on foot. By attaching a cart to my bicycle I could carry more parcels. Bit by bit, I built up a business. As soon as I could afford it I bought an old motor van. It was broken down but I repaired it. I was just starting to make some headway when my father died. He had been ill for years, but it hit my mother hard. She was still taking in washing; still scrubbing floors. She took to her bed for a few days after my father died, knocked down by grief. The ladies she cleaned for gave her notice. They said she was unreliable.' His hand gripped her own more tightly. 'She'd been working for them for ten years.'
She heard the hard edge in his voice, and knew how much it had affected him, that his mother should have been so badly treated. 'It doesn't seem to have made you bitter,' she said. Although his voice had been hard, there had been no bitterness in it. 'You could have started to hate those with wealth, resenting them for everything they had, but you didn't.'
'I can't see the point in bitterness. It's destructive. I channelled my disgust, using it to make me work harder than ever. I bought more vans. Eventually I had a whole fleet of them. Once the business was doing well I put it in the charge of my brother and travelled to America. I had heard great things about it; that it was a land of opportunity. I quickly saw it was somewhere I could achieve even greater things. I set up a similar business, and once it was established I moved my family over there with me. I sold the English business and used the profits to help my brothers and sisters. Of course, I made sure my mother never had to go back to scrubbing floors again.'
A conversation like this, in which the hero or heroine reveals their past, can create a strong bond between them. It lets the reader see that these two people are starting to confide in each other, and it creates interest for the reader.
A word of warning. Don't have this kind of section too soon. It should not come before half way through the book, otherwise, if your reader knows everything too soon, she will lose interest.
Again, look through your favourite Regencies. How, when and why does the author bring her characters together? What do they talk about? What do they do?
Try and vary the conflict scenes with the coming together scenes. This apart-together-apart-together movement will create a dynamic book
Why do the hero and heroine meet?
Do they arrange to meet, or is it by accident? If it's by accident, Why are they in the same place at the same time?
When do they meet?
To begin with, this means an era, which for most people reading this will be the Regency. It also means, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, morning, afternoon, evening, night. And it also means, Two days later, The next morning etc.
Where do they meet?
How will their meeting affect their relationship or the plot?
How will this section move the plot along? What will the reader learn about the characters or situations in the book?
What will happen?
What will happen when they meet? Will the heroine's horse bolt and the hero catches the reins? Will the heroine find a dead body and the hero come upon her bending over it? Will they meet whilst out walking? Will they be friendly? Hostile? Will one pursue in some way, and the other draw back eg the hero wants to dance with the heroine and she refuses?
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