Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Deconstructing Harlequin/Mills and Boon Modern

If you belong to savvyauthors and want to swing by, I'm doing a free workshop 1/21-1/27 called "Reading for Craft" using Not Just the Greek's Wife by Lucy Monroe. I picked Lucy Monroe not just because she's one of Amazon's top one hundred authors, but because she structures her books for maximum impact, and also uses that structure in romantic suspense for Kensington and paranormals for Berkley. With over fifty bestsellers under her belt, she's got serious crafting chops--something that shows in her solid five star rating.

Because Reading for Craft is a sort of closed beta, we're asking that if you sign up you commit to participating in the workshop. Hope to see you there.


Kristen Koster (Kaige) said...

Is that a basic or a premium membership requirement? Because it sounds like a great topic.

Janet said...

Thank you Jodi. Applied to join and ordered the book (paper version)

Janet said...
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Kristen Koster (Kaige) said...

Thanks, Janet!

Janet said...

You have to be a premium member.

Jodi Henley said...

Hi Kristen--I've always wanted to break down a MB. The structure is fascinating. I'll probably pull a lot of the breakdown over to my blog afterwards, so if you aren't there, it'll still be available.

It works really well with what I've been talking about over the years and it's laid out in such an easy to see way (short format too). Janet is right about the requirement. It's very much an experiment to see if the concept works and how.

Jodi Henley said...

Janet, this might not be the workshop you asked for (although I've been thinking about the Moral Premise again), but I hope it'll work for you. :) It should be very practical.

Janet said...

I think this is the workshop you mentioned at the end of Story Doctoring 101 --breaking down the structure in a Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern? The one that you thought I'd like?
(And I will, it sounds just what I need.)

Jodi Henley said...

definitely. It was pretty much designed with you in mind. I wanted you to get as much from it as you could, since you're targeted at that market. I haven't forgotten your earlier request at RD though. :)

Janet said...
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Janet said...

Re-posting deleted comment (half a sentence missing from previous post!)

'm sure I'll get loads from it. Thank you jodi looking forward to it.
Ah yes, the RD requested workshop I requested on Moral Premise :)

A while ago, I asked Stanley D.Williams a couple of question (via his Moral Premise blog) about 2 protagonist romance novels.
(I was working on getting a clear theme for my stories before I outlined them.)

Question 1: Both hero and heroine have different lessons to learn, so I'm struggling to form the vice and virtue sides of the moral premise.

Stanley's answer (condensed)
"When you say the hero and heroine have different lessons to learn, if those lessons are different sets of virtue and vices, then you have two different stories. Your story will connect better with audiences if the virtue and vice set are along the same continuum for both...

If your heroine is into work and not play, then the hero would be into play and not work. Don't make them too extreme in those areas, but the bias has thrown their lives (with everything in their lives) out of balance. The purpose of the antagonist in a story is to change the protagonist by obstructing the protagonist's goal. Thus your characters are like iron-sharping-iron."

Question 2: something along the lines of: 'Both an excessively serious approach to life and an excessively playful attitude lead to unhappiness, but a healthy balance between the two leads to fulfillment and happiness.'

Answer: "Yes, you got it. This is the Nicomachean Ethic post, precisely"

Nicomachean Ethic post
Scroll down to The Smith Observation

Which is basically about giving one protagonist a virtue (taken to excess so it becomes a flaw eg if the virtue is courage then taken to excess that is rashness) and the other protagonist a deficienecy of that virtue (in this case cowardice) If this were a romance then each protagonist would arc from opposite ends of the continuum towards towards the virtue (courage)romantic comedy or drama, our co-protagonists and co-antagonists may struggle with the values either side of the virtue.

Stanley says; "Each tugs on the other to move toward the middle and toward the virtue."

Jodi Henley said...

lol, Janet. You know you got me over to the Moral Premise to read the posts on Nicomachean ethics. :) I already have the Blind Side on my list of TBW this weekend, since he made it sound so interesting.

yes to your first question. I've always felt the protag and antag are the same in a two protag story, although I think I heard mine from Hague.

I'm not sure how I feel about the second question though--it took me awhile to realize it's because film and text are so different that an overview of larger movements--hmm, movements might not be a good word, perhaps concepts? like vice and virtue probably make it a little harder to see the actual mechanics of the
arcs in romance. So much romance is introspective--something you noticed in your own breakdown--that perhaps another way to approach it would be to think of the moral premise as a shorthand description of the overall emotional structure of a protag's character arc.

ie? excessively playful attitude lead to unhappiness, but a healthy balance between the two leads to fulfillment and happiness.

In other words, the plot is simply how you get from pt A to pt B, but the moral premise is the emotional change a character goes through to get to the end, wherever that might be, and I agree that keeping the continuum reasonable works a whole hell of a lot better than an unreasonable black to white melodramatic change. A good bit of information, I'm totally thrilled with, since it puts something into words I never knew how to explain.

He has some good stuff on his blog. :)

Janet said...

Yes, the extrnal plot seems to simply be a dramatisation of the moral premise. (The Dara Marks book goes into this, but not for 2 protagonist romance stories!)

"the plot is simply how you get from pt A to pt B, but the moral premise is the emotional change a character goes through to get to the end"
What Michael Hauge calls 'identity to essence' :)

I like Stanley's idea (the one I mentioned in my post above) that in a 2 protag romance, the moral premise statement needs to include both characters. eg Both an excessively serious approach to life and an excessively playful attitude lead to unhappiness but...

In an earlier blog post Stanley suggests a different approach using just the one moral premise for them both.

Instead of placing hero and heroine at opposite ends of a continuum with one having an excess of the virtue and the other an absence of it (and each arcing towards the other) he suggests both hero and heroine have the same moral premise (character arc) and struggle with the vice part of their arcs in their own way.

Instead of meeting in the middle, both start off with the same vice and move towards the same virtue.

The example discussed was "Greed and selfishness leads to isolation and hatred, but generosity and sacrifice leads to inclusion and love."

Although both hero and heroine have this same lesson to learn they are greedy and selfish in very different ways.

Taken from Stanley's post "The man involved in business, is greedy about making money... She can't be greedy about making money, that's his problem...perhaps she is greedy by virtue of being poor. Perhaps she's a hoarder: or perhaps she is about time.In what ways is she NOT generous? That is her vice, and it blocks the guy's ability to see her goodness.

But, if you're determined to make her the perfect person, and him the bad guy, then you have a story about HIM, not her. If you want to make the story about both of them, they both have to be imperfect."

So that gives romance writers using 2 protagonists, 2 ways of using the moral premise. (But even if they both have the same moral premise statemente they do have to start off quite different in some way.)

"Although the man and woman may have similarities, the story is about how these two characters are different, even opposite in some ways. To be complete and happy and fulfilled, they have to be together so their essences are complimentary."

Very useful stuff for romance writers :)

Jodi Henley said...

very true, and your second example gave me a lot of food for thought. I think--in some ways, most of the romances I like have similar arcs moving from the same kinds of vices toward the same kinds of virtues.

Janet said...

I must look at a few of my favourite romances to see if the protagonists have different aspects the same kind of vices/emotional problems. It's probably harder to write one where they do as quite a challenge to make them start off very different in some way.

Stanley Williams sees the moral premise as a statement, but maybe romance writers need to tweak it to word it as a question? (your post of a few days ago on themes coming in two forms and character led stories falling into the question/exploration type of theme)

Also he says in his post on the Seekerville blog

"The MP is the subliminal, psychological, under the radar motivation that drives characters to do things. But it's never (in the movie business) the reason someone will go see a movie. The motivation for going to see the movie is the ironic, intriguing physical situation.

BUT, in romance novels could it be that the MP (or some articulation of it) is the hook that attracts readers? I don't know. That's what I hope to learn from you ladies. I'm a guy, what do I know?"

What do you think Jodi?

Janet said...

Just discovered Stanley Williams made a 2nd visit to the Seekerville blog--well worth a read, comments section too. :)

Jodi Henley said...

lol, Janet. It's probably my mind set at the moment, but I saw the transformational point of the character arc as the MOG and this--

Let me say it again, all physical CONSEQUENCES that your characters experience is based on a mental decision based on some combination of psychological VALUES.

a great overview of a core event, because core events are simply a grouping of psychological values that drive a character. I suspect my work is just a more narrowly focused way to use bigger concepts like the MP. Hmm. Makes me think, not always a good thing at 2 in the morning.

But yes--I think a statement of moral premise would attract people who share your world-view and are the reason some people like different authors. Nicomachean ethics as Aristotle looked at it, are based on creating an ideal and not everyone has the same ideal.

so this?

BUT, in romance novels could it be that the MP (or some articulation of it) is the hook that attracts readers?

is probably better stated as

In romance novels the MP (or some articulation of it) is the hook that attracts your target audience because of "your" interpretation of the MP and how you show it in your book.

Janet said...

Thank you. Your posts are always so interesting and really make me think.

What's the MOG? I probably know already but I can't think what the letters stand for:)

Janet said...

Oh I know, it suddenly came to me --moment of grace