Holding out for a Hero was one of my favorite workshops so far. Panelists Cynthia Eden, Lisa Renee Jones, Elisabeth Naughton, and Caridad Pineiro talked about how to create a hero that we can care about. They mainly talked about the alpha hero, the beta hero and the anti-hero. Beta heroes are gaining popularity, they say. They defined the beta hero as the underdog, the man who isn’t comfortable being a hero (in some level, even reluctant to be one). They pointed out that at first it’s hard to sell the beta hero for a paranormal or suspense book, since those genres usually call for take-charge, problem-solver alpha males. However, usually they can introduce the beta hero as the alpha hero’s sidekick; and, as the readers begin to like and want to know more about the beta hero, he usually gets his own book. By the way, Caridad Pineiro is one of the nicest authors I’ve met. She congratulated me for my Indulgence sale and gave me not one, but two hugs.
Lisa Renee Jones emphasized that the hero can’t just be good-looking. The physical part matters, but what will take the reader into the emotional journey is his inner conflict.
Cynthia Eden delivered a great speech about the anti-hero. She described him as someone who has the qualities of a villain, but at the same time has qualities we must admire. The key is backstory, letting the reader know why the anti-hero became this way. We don’t have to agree with his actions, only understand why he acts the way he does. Eric, from True Blood, came instantly to my mind. (Sighs)
Writing Big in a Short Format was presented by Harlequin authors Caitlin Crews, Molly O’Keefe, and Ann Voss Peterson. They delivered a succinct, strong, and enjoyable presentation about three key factors (emotion, characters, and plot) to keep in mind when writing novellas or short, contemporary romances. Really, these three are connected. Molly said that the magic happens when we bring fresh characters to tried and true tropes (like the secret baby, the sheik, the bad boy millionaire, etc). The secret is to find the specificity of these characters, what makes them unique and what will make them different from what else is out there. Ann talked about plot and how every scene in the book must move the story forward. Asking questions out loud, like “What does my character want?” and “What will make my character change?” may help. She also said that she outlines an emotional arch, which I thought was pretty cool.
Caitlin Crews finished the presentation by talking about the importance of raw, naked emotion. It’s about showing not only how the character reacted physically, but also inside. What did the heroine feel when the hero told her he was leaving?
Another workshop I enjoyed was Surviving Edits and Revisions, by Stacey Kade and Linnea Sinclair. They talked about their experiences and shared letters from editors. Upon receiving a long list of revisions from your editor, here’s what they suggested: First, go through the positive feedback and small changes. Second, edit the things that you don’t necessarily agree with, but that won’t kill you if changed. Last, do the ones you don’t agree with. They also said that editing is a cooperative effort; so if there’s something you feel strongly about, you can tell your editors something like, “I can see why you think that way, but this is what I was trying to do,” and see what happens. Hey, trying never hurts, right?
Last but not least was What’s Hot Now. Panelists Kelli Collins, Lindsey Fober, Miriam Kriss, Kate Pearce, Reece Butler, and Kelly Jamieson all talked about the trends of erotica romance. I really enjoyed watching these smart and funny women share their ideas on the matter. They talked about the rise of erotica romance, and how it’s gaining popularity even amongst traditional New York publishers. Agent Miriam Kriss said that she doesn’t think this will be permanent, but would like it to be. EC Senior Editor Kelli Collins is confident that erotica romance is in high demand. Someone from the audience pointed out that she has finally started to notice male/male books gaining space on the shelves. I was surprised to find out that male/male books are written by women, for women. Someone said that the ones written by gay males are different in style, content, and emotion level. Interesting stuff.
Well, that’s it for now. I just wanted to share my impressions before I forget them—I might have a couple of drinks later, so it’s a possibility.
What do you think about these trends?