Headache or Plot Device?

Finished my Frenchman. Yes, it was fast but I’m realising that writing the first draft really quickly is kind of my process. I have to get it down ASAP because if I don’t, I lose interest and never finish it. And since finishing is a weak point of mine, it’s something I really have to work at and be disciplined about. Anyway, I’m already thinking that I’m going to have to change the middle of it. Why? Well, some explanation is required.

My hero, in the beginning, has a migraine that affects his vision (yes, apparently this is rather girly but hey, I can change it if I need to). Cue practical, efficient heroine who takes charge of him while he’s extremely helpless. This ties nicely into his conflict of hating to be helpless, while at the same time, showcasing the heroine’s trustworthy nature. Okay, this may have a whiff of the plot device about it but I’m keeping it for the beginning for the meantime (external conflict brings them together right?). However the whiff does get a tad stronger later on because he has another one – this one is different because he willingly places himself in the heroine’s care for the first time, thereby demonstrating his growing trust in her and also having this trust repaid. But, I’ve already used this situation in the beginning so is using it again overkill? I didn’t want him to have one migraine and then it never be an issue again (definitely a plot device!) and yet I didn’t want to keep going back over the same ground. My gut feeling, though, is that yes, it’s overkill. Not to mention the fact that it makes the whiff of plot device rather more stench-like.

The problem is that MH (and a lot of the other M&B lines) are character driven. I never really got a good idea about what this means until recently but now I do, I can see why my migraine thing may be just a plot device. Character driven means the character drives the story through the decisions and actions that they take. They don’t stand there and have things happen to them. Hence my problem with a migraine. A migraine happens to someone, someone doesn’t happen to a migraine. So really, if I want to showcase my hero’s developing trust in the heroine, what should be happening is that a decision he makes places him in a situation where he has to trust the heroine rather than have the situation happen to him. But this is the difficult part for me – thinking of the situation! Because as a billionaire who hates losing control, why would he make a decision that places him in a situation where he has none? The answer probably will lie with the heroine and the chain of action and reaction that happens in the book. Somewhere along the line, she’ll do something and his reaction will be to place his trust in her. In fact, I have an idea right now as I’m typing this….

What do you guys reckon? Is a headache just a headache or is it plot device? πŸ˜‰

24 thoughts on “Headache or Plot Device?”

  1. You know I absolutely LOVE this premise Jackie and I don’t think how you have it makes him girly at all. I also think if you make having migraines part of his character – something he can’t control and he hates that – that him having a second one isn’t too contrived. I mean… people who have migraines sometimes get them frequently right.

    But I must remind you that I’m as in the dark as you when it comes to what’s plot contrived and what’s not!!!

  2. Rach, ooh, ta, glad you liked it! Yeah, I thought if the migraine was a part of him then it wouldn’t be SO contrived would it? And yes, people who have them sometimes get them often so maybe a second one isn’t too much. I dunno, I think I’m confusing myself!

  3. I’m with Rach. I don’t think migraines are girly either (we’re talking hardcore pain here) and I love a momentarily helpless alpha πŸ˜‰

    I’ve actually read a story previously it featured a heroine with migraines. The thing about it was she got them a couple of times in the book and because the hero also suffered migraines he could take better care of her. Hers were triggered by chocolate (the horror!). Did you have to decide on a trigger for your Frenchman?

  4. Dont’t think a migraine sounds like a plot device if he’s always had them. Why stop at 2? Make them suffer is my motto. *evil laugh*

  5. Lacey – having seen the husband in the grip of one, no, not girly! That’s interesting re the heroine and her migraines. I don’t have a trigger per se – was thinking in terms of the light. The light in NZ is quite harsh compared to Europe and that could be a trigger. Or maybe it could be the sudden cessation of stress – husband always gets his on holiday! Have to think more on it.

    Lucy – yeah, he used to get ’em as a teenager but hasn’t had one for years. And he suffers! Oh how he suffers! Lol!

  6. As a major migraine victim, I can vouch for their nastiness. I’ve also heard that its the most painful thing for a man to experience, and after experiencing childbirth – if that’s as bad as it gets for them, they must reallly think its bad.
    Alpha or not – men as wussess (yeah, I know, in M&B land, alaph’s are strong as steel) but at the end of the day – thay are still men, and all men experience pain.

    So in a nutshell (and apologies if i’ve just given you a headache) – go for it, as Lucy said – why stop at 2? Hell, give him a bout of manflu while you’re at it (ok – maybe not – we still want alpha after all)

  7. Don’t know about you but this is giving *me* a headache – lol. There have been a few blogs recently about PD’s. I know what you are saying though, but on the other hand a LOT of HM&B authors do use them! Caroline x

  8. To me if something is part of someone’s character, something that drives behaviour and decisions in their life, it’s not a plot device. If it happens once (or twice) just to maneuver characters into a situation it could be seen as a plot device. I think it depends on the depth and how it’s handled. I really like the premise. Mega capable rich guy who has the $/power to control everything around him succumbs to a human weakness he really can’t do much about. I’m guessing he would also hate the idea of using drugs to control it. It must drive him nuts! You just have to make sure it’s not something that comes across as a convenient way to get them into position. It’s got to be integral to him. Perhaps it can be mapped back to other things he’s done in his life? Maybe it happened on a flight once and he doesn’t travel long distance anymore? Perhaps he’s taken a few long breaks from the office and it’s a big mystery amongst his employees and they all speculate about what it could be? I’m getting carried away and I may be WAY OFF, but you get the idea :).

  9. If he’s always had them, then he’s powerless to stop them/prevent them happening which will really tick him off if he likes being in control. He’ll think there should be some way of getting rid of it by himself.

    Maybe you could make your heroine some sort of flower power girl who cures him with her herbs and potions? He’d hate that πŸ™‚

    Oh, but back to the question, if migraines are part of him and he has a couple during the book and you refer to him having them all of his life then I don’t think they can be a plot device.

  10. HI,

    Firstly, thanks for dropping by my blog.

    Migraines! Vile things, I get them occasionally, vision blurred (dangerous to drive, sometimes really bad with vertigo resulting in that awful degradation of puking and literally confined to bed feeling like sh*t!

    I know a freefall skydiver who had a migraine suddenly wack him one on his jump. The guy with him thought he was arsing around and gave him a shove out of the plane, he gets vertigo like me, and puking at 15000 ft is no joy – it stays with you!!!

    Oh joy, not! Imagine a hero who sufers vertigogenous migraines.


  11. Damn, I’m really sorry for posting twice, but I meant to say, what if your heroine’s a funtime skydiver and it’s something he’s always wanted to do, not thinking a migraine will wack in just at the wrong moment and give the impression he’s too scared to jump!

  12. Janette – Lol re the manflu! He initially did have that but then someone told me a cold wasn’t sexy so I took it out. Actually, fess up time – he has three over the course of the story. I like the one at the end so not getting rid of that. Yet.

    Caroline – when is a plot device not a plot device? It’s a mystery huh?

    Suzanne – yeah he’ll be migraine man from now on. πŸ˜‰

    Kaily – wow, that’s great advice!! Yes, at present, it’s more of a plot device I think but if I integrate it into his decision making process then that will make it part of him. Yay for giving me some ideas! Yes, he doesn’t like drugs to manage them but the heroine does give him some painkillers which have some ‘unusual’ effects. πŸ˜‰

    Joanne – yeah, he really does hate having them. LIke the hippy heroine idea but this heroine is more practical and efficient – like a nurse. She’s managing, which he hates. πŸ˜‰

    Francine – argh, a puking skydiver!! Yukko. Nice idea re the skydiving but probably wouldn’t fit in this ms. I did have an idea for a skydiving hero so I may keep that in mind for when I write it. πŸ™‚

  13. Ooooh, I like the migraine idea, and wouldn’t have thought it was a plot device unless over used (or if they *only* happened when super convenient to the plot).

    But I’m like you, totally confused by what is and isn’t contrived!

  14. Leah – it’s a bit of a mystery eh? I think it I make it part of his history then it would be okay. If one came from out of the blue and he never had another then that would definitely be a plot device. Clear as mud? Lol!

  15. Poor Dr Jax I wouldn’t blame him if he never took a holiday! I love the light idea. I think the alpha’s migraines in that book was triggered by red wine if that helps at all.

  16. Jackie, I see what you’re saying, and your concerns. If he has migraines he has them. But what if he can do as he does, and shut himself up in the dark, or he can go to her for help, then he’s in a weak moment, but he still has a choice. Anything you can do to give the moment the most power you can.

  17. Lacey – yeah, I’ve heard red wine is a trigger point. Don’t know as yet, will have to see when I start editing. Yep, the Dr is not happy with a migraine. Can’t do nuthing.

    Maisey – yes, good point. He doesn’t have much power over them at the moment which isn’t at all in his character. Edits will be happening!

  18. Hi Jackie,

    I recall that one of Heidi Rice’s books had a hero who had the manflu and heroine was looking after him at the beginning of the novel. Being an alpha, he really fought this at the start. Can’t remember the name of the book at the moment, as I’ve got a headcold and my brain’s not exactly working right now. That seemed to work well, but she’s a published author so maybe there’s more leeway there.

    Sorry, not much help today…

  19. Angie – yup, read Heidi’s, it was a great beginning! I thought about manflu but what I like with a migraine is that it can affect your vision – so he’s blind when he has them. Hehe.

  20. Years ago, I wrote a book – Hired Husband – in which the hero had a migraine and – As Joanne suggested – the heroine was an aromatherapist who was able to help him with a massage. So rather like your hero turning to heroine for help scenes it can be an important turning point scene. Nothing wrong with a hero having a vulnerability like that.

    But – if he has 3 such migraines in a very short book it could be heading for migraine over-load. You want to make sure that you show a strong, capable, coping man who has this vulnerabilty – not someone who is poleaxed rather too often. Too many starts to seem like a plot device.

    I think you could get a lot from looking at the triggers to these things – I suffer from them myself but they are hormone related whihc is perhaps not a good idea here! If there is something that sparks them off then if your hero has to be in that situation/whatever the reader will see that the migraine can’t be avoided – but if it’s red wine or chocolate or some such then they’d want to know why and intelligent alpha male doesn;t just avoid that trigger.

    Stress, however . . . that’s part of an alpha’s life!

    Incidentally have you ever read Dorothy Dunnett’s Game of Kings series? There’s one totally alpha hero who is frequently (there are a lot of books and they’re long ones) totally blinded by migraines and a less girly hero I have yet to see!

    As always – it’s all in the execution – and that’s what makes it a plot device or not too!


  21. Kate – Wow, that’s such great advice. Thanks so much. Yes, since posting this, I have realised I need to integrate the migraines into his character a lot more. The beauty of a first draft! Anyway, yes, a trigger is a key. Not food, but definitely stress. I did think stress related to his conflict – which is going on in the background – might be a good trigger too. Will definitely do some editing on this. I must read your migraine hero!

    Yes, definitely have to get rid of number two migraine. Number three has a definite trigger.

    As to Dorothy Dunnett… funny you should say that because those were the books that made me start writing romance when I was 15. Way too young to read them then but Francis Crawford and his headaches…sigh…Now THAT’S a romance hero for you. πŸ™‚

    Thanks again for dropping by.

Comments are closed.