I have been reading Jane’s blog and trying to pass on the advice about internal conflict that I was given in my rejection. Which meant I had to read the damn rejection email again. And you know what? I realise that in fact, I hadn’t read it properly. Or at least, I only saw parts of it. Thing is, when you get rejected, the only things you see are the words “However” and “Sadly” and “Sorry to disappoint you on this occasion”. And then you close the email because it’s a rejection and that’s it, it’s over.
However, I had failed to see these little comments: “in parts this story is absolutely brilliant” and “your hero is a perfect Modern Heat hero”. Don’t know how I managed to miss those but having seen them now, I am feeling a lot better about my poor rejected ms!
I wasn’t going to look at this story just yet because it felt too sad, but I’ve decided I’m going to make a push to rewrite it sooner. It seems a pity to waste the parts of the story they really liked, not to mention a hero that is ‘perfect for Modern Heat’. However, it does mean a heroine overhaul. Which means a plot overhaul. Part of the reason for the rejection was that I was trying to make my heroine, Christie, do things she wouldn’t do, inventing all kinds of reasons for her to act in a certain way that would fit the situation I’d given her. She was a geek with no self confidence and no experience of men who has to set up a date via the internet. And then the date turns out be this incredibly handsome, incredibly confident guy who makes her stammer and stutter, and then she has to choose to have a one night stand with this guy… Argh! You see my problem? Anyway, I loved the setup. I wanted it to work. I gave her a boss who would have fired if she didn’t set up the date (it was research for a computer magazine), a friend who pushed her into it, and an ex boyfriend who had found someone new as a catalyst. And still it didn’t work – it just wasn’t something her character would do and ending up being completely unconvincing.
However, that being said, M&B thought she was a lovely heroine. She was unconfident but she had this little streak of stubborness and fire (she accused the hero of cowardice at one point which again was something they really liked because it struck directly at his internal conflict). So how to keep these nice parts of her and yet give her some decent conflict and a set up that works? Interestingly, in the first draft she had a mother that ran her down all the time and the advice I was given by M&B was to think about this angle when redoing her conflict. Unfortunately I went about it in the wrong way, making her mother’s opinion define her when in fact an adult woman (so I was told) would no longer let her mother’s opinion dictate what she did (let’s just forget about the people in real life who DO actually let this happen for the moment shall we?).
My solution is this: her mother will contribute to her conflict but won’t define her character. Her mother wanted a pretty princess and instead got a tall, lanky tomboy who hated dresses. After a childhood trying to be what her mother wanted, Christie decided that she’d never be that person (see? this is her choosing not to be defined by it), and so followed her interests in computers, becoming a hotshot female game developer. This involves her being around guys all the time since that’s the industry, but she will see herself as one of them, ie neglecting the fact that she is female. Now her real conflict is that she doesn’t realise how much her mother’s disappointment in her as a girl has affected her own sense of self worth. No matter that she’s successful in her work, she’s constantly compared to her older brother who is married with kids and her mother is always telling her she’ll be on the shelf because no one will be interested in such an unfeminine woman. But my heroine doesn’t want to accept that – she’s been accepted in her job the way she is after all. However, her job isn’t the same as romance and what she begins to discover is a fear that her mother is right, she will not be loved for who she is but who she’s expected to be.
This is not to say that this will work. I actually have no idea yet and probably need to develop this a bit more. But I think, if I can pull it off, it will be a much better conflict than the two scenarios I previously tried to use. And better, I won’t be constrained by fitting the conflict around an already written set up. In fact, I’m giving them a whole new setup that won’t be complicated by things forcing the heroine into meeting the hero.
Weelll, now that I think about it, there may be a teeny, tiny complication but we’ll see how we go. 😉