If you have your heart set on NOT winning the Harlequin Presents contest, here are some (slightly tongue-in-cheek) ways to achieve this.
1. Have no internal conflict.
That doesn’t mean car chases and villains. Internal conflict is what keeps your h&h from their HEA if they met in bar one night. And it can’t be just because he’s a Montague and she’s a Capulet – that’s external conflict people. If you have to introduce a scheming mother-in-law to keep them apart then your conflict isn’t strong enough.
2. Have your hero be the shy, easy-going type.
Sorry guys, he may be sweet but that ain’t alpha. And alpha is what goes in Presents/Modern.
3. Have as many sub-characters as possible.
You love the heroine’s best friend, her wise-cracking husband and their three adorable children. But devoting a whole chapter to them isn’t a good idea.
4. Include vampires and werewolves.
I know, you really liked Twilight, but paranormal isn’t where Modern/Modern Heat is at, even if you think it should be. Remember the guidelines.
5. Force your characters to act the way you want them to for the purposes of the plot.
I’ve been there and it ain’t pretty. You may want your hero to eat some bad cheese so that he gets sick and the heroine has to look after him, but you do have to ask yourself: does he even like cheese? And if not, why not? These are character driven which means you let the characters act they way they want. So go on, let them have their head!
6. Have things happen to your characters rather than have your characters make decisions and act on them.
A fire might make your hero rescue the heroine after their black moment but what would have happened if there hadn’t been a fire? Would he have made up with her anyway? What decision would he have made if you hadn’t cruelly sent him into the fire? Again, character driven.
7. Have your hero enter the story in chapter 2.
If that’s the case, then shouldn’t that be chapter 1? Don’t make us wait! He’s the reason we’re reading it – at least he’s the reason I’m reading it.
8. Make your characters act in seemingly random ways.
Such as your heroine suddenly kissing the hero whereas up till now, she hates his guts. Where is her motivation? Why would she do that?
9. Have either or both of your h&h be drug addicted alcoholics.
This may provide heaps of conflict but not much in the way of sympathy. Your h&h must be sympathetic and though drug addiction and alcoholism are real issues, they’re probably a little too real for category romance.
10. And most important, you definitely won’t win if you don’t enter. 🙂