The Trouble with Riva

Ahem. You know what I said a couple of days ago about the need to keep conflict simple? Well guess what I did?? *shakes fist at ms*

Sigh. Figured out that I have too many things going on for my heroine. I have two major problems with her and really, I should just have one and go a bit deeper with it. I should have realised a couple of weeks ago when I was writing a major scene for her, where her conflict starts to get resolved, and I could not seem to make it so that the two issues were dealt with at once. I ended up dealing with one and leaving the other for the black moment. But the other one is a biggie and…it’s just not going to happen in the word count! So, I need to get rid of it. Of course this brings me to the main point of this post: the trouble with Riva.

It’s a feel-good, fun, flirty line. Contemporary, with a ‘young’ voice. But the problem with feel-good, fun and flirty is that it’s very hard then to get conflict that’s deep and yet isn’t too depressing or dark. Groan. My feeling is that the most emotional storylines come from tough conflict but how you do that and still make it feel-good and fun?? Double groan. And it doesn’t help that I like angst but my voice is Riva (my secret love would be Presents/Modern conflict with a Riva voice).

The big thing is that I don’t know if my conflict is too dark or not. My poor old bad boy has had a pretty dark, depressing past and I wonder if that’s too much. But then, if he’s a bad boy, he HAS to have had bad stuff in his past, right? I’ve tried to keep this out of the present as much as possible but now I’m getting into the later stages of the book, it’s feeling pretty angsty. The pay off will be an emotional ending but have I gone too far? Same with my poor old heroine. She’s got two problems now – physical scars and guilt. But I have to choose one. Which one? Scars or guilt? And are they too dark? Too real life? The other sub I have in at the moment – the soldier story – again, there’s some depressing stuff in both my characters’ lives. Not in the present, in the past, but still, it’s there. Will that be a problem? Is it worth even writing the rest of that one?

I don’t know And the only way to know is when I hear from the ed. But I’m beginning to think that this is another thing that’s all in the execution. Some conflicts, no matter what you do with them, will always be too depressing otherwise you risk making light of them. Yet with others, maybe it’s possible if you don’t dwell too much on the depressing parts. Like if it’s death, you don’t dwell on the grief and loss, or you make it happen in the distant past so it’s not an issue in the present. Fundamentally though, who knows? I’ll find out eventually about mine when I hear back. Until then…not sure what to do really.

Maybe I’ll just give up the present WIPs for my new idea which was inspired – don’t laugh please – by the song One Night in Bangkok (oh, okay, you can laugh). Hehe. Can anyone say cheesy? I’m aiming to bring the sexy back to chess!!

So, what do you reckon about conflict that is light and happy, fun, feel-good, and flirty, and yet is deep enough and emotinal enough to last 50k? Any ideas?

PS. If you don’t know the song, here it is. Go Murray Head!

15 thoughts on “The Trouble with Riva”

  1. I know it can be done. I can think of a couple of ST books that do what should be unpsetting things that end up feeling light hearted. Jenny Crusie’s books always seem sweeter than they are if you just list the angsty issues and the body count.

    It would be interesting to read something like Faking It, with its graft, forgery, murder and guilt, just to see how the whole of it feels so much less depressing than something saddled with that much drama should be.

    I think part of why it works is the characters aren’t gnashing their teeth over everything that’s happened to them. If they can accept it and laugh at it, at least on the surface, the reader can to. An unhappy heroine who is fighting her HEA is less of a downer than a sad depressed little heroine who is curled up in a ball hoping the world doesn’t kick her again.

  2. Anne – I did think about it. I’ve read Desire though and I still think my voice is far too colloquial. I tend to concentrate solely on internal conflict too and I think Desire has more external conflicts happening. Of course, I don’t really know…:-)

    Julia – yeah, that’s it isn’t it? It’s how the characters deal with it. If they’re angsty about it then yes, it will be depressing. Oooh, y’know? You just gave me another insight into this character stuff! Thank you!!

  3. I’m hearing your dilemma and…

    …I’ve got nothing. LOL!

    Honestly it really is a tricky one because you need the best of both worlds. I was hoping that RIVA might help 🙁 You’re just too unique and we’ll have to petition them for another line 😉

  4. Lacey – ack, really? You were my last hope! A new line just for me would be awesome. It could be a mixture of Modern/Blaze/Riva. How about Blamova? 😉
    Seriously, Riva is the closest probably. We’ll see how I get on with the Modern ms I’ve got in the SYTYCW thingy. Probably nowhere!
    Oh and thanks re being unique. Not sure I am but I’ll take it!

  5. Who said chess ever stopped being sexy? I love it – all that cunning planning and manoeuvring *shivers*.

    As far as your problem goes Abby Green’s The Spaniard’s Marriage Bargain was fabulous and (not giving away the punch of the plot) the heroine had to deal with a HUGE issue that caused her enormous amounts of guilt as well as a bit of physical recovery and Abby managed it beautifully.

    I seem to remember someone at the beginning of the year vowing to just enjoy her writing and not over think the crafty stuff – any ideas who that was? Trust yourself m’dear – you’re hugely talented.

  6. Elissa – argh, yes, I admit to needing a butt kick. So thanks for that. 🙂 But don’t get me wrong, I AM enjoying what I’m writing, it’s just…a wobble maybe. I guess Abby Green’s book was Presents/Modern/Sexy though right? You can get away with big conflict like that in Modern. Not sure you do it in Riva. Or, let me rephrase that, I don’t think I can. I need to simplify, not complicate. But I might just need to go read Abby’s book just in case… 🙂 Oh and thanks for the compliment. You are awesome. I’ll take that one as well.

  7. Jackie, try this. Take all the bad things that happened to him and instead of making him brooding, make him stubborn about something. Like he has a wrong idea that he can’t let go of.

    If he thinks all women are untrustworthy because his mother ran off with a traveling salesman when he was a kid then give him a heroine who has a secret she’s keeping from him and make her look untrustworthy in his eyes.

    Maybe her background is that once she broke a confidence, something bad happened because of it, and she got the reputation of not being trustworthy. She’s determined to keep the secret no matter what. Even if it costs her the man of her dreams.

    If you put them at opposite sides of an issue that’s very important to each of them, you have conflict in abundance. It’s deep because these people feel strongly about it. Leave the dark in the past, and let your characters flirt like crazy and have great sex. And then fight. And make up.

    Did that make any sense?

  8. Cat – that makes total sense and is awesome advice. It’s too late for that for my current WIP – and I may have pulled it off because my hero doesn’t do much brooding and the heroine pokes fun at him (hehe) when he does so that kind of lightens it up. But I think I’ll take that advice for the next story. And in fact, I have just the issue he can be stubborn about! Thank you!!

  9. Go Blamova! Honestly, I’ve never read a Riva so I don’t really feel qualified to comment on what conflicts might suit. As long as you ensure it’s driving the story forward, you should go with your instincts! It sounds like you feel you’ve loaded poor heroine with too much. Perhaps major up one of them or can one become a component of the first and be more intertwined?

  10. Kaily – I think Blamova would be a huge seller. 😉 Anyway, I’ve completely cut one of the conflict strands and focussed entirely on the other, making sure it goes deep. Hope it works. It certainly feels easier to write which means I’m doing something right at least. Maybe not for the ed but it’s right for the character. 🙂

  11. Great post, Jackie, and some very helpful comments too! I agree with you, its difficult to strike the right balance, especially with a new line, and its so frustrating to fire something off and have to wait and find out if it fits – I wish M&B would do a ‘story outline pitch’, where they’d look just at a story idea and say ‘yup, that sounds good’ or ‘nope, too x, y or z’ it would be great wouldn’t it?

  12. Sally – that’s a FABULOUS suggestion. It would be great wouldn’t it? Because I get the impression with Riva, based on editorial feedback, that some conflicts are okay while others are not. And yeah, waiting 3 – 4 months to hear that the conflicts won’t work for the line is SO frustrating. My personal opinion for Riva – completely unsupported so take with a hefty grain of salt – is that the eds aren’t sure what they want but they’ll know when they see it! Which makes it very frustrating. No wonder it’s one of the hardest lines to get right.

  13. Jackie, after reading Flo’s post on the forum about Riva, I’ve added in my 5c worth, but pitching the idea of a story outline send in for people writing for Riva. I think its a good idea – I hate the time wasted if there’s an element that won’t gel with the line, especially as it can be sorted before you write the bloomin thing! Have also suggested that the ‘romance’ type of Rivas should get sex too. Seems unfair to leave it to all the urban foxes…

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