Hooks and Ideas

As I have started to plan work with a view to submitting it for publication, I have had to take a more critical eye to my ideas and how I would pitch them. If I can’t make it make sense in about two hundred words, it’s going to be hard to sell. This is especially true in the Romance field.

It’s completely changed how I plan a novel. I used to pluck an idea out of the sky, often a mixture of other stories combined with something I’ve seen in the real world. Then a few scenes would come to me and I’d write them. Then if the characters stuck with me, I’d go back and write more, eventually having a plot in my head and at some stage going back to the beginning.

That doesn’t cut it anymore. Now when I think of a new idea, I try to work out what the hook or trope is and where the conflict between the characters lies. Then I can start plotting.

Tropes are what make Romance a mocked genre. They are the aspects of the story which have been done a million times: ‘Boss’ baby’ is one example that even makes me snicker. Hooks come alongside tropes to make a reader want to get into the story now. The fact is a lot of novels employ tropes. Romance just happens to make an art of it. Have a look at this article for a bit more on this topic.

The manuscript I’ve just submitted (woo!) had the fake relationship trope (one of my favs) and the royalty trope. The hook was that they were unsuitable for each other (although making that clear without making either of them into a bad guy was a challenge!) but of course they fall in love anyway.

I had the idea for this story long before I was so disciplined, so I have had to re-engineer lots of it. I’m hoping the magic survived. If it didn’t, I’ll start with something new, now much wiser. What’s interesting is that I wrote bits of this story years and years ago (before I had kids and temporarily lost the will to live the ability to write). Then last week I found someone else who had practically written my story!

Of course she didn’t write my story. It’s clearly a different plot and I really enjoyed it, but there were enough similarities to make me chuckle. It was Jessica Hart’s The Baronet’s Wedding Engagement. There are more differences than I could list here, most notably that it is romantic comedy whereas mine has ended up surprisingly (to me) serious. But the similarities were amusing and I could tell what she had researched and what locations she’d used as inspiration.

Whereas I based my invented European principality on Luxembourg, she chose Monaco (I know this, because I had to research Monaco for my own manuscript). She also used the royal whim as a plot device to necessitate the fake relationship/engagement. Average people feeling inferior in the presence of royalty was also a theme that was intimately familiar to me!

I should point out here that it’s Book Two of the Royal Wedding Invitations series, which is written by different authors, so conceivably it was the author of the first book who came up with the background. But it certainly struck me with how easy it was to find crossover in books with the same tropes. Partly because of the crossover, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Plus she nailed the sexual tension.

I also found her technique for point-of-view changes interesting (third person limited, but sometimes changing POV mid-scene with no line break), but that’s a topic for another post!

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