Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rake with a Frozen Heart Giveaway


Character v Plot 

When I first started writing, I thought that each book would get easier than the last. In fact, in my experience the direct opposite is the case because with every book I challenge myself to do better. And with every book, I’ve also found that there’s a key lesson to be learned as a writer. Rake with a Frozen Heart taught me that character has to come before plot.

Right from the start, I had a very clear picture of the opening scene of Henrietta and Rafe’s story, with my heroine unconscious in a ditch on my hero’s estate. I was reading Lucy Moore’s excellent book Con Men and Cutpurses at the time, and was enthralled by the seamier side of the Regency it depicted. The dark and dangerous world of London’s rookeries was almost on the doorstep of the opulence and luxury of the haute ton. I found this contrast fascinating, and I was determined to include it in my story, which meant I had to have a crime. 

Another project I’d been working on (shelved, for the moment anyway) was set during the French Revolution. Many of the crown jewels disappeared during this time, including the legendary Bleu de France, part of which is now reputed to be the cursed Hope diamond. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if I could somehow incorporate this bit of research into my story too.  

I came up with a plot so complicated that it made unravelling the Da Vinci Code seem like a piece of cake. But when I started to write it, I realised it left very little time for romance, and even more importantly, beyond throwing them together and expecting them to play the sleuth, I had no idea at all what made my hero and heroine tick, never mind why they would be perfect for each other.

I wrote the first three chapters and got stuck. Then I rewrote them and got stuck again. I showed them to my editor in the vain hope that I might be wrong, but she agreed. It just wasn’t working. Deflated, I put the whole lot away in a virtual drawer.

Funnily enough, it wasn’t the story, but my heroine who wouldn’t let me be. Over the next year, Henrietta came to life in my mind. A heroine who was different, flawed, and definitely not beautiful. Henrietta was well-intentioned but by no means always right. She was an innocent abroad, but she wasn’t naïve. She suffered badly from foot-in-the-mouth disease, but she was always true to herself, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Once I had her fully-formed, so to speak, it was actually quite easy to find her a perfect hero. Henrietta was a bit of a crusader, so Rafe had to be a man with a past which made him a real challenge to save. With the complex plot stripped right back, finally I could write my story.

I learnt my lesson with Rake with a Frozen Heart – it’s fatal, in a romance, to put plot before characters. It was a tough one, and this book was a long time in the writing as a result, but it’s a lesson I certainly won’t forget in a hurry. What’s more, although I lost the story of the Bleu de France from this book, the research wasn’t in vain, because the diamond features in the opening chapter of my August release, Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah. So in a way, I eventually got two for one!

I think Henrietta and Rafe’s story was worth the pain. I hope you agree, and I have a signed copy of Rake with a Frozen Heart to give away so that at least one of you can decide for yourself. All you have to do is leave a comment, and I’ll pick a winner on Monday 30th April. Good luck.

There’s excerpts, background and more about my books on www.margueritekaye.com. I’m always happy to chat on Facebook or Twitter. And if you want to see the ideas and inspiration behind some of my stories, including Rake with a Frozen Heart, then check out my boards on Pinterest

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Marguerite understand you perfectly. Everytime we want to write something new we want it better than the last one. Like in my case now I am writing my essay and I want it better than the last one but I am stuck in words :(, that's great that you get the necklace for two stories:), arethazhenATrocketmailDOTCOM

Xandra James said...

That's great advice, Marguerite! And I love the sound of this story (although the hope diamond IS spectacular, lol) ;)

x

Jennifer W. said...

I'm definitely looking forward to reading Rake with a Frozen Heart!

Shelley B said...

I think you're right. I have to be vested in the characters to really be interested in a story. You have to want to know what happens to them. Thanks for the giveaway.

kimmyl said...

Thanks for a great post! The story sounds so good that I can't wait to read the book.

Alexandra said...

Ooh! Something to think about with my beast of a chapter 1. Thank you. :o) Love the cover of the book.

Virginia C said...

A heroine in a ditch certainly gets my attention as an opener! How did she get there, and how will she get out? What happens from there?

For me, storytelling is all about how the characters are portrayed. I must care about the people and want to follow their story and find out what happens to them. Even the supporting players, the not so nice people, and especially the villains should be well-drawn and multi-layered. Minor characters, sharply etched in a few well-chosen words, add such rich flavor to a story line. I like characters who are basically defined around the edges, but still flexible enough to be surprised and revised. A “complete change of character” is not really believable, and it’s also not very interesting. It’s the little flaws, “uh-ohs”, and “ahs” that make for a readable character. Characters are the elements which capture and hold my interest in whatever I am reading. Having said that, I like nice characters who have an unexpected naughty streak. I love naughty characters who are nice when they least expect it themselves ; )

CrystalGB said...

Rake With a Frozen Heart sounds great. I love the cover.

Barbara Monajem said...

Marguerite, I totally relate to what you're saying. I'm always torn between writing romance and mystery. Romance is character-driven and mystery is plot-driven... ARGH. Writing for Harlequin Undone has helped a lot because the stories are short, so the plots have to be SIMPLE.

Melanie Rose Meadors said...

Wow, this post was so helpful!! I have always love historical romance, and have read it since i was a teen. Writing science fiction, as I have been doing for the past few years, is such a different process that it's hard to switch over to romance. I've been running into difficulties much like you have described above, because I was so used to working my plot first, and then developing my characters to feed that plot. Your post made a lightbulb go on in my mind! Already I can see the possibilities for my characters, by developing them first and then figuring out the plot that sort of comes from them! It seems kind of obvious now, but I needed that paradigm shift. Thank you for the great article, and I can't wait to read your new book!

BW said...

Hi Marguerite,

Great advice, character before plot. I'll have to remember that.

Good luck on your new book.

Cheryl St.John said...

This is great! I'm going to share it with my writer friends. It's a lesson to remember.

Cynnara Tregarth said...

I'm so picky when it comes to historical stories, but it's even more important to be true to the characters. So, I can completely understand where you're coming from. But when you can also get two books from an idea because of an element that allows you to broach something that really broadens the scope, I applaud you! But I admit, that cover dazzles me. I think it's the girly girl in me that loves jewelry, yes. I am going, give me the goodies, give them to me! LOL I can't wait for the book so I can learn more about Henrietta and Rafe and the Bleu!

Marguerite Kaye said...

It's funny, this book was finished about a year ago, and it was only when I came to write this blog that I remembered how painful it had been. I'm so glad my post has helped, some of your comments have given me a nice wee glow. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice Marguerite, I still find it hard to make my romance character driven :( Can't wait for a new release from you xxx

catslady said...

I have always put the characters first. If I don't care about the characters, there's is no plot that will hook me but if I do care, the author can take me anywhere. Your book sounds like something I would enjoy and so glad you put your characters first.

catslady5(at)aol.com

chey said...

Rake With a Frozen Heart sounds like a great read!
chey127 at hotmail dot com

Annie Burrows said...

the more I hear about this book, the more I want to get my hands on a copy!

bas1chs said...

Yes! I want a complete story with great characters - the whole package LOL

I'd love to read this.
bas1chsemail at gmail dot com

Jen said...

I will add this to my To Be Read list!

If I have no interest in the characters, I probably won't finish the book.

Amanda said...

Character before plot is now tattooed on my forehead!
Love to win Rake with a Frozen Heart.

Heather said...

I am working on my first book and keep getting stuck around the 3rd chapter! I'm going back to character development per your advice! Thank you.

Marguerite Kaye said...

Heather, I always find Chapter 3 is the biggest test in a book, for me it's the pivotal one where you realise whether your idea is going to work or not. If it's any consolation, I'm stuck right there with my current WIP. Good luck with yours, hope I helped

lana said...

XD the title itself is lareday attractive and story and the fact that you pay lot of attention to your characters
Indeed in france( where I live), jeweleries have been stolen and lots of place (castles) burnt.
and the bleu de france is more commomly known as the diamond "hope ". came from india, there is a legend around it, I don';t knwo if you know about..but ppl who owned...didn't live much.

I hope that ot will help you :)
I'D like to enter your giveaway please :))

jandia4junpyi@yahoo.fr

Marguerite Kaye said...

And the winner is - Melanie! I've emailed you Melanie, congratulations. And thank you to all who took the time to comment.

Marguerite Kaye said...

Iana,
I have a copy of The Rake and the Heiress - L’héritière sans nom - en francais. If you would like it, please email (marguerite at margueritekaye.com) with your address.

Sherrinda said...

I heard about your blog from Seekerville and had to stop by. It's wonderful! I'm a new writer and just got my first rejection. The reason was I needed a more character driven story instead of plot driven. This post was good for me!!

sherrinda(at)gmail(dot)com

Marguerite Kaye said...

Hi Sherrinda, Glad to be of help. Sorry you missed out on the giveaway, but I'm blogging some more about writing with another giveaway, details on my Facebook page.