Wednesday, August 23, 2017

RWA2017: Lesson One – Give Them What They Crave by Margo Hoornstra




In my August 11th appearance on this page, I talked about attending the 37th Annual Conference of Romance Writers of America. Despite some pro and con controversy about the value of membership in this organization, in my opinion, the group does strive to support romance authors in their craft and their career, from those just emerging and pre-published to multi-published masters. Many commenters on August 11th asked me to share what I learned in some of the many workshops.

So let’s begin….

In all the sessions on the craft of writing, the message was the same. Emotion is the takeaway readers seek, especially from a romance novel. They want to be invested, to feel or empathize with the characters. Maybe relive a treasured memory through the story.

The first workshop I attended was Seducing Your Readers in Chapter 1, presented by Michael Hauge.

The tease and bio go something like this…

Salvaging a novel with a weak opening is next to impossible. Never try to “grab” your reader at the beginning of your novel. You must seduce them, draw them into your world, create empathy for your heroine, set the tone for your story, introduce immediate conflict, lay the groundwork for your heroine’s arc, and foreshadow what lies ahead. This presentation will reveal how to compel your readers to keep turning the page.

Michael Hauge is a story consultant, author, and lecturer who has consulted on projects for every major Hollywood studio, including films starring Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Kirsten Dunst, Robert Downey Jr., and Morgan Freeman. He is the author of Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds, and has presented his lectures and workshops to more than 50,000 writers and filmmakers around the world.

My initial decision to sit in on this one was mainly prompted an author friend who exclaimed how attending a presentation of his a few years ago was so eye opening for her, it changed her writing life forever. You could say I bought into her enthusiasm, the emotion she projected.

Suffice it to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

One element of writing he shared, I’d heard before. In framing characters, a writer needs to begin with the wound. An event or ongoing painful situation she believes she’s over, that still determines her behavior.



The hero, of course, needs to come to understand this, and her.

According to Mr. Hauge, the primary reason a manuscript fails to resonate with editors, and therefore receives a rejection slip, is because the hero and heroine have no real reason to be together, except for the fact the writer wants them to be.

Kind of like – I love you because we are in this book together. Not very compelling, or interesting.

My main takeaway from the session is the core of the following paragraph.

The reason the hero is the heroine’s destiny is because he’s the only guy who sees her beneath her identity and connects with her at her essence. He sees her true self and connects to her on that level.



Did your heart beat a little faster? A contented sigh emerge? Me too!

The need for a deep and unique connection between two souls is a dynamic that has stayed with me, one that I’ll think about, and try to inject into my writing in every interaction between my hero and heroine.

Emotion. Deep, heartfelt emotion.

Hopefully, mission accomplished in my September 29, 2017 release On the Surface.



It’s available for pre-order here.

My days to blog at The Roses of Prose are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and my stories, please visit me at my website



18 comments:

Leah St. James said...

Thank you, Margo! What great insight! I don't think I've ever considered the heroine/hero relationship like that, but as a reader, I understand completely. (Now, how to translate that into story-writing!) I LOVE the cover of your new book, BTW. Wishing you much success with it!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Morning, Leah. The information is kind of a - slap me on the forehead, why didn't I think of that? kind of moment, isn't it? Almost too obvious. Thank you for the cover compliment and positive wishes. TWRP artists do wonderful work.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I've attended Michael Hauge sessions and always benefit. Good luck on your new release!

Jannine Gallant said...

Sounds like an interesting workshop with some good tips! Thanks for sharing.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Readers do love angst, don't they? Funny how reading about conflict serves as an escape for readers. Not only do authors describe the hero/heroine scrambling to understand/appreciate one another, but we also add another factor...what the hero/heroine think they want is not really what they want. Foolish me, I add danger and suspense in a convoluted plot. No wonder every book drives me a little crazy!

Margo Hoornstra said...

The session was well worth it, Brenda. We can always learn. Thanks for the luck.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Anytime, Jannine. Anytime.

Margo Hoornstra said...

A good kind of crazy though, right, Rolynn? The good kind. And may it continue. IMHO! ;-)

Andrea Downing said...

Thanks for sharing this Margo--something to chew on, for sure.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Glad to help, Andi.

Diane Burton said...

Great post, Margo. Thanks for sharing. Sorry I'm late. Our router died yesterday. Really bad being without the internet.

Alicia Dean said...

Excellent, Margo!! Yes, this is a great tip. I definitely think you pulled it off in On the Surface. SO excited for your release!! It's one thing to figure out the wound, and quite another to convey it throughout the book. For that, I highly recommend Donald Maass's The Emotional Craft of Fiction - https://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Craft-Fiction-Beneath-Surface-ebook/dp/B01MU7GJ8V/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1503586583&sr=1-1&keywords=Donald+Maass

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thanks, Diane. And thanks for letting our MMRWA colleagues know too. Router troubles-yuck. I can relate being with spotty internet this last month!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Aw, thank you, thank you, Ally. More good stuff for reference. I had a session with DM too. Four hours long and worth every minute.

Maris said...

Thanks for the summary of his talk. Good advice.

Margo Hoornstra said...

You're welcome, Maris. Happy to share.

Lucy Naylor Kubash said...

Deep emotion in a romance novel is my favorite thing. Well, heck, in any book, really. Look forward to reading your new release. Love the cover!

Margo Hoornstra said...

You're so right, Lucy. Emotion is everything. Thanks for the cover compliment. I kinda like it too.