Jenna Black's Blog Experiment

Wherein romance author Jenna Black plunges into the terrifying new territory of blogging . . .


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Those Beloved Romance "Rules"

So, I'm struggling along with my first tight deadline, and I'm finding my internal editor more of a pain in the ass than usual. It's driving me crazy, so I figured I'd share my misery.

Book three in the Guardians of the Night series has the darkest hero I've ever written. By a long shot. He was actually a villain (or at the very least an antagonist) in Secrets in the Shadows, but there was something about him that made my critique partner, my editor, and myself fall in love with him. And so, I find myself having to make a hero out of a character who did some very unheroic things in Secrets. I won't go into too much detail--I certainly don't want to reveal any spoilers for book two when book one hasn't even come out yet! Suffice it to say that he's not at all a nice guy, even if he does have some redeeming qualities.

When I first tackled this book, I tried to think of other romances that had less-than-sympathetic heroes. Certainly, it isn't uncommon in paranormal romances for heroes to be painted as dark, tortured souls. And I've certainly seen books where someone who looks like he might be a bona fide bad guy springs up with a book of his own where he turns out to be the hero.

But in the books I've read like this, it usually turns out the guy isn't as bad as everyone thought. A good example is Zarek, in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dance with the Devil. In previous books, he's painted as a psycho, and all the previous characters talk about him as if he were the bogeyman. But you never actually see him doing anything so bad--he just talks tough. So when he got his own book, he was "easy" to redeem. His reputation as a psycho was largely an illusion, and though he wasn't exactly a nice guy, he was at least a good guy.

So, what do I do with a character who isn't all talk? Gabriel, my reluctant hero, did some very cruel things on the page in Secrets, and there's no getting away from them in his book. If I started the book with him being Mr. Nice Guy, people who'd read the previous book would throw it across the room. So I have to break some romance "rules." I have to let him still be a bad guy in the beginning, and I have to take my time to redeem him. Which also means I have to take my time before the romance part of the story can really get under way because he's just too damaged to let anyone get close to him.

I keep telling myself that if people read Secrets and like him, then they'll have patience with him when he gets his own book. I also tell myself that Tor publishes a fair number of romances that break these tried and true romance rules and they still manage to sell. (For example, the hero in Hunter's Moon, by C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp is a Mafia hitman werewolf. And the story's told in first person from his POV.) But still, the worry persists.

In some ways, that may not be such a bad thing, despite the negative effect on my stomach lining. Because it means I'm still pushing myself, still taking risks and trying new things. That can only help me grow as a writer.

Now, if I could only get my internal editor to stop shouting "You can't do that in a romance!" in my ear, I might actually get this book finished on time!


At 11:01 AM, Blogger moonpunter said...

PHM is HERE!!!

At 12:49 PM, Blogger Sara Walker Howe said...

Hi Jenna,

I don't know if this helps, or if you've seen it, but since you're thinking about it, I thought I should pass it along.

Michelle Rowan just wrote about redeeming the bad boys over at the group blog Midnight Hour.

Here's the link

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Jenna Black said...

Thanks, Sara. That post was very much apropos! And I think the first comment, about wanting to hope the broken person can be fixed, hits the mark spot on.

At 1:04 AM, Blogger Manic Mom said...

Hey Jenna--thanks for that info over at Snark about the SASEs. I had no idea, seriously that agents would do this. Now I'm looking forward to my mail! LOL. Thanks!


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