Staci Troilo

Suspense, Passion... Fiction That Flutters The Heart

Tag: action

7 Ways to Add Spice to Your Writing Life

romanceValentine’s Day is this week. I’m not going to bore you or aggravate you with a debate over whether it’s a religious holiday (honoring St. Valentine the martyr who died on February 14, 270 AD) or if it’s just another silly Hallmark holiday that’s the bane of every man’s existence who’s in a committed relationship. I am, however, going to take this opportunity to plead with you non-romance writers out there to consider spicing up your writing a bit by taking a page out of my book. (Not literally, of course. That would be plagiarism, and that would be wrong.) We romance writers have been mixing our genres with others quite successfully for some time now; in honor of Valentine’s Day, I think it’s your turn. As a romance writer, I’m recommending you other genre-writers throw some love interests into your works. Spice things up a bit. Challenge yourselves. Here’s a look at some other genres with successful romances added to their plots.

1) Action/AdventurePirates of the Caribbean was as much a love story about Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann as it was an adventure about Captain Jack Sparrow. And after three films, when Will’s fate was determined, what happened? The fourth film introduced a love interest for Jack. Obviously there’s merit to introducing romance in the plot of action and adventure films.

2) Comedy—There’s a reason the term “Rom-Com” is now so common. From films as chaste as Doc Hollywood to ones as risqué as American Pie, comedic films have long since learned the value of throwing together couples for a few laughs. If laughter is the best medicine, adding some romance to the mix could only make things better, right?

3) Fantasy—So many fairy tales begin with “Once upon a time…” and end with “…and they lived happily ever after.” Did you ever think about who the “they” was? The prince and princess, of course. There’s romance in so many of the fairy tales we grew up with. Sure, we could probably move on from the damsel-in-distress routine, but the true-love’s-kiss bit, that works for me every time.

4) Horror—Every horror movie I watch has a couple sneak off for some quality one-on-one time right before they get hacked to pieces. I’m the one talking to the screen telling them not to go, but they never listen. At least they have each other before they die. To be fair, some horror films also have one couple make it through to the end, because they love each other and take care of each other. That’s real romance, people.

5) Mystery—Think about some of your favorite all-time crime-solving duos of television. I’ll tell you who some of mine are: Jonathan and Jennifer Hart from Hart to Hart, Laura Holt and Remington Steele from Remington Steele, Kate Beckett and Richard Castle from Castle, and Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth from Bones. What do they all have in common? They were or are romantically involved crime-solving partners. Sure, solving mysteries on television (or in books) is fun; it’s always nice to know if you can solve the crime before the answer is revealed. But what’s more fun is if there’s some romantic friction thrown in the mix. It amps up the drama and makes the challenge more interesting.

6) Sci-fi—If this is your genre, you’re either a Star Wars fan, a Star Trek fan, or both. And having watched all six Star Wars films and episodes from TOS and TNG, I can honestly say that they are full of romance. Star Wars hinted at a love triangle until Han realized Leia was Luke’s sister. Furthermore, even given the tug on his ego, he may not have returned to help them had it not been for his attraction to her. And the story simply wouldn’t have been as strong without their love. And in Star Trek, come on, I mean, really, did Captain Kirk ever meet a female alien that he didn’t like? These are the quintessential sci-fi flagship franchises, and if romance was good enough for them…

7) Western—Many westerns go hand-in-hand with a man defending the life and honor of a woman, so this probably isn’t a stretch for a lot of you western writers. For those of you picturing nothing but saloons and gunfights at high noon, let me point you to Dances with Wolves, an epic love story set in the west during the Civil War.

So that’s my spiel for this Valentine’s Day. Regardless of where your passions lie, I’m certain there’s room to work in a little romance. Challenge yourself a little; you might be surprised at where your characters take you. They might even thank you for it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Five Ways to Write a Successful Hero

heroMy in-laws are here this week. In fact, they came a day early. I was woefully unprepared. There was no food in the house. I was in the middle of cleaning. Their bed sheets weren’t even on the bed yet. I was wearing my housecleaning clothes: sweat shorts and a ripped and stained oversized T-shirt that I “borrowed” from my husband years ago and never returned. Hey, I do the laundry. If he wants it back, he should wash it and put it in his drawer. Anyway…

Their arrival could have gone a few different ways. My in-laws could have looked around with disdain and made snide comments, but they’re too classy for that. (What they thought is another story. I’ll never know, and I like it that way.) My husband could have blamed me for the mess and sat there waiting for me to scramble. (I was scrambling anyway.) Or he could have explained how busy we’ve all been (which is true), explained that we expected them the following day (also true), and then pitched in more than he already had been to get the place serviceable. Which was what he did. My hero.

Okay, that might be a bit overdramatic, but my life isn’t in peril on a daily basis. But in fiction, heroes don’t always have to be saving lives. Sometimes they just come to the rescue of an unprepared leading lady. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes for all kinds of situations, but there are ways to ensure you create a believable and likeable hero. Here are five rules to follow when crafting heroes for your fiction.

  1. Heroes need noble professions
    Don’t automatically default to the billionaire playboy philanthropist. Bruce Wayne has been written about enough already. A hero can be wealthy, but he certainly doesn’t have to be. Heroes can be middle class, they can also be living paycheck to paycheck. Income doesn’t matter. The key is to make their professions honorable. Whatever they choose to do with their lives, whatever their pasts and their histories, they need to have good intentions and actions in the present. They should also have the means to date a woman. That doesn’t mean five-star resorts and fancy restaurants, but he should be able to do better than PB&J sandwiches in the bed of his truck.
  2. Heroes are men of action
    Introspection is fine for the leading man, in fact, it’s encouraged. There’s no better way for readers to get to know the hero than to hear his thoughts, in his voice. But heroes are, by definition, men of action. Don’t let this guy spend too much time thinking without doing something. We want to learn about him, but we want to learn about him through his actions.
  3. Heroes need to be open to new things
    Two peas in a pod or opposites attract? I always vote opposites. If your hero and heroine share too many of the same traits, their relationship is going to be dull. The exciting relationships are the ones where the guy and girl come together from two different ends of the spectrum. That means, however, that one of them is going to want to go to the football game while the other is ordering ballet tickets. (It really doesn’t matter which one is which—don’t play into stereotypical gender roles all the time.) Let your hero not only willingly agree to give up his activity in favor of hers; let him enjoy her activity as well.
  4. Work with a quirk
    Yes, I know that was a suggestion I used for the heroines, but it holds true for the heroes, too. Guys aren’t always cool and collected. They have idiosyncrasies. If it’s not a nervous tick or a tell of some sort, then he’s likely to have some weird habit or an odd collection at home. Perhaps it has something to do with his car. Everyone has a quirk. Show his. Let us learn about him through his. Is it endearing? Is it weird? Is it something that is sentimental and emotional? Reveal something about him through the quirk.
  5. MAKE HIM FLAWED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Yep, another repeat. But this one definitely bears repeating. No one’s perfect. He might be perfect for the heroine, but he isn’t flawless. He can have wonderful qualities most of the time, but not always. He’s going to have indecision. He’s going to have doubts. And sometimes, sometimes, he’s going to do something completely idiotic and make the heroine angry. It’s okay. They’ll work it out. He’s still a good guy. He’s just not perfect. And that’s precisely what will make him the perfect hero for your story.

Heroes come in all kinds of packages: long and lean to big and bulky; boardrooms to operating rooms; the open range to the gun range. How they look, what they do, where you find them… none of that really matters. It’s all window dressing. What matters is what’s at the core. Heroes need to be flawed, challenged men striving for redemption, and they are successful by saving (or helping to save) the leading lady.

photo courtesy of Chris Hartford:

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