Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guidelines for writing a Silhouette Desire!

As I mentioned earlier, I had no idea how to fashion my recently purchased contemporary romance proposal, SECOND HARVEST, into a Silhouette Desire. And since no books in this line had as yet been published -- this was in the mid-eighties, remember -- I wasn't even sure how to begin.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon how you looked at it), my editor sent me a three page, single-spaced typed letter describing in some detail how I should proceed. As I read the instructions, my mouth fell open until it very nearly reached my chin. Here is a brief list of what it covered:

First: It was of utmost importance that my story be totally original -- as long as it followed a standard set formula, that is.

Second: I must not allow the book to become bogged down with plot. The crucial things here were characterization and passion. I was told I had to get inside the heroine's head until readers felt as if they knew her as well as their best friend. (I had a lot of trouble with this at first since I'm a big fan of plot. But I must admit that it turned out to be better than any writing class in teaching me how to portray characters in such a way that they come alive on the page.)

Third: Among other things, this formula laid out which parts of the body could be named with anatomical correctness, and which ones could not. Generally speaking, anything below the waist was to be referred to with "inoffensive, non-specific euphemisms." The word "bosom" was allowed, but not the word "breasts." (It made no sense to me, either. Since the Desire line was aimed at women between 18 to 45 years, I figured there was a good chance they'd all heard the word "breast" at least once in their lives. But evidently they were not allowed to see the offensive word issuing from my pen!)

Fourth: The letter established very specific guidelines on how to handle the love scenes. At least five or six pages must lead up to the act. The act itself was to go on for another set number of pages. (These were the most difficult pages to write, since I was so limited on what I could say, and which body parts I could name. Trust me, you can run out of euphemisms really fast!) At the conclusion of the act, the heroine and her lover must spend at least three more pages talking so that readers could see that the two really cared for each other, and that the act had not been tawdry.

Fifth: Hero and heroine must begin the book as enemies. However, the issues which divide them have to be realistic and too serious, or complicated, to be resolved through a simple five-minute conversation. When the two finally do come together, it must be with irresistible passion and love -- even if the characters do not yet recognize their true feelings.

Sixth: Something unexpected and beyond our heroine's control must come between them, once again dividing our lovers. Then, when all seems lost the obstacles are somehow overcome and love triumphs. The Desire line, as with all romance novels, MUST HAVE A HAPPY ENDING!

Seventh: A final reminder: The book must be completely original!!

(Next: Do not disturb! I'm being paid to write a romance novel!)


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