Smart Girls Read Romance

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Love Your Characters ... But Not Too Much

By Sandra Nachlinger

Elly is such a sweet person. She has been living with her grandmother, helping her recover from an ankle injury, doing what she can to get the older woman back on her feet. She has also organized Granny’s mobile home and helped sell her unwanted items online. Elly is kind, considerate, and caring, and I’ve grown to love her as if she were my own child. But… when it comes to writing her story, that just won’t do. I have to force myself to be mean to her—get her into trouble and mess up her life. Otherwise, there’s no story!

Elly comes to small-town Shannon Ridge, Texas, with some drama already. Her fiancĂ© has ditched her for a woman he just met, and she can no longer live in the Dallas apartment they shared. She’s also having a hard time finding a job as an interior designer. That’s when Granny asks for Elly’s help in her recovery and offers to share her home. But that’s not enough to keep readers interested. Although I hated to do it to someone I liked so much, I had to make her life more difficult.

So...
Sunset Acres Retirement Village, the location of Granny’s mobile home, has rules. No loud music after ten o’clock, paint color on the homes must meet the approval of the homeowners’ association board, and so on. The rule that affects Elly and Granny, however, states that visitors under the age of fifty-five may stay in the community for only one month. No exceptions. Elly has already surpassed that limit so she has to sneak around and stay out of sight. However, she meets and becomes attracted to Derek, the neighborhood’s landscaper, even though she is not interested in getting involved with another man. He’s a good guy who helps out the senior citizen residents of the trailer park and keeps the landscaping looking nice. He’s the kind of guy you want your daughter to date. So, of course, I had to screw up his life. I gave him an ex-wife who had disappeared many years before under questionable circumstances. Then his past comes back to haunt him.

Those problems didn’t seem to be enough, however, so I added a few more, even though I hated to do that to my characters. But since I enjoy stories that make me smile, I also sprinkled humor throughout. That made me feel a little bit better about being so cruel.

A writing teacher once told our class: The writer's job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them. Writers have to follow that advice, even when it’s hard to make our “babies” suffer. Even when we’re writing romance. I hope Elly and Derek will forgive me for all the rocks I've thrown at them!




I’ve just re-released BLUEBONNETS FOR ELLY in paperback and ebook formats, making a few changes since it was originally published by my now-defunct publisher. You’ll find this sweet Texas romance (with all my meanness) here: Bluebonnets for Elly

14 comments:

  1. Sandy, Good luck with your re-release. It's time for me to re-read this wonderful story!

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  2. Excellent post, Sandy! Best wishes for your re-release.

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  3. Excellent post, Sandy, and exactly how I feel about my characters.

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    1. Our characters become part of our family, don't they?

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  4. I knew there was no story without a problem, but I like your prof's idea about the rock-throwing. Hey, Sandy;I need Elly at my house now!

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    1. I could use some organizing skills around my house too. Seems like we've accumulated a lot of "stuff."
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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  5. I knew there was no story without a problem, but I like your prof's idea about the rock-throwing. Hey, Sandy;I need Elly at my house now!

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  6. Thrilled for your re-release. I am confident you'll do well. And yes people are flawed...so must our character be, right?

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  7. That "up a tree with rocks thrown at them" part made me smile. But you are right about that. Who wants a perfectly smooth story? Congrats on the re-release.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Laurel-Rain. Some of the most memorable books I've read have had seriously messed-up protagonists.

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  8. Congratulations on the re-release. Can't wait to read this "mean" book of yours.

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