One of the â€œrulesâ€ of fiction is that the main character must have a problem. Because if his or her life is all sweetness-and-light…well, put it this way: Iâ€™m sure living a life like that is great, but I donâ€™t want to read about it. Itâ€™s far more interesting to read about lives gone wrong.
But, in my opinion, not too wrong. My preference, as a reader and a writer, is for things to go wrong in a way that makes me laugh. Not so much, â€œOh, gosh, how awful,â€ as, â€œOh, gosh, how awful…(snicker).â€ Not that Iâ€™m unsympathetic (at least, only a little), but I love fictional situations that make me wince as I wonder, â€œHow the heck is she going to get herself out of that one?â€
Usually, the character has brought the trouble on herself / himself, and while itâ€™s amusing, itâ€™s generally a symptom of a deeper problem. So thereâ€™s meaty stuff in there, but I get to smile as I worry.
Check out these sticky situations that start some of my favorite romances.
– Heroine blabs to the world about her massive crush on the new guy in town…then discovers heâ€™s a Catholic priest (Catch of the Day, by Kristan Higgins)
– Identical twin swaps places with her sister, and…yikes!! (I canâ€™t say any more about this because it wonâ€™t be out until August and I donâ€™t want to ruin the surprise…but itâ€™s cool! Stand-In Wife, by Karina Bliss)
– Genius scientist wants a dumb jock to father her baby. She disguises herself and cons a football star into getting her pregnant…turns out heâ€™s not so dumb, and heâ€™s mad (Nobodyâ€™s Baby but Mine, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
– Heroine with a reputation for â€œstalkingâ€ the hero as a lovestruck teen is caughtâ€”you guessed itâ€”peering in his window on her first night back in town (Falling for Gracie, by Susan Mallery) See what I mean? Each of these women brought her problem on herself, and while Iâ€™m truly sorry for her and hoping she can fix it, Iâ€™m also laughing.
My own books have included a couple funny-painful (as opposed to painfully funny) situations:
– Heroine dupes her boyfriend into appearing on a surprise wedding reality show, and he dumps her on live TV (Married by Mistake, currently available free from www.tryharlequin.com)
– A beauty queen about to miss out on a job because she â€œlacks gravitasâ€ tells the employer sheâ€™s engaged to the hero, a political heavyweight. Only trouble is, he hates her… (Her So-Called Fiance)
My new Superromance, Her Best Friendâ€™s Wedding, out this month, also has an â€œouch!â€ premise. Geeky biologist Sadie Beecham tells her family sheâ€™s the bringing the man of her dreams home to meet them…then he falls in love with her best friend…ouch!
Whatâ€™s a girl to do? As far as Sadieâ€™s concerned, itâ€™s simple: she has to stop the wedding. Too bad the brideâ€™s brother sees things differently…
Iâ€™d love to see your recommendations on books with the kind of funny-painful setup that I like. Or your comments about the kind of story setup you prefer: tense, dramatic, scary, sad…