Plenary session: the Unpredicatable route to Happy Ever After

Presented by Lucy Gilmour, Editor at Mills and Boon UK.

This was part of the Sunday plenary session, following on from the Susan Wiggs session.  I had intended to post it earlier but due to computer issues and also putting my notes in a ‘safe’ place, I am only just getting around to it

Lucy said that Harlequin bought 44 new authors in 2010, and will exceed that number in 2011.  15 of those are in Australia.  There is a strong editorial focus on:

  • strong emotion
  • relevance (for today’s women, not the women of 10 years ago)
  • a happy ending (which means different things for different lines)
  • variety
  • a unique voice
  • unpredictabiity

A reliance on the same conflicts and themes can lead to stories feeling the same.   If these conflicts are used as short cuts to emotion, then they don’t drive the story and characters forward.

An unpredictable story delivers a compelling happy-ever-after that takes the reader on an unanticipated, cliche-free emotional journey.

Put characters first:

  • character driven, not plot driven
  • interesting, original characters with a compelling story to tell
  • make sure they have emotional barries (conflict) that needs to be overcome

Examples of plots:

1.  Marriage of convenience

  • why would a hero do it?
  • why would a heroine agree to it?

2.  Marriage on the rocks

  • is there a strong enough reason to end a marriage?
  • look at stories in the media for inspiration

3.  One night/ secret baby

  • make the reasons behind this believable for the 21st century

4.  Revenge / blackmail

  • how do you motivate this so it is more than just a misunderstanding?

Controversial themes:

  • infidelity
  • a younger hero
  • terminally ill hero / heroine

Look at different format Point of View

  • diary
  • email
  • text messages

Be inventive with settings.

Mills & Boon run a New Voices contest, where contestants upload chapters at a time, and a panel of judges select finalists. The winner gets published, amongst other things.  Possibly worth a look if someone is interested in being an HMB author.

Lucy was a fun and engaging speaker, talking about her love for romance stories – specifically M&B – from the time she was 13. She had interesting stories to share, and some great professional advice.

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