Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Mills & Boon Talk on Page-turning Quality

The RNA Conference at Greenwich was wonderful, to date I have been to three RNA Conferences and this was unquestionably the best so far.   There were so many interesting talks and speakers, the only headache was picking out which of the talks to go to!

Here is a brief summary of one of the Mills & Boon talks.
Mills & Boon’s Executive Editor Tessa Shapcott introduced Sally Williamson and Carly Corcoran for their talk on:

Increasing Your Page-Turning Quality For a 21st Century Audience

Sally and Carly gave an overview of the Romantic Fiction Market. Key points are that 20.5% of fiction books bought retail are romantic fiction. Websites like Amazon mean readers have every book available at their fingertips. E-books are a large growth area, with more e-readers are being bought every day. You can now read on mobile phones, and then there is the Ipad – appealing new technology focussed on reading.

Five Basic Elements that women look for in Romantic Fiction…
Readers are busy, they need quick-fix entertainment that is easy to get hold of. They look for escapism – a complete other world, they want believable, empathetic characters to engage their emotions, and a fast-paced storyline. And, of course, a satisfying ending!

How is this achieved in Series Romance? With new twists on classic themes! Study the various series; each line has something different to offer readers. What emotional issues have you seen handled in new/interesting ways?

Examples of 21st Century emotional issues/themes
• IVF/Designer baby eg Their Newborn Gift, by Nikki Logan
• Choice mum – freezing eggs, sperm donors
• Work/life balance
• Online dating/social networking
• Infidelity
• Heroine as boss or wealthier than hero
• Controversial health issue eg anorexia, or domestic abuse from both sides

Innovate, don’t imitate! Think about your latest story idea…does it fall into the cliché trap? How can you put a fresh spin on it?

The Heroine
• Readers should want to walk in her shoes
• She is inspirational but relatable
• Her hopes and dreams/fears and insecurities should chime with readers
• She doesn’t have to be perfect – M & B heroines can have bad hair days!
• She can be the boss, or the PA, the surgeon or the nurse
• She is independent, and has strength of character
• She doesn’t need a man to rescue her – but he’ll make the journey more fun!

The Hero
• He is successful and wealthy
• He is driven, he knows what – and who – he wants and how to get it!
• He has integrity and honour
• He answers only to himself!
• He is dangerously attractive
But he’s…
• Tameable
• Not a chauvinist – he encourages the heroine to spread her wings
• In touch with his emotions
• A family man – he’ll change the baby and pick the kids up from school!

A snappy opening chapter is vital. Know your hero and heroines and get them together ASAP; keep the focus on the developing romance. Give readers a tantalising taste of the emotional conflict and get the sparks of attraction flying! Backstory should be unfolded gradually. Use dialogue – let characters speak for themselves. Keep minor characters to a minimum and end on a climax – leave readers wanting more!

Three Things to Remember
• Commercial awareness of the Romance market is crucial
• Women want the same in their romances, but presented in a new way
• Keep your finger on the pulse – innovate, don’t imitate!

3 comments:

Sally Clements said...

Excellent post, Carol! As a writer who didn't make the RNA conference, thank you very much for posting it!

Carol Townend said...

You are most welcome, Sally. The main challenge was getting the talk boiled down to 500 words. Summary is not exactly my thing!

Romy said...

A great post Carol. You summed up the talk very well and even though I attended the talk I'm bookmarking your blog so I can keep reminding myself to innovate!