I don’t believe good writing follows a formula, even in the romance/erotica genre, but just because the plot doesn’t follow a set path, it doesn’t mean you can’t do amazing things with common ingredients. What you can do with with eggs, sugar and flour can be amazing. There’s another point to be made about ruining lobster tail or caviar, but that’s a different post.
In May of 2012, Elisabeth gave me a workshop with Donald Maass as my birthday present. A lot of what he had to say was the next logical step from his Writing the Breakout Novel, but what he had to say about the different kinds of protagonists should be tattooed on the arm of every writer. It’s not a formula, it’s an ingredient to good fiction. He said any character should be shown to be doing the opposite of what they were. A heroic character should be shown doing something ordinary, an everyman protagonist should be shown doing one extraordinary, and, most importantly to the kind of books I write, a wounded hero should be shown to want to be better.
I’d already finished the first draft of Changeling. And in that first draft, Matt understands the reality of the world he lives in, but he wishes it could be better. Changeling might have a plot about people who keep showing up dead after mistreating Matt, but at its center it’s a love story about a young man, his brother and his love interest.
I might have set out to write cliched characters with cliched problems, but by the end of the first scene, I was in love with the characters and the world. I hope you love it, too.