On the one hand I read authors saying there isn't a formula then I go and read Jane Porter's article on the mistakes she made when starting out and it says:
My first four books were all hard sells: in the first one, the hero was a baseball player, in the second, the setting was South Africa, in the third, the book was set in Austria, in the fourth, the hero was a senator. So to recap -- avoid the stuff that makes Harlequin marketing cringe and that list includes -- no athlete heroes, no rock star heroes, no overly artsy heroes; no setting that involves lots of conflict, war, or poverty; no setting (for Presents) that is too cold and alp-y as the hot Mediterranean climes seem most popular; no heroes or heroines that are politicians, no plot lines that involve politics, lobbyists, or controversial issues...
Isn't that formulaic? Ok, not in the sense that the first chapter has to contain this, the second chapter that and so on, but if what Jane Porter's saying is right, then certainly there appear to be far more limitations than many would have us believe.
How on earth are we supposed to know what kind of careers, places and story lines to avoid? Doesn’t this mean we could go on writing book after book without ever selling simply because the hero was a journalist living in Belgium trying to help the heroine out of a legal tangle... or... well, anything really. How can we know that a hot-blooded Mediterranean hero won't be good enough just because he happens to dabble in art? Or whatever?
Will the editors tell us that that the hero's job was all wrong, or that we've set it in an unpopular location? And even if they do, how will we know that we won't make the same mistake over and over?
I'd like to believe that we should just write the stories we want to write but if we want to sell them, that could mean dozens of stories that just aren't right for the market. I know all about reading lots from the line we're targeting, but unless you want to go along the same road as other authors, isn't it only right that we should try to give our heroes different careers, different locations and different motivations from those we've already read (and hence, have already been written)?
I just feel that if I follow in other author's footsteps re careers, etc., I'll just end up with a story full of wooden characters rather than a hero and heroine that have grown in my imagination, and who others would enjoy reading about.
As I said, I'm confused.
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