When I’m yapping to my friend and fellow writer, M. L. Rigdon, about my idea for a new book, and I rattle off a list of things that I can see happening in it, she always stops me and says, “That’s all well and good. You love plotting. But…” And then she lists the sacred mantra of character development: 1. What does the character want? 2. Why does she want it? 3. What will she do to get it? Mary Lou starts books with characters who tug at her. I start books with ideas. A good book needs both. No matter how you start, you have to end up with both. And you have to find balance.
Mary Lou, who used to perform on stage, has no problem whipping up fully developed characters in her nimble, supple brain. She has no trouble developing angst either. After all, the ebb and flow of drama pulses in her veins. Her Regencies (written as Julia Donner) drip with angst. And wit. And humor, thank God, to offset it.
For Julia Donner’s books: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=julia+donner
One of my other fellow writer friends, Kyra Jacobs, writes contemporary romances, like me. I like them, along with lots of other people. I’d love to visit the Checkerberry Inn, but she’s partnered up all the hot men there in her three book series, so I’d only get to look and drool. But her books are fun, fast reads with heartwarming characters that lift my mood.
That’s what I tried for when I wrote my Mill Pond romances. I wanted to create characters who hooked me and life challenges I could relate to. So I think I balanced the characters–what do they want, why, and what will they do to get it–and the plot (all the things that get in their way), but I still get feedback occasionally that my romances don’t have enough angst. Now, I know I”m never going to please everybody. I also know that I purposely tried to write fun, light romances–quick “feel good” reads, because sometimes, that’s exactly what I want. Sometimes, I get damned sick of baggage piled on top of baggage. That’s why I’m not very good at deep, literary novels. I’ve had enough baggage in real life. I sure don’t want to read about it. But the first time I read that my books could use more angst, I tried to add some. Let’s face it. No one gets through Life with a free pass. But I got the same comments on that book.
So, I thought I’d add more angst between my protagonist and her romantic interest. And I think I did a better job on that. But I got the same review on that book as the earlier ones and fewer stars. Sigh. I’m grateful for every review I get (okay, maybe not EVERY review. There are some I could do without:) And I even think maybe I have a glimmer of what the reviewer meant, because–and I know this sounds strange since I’ve never met her–but I like this reviewer. I’ve learned, though, that what one person calls “angst” might not be what I would call “angst.” And if I ever write another romance, I’d fiddle with my next theory, but now I’m off to try my hand at mysteries. Kensington offered me a three-book deal, and I’m pretty happy about that. But let’s hope they have enough angst. Because I don’t have a theory on that yet. And I’ve noticed that my least favorite book in a favorite author’s series is the one where she was the most depressed. Bigger sigh. I still haven’t made up my mind, I guess.
How do you define angst?
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