This article appeared in the Cerridwen Press Newsletter in April 2008
Truth really is stranger than fiction, and I'm living proof. The story of how I met my soul mate is so bizarre that most people don't believe it. So I fictionalized the story, taking out some of the most implausible parts, creating fun characters and new locations to write MAGICAL MAN LIST, a romantic comedy novel from Cerridwen Press. Here's what really happened.
I was newly divorced and so starved for attention after 19 years of a loveless marriage that I jumped at every, and I mean every, opportunity that passed my way. I was in my mid-40s and found myself dating 20-year-olds, which was great for the ego at first but very depressing when they couldn't relate to anything in my life. I actually had one guy who didnít know that Paul McCartney had a different band other than Wings!
There was this man who was a freelance graphic artist where I worked who would come in and practically beg me to go on a date with him. I couldn't stand this guy. He was old (my age), had long hair, a wild beard and a beer belly. He dressed like a hobo. But boy, was he persistent. He would come into my office cubicle, get on one knee and say things like, "When are you going to make me the happiest man in the world and go out with me?"
Oh brother. I just couldn't get rid of him so I hatched an evil plan. I decided to go out with him and be the biggest bitch I could be. I thought if I went out with him and acted all kinds of crazy it would scare him off. So we met at a dance bar where I proceeded to act indifferent, weird and just plan mean. After two hours I said I had to leave. He wanted to know if he could ask me out again.
I couldn't believe it. "Did you have a good time?" I asked, incredulous.
"No," he answered.
"Then why would you want to go out again?"
"Because it might be better the next time," he said, a smile on his face.
This guy just didn't get it. I told him he was too intense for me. He was in my face saying ridiculous things like how beautiful I was and stuff like that. Drove me nuts.
For the next two years, I continued to date all these totally wrong men for all the wrong reasons. In the meantime, this man kept popping his head into my cubicle to just say hi. If I heard him enter the building, I would duck down and run along the other side of the cubicles and hide in the bathroom until he was gone. This went on for TWO YEARS!
Finally one day I was complaining to a friend that I couldn't find anyone right for me and this friend suggested it was because I didn't know what I wanted. I realized she was right, so we got together one night, and sat in a hot tub with a bottle of wine and each wrote up a list of traits we wanted in the perfect man for each of us. By the time I was finished, I had 65 items on my list.
Then I decided that in order to make the list work, I needed a sacred ceremony to activate the list. So I drove to my favorite spot in the mountains and waited for a sign to show me where to bury my list. When a hawk flew across the road right in front of me and landed on a rock outcropping, I had my sign. I pulled over and climbed the rocks and found at the very top a small sandy spot among the rocks. There, I buried my list. Then I stood up, lifted my arms over my head and called to the universe, "Bring him to me!" Yes, I really did do that. See what I mean about truth being strange? Then I stopped dating and waited.
Three weeks later, I found a big, beautiful homegrown rose on my computer with a note: "Just wanted to brighten your day," signed Mr. Intense.
Now you probably know who left this rose but at the time, I hadn't a clue. It had been two years since the date from hell that I had concocted. Finally it hit me. I was able to get his e-mail address (he worked for my company as a freelancer, remember) and e-mailed a thank you. He e-mailed a lovely note back. This went on for a while and two weeks later I received another rose. More e-mails, more fabulous words—sweet and not "too-intense".
Having a copy of my list, I decided to do things differently this time. I put aside my first impressions and paid attention to what I had written on the list. I started dating this man very slowly. A date here, a date there, all the time checking off stuff I found out along the way. After three months, I had checked off 63 of the 65 items on my list. I was astonished. Here was my soul mate right in front of me. When he got down on one knee on the top of that outcropping and asked me to marry him six months later, of course I said yes!
Baking A Romance: A Recipe for Success, Part 1 of 2 as seen on the Women on Writing blog, The Muffin, on Wed. March 25th, 2009.
By Christie Walker Bos
Some people think all romance novels follow a secret recipe or formula and are therefore all the same. Crafting the modern romance is like baking a loaf of bread. While there are the standard ingredients that will give you a presentable finished loaf, it's what's added to the basics that can make enough types of breads to fill a bakery.
For basic white bread you need flour, yeast, butter, salt and water. For the basic romance novel you need two people who eventually fall in love, a plot/conflict that keeps them apart for most of the novel, and then a resolution that brings them together for the happy ending. Just like with baking, if you want your story to be more than just "white bread" you'll need to add to the basic ingredients to stand out on the shelf.
Type of Bread…Determining the Genre
When you set out to bake a loaf of bread, you first need to determine what type of bread you're making in order to assemble all the necessary ingredients. With a romance novel, your first order of business will be to decide what type of romance you want to write. Romance novels come in as many varieties as bread. There's the murder mystery romance in which there will be dead bodies and the paranormal romance in which the lovers are not necessarily even alive. There are historical, contemporary and science fiction romances, suspense, fantasy and inspirational love stories. Books that cross over and back again from one genre to another are making it more difficult to pigeon hole a romance novel with a specific, limiting set of ingredients.
The Basic Ingredients…Characters are the Flour and Water of Romance
In traditional romances, boy meets girl, they fall in love and they live happily ever after. Today, you might have boy meets vampire, girl meets werewolf, boy meets boy or girl meets girl. The possibilities are as boundless as your imagination. Today's romances could involve a ghost in love with a living person (Think Patrick Swayze in Ghost) or a time traveler in love with someone from the past (Think Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time). Add spice to the recipe by creating characters from different ethic backgrounds, different classes, different centuries, and different worlds. These differences will cause issues to arise between the characters, which brings us to our next ingredient…yeast!
Don't Forget the Yeast…Getting a Rise Out of Your Characters
When making bread, yeast is the active ingredient that makes the bread rise. When writing a story, conflict is the active ingredient that gives rise to problems that demand a solution. Without conflict, two people meet, fall in love and live happily ever after…The End. Boring. The conflict or the reason they can’t be together is what makes "the bread rise" and the story develops around how they resolve the problems that are keeping them apart.
In my romantic comedy, Getting Back to Delaney, there are two types of conflict, internal and external. Delaney, the owner of a struggling art gallery finds herself attracted to Tyler, who turns out to be helping his brother open a competing art gallery across the street. A classic conflict arises as Delaney views Tyler as the competition out to destroy her. Think You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Delaney's internal conflict--a deep distrust of anything in a "male package" brought on by repeated betrayals--causes her to ignore Tyler's offers of help even though she desperately needs it, causing her gallery to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.
Add Spices…Create Flavor with Your Setting
Think of the setting of your book as more than the actual location where events take place. The setting has a personality, it provides conflict, and it adds flavor to your book like cinnamon changes white bread into a cinnamon roll. In my novel, The Write Man for Her, the story takes place in and around Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey, California. One of the characters lives on a houseboat at the marina, which provides for sunsets on the water, love scenes in rhythm with the gentle rocking of the boat, and sets the stage for the books grand finale.
The love story Slumdog Millionaire set in the slums of India has a desperate, dangerous feeling that permeates the film like the pungent smell of curry. While in The Bridges of Madison County, the pace of the film is slow and quiet like the dust caught in a beam of light coming through the farm house window. Take care when choosing your setting, understanding that the location can enrich the plot, influence the characters and increase or decrease the tension of your story.
Baking a Romance: A Recipe for Success, Part 2 of 2, as seen on the Women on Writing Blog, The Muffin on Thurs. March 26th, 2009.
By Christie Walker Bos
Continued from Baking a Romance...A Recipe for Success Part 1 of 2
There's no secret recipe for creating a romance, although there are some basic ingredients. If you want more than "white bread" you'll need to spice up the elements of your story and make it your own. In Part 1, we talked about: The Type of Bread…Determining the Genre; The Basic Ingredients …Characters are the Flour and Water of Romance; Don't Forget Yeast…Getting a Rise Out of Your Characters; and Adding Spices to Create Flavor with Your Setting. Now it's time to crank up the heat and bake your story.
Pop It In the Oven…Cranking up the Heat
Once you've assembled and mixed all the ingredients, you pop it into the oven to bake. For your romance, this means turning up the heat. Ask yourself what's at stake for your characters? The higher the stakes the more important the results will be to both your characters and your readers.
There are several ways of raising the stakes. Giving a character a history that is in direct conflict with what they must do to succeed is one sure way of creating tension. In the movie, Independence Day, Jeff Goldblum's character gets sick on airplanes and yet he must fly in an alien space ship in order to save the world. Putting your characters in unfamiliar locations or strange situations will help them develop and grow as they overcome the obstacles you put in their way.
Ding…Letting It Cool
You pull the bread out of the oven and it looks amazing. But before you cut into the loaf, it needs time to cool down. Once you have written your first draft, it's time to let your excitement cool down. Put the work aside for a week and then come back to it. I print out an entire copy of the book, sit in a nice comfy chair and read it all the way through as if seeing it for the first time. Pen in hand I make corrections to glaring spelling and grammar errors, jot down notes on new ideas, sometimes adding new twists and turns to the plot. I've found flaws in the plot that weren't obvious as I was writing but became glaring when I read the entire manuscript in one sitting, just a reader. Now that the excitement of finishing has cooled, I can look at my work more objectively, which helps me make that second, third and final draft the best it can be.
Time to Eat…Your Story is Ready
In the end, when the bread comes out of the oven and your friends take their first bite, if it makes them go, "mmmmm" then no one is going to ask about the ingredients or how you made the bread. All that matters is that it tastes great. When someone finishes reading a great romance novel, it should make them go, "ahhhh" and just like with your loaf of bread, most people aren't going to be dissecting the book's plot, setting, or character development. All they care about was whether or not you told an engaging story with memorable characters.
Making bread from scratch and writing a novel both involve a lot of hard work but the rewards can be delicious.