Guest Blogger ~ Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck is a multi-published author living in sunny central Florida with her husband, Tony, a pastor. They have two ornery pets. She is a graduate of Ohio State University and a huge Buckeyes football fan. Rachel serves the writing community as a member of the Advisory Board of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).
The Romantic Obstacle of Newness
The summer between ninth and tenth grade, I fell into twitterpation. Working as a cashier at a south Florida Publix, I fell for a dark-eyed stockman who winked at me when he walked past, flashing his Eric Estrada smiled.
I lost twenty-five pounds in a month. I went to work early, hung around after I clocked out. I wrote pages and pages in my diary of what each little wink or nod meant to me. Between those pink pages are cash register receipts of my thoughts and feelings, oh, angst galore.
This was in the ‘70s, so I couldn’t text or Facebook him. The only time I saw him was at work. Oh, what a dreadful day when the manager posted the new schedule on Thursday and I saw my-man and I worked opposite shifts.
He was a flirt and liked to tease me. Our at-work teenage conversation swam in the shallow end of the baby pool.
“What are you doing?”
“Watching you.”
Giggle, blush, fiery flutter behind my ribs.
As a romance writer, I work to find all kinds of internal and external obstacles to keep my hero and heroine apart.
For example: She’s already in a relationship. He’s recently widowed. She’s wounded. He’s too career minded. She is raising her nieces. He’s trying to reestablish is professional credibility. Or, a favorite of mine, he’s attracted to her but can’t stand her. She thinks he’s an arrogant buffoon.
As writers, we need to find real obstacles to keep our H/H from declaring their love too soon⎯thus wrapping up the story⎯while convincing the reader, “these two need to be together!”
Over on Billy Mernit’s Living The Romantic Comedy blog, he advices that the real purpose of a romantic story is to show the reader or viewer WHY these two people need to be together.
Often, writers spend too much time showing why the hero and heroine need to be apart. But what readers want it to be convinced there is no one for Harry but Sally.
While writing my newest romance, Dining With Joy, I realized something simple but profound: the newness of my hero and heroine’s relationship provided plenty of internal and external obstacles.
I didn’t need to scale mountains or leap over city walls to build a believable conflict.
Think about the first time you met your spouse. Or think back to your first major romance. Even if sparks flew at first meeting, it took time to let down your guard and discover each other.
In the beginning, it was hard to determine how much the relationship meant to you. Was h or she worth your time and effort?
The idea of changing your schedule to met his wasn’t a priority. If he called, that was cool, but you didn’t wait by the phone. She might have stopped by your work to say hi, but you merely smiled, said it was good to see her, then met your friends at a restaurant.
All of these “newness” factors provide wonderful, believable conflict.
By nature, men are emotionally modest. They only open up when they feel the woman has become their friend. Women are physically modest. Even in this modern sexual world, we are shy about first kisses and touches.
How does this translate to your romantic story? It is very plausible to show your hero and heroine testing each other, wondering about their motivation and character, standing back to wait and see.
Is she sincere? Can I trust him? If I share my deepest thoughts, will she still love me? If I allow him to kiss me, will he want me tomorrow?
New relationships are fraught with complications and misunderstandings by the mere fact two very different people are trying to merge their lives.
There’s the fire of the first kiss. Emotional and physical temptations. Combining social activities and sharing friends. Meeting the parents. Realizing you’re in love but afraid the feelings may not be reciprocated. Breaking up. Getting back together. Finding the common ground on which you might build a life together. What goes, what gives, what takes?
In the movie “500 Days of Summer,” Tom and Summer meet while working at the same greeting card company. He’s too shy to ask her out. She’s bohemian and enticing. As the viewer, I was hooked with the idea of “newness.” How will he ask her out? Will she accept? I know they will get together, but how?
After a few dates, Tom gushes, “It’s official. I’m in love with Summer. I love her smile. I love her hair. I love her knees. I love how she licks her lips before she talks. I love her heart-shaped birthmark on her neck. I love it when she sleeps.”
Newness! The discovery of Summer drew Tom to a place of love. At this euphoric point, she is perfect to him!
What a excellent set up for a great romantic disaster. Boy meets Girl. Boy thinks Girl hung the moon. Girl can’t believe she met the last good Boy on earth. He takes her to his favorite hang out. She drives him to her favorite picnic spot.
Readers go along, too, believing these two people are destined for eternal happiness. THEN, it happens. Disaster. The power of newness has worn off and becomes⎯for our storytelling purpose⎯the obstacle.
Tom loves Summer, but she doesn’t believe in love and ever after. Their ideas and life experiences begin to pull them apart.
Tom quickly changes to say, “I hate her crooked teeth. I hate her 1960s haircut. I hate her knobby knees. I hate her cockroach-shaped splotch on her neck. I hate the way she smacks her lips before she talks. I hate the way she sounds when she laughs.”
The loss of “newness,” and the eye opening truth of who Tom and Summer are become the very obstacle that drives them apart.
As you plot your next romance, brainstorm all the emotional and physical obstacles the hero and heroine face from the moment they meet. Then build in a story world that adds to their conflict⎯he’s blue collar, she’s blue blood⎯then weave in all the trouble of being “new” to one another.
Brainstorm ways the newness wears off. What is the fall out of the relationship when that “fresh” feeling fades? How vulnerable are your characters when the relationship ends after confessing their love and pouring out their hearts to each other?
Brainstorm the obstacles and possible conflict that arises after worn-off newness. He stops sending her flowers. She stops shaving her legs. He forgets to call when he’s late for dinner. She admits she can’t stand his best friend.
But remember⎯these two belong together. As you work the newness factor through your story, remember to keep in the shadows of the disaster why these two need to are ultimately a match made in heaven.
In Notting Hill, William Thacker is perfect for Anna Scott because he sees her for who she really is, not the superstar actress. In While You Were Sleeping, Jack is the same kind of dreamer as Lucy. In The Proposal, Drew and Margaret share a love for the written word. And deep down, Drew gets Margret’s vulnerability. She admires his determination and strength.
So, let’s recap. Newness is a huge factor for our romantic leads. Have fun dreaming of the discoveries and conflicts a couple just starting out faces. Yet, keep to the real heart of any great romance⎯convincing the readers there is no man for the heroine like the hero. No woman for the hero like your heroine.
Write well.
Visit Rachel’s website to learn more about her books. 

Rachel Hauck – Guest Blogger

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author. Her book, Love Starts With Elle is a RITA finalist. Her next book, written with country music star Sara Evans, Sweet By and By, will release this fall.

Visit Rachel on Twitter.

Book trailers and all that jazz

I’ve always been intrigued by book trailers. Conceptually, trailers are a great way to bring visual imagery of the story to readers. But in execution, trailers often leave something to be desired.

Mostly, book trailers all look, sound and feel the same. Understandable. We’re learning how to do “this” thing. Trailers follow the same format. Still pictures fading in and out with text, perhaps a voiceover or music. I usually only make it fifteen seconds into a book trailer before moving on.

Book trailers are hard to make unique. Publishers and writers don’t have the budget to do a Hollywood level, heart stopping, tear jerking, laugh-out-loud trailer. Those are a production process unto themselves.

When Thomas Nelson released my book, Love Starts With Elle, I had the idea to do a book trailer. Hmm, but how? So far, my video creation talent is sub-zero, but for the first time since I’d started writing, I knew someone who did.

A good friend, Jeremy Vickory, had moved back in town after a four movie stint with Pixar. While his specialty was light effects in animated films, he had enough tools to do what I wanted. I called him up.

“How much to create an animated Elle for me?”

My idea was to actually have a conversation with Elle as if she were real. By the time I’d finished writing her story, she was real to me. Why not help the readers see her as I did?

I wrote a script, convinced my friend Chelle to be Elle’s voice and a few days later we filmed at Jeremy’s house with a video camera. Easy peasy.

A few days later, I had a book trailer. I loved the opportunity to talk to readers about the book, despite my bad hair day, and let them know how much I loved this story.

Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind while making a book trailer.

1. Keep it under two minutes. The shorter the better. Remember you’re competing with all kinds of videos and graphic imagery on the Internet.

2. Be as unique as possible with your concept. As writers we work to find the uniqueness in our stories, to say something that’s never been said before, and we should do the same with book trailers. Get a concept, then turn it upside down and inside out to find the unique angle.

3. Get to the point. We understand what it means to hook the reader in story form, do the same for your book trailer. Let enough of the story to come out to intrigue the viewer. Hint at the story, set the hook, then end it.

4. Hold off make a book trailer if you’re not ready. No book trailer is better than a bad book trailer.

5. Invest. While Jeremy gave me a discount, seeing as I was paramount in his spiritual life as a young man, a-hem, I paid for his service. It wasn’t cheap. But well worth it. I received an excellent product provided by someone who knew what he was doing.

6. Get the word out. Create a You Tube account and post your book trailer. Include it in your blog tour. Send a copy to your publisher so they can hand it to the sales team. Give a copy to friends, and family. Take it to your local book store for the staff to view.

Marketing is hard for those of us who view the world through a computer screen all day. As a full time writer, the cybernet is my office. Social media sites are my water cool breaks. Makes friends on the web who might want to share your trailer.

Look around your life and see who might be able to help you market or promote your book. Some authors are friends with celebrities or name authors. Can they endorse your book? Share a book signing? Do you know an artist who can help create a standout web site or bookmark?

I remember when I started writing, I said this prayer. “God, you’re my editor, agent and promoter.” Since then, He’s brought what I needed, when I needed it.

One of the keys to the Novel Journey is to be patient. The evanescent “everyone” is doing book trailers so we want to do one too. But is it more prudent to wait until you have the tools to do one with excellence.

Look, I’m not saying my book trailer is the most excellent in the world. Hardly. But I am glad I waited until I had a fun concept and the talent to execute it.

What ever your marketing notions, ideas or frustrations, ask God to bring the right help at the right time. If you can’t do what you want, wait. Either way, I’m guessing all you need is most-likely right there in your own world.

To view the trailer for Love Starts With Elle, click here.

The Sweet By and By

A redemptive story from multi-platinum recording artist Sara Evans.

Jade Fitzgerald left the pain of her past in the dust when she headed out for college a decade ago. Now she’s thriving in her career and glowing in the light of Max Benson’s love.

But then Jade’s hippie mother, Beryl Hill, arrives in Whisper Hollow, Tennessee, for Jade’s wedding along with Willow, her wild younger sister. Their arrival forces Jade to throw open the dark closets of her past–the insecurity of living with a restless, wandering mother, the silence of her absent father, and the heart-ripping pain of first-love’s rejection.

Turns out Beryl has a secret of her own. She needs reconciliation with her oldest daughter before illness takes her life. In the final days leading to the wedding, Jade meets the One who shows her that the past has no hold on her future. With a little grace, they’ll meet in the middle, maybe even before that sweet by and by.

Therapize Your Writing

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author. Her book, Love Starts With Elle is a RITA finalist. Her next book, Sweet By and By, written with country music star Sara Evans will release this summer. Visit her web site and find her on Twitter.

How To Therapize Your Writing

One of the things we face as writers is improving our craft and learning to discern what works and what doesn’t.

This fall, Susan Warren and I are teaching a Continuing Education class for ACFW called “Become Your Own Book Therapist.”

I thought I’d talk about one way to therapize your own work here on Novel Journey. Is therapize a word? It is now.

After awhile, authors should grow to some level where we can evaluate our own work – like taking the training wheels off the bicycle.

Most of us get stuck. No matter how long we plan or how hard we think things through, we get stuck.

At least I do. Am I alone here? Please tell me I’m not alone.

Here are several things you can do if you find yourself in the middle of a story that seems to have no life or punch, and you’re struggling with where to go next.

1. Go back to the original goal of the story. If you can’t succinctly define it, maybe your goal is too broad. Take some time to fine tune the story goal, whittle it down to a specific sentence.

2. What is the lie your protagonist believes? Are you straying for his or her belief system? Stop to think how your scenes are going. Did she start off afraid of snakes, but is now a snake charmer. Okay, an exaggeration, but you get what I mean. In every story, our characters start off with some kind of belief system and in the middle of the truth, there’s a lie.

The goal of the story is to correct the lie. Make sure the lie is not too broad. I hear this a lot. “She’s mad at God.” Or, “He thinks if he lets her in, he’ll get hurt.”

Great starting points, but why is she mad at God. Why is he afraid of getting hurt.

3. Is he or she too heroic? Like, they can do no wrong and every thing is working out for them? All the conflicts are resolved in the same or sequel scene? Go back to the conflicts, or the scenes where you dropped a story bomb, and stretch it out. Hint at the bomb. Don’t resolve the conflict.

Readers love real, flawed characters who have a heart to overcome.

4. Is your dialog dying? Notice the first sound in dialog is “die.” Bad, flat dialog can kill a scene. Kill a character. Make sure all the good lines are said, not thought.

Here’s what I mean:
“Hey Dan.”
“Hi Fred.” Dan looked like he’d been hitting the gym.
“I heard you were in town.”
“Just moved back.” Fred hated being caught in the middle of a hostile take over, losing his job and moving back home with his mother. He’d never get a date now.

All of Fred’s thoughts give great information. If he says them, then Dan can react and you can move the story forward.

Try to limit “yes,” “no,” “okay” in dialog. Sure, they are necessary at times, but make sure you’re using them to increase tension or for subtexting.

5. Change the point of view. Is the scene feeling slow? Try writing it from another character’s point of view.

I hope these help. Over on MyBookTherapy we’re blogging-a-book and you can see how we’re putting some therapy ideas into place.

Blessings on your writing!