A former editor of a Silhouette line (not SRS) told me that the heroine needs to be the pursuer and the hero the resister to the relationship to raise the tension. What are your thoughts on that? I don't think in every SRS I've read that it's the case (and I've read a ton of them) so that's confused me for months.
Well, and no wonder. It's not true!
I once had a reader tell me that I give me heroines 'masculine' traits, ie they are often the ones who have trust issues, want no strings, etc. I know enough women with commitment issues that I know that's a true situation for some females. And as a reader, I find that turn around intriguing. I think my readers do, too.
My 10/08 SRS Terms of Surrender had a heroine who had been bounced around in foster homes because her mother was a crack whore. The heroine is a hostage negotiator and met the hero on an incident response (he's also a HN). Their backstory is that they got involved but really didn't know each other very well...they'd only dated a few weeks and she got pregnant. He doesn't know about her mother or her past but when she's ready to have an abortion he is the one who talks her out of it and they live together, have the baby...and he dies of SIDS at about six months. She couldn't handle it, took that as a sign that she'd tried to reach for too much and took off without a word. The story begins with her back in town and he doesn't know it until they get paired at a bank robbery.
This book was a case in point: the hero had the normal upbringing and she had never talked about hers. So he's the one feeling hurt and betrayed and angry. But they get paired on this case that's ongoing and slowly more of her backstory comes out and he begins to get to know her and understand why she left.
Or it can be situational because of the suspense plot:
In Terms of Engagement 1/09 the heroine is on the run from a hired killer. She changes identities and locations frequently so obviously 'no ties' is part of her lifestyle. She and the hero meet but she's already thinking of leaving town soon so she keeps him at arm's length. Then she's involved in a hostage situation and gets wounded and when hero brings her home from hospital she thinks 'why not, she's leaving town anyway.' So they make love. And then she discovers her face was broadcast on national news and she knows the killer might have recognized her. She gets rid of the hero, packs her things and hurries out the door only to find that the hero never left and someone takes a shot at them. So now she knows the killer is in town. She wants to get gone and the hero wants to stick by her until he figures out what's going on...she has trust issues, obviously, since the killer used to be her lover :)
So there are all sorts of reasons and scenarios one or the other has issues. But it's become sort of cliched that the hero is the one who can't settle down because he got burned by a woman before.
What I always recommend--and aspiring writers look at me sort of askance--is analyze the books you're reading for the craft elements you're studying. This is not plagiarism! You're not copying their words and scenes. You're simply studying it, the way you would a textbook. Go through the books in your library and make a list of what the different scenarios are that are keeping the h/h apart. You'll be surprised how many possibilities there are. The list will help you generate ideas that fit your own stories. And after you have more practice plotting and writing your own stories you'll find you don't need to do that studying anymore.
I would do this with every craft or plot element that is giving you problems. I used to have a problem with action tags. I'd just pick up random books and start listing all the action tags I could find. What that made me do is start 'thinking' a different way when I was writing. I became more aware of them and when / how to place them. It's not about copying what someone else is doing, it's about creating an innate awareness of the element so that you no longer have to think about it. It becomes a part of your writing.
If you were starting over in this current writing environment, what would you do to make your work stand out from others?
I'm going to focus on SRS because that's where you're targeting and it's where I targeted my first manuscripts. H/S loves their hooks :) And editors everywhere want 'the same but different'. That drives authors nuts trying to figure out what it means! But you can kind of see where they're coming from. It has to be enough the same because it has to be recognizable to them. They have to read it and immediately pigeonhole it--woman in jeopardy. Secrets in a small town. Secret baby. You want them to recognize the hook because no matter how much an editor loves something if she doesn't know how she'll SELL it, she won't buy it. Marketing drives everything in publishing. They have to know how to shelve it, how to promote it, how to put a fitting cover on it and how it will appeal to readers.
So go ahead and give them that familiarity. But incorporate enough different to give the familiar a unique twist. Because there has to be uniqueness in the story to make it stand out. So a twist might be the woman is the bounty hunter and the hero is the 'criminal' she's hunting. (except he's wrongly accused or something).
I'd read widely in the line I'm targeting and get a good idea on what is selling to those editors and think about how I could do it a little differently.