Three of my girlfriends and I decided a road trip to the Big Easy was in order to properly welcome me home. We had a ball! On our last night we were walking back to the hotel along Saint Charles about 4 AM and our worst nightmare came around the corner. Five rather large, rather drunk young men surrounded us and began to ask questions and shove us just enough to be intimidating. Frankly we were all scared witless (you can substitute whatever word you care to for 'wit.' I know I did!)
Just as suddenly as they'd surrounded us they began to back away. I knew from their accents they were locals. One pointed and rattled off a few words in Creole. The others argued with him - some in Creole and some in English. I don't know what he finally said, but they took off like rats offered a D-Con martini. What frightened them? A gris gris bag - a pouch made from the foot of a hundred plus year old snapping turtle, peculiar to the gris gris bags of one particular mamba in New Orleans. Long story short (Too late, I know! Why do you think I write historical romance?) I was given the bag as a gift from a mamba whose interview notes I took for a professor of mine who was researching voodoo culture in New Orleans. Apparently one of this crew recognized it and whatever he saw, he didn't want to mess with someone under this mamba's protection.
I attended hours of interviews with my professor. He spoke with dozens and dozens of people. We attended rituals and visited sites associated with the history of voodoo in New Orleans. One thing the mamba said has stuck with me over the years and very likely is the reason I slipped the gris gris bag around my neck before we took to the streets of one of the oldest cities in the country. I asked her if curses were real and what happened when the person being cursed didn't believe.
"It doesn't matter what he believes, ma petit. It only matters if I believe. A true sorceress can create reality from her belief if she is willing to do all it takes to make it so."
Writing romance is an alchemy all its own. We mix the ingredients -
A hero to die for.
A heroine who takes no crap from anyone, especially the hero.
A fascinating, alluring setting - time or place or both.
Enough conflict, bad guys, twists and turns to make Karma say "Damn! This writer's a real *itch!"
Sexual tension followed by organic, "I need a cigarette and a cold drink," smokin' hot love scenes.
When I think about those romance novels I love above all others they certainly contain these ingredients. But when asked WHY I love them so much, I am sometimes at a loss to explain. I realize now those are the ones where the writer took all of those ingredients and added magic. The sorceress made her belief mine. How else do you explain ...
A one-armed, scarred hero and a victim of rape who make me cry every time I read this book.
A hero with Asberger's who says to a dying heroine "Is this what love feels like? I don't like it, my Beth. It hurts too much."
A spoiled, selfish hero who lives his entire life to get even with his horrible mother and his madman father and a heroine who makes her living off such men who can't make herself leave this man who wants to own her body and soul.
A courtesan used nightly to pay off her protector's debts and a hero who doesn't even know her name until they meet again, each fighting to do what is best for the other even if it breaks their hearts.
Belief. The magic ingredient in every story that rises above the well-told tale to the story you can never forget. But you can't expect your reader to believe if you don't believe first - in your characters. your story. It is the author's ability to use the magic of the written word to create a reality into which the reader steps willingly and never wants to leave that makes a romance a reader never forgets, a novel a reader reads over and over again because they simply must.
All the writing skill in the world, all the alchemy we learn at conferences - from teachers, and workshops, and critique partners, and mentors is just so much smoke and mirrors. Absolutely necessary without a doubt, but there is more. It takes the magic of your imagination to set your readers free or even better, to bind them to you forever. So get out those cauldrons, my fellow sorceresses. Fill up your gris gris bags. Gather new alchemy every day. Add all of the ingredients and
What ingredients do you use to make your stories magic? What have other authors used to make you put their books on your keeper shelf? Do you study those books to see what it is that draws you to them and do you try to use that magic in your own writing?