I've spent the last ten days talking. About writing, about life, about truth. I'm understanding the snag I've encountered in my book much better. And it begs the question, which is more important - the story or being published?
My heroine is a demon who wants to convert the hero into a demon. Is it a romance with paranormal elements or a paranormal with romantic elements? Answering that question can have a significant impact on the first one. Each publisher has different guidelines; elements they're looking for, others they abhor.
Cathy's thoughts about love led us to a conversation about truth. In love and life. About self-truths and the way people respond to that honesty. Some embrace it while others flee. It takes courage to be that truthful.
Redemption is impossible without soul deep sincerity. Right now Nea has neither. My fear has been how to make her a demon yet sympathetic at the same time. She's done some rotten things but nothing reprehensible.
I've known some people who've done some truly horrible things. People who struck out in anger, in anguish, in self-defense. People who confronted the ugliness within and eradicated it. Their redemption is sincere, and believable. I'm not sure that would fly in fiction, particularly romance.
Everyone has their own opinion. Everyone has their own life story. Everyone has their own triggers as to what they would never read in a book. Jenny Crusie had to create two posts to manage all the comments on that one.
I've been easy on Alex and Nea because of a concern that my original intent would alienate some readers. I think this makes the story weaker. So now I'm thinking about putting it all back in. Demons are nasty creatures but not Nea. If she really hates and hurts as much as she does, why has she been so careful with her rage? Furthermore, I've set up her backstory to suggest that she's feeding people's evil expectations of her. It's a fine line and I've failed with the darker aspects. For both of them.
Is it better to be true to the characters and story or true to publisher demands? It won't sell if Nea killed people. Who will believe that love showed her the error of her ways? What drives Alex to the point where he seriously considers becoming a demon? Someone dies. Part of the flaw lies in my timeline. He wouldn't be over that trauma in the two weeks that follow that revelation.
Alex's black moment isn't black enough as it stands without the death. Without any true evil on her part, he's not horrified enough by Nea's existence, nor his own actions in a situation that drove him to this moment. The way I've written it doesn't ring true.
Despite the fact that I'm not published and likely shouldn't take a big risk so early in my career, I'm convinced I have to write the story, and characters, with as much honesty as I can. Nothing irritates me more than when a writer isn't true to their characters.
But how do you feel? Would you expect the demon heroine in a romance to be nicer than your average demon; no matter how well motivated she is to commit evil acts? Regardless, Alex must plunge into a pit of despair and seriously consider Nea's offer or the reader will not believe in his black moment. Or Nea's redemption when she saves them both.
I have more thinking to do.