For the next couple weeks, I’ll be using Sunday to feature deleted scenes from The Cold Wife.
I cut about 40,000 words out of the original book to get the revised version. Early on I got several complaints about Carrie, the heroine in this book. Only one person (that I know of) liked her. This was before most people knew I wrote books, so it was like ten people total who gave me feedback, and I figured 9 people out of 10 hating my heroine was bad.
The reason most people didn’t like her was because she continued to give Justin (the hero) a hard time. In the revised version, she gave him a hard time, but then she relented after they returned from Mr. and Mrs. Davidson (the Davidsons were the couple with a lot of cats and the husband was big into hunting). Anyway, in the original version, Carrie didn’t understand why Justin was detained with Mr. Davidson who insisted he and Harrison Jr. hunt with him all day. Carrie intentionally did things to upset Justin in hopes he would annul the marriage. One such incident was the scene I posted yesterday.
In the years that followed since I revised The Cold Wife, I’ve come to learn two things:
1. If a story is meant to be shorter, then it needs to be shorter.
My initial inclination when I was writing The Cold Wife was to make the story shorter, but since An Unlikely Place for Love and An Inconvenient Marriage (which I wrote before The Cold Wife) were in the 90,000-word range, I thought The Cold Wife had to be that many words, too. I prolonged The Cold Wife in order to make it about 90,000+ words. To do that, I had to prolong the conflict.
2. Heroines who don’t fall head over heels for the hero right away are not as “likable” as those who do.
This has been proven over and over again with my books. People are a lot more forgiving of the hard-headed hero than they are of the hard-headed heroine. If the heroine resists the hero, she is often seen as immature or jerky. I guess that stems from the whole notion that a a guy who sleeps around is a stud but a girl who sleeps around is a slut. The culture is often more forgiving of men pulling stunts that women couldn’t as easily get away with.
Does that mean I make all of my heroines the type who immediately fall in love with the hero? Nope. I let the heroines decide who they are and take it from there. I can tell what type of star rating I’ll get from a book as I’m writing it based on the heroine’s response to the hero or based on the level of humor in my books. Comedy tends to be unpopular in the star ratings, too.
Since I have written over 40 books (some of those not being romances and some short), I’ve also learned that if the characters don’t guide the book, it won’t be any good (at least good to me). Then I’ll have to go back and rewrite it. So these days, I’m inclined to put writing on hold if the story is veering off course of where it should be. If the ideas suddenly stop coming, it’s usually a sign that I’m not listening to the characters or the characters need some time to figure out what they want to do next. And even if the characters want to go in a direction that is “unrealistic” or “immature” or “mean” to some, I do it anyway. Having written as many books as I have at this point, I understand that no book will please everyone, and I’m okay with that. As long as the characters are happy, the book is as it should be.
That all being said, I am happier with The Cold Wife as it is now because the book should never have been 90,000+ words long. 😀
Your two theories are dead on, as far as I can tell.
I’ve tried to stretch books to make them as long as their counterparts in the series and it ends up making the story drag. It took a long time for me to get rid of that 90-100K target, and when the story is done, it’s done. I don’t go back to add more conflict. Nor do I draw out the end. And I certainly don’t add more to the beginning. It’s over. Even if it’s only at 75K words. It’s done.
I’ve noticed the same pattern regarding the heroine’s love for the hero–where if she’s not in love with him from the moment they meet, that she’s early classified as unlikeable. However, I do have a book where the hero gave her a good enough reason not to like him at first, and I think that makes people sympathetic to her (though I’ll be honest and say some have complained about her and thought her immature, unforgiving and mean, but not as many as the other heroine I’m thinking of who didn’t come to terms with her feelings until the end). I think it also “helps” to soften the heroine’s image if she starts falling for him mid book and not just realizes she’s loved him all along at the end. Just my thoughts.
If there’s a good reason not to like him or possibly a huge misunderstanding, I can see her being likable if she doesn’t fall in love with him right away. What I’ll never understand is how a hero can be such a jerk through the whole book and that gets a free pass. Even if the jerk is a hero and the heroine didn’t like him because of it, I can’t see how any woman would be happy forever with him. Now, if he suffers for his past misdeeds, then I can find redemption for him, but too many times I don’t see any sorrow over the behavior. The worst book I read was the one where the hero and heroine cheated on each other, felt no guilt over this at all, and supposedly had one talk and all was great again. You’ve read worse books than I have though. The one about the mentally slow character who was the butt of the heroine’s jokes was one case where the heroine deserved to be hated.
Okay. I’m rambling. But I agree with your points. There’s a way to work it in if the heroine doesn’t fall in love immediately.
How odd that people don’t like it when heroines are stubborn, but yet are okay when the hero is. I don’t feel that way. But I’m like you…I let the characters decide which way the story goes.
I don’t get it either, but it explains why the hero can be suck a jerk and people love the book anyway. For me, a hero who sleeps around with everyone on the planet, treats the heroine like dirt, and at the end of the book is suddenly in love with the heroine and will be faithful to her is a major turn off. Give me the sweet guy next door any day of the week. 😀