Thursday, September 24, 2009

Turning the sizzle down to a simmer

Since The Bell-Men is an urban fantasy of sorts, and since UF is such a strange category--taking on aspects of fantasy, horror, romance, and mystery pretty much equally--I thought I'd ask you all for a bit of advice. Actually, this is less of an urban fantasy question than it is a general character/plot question.

Within the first 10,000 words of The Bell-Men, Cam has met Thomas. Within a few hundred words of meeting him, she's got him in bed. I intended to give them a flashpowder romance--burns hot and fast and then turns into a charred mess that leaves soot marks everywhere--but they're not cooperating. There's chemistry between them, and more than that, they seem suited to each other. I can adapt the plot to them staying together without Thomas trying to take over the plot and/or rescue Cam, but it means that I'm writing with almost no sexual tension in place. Obviously it can be done, but does this make for a good urban fantasy? A good book in general?

I'm not being flippant, really. I can't think of any UF I've read that hasn't sizzled with sexual tension, and since I'm writing on the outskirts of the subgenre as it is, I don't need to do anything to tilt the story too far in the direction of any one genre. Also, UF heroines typically fall for the bad boy and then angst about it for a whole series, in between bouts of adventuresome sex with him. Thomas is not the bad boy. In fact, he's a cop--which works for UF--but he doesn't have a dark past or secrets. I could, of course, give him a dark past and/or secrets, but it wouldn't fit very well with his character, which is open and straightforward.

So my only other option is to give Cam a secondary character to supply some sexual tension, although it might be difficult to make it feel natural when she's so happy with Thomas. Should I even bother, though? I'd love to hear your views on this, no matter what genre you read and/or write.

24 comments:

Lertulo said...

Frankly I think it would be refreshing to avoid the whole sexual-tension-until-page-400 thing. You're right that it's a very common theme, but that could be taken either as "it's expected so you have to do it" or "it's over-done and should be avoided." I have no problem with the latter at all.

K.C. Shaw said...

That's kind of what I've been thinking too, and it feels right in the story. I'm mostly worrying that the romance part will come across as unnecessary if I don't make it a big deal.

Aaron Polson said...

I think you must do what is right for the story. If the characters aren't cooperating, there must be good reason. Just put one of them in peril now.

It worked in _Falling Angel_.

K.C. Shaw said...

Cam is definitely going to be in peril pretty soon. I can't decide how long to let her be in the world of the bell-men, but I think it's going to make up a big part of the second half of the book. And she hasn't even met the second type of vampires--which is going to be very interesting to write, because her world doesn't have vampire legends and she doesn't have the least idea what they are.

'Kay, I'm rubbing my hands together and laughing evilly. Maybe you're right and I don't need to worry too much about the romance subplot.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I would leave it alone, if you need to ramp it up you can do it later.

K.C. Shaw said...

When I'm in the heat of first-draft-writing, I tend to forget that things can be changed in the editing process. :)

Natalie L. Sin said...

I"m with Aaron: peril can create ample tension. If not, why were all those cartoon women tied to train tracks? ; )

K.C. Shaw said...

Now there's a thought, tie Cam to some train tracks. Only she'd have to wait there until trains are invented. :)

barbarakelley said...

Could a third person added to the mix provide more tension? An ex not quite rejected, someone she feels sorry enough for that she can't abandon him, but who is almost threatening to become a stalker, or something like that?

That way they could have their peaceful relationship, and yet there would be tension...

K.C. Shaw said...

You know, I really like the stalker idea. That would be easy to do since it's already sort of in place. And since Cam's scared of the guy, and since she's going to be in the bell-men's world so Thomas can't help her, the tension would be a much different (and scarier) kind than most of the UF novels I've read recently. It has many good possibilities, thanks.

K.C. Shaw said...

Forgot to mention that Thomas could totally misunderstand the relationship she has with this guy, and that could lead to a gut-wrenching argument etc. Nice.

barbarakelley said...

Oh, good--I hope it does work out!

I've tried three times to get this comment to post... I hope it doesn't come in three times now!

Lertulo said...

Why does Cam have to be the one in trouble? Tie Thomas to those tracks.

K.C. Shaw said...

Barbara--It showed up fine. I'm sorry you're having trouble posting; Blogger can be fussy sometimes.

Lertulo--Yeah, let's tie Thomas up. Cam is good at rescuing people.

BT said...

Late to the party again - must have something to do with living on the other side of the planet!

All good suggestions so far but I don't think anything is stopping you from giving Tom a conflict which will make him edgier and therefore provide the bad boy role you're looking for. A conflict of interest that Cam can't help with, something he must do alone or may reflect on Cam so she can't help and it's causing Tom emotional issues. Nothing wrong with having them flash, burn and then smoulder only to be reignited towards the end.

K.C. Shaw said...

I have hinted at something in his past that he's dealing with. Maybe I should punch that up a little and make it more of an issue. That would provide some uncertainty to their relationship, you're right, which will make the ending more satisfying. Thanks!

Danielle Ferries said...

I agree with Aaron too, putting one of them in peril. It ups the ante.

K.C. Shaw said...

It's also a lot of fun to write!

Cate Gardner said...

You've had so many good answers. I think that ultimately you'll know what is right for the story and there's no need to do the usual paint by numbers, I think Jack of all Trades (I will stop going on about your book sometime in 2036) proved you can knock everyone out of the water with something that little bit extraordinary.

K.C. Shaw said...

Thanks! I don't know about "out of the water," but I do agree that all the story elements have to feel natural. So far Bell-Men seems to be working, although I'll know for sure when I've got the draft finished.

Carrie Harris said...

You've gotten so much good advice that I don't think there's anything left to say!

K.C. Shaw said...

I'm really happy with the advice--it's helped me a lot. Now I just need to break out the words and start the day's writing.

abrokenlaptop said...

I love that so many people came together to hash out your story! This makes me want to hold hands and sing around a campfire, and then write a round robin story! :D

This round robin would definitely have Thomas tied to the tracks. Yum.

-Mercedes

K.C. Shaw said...

It is incredibly awesome that I got so much amazing feedback! And Thomas is definitely getting tied to some train tracks, or put in peril some other appropriate way. I just need to figure out what happens and why, but at least I'm aiming at something now. :)