When I began work on my debut novel, “The Last of His Kind,” I wanted to see if it was possible to push the boundaries of the romance genre in a small way, playing a bit, perhaps, with readers’ expectations, while still staying true to what I felt to be the roots of the form: capable heroine, mysterious hero, danger, and resolution. I wanted, moreover, to write the book in such a way that it would read well for a variety of people: those looking action, those looking for romance, those looking for paranormal thrills, and those looking for erotic sex scenes. Moreover, I aimed for a one-sitting read, something that pulled its reader through its 50,000 words without drawing attention to itself. Finally, I was curious to see what sort of balance I could strike between its three main characters, or, in other words, see if it was possible to make the reader care not just for the female protagonist, but for her troubled love interest AND for the villain pursuing them.
To achieve this, I thought a great deal about structure, something which is often foregone in exchange for plot. Plot, as I see it, is merely a series of events; it’s what you have left when you strip away all of the description and ideas and words of the book. It’s the events of the story: this happened, then this happened, then this happened. In some books, very little happens, and yet the reader feels as though they’ve experienced a great deal; in other books, lots of events take place, and yet when the book closes, the reader remembers nothing. The former is a book that is interested in more than its plot; the latter is a book too interested in its clever story to show the reader anything else. While clever stories are all well and good, they often take on the quality of a news ticker: “Man shot. Wife finds killer. Son travels to Bangladesh. Daughter falls in love.” These are all evocative ideas, but without anything surrounding them, we have no reason to care about these things: why was the man shot? How did his wife find the killer? What compelled their son to travel to Bangladesh? Is their daughter ready to fall in love?
The first step to alleviating the dryness of a plain plot is characterizing a book’s protagonists; by making us feel that these fictional people are in some way real, and by allowing us to relate things in our own life to things experienced by these blocks of words on a page (or screen). There has already been a great deal of good writing done on how the shapes of people present in books can be made to feel real or dynamic.
Structure, however, is less discussed, especially in romance circles. For a book to have structure, it has to fit together in such a way that events, even those that seem most random, resonate with one another; things that are referenced in a certain part of the book are echoed in a similar part; ideas are developed in a pattern that makes sense to the reader, even if such ideas are purely subliminal. In short, the structure of a piece is everything happening “under the surface” of the description and dialogue and scenes that make up the action of the book.
So I would ask you to read my book “The Last of His Kind” and tell me if you see the structure at work that I tried to build. Hopefully, it lends the novel a momentum to keep you reading, while leaving you feeling satisfied by the finale. My email is email@example.com; if you read my book, then definitely tell me what you think. I hope you enjoy it.
When Vanessa Morrow bumps into gentle hunk Christopher at the grocery store, she never expects a pleasant exchange of words to blossom into a steaming night of passion. But in Christopher, she finds not just a blisteringly hot sexual partner, she finds herself drawn into a war she never knew existed, and hunted by a man who will stop at nothing to catch his prey, even if it means putting her — and everyone she holds dear — in the line of fire.
Steamy, fast-paced, and powerful, this debut by a fresh new voice in romantic fiction is sure to thrill.
She looked away, back over her shoulder at the bags on the counters. Laying a hand on a box of cereal, she said, “This is always the worst part about coming home from the grocery store, isn’t? You have all these things to put away, but by the time you finally get home they’re the last thing on your mind.”
“I know exactly what you mean.” She looked back at him. He was standing closer. After a moment of watching her eyes, he said, “Especially today.”
“They’re the last thing on my mind.”
She tore herself away from his gaze to look down at her ruined blouse. “I need to change out of this thing.”
“Let me help you.”
She reached for the bottom hem of the blouse at the exact moment he did, and again she felt the soft skin of his hand against her own, felt the thrill it sent through her, and this time she didn’t pull away from it. She held the hand and looked up at him.
He was so close. She could feel the heat of his body, the moist breath of his mouth.
She looked into his eyes, unblinking, as she squeezed his hand, slowly, down the waistband of her pants, under the black silk of her underwear.
Alexandra Stewart is an author from rural Washington State, now living in Texas with her husband and four dogs. The Last of His Kind is her first novel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.