Friday, October 28, 2016

Tired Old Plots by Cheryl Bolen


They say there’s no such thing as a new plot. That’s especially true in Regency-set historical romances. I know. I’ve written more than 30 of them, and for about 40 years I’ve been reading them. 

My readers have been clamoring for another Brazen Brides story for the third Birmingham brother, the wealthiest bankers in England. I want to come up with something fresh. Something I haven’t done before. But I’m having a difficult time. 

Unlike in contemporaries, we Regency writers can’t have the occupational “meet.” You know, the hero who needs the services of the heroine to be his nurse, interior decorator, secretary, art restorer, or competitor. Women of the middle and upper classes did not learn trades 200 years ago. 


The most popular plot device in Regency is impoverished nobleman—or noblewoman—who must marry a fortune. I did a spin on that with my His Golden Ring when I had my aristocratic heroine offer herself in marriage to a wealthy banker to get money to ransom her brother from Spanish bandits. Another variation on this was in my His Lordship’s Vow and in my Miss Darcy’s New Companion (both novellas), where the noblemen court an heiress, only to fall in love with a penniless heroine. My Brides of Bath series started when an impoverished noble family accepts help from a nabob in exchange for introducing his sister and him into Bath society. ( Bet you can see where that story was headed!) 


I’ve grown so tired of the same old, same old. I don’t even read Regencies anymore—unless it was written sixty or more years ago by the grand dame of the genre, Georgette Heyer. It got to where every story I read seemed as if I’d read that story before, only the characters had different names. 

So, here I am. Though I’ve written a couple of novellas this year, this is the first year in a very long time that I haven’t written a new novel. I’ve spent weeks pondering plots for Adam Birmingham. To no avail. My last two full-length novels were very well received, and I think that was so because they had fresh plots. One reviewer said of my Countess by Coincidence she’s read many a marriage-of-convenience story before, but had never read a marriage-of-coincidence story. Scores on that book in the Rita judging were almost good enough to final. I believe the judges recognized that it wasn’t same recycled plot. And my Oh What a (Wedding) Night, though a runaway bride story, had lots of other things going for it, including mistaken identity, role switching, and humor.  

I want to write books that have fresh new plots, and I’d rather have no new book than one I’m not proud of. So here I sit, writing blogs instead of books.—Cheryl’s Nov. 15 release is a Christmas novella in her House of Haverstock series. It’s titled Ex-Spinster by Christmas.

11 comments:

  1. Although I see the quandary there, and I only read Regencies sometimes (think Christmas and Mary Balogh), I look forward to some of the things that are the same. I also like when either of the protagonists is an academic--even if the heroine of course has to keep her knowledge in the closet. Good luck with Adam's story!

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    1. I'm chuckling here, Liz, because I've used an academic nerd hero in Love in the Library and a bluestocking heroine in Marriage of Inconvenience. I love nerd heroes--and I think my readers do too. Thanks.

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  2. You have to remember that what seems tired to you is new and fascinating to some readers. Or maybe just comfort reads to many. :-)

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    1. Thanks so much, Becky. I needed to hear that.

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  3. I think we all face a similar challenge, no matter what time period we write. Keep things fresh, dazzle the reader. You'll do it, Cheryl.

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    1. I appreciate your assurances, Kathleen.

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  4. I like to take an old plot and put a new spin on it or mash it with another plot. Lots to think about. Great post!

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    1. Love this idea, Karen. I actually took the plot of Charade and twisted it in my book Counterfeit Countess. Now to think of some things to mash. Thanks.

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  5. Cheryl, can you look to contemporary plots to transfer for a unique twist? Wrong bed? Secret baby? Spying or lying about identity? You're in a very real quandary and one only another writer will understand. I know you'll come through though!

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  6. Food for thought, Bonnie. Thanks for your confidence in me!

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  7. I fondly remember the brainstorming we used to do. I think Bonnie has a good point. Look to the contemporary romances for an idea to put a new twist on an old trope. Good luck with the new Christmas story. Can't wait to read it.

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