I love getting opportunities to tell people to do what I don’t quite do myself. Yesterday I sent the misspelt word ‘enabalers’ to a group of writers, who admired my courage. Some even knew what I meant, mainly because I was talking about them being enabalers, which enabaled me to feel better about myself not getting the spelling right.
When I talk about the rules of romance writing, I’m sort of exaggerating because as far as I’m concerned, the only rule is that the couple has to have a satisfactory ending together. The story line is to have two people, find a reason to keep them apart, and use the rest of the words getting them together.
However, when I was learner writer and had available at the end of my typing fingers a group of very generous published authors, like the other unpubs I wanted to know what the formula was. The pubs said there isn’t one. Finally, under pressure, one famous author said okay, she would give her formula. I’ve never forgotten and I use it shamelessly.
She said to make sure the hero did something nice for the heroine (or the SO) very early in the book. I don’t remember anyone but me being impressed by that. They all thought it was just a way to stop us nagging. But it works. That’s how my husband won me.
I lived in a newly built hospital flat in Carlton with another pupil midwife. I’m pretty handy. I had bought some furniture at St Vincent’s Op Shop, reupholstered chairs, painted tables, etc, but I had no way of getting the curtain rod up. Naturally my flatmate and I weren’t about to spend any real money. So, ah yes, I didn’t tell this story back when I was explaining why my husband was a hero.
I met him at a ball, wasn’t impressed, but apparently talked to him anyway. It seems the midwife he had taken to the ball lived next door to me, so he popped around when she was working, knocked on her door (according to him) and when no one answered, he knocked on mine. He said he would wait for her. I said I didn’t know her shifts but it would probably be a long wait.
Heaven knows how he inveigled himself into my flat because I can’t remember, but as it turned out I was reading Catcher in the Rye before getting ready to go to work. My-gosh, he impressed me. He’d read it and he explained some of the tricky bits to me and we had an intellectual conversation the likes of which I’ve never had before with a man. I didn’t know any other man who read for recreation. Then he noticed the collapsed curtains and said no worries, he could put them up for me. He only lived down the road. Within half an hour he was back with tools and he put up the curtain. I think that might have been to make up for the fact that every word he’d said to me before that had been a lie.
He knew next-door wasn’t home. She’d been a volunteer date. He knew I lived next to her and was on night duty (he found out from the girlfriend of one of his housemates—small world sydrome) and therefore would probably be home when he called. He had never read Catcher in the Rye but he’d listened to his literary friends talking about the book and the minor points that puzzled them. He had a fantastic memory—genius memory. I didn’t know any of this until 20 years later when his friends had a get-together and as guys do, talked about the hilarious things they had done way back when. They all knew what he had done.
I couldn’t get a divorce after 20 years and two children together, and so I laughed like everyone else. Well. I was flattered. I thought meeting him was one of those amazing accidents of fate and I had written a story about it. I mean, what would be the odds of a random guy knocking on my random door having just finished the book that sat open on my coffee table? Clearly we were meant for each other.
I had to marry him to discover Catcher was the only recreational book he had ever read, and I had to be married to him for 20 years before I discovered that it wasn’t. (He only read tech books and autobiographies.) Also, that was the first time he had used tools, and the last time until I taught him how to use mine.
Real life is just like a story. Being nice early on works. That's real craft.