Where’s Your Unpredictable? The Harlequin Editors Want to Know!

Pulling up some more old files uncovered another of our checklist/mandates from a few years ago. There are themes that work really well for us–but tell the stories in an unexpected way!

This is more focused on the “unpredictable” factor. At Harlequin, editors balance two ideas–the consistent promise to our readers and the fresh, fun story. Our readers trust us–and our authors–to deliver a strong emotional story that touches on their favorite elements but isn’t exactly like every story out there.

And as you know, that’s a hard line to walk! Here are some more questions to ask…

  • Are there unexpected obstacles throughout the story?
  • Are there unanticipated moments between the characters?
  • Does the story feel fresh and exciting?
  • Does the language avoid cliched words and situations?
  • Are you giving your all to this book rather than saving it for another?

Sounds easier said than done, of course!

But continue to take inspiration from some of the “oh, no, she didn’t!” plot twists and turns in shows like Orphan Black, Scandal and Revenge.  Those authors usually manage to balance the unexpected with the inevitable. Exciting elements happen that are hopefully based in the characters and the plot. They balance the two sides–a believable, convincing story that is not like anything else you’ve read–or written before!

And at the heart, if you-the-author approach the story with a sense of excitement, enthusiasm and commitment, it will show!

Oh, one last piece of advice when writing a series. Don’t think of a really good idea and then save it for another title, even if it would work really well in this one. Be sure that you are giving your best ideas to each book each time. But on the other hand, don’t raise the stakes so incredibly high your characters can’t convincingly achieve their goals. It’s a tough line to walk, but that’s when your imagination, your abilities and your talent comes in!

Good luck!