Monday, February 14, 2011

Story Notes for "Balancing Act"

Yesterday's "sample Sunday" story was Balancing Act -- a short romance/crime story. It was a trunk story, but here is a little about how it came to be:

Women's World is a cheap magazine you get at the check out. Not a tabloid, just a magazine full of cooking, health and beauty tips and cartoons, and they always have two stories in every weekly issue, one mystery, one romance. They were a great market because they paid well and they publish quite a lot of fiction. They were very very specific, though, in what they wanted. The mysteries were light and fluffy, and pretty close to exactly 1000 words. (They've changed now to a "you solve it" format, which is even more limiting, but suited to their audience.) The romances were, if I remember right, 1500 words, and also light and fluffy.

Everybody in the Short Mystery Fiction Society were working to crack WW back when I was trying. So often, though, a story just doesn't settle into that length. Or if it hits the right length, the tone is not right. (There are many a failed WW story out there published by other magazines.) I was tempted to try for their romance slot many times, because it was a little longer and easier to write for, but...

I'm not a big chick-lit person. I have to admit that up front. When a guy on a science fiction forum I hang out on suggested that one way to improve Sex In The City 2 would be to replace any of the four lead actresses with Danny Trejo (don't change the script, or the characters, or the costumes or anything, just have Danny Trejo play one of the women) I had to agree THAT would be a movie I'd pay to see.

I do like romance, though. There is often some kind of romance featured in many of my stories. Mick and Casey and their ongoing courtship (since they got married the day they met, it's kind of an interesting marriage) would be a major case in point. I think romance makes a good motivator, and any kind of close relationship makes for great interactions. Whether it's the friendly sexy banter, or a temperamental clash of egos -- there is a nice form of tension to be had in a relationship.

And I like the chick-lit end of the mystery spectrum. I love romance/mysteries, as long as they have a good driving mystery plot. And I love romantic suspense. Since Women's World is really chick-lit oriented, though, I realized my only hope was to write it as a crime story. A fluffy crime story involving a gorgeous guy and an expensive ring.

"Balancing Act" was perhaps too fluffy for the romance side of the equation. It did not come out long enough, and I couldn't make it any longer. I tried. I think in the end I edited it to be a little shorter, and it got rejected for the mystery slot.

And then what was I to do with it? There really isn't a short romance market out there -- not for fluffy stories anyway. And it isn't enough of a crime story for the mystery market.

So it became a trunk story. Someday I'm going to write more stories as fluffy as this one and put them together in a collection. I think there should be more short romance fiction out there. There used to be. I bet there will be again, especially with the advent of Kindle and Nook.

Of course, since I'm not writing them for Women's World, they'll probably come out a little quirkier. Maybe not Danny Trejo quirky. (Or, maybe so. I mean when I think about my screenplay with the young bank robber and the retired showgirl...definitely not Woman's World material. But no, I've got some classic mystery romance stuff up my sleeve. I can do romance. I know I can.)

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