by Tessa Shapcott, Executive Editor
Word length:Â 50,000 – 55,000 WORDS /224 pages
MODERN HEAT is a recently-developed, successful editorial stream in the Harlequin Presents franchise. These books promise to deliver to the reader a sophisticated, feel-good experience that focuses on the kind of relationships that women between the ages of 18 and 35 aspire to.Â Young characters in hip, affluent city settings â€“ either North American or international â€“ meet, flirt, share experiences, have great sex and fall in love, finally making a commitment that will bind them together, forever.Â Though their stories are firmly based around emotional issues, other concerns â€“ such as career and friendship â€“ are also touched upon and resolved in an upbeat way.
In any novel, characters offer the reader the key to the door of their world.Â She must be able to relate to them, understand their issues and identify with their emotions.Â So itâ€™s your job to develop your characters convincingly.
The two main characters in a Modern Heat novel are, of course, the hero and the heroine.Â Who are they?
is young, independent and knows what she wants.Â Most probably, sheâ€™s recently arrived in the big city and sheâ€™s working her way up the career ladder.Â Though she values her independence, sheâ€™d also like a relationship. Marriage and babies are eventually part of her plans for the future.
This heroine thrives on being offered choices â€“ in her relationships, work, free time, accommodation and material acquisitions. Sheâ€™s able to initiate relationships and is happy to stay in the driverâ€™s seat.Â She savours the courtship phase of her relationships and enjoys good sex, though an equal partnership is her ultimate goal.
is young, gorgeous, easy-going and sexy.Â He hails from all walks of life, and has achieved a certain level of success and wealth.Â Heâ€™s Alpha, in that heâ€™s strong; he oozes beguiling confidence and charm (heâ€™s got a great body!) and heâ€™s definitely grounded in reality; when the **** hits the fan, heâ€™s the guy who can cope!
are part of the Modern Heat experience.Â Ideally, they will be contemporaries, friends, siblings or colleagues.Â However, dealing with secondary characters in a short romance is always a challenge.Â Beware of focusing too much on them, or their interactions with the hero or heroine, at the expense of the central relationship; primarily, their contribution should be to help move forward the developing romance or the plot.
Readers will always want fiction that touches them emotionally, and that relates to their own life experiences.Â Therefore we are looking for relationship stories that are developed around strong universal emotional themes.Â
For example, mock or temporary marriages and engagements in order to get out of a scrape, indecent proposals, finding Mr Right (or Mr Wrong), dream or disaster dates, sex with the Ex, being carefree or committed, accidentally pregnant or apparently unable to conceiveâ€¦thereâ€™s plenty to get your teeth into, which can provide you with a enduring, internal conflict, thus giving you the basis to generate the kind of emotion that engages and absorbs readers everywhere.
External conflicts, such as work-love balance, lovers versus friends and family obligations, are also valid themes.Â However, they should be used to support the central internal emotional conflict within your story.
These novels are sexy!Â Readers of Modern Heat want to enjoy a high level of sexual attraction between the protagonists, which infuses their relationship from their first meeting.Â The most successful stories create an increasing sense of sensual anticipation which culminates in passionate consummation; for this readership the flirtation and foreplay â€“ which is teasing, tempting, sophisticated and naughty â€“ is a compelling draw, and then they are rewarded with intense love-making!
Fresh, fun and flirty becomes exciting, teasing and tempting â€“ and full of sexual promise.Â Then, as the relationships conflicts develop, emotions deepen and are revealed, often in a heated, even passionate way.
A useful tipâ€¦
Dialogue.Â Is there plenty of it?Â Does it have the informality of real-life relationships?Â Â Does it have the wit, edge and sophistication of an exciting, full-on flirtation?Â Does it deliver the emotional issues to the reader?Â Does it change in pace and inflection when emotions deepen and passion develops?
Look out for Modern Heat authors in our Presents collections, available December 2007 and January, February and March 2008: Susan Napier, Lucy Monroe, Julie Cohen, Kate Hardy, Anne Oliver, Nicola Marsh and Trish Wylie are to name but a few!
Are you thinking about writing Harlequin Presents or Modern Heat?