I was fortunate enough to go to the RWA Conference in New York in July (thank you, Alpha Dog). Between meetings, chatting with friends, and parties, I got to exactly 3 workshops (beat last year, when I got to zero!). But luckily I attended what I’m sure was the BEST of all workshops.
I’ve heard others sing the praises of Michael Hauge, and every year, have intended to make his presentation. This year, I committed to get there no matter what, and am I glad I did! I’m here to pass some of his wisdom on to you.
In case you don’t know who he is, this is from his website:
If you do know of him, or have attended his lectures in the past – hang in with me, because some of this is new.
These are my notes from his awesome 2 hour lecture. He’s talking about romance, but this works for all relationships – it’s the explanation of why they work.
A good story is manipulation – you’re trying to create an emotional experience for the reader.
All stories are based on 3 elements:
There are 12 components of a good story:
1. Hero – Protagonist is not necessarily heroic, but he has potential to be. The story is him realizing that potential or failing (tragedy)
2. Set-up – Glimpse you give of the hero’s life before the story.
a. Every good story is a reflection, of the before and after story. Reveal what the hero longs for, somewhat unrealistically. Ex: Heroine in Titanic longs for adventure.
b. How is the hero stuck? He’s in a state of inertia – he’s settling
3. Create empathy for the hero – for emotional engagement, the reader must become the hero
a. Make the hero the victim of undeserved misforture
b. Put a character in jeopardy
c. Make the hero likable
4. Hero has a catalyst – an opportunity or event that pushes him forward. Could be good or bad
If it looks good, it goes bad / If it looks bad, it goes good
5. New situation – the hero’s goal is to decide, where am I, what are the rules? Involves exploration and questioning
6. Outer motivation – the hero creates a new goal
7. Other characters – Here’s the new stuff
a. Reflection character – best friend, mentor, helper. They hold the hero’s feet to the fire. Point out the problem.
b. Nemesis – Villain, bad guy. Embodies the character has of himself.
c. Romance character – outer motivation for the hero.
The biggest weakness of romance is that there’s no logical reason for these two people to be together.
1. Chemistry – Nope, that burns out. We’re talking about love here.
2. Love is not explainable – yes, it is.
The right answer:
The right hero for the heroine is the only person who connects with her ESSENCE, not her IDENTITY.
Identity is the face we wear for the world – He sees what she really is, not the face she puts on for the world. We may even believe our identity is who we are.
Essence is who we truly are, deep inside.
Lovers are in conflict because one or both of them is in identity – not essence. This is great before sex, and it helps in a love triangle:
Whoever she dumps embodies identity
Whoever she chooses embodies essence
Laura – butting in here. This was an epiphany for me. Think about Twilight, or Hunger Games. Something always bothered me about those love triangles, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. This is it! There’s no reason for them to be together; neither sees the girl’s essence – or if they do, they see only a part. That’s why you can’t decide who the heroine should be with! And that bugs me – on a subliminal level. And if they’re getting to me on a subliminal level, this is powerful stuff, no? Back to Michael….
8. Pursuit – More visible and persistent the goal, the more the reader is engaged. Goal must be within the power of the hero to achieve. Avoid something he needs another to achieve. Has to be big enough to carry us to the climax.
9. Conflict – Emotion grows from conflict NOT from desire. There 2 levels:
a. Outer conflict – forces of nature, conflict with another character. Must get worse as story moves forward. Obstacle comes closer – faster – bigger
b. Inner conflict – invisible, inside heroine.
What is the heroine’s wound? Mostly in adolescence.
What is the heroine’s belief? It’s a misunderstanding about the world.
This belief is NEVER true, but ALWAYS logical
What is the heroine’s fear?
What is the heroine’s identity? Persona – the mask we wear to protect us from fears that grow out of the belief, created by the old wound. Identity is who we believe we really are.
What is the heroine’s essence? If you strip away the armor, what is left? They have the potential to become it, but only if the strip down to the essence and face their biggest fear. They can be safe and unfulfilled or fulfilled and scared to death.
10. Transformation – Begins in identity, ends in essence. Character arc
Glimpse new way
Disaster – major setback, all is lost
Retreat – Doesn’t work. Reflection character may help here. Am I willing to be afraid?
Bigger stake – if the hero’s courage also helps the outside world. Or, if he doesn’t find the courage=tragedy like Brokeback Mountain.
11. Climax – Complete the arc and the goal is achieved.
12. Aftermath – the ‘after picture’ in his new life.
That’s it. Michael Hauge is officially my hero. If you ever have a chance to catch him live, don’t miss it. By the way, he has videos, and books available on his website, and he also does individual coaching. Check him out at: http://www.storymastery.com/
So, WITS followers, what what your biggest takeaway from the notes? Can you see a way to use this in your WIP?
She sold her Sweet on a Cowboy series, romances set in the world of professional bull riding, to Grand Central. The Sweet Spot won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award in the Best First Book category.
Her ‘biker-chick’ novel, Her Road Home, sold to Harlequin’s Superomance line (August, 2013) and has expanded to three more stories set in the same small town. The latest, Twice in a Blue Moon , released July 1.
In 2014, Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.