Friday, 2 November 2012

Writing of Trading Favors

I wanted to write a short piece about a woman at a low point in her life. Death is too somber a topic for lighthearted romance, so I picked divorce.

Maddie Livingston has been dumped by her husband. She is unable to have kids. The builder working on her house has walked off with her money. She is reduced to living in a heap of rubble with a hole in the roof and can barely afford to pay the bills.

The story kicks off when Maddie goes into nightclub to drown her sorrows on the day her divorce becomes final. In the bar, she spots the builder who cheated her. She lets him hear what she thinks of him. She’s got it all wrong—the builder is a nice guy. He takes pity on her and tries to get her back on her feet, not only by fixing her house, but by boosting her confidence as a woman.

A blue-collar man and an upper class woman with discerning tastes.

How will they get on?

If they are good in bed, is it enough foundation for lasting love?

What about their friends and families? How will they react?

It took me a few drafts to get everything to my liking. Initially, I wanted some element of class prejudice but nothing too heavy—just enough for it to be feasible in the modern world. I also struggled to get Maddie’s character right. Despite being at a low point in her life, I didn’t want her to come across spineless or full of self pity.

I wanted an underlying layer of optimism, which I hope I’ve achieved.

Trading Favors didn’t require a much research. A bit on construction, a bit on fertility treatments, a bit on antiques. While I was revising, I realized I hadn’t given a specific location. The story could have been anywhere in the US. It was winter, and there was no snow, so I settled on North Carolina where I used to spend time in the Raleigh/Durham area. I added a fleeting reference to the location, although it could really have been anywhere.

In the early drafts, the opening and closing scenes showed the heroine reminiscing after the hero’s death. One of my critique partners hated the idea. For her to know that the hero dies, even if it might be twenty years later, ruined the story.

So, I changed it. The heroine is still reminiscing about the past, but in the closing scene the hero comes home and reveals a something about their first romantic encounter that he had never shared with her before.

I’m glad I made the change. I love the new ending. It leaves me with a warm glow about not just falling in love, but that the right kind of love will endure.