During my earliest days as a writer—well before I was published—a wonderful author friend took me under her wing. Here's the best piece of advice she ever could have given me, one for which I continue to be grateful:
In her opinion, readers of fiction are foregoing any number of important duties in order to spend time “reading strictly for pleasure.” Thus, they tend to feel guilty about it. So in order to make sure they’re accomplishing something worthwhile, you should always supply them with some sort of significant facts they can take away from your writing.
Her theory was that if your readers have gained knowledge from this work of fiction, their valuable time was spent on much more than guilty pleasure.
I had never considered that aspect before—as a reader or as a writer—but her philosophy seemed reasonable. And upon further thought, I realized perhaps that’s why so many of us love reading historical works. There’s no possibility of coming away from that kind of book without learning plenty of things we didn’t know before. Why, just read any of the fantastic blogposts on COWBOY KISSES for prime examples!
And although I greatly admire people who pen historical works, I was, and still am, fully aware of my own capabilities…not to mention my limitations. As much as I love the kind of information we glean from historicals, I’m very much a “here and now” kind of girl. I knew I could never write anything but contemporary fiction.
I do love romance, though, and I adore the cowboy way of life. I knew, then, that I needed to apply my friend’s suggestion in the best modern-day ways I could manage.
In MR. RIGHT, one of my early romance novels, Longhorn cattle play a huge role in the plot. The hero owns a large, working cattle ranch that also accommodates an exclusive dude ranch, and the heroine is a big-time real estate developer from Dallas who knows zilch about ranching. (Poor woman!)
While writing that book, I learned about so much more than just “technique.” I learned that no matter what genre I zero in on, the most exciting part of the story is weaving in the little tidbits of knowledge I want my readers to walk away with…in a natural, believable way, many times through dialog. And alas, while I’m doing that very thing, my characters are getting to know each other.
In fact, my readers are getting to know these characters, too. Far more importantly, they're right there—sharing in the why and how of these people falling in love with each other.