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I have to admit, I’ve been struggling with my latest work in progress. It’s a struggle I’ve experienced in the past, and one I will no doubt experience in many future works. It’s a frustrating struggle. One that I’ve touched on before, but only briefly if I recall.

That struggle is the question of whether something is marketable, and whether that consideration should even affect my story to any significant degree. I write a lot of manuscripts that will never be published. One of the biggest reasons for this is because I don’t think they’re marketable, but the creative side of me needs to get them on (virtual) paper anyway. Surreal worlds, inhuman lovers, controversial plot-lines–all collect cyber-dust on my hard drive, never to be seen or read by anyone but me.

The stuff I do choose to publish has been polished to a certain degree, and during that coat of polish, some things might even have been changed to make it more palatable, more acceptable—prettier—for the public.

I’m not always proud of those changes. Sometimes I worry that I’m allowing my concerns about being marketable to shape my story to its detriment.

Granted, some of those changes are only cosmetic, though they still aren’t enough for some readers. For example, I recall a review saying the reader couldn’t understand why my human character found my umbrose hero attractive. Given that the umbrose are very handsome despite being inhuman, it was an eye-opener of a comment. Had I stayed with the original incarnation of my “demonic” species, the reader would have been even more baffled by the heroine’s attraction to them. Ultimately, I made the umbrose more human than they had been in my original concept.

In the long run, the change actually made a certain kind of sense, adding tempting physical beauty to the appeal of the umbrose, and it ultimately allowed me to contrast Gorzo with the others in the third book. His severe, somewhat heavy features more closely represented my original image of the umbrose (which started with a cursed statue in a horror movie, lol).

That change worked out and fit within the world that I’d built and the story that I wanted to tell, so I’m ultimately glad that I made it, though during a critique session, when someone asked me why my heroine liked my umbrose hero, I was just thinking, I like him! Why wouldn’t she? After all, I had already established his protectiveness, honor, sense of humor, intelligence, physical and emotional strength, and determination at that point. The only thing I hadn’t established was whether he was physically attractive or not. To me, that wasn’t even an issue, but it’s apparently an issue for others.

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Which brings me to my current work in progress. I have been fighting the urge to do that very same thing this time, and I believe, unlike in the case of my umbrose, that it would be a true detriment to the story. Not because the story would be better for a “less alien” alien, but because I don’t want to alienate the readers. If this was a mere science fiction novel, my aliens would be free to be as alien as I wanted them to be, but I often feel constrained by the expectations of the romance genre—the biggest one being that the hero will be attractive.

Personally, I like a hero that is strong, powerful, and maybe even a little (a lot) scary. I like scarred heroes, dark heroes, and flawed heroes. Looking gorgeous is one of the last criteria I require from a romance hero, and if the hero is well-written, that requirement can be waived altogether. But that’s me. I’m one person, and I don’t think I’m in the majority on this. Based on the shortage of romances with less than drop-dead gorgeous heroes, I have to assume I fit into a very tight niche as a romance reader.

Which is probably why I continue to strike writer’s block as a writer when it comes to this genre, especially with the revision of my most recent work. This hero is exactly how I love them! But he’s not what anyone would call conventionally attractive. So I anguish over his details. I try to change them to be more “acceptable,” and then I immediately change them back because he becomes too bland in appearance, too same-y with every other alien romance novel out there. Besides, it’s just not him. I know that, and I’m determined not to water down or de-fang my hero to suit the sensitive palates of the wider audience. I just wish I could stop stressing about it!

I know this blog probably comes off as vaguely ranty, and I apologize for that. I love the story I’ve created, and I love the characters—particularly the hero. I know that not everyone will love him, and I’ve learned to accept that you just can’t please everyone. I don’t intend to alter my original concept too much, just to make him an acceptable “romance” hero. In fact, I’ve hired the artist who has done previous work for me to create some concept art for this hero, and I may share that art on this blog when it’s completed. I intend to remain pretty close to this concept.

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As for the writer’s block I’m experiencing because I worry about what others will think… yeah, I’ll get over it. The story itself has grabbed me, and once that happens, there really isn’t any fighting it. 🙂

What do you guys think? This is the whole marketability versus artistic integrity question again, I think. Should I change my hero to better fit the “norms” for the genre, or should I let him remain the way he was originally conceived? (Keeping in mind that he started as a monster alien enemy for a previous story that I never finished 😉 ) Has anyone else ever struggled with this question, or a similar one? Do you change your work to be more marketable, or keep it as is and just see what happens?

I debated whether I should even publish this blog, because I know what I’m going to do with this character, and I’m not changing him. So why bring it up? In this case, it’s because I wanted to open a dialogue with readers and writers about what their opinions are on this subject. I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with this dilemma.

On an unrelated note 😉 : Don’t forget to sign up for my Goodreads Giveaway! Seriously! You only have four more days! It ends on September 1! You don’t want to miss your opportunity to win one of five signed paperback copies of Lilith’s Fall, the first book in my Shadows in Sanctuary series! (That’s a lot of exclamation points!) Click on the link below to sign up.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lilith's Fall by Susan Trombley

Lilith’s Fall

by Susan Trombley

Giveaway ends September 01, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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8 Comments

  1. CLS-LRS: Ah, yes. The eternal question, “What is beauty?” Is it the outer shell, or all the extremely appealing attributes you mention? Would you want to be married to a beauty with a horrific soul? Or to a troll who treats you honorably, lovingly? Personally, I was always sad when the Beast turned human in the end, because it was the Beast that I fell in love with (speaking of the original French version of the fairy tale).

    To turn this around, if you ever run across the television version of the play, “The Elephant Man”, with Philip Anglim in the starring role (an extremely good looking actor) it’s very worth your time. He does the entire play without any makeup, making you “see” how hideous he is on the outside, though you’re watching a beautiful man. Of course, you come to love the heart and soul of the elephant man, completely looking past the horror of his appearance (which you later realize wasn’t horrible at all). A glorious conundrum.

    From my review of Balfor’s Salvation, I’m sure you know what my response to your inquiry will be…… keep them inhuman. (Personally, I’m put off by too much angst in a story, never by the alien appearance of the hero.) I also appreciate the time an author takes to think through ‘alien responses’. What I mean by that is, “Would an alien respond to certain situations the way a human male would?” You and V.C. Lancaster are two of my favorites when it comes to inhuman looks and responses.

    Keep writing and we’ll all keep reading!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad I’m not the only one who was disappointed by the transformation of the beast to a bland human prince at the end of Beauty and the Beast. 😊
      As for the question of troll or handsome guy, I remember reading a book called The Toll, in which the hero was an ugly troll, and I absolutely loved him until he started acting like one, so I guess I know where I stand on that. 😉

      Like

      1. You are very welcome. Of course, only you can answer the question of marketability vs staying true to your vision of your stories. I do not have any writing talent, so I rely on my favorite authors to bring fantastical tales to life for me. Remember, there are plenty of people who insert too much “real life” into their writing; what I’m looking for is an escape that is well written, quixotic, with a large side of wild included. No need for you to follow the main ‘herd’ of authors.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. In this case, I totally will! I have a concept that is integral to the plot. If I make the hero too “pretty,” then the plot dissolves around him.

      Of course, you always worry that you’ll work so hard to put something out that no one else will want to read, but ultimately, in this case, this will be a passion project in which I remain true to the original idea without concern for the market.

      I already write niche fiction, so really, I’m just targeting a smaller niche. 😊

      Thank you for commenting. 😁

      Like

  2. I have to be honest, I struggle with this whole marketing thing (although I’m just starting out and haven’t tried or thought much about publishing yet. I’ll leave that worry until I’ve finished my novel I think!) I recently joined a writing group and they asked me what market my novel was intended for, who would want to read it and so on. They told me if I was going to publish and sell it successfully, I had to have that all sorted out before I even started. I left the group because it really depressed me – I felt that thinking about marketing first destroyed the joy of writing. I have a story I want to tell, I’m writing it for me, because I want to. There must be other people like me out there, I’m not sure what niche we fit in but maybe I’ll find them when my book is written. So, I would say stick to your own ideas and beliefs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting, liking, and following! Awesome!

      I can totally understand your frustration! It is depressing and detrimental to your creativity to think too hard about marketing while trying to write your book. That’s actually one of the things I was struggling with here is that I wanted to write the story as I dreamed it up, not as it would be best received by the public, but because I do want it to be read eventually, I feel that pressure too, and it was giving me writer’s block.

      I’ve restarted this book five times! I get about a third of the way in (20-30 k words) and then decide it’s just not right. So I scrap it and work from the beginning.

      This last time, I nailed down what I wanted, and decided it wasn’t going to change.

      There will be time to figure out your market after your manuscript is finished. You may be in one of those cross-genre or sub-genre niches and there’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t let it get to you. 🙂 Oh, and yes, you will find people who fit into your niche. 😉 They may not be the largest audience, but they will love that type of book which is what’s important in the end.

      Sometimes, my experiences with writer’s groups were downright dismal, but most of the time, it was a really helpful experience, but I do know that all that talk about marketing when you’re just trying to finish the novel is frustrating and not really helpful. You’ll get there. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

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