A happy picture of (L to R) Shirley Dickson, Margaret Carr and Prue Philipson of the Border Reivers Chapter.
Jessica Hart is a reader for the NWS and finds that the thing most often missing from submissions is emotional tension. ET - "a metaphorical holding of breath" - tension comes from uncertainty. The more obstacles you can put in the way of your H/h getting together, the more tension you create, the more uncertainty there will be of the outcome. The longer you hold your breath the greater the release when you finally do let go!
She mentioned Save the Cat (Blake Snyder) and agrees with his 15 Beats - the format works.
Jessica had a neat diagram that may be difficult to show here. Think of it as a mathematical equation, with a line beneath situation (external) -
situation (external) x plot = Emotional Tension
All stories need an initial hook or "situation," possibly an external factor that forces them together, but it must be believeable and there must be a "stake" for each of them. What is it that drives them? They each need a goal, and those goals should be in conflict. What are the usual drivers? Love, lust, hate, fear. Fear will subdivide into fear of rejection, humiliation, loss, loneliness, loss of face, comittment, betrayal, failure etc.
The H/h must change during the arc of the tale, test their fears. Push them out of their comfort zones. Get them to talk about their difficulties. If the heroine begins to find the hero attractive, why can she not tell him? Because she believes, because he told her so, that he is in love with someone else. Why did he tell her this? He must have a reason. It may not be true.
Secondary characters are not necessary. Keep the H/h alone and remind them every time it looks like they're getting together that they cannot be together.
As for the other pictures ~ Lynne Connolly diligently worked on her edits throughout the conference ~ and Jan Jones prepares to award prizes to the lucky few at the Saturday night conference dinner.