The wisdom of Hugh MacLeod

Yesterday I posted a quote about voice and was so inspired by it I went in search of the guy who wrote it, Hugh MacLeod I’m not quire sure where to begin. There’s so much straightforward speaking on his site that I know I will be able to use when my inner "adult" voice starts howling.

I guess I should talk about what struck me the hardest. He has a “manifesto” on “How To Be Creative” here . One of the stories he tells is of going to a Creative Director with his portfolio of “toned down” stuff and having the CD tell him that the ads weren’t wowing him. Hugh says that the end user for the product he’s advertising are a bunch of conservative housewives so he decided to target the work to them. But the CD is the guard at the gate. He’s the one who needs to be impressed by the creative work first. Get the job first, then let the client dictate whether the work needs to be toned down at a later date.

I put that into context for my own writing. I write category romance. I read category romance. In an effort to do something a little different, I tend to push the envelope. Sometimes too far. But I still get requests for my work. Why? Because I’m not afraid to try something a little risky. And when the editors come along and tell me to remove the minor plot point that adds a little edge to my external conflict, I’m happy to do so. I’d rather be subtracting from conflict than adding to it.

What have I been asked to remove?

Bending to Blackmail. Originally the hero wanted to put the heroine’s father in jail. I was asked to switch it to something involving the father’s company.

Bound By Duty: Originally the heroine goes on a reality TV show simillar to The Bachelor. That didn’t work for category.

The Christmas Bargain: Originally I had a fiance in a coma. It finaled in 8 contests but never got a request. Finally, I got a request, but I had to get rid of the comatose fiance because that doesn’t work for category.

None of these changed the character’s internal conflicts. They were all “cosmetic” changes and relatively easy to remove. But I had fun writing about them and I sense they may have helped my work stand out even if they wouldn’t fly.

What else do I have that I don’t know will ever fly?

I have a couple heroes that own a comic book publishing house.

I have a hero that owns a billion dollar outdoor sportswear company based on his reputation as a sports nut and prefers cargo pants to suits and scaling mountains to making money.

Oh, and then there’s this totally sexy hero that’s pretending to be gay to ruin his family name thanks to a huge feud he’s having with his dad. While everyone thinks he’s a worthless socialite, secretly he rescues people who get themselves into trouble overseas.

Yeah, that’s going to be a tough sell. A hero everyone thinks is gay. Sort of a modern twist on the Scarlet Pimpernel. It’s not going to work. But, let me tell you, this guy is HOT! I mean, what can be better than a hero who’s confident enough in himself to let the world think he’s something he’s not no matter how hard it is. And then he meets the woman who makes him want to give up the farce and he has to choose between giving up his anger and making peace with his father or losing the woman he loves. Nope, it’s never going to fly.

How about you? What chances have you taken in your writing?

Today’s goal: 1/3 way through chapter 7
Yesterday’s achievement: Loaded my ipod with some new workshops I’d bought on CD
What I’m grateful for: Discovering Hugh MacLeod
Quote: "Your idea doesn't have to be big. It just has to be yours alone. The more the idea is yours alone, the more freedom you have to do something really amazing. The more amazing, the more people will click with your idea. The more people click with your idea, the more it will change the world." -Hugh Macleod, How To Be Creative: 2, 08-22-04