The Key Scene
By Carrie Lofty
For everyone romance I’ve written, I begin with a key scene in mind. Often, this scene is not the opening or the finale. In fact I rarely know the finale at all! I’m a dedicated pantser, and what will happen next…generally you’d have more of a clue than me. Let’s just say that I adore the process of seeing a story unfold.
That said, I do have a key scene. We’ll call it the kernel of what a book means to me, where it started in my mind, where—basically—I fell in love with the idea so completely that I felt compelled to spend the next several months writing the darn thing!
For example, in SONG OF SEDUCTION I started with a picture of Gary Oldman from the movie Immortal Beloved, where he portrayed Beethoven. I adored that image so much that I based a great deal of my romance around how to get the hero and heroine to that moment, and how I could make that feeling of longing and art come to life in an original way. That image drove me to write.
Other times I’m inspired by a song, one that evokes a powerful image in my mine. In my debut, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS, I listened to a song call “Fall in the Light” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3HHnjQcJHc] and saw the hero carrying the heroine away from a burning cabin. I told my husband for weeks, “Soon I’ll explode the cabin!” When I finally got there, however, I was in tears. The thing I’d joked about as my signpost was actually a really emotional signpost.
If you’ve noticed, these “key scenes” often come about because of external inspiration. Music, movies, photos—they fuel my imagination. For STARLIGHT, however, inspiration came from a very unexpected source. I was trying to internalize the cadence of the Glaswegian accent, since my heroine, Polly, is from Glasgow. I used one actress in particular, listening to her over and over until I felt that pattern of speech in my head.
(I do this a lot with accents. Don’t worry. I’m not totally nuts.)
In doing so, I started to imagine how she would talk about where she grew up, what she wanted from life, and how she coped with difficult times. The “key scene” for STARLIGHT, even down to influencing our choice of title, came from that kernel. Many reviewers have commented on the “happiness” or “Northern Lights” scene, which makes me especially happy. I’ve never had my “key scene” resonate so well with readers.
Here’s a sample, where Alex has taken Polly to a park where they can watch the Northern Lights:
“How have you managed to survive here? It’s dirty and poor and violent,” he said. “Yet, you keep smiling. How?”
She grew quiet, making Alex wonder if he’d stepped past some invisible boundary. But she was still Polly, and that meant taking him by surprise.
“You want to know the secret?”
“Is there one?”
“Of course. Otherwise I’d have gone mad a long time ago.” She rested their twined hands on her stomach and breathed out. “You make shields. A half dozen or so. You stake them all around, all overlapped to keep out the pain and disappointment. But you leave a tiny crack, right in the front. That’s for letting the happiness in.”
Alex forgot to breathe. He looked to the sky once again. Being able to name each star held nothing to the way he saw the aurora anew. Through her eyes. He had wanted to show her a natural marvel, to give them both something beautiful to sustain them through what promised to become an ugly few weeks.
Instead, she had given him a gift. He saw color like a field of flowers and movement like a dancing angel. Science fell away to reveal only beauty. When he could breathe again, he unconsciously mimicked her soft exhale.
Eventually, enough of these “key scenes” start to gather and I have the makings of a complete story. But each romance begins with one—one image, idea, thought. For STARLIGHT, it was Polly letting the happiness in.
What’s next for me:
Now that RT BookReviews 4½ Star Top Pick STARLIGHT has hit the shelves, I’ll be looking forward to the release of HIS VERY OWN GIRL , a historical romance set in World War II. It’s not women’s fiction. It’s not literary fiction. It’s a genuine romance, complete with sexy times and a happy ending. Look for it September 4th as a Pocket Star digital original novel. I cannot wait to see how readers respond!
I’ll also be launching a new co-written pseudonym, Katie Porter, with my long-time friend and critique partner, Lorelie Brown. Our “Vegas Top Guns” series of contemporary erotic romances will debut from Samhain on July 31 with the release of DOUBLE DOWN, which is also a RT BookReviews 4½ Star Top Pick. Two more from the series, INSIDE BET and HOLD ‘EM, will follow in August and September. You can learn more about these and future books at our website (HERE).
Where to find me:
I’d like to give away a copy of STARLIGHT, and I’ll ship anywhere.
Just answer the question: Think of your favorite book or movie and tell me what the “key scene” is for you. Why is that scene so important to you?
Thanks again to Books ‘n’ Kisses for having me!
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