20 things I learned from… Megan Crane, Caitlin Crews

20 Things I Learned From…

Megan Crane/Caitlin Crews


Romance Writers of New Zealand

“A Capital Affair” Conference

23rd to 25th August 2013


NOTE: These are my own take on topics covered during Megan’s keynote talk on Saturday 24th August, and her “Big Emotion in a Small Book” workshop on Sunday 25th August. Any incorrect assumptions, interpretations or slants are mine, and mine alone.

Megan’s keynote talk:

1) Write “that book” readers want to share with everyone — the one that keeps them up at night.

2) Knowing yourself helps you to know your characters, which feeds into knowing your story, and knowing how to write it.

3) Make your characters real and unique.

4) What makes cliches into real people? Details, personality quirks, point of view. Find the rawness, the realness beneath the cliche and the physical description.

Cliches work when a writer does a fresh new take on them; make the old and familiar feel new.

5) Readers want the story. Romance readers want a romance.

6) Love hurts and so should your characters. Make it real and raw and painful and difficult and scary and risky.

7) What are your characters afraid of?

8) What are you afraid of?

Hard scenes to write come from really dark places inside us. Don’t settle.

9) It’s not just gymnastics! Sex between characters must be emotionally satisfying — an “emotional action scene”.

10) If you’re hating what you’re writing, you shouldn’t be writing it.

Stop. Regroup. Be honest. What you’re hating is just a delaying tactic.

11) Give characters what they need, and give it to them at the end.

12) Sometimes what you think the readers want isn’t what you need to write!

Megan’s “Big Emotion in a Small Book” workshop:

13) In romance novels emotion is everything. Readers want the emotional “hit”.

14) The wilder/more unfamiliar the trope, the more the emotion has to draw the reader in to carry the day.

15) Look beyond the obvious; read books with tropes you don’t like.

Do they work? Does this one you’re currently reading work for you? Why?

Take a trope you hate and brainstorm a way to make it work.  How can you make this outrageousness plausible and real?

This sort of analysis helps you get deeper into your own characters; what are they hiding? Why? What’s it like to be this character?

16) Dive as deeply as you can into the emotion of the scene.

For example, the “fantasy” inherent in Harlequin Presents scenarios are made real by the emotion of the characters — emotions we can all relate to.

17) Show the hidden emotions beneath the surface dialogue with the characters’ body language and gestures. The more details that surround the dialogue, the better.

18) Strong emotion takes over the brain and the body.

19)Push boundaries.

20) Dig deeper. Make it hurt. Find the emotional reality.



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2 Responses to “20 things I learned from… Megan Crane, Caitlin Crews”

  1. Shirey Wine says:


    Thank you for sharing Megan’s address.

    So much of this emphasises what we’ve learned over the years, but it certainly bears repeating … write what hurts… or makes you laugh or cry.

    I particularly like the piece of advice: what are they hiding? Why? What’s it like to be this character?

    It got me thinking about my WIP that I’m struggling with and gave me a huge ah, ha moment. Both my characters are hiding huge, down and dirty secrets…
    So again thank you for sharing.