Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor


By Carol Stephenson

© 2002, Carol Stephenson

There I sat, with my heart in my throat, trying to string together a coherent sentence.  The Harlequin editor politely waited.  Somehow, I blurted out a gush of words.  The editor first frowned, then smiled.  "Oh, you have a repressed memory book."  

Stunned, I paused, waved my hands palm up, and said, "Exactly."  

Moral to my less then stellar interview: if you're writing a category, next time you pitch your manuscript either live or by query, try using as your opening hook the category shorthand--its buzz words.  If your story is about a sexy cop who finds a secret baby, say so.  If you have a unique twist to one of the category themes, incorporate it into your opening hook, such as former cop, now a cowboy, finds a baby on his doorstep and enters into a marriage of convenience with an amnesiac bride.    

I posed the question about buzz words on the Cata-romance list, and below are the results (a big thank you to Silhouette® Romance author Roxann Delaney!) along with others I culled from back cover blurbs.  

  • Babies/kids: abandoned, arranged, lost, found, adopted, biological, inherited, borrowed, secret, switched-at-birth, matchmaking.  

  • Single parents: struggling unwed mothers, clueless divorced dads, surrogate, blended families.  

  • Pregnant heroines: stranger, estranged husband or ex as the guilty culprit.  

  • Cowboys & western settings: think taming.  

  • Amnesia/repressed memory: Is s/he married, a criminal, parent, missing groom/bride, presumed dead?  Did s/he kill someone?  

  • Twins: so different/so alike, identical, fraternal, triplets, switched identities, mistaken identities.  

  • Weddings & brides: marriages of convenience, fake fiancées, mail order brides, virgin brides/grooms, runaway brides/grooms, green-card, royal, shot gun, jilted, on the rocks, terms of the will, fight for child custody, by mistake, stop that wedding!  

  • Reunion: estranged, lost, thwarted, divorced lovers.  

  • Boss/secretary: or any other combination where will he ever notice her as a woman?  

  • Favorite sexy 'occupations': doctor, cop, attorney, cowboy, small-town sheriff, FBI agent, secret agent, charming criminal with a heart of gold, bodyguard, journalist, fugitive, former military, mysterious man.  

  • Bad boy/bad girl: think a challenge to tame, think misunderstood.  

  • Makeover/transformation: Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Pygmalion, Ugly Duckling.  

  • Fairy tales/myths: Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Taming of the Shrew.  

  • Mismatched Pairings: May/December, wrong/right side of the tracks, star-crossed, mentor/protégé, virgin/rogue, best friends/lovers, opposing occupations [arsonist/fire investigator], she's the boss/he's not, rolling stone/homemaker, country/city, hermit/socialite, gambler/conservative.