Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tempted by Trouble: A Study in Motivation!


Classic Ice Cream Van Inspires

Tempted by Trouble
Liz Fielding

Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Harlequin (June 7, 2011)


One day the author saw a Classic English 1960’s ice cream van (not the one shown above) and ‘presto’ a full-blown romance sprang to life! (Well maybe it was not that easy.)

There must be a certain luxury in being an experienced romance writer. Experienced writers do the essentials by habit which gives them more time to enrich their stories.

“Tempted by Trouble” is very rich indeed! The reader is treated to many sparkles and fun moments. There are challenges and many little victories along the way.

Reading the narrative is like savoring an exquisite soup with dozens of spices and herbs: at first you notice that you really enjoy the taste but then, when you stop and really savor the broth, you can experience the many different flavors. 

I should stipulate that “Tempted by Trouble” is a great story. Read it. You’ll love it.

The ‘Roots of Motivation’ Run Deep

“Tempted by Trouble” is like a MasterClass in motivation. As a writer, I already knew that central characters need well established motivation. A main character needs a goal, a reason for seeking that goal, and conflict standing in the way of achieving that goal. Sometimes this is referred to as GMC. “Tempted by Trouble” does this to perfection.

Good writers will often provide multiple motivations. This involves having several good reasons why a character is motivated to act in a given way. Having multi-motivations makes the story seem more like reality and thus more believable. It can also make the reasons for acting seem much stronger than it would otherwise appear. Having multiple motivations takes more work on the part of the author in both detail plotting and keeping the word count within limits.

“Deep Motivation”

“Tempted by Trouble” provides multiple motivations for all the important characters – not just the hero and heroine. In addition, and what I did not expect to find (or even look for) was what I call ‘pervasive motivation’. All the characters, even minor ones, were motivated to act in accordance to the needs of the plot. Once I noticed this and started looking for it, the motivational network began to resemble the roots of a large tree.

As a new writer, I always believed that one should provide adequate motivation for the main characters and then the author was free to have the minor characters act in any way that the plot required. No, no. I don’t believe that anymore after reading “Tempted by Trouble”.  All characters can be motivated.

In ‘deep motivation’ a foundation will be established, as far as practical, for each character’s actions. This seems to me to be a ‘crazy’ amount of work. Yet, the result of deep-motivation is a more lifelike narrative. The reader gets to enjoy a richer, more credible, story. This happens even if the reader does not realize why this is so.

I became aware of this ‘deep motivation’ for the first time when in "Tempted by Trouble" the two spoiled sisters, who never offered to help around the house, suddenly offer to help the heroine start, Scoop!, her ice cream business.

This was so unlike them that even the hero wondered why they would suddenly offer to be of help. As it turns out, there were at least two given motivations, established early in the book, to support the sisters' behavior. I thought, “That’s why. at the very start of the book, the one sister had to walk to the pub to use the internet.” Motivations were being established every step of the way. “Tempted by Trouble” has changed the way I look at motivation in a novel.

The Story:

The heroine, Lovey Armey, is single, almost thirty and supporting her two younger sisters who are going to school. She is also caring for her somewhat senile grandmother. Lovey is acting as mother to the whole family. This does not leave her much time for a life.

The hero, Sean McElroy, runs the large estate of his late father. He did not inherit any part of the estate because he was born to his father’s mistress. He is a kind of outcast but much of his problems are of his own making.

When Lovey, who likes to be called Elle, inherits a classic 1960’s ice cream van, it falls upon Sean to deliver it to her. The hero knows how to operate the van and the ice cream machine. Elle needs Sean’s help in setting up an ice cream business.

“Tempted by Trouble” is a simple love story and a very good one! It’s just amazing to think that this very complex and interesting romance came about  from seeing an ice cream van.

Read it! You’ll enjoy yourself, you’ll learn a lot about motivation, and you’ll get the Scoop from inside the creative experience!

“I Can Resist Anything but Temptation.” Oscar Wilde


  1. Thanks so much for writing about Tempted By Trouble, Vince.

    So much of this is subconscious that I'm barely aware that I'm doing it, but when something is working for the plot I do strengthen it when doing my rewrites. Basically, though, it's all about character.

    If Elle wasn't the kind of woman she is those two girls would have been out in the workplace the minute they were old enough to leave school. She wouldn't have cared a fig about some unknown uncle and would probably have sold Rosie to the first person who offered her hard cash.

    That character would have been interesting to write about, too, although in her case, it would have been a very different journey.

  2. Hi Liz:

    Thanks for stopping by. I really liked this story. While it is true that Elle’s character made the story possible, the foundation you laid down made it so much more lifelike.

    One thing that I believe weakens a romance (or any novel) is when things happen because the plot needs them to happen and not because they necessarily had to happen. When these things are little things, readers may not pick up on them per se but they will feel the story is somewhat lacking in realism.

    What I learned from “Tempted by Trouble” is to build a foundation to provide adequate motivation for all the decisions made by each of the characters in the story. (Not just the major character.) This could be as simple as having one sister be a business major. This need not be complicated but you have to know what you are doing. I guess it is easy when you already know how to do it. : )

    I agree that romances are about character. I think this is why I’m not a big fan of Romantic Suspense because these novels tend to be much more about plot and the romance development often suffers.