How much can you get away with in Single Title?

My last full manuscript was rejected and one of the reason cited in the rejection letter was that the heroine was a little unlikeable.

Here’s an extract from that letter:

When we first meet Libby she is rummaging around in Matt’s rubbish trying to find something, anything, about him for her article. This is rather desperate behaviour and not really something we would expect of a professional young woman.

Also, her desperation to secure her dream job leads her to terribly devious things; hiring Matt without his knowledge, attempting to record him without his knowledge or consent and then perhaps the worst of all, using Dan’s private investigation results. We were slightly alarmed that Libby even agreed to meet Dan and discover more about Matt and further that she would use the information in her article. It makes no difference that she decides to delete the finished file; she still goes behind Matt’s back in the most deceitful way.


After much huffing and puffing and screaming at the computer that she was fabulous not unlikeable, I finally came to accept their point. (Note accept, not necessarily like). But I did learn one major thing about heroines in category from this rejection.


They have to have enough flaws that we can relate to them but in many ways they have to have the moral high ground and not have certain characteristics that may be realistic in real life but not sympathetic in a fictional character.


Right now I’m distracting myself from the full sub by trying something different – my single title rural romance type thing. Anyway I’ve just discovered today – cos I’m flying by the seat of my pants here – that the heroine very likely had a one night stand (maybe she was drunk) a couple of month’s before she was due to marry the hero.


Of course my first thought was WHAT A COW, SHE CAN’T POSSIBLY HAVE LOVED THE HERO… but she was eighteen and we all make mistakes right? I’m thinking I can probably get away with her having this monumental mistake and secret in her past but would love to hear your opinions.


Can a hero and or heroine get away with more unsympathetic actions/past in ST than they can in category??


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12 thoughts on “How much can you get away with in Single Title?

  1. Hi Rach – interesting topic.

    Personally, I think you have more leeway in ST because you have more pages in which the hero/ heroine can be “redeemed”.

    In category, it's short and the story really focuses on H&H.

    Whereas in ST, you can delve in to their background and introduce more secondary characters.

    However, I still think for romance you still need the reader to like the characters and I wouldn’t like to see a heroine indulging in illegal/ inappropriate behaviour.

    WRT your heroine, having a ONS is not good when you're engaged and some readers may be turned off this. I think you'd have to work hard on making her motivations etc redeemable.

    Just my two cents

    Cheers 🙂

  2. LOL on the veering into mainstream Mel 🙂

    And Joanne – thanks for your thoughts. You are right about having more time to redeem them. hopefully my ideas about her motivations will fly 🙂 That's if I ever get past chap one anyway!

  3. Yeah, I agree with everyone, way more leeway. And I have to say, as a personal preference, I like reading about flawed characters. Morally flawed too. If the motivation is there, I can forgive them anything (well, just about). But that being said, if the mistakes they make are bad ones, the motivation has to be REALLY good.
    I like the idea of your heroine having a ONS with someone other than the hero because it's very real, plus the chance for character torture is massive! And boy do I like it when they're put through the ringer like that. 😉

  4. Again big yay on writing your ST! Exciting stuff. I feel compelled to be the wet dishrag and say that I have had more than one debating session trying to convince a fellow reader that they really did want to finish the book despite a main character cheating.

    That said, like Jackie, I think it's got fabulous potential for real character torture which always makes for a moving plot. It's all about character motivations and how you execute it. Can't wait to hear more!

  5. well, I'll go out on a limb and say…maybe. LOL
    I think it really depends on your motivation too. If your heroine does all this because, say, she needs to sell that article to raise money for her dying nephew's operation…well, I think all that “deceit” would be overlooked. Especially if she felt bad for doing it but was left with no choice like that. Ya know?

  6. I'm with Jennifer. Maybe. But very tough, even in ST. As Lacey says, for a lot of readers, cheating of H/h= wallbanger. Still, it's very fun to break the supposed “rules,” and it can also be very fresh. But you do have to get the why of the forbidden behavior out there right away and it has to be a really good “why.”

  7. Jackie, Lacey, Cathryn, Jennifer and Christine, thanks so much for your thoughts. It's definitely NOT a black and white issue is it!!!

    I'll keep you all updated. I'm focusing mostly on my next MH idea at the moment, so this mss is moving VERY slowly!

  8. Oh, and another thought. Sometimes you can turn around the feel of the character's action with a little self-awareness. For instance, when Libby is scrounging around in the garbage, she can be thinking, What am I doing? I'm a professional. I went to Stanford. (or wherever) Professionals from Stanford don't go through people's garbage.

    And then you can fit in a hint as to why she's doing such a “desperate” thing.

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