AJ asked : When writing light hearted or romcom style fiction, how does one ensure the light hearted/fun element doesn't get drowned by the conflict/grimly high stakes? Or equally, the issues don't get undermined by frivolity.
In an early version of Another Woman's Husband, Becca the main character has her darkest moment and ends up getting drunk and vomiting in a car park. It's a humiliating experience for her. My editor vetoed it as being too sordid.
The same editor didn't turn a hair when, in Nice Girls Do, Anna after a very heavy night out is also sick. I think the difference is in the tone. I can't give an example of the Becca bit, because I dramatically changed the story line and lost the vomiting, but this is Anna...
"She tottered to the bathroom and washed as quickly as her poor coordination allowed. The skin on her face felt heavy and seemed to have dropped two inches. It was a curious mix of red overlying grey. She bunged some foundation on top. Dracula's bride stared back at her. She looked down and saw I survived Clare's hen party! emblazoned across her chest. She wasn't convinced."
There's quite a bit more but I think - hope, anyway - that the tone is quite perky. There's no question that Anna is going down to the darkest depths - she's hungover, yes, but is taking it in her stride. Becca, on the other hand, was upset and humiliated.
And I think that's partly where the answer lies. How does the character react to the grimness in question? Are they self-aware? Anna knows she had too much the night before and accepts her physical state the next morning. Becca was just miserable.
Marion Keyes has shown that you can go to some dark places within chick lit so long as the character, and the reader, doesn't have their noses rubbed in it. And of course, are we rooting for the characters? If so, we'll forgive them anything.
NEW!!! I've finally got round to organising some course dates....
How to WRITE a Novel: London 3rd May/Birmingham 7th May/
Oxford 8th May/Exeter 21st May/Bath 12th June
How to SELL a Novel: London 24th May/Exeter 4th June/
Bath 3rd July Details are on my website