This weekend I let the latest issue of Time sit, untouched, on my night table in order to finish Katee Robert’s super-hot Brazen Wrong Bed, Right Guy. (Okay, nitpickers, maybe it was Us Weekly, but whatever. The point being, it sat, untouched). Why? Because I’m a sucker for a good wrong bed story. In case you’re unfamiliar with the trope, I’ll give you my summary. I consider a “wrong bed” story as, basically, mistaken identity, sexified by sticking the clueless couple in the sack. And yes, in my mind, at least one of ‘em has got to be clueless as to who they’re actually hooking up with, or it doesn’t count as WB. It’s one of those situations that almost never happens in real life – if it does, someone’s probably pressing charges – but occurs all the time in fiction. Although some folks may take issue with my narrow definition. Harlequin Blaze publishes a long-running wrong bed series, and applies the label to a wide range of fling-y, WTF I’m gonna do him just this once scenarios.
I like a good fling story as much as the next girl, but when it comes to wrong bed, I’m a fundamentalist. I want more than a little bad judgment or a weak moment. I want the “oops” factor. Maybe there’s alcohol involved, maybe identical twins, or maybe, as in Wrong Bed, Right Guy, a fun, sexy, farcical combination of mistake and happenstance. To me, that’s the key. I see the set-up in a contemporary novel and I know the author aims to make me laugh. And I hope she succeeds. I’ll read the friggin’ Time magazine if I want to think real hard. Since I enjoy this particular device so much, it stands to reason I’d try to write one of my own. Not easy. I grappled with the right scenario, and ended up eschewing a bed in favor of a Santa costume, a supply closet and a racy impulse on my heroine’s part that promises to land her on the naughty list for life. Fun, and funny, I hope, but the real challenge came in taking the action out of the closet, so to speak. For me, the wrong bed, as a storyline, didn’t exactly write itself – it’s more of a hook than a full-blown plot.
As hooks go, I found this one surprisingly tricky. I mean, the mistake has to be plausible, or the lead character comes across as a hopeless bonehead, and the reader can’t invest in him or her. Paint no character as a victim or you’ve turned the other participant, (the one who is supposed to be your hero or heroine), into a bad guy. And it is dang hard to get to happily-ever-after when your hero, for instance, is serving time for trespassing, stalking, etc. After all the effort spent setting up and navigating the wrong bed situation, I still had to come up with novel-sustaining conflict, both internal and external. Next time I’ll simplify my life and write a marriage of convenience story. Yeah, yeah … those are big right now! Or secret baby. Or, I know, how about … Fifty Shades of Santa?
Do you have a favorite storyline … some back-cover buzzword that always sucks you in? I’ve shown you mine. Share one of yours, if you dare! And if you’ve gone so far as to use the trope in a story, give me the deets.