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‘Ello me hearty wenches, it is good of fair Captain Hellion to invite me today to give the first blog of the New Year. Now I know we’ve had a wonderful, fun, and strangely unmemorable 2007 (does anyone know where the rum has gone? No? I really need to start marking that stuff down. It’s getting disturbing)—but it is a new year and we should start things off right with, well, some resolutions, or well, guidelines in getting back on track with the whole pirate gig.
It’s not easy being a pirate. Everybody wants to be one, wave the sword, bust up a couple of ships, capture the cursed Aztec gold—but it takes practice, patience, and pres…prese…prese-prese—and it takes rum. Worry not, me hearties, I’ve written down a few of the guidelines…and I think even that young Turner could manage to become a pirate with these beauties:
1.) Remind yourself you are a pirate. It’s easy to forget, especially after a holiday in port, eating, drinking, and making merry. People stealing your ship. Whatever, there are a lot of distractions. Now you have to clean up, organize, get back on task—and you suddenly wonder: Am I really a pirate? I’m not a very good pirate. Maybe I’m just faking. Calm down. You are a pirate. You’re just out of practice.
2.) Go pirating. This is the important second step. I mean, it’s probably been so long since you’ve pirated more than a shilling or two, but the trick is not to give up because you don’t think the treasure is there. The treasure is there. You just have to go looking for it, mate. But you’re not going to find any treasure, if you don’t get your feculent maggoty arse on your ship and start sailing in a northerly…or southerly direction. Whichever. Get behind the wheel already and stop making excuses.
3.) Create Opportune Moments. Go to pirate conventions and network with other pirates. They might know where treasure is—they might even sell you a map that might help you look. Attending conferences with Pirate Kings creates opportunities for you to show off your treasure…and possibly get more treasure. Savvy?
4.) Seize the Opportune Moment. Another important Jack-task. If a Pirate King asks for your treasure, for God’s sake, send it to him. Don’t dither. I can’t emphasize this one enough. If someone opens the door, walk in out of the cold.
5.) Eat more limes. For God’s sake, we know as pirates, rum, is ever so important to great pirating; however, we don’t want to get scurvy and drop dead before we become a great pirate like me, Captain Jack Sparrow, or that Captain Nora Roberts fellow…so work in a few limes. (No, not to mix with your margaritas, you bunch of lushes.) Help a body out and ingest some green vegetables, a few less fried crumpets, and do a couple laps around the prow of the ship, or swing from the mizzenmast. Exercise and healthy eating is good for you…in moderation, of course. I mean, don’t let it get in the way of pirating, but you don’t need to eat the third éclair whilst steering the ship.
6.) Get a treasure map, acquire some navigational charts. Sailing around without any idea where you’re going or how to get there will not find you remarkable treasure. You’ll usually just run out of supplies and your crew will mutiny against you, leaving marooned on a deserted island with a single shot. Not anyone’s idea of a vacation, mate. Find a book, sketch something on a napkin—whatever—you’re going to do a whole lot better at this pirate thing if you at least look like you know what you’re doing.
7.) Practice pirating every day. Pirating is like exercise, nasty vile habit…I don’t like that one. Okay, pirating is like drinking rum. You can’t really hold a lot of rum at first and it takes practice…you should, therefore, drink every day to build a tolerance for it. Same goes for pirating. If you don’t pirate every day, you won’t improve and snag the really impressive treasure.
8.) There is always a crisis on the High Seas. I can’t tell you the number of fledging pirates who tell me they don’t have time to pirate. Hurricanes, they wail; East India Trading Company…my God, the cannibals. Those sorts of things will never go away, so if you don’t learn to juggle them, pirating is going to be a hard business for you succeed at. Captain Nora Roberts freaks out at hurricanes every day—but she still pirates, every day. Realize there is always going to be a reason not to pirate. You are therefore pirating for your own self-enjoyment and worth—and the slight, though still possible prospect of eventual treasure.
9.) Don’t seek treasure that’s already been plundered. This should be a given, but it’s amazing the number of newbies who hunt for treasure that’s already been exhumed. If you want to get rich, mates, find new treasure. Blaze new trails, lead and don’t follow. Imitation is never as good as the original.
Today is about trying something new. Now, I don't mean because it's a new year lets say what new thing we are going to do this time around. What I mean is trying something new in writing. I've spent my weekend venturing way outside my comfort zone. A couple months ago an idea for a short story erotic romance popped into my head. It was brought on by the news that Samhain Publishing sent out an open submissions call for several anthologies planned for next year. The deadline is January 10 and as usual, I've put things off until the last minute.
But with the help of our trusty Captain, I made it past a block at the end of last week and the story took over during the weekend. I spent nearly eight hours writing something I had never written before – SEX. That's right, technically, I have never written a sex scene and now I've written two and a half. Yes, I left the poor souls in the middle of *it* so I could write this blog and get to bed. I'm one of the unfortunate ones who have to work today.
I posted a snippet of my first sex scene for some writer friends and the feedback has been pretty positive. Very positive in fact. They could just be shooting smoke up my ass, for which I am highly grateful, but I think I might be pretty good at this. Not great but pretty good.
This is one of the aspects I love about writing. Everytime I learn something new or write something I never thought I could pull off, it's like a high. It's a rush and it makes me want to write more. Call it momentum or delusions of grandeur but whatever it is, I like it.
What have you written that took you completely by surprise? What do you think you write best? What do you think you could never write in a million years? Tell us about a scene you wrote that made you sit back and say, "Oh yeah, that's good." And don't say that's never happened. Even if you hated the scene the next day, there was a time, maybe just a matter of minutes, when you loved it.
Not a crewmember stirred, following their rum-drinking binge.
The booty bags hung by their hammocks with care,
In hopes that Jack Sparrow would soon be there.
The crew were all nestled snug tight in their 'mocks,
Smelling faintly of grog as they clung tight to their crocks.
And whilst with me book, I lay with a pistol in hand,
Thinking a nip of Bailey's and chocolate would be grand.
When out on the dock there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my Captain's bed to see what was the matter!
Away to the top, I flew like a flash,
Scarcely having time to tighten my sash.
And there in the crow's nest, I saw such a sight,
Lit by the moon, which was full on this night.
A bold, handsome pirate swung from the rope to the floor:
"I'm here, lass, for Christmas, could you want anything more?"
Well, truth be told, I'd been such a good lass—
Not a bit of wickedness and only a touch of sass.
I was quite deserving of a pirate for my very own keep.
I hope he was well rested for he wasn't getting any sleep.
From his fierce blazing look that could freeze a girl's very marrow,
I knew in an instant this must be the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow.
Quick as cannon fire, he called for his men to make way:
"Come, Will, come Ranger, we haven't got all day."
From the sides of the ship climbed these brawn men drawing swords,
Their proud countenances as fierce as any romance's brooding lord's.
"Where's Sin?" said the dark one, who I knew to be Carlos—
When it came to Christmas, he'd be the present she'd want most.
I pointed to the staircase with the tip of my gun.
"Be careful of the fifth stair, it's a squeaky one."
He grinned to let me know he would never be heard.
As I turned back to the others, Jack grasped me, a man of his word.
"Which way to your quarters?" he asked with a most roguish grin,
"I don't think it's only my quartermaster who should be getting into some Sin."
"But the others," I squeaked, as Will swashed to the decks down below.
"Worry not, Capt'n, handling three lasses is something I well know."
"Three lasses to one," Jack said, "you know that hardly seems fair."
"Don't I know it? Not one of those wantons likes to share.
Course, neither do I, so don't get any male-minded plans.
When you're in bed with Hellion, you'll have very full hands."
Then over the railing, climbed a lagging pair double-quick—
Russell Crowe in commander rig and a vampire named Mick.
"Ah, well," said Jack, "I suppose that takes care of the others—
Honestly, with you in the bedroom, I wouldn't want in another's"
He grinned wickedly as he followed me to my bed,
Confirming all the boasts he and I so tossingly said.
His eyes were like onyx, his mouth like a dream;
I ran my fingers through his locks, preparing for his every scheme.
Clothes melted off with unseemly haste as he laid me back—
His intent, it appeared, to make me a post-midnight snack.
From the tips of my Clairol red hair to my toenail paint chipped toes,
He did delicious things that a modest girl like me couldn't prose.
On Christmas day when I woke with my very wide sinful grin,
I turned over to pounce him so we might sin again.
And sin we did, again and again, before we crawled to the galley.
We needed some sustenance before we went forth another rally.
Below around the table lined Will, Russ, Ranger, and Mick,
All looking haggard—my crew had worn them all slick!
We all ate omelets and sausages and chocolate filled croissants—
Then we returned to our beds to fulfill our other wants.
This was definitely for the merriest Christmas—this men and rum binge,
And we're definitely all thankful on the Romance Writer's Revenge.
And Jack was heard to shout as he and crew swaggered off out of sight.
"Merry Christmas, my fair wenches, and to all a good night!"
At holidays, emotions and glad tidings are shared, and memories are made and preserved. For those of us who have significant others we may spend a little alone time under the mistletoe, making some romantic memories to carry us through until Valentine’s Day.
With the magic feel of the holidays in the air, it makes perfect sense that so many romance authors pen holiday novels or novellas.
I just finished Eloisa James new release An Affair Before Christmas. What a lovely Christmas read. The dialog and descriptions were breath taking and the heroine and hero were strong charismatic characters that were endearing from the start. The storyline was fresh and real with just the right amount of holiday sparkle to keep me spellbound. Eloisa was masterful at weaving a story within a story. The subplot of the supporting characters was as enthralling as the main storyline. I highly recommend the book, and congratulate Eloisa on a wonderfully written piece of work
Over the years, I’ve read several holiday romance novels. There’s just something special about reading romance in a Christmas setting. The love seems more poignant, the black moments more angst filled, and the ending more happy when holiday spirit is woven throughout the storyline. Readers can relate to characters that experience the joy they want at Christmas. Holiday romances make perfect gifts, and function as excellent stress busters.
So many scenarios are appropriate for love at Christmas. It’s no wonder that the entire display shelf in the front of your local bookstore is home to the newly released holiday romances. Pick one up today, maybe it will entice you to do some future holiday romance writing of your own or at least leave you with a case of the warm and fuzzies.
If I could imagine the perfect afternoon it would include a cup of hot mulled cider, a holiday romance novel, a warm throw over my lap, and me, myself and I.
Have you ever written a holiday story? Do you have any holiday reading recommendations?
However, as I’m plotting out my new contemporary, I find that it is more musically charged than the Regency I’ve lost interest in (for now). Different plot aspects get me humming some song or another and making thematic parallels to music.
I find this a little disconcerting because it did NOT happen while I was working on my last WIP. And I’m wondering if that isn’t why my last WIP started feeling so stiff and dead as I worked into the dreaded middle of it. It lacked that emotion, the feeling that I know, from my experience as a reader, that other readers want.
It isn’t just any song that I think of when I’m working my new WIP. I realized my earlier statement sounded like every time I opened the lid on my computer that I was swallowed into the Sound of Music or something. No, that isn’t it. Instead, there are a few songs that I think of when I’m writing. I think of them as the soundtrack of this book.
So far, there are three songs clanking around in my brain when I work on this novel: “Forgive” by Rebecca Lynn Howard, “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon, and “I Apologize” by One Republic. Amazingly, anytime I find myself stuck for an idea, I just have to listen to one of these songs and I’m immediately back into my WIP, full of the emotions I want to encapsulate, and ready to get to work again.
Does your work have a soundtrack? And if so, what songs can you find on it? Does music play a role in your writing and if so, what role?
As an aside, I attempted to load a couple of those songs in here, but I'm video upload incompetent. Apologies. But, they're all on YouTube, if you're interested.
I think about writing while I’m in the shower in the morning, conversations between my two main characters flowing like the water from the showerhead. Dreams are what give me ideas, thoughts, conversations, pieces to carry over into fiction land. It’s like acting out a scene before writing it down. One of those poetry in motion thingys. And for me, it’s perfect. I’ve always been very hands on, sticking my nose into everything. I’ve gotta see it done first before I can write it. So if I can’t see the scene, it can’t be written the way I want it and I’m stuck. But with dreams, anything can happen. Anything in your wildest dreams. And opportunity and imagination are the two best things you can have as a writer. With a strong compass to guide you and a closet full of hats to put on *grin*
So, my question to you today is: Ever have those dreams that just stick with you? The ones that when you wake up in the morning and have you thinking about your plot and characters and setting? Do you use them as a guide?
PS. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! This is my last chance to say it before next Tuesday. If you're out there last minute shopping, preparing to host 20+ people, coordinating multiple dinners and get togethers- take a deep breath. It’s almost over.
I had a different log written and planned for today, but as with many things on the ship, I realized as I climbed into bed, tucked my pistol under my pillow, and settled down for a much-needed snooze that this instead needed to be said. Especially so soon before Christmas and New Year's, a time of year where we think of everyone but ourselves.
Don your Just For Me hat.
We're expected everyday to wear so many different hats. Our pirate's hat; our wife hat; our mother's hat; our bitch's hat; our writer's hat; our 9-to-5 hat; our counselor's hat; our friend hat; our professor's hat; our housekeeping hat; our Martha Stewart hat; our Budget Queen hat; our Harry Potter Making Magic from Nothing hat....
I myself like a good hat. A lovely plume, a certain richness in the fabric as it folds up into the tricorn...but with all these hats and expectations of our time, we don't have time to ever wear our Just For Me hat. Worse, we believe, inherently, we also do not have money for such a selfish act...and frankly, just who do we think we are that we deserve a hat that serves no function than other than to be for ourselves?
This is faulty thinking--because despite the title of the Harry Potter hat, you really can't make something out of nothing. You're giving up a little bit of yourself with each hat you whip on and off with flair and haste, seamlessly moving from one role to the other, without any regard to why you are doing it, only that it is an important job to be done and SOMEBODY has to do it.
It is little wonder then that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, why any of us would have the energy, desire, or need to even put a string of words on the page. What's left to fill the blank white space when everything has been sapped by things that needed to be taken care of first--but in which the most important thing, YOU, had not been taken care of at all?
Who in their right minds would want to empty themselves on a page when there is nothing left to give?
You have to fill yourself first before you can put something on the page. And in order to do that, you have to remember you're worth the consideration of doing something Just for Me. And I'm sure if you turned off the Internal Critic who reminds you that the credit card bill is due, the kids need to get to practice on time, and supper needs to be fixed (since Redbook pointed out that tragically we don't get home-cooked meals near as often as we get fast food) that you would realize you too deserve just as much attention and time as you give to everyone else.
So go wild. Take a soak in the bathtub and read an extra chapter. Or go wilder, and get an hour massage, followed by a pedicure. Get your hair done. Buy a book you've had your eye on. Pop in your yoga tape and do some Half-Moon poses and breathe deeply, enjoying this time you've taken just for yourself.
Doing this you may find your Muse is more willing to hang out with you again...and offer you more to empty on your blank pages.
For some reason, a memory came back to me last week one morning while I was drying my hair. In my former life as a disc jockey, I had the honor of serving as announcer for a Relay for Life event. I didn't know until I arrived what that entailed. I had to read the names. That's right, THE names. The stands were filled with family and friends of the people on that list. People who had been taken much too soon by cancer. I can't tell you how important it was for me to get those names exactly right nor how difficult it was to keep a level voice. There were so many names. Too many names. But I have rarely felt as blessed or as humbled as I did that night.
Another moment we all remember is 9/11. I had to be on the air that day. We discontinued the music and ran straight news but we did break in from time to time to bring the local connection to the stories. I have no idea how I got through that day but it is another of those moments that changed me. Formed me. Informed me.
These stories we write are the same. The characters are on a journey and the moments, or scenes, we put together make those characters who they are. I have found that it's not until I have written quite a bit of back story and several encounters between my main characters and others that I have a real understanding of who they are. Much of that back story never sees the light of day but it forms my characters by informing me.
Are you a person who takes the time to enjoy the journey? Can you pinpoint a specific moment when you learned something new, became someone new? I'm sure for many of us women we would say when we gave birth. Every moment since that Wednesday morning in July has been better and brighter for me. Tell us about your favorite moment you've written or one of the most amazing moments you've had in this wonderful journey.
Hopefully, someday, we'll all get to include the moment we sold our first book!
A familiar tool found in any sea worthy pirate’s pocket is a trusty compass. It helps chart a destination, and keeps the ship on a desired course for the next keg of rum. A writer is not unlike a pirate. We have goals, and outlines we follow in order to meet a desired destination.
Internally I carry a compass of my own. It has been internalized in me since I was a small child. I have a moral compass, and more often than not, it guides me in daily decisions as well as what I choose to write.
I‘m not morally perfect, and I‘m not trying to blog a sermon, but I want to raise the question of morality in writing.
I have found that the more I write and work toward a goal of completing a WIP, the more concerned I become about what I write. I find that more often times than not, my writing self becomes at odds with my moral compass. I find freedom in writing, and to put restraints or limits on writing can remove all liberty of expression. Although I am writing to please me, what I write has the possibility of influencing a great number of readers. I want the freedom to write, but I want to convey the right message. I feel as a writer that I have a certain responsibility to represent who I am in the words and scenarios I choose to write.
Writers display certain morals in the characters they create. As writers, we have discussed creating characters that we dislike, or we allow our characters to do and say things that we normally would never convey in our own lives. The freedom to create our visions is the joy of writing. However, character creation is only a small portion of our influential writing potential. We can also influence readers through dialog, violence, and sexuality. We cannot censor what age groups have access to our work, and maybe that is not an issue to most writers, but we are responsible as individuals for what we write. Romance novels are not found next to self-help books, and religious philosophy at Barnes and Noble. We are not writing romance to save the world from moral corruption, but even a love story has the ability to influence potential readers.
Do you write with a moral compass, or does morality even play a factor in your writing style?
In the fictional world I create on paper (read: Word doc), I am the bitchiest of pirates. I break people up, just to get them back together. I wield my sharp sword (read: pen, er… read: keys on my keyboard) and slice happy families apart. I wreak havoc among perfectly laid plans, messing up perfectly comfortable lives, all in the name of telling a great story.
The bitch hat (it's a figurative hat, of course) is my greatest writerly supply. Because, that part of me is what helps me tell good stories.
If I sat at my computer and happily allowed my perfectly contented characters to move about in their perfectly comfortable lives (or even their not-so-perfectly comfortable lives), then what kind of story would that be? It’d be the perfectly boring story that no one would want to read. We live to see people overcome obstacles. It’s what keeps us reading, so we can see how it all works out.
But, sometimes being this bitch hurts the sweet, can’t-we-all-get-along part of me that wants everyone to like me. At times like that, I have to ignore the characters in my head calling me names (“You big meanie!”) and pull my bitch hat down over my ears so that I can continue to slice and hack away at their lives.
It’s hard for me. My heart hurts for them. However, I know it will all work out in the end. I know that when the time comes, I’ll be able to hang my bitch hat next to my computer and let the romantic part of me that is dying for everyone to be happy write everything perfect again.
Thank God for my bitch hat. My computer, my post-it notes, they pale in comparison to how important it is to my writing. I’m not sure how I could have the tough love to do what I need to do to these fictional people without it.
I always wonder about writers who don’t let their characters get their happy endings because they never get to take off their bitch hats.
I’ve read all sorts of stuff in my English major/English teacher lifetime. I swore that American authors, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, wouldn’t have known a happy ending if they fell in one. People who write horror, like Stephen King and Dean Koontz, never get the satisfaction of HEA, at least not the way I write it. I picture them writing “the end” and then going off to therapy or to their priests, complaining about the darkness of the world.
I’m so glad I get to spread a little light.
If you’re a writer, how do you feel about causing turmoil in your characters’ lives? Are you of the yay, free therapy school or are you (like me) of the “when can I get to the HEA” school? How do you approach writing conflict in your stories, as I’m certain my “bitch hat” method isn’t the only one out there?
After a wonderful blog and response yesterday, I thought about everything she talked about. One thing that stuck with me was courage. Anna’s first novel “Claiming the Courtesan” was about a woman who under extreme circumstances always had courage. She kept her head held high. No matter what happened she kept putting one foot in front of the other. She did what she had to do and suffered the consequences (severe ones). And eventually she persevered (with a wonderful HEA at the end, might I add). Anna Campbell’s heroine, Verity/Soraya, not only had the courage but the determination that made the reader fall in love with a character. But to write a character like that, the writer must have the same type of courage. The same infallible characteristic to take risks and go ahead no matter what anyone says to you. And I admire that in characters and in writers.
Writer’s take chances every day while they are writing. For me it’s the ability to get a rush from doing something in fiction I can’t do in everyday life. It’s the ability to wield a gun and chase down the bad guys. The ability to be in a high speed car chase and come out without a scratch. And it’s the ability to have the courage to have my main character do the things that would take extreme amounts of courage to even consider doing, but in her personality it’s just something she does and thinks about later. But it takes courage to put thoughts and words on paper (or a Word document) and it takes even more courage to let that baby fly and hand it off for someone else’s eyes. It takes courage to write scenes that are considered taboo and stand your ground when asked to change it for the sake of reader sensibilities. And it takes courage to stand by your written word no matter what the outcome. And that’s what I love about writers. The passion for what they are doing. Writing is a constant learning process where no matter how close you get to perfection, you’re still not there. It takes courage to face up to that day after day, time after time; and grin and bear it through the rough times and keep believing that the sunshine is just around the corner.
There have been times when I’m writing a particular scene and thought to myself, I would’ve never been able to do this myself. I could’ve never told him that I loved him. I could’ve never told him not to go and I’ll worry about the consequences in dawn’s early light. Never could’ve watched him walk out that door and not even look back. Or held the tears back as I walked back inside and pretended like my world wasn’t falling apart.
So my question to you is, have you written a scene where you felt that real life emotion come back to haunt you? Righted a past wrong by fictionalizing it? And if you haven’t, have you ever thought about it?
Anyway, enough waffling! Avast, me hearties! Arrrrrrrrrrrrr! Shiver me timbers! Walk the plank, ye landlubbers!
Yes, we’re about to celebrate the writer as pirate! And I’m waving my cutlass in excitement (hmm, perhaps that’s what my heroes do instead?) at this incredible honor of being the first captain from a rival vessel to board the good ship YO HO, A WRITER’S LIFE FOR ME! Land ho! Well, publication ho, anyway!!!!
Firstly, good luck to your enterprise and may she sail the seven seas for a long, long time to come. I’ve been lurking for a while and I think it’s fantastic. You’re all doing wonderful jobs of filling out the captain’s log…uh, blog. An extra measure of grog to you all! But be careful when you climb the mizzenmast! We don’t want you coming to grief on a sagging middle and falling flat on the decks, now, do we?
I love the idea of a writer as a pirate. We’re all pirates, setting out as outlaws to seize the gold bullion from the Spanish galleons plying the main. Um, that is grab fantastic publishing contracts and share our wildest fantasies with a breathlessly waiting public.
The qualities of a good pirate are definitely the qualities a writer needs. Courage! Chutzpah! A certain amount of arrogance because if you don’t believe in your stuff, nobody else will! You also need those navigational skills so you don’t come to grief on the reefs and shoals of writing life.
You need to know how to pick a great crew to accompany you on your adventures – clearly, that’s something I don’t need to tell you pirate lasses about! You need to know how to hold your nerve when you get becalmed in the doldrums. You need to weather storms and lash yourself to that bucking helm when the huge waves threaten to swamp you! Above all you need dash and daring. And that’s something you girls have in spades. Or perhaps in bailing buckets!
So thank you for inviting me to toast the fortunes of the Good Ship Yo Ho! May all your parrots be housetrained. May termites stay clear of your wooden legs! May you fill your big leather boots with pride and not with sand! Ugh, hate sand in my shoes almost as much as I hate sand in my underwear. Hmm, do pirates even WEAR underwear? And no, please don’t answer that!
May you rescue Johnny Depp from a tropical island… Oh, right, that’s my task. You girls go off and find someone else to rescue!
Long may your ship sail and a keelhauling to any landlubber who says me nay!!! It’s Davy Jones’s locker for anyone who tries to scuttle this grand privateer!
OK, so do you have any pirate questions I can help with? Something about anchors or blunderbusses or, shock, horror, actual writing? Why do you think you need to be a pirate to be a writer? Clearly you agree with me about this! And honestly, is there any way to make ship’s biscuit palatable? Or would you rather I brought over some good Aussie chocolate when I come for my next visit?
And there’s pirate plunder! Terri who invited me gets to choose a commenter at random and they get a signed copy of what’s currently keeping Good Ship Anna Campbell afloat on the briny waves. My latest release UNTOUCHED! I’d love someone to show that mad marquess a good time on the ocean! He definitely needs to get out more!
Good luck, me hearties! Another serve of rum all round! ARRRRRRRR!
Now that Anna is Queen Pirate for the Day (and perhaps hit the rum a little too hard already) it's your turn to pillage from her all the writing knowledge you can. And she's full of it. Wait, that doesn't sound right. Argh! You know what I mean. Lets talk Mad Marquesses, Uber-Alphas, and chasing that publishing dream undaunted or just tell Anna how sweet and generous and wonderful she is! Don't forget, one lucky commenter will win their own copy of Untouched.
The expansion of my virtual life and my voyages upon this pirate ship have brought me friends from all over the world. I’m not one to think everyone should agree with me or that everyone should think alike but I’m finding there are schools of thought I don’t understand at all. And as much as it must frustrate my friends to try to explain their views to me, it frustrates me that they don’t see things the way I do. It’s perfectly clear to me! LOL!
So, is it safe to assume we (yes, I’m including all of you now) carry these pre-conceived notions into our writing. If there is something we absolutely would never do, can we write a character who does? One of my own quirks is that I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings but often you have to make your heroine or hero say something to the other that not only hurts their feelings but breaks their heart. That is going to be so hard for me.
If I write a character raised with no religious or faith based foundation as I was, can I write that character without bringing my perceptions into it? For a topical example, could I, a Catholic woman raised in the United States, write the story of an Arab woman raised in Palestine? Or a woman living in 19th century England for that matter?
I’m finding this fascinating as one of my greatest struggles is to create independent, well-rounded characters and then keep their choices and behaviors consistent with who they are. I rarely base my characters on anyone I know and definitely not on myself so how can I make them real and understand the way they think?
How do you get into your characters’ heads and do you find it difficult to separate your own experiences and perceptions from theirs? Do your characters ever do anything you find morally or fundamentally wrong? If you’re a reader, does it bother you to read characters who do things you find horribly wrong?
If a pirate’s journey only included pillaging, drinking and cavorting with pirates of the opposite sex, we would be so lucky. However, the journey includes much planning to keep the ship set on its course for adventure.
If writing a story included only writing the beginning, the climax, and the end, I would be one happy pirate. We all know that writing requires elements that help the story flow, and polishes the rough edges. The story requires filler, and unfortunately, I’m not talking the white creamy, sweet variety found in the middle of an Oreo cookie. I’m talking about the mortar of the story.
We bridge parts of our story together with information that may not be awe inspiring, but necessary. Heroes and heroines can be charismatic adventure seekers, but in order to keep them real you must give them a background to shadow. Descriptive details can make them appear as three-dimensional individuals instead of paper doll cut outs on a page.
Filler may include non-essential information to the over all plot but it allows the scenes to flow without dead space. It helps build the characters personality or history. It can take something in the story, which appears abstract, and make it an essential element by the end.
Another thing I count as filler is attention to detail in writing, take for example writing a historical romance. It is important to include the proper fashion for the period, and correct landmarks and historical events. Although this information is not detrimental to the overall plot, it is essential in making the story genuine.
Personally, I dislike writing filler. When filler is necessary I find myself becoming distracted, and losing interest in my writing. I try to beef up filler with humor, or something similar to events or conversations from my own life so I can relate to my writing and maintain an edge. However, more often times than not I become bored, and find my mind wondering to the filler of the sugar variety.
How important do you consider filler to the over all story? How do you break up the monotony of writing filler?
I was watching “Romancing the Stone” this past week. For those of you unfamiliar with this movie, it stars Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. The plot of the movie revolves around romance writer Joan Wilder, played by Kathleen Turner, who travels to Colombia to find her kidnapped sister. She falls in love with a mercenary and the two become romantically involved as they search for a precious stone which the kidnappers want.
I have a love/hate relationship with this movie. It’s an entertaining flick with lots of chemistry between Turner and Douglas. There are plenty of action-packed plot twists and it satisfies my romantic nature, what with the whole HEA.
However, I hate the stereotypes it plays in to about romance writers. In the beginning of the movie Joan Wilder is frumpy, nearly anti-social, and has virtually no sex appeal. She's a cautious mouse living her exciting life through her books. Worse, she is what I always think the public expects romance novelists to be: a bunch of sex-starved, out-of-touch-with-reality ninnies.
She does change as a result of her relationship with Douglas' character. However, her transformation brings up so many feminist/post-feminist arguments that I will save that for someone else's blog.
But, my main issue with how the "romance novelist" is portrayed is that it doesn’t jive with the romance writers I know. We’re an intellectual lot, I think, with plenty of degrees, and advanced degrees, among us. The majority of us are busy with our real lives while we try to carve a niche for ourselves in the industry. We’re doctors, lawyers, teachers, secretaries, librarians, and pirates. We’re wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, and goddesses. With all the nametags and hats we all wear, some of us even wearing multiple nametags/hats at the same time, it's insulting to try to define us so narrowly.
Yet, I know a lot of us write “in the closet” because we don’t want to deal with all the stuff people believe about us.
So, tell us what stereotypes you think exist for romance writers. Which ones do you think are valid and which ones do you think are ridiculous and, if you write in secret, which of them, if any, keep you silent? Also, can you think of any other pop cultural portrayals of romance novelists? Perhaps some that make us out to be the super-writers we are? If so, do tell!
If you remember last week, I spoke about procrastination. And if you were getting your daily dose of the wenches (which shame on you if you weren’t!) you’ll remember that the Boatswain, Terrio, says that she calls her procrastination the daily multi-tasking. I do so much multi-tasking; I have to multi-task my multi-tasking. I think about writing while I’m in the shower. I think about writing while I’m on my drive both to and from. I think about writing while I’m logging in my daily run. I constantly think about writing. And I think that’s what makes me what kind of writer I am.
I’m a fly by the night, fingers moving like the wind, totally zoned in, type of writer. I don’t plot. I don’t outline. I don’t character build. I don’t do anything ahead of my fingers. I make up a name. I make up a shell of this person in my mind, and I go for it. I’ve heard Capt’n call this the Pantser (okay, which makes me giggle), and it really makes me sound very unprofessional, but I can’t outline. As soon as I outline a story, it’s gone. This might seem silly to you, you little outliner you, but I assure you, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the written word finally on the screen for the first time. To let your imagination go where it will with no written boundaries. Freedom. This is where I get my freedom. Everyday I’m in the grind, but when I write, I’m finally free. No obligations. No worries. Just me and my brain writing whatever flows out of me. Working out the plot as we go along. Letting the story unfold right in front of my eyes. It’s the best feeling ever.
There are some drawbacks to the way that I write. There is a lot of angst in my stories, and as the Capt’n blogged yesterday, you need that in your story to keep your reader tsking you and turning the page. But I write what I like to read. I like the story to pull at me emotionally. I like to connect on a deeper emotional level to the character and for me to do that as the writer, is to write what I know. For that, it’s my heart in every word. It’s not just the content your reading when you open my pages, you’re reading actually what’s in my heart. It’s not just the content on the pages,
You have to have heart to be a writer. Being a writer is a tough and challenging world. But the content is what the reader bases the book on. Is there a difference to you? I know that you want both (you greedy little wench) but if you could have one or the other, which would you choose…? The emotion of each word, making your heart hurt and feel like you’re right there in the scene. Or do you want the content, an unfailing plot, the best subplot, great character development.
If you’re like me, you know that they come hand in hand. But we’re playing devil’s advocate today. Humor me.
Last week, my Gunner totally pirated my blog’s theme with her awesome flippin’ blog about character—but I’m not going to punish her or anything for readin’ my mind and one-uppin’ me at every turn. I’m merely going to hold a grudge. The wench. But I’m not going to re-write my blog after I spent all this time being brilliant about it. You’re just going to have to suffer through a second dose of “why character is important”—which is ironic that we pirates spend so much time talking about just that topic. You know, because pirates don’t have char…never mind.
So I’ve been reading this writing book called “Emotional Structure” (by Peter Dunne), which is a screenwriting book, but I’ve found it quite handy already for my novel-writing. One of the first things he points out is that all books (movies) have both a Plot and a Story. The Plot is WHAT happens; and the Story is WHO it happens to.
Now here’s the kicker. Your Plot can be rather bad. It can be unrealistic, unbelievable, maybe even a bit boring—but your Story, if it’s good enough, will make your audience not care. The Story is the piece of magic the illusionist performs to wrap you so far into the scheme, you don’t even care that the coin was in his shirt sleeve the entire time.
Your Story must be kick-ass. People care about people, not plot. Readers usually won’t remember WHAT happened exactly in a book, but they’ll remember WHO it happened to. For example, Captain Jack Sparrow. They killed him off in the second--and had to locate him for the third! People (especially Jack) matter.
I’d say the other key to making your book work is Make Bad Things Happen To Your People All The Time. All the time. Don’t cut them any slack; don’t pull your punches; throw them a bomb and make them react. This works in conjunction to “Write People We Care About.” How people react to adversity is why we care about the people to begin with. We want to root for the underdog and watch him succeed. Plus, making bad things happen to your people all the time also insures your plot is not boring. So long as the bad things are BAD for your hero, it can be something as simply devastating as the girl he finally has the guts to woo is now dating someone else and she turns down his offer, after he’s made a fool of himself to impress her. We will be riveted.
Here’s the example.
Now one would think that any movie with Bruce Willis is going to be good regardless of the Plot or the Story, but I have two words for you: Twelve Monkeys. (No one gave a rat’s ass about that movie, Bruce or no Bruce.) PLUS, Bruce also had to work with Ben Affleck, Mr. Gigli himself, who although I adore, I understand his idea of stretching as an actor is not sleeping with all the women he meets. It also features Billy Bob Thornton, who is an incredible actor, if you can get around the fact he carried around a vial of blood on a necklace in the name of love. (He’s a little creepy in real life. I’m sorry.)
Now think a moment about this movie. It’s about an asteroid that’s going to hit the earth and decimate all of mankind. That’s the urgency-plot factor every last writing article will tell you to have. Where’s the emergency? But how are our people going to react is actually the more important factor for the long haul.
So we have Bruce, our underdog OIL DRILLER, who’s been asked by the US Government to save the world by drilling a hole in the asteroid (once they LAND on it) and dropping a nuclear warhead into the bottom of it.
Yeah, that’s believable.
So he and his oil drilling buddies are given a crash course in NASA and launched into space. Two ships go up; but one immediately crashes (and is presumably lost). Bruce presses on with his team (since he was in the ship that didn’t crash and burn) and starts drilling. They burn through all their drill bits AND a transmission, but they’re still about 200 feet from their goal. Time is ticking. The President gives the order to start the bomb without putting it in the hole…or even caring if the guys remaining make it off the asteroid before the bomb explodes. More drama, more goofy-unbelievable-weirdo bad things occur, and still you’re on the edge of your seat.
Will the underdog get his chance to save the world? Will he make it back home to his daughter, Liv Tyler, who loves him? Will we all die?
Dark moment #1: 200 feet from goal and we’re all going to die! It’s been announced—and then lo and behold, a miracle happens, Ben the young swashbuckler (or the young Bruce), who was on the lost ship, shows up with another transmission and bit. They drill and voila!—they’ve made goal—with a couple of character growths where Ben is begging Bruce to trust him, even though it is a chance that may cost Ben’s life and a drill bit. Oh, and the end of the world obviously.
Dark moment #2: the nuclear warhead won’t go off unless someone stays behind to detonate it. Nice. Ben draws the short straw—and you could just die for him, since he was dating Bruce's daughter and all and you were hoping they'd work out.
Dark moment #3: Bruce being Bruce, he escorts Ben to the place below, rips the oxygen, and forces himself to be the sacrifice. (By now I’m already crying. After all, if you have to kill somebody, why can’t it be that stupid “genius” jerkoff who was humping the nuke warhead 20 minutes prior in the film?) Bruce does a bittersweet goodbye to his daughter, Liv, and she says one back, her hand touching the screen where his face was—but disappears.
Then Bruce, as he’s done countless times before, saves the world. Ben is reunited with Liv; Billy is given a NASA patch from Bruce—and we all cry into our Kleenex as the credits roll, relieved the world has managed not to be decimated by a piece of rock but very sad that a great man like Bruce had to die to do it.
The power of Story, crew. That has to be what it is—at one point during the flick, they say the asteroid is now spinning on all three axis, and even I went: OH, COME ON!—but I didn’t care because I wanted to know if Bruce won. And I cried like a Daddy’s girl when he said goodbye to his baby…and when he closed his eyes (after pushing the button) and when he saw Liv playing on a swing, growing up, walking down the aisle. *sob*
With characters like that, I’ll believe any plot you give me.
What movies/books have you seen that the plot was way out there but the story (people) was so incredible, it didn’t matter?
So as aspiring romance authors we write fiction. Grant it some people around here like to throw in lots of non-fiction but they shall remain nameless. For the most part we focus on creative writing, telling a story, creating a world. But what about other kinds of writing?
In my lifetime I've written letters, short stories, screenplays, commercial copy, news copy, articles, term papers, blogs and now romance. The way I see it, a writer is a writer. You may be better at one of these areas than another but when it comes down to it, if you're a writer you can write anything.
Let me ask you – who is going to write the cute little biography about yourself on your website? You know once you start selling books (before really) you'll need to have a website. Who is going to write all those blogs that you'll be asked to do when you sell that first book? A blog isn't really fiction after all. It's something else entirely.
Do you ever stop to think about all the different things you write in the course of a day? Blogs, emails, bulletin board/forum posts, ads, letters, special sentiments, recipes, directions. We're always writing something and my theory is a writer is a writer is a writer. What is your theory?
This is a disclaimer from TerriO - I am posting this blog but this is all the Captain's doing. I might have had a tiny bit to do with it but really, it was all her. So kick her ass, not mine. *g*
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SIN!!!!!
Oops, I said her name again! Blast!
So drink up the grog and wish our merry Sin a wonderful and laughter-filled birthday!
Now—everyone join together to sing.
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Yes, this is embarrassing,
But that's what Crews do!
*big kazoo solo*
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
You look like a slutty pirate,
And curse like one too!
Incidentally, this is also National Pie Day. So do it for Sin—help yourself to an extra piece today!