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But that contrarian gene was like a sleeper cell, waiting for the precise moment before it was called into action. Now if I utter, "Of course", or "That sounds great!", or "Whatever you want", it's more likely said in an ironic tone of voice, or with a sardonic lift of my eyebrows.
There were moments in my youth when I should have realized I was a budding contrarian. I remember watching Mighty Mouse cartoons, hoping that flying rodent with the cape and oversized pecs wouldn't make it to the rescue in time. I wanted the villain and the girl to get together. Obviously I knew the villain wasn't truly evil. But I figured out pretty quickly he was way more interesting to me than the hero was.
Now that I'm an adult, my taste in villains has expanded. As I've mentioned recently, I'm watching the BBC TV series, "Robin Hood". And yes, I confess the reason I am watching it is because of Richard Armitage, who plays a villain. But he's not THE villain, who we all know is the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff is smarmy and sleazy and cowardly and evil to his core. Yecch. Boo, hiss. Not the kind of villain I'm advocating here.
The handsome Richard Armitage plays Guy de Gisbourne, the Sheriff's henchman. He really rocks that whole villainous sartorial thing—black leather pants, long black leather coat with shiny metal doodads, black boots with clinking spurs that make my heart dance with anticipation for his arrival—so yeah, I'd be lusting after him just for that aspect.
But the thing that makes him, and other villains of his ilk, so genuinely fascinating? The possibility he MIGHT do something heroic.
One of Guy's most humanizing traits is when he gets disgusted by his boss, the Sheriff. Haven't all of us rolled our eyes at the crazy stuff our bosses ask us to do? Still, he grits his teeth and follows orders anyway, hoping it will help him get ahead in the world, so he can have what he really wants: The Girl.
Even though Maid Marian makes me want to take archery lessons so I can learn how to shoot flaming arrows at her skull with 100% accuracy. . .I do love how Guy keeps trying to win her over. He is dazzled by her (God knows why – oh yeah, because he hasn't seen me yet), and he can't seem to figure out why she isn't dazzled by him (me either – I mean, I love Robin and all, but he's cute and good rather than sexy and bad).
The bottom line is Guy could just take Marian by force, and do all kinds of dastardly deeds to achieve his goals. . .but he doesn't. And that's what intrigues me. It signals there is a seed of something heroic inside him. He struggles to keep in touch with it, and when he ultimately fails, then he wrestles with his failure. If he truly were a villain, he'd be whistling a Disney tune as he wiped the blood off his sword, mentally crossing off another item on his never-ending "Evil To Do" list.
With the hero, it's a pretty safe bet that he will be heroic, because, well, it's in his job description. Since he gets paid to be heroic, there's not a lot of suspense involved, because there are expectations of heroism. Don't get me wrong. I love heroes, and I want them to be that way. And it's no doubt a heavy burden to carry, being heroic 24/7, yet they do it without hesitation, making them even more admirable.
But if the villain does something heroic? Get out the smelling salts because women everywhere are going to swoon.
And if he does something heroic because of the heroine? Plug your ears because the heartfelt "ahhhhs" are going to deafen you.
It takes a lot to sway a villain from his nefarious goals, so it's naturally very sexy when the heroine inspires him to change his mind, and his course of action. Talk about a character arc!
So now I'm not feeling so bad about my contrary attachment to these luscious villains. They are merely heroes in disguise, battling their defiant DNA, trying to keep their laudable qualities from being extinguished. All I ask is that they don't let their latent goodness become a dominant feature. If they do, they're going to lose me as a fan.
I am a dyed-in-the-wool contrarian after all.
So anyone else love to love a villain? Tell us about the villains you're writing, and what makes them so delicious. Or confess which fictional villain makes your heart flutter. And if you're not a fan of villains, that's okay too. Just tell us why you aren't.
June and half of July was my revision class. Learned a ton, totally motivated, ready to polish this baby up. The end of July was the RWA Conference where I pitched said mostly unpolished MS and got even more motivation to finish in the form of a full request. Sending off at the end of September seemed doable. No problem.
And yet, all these best laid plans were totally mucked up. Blown to smithereens. Obliterated. By whom, you ask?
Yeah, I know, I’m an idiot. Late May I decided we should buy a house. June kicked off with house hunting and we must have seen a couple dozen a week. I was still revising, but not nearly as much as I should have been. Hunting turned to offering which turned to a complete cluster and eventually fell into the crapper. Eventually being two months and two days. Not that I was counting.
So now kiddo is back, my dad is here for a visit, and I have a month to get this shit done. Here’s my new plan. The desk is going into my bedroom so I can sequester myself as far from the living room and television as I can get. It’ll be right in front of a wall so I can plaster my storyboard up there. September will be all writing all the time.
What about you? When you have a deadline you simply can’t continue to piss away, what extreme measures do you take? Ever been the ruin of your own best laid plans? Anyone willing to pitch in and revise this book for me? (It was worth a try.)
If I perhaps noticed that something life-threatening happened to the heroine at a crucial moment and then I spent about ten minutes going over in my mind the other books this author had done that to the heroine, it was only for the sake of writing study. The similarities were surface really; and how original can you be when talking about the human experience, the early 19th century; and falling in love? Secondary characters have archetypes too, right?
I carried on and finished the book, sighing as I closed it. And then, in a fit of nostalgia, I went and got my favorite book by this author. The book that is complete Desert Island Keeper. The book I'd recommend to anyone who hadn't read a romance before. The book I wished I'd written. I opened it and began reading, immediately drawn into the story as if I had not read it a dozen times before. And that's when it happened.
There. The Lord of the Underworld and Persephone metaphor. Which was exactly the metaphor she'd used in the book I just finished reading to describe a kiss. I looked at this version carefully. In this one, she was describing the hero's smile instead. Whew, what a relief. Of course, at this point I'm now tempted to read through all her books and see if she's used this particular metaphor in any other books. Not likely all of them, but I bet I could find a few more books she does it in.
I'm pretty sure you can't plagiarize yourself. And it's not that I don't enjoy a Hades/Persephone reference because that story does beguile me, but now I think about my own writing and think about all the ways I'm repeating myself. As we've discussed in other blogs, we have "core" heroines, core themes, core heroes, and a number of other repetitive things that I know I do. But now I'm also repeating my metaphors. And not even just my metaphors. I have a great affection for: "indeed" and "honestly" and "clearly" used as dialogue responses from my characters, an indication that Harry Potter is playing in the background as I write. All my characters use these lines--they're not restricted to one character because I like for all my characters to be sarcastic. I can't bear for one of my characters not to have the perfect thing to say.
Now I grant you that me worrying about repeating myself when I have yet to be published is definitely putting the cart before the horse; however, I am basing this on stuff I've started and stuff I've finished. Clearly (see how much I like the word?) not everything I've written will see the light of bookshelves, but I'm hoping for a least a stack. Are my readers--all ten to fifteen of them--going to read my stuff and go, "If she uses the Harry Potter metaphor one more time, I'm going to scream"? Is this malaise the result of reading too much and not having other hobbies like, oh, writing or taking a walk? Can you actually prevent this sort of repetition because this is the author's voice for better or worse? My favorite author could no more keep from making Hades references than I can keep from making Harry Potter ones. We are who we are.
Have you ever suffered author burnout? Have you ever noticed your favorite author repeating metaphors and/or dialogue as well as similar characters or plots? Do you care? If you do, what do you do about it? What are you reading now? What are you looking forward to coming out?
Wow! What a summer! I know we gots a few weeks a’ official summer left, but let’s start the party now and make it last until September 21st. We’re pirates, we can do it!
And the bar is fully stocked and ready to go… Let's see, we got the pretty sunset one, let's call that a Pirate Sunset. Then we gots the white creamy looking one and I'm not gonna get near naming that, ya filthy minded wenches! The purty orange one I'm calling the Kraken's Froth. The white and red one...? Let's not go there either. Well, OK... Blood and Cream! The last looks like something wit' chocolate in it... I'm going fer Yummy.
Now, it’s just a matter of picking yer sweat inducin’ activity… I gots Frisbee…
We got Slick here willin’ ta teach anyone interested in surfing… He's a bit blurry looking, think he's been in the water a bit long. But that jus' means he's a good surfer... Or not. He might fall off his board too much... Well! Fun in the water then!
Or the lads are always happy ‘bout stringing up a net and breaking out the volleyball…
If you’d rather play wit’ what’s familiar…sailing!
Fer Q, I brought along a snorkling instructor…look at her go!
Now me? I got Sam here and we’re gonna kick back in the shade and polish off some mojitos!
Sam? I need one a' those mojitos now, this were hard ta do! Time ta turn the hottie postin' over ta someone new! Yer turn, Hal!
No guest this week, but I'm sure we'll all come up with brilliant things ta discuss on 'r own!
Honestly, how did I end up with dressing up to attend the Northern California Pirate Festival on Saturday, then put on my lime green and turquoise to support my NASCAR driver, Carl Edwards, at the race in Infineon Raceway? On the same weekend? The path I walked to get here is really convoluted!
When younger, you have a myriad of possibilities ahead of you. The world is your buffet and you have the power to choose and choose and choose. Of course, my experience with youth is that they waste these choices. Or more importantly, they waste the opportunity to change their mind. To admit they made a mistake, learn from it and take a step backwards. They are so focused on the future and forward momentum, that they refuse to retreat, regroup, re-choose.
The older you get, if you’re lucky, you are more forgiving of your bad choices…or…let’s call them poor choices or simply not the best choices…and you don’t let them limit what you do next. Be it retreat and redo or simply move forward ignoring what you did before.
For example, in school you pick a major that you believe you’ll love and, most importantly, you’ll earn a damned good living at. You are three years into the four year degree. And, man…this sucks. But you picked it! You can’t retreat! That would be like giving up. And you have these student loans to pay and you need the money and…and…and… So, you finish the degree, you get a job, you work it.
And you’re basically miserable. Now, your parents told you that if you really wanted to change degrees, they’d help out, they’d support you. Your friends at the time told you to dump the accounting classes and follow your heart into the theater, dentistry, whatever. But, you felt honor bound, if I can call it that, to finish what you started.
Youth can see things so black and white. Characters in fiction often operate in this fashion also. We, the writers, need them to do this so we can teach them why they are wrong and offer up a solution that involves falling in love, having a child, taking a new job, or, when I write, saving the world.
It’s always the extreme choices that make the best fiction, IMHO. But!
Extreme choices don’t always make the best real life.
I made a lot of interesting choices. I seldom let one wrong choice lead me for long. I’d make a rotten character in a story! Or I’d be the flakey woman who the heroine would badger for being flakey.
Anyway! I was believer in real black or white. As most young people are. And I flitted, but I flitted thinking this was the one thing I’d be called to do! Yes! And this would be the one friend, the one who I’d bond with for life.
Eh, never worked that way. As I get older, I realize this was all about choices I made and choices I unmade. And it was good. (Okay, I made one choice that I stuck with, I am the woman who celebrated 30 years married in May.)
At the urging of the Bo’sun, I went to the movies and saw “Letters From Juliet” a while ago and I was quite charmed. (For one thing Franko Nero is hot. And my new poster man for every silverton hero I write from now on.)
But I love how the idea of making a choice is revisited in this movie! Firstly, you have young lead, who gradually realizes she can actually change her mind. The young male lead, who does and has his heart broken. (For a little while. It is a HEA movie, after all.)
But to me, the real story was the senior heroine. At 15, she chose to follow her parent’s lead and not her heart. And she didn’t go to Leonardo. She went home to England, met a man, married, had children, who had children. She didn’t really regret, but she wondered. And when reminded that choices can be revisited, she did it.
She’s so brave as they search for her Leonardo…and they see a lot of nice, senior, hot men.
*fans self again
But when finally facing the reality of her Leonardo, she tries to back away. It’s too scary, it’s too real. Luckily, he arrives and the reality of him sweeps her doubts away. For me, the movie could have ended there, but they had to finish up with the main lead story, the kids.
Ho hum. Both Bo’sun and I felt this was handled a bit awkwardly, but it concluded nicely and everyone was happy, walking among the vineyards of Italy.
Vanessa Redgrave was wonderful. And she and Franko Nero are husband and wife! They met decades ago while filming Camelot. Hard to beat that for real romance! And a choice that lasted.
Topic of the day: Choices. The good, the bad, the ugly. And the redos, the new choices…writing, living, watching. Your experiences? The experiences of your characters?
Writing is a tool for thinking. It's a medium, a process for identifying or organizing our thoughts, reconsidering an issue from a new direction, or solving a problem.
And if writing is thinking, then we can look at the entire act of drafting and revising as one of exploration and discovery. (Which personally, sounds much more exciting than revising).
While this is probably common sense, I found it fascinating to see it articulated. And I wonder what it means for my process of writing.
I certainly find it true that while writing, the very act of writing gives me new ideas and new thoughts I would have never had otherwise. The very act of writing propels the new ideas which will be scribbled down next.
I just started a huge round of revisions on a manuscript I finished six months ago. And you know what else I noticed? The more I work on the revision, the more I try to clarify and consolidate, the more I learn about my characters. As I keep revising, I find tweaks in the plot that make it all come together at a new depth. I find ways to increase characterization. I'm not just editing, but thinking it through from new angles as I revise, and strengthening the story in the process.
And how about plotting? If we get ideas from the writing process itself, is it possible to plot out a whole book ahead of time? If we learn characterization from writing the characters, can we ever really know them at the beginning of a book?
So what do you think? Does the very act of writing create new ideas to write? Or do you wait for ideas and then write them down? Do you plot, or do you wait for ideas to come from the writing itself? Do you agree that writing is a medium for thinking?
I just saw them live. I love the energy in a crowd during a concert. I may not be a people liking type of person; but there is nothing like a pit full of women under the scorching sun screaming, “I get off on you, getting off on me. Give you what you want, but nothing is for free.”
I’ve debated how to learn more about the relationship between my hero and heroine. I’m not writing a heavy romance novel where there is lots of hot sex between them to build momentum to a HFN/HEA. My heroine really can’t stand the sight of the hero. They have a past with some complications. The hero really isn’t doing himself any favors by coming back into my heroine’s life. He’s just serving a reminder that she’s still hopelessly in love with him after he broke her very young and naïve heart. She’s very determined that will never happen again, especially with him.
Let’s be honest. As the writer, the characters are under (loosely) my control for the time being. I’ve furiously scribbled in my notebook for a few weeks now notes on how to make this story work and potentially make a series work between them and resolve even their relationship by the end. I understand the attraction between them. If you’ve ever wanted something you knew you’d never have again, it only serves to fuel the flames. The hero knows what he’s done (he’s justified it in his mind) but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want what’s “his”. (Men are so arrogant. Well, 99.98%- just to cover my ass.) My heroine is so torn when they are together. She wants to prove that she’s indifferent to him now. Now that she’s older, less naïve and more worldly. But she still remembers everything about him and it embarrasses her to think she can’t get past that part of her life.
So I was in a curious predicament of my own making. I don’t plot. But I needed a way to figure out how to make the H/H have a semblance of a stable working relationship while I finish the first book and launch into a series.
So last Thursday while cleaning the house I’m dancing around in the kitchen with the vacuum and these lyrics inspired a thought in my head.
“You don’t know that I know you watch me every night.
And I just can’t resist the urge to stand here in the light.
Your greedy eyes upon me, and then I come undone.
I could close the curtain… But this is too much fun.” (Halestorm, 2009)
Sounds like a good erotica fiction in the making, doesn’t it? I thought to myself, maybe I should just write a little snippet scene between my H/H that definitely won’t make it into the final draft but will help me grasp the tension between the two better.
No, I haven’t yet, but I’ve seen it. It’s good. That should make for utmost extra embarrassment come morning time. I do enjoy mortifying characters. God knows I blush way too much in my own life to not make everyone in my fictional world do the same. If I’ve learned anything from a life of people watching is that interaction with one another is an art form that each of us takes different brushes to paint with. No two interactions are ever the same, even if you interact with the same person over and over again. The interaction is always evolving and that’s how I look at writing my H/H relationship. They have to evolve to move the story. I have to evolve as the writer to keep up.
What inspires your scenes between your characters other than the natural flow of the story? Do you get passing thoughts? See scenes play out in front of you as if you’re watching a movie? Hear a song on the radio and think “AHA!”? Eavesdrop on a conversation as you’re passing by and get inspired to take it in a different direction?
Not long ago, we took tests to see what kind of “girl” we all were, and if I remember correctly, the results for our heroines usually matched the results for ourselves. At least I know that was the result in my case. I don’t consider this a problem, but it does make me wonder. Am I writing me over and over again?
My heroines show up in my mind. They appear out of nowhere, usually bringing their hero along for the official introductions, then set up camp in my brain as if waiting for the blow out sale at Kleinfeld’s. Because of this, I rarely think of them as my creations, but rather characters already fully formed who just happen to live in my brain. Who I’ve only just met.
If this were the case, you’d think they would all be different, and in some ways they are. But in many ways they are not. Other than all being brunette and slender, my heroines are not the trusting sort, they often don’t think very highly of themselves, and to say they are skeptical of men is an understatement.
But, while Emma is a control freak, Melissa is a push over looking for her spine. Bridgit is a hard ass hiding her mushy, vulnerable center behind a wall of attitude and rebellion, and Anna is enjoying finding her hidden sex kitten. They are different yet similar. And still, at the risk of revealing too much, they are all versions of me.
Just as we all have a core story, do you have a core heroine? How do your heroines come to be? Do they just show up or do you build them like haute couture on a dress form? Is there an author you’ve read where it seemed her heroines could blend together? (No names necessary…karma and all that.) And do you ever worry that your characters are not different enough to stand apart?
But that's a discussion for a different blog. Today is about parodies and psyching yourself up for being halfway there, damnit. It's Monday--bring on the Bon Jovi!
Once upon a time
Not so long ago—
My hero used to be in love with his bride
But she’s gone on strike
He’s down on his luck, no bright side.
Evie wants a little respect, she’s strong,
The original showdown, can’t he admit he’s wrong?
He won’t even try.
But I’ve got to make them hold on to what they’ve got
‘Cause it doesn’t make a difference
If they like it or not
They’ve got each other and that’s a lot,
For love—I’ll make them give it a shot
Ohh, I’m halfway there!
Whoa, writin’ on a prayer
Give me another chocolate; I’ll make it, I swear!
Whoa, writin’ on a prayer
What sorts of things do you do to keep in the Zone? Chocolate? Rock music? Lashing yourself to your desk chair so you don't wander off from your keyboard? What fakeouts do you tell yourself to keep going? It's Monday--what are you telling yourself now just to make it through the rest of the week?
I mean, we need a planner, someone who isn’t just about the muscles…
Then we need the muscles…
And more muscles…who knows the importance of hydration.
All that heavy lifting, ya know?
And for Q, someone to make sure we build an adequate liquor cabinet for the good scotch!
Now, who needs what built and where? I'd like to see a swing to hang from the yardarm...a swing for two...
I must admit, I am not an expert. Of anything. But I find I’m quite impressed by those who are experts, of just about anything. I guess I’ve never developed the obsession with any topic to consider myself an expert in it.
Yes, I have read Lord of the Rings more times than I can count, but I am not an expert.
I have seen a lot of movies, but I am not a movie trivia person. Or can speak of movies with anything more than everyday words. No education in the nuances of the theater. Same with soundtracks. Same with television shows. No matter the genre. I like ‘em, I watch ‘em, listen to them… But it’s not the same.
I’ve got a degree in language and literature.
Still not an expert of either. Granted, it’s an Associates of Arts Degree, but it counts as somewhat higher education.
I found when I used to attend science fiction/fantasy conventions on a regular basis, that what I knew of the genres, no matter how big a fan I was, did not make me an expert. There is always someone at a convention that will be able to quote dialogue, character trivia or something that will make it plain to any small bit of personal ego that I know nothing. Absolutely, fricking nothing. (Geeks can be extremely hung up on the idea of expertise, ya gotta love that about them.)
I attend Renaissance Fairs…not a historical expert on anything. (I probably drive the experts crazy at the fairs. I wear earrings, the color purple, mix eras...but what the heck! It's for fun!)
I attend Pirate Festivals… I am an expert on my own pirate world. But the reality of historical pirates? HA! Took an online course on the subject once and again, was humbled to realize I knew less than more. (So glad the festivals don't care about authenticity. They're pirates!)
All in all, as I age, I embrace the entire concept that the more I learn, the more there is to learn.
And I accept the simple truth that I enjoy learning, but am totally uninterested in dedicating myself to reaching expert status on … well… anything.
But I really admire those who are struck with this sort of dedication in regards to whatever it is they are interested in. Those who dive into those intricate degrees, or simply those fascinations that spark them to memorize, to understand, to make it part of their mental treasures.
I’m more of a flutterer. I flutter here, I flit there. I’m the sort who read the table of contents, the appendices…but seldom read the book in depth. I have a dozen books or more on pirates. I really like to look at the pictures and read snippets…
But I like experts! I find them fascinating. Generally, when I admit to an interest, they encourage questions and I learn. (Sure, some are jerks. But there are jerks everywhere.)
I know a bit about a great many things. I know wild flowers. I know mountain ranges. I know old school adventure books. I know fabrics (thanks to a Mom who sews.) Thanks to years at a metaphysical bookstore I know a fair amount about the new age and some of the old age religions.
Nope, not an expert on anything. I’d like to be an expert on any number of things. Irish history, geology, astronomy, astrology, archeology, dog training, baking, cooking, architecture, yoga, snorkeling, blades…
I love it when a book teaches me something. And I wonder whether these authors are experts or just good researchers. For example, Annette Blair has a series featuring vintage clothing and she sprinkles a wonderful amount of information about this topic in the books. Nora Roberts had a series featuring a glass blower that astounded me with the depth of detail she wrote. Made me want to learn glass blowing!
Eloisa’s series taught me a lot about chess in history. So many books with cooking heroines have honed my interest in cooking. Nevada Barr stuffs her books with information about national parks, some I’ve been to, some I haven’t. They are fascinating!
And it’s a nice passive sort of learning. I like that!
I remember watching Fiona of “Burn Notice” trying to entertain a child. Something she was woefully ill equipped to do. So what did she do? She played GI Joe with him, discussing the weaponry with him. Teaching him about what she is an expert in.
My most recent book? I did some research into the details of how a book is put together. The paper folding, hand stitching, etc. I have no idea if I put enough information into the story to entice a reader about the craft. But I enjoyed reading up on it, as it is something I have always wanted to do. One of these days, I’ll take a class.
What about you? Are you expert on anything in particular? When you write, do you use that expertise to add depth and detail to your stories? Your characters? What would you like to be an expert of, given any choice? Have you ever read anything that inspired you to take a class? Look for a teacher? Explore on your own? And for the sake of starting a fight, is being an expert necessary to a writer’s credentials?
A couple of weeks ago, Renee Lynn Scott offered up Renee Ryan’s layering method in conversation. (You rock, thank you Renee.) I don’t think I’ve come across a more beneficial two pages of craft instruction in a long time. Maybe ever. This was exactly what I needed and, since reading it, I’ve been pondering how this is going to make my manuscript better.
In my pondering, I’ve realized my characters interact in a place like where Harry Potter goes when he dies in Deathly Hallows. He ends up in a great white space, wearing no clothes. He’s not uncomfortable, not cold or hot. He’s just himself in… nowhere. After he starts noticing this, a bench appears, then another chair, etc. Towards the end of the scene, as he’s leaving this blank space, he realizes it’s King’s Cross Station. That’s the sort of setting I give my characters, poor dears. A great basic, blank space. Props are included only if I’m forced to add them.
I also realize they don’t move. Not unless it’s necessary. So it’s as if they’re nearly paralyzed in Harry’s King’s Cross Station.
Good thing no one’s bought the movie rights to my story. That’d be a really dull motion picture.
In some ways, this realization has been liberating. I can see that the lack of movement and setting is probably taking away from my story’s overall appeal. Now I’ve pinpointed this problem and I can come back and fix it when I’m done with the first draft.
On the down side, I have to figure out how to “do” movement and setting better. Sigh.
I just picked up Elizabeth Hoyt’s Wicked Intentions. Already, I’m amazed at how good she is at this. Great movement, great setting, done in a way that enhances her great Deep POV. She’s my idol. I now have to figure out how to do what she does. (*eye roll* right, like that’s easy.)
So, any suggestions on how to enhance movement and setting? Something from Renee Ryan's layering handout you feel you do well or could improve? Why, how? Thoughts about layering in general?
**** This blog dedicated to Hellion. XOXO. Oh, wait, no smooches or hugs. Just blown kisses from afar. Like five states.
%$#@!^*&ion as a Writing #$@!
Anyway, I was working along and then another idea just shoved its way to the front of my brain. Don't worry. I've given up hope that my ideas will have manners one day, since they're such heathens. But I understood why it had decided to show up now, because last night I had been perusing The Fire in Fiction, by Donald Maass. He is a superstar when it comes to making the writing craft not only easily understood, but easy to put into practice.
Here's what snagged my attention:
"What about your first and last lines? Suppose you did a first line/last line draft, doing nothing but honing the bookends of every scene in your manuscript. Would those little changes give your story a bigger and more effective shape?"
In my manuscripts, I've worked to make sure the first line grabs the reader's attention and leads them to the next line, and then the next, kind of like handing off the baton in a relay race. Each sentence is supposed to do its part to keep the momentum going, linking to the one behind it, and the one ahead of it.
I've also tried to punch up the last line, with the goal to make it irresistible, so the reader won't set the book down at the end of a scene or chapter. If they do, I hope it's because they kept reading until Mr. Sandman cold-cocked them. When their snoring finally wakes them up, they had better grab that book and immediately turn the page.
Mr. Maass describes the first/last sentences as bookends, which makes sense, because you want the stuff in between those two sentences to be logically connected, from beginning to end. If they're NOT, then perhaps the last line needs to show up SOONER, or the first line needs to show up LATER.
However, being the contrarian I am, I want to focus on how the last line leads into the first line. That is an important link, because the last line is setting up the expectation, so the first line had better deliver.
Okay, I'll be brave and throw out a couple last/first lines for public consumption. I'm not saying I've necessarily ACHIEVED the goal of setup and delivery, but I'm trying to keep it in mind as I write and revise.
This is from I Do. . .or Die, my romantic comedy:
Last: I opened the bathroom door, weak-kneed with relief at how I'd just dodged a figurative bullet--to see the barrel of a gun inches from my nose.
First: My hands flew up into the air, like I'd just walked into a stickup.
And here's a last/first combo from a manuscript I'm revising, called Bad Sex Karma. The poor heroine has been dumped by her boyfriend, at a restaurant, on their anniversary, and after falling apart in the bathroom, she decides to come back out to exact some revenge.
(Mmm. Both of these snippets are in bathrooms. What a curious coincidence.)
Last: I jumped up and grabbed the door handle with such determination, I nearly yanked the door off its hinges.
First: I savagely bit off a piece of bread, wishing my teeth were tearing into Bobo's black heart instead.
So do we have some others willing to demonstrate their last/first lines? Or how about some last/first lines that you like in a book you're enjoying now? If not, I've socked away some potential topics for tangents we can follow instead!
Basically, to the world at large, I’m loud and proud about what I read and what I write. But for some reason, at the RWA National Conference, surrounded by other writers just like me, I found myself anything but loud and proud.
I lost track of how many times I was asked the ever popular “What do you write?” question at Nationals, but I know my answer over and over again was “Just Contemporary.” What the heck is up with that? I love Contemporaries and have for years. I like what I write, and have no desire to write anything else. To the world in general, I’m fine with being a Contemporary Romance author.
But not to the Romance writing world.
My best guess for why I do this is that high concept thing we hear about all the time. I have no time travel, no vampires, no fairies, no angels, no Dukes, no wallflowers, no SEALs, no FBI agents, no CEOs or Sheiks or Greek Tycoons. There’s no murder, no mayhem, no mythology mixed with modern times.
What I do have is in depth stories about falling in love, dealing with family, overcoming hurt and healing broken hearts. So why isn’t that enough? Why does that end up with “just” in its description? It doesn’t deserve the “just” and I’m going to do my best to take it out.
When asked “What do you write?”, what is your usual answer? Does it differ depending on who’s asking? Do you prefer not to elaborate? Does your answer ever result in curiosity and a lengthy conversation about what it’s like to write sex? (I’ve now answered this twice in as many months – to total strangers.) Has your answer changed over the years and are you sometimes surprised by the reactions you get?
One of the segments of the piece is her re-visiting the apartment she lived in before she was published, a cheap little flat that is nothing compared to the lovely houses she lives in now. She had a surreal moment of walking around the flat (where someone else was now living) and these renters had her set of Harry Potter on their shelves. She got teary eyed—not about the books—but about how recent it felt for her to have been there, the thought she could still be living there if she hadn’t gotten published.
Obviously a “rags-to-riches” success like Rowling does not happen to every author. Jennifer Crusie had a blog the other day where she mentioned a statistic that about 90% of authors only publish one book. (How interesting God falls into that category, eh?) And Rowling managed to write 7 bestsellers. There are authors who’ve managed to publish 7 books but never rise above the midlist. Still…we all have dreams. Rowling’s dreams were to make a living at being a writer and to be published, which she managed. She no longer has to worry about making enough money for her and her daughter to meet their needs, no longer has to worry about welfare. In 10 years, J.K. Rowling had gone from living on welfare and doing a lot of her writing in a coffeehouse to possibly the most successful children’s author in the 20th century. (Peter Cottontail might give Harry a run for his money, I’m not sure.)
Articles make her out to be an overnight success, but she started thinking about Harry Potter—got the germ of the idea on a train ride from London—in 1990; and she finished the final book in the series in 2007. 17 years. And of those, the first 7 years she was unpublished. Granted a lot of her writing involved planning out the other 6 books while she was working on the first one. That’s probably a lot of why it took so long to get the first one written, but there was also the fact she was writing with the little bits of time she had available between working, raising a child, and staving off depression. (Who wouldn’t be depressed in those circumstances?) But she did it, no matter how long it took. And she wrote this story, even though stories about boy wizards were not being bought. She wrote the book she was meant to write and she wrote it to the best of her ability. That is why she is my hero, even though success stories like hers are so rare.
Yet 10 years later, she breaks into tears in her old flat because even now, the success doesn’t seem real. She said she keeps the apartment in mind because if everything went away—the money, the success, everything—she could return back to this apartment. It was, she called it, a baseline. Pretty sure that never in a thousand years she imagined the success she has achieved with the Harry Potter books.
I rather like my apartment—it’s my baseline, I think. And never in a million years—a billion even—could I imagine the sort of success Rowling has had. My books will never have a midnight release; my books won’t be turned into movies. My dreams of success are in the Rowling realm of: “being a writer” and “being published”; and I would like to beat the odds of only publishing one book.
In 10 years, what would you have liked to achieve with your writing? What sort of success is beyond your wildest imagination of happening to you?
So without further delay, I'd like to announce the winner is:
If you could email me at AllAboutTheWriting @ hotmail.com, I'll be happy to mail you your book!
Being the pirate I am, I infiltrated the innards of the Food Network and absconded with a few of their prize chefs. Well, I borrowed them, to be politically correct. I figured we need to throw an end of summer feast in a few weeks and thought I’d get the menu lined up…
Aaron Sanchez, cooking sizzling latin cuisine, sure to set the lips on fire! (I do like his fuzz…and dig those tats!)
Michael Symon, straight from the bowels of the Iron Chef bunker and eager to get some sun on his face!
Guy Fieri, promises to bring all the decadently high calorie foods from his hit show, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives to the deck!
Giada DeLaurentis, because Q deserves something nice to look at…
Anyone else watch Food Network and have a favorite chef to, ah…borrow for the party?
Yes, Hellie, I think I’m revisiting something you dabbled at some months back. I honestly don’t remember, but I’m gonna blame that on my age and all the rum. And my natural reluctance to address issues when first directed toward them.
I’m like that. Contrary. Dodgy.
I find if asked directly to consider something, I am blind to it. As if one of those eye diseases where I can’t focus on what is directly in front of me. I can slide around the periphery with ease… You know, it’s like trying to look directly at a dim star, you can see it better with peripheral vision than focusing on it. There’s a name for this, I learned it in astronomy class. And, of course, I don’t remember what it is!
From a purely psychological point of view, I think it’s my coping mechanism for gaining time and distance so I can consider the question. I am a reflector, not a reactor. I want to reflect and consider before responding. Even if I’m not aware I’m doing it, I do it. At least I’m figuring out that is what I’m doing! So give me some points here!
And this was one of those things I did when leaving the Award’s Luncheon at the Nationals. I figured I’d play with what she’d talked about…see what I could come up with after some consideration. I’d listened to Jayne Ann Krentz talk about the things an author needs to know. And thought it interesting, her taking the core of her stories from genre to genre. I was toying with the whole idea in the back of my brain, flitting about with what my core story would be…
Boy meets girl? Nope.
Well, no more than this is in most every book…
I generally suck at coming up with these things. I guess there is the damsel in distress…man, help me out here!
I left the luncheon feeling a bit bemused. (The desert was nice, but not the absolute ideal they served the next night, btw.) I found the Bo’sun and commented that the idea of a core to my writing was appealing, but I had no ideas what it was.
She, being brilliant, cast a look at me that just spoke volumes regarding my blindness. And as I mentioned some weeks ago, delivered to me my core. Everyone deserves a 2nd Chance.
I think I snickered. I also bowed to her sharp intellect that saw what was so obvious…to her. I’ve been floundering with putting together a nice hook for my website and business cards, something that spoke to what I wrote. What my books promise to a reader. And *bam*, the Bo’sun slaps me across the face with it.
Everyone should have someone like the Bo’sun in their life.
Perhaps it is easier to see this in someone else’s work than in one’s own. Yesterday, Hal started a conversation on the cliché/myth of most fiction. I think what I’m looking for touches on that idea, but I’m not certain.
(Couldn't help but insert this movie poster. So appropriate and a movie I really enjoyed...)
Krentz talked about her first book, being more in the science fiction/paranormal romance realm. Something that wasn’t really making the rounds yet. After numerous rejections, she rewrote it as a historical. And it sold. Same basic story, just minus the other world, funky critters, etc. And she really analyzed her work before figuring out how to take her core and write it in several genres. And sometimes things didn’t transition well, so she took on another pen name and began again.
I could certainly take ‘everyone deserves a 2nd chance’ and write that story in every genre out there. (Not that I care to do so. But it’s an interesting possibility!) I think I’d be drawn toward contemporary more than any other genre if I did leave behind my alternate pirate adventure erotic romance stuff.
I do like the visual of this idea…starting from the core of a world and building the layers outward…
So, what are the standard core ideas you read? What are some that you write? Or hear about? If you know yours, what other genres could you see taking your core story into?
What is a surprise is this is a book in which the author took a oft-used plot device--one that I usually abhor--and turned into a book I not only loved, but devoured for the upteenth time.
It's the character-as-writer thing. Anybody else bothered by this, or is it just me? You know the book about the quiet, shy, romance writer who has a boring sex life and so then decides to have a one-night stand with the hottie neighbor to expand her repertoire? Or the book about the publishing executive or agent who has a high powered career despite the baby she gave up for adoption way back when.
For some reason, the peek into the publishing world inside my fiction drives me batty. Perhaps because my real life is filled with the publishing biz, I don't want it invading my fiction. But I think it's more than that. It's hard for me to get invested in a character who is a writer, because it reminds me that I'm reading the results of...well...a writer. I can't forget I'm reading a book. I can't dive into the story, into the setting, into a new world.
Or maybe characters who are also writers feel so close to Mary-Sue characters that I just get too twitchy to keep reading.
But in this particular book, the heroine is a high-powered editor. Her husband and father are editors, running a NY Publishing house. The hero is a writer. Not only is the hero a writer, but whole sections of his current work-in-progress are within the book. It's novel-within-a-novel structure.
Any one of these things would normally make me shudder. Maybe I could be talked into reading it once and grudgingly admitting to enjoying it. But to read, and read, and re-read, and dwell on, and think about....to be utterly engrossed by a plot device I hate, is rare.
The structure and the concept are cliche, not doubt about it. A novel being written by the struggling-writer-character actually inserted into the narrative. Yikes. But the emotion, the depth, the characters, the heart...all of it make this a book I can't forget instead of just a cliche.
In a recent RWR article, Christina Dodd mentioned suggested we not think of them as cliches, but as myths. All cultures have them, stories that speak to the human emotional experience, stories which have remained virtually the same for millennia. Embrace the cliche, she says, after all, they're stories we've loved forever. Just give it heart.
So what do you think? What cliche, or myth, do you hate most? Ever been blown away by how it was handled? Do you agree that cliches are simply passed-down myths, a starting point, rather than something to avoid? What cliches do you absolutely love to read over and over?
So if you’re looking for some wit or insight, you will have to wait until tomorrow.
Jules is my e-mail faerie. And not just any e-mail faerie, she is the mother of all e-mail faeries. This woman dominates my inbox. (Stop smirking.) But it’s never of the written variety of e-mail. She’s high tech. She whips out her handy dandy headset and voice recorder to send me evil messages from e-mail faerie land. I download these little jaunts into Jules' world onto my phone and spend half my time snorting and the other laughing. She’s a fountain of ideas for blogs (though she refuses to GUEST with me) and a few weeks ago, Jules came up with a new nickname for me through an idea she had for a blog.
Jules is one of those sleepers. She gets all these sweet little results but has the draw of an inner sex kitten. Have you heard her laugh? I swear. She’s got the market on the evil laugh. It’s spectacular. I want once ounce of that evil ability. Right now, I’ve just got the market on ice picking and the Undead Monkey.
Today we are going to find out our sexy level. Then we’re going to hijack our heroine’s and find their sexy level. In a little quiz I’m going to call: Bringing Sexy Back
There is a difference between vamp and sexy. Vamp is all about the “oomphf” factor. Vamp isn’t subtle at all; it’s all about the show. Vamp is in your face, I want you to think I’m sexy and I’m going to get what I want out of you. The difference is sexy is about the little things that brings characters together for the uniqueness that makes a relationship different. Yeah, the vamp is going to dominate your thoughts for the first hour or so, but you're going to be thinking about the sexy long into the night.
Our heroine’s possess a certain amount of “sexy” to draw the hero into the heroine’s world. We get to pick the traits our hero finds sexy about our heroine. We can make her clumsiness and awkwardness be endearing to him. Bring out the protector and watch him be secretly amused at her inability to walk, talk and chew gum at the same time. We can make our heroine the sex kitten who everyone notices as soon as they walk in the door. She’s standing in the middle of the room, blood red dress draped over her flawless curves. The heroine knows she’s capable of anything she puts her mind to and he finds that extremely sexy.
So today, I want to talk about the traits we put into our characters to make them attract. What traits and characteristics do you find sexy in characters? And I want you to take the quiz and post your results into the comments. And if you have better quizzes (or find it extremely hilarious to see a bunch of writers take quizzes) post the links to the quiz in the comments for us all to try.
Here’s my problem – I’m a planner. Hellie would use the term “control freak”, but that’s such a negative way to put it. So we’ll stick with planner. I don’t have to plan everything. I don’t make lists, I don’t keep a calendar in my purse I must consult every time something comes up. I can drop everything for a last minute road trip. Sometimes.
But when it comes to the big stuff, like, say, where we’re going to live? I need to know that. I need to plan ahead for that and right now planning is officially impossible. Every week there’s a new development with the house buying thing. I knew this would be bumpy, goodness knows enough people warned me about the pitfalls and sleepless nights ahead of me. Still, this seriously sucks donkey balls.
Last week we were trolling along just fine. Then Friday, the shit hit the poop deck and it was all up in the air again. By ten Monday morning, we were back to smooth sailing. By eight Monday night, the wind died completely and we are officially dead in the water.
What does any of this have to do with writing? A LOT. I have two stories to revise and submit. I have requests I need to fulfill. I have stories bouncing around in my head and characters chomping at the bit to get their lives on the page. But my brain is too distracted. We could be moving, we might not. We could be buying, we could not. We might be staying put, we might not.
How am I supposed to maintain the juggling act that is my life if people keep throwing battle axes and flaming Twinkies into the fray?!
*taps toe, waiting*
Well? I’m asking you pirates for an answer. You didn’t think I was going to answer my own question, did you? Come on, you know better than that. Seriously, we all have distractions. Successful, even prolific writers have distractions. This is not the Nora thing where it’s embrace the hard, eat the hard for breakfast, and just put your ass in the chair.
This is NO MORE HOURS IN THE DAY kind of stuff. So, who has the damn time machine and who do I have to pay (or stab) to use it?
The rituals performed in order to write are no less important. If anything, they’re more important. One of my favorite scenes from Shakespeare in Love is when Shakespeare sits down to write the daily pages of his new play, he does some complicated little bit of re-arranging of his desk, turns around a few times, pulls up his stool, withdraws his quill from a tomato (since back then you didn’t eat the poisonous things), and then sits down to write. He writes like the wind.
My ritual is no less complicated. I have to have just the right movie playing in the background, either a Harry Potter or Twilight series movie. I have 300+ DVDs at my disposal, more if I bother my friends, but if I put on anything else, I find myself too distracted to write. (The Scarlet Letter is particularly distracting. I don’t care how badly panned it was in 1995; it’s hot. Gary Oldman is hawwwwt.) This is only if I’m in the living room. If I’m at the library, I have to have on my Twilight song set (stored on the computer); and if I’m in bed writing, this works too. In the living room, I’m sprawled on my couch, my pirate lapdesk in my lap, and I'm comfortably clothed in sleepwear. In bed, I’m sprawled much the same way. At the library, I have to wear different clothes, but my position in a chair is interesting. My butt is balanced on the edge, and my feet are at 90 degree angles, pressed into the guard rail in front of me, as if I’m getting my yearly woman’s wellness exam. As if writing my pages was as difficult as giving birth—and maybe it is.
Some rituals involve moving items on one’s desk over and over until you’re satisfied with how they look and you can proceed. Some rituals require dead silence, an empty house, or at least a room of one’s own (and a lock on the door.) If I write by longhand, I must do so with a blue ink pen. I hate writing in black. You know the saying: Write in black, they’ll think you’re a hack; write in blue, your stories are always true.
If it has been a while since you’ve written, the rituals get more and more twitchy. Any writing you do gets more and more twitchy. You stop talking about writing because you don’t want to have to answer: I haven’t written anything since the Founding Fathers won the war, and I’m afraid I’m never going to write again. Hell, even J.K. Rowling was twitchy. She wouldn’t talk about her stories at all while she was writing them. She didn’t want to jinx them by talking too much.
One can see the wisdom of this, I guess. If you’re too busy talking, you’re not writing. And also if you’re talking-talking-talking, you run the risks of 1) someone writing your story while you’re still talking about it; 2) diluting your story with too many helpful suggestions from those you’re talking to; and 3) killing the desire to actually finish writing it because you’ve solved the mystery of your story by talking.
It doesn’t really matter what ritual you do. What matters is getting the words on the page—and if rearranging post-its on your desk helps, great. If you need to kill a chicken, I’m not judging. Whatever tames the anxiety and sets the fear at bay.
So this week you don’t have to talk about how many pages you’ve written or not written. I respect your superstitious asses not to ask—but I will ask if you have any rituals you have to perform before you can start writing. Or do you know any famous author’s rituals that are particularly fascinating?
P.S. Book I’m reading right now that’s awesome: Syrie James’ Dracula, My Love, which is based off the secret journals of Mina Harker. It’s like Twilight for adults who loved the movie Dracula. I loved the movie Dracula—it was a Gary Oldman weekend for me, between Dracula and The Scarlet Letter.
It all began with Edward…in 1990.
Progressed to another Ed. Wood this time…in 1994
On to another transformation, the deliciously intrepid Ichabod Crane…in 1999.
He gave Johnny new teeth with Willy Wonka…in 2005.
And made a cartoon out of him in the Corpse Bride…also in 2005.
Ah, the deliciously devious Sweeny Todd…leaving me to recite, when in doubt, What Would Sweeny Do? In 2007.
The child man of the Mad Hatter in 2010…
And coming up?
The new Barnabas?
What would you like to see Johnny try next? What literary character? You have a favorite Johnny role?
And sorry Q, nothing special for you today! No guest coming up this week, just we intrepid pirate writers and our brilliance! Stay tuned!
- “Having an evil twin ain’t all bad. I have someone to blame everything on!” Dead Reckoning blew the flaming Twinkie out. The rum soaked treat cast an eerie flicker against the railing before going out with a puff of smoke. She took a messy bite, trying to catch the cream as it dribbled down her shirt.
Chance shivered, trying to block the conversation out as she hunched over the bowl of mini chocolate chips, painstakingly stuffing them one by one into the creamy white filling of a huge stack of waiting snack cakes.
- Bo’sun reached over and stabbed at the melted remains on Reckoning’s plate, getting a bite for herself. “It was all Scapegoat’s fault, anyway. Handy having her share the room. I like having someone to blame everything on!”
- “Hey! I brought the rum!” Scape’s brow wrinkled perfectly. “I knew I should have…”
- Chance looked up to glare at the blond. “Shut it or I’ll sic Stitch on you. Soon as he’s finished chasing the monkey.” The bartender groaned as she straightened her back, glancing at the Double Stuffed Twinkie pyramid; three feet high, glistening with sugar and sitting in a puddle of rum. “Quit eating them, I want to do this right!”
Sin reached out of the shadows, her black clad arm appearing as if unattached to a body. “Hey! Twinkies!”
Just then Chance threw the lit match on the stack. Sin jerked away as the whoosh of flame rose into the night…
Chance began her chant, “I am not an imposter… I am not an imposter… I am not…”
A delighted shriek filled the air as a blue streak flew from the yardarm. “TWINKIES!”
The white fluff, caramelized cake and melted chocolate flew into the air to rain down on the five pirates. Sin rushed to the water barrel and began to douse the bits of flame scattered on the deck, muttering about upsetting the captain.
- “This is my fault,” Scapegoat moaned.
The Bo’sun calmly picked a large piece of pastry out of Reckoning’s shoulder and popped it into her mouth. Reckoning did the same to the Bo’sun.
- Chance looked at the blue alien, stuffing remains of the ritualistic bonfire into his mouth and sighed. “Guess I need to actually rationally figure this out…”
The Nationals. I had a great time. I met with my agent. Stuck my foot in my mouth with my won-on-FB mentor, insulted Jennifer Ashley when I tried to compliment her… Drank too much (or not enough, I’m not sure), missed hearing Nora speak… Dressed up like a fixer of air ships at a party where no one knew me. (I lurk on the FF&P boards, but am invisible.)
Great time! Felt wonderful!
Until Saturday night. At the RITAS. Well, after the RITAS.
OK, confession time. I do not see myself ever winning a RITA. Ever. I don’t dream of it. Don’t really…well…want one. (I wouldn’t mind a Prism Award… I could see me with one a’ those!)
Am I fooling myself and secretly lust for a RITA? I don’t think so… I wouldn’t turn one down, I just doubt that anything I write will ever fit into this possibility. So, why envision that. I’d rather envision other thing…like me on the cover of Pirate Magazine… (You check out the copy I left with you yet, Bo’sun?)
Nice ceremony, fair dinner, fabulous desert. (Really fabulous desert. Wow, that desert. I mean…oh, sorry…) Of the 93 nominated books, I’d read three of them. All the cheering, clapping, whoo-hooing…I felt a clamor starting in my head, what was I doing here?
I remember feeling this way last year in DC. An acute attack of imposter-itis. This time, it got worse, culminating back in the room while Scape and the Bo’sun changed from nice dresses to last-night-bar comfies… I broke down in tears.
Tried not to! Lost that fight.
Tried to explain to my roomies how out of place and awkward I felt during and after the RITAS. Bo’sun chatted up her editor friend; Scape her editor friend. (Both have my book in their in-boxes…leaving me as the deer-in-headlight struck super boob. What to say that wouldn’t sound like pleading…)
In reaction to my tears and words, Scape spouts off, “All my fault, I should have…” I smacked her on the back of the head. (When I nicknamed her Scapegoat I had no idea how appropriate this name was! I was just trying to poke at how pretty and nice she was…you know how it is, I was poking at her…)
“This isn’t about you, twit, it’s about me. And the haunting presence of the lurking imposter.”
“You have an agent…why do you feel like you don’t belong here?” Bo’sun, queen of the obvious and practical, states.
Did I claim to understand or view my outburst as rational?
(I washed my face, took a pill and enjoyed the rest of the evening…don’t worry.)
Nope, just my insecurities rising from four days of non-stop ‘doing’…the specter of PMS, distance from home and excessive heat/humidity. (Like my excuses? Wish they’d worked.) I actually am a confident writer. I love my stories. This isn’t about the writing skills. If anything, it’s about the sense of crashing a party I though was open to everyone…and feeling like a blue skinned alien at a Regency cotillion. (Though Stitch would probably take it all in stride. He’s my new role model.) (Imagine him dressed as a duke…he was nice as Elvis…)
Perhaps a confidence anxiety attack? PTSD stemming from an adolescent event I don’t remember when I was made to feel as outside an outsider can be?
I honestly don’t know!
There is the lurking sense that this is all some cosmic joke and I am a total imposter…on the verge of having the rug ripped from beneath my feet…
Absolutly, frickin’ terrifying place to be…
Hence, the sacrifice of many Double Stuffed Flaming Twinkies to hold back the dark…
Luckily, Stitch is visiting and saw through the whole thing…
Sigh. It couldn’t be that easy…
I may keep him around for awhile…
Anyone else know this masked shadow at your back? Any advice? Rituals? Banishing spells?
Anyone want to take best on who is gonna win – The Undead Monkey or Stitch? ;-)
(I insist on some fun for Friday, despite my angst attack!)
I mentioned last week I’d gotten a rejection on a full request. It was a great rejection (only other writers realize there is such a thing) with lots of praise and lots of great advice as well as an offer to read my next stuff. Very promising, as rejections go.
Something she said really resonated with me, though. She said that my story (this is my last MS) felt more like an urban fantasy than a paranormal romance but that she felt like it should have been a paranormal romance. My first instinct was to say, of course it was a paranormal romance and not UF. But then I stopped to think that maybe there was no “of course” about it. Basically, she was saying she didn’t get the romance in my romance.
It’s no secret I’m a plotter. I know exactly what’s supposed to happen in my story. I need to. I’m not good at filling in the holes later. But I started to wonder if maybe my plotting was getting in the way of my characters’ emotional developments. Maybe I’m spending so much time on external conflicts, I lose track of the internal emotional conflicts.
This is a fairly common problem for plotters, I’ve heard, one I think I’ve attempted to rectify this time around, with my new MS.
But as I thought longer, I now believe maybe that isn’t my only problem. I suspect there’s another more nefarious factor at play.
If I’m not close enough—really in my story and in my characters—I feel hokey writing emotional stuff. And I think it happens to me more often than I’d like.
I could feel it as I got further and further into my current MS. As I went along, I started to feel more and more like my characters were getting increasingly formal instead of less formal with each other. They weren’t loosening up the way they should be, the way they need to, in order to make their romance believable. And I think it’s because I can feel the “other eyes” on my story.
You know, the “other eyes”—the people who are going to read my story “some day.”
Sort of like when you were making out with your boyfriend in high school and you worried the whole time that your parents were going to walk in. A constant interruption, even if it’s only a perceived one.
I spend so much time finding a fresh word or deleting adverbs or “thats” or whatever, basically editing, when I should be focusing on their feelings. On getting in touch with how they’re reacting emotionally, on what is pulling them together or tearing them apart.
So this past week, I’ve been reading through again and really trying to get in there. Really trying to find out what it is that they see in each other. And what they think is ultimately not compatible.
It’s been a rough week.
Any advice, wenches, to get in touch with your characters’ emotional development? Anything that I can do to blind my “other eyes”?
Pirates, allow me to introduce Kathryne Kennedy, author of THE FIRE LORD'S LOVER. She is as gracious as her hero Dominic is yummy, so I was thrilled when she agreed to be my very first interview!
First off, let me say how captivated I was by this book, and I rarely read fantasy. But Kathryne cleverly combined fantasy elements (elven lords) with historical ones (Georgian England era), and I found this book irresistible.
DRD: Kathryne, welcome aboard. The first thing I'd like to ask is did you have trouble convincing editors this fantasy/romance combo was a good idea? Or did they jump right on board with it?
KK: Sourcebooks Publishing jumped right on board…but I believe it was because the fabulous Dominique Raccah & Deb Werksman had read the book, DOUBLE ENCHANTMENT, from my previous historical fantasy romance series, The Relics of Merlin, so they had faith in me. My previous series combined Victorian fantasy, with shape-shifters as my heroes, and was a bit more light-hearted than my new Elven Lords series. I think at that time, ENCHANTING THE LADY was a bit of a new twist from what was currently selling, but my editor at Dorchester Publishing, Leah Hultenschmidt, is known for publishing ‘out of the box’ romances, so she took a leap of faith as well.
DRD: *scribbling furiously* Okay, looks like I've got another crate full of books to add to my hammock. . .I was tickled with the part about Georgians being so enthralled with the elven hair that they used wigs in an attempt to duplicate it. How did this great idea present itself to you?
KK: Research. I was delving into a new historical time period, so I studied like I was back in college, until I had a good feel for the era, and enough historical details to ground my reader in the time period. I always have an idea of the book I’m going to write, and research always adds many more elements to it. My elven lords had white hair, and when I read about the white wigs favored by the ‘cits’ and aristocracy, it fell naturally into place that the reason they wore the white wigs was to duplicate the elven hair. So my wigs have less curl than actual Georgian wigs, and the lords add crushed stone to simulate the silver sparkle within the elven lords’ hair.
DRD: I'm a huge fan of heroes with long hair, so you had me at "battle braids". Do you write your characters with someone (i.e., movie stars) in mind?
KK: I don’t often do that, as the characters always come from my imagination. However, in this instance, I did take a great deal of inspiration from Orlando Bloom as Legolas in Lord of the Rings—I fell crazy in love with that character, and knew I would like to one day write a series revolving around the fae. He inspired the elven lords, and I developed my characters from there.
DRD: What do you like to read for relaxation? For inspiration?
KK: I’m always inspired by other writers, by their breadth of imagination and the worlds they create, whether it’s fantasy or romance. I always wonder how on earth they create their stories, as they always surprise me. It came as a bit of a shock the first time I was asked how I manage to come up with my own. That’s the wonderful thing about writing. No two minds think alike, no two voices are the same, and every author adds something new to literature.
DRD: What's your favorite writing advice? Is it easy or hard for you to follow it?
KK: The advice I give most commonly is to trust yourself. To stick with your vision and your style of writing, and to always go with your gut. It’s easier for me to follow that now than it was several books ago.
DRD: That is great advice, and I'm glad to hear it gets easier with experience. You did a lot of blog visits for this book. How do you measure the success of your blog tours? Do you see new followers and/or readers as a result?
KK: I guess I measure the success by the new people I meet on my tour, and my current readers that follow them. I always love meeting new readers and introducing them to my worlds, and I love hearing from those that are already familiar with my work. THE FIRE LORD’S LOVER did hit a bestseller list for ebook sales during my tour, so I believe that may qualify as a measure of success to publishers.
DRD: Congrats on the bestseller list! One last question from me. I'm sure the other pirates will want a turn. What's your favorite part of writing? Your least favorite?
KK: My favorite part is falling in love with new characters. My least favorite part is saying goodbye to them. But then I start a new book, and the process begins anew, thank goodness.
Thanks, Kathryne, for joining us. I hope you can stay for a little bit to hoist a tankard of rum with us. 2nd Chance usually creates a special drink for our guests, and I have a feeling THE FIRE LORD'S LOVER will prove very inspirational.
Also, to celebrate my very first interview, I have a copy of THE FIRE LORD'S LOVER that I purchased to give away to the person who is nicest to me—er, I mean, to one lucky (random) commenter today.
THE FIRE LORD’S LOVER BY KATHRYNE KENNEDY—IN STORES JULY 2010
Kathryne Kennedy's historical fantasy romances have garnered awards and a growing readership. This exciting new series, set against the lavish backdrops of Georgian and Victorian England so beloved by romance readers, is deliciously dark and exciting.
Fighting for control of a kingdom that is split into seven domains, Elven warlords use their human slaves to breed an endless supply of soldiers for their armies. Dominic Raikes, the half-blood son of the Elven Lord himself is one such warrior. Betrothed to Lady Cassandra, who has been raised in a convent to keep her pure, he little suspects that she's been secretly trained as an assassin to murder his father. Dominic and Cassandra soon discover that each one is not what they seem, but the price of trust may be their very lives, and the destruction of the magical realm each is desperately trying to save…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathryne Kennedy is a multipublished, award-winning author of magical romances. She’s lived in Guam, Okinawa, and several states in the U.S., and currently lives in Arizona with her wonderful family—which includes two very tiny Chihuahuas. She welcomes readers to visit her website where she has ongoing contests at: www.KathryneKennedy.com.
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O – Open Arms – The entire first day of conference is basically one hug after another. There’s the hugs in the middle when someone gets a request or maybe doesn’t get a request. Then there are the kind we don’t like so much – the hugs goodbye. Even Hellie would like these hugs, they are the fuel that keep us all going during what is always one of the most draining weeks of the year.
E – Energy – There is a buzz in the air at any writing conference, but the current surrounding Nationals is best described as a tsunami of sheer joy. There are waves of enthusiasm you can’t help but catch a ride on, and it’s no wonder the end result is an exhaustion that takes days from which to recover.
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I don’t know what my life would be like today if I hadn’t stumbled across the Eloisa James bulletin board four years ago, fell in with a group of amazing women, and caught the bug of wanting to be a published Romance author, but I prefer not to think about it. The way I see it, I was meant to be here. We were all meant to be here. And I cannot wait for the day we are all sitting around in a shadowy bar in some high-falutin’ hotel, downing rum and laughing our pirate asses off.
Thank you to all the amazing people I celebrated with, laughed with, and learned from in Orlando this year. I raise my tankard to you and say, “Look out New York, here we come.”
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Harry and I have some similarities. He was 11 when he discovered he was a wizard; and I was 11 when I discovered I was a writer—it was something I was good at, looked forward to, realized I could make a living at. There was magic, I discovered, in the written word.
Today, though, it was Ron who taught me something. As I was working on my manuscript (not like the wind, but at least open), I had Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone playing on the TV in front of me. It was just at the scene where Ron plays the life-size wizarding chess, as the three of them are trying to intercept Snape to keep him from getting the Sorcerer’s Stone. Ron realizes he must sacrifice himself to win the game; and Harry protests.
Then Ron says this little gem: “It’s you who has to go on, not me, not Hermione. You.”
You may now be thinking, I really wish Hellie would lay down the crack pipe and blog like a normal person. What does a children’s movie have to do with anything, let alone that line?
Only for me, it means: In the goals of your life you truly want to succeed at, you are the person who must accomplish them. Your friends are there to help support you, but they can’t do the work for you. If you want to be a truly great writer, then you’re going to have to write. You’re going to have face the Voldemorts of your manuscript and battle through them—only you can conquer them. Your friends are there to cheer, defend, boost, and encourage you through thick and thin—their presence is invaluable to you as a writer; however, you are the only person who is actually going to be able to finish your novel.
Facing Voldemort by yourself is a bitch of a thing; and there are some surprises, like you discover the trouble you were expecting (Snape) is actually someone else (Quirrell). You might even discover something most surprising of all: the person you thought most against you (Snape) was for you all along. In the end, always you discover, it was your magic that pulled off the impossible—it was your magic that finished the book.
Okay, so how is everyone’s writing going? Any particular challenges anyone wants to talk about? As friends, we’re all here to encourage and cheer you into facing your particular Voldemort. How many people are excited like me that the RWA conference is over and the blogs will be busy and active again so we can get our HOA running properly? I can’t wait to read Terri and 2nd’s blogs this week where they talk about the conference (or at least I hope they’ll be talking about it!)