Thoughtful Tuesday – The Holidays Have Come and Gone…Again

Every year I swear I am going to start getting ready for Christmas sooner. Every year I end up being awake at midnight on the night before Christmas Eve trying to either finish gifts that are either made or need to be wrapped and cleaning my house. Why? I apparently have the perpetual need to feel the burn of crunch time. When will I ever grow out of it?

With work, writing, and anything else, I work best under pressure. How about you? Every years I swear to start something sooner, but then if I did that I wouldn’t be who I was today. I accomplish more last minute than I do with a month of notice. <Sigh> Is this a learned trait or just something I’m born with.Calendar

Fun Fact Friday – Author Jennifer Eaton and Where She Writes

When you think of an author, do you think of a pristine writing space?  Space that is whimsical and orderly?  Ha, I don’t.  My space looks like something blew up.  Well I find it fascinating to know that I am not the only one.  I am sure when I told Jennifer she was my Fun Fact Friday victim she didn’t envision me doing a post a her desk.  But frankly that is a fun fact to me.

She likes Barbies and fish.  She has graphic design software.  This woman is someone I can relate to.  The Fun Fact is that you can write in whatever space is you.  Your writing doesn’t have to be an alter ego. In fact, you will write better if you let yourself come through.  Surround yourself in whatever makes you happy.  For me, I LOVE Post-it notes!

Original Source Kelly Said

Author Jennifer Eaton is an author of TWO new releases “Make Believe” and “For the Love of Christmas.”  Visit her blog for more information.  Her stories are getting AMAZING reviews so check out these two books.  (E-books can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and Smashwords.) Get into the Christmas Spirit!!

For the Love of ChristmasMake Believe

Related Links

Amazon – For the Love of Christmas

Still Moments Buy online

The Parts of a Story – Mostly a Romance

In as few words as possible what do you think the natural parts of a novel are?  Namely the romance novel?

After thinking about it I think you can break the romance novel into these 5 parts:pieces

1.  Boy meets Girl:  Old friends, new friends, and anything in-between.  They meet sometime.

2. First issue:  What is making it so they don’t fall in love the second they meet?  Fear of failure, different lifestyles, personal motivations, etc.

3. They fall in love:  Did they sold the issue?  Maybe not , maybe they just ignore it.   Either way they start to date and move forward.

4. Second issue:  This is the clincher.  This issue can be resurfacing of the first or something all together new.  It will prey on the doubts of the couple.  This is what will make the reader see what your characters are really made of.

5. Happily ever after:  well duh.  A Romance by definition must end happily.  This is where the knight rides in to rescue is damsel in distress – or sometimes it is the other way around.  Point is, they overcome the misunderstanding or the second issue.

This is a pretty basic chronological order of events.  You can play with things to make your book they way you want it.  I have started stories with the couple already in love but then something splits them apart. That isn’t really having a boy meets girl; it’s more like a boy un-meets girl to meet with her once again someday.  The being said I still had all these elements in order to make the story work.

Do you have anything to add on the order of which events should appear?  The above can be curtailed to all genres, you just have to play with the wording.

Other related posts:

http://alijayd.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/the-eight-point-arc/

http://thejinx.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/stay-tuned-for-the-exciting-conclusion/

Thoughtful Tuesday – I Am a Planner on Everything Except for Writing

I had Christmas shopping done by July!  I have  a few loose ends to tie up for my husband, but really I was done during the summer.  I think the Easter sales actually are better than those of the Christmas sales – at least for toys. So why don’t I do that for writing?  I realize I am a planner for everything else in my life except for writing.  I write by the seat of my pants, ( a pancer).  I might need to change this though for longer stories.  I tend to forget small details of chapter one by chapter 15.  Why is it I plan everything else out in my life, but my writing isn’t affected? I wish I knew.  Lucky for me I am focused on short stories for now and those I don’t need to plan out chapter by chapter to a fault.  I have everything clear in my mind and my brain works well enough to retain 30 some pages of details.

So how about you? If your holiday shopping completed yet?  Does your lifestyle reflect on your planning for writing (or whatever your hobby or career choices are) or is it opposite?gift

Show Me Don’t Tell Me

A lot of writers can write and tell a story.  The issue is simply that, we tell.  So what does it mean to show vs. tell?  When an editor or an agent comes back with this comment it usually puts the writer into a tail spin.  Isn’t it always easier to point a finger at a general problem rather than point out the exact issue.

To over simplify the problem I think the best summary I can give you is this: any time you say she felt, or he looked you are telling rather than showing.  If you are using 1 sentence to get into the house, you are probably telling.  What can you do?  Stop and envision.  Watch the scene as a movie in your head.  Movies are show not tell – for obvious reasons. When you describe a movie scene how do you show someone in words so they understand?

What sounds better?  Marci walked thru the door.   Or Marci turned the knob and crossed the threshold.  One implies action while the other is stating the obvious. It really all in the word choice.  Is either wrong?  No.  But showing is preferred by almost every agent, editor, and publisher out there.  The idea is to choose strong verbs that entice the reader to envision the action.

Another example:  Jamie felt like her life was over and cried. Or Jamie’s heart thudded and her chest felt tight.  Her eyes burned as she let loose a flood of tears.

Jane walked into a dark room and felt instantly scared. OR Jane was surrounded by black as she entered the room.  Her hands began to shake and her breathing grew rapid. 

 Showing will add more words.  This isn’t bad as long as each word was chosen carefully and aids in helping your reader understand what is going.  I am no expert, but I am working on my own process at the same time so I hope this helps.  Someone told me that telling can actually speed along the story – in a bad way.  So slow it down, add some details, and let the reader escape.

If you have a great example or some useful show vs. tell advice please comment below! Happy Monday and Happy writing.

Are You Character Driven or Plot Driven?

A character driven story is a story in which the character is what drives the plot to move.  Anne of Green Gables, Twilight, and Rachel Gibson novels are character driven.  In these cases the stories wouldn’t have turned out the way they did without the character.  The characters are the stories and how the stories progress.

A plot driven novel is one where the plot defines who a character is and how the story will go.  Lord of the rings is an example of plot driven, as is Harry Potter.  You could have thrown anyone into these stories and they would have turned out the same – well okay not anyone.  The point is though, that the characters, although we care for them, are not what make things occur.  Action happens to them, they did not cause the action.

It seems with character driven books you get a deeper understanding of the character and their inner workings.  With a plot drive story you usually see the character at a birds eye view rather then know what their individual thoughts are.

I personally like stories that focus more on the characters rather then on the story.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Harry Potter, you could still get lost in the story. The difference is that I wanted to know where the story went more then I wanted to see how the characters would progress.

Depending on your story, taking one view over the other can make or break what you are attempting to show.  Most romances will be told with the characters as your driving force, where as an epic fantasy will most likely take the plot driven approach.

I write character driven stories.  My characters talk to me and somehow the plot molds and shifts with each action. Even when I swear the story was going a different direction somehow my characters write the story the way they want.
What is your story and why?  List your genre to help put it all into perspective.

Getting with the Times

Times have changed. Presidential hopefuls can be ruined by taking the wrong stance on human, or women’s rights. The days of old are gone. Gone are the days of women as victims and helpless damsels. Even historicals are starting to see a trend in woman who break the molds. Woman no longer want to be portrayed as a frail bird wilting under a leaf waiting for her handsome to come and save her. Did anyone see the new Shrek? Well the newest. Fiona got tired of waiting and saved herself. Rapunzel hits a man upside the head and kid-naps him. What does the character in Brave do? Well I don’t know, I haven’t seen it yet. Sorry for all the cartoons but I have a toddler.

The fact of the matter is, our women need to have a mind, a few guts, and need to take the bull by the horns. Sure they can still be rescued, just in a whole new way. Heck maybe the woman saves the man. As long as the guy is still desirable and a little manly you can get away with anything these days. Or almost anything. Gone are the days where woman sit around, so don’t make your character THAT woman. Like I said there are a lot of historicals now that even have women acting out against the norm of society. Sure you have to adjust public reaction to fit the time, and generally your heroine is still going to be more reserved then a heroine of today, but she can still be strong minded. Note, I did not say they could make some air-headed moves, being a little ditzy at times, or need a man to open a jar. Woman just need to be a little more assertive in getting the help they need rather than be the wilting flower.

These days it seems like usually the woman’s attitude is the catalyst to the story, making more stories character driven rather than plot in the romance world. What is your opinion on female characters and the trends on what makes a character likable or popular?

What Happened Wednesday

Daughter to bed, dinner leftovers put away, dogs have been fed, and maybe a load of laundry got done.  Now time to #write.  Hot chocolate in hand I am editing my story – uh, well actually I am writing a post then the story.  I have a short story that might have some promise, so that is taking precedent over my novel length manuscript.  I am working on showing and removing most of my tell. So maybe the post should read like this:

The murmurs of my sleeping baby girl accompany the snores of content dogs as I settle down for a few moments of being productive.  Steam rises from the small green mug that was last-year’s mothers day gift.  Small smiles from my daughters photo great me with each sip.  The aroma of the nights lasagna still linger, permeating the house and reaching me in my office. I tab away at each key forming a word that will change  my entire sentence.

I’m working on it.  I still think there is some tell in there but I have a hard time finding them all.

Our Own Agendas Might Not Always Fit in Our Stories

Books usually have our hidden beliefs or feelings in them.  As writers and authors, our books are our children.  The books are a readers inlet to our souls, sort of.  That’s just what a book is.  The issue still remains of how far can you go in a fiction book to push your own agenda?

 I have not hidden my fondness of Susan Elizabeth-Philips, but the woman is rather bi-polar in some of her books.  She had some very wonderful light romances while there are a couple of books that break her ‘brand’ or ‘trademark’ in writing.  Her newest book The Great Escape  seems more like a political stance on racism and lack of military healthcare for veterans.  Now do not get me wrong.  I am against racism and I certainly think our military needs better mental care for returning war veterans, but are these subjects a little too deep to put into a normally light-hearted romance?

I thought about this long and hard and decided one would fit while the other seems out of place.  Her hero was a military war vet, therefore his motivation to sabotage the inevitable relationship had to be part of the story.  His mental health and how he gets help had to be his nemesis.  But there was a lot of racial awareness in the book, of which maybe one or two comments would have been appropriate.  Just not to the extent she went through.  It served no purpose.  It did not move the plot or define a character.  I think I know where she might have been going but somehow dropped the ball.

My point is, is that when a personal belief helps drive our plot forward use it.  When the personal belief is simply us getting up on a soap box, maybe you should rethink it.  Remember who your readers are – or who they might be.  A romance can’t have an unhappy ending just as a war book won’t have a massive amount of romance.

Is Dialogue Really that Hard?

Periodically posts pop up, tweets are sent out, or an agent gives a blurb at a conference on dialogue. They all reiterate similar rules but then add a different spin. The one theme is that, most people seem to struggle in dialogue. Is it really that hard?

I talk – I talk a lot. I think I get how people sound because I listen. My characters are no different than someone on the street. I hear them. I listen to them. I write what they would say. But apparently that is not really the case for most people. What makes dialogue hard?

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I started to read a new book today and contrary to the authors other books this one had very strained dialogue. Conversations don’t flow. Each character has a short line that seems to abruptly end. How do I start to like the characters when they seem like body snatchers learning to act like humans?

What does over doing it mean? I have had one person in five years say that to me. “Watch that you don’t over do the dialogue.” I couldn’t decide if that meant I had too much or if it meant that I had some forced lines. So because I have yet to figure it out, I re-read and simplified. I added a few more lines, actions, or thoughts between every-so-many lines of dialogue. I removed any dialogue that just maybe I didn’t love. Did I fix it? Who knows.

When it comes to dialogue I would sit in a public area and listen. Find two people who act like your characters. Yeah, okay think your characters are one of a kind- but remember you created them off of something. In the end read your dialogue after stepping away for a few days or weeks. Can you tell who is saying what? Each character has a distance way of talking. If they don’t you might have an issue…unless they are clones of course.

How do you create dialogue? Are there any fast and steady rules that you follow?

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