Tuesday, January 18, 2022

3T Writing Tidbit

 Character. We authors have a hundred and one ways to create them, from rolling the dice on various attributes like an RPG to using personality quizzes to hearing them in our heads.

But how someone reacts to a situation is the best way to figure out who they are. Simple example. Let's say you have a character who's an amateur detective. Let's say you want that person to be reasonably smart. 

Which is better, when the initial clues have been laid out, if your detective is asked, "Who could have committed this grisly crime?"

A) "I have no idea."

B) "I'd rather not speculate in advance of hard facts."

How you decide your character acts will tell readers more about your character than anything.

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

2T Repeat Performance -- As Simple as ABCBC

I've done a number of blog tours over the years, posting on different sites. Now I'm bringing them to you!

Originally published April 27, 2011 for Victoria Allen
 

As Simple as ABCBC

I’m a pantser. I love to take a strong man and a stronger woman, throw them together and let ’em have at it. So you might think I’d be the last person promoting order.

Except… what makes the difference between clear and huh? Or even between believable and not?

The right order.

The wrong order is like stumbling on the stair that’s not there, or drinking from an empty glass. Like reciting the alphabet backwards. I’m not talking about deliberate red herrings or plot twists, but ABC turned into ACB-what?

I have a story to illustrate. I once played a maid in the play Gas Light. Set in the 1880s, I was supposed to enter under dialog and light two gas lights on either side of the set. Not real gas lights, but as I touched my long pole to each the lightboard brought up the electric light hidden within.

I managed one but didn’t get to the other in time. The lightboard had to bring up the second light anyway, making it look like it’d been lit by ghosts (or the really bad error it was). And yes, I got yelled at. Never did that again.

ABC can get muddled in many ways. Besides my ghost lighting (B without A) there’s ABCBC and AC.

I’m taking my examples from Biting Me Softly because I know how I changed it. Well, and because it’s In Stock at bookstores across the US ? “I” is Liese, a Saint-Pauli-girl-next-door programmer. Her hero is Logan Steel, over six feet of golden, graceful vampire.

Problem: Redundant orderbABCBC vs. ABC.

Before: The instant Logan touched me, he knew and the smooth, seductive lover morphed into marauding pirate. “Liese. You’re so ready—treasure for the taking. I’m going to plunder you, princess. Prepare to be boarded.” One hand captured my face, securing me for easy ravaging, and he breached my pitiful defenses with a devouring kiss.


The problem? He touches, he knows, he morphs. Then in his speech we go backwards to where he’s knowing again. Then he morphs again. What has more impact, ABCBCbor ABC?

After: The instant Logan touched me he knew. “Liese. You’re so ready—treasure for the taking. Prepare to be boarded, princess.” The smooth, seductive lover morphed into a marauding pirate. One hand captured my face and he breached my pitiful defenses with a devouring kiss.


Problem: Causal order. A>C vs. A>B>C.

Before: His tongue invaded me, stole my breath. His taste overwhelmed me, his heat fierce and unyielding. His hand slid into my hair, anchoring my head. The other yanked me into his muscular body. He seized my bottom, cupping and fondling. I arched helplessly into him, banging up against his pirate’s prow, and it was a monster.


One hand anchors, the other yanks. Then he seizes her (which hand?) and she arches. This is actually okay (if you can overlook the phantom hand), but inserting a cause for his yanking adds a layer and increases the tension between them.

After: His tongue invaded me, stole my breath. His mouth overwhelmed me, his heat fierce and unyielding. Fingers slid into my hair to anchor my head for an even deeper kiss. When I moaned and tried to evade his plundering, his arm wrapped around me and yanked me tight into his muscular body. He seized my bottom, cupping and fondling. I arched helplessly into him, banging up against his pirate’s prow, and it was a monster.


In short: To order attention to pay a difference makes. And, um, it makes a difference too :)

Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy New Year to You

I'm not supposed to be working today. Our offices are closed for the holiday, after all. But I am sitting here, monitoring my work computer because of a little thing peculiar to professions diverse as doctor and computer geek -- the on-call.

So while technically I have a day off, I'm awake and relatively caffeinated and trying to be productive with what would otherwise be empty time. As Weird Al says, "Well, it sure beats raising cattle. Yeah and I forgot the next verse. Oh well, I guess it pays to rehearse." Probably raising cattle is fun IRL but what else rhymes with Seattle?

Anyway, one of the things I'm doing is clearing up all my post-it notes. You know, the ones you write when a great plot idea strikes you in the middle of the night...? (What? Not everyone does that??)

I recently read Sourdough by Robin Sloan. I enjoyed the novel (and loved Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore). Sourdough has a line that hit me as brilliant so I jotted it on a post-it. Now I'm sharing it with you. It has more meaning if you've read the book and know about the characters, but it stands alone well enough.

Clingstone smiled distantly. "Oh, what about that book? I still love it. But I also wonder how it could possibly have resonated so powerfully with a twenty-three-year-old who had seen so little of the world. Now that I've actually suffered, I find it somewhat...theoretical."

Truth, that.

I'm also consolidating my post-it notes on Soul Mates, book 3 of the Pull of the Moon series. Having a bit of trouble with my lead male character, but I managed to re-imagine him via a bunch of middle-of-the-night soul-searching post-its. We'll see how these brilliant (tongue-in-cheek) revelations stand up to the light of day. Wish me luck.

From all of us at Mary Hughes Books, warm wishes for a safe, happy, healthy, productive, and satisfying 2022!

Here's a little cynical realization about this new year... https://imgur.com/t/happynewyear2022/3jpCmPp

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit

 The moment of change. 

This usually happens to the main character just before the climax. The crisis is where she tries to solve the main problem and fails. The climax is where she tries to solve the problem and succeeds.

The difference is the change. 

So, generally this change is brought about by a resolution of her internal conflict (she finally gets a truth that makes her whole). If we didn't think about it, we'd write it like this:

I suddenly realized I didn't have to fear the vampires. 

Hooray! I turned around and went home.

Um. Yeah. That's a dud. Because stories are show not tell. So this internal realization must be expressed in an external, show-me way.

Stupid vampires. I'd been afraid of them all this time for nothing. 

I whipped out my bazooka and blew Drac away.

Better?

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.  

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

2T Repeat Performance - Finding the Friction

I've done a number of blog tours over the years, posting on different sites. Now I'm bringing them to you!

Originally published April 18, 2011 for Taste of Kiwi

Finding the Friction

Life and death is about as tense as you can get. So writing about cops and doctors naturally sizzles. But the adage is “write what you know”. Besides authoring, I’m a musician and computer consultant. What kind of story tension can you get out of programmers?

Well…what if the programmer is working late? Alone. And what if she’s a woman?

What if she’s alone and a man shows up? A tall, powerfully built, stunning god of a man? What if he’s a vampire?

And what if he instantly rubs her the wrong way?

Add a touch of laptop humor, and we have the following.

“I” is Liese, a small-town programmer. Her blood center’s just been invaded by graceful, blond Logan. The excerpt is abridged.

“What did you say your name was?” I asked him.

“I didn’t say.” The man pulled a small leather case from his jeans pocket and tossed a business card on my desk with a careless snap of the wrist.

Gorgeous and talented. This guy would bear watching. Aw, shucks, my libido said. I ignored it. Eyes locked on him, I picked up the card. Dared a glance. Logan Steel, CEO Steel Security.

Smack me in the face with a Toshiba. Steel Security was the firm that installed a multimillion-dollar security system at Andersly-Dogget Distribution, my first job—one week before I was fired.

I threw the card back. It hit the desk and rebounded into the trash, making my cheeks heat. “You can’t be serious! Steel Security is the Ferrari of security firms. They do the biggest names in the world. Why would they be in little Meiers Corners?”

We are here to install a system.” Steel perched gracefully on my desk again. In his tight black T-shirt and open leather jacket he looked more like a well-muscled fashion model than a CEO. “Here’s the work order, if you don’t believe me. You’re wrong, Ms. Schmetterling. Gorgeous, but wrong.”

Gorgeous? I shot to my feet. “Now I know you’re lying. Fun time’s over. There’s the door.”



Tuesday, November 16, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit

 What makes a hero? 

This applies to both male and female heroes.

When we think hero, we (or at least I) most often think of Marvel or DC superheroes, the ones who wear cool costumes and land with such great panache. 

But for books, that gets kinda boring. How can the reader connect with someone so above the top fabulous? Parenthetically, this is why Sherlock Holmes only works with Watson. We need someone to connect with, who can then connect us to Holmes's brilliance.

So when you write your hero (male or female), try this. 

Make them persevere, not because they're a heroically inclined do-gooder, but because they have to make rent. Or their mom is pressuring them. Something we can connect with.

Make them great, not because they want to be, but because they need to live or they don't want to but there's no one else and they know it.

Vampire, human, wolf, or jinn, make your hero human, a being readers can connect with.

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.  

Monday, November 15, 2021

Elias is finally here.

 

Cave-deep voice. Fiendishly smart. Brutally strong. Controls himself with a will of titanium. Hella protective, especially of innocents. Blisteringly rich, highly enigmatic, and almost omniscient. Ten-thousand-year-old vampire. 

It's been a long time coming. Eleven years if you count the Biting Love stories. But today, Night's Bliss, Rey Kean and Kai Elias's story, can be in your hands.

I could never trust a vampire. Ever. It wasn’t enough that vampires killed my parents and left me for dead. Nope, they also left me with this searing fear of every one of their kind. But when someone I care about grows sick from poison, I have no choice but to infiltrate a Romanian castle filled with pissy, evil vampires in search of the antidote.

And my only saving grace is that for some reason, I can do things other humans can’t.

Unfortunately, I also seem to be the perfect bait for the Vampire King, Kai Elias. More than seven feet of dark, wicked charisma, ancient eyes, and a body that holds more power and raw, animal sexuality than I can resist. But there’s something about Elias that looks painfully, terrifyingly familiar.

Now I am in over my head and my heart. And my only choice is to trust this dark, charismatic creature…or die.

Don't miss this epic conclusion to the Ancients series and the Biting Love universe.