Tuesday, September 15, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

I've studied story structure a lot, mainly because it's never come naturally to me.

And I have a secret to admit. More on that later.

One of my favorite rules of thumb for starting a story is this: start with your main character doing something interesting that shows their everyday life.

The reason I like this one is because stories are about change, and if you start this way, the end writes itself with a bookend scene. That is, using the opening "everyday" scene, show the main character doing something interesting that shows their everyday life now, after they've changed.

Compare and contrast. Effective, simple. And it wraps things up nicely to see, in the echo of where they started, where they are now.

Here's my little secret: I don't like reading or writing end-of-book sex scenes.

You know, the one where the hero and heroine get it on just one last time? I never got the point. Romance stories to me were about the tension between hero and heroine, and about the slow, sensual surrender to each other and emotional and physical intimacy.

But I've turned around on that one-eighty, and here's why. The Final Sex Scene is a hot/steamy romance story's "after". It demonstrates, in a clear and concrete way, where the couple has come from and who they are now.



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, September 8, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is a guest post I did before joining.


Mary Hughes Raises the Curtain – with Giveaway!--originally posted June 28, 2012.
Cue the Music, Raise the Curtain
What is it that’s so exciting about live theater? Is it the magic of sitting breathless in the dark with your date or family? Is it the drama of a great story? Is it the glitter of costumes, swirling in dance and song?

Or is it the possibility, however remote, of a train wreck and watching the actors try to bail themselves out?

In my upcoming release, Biting Oz, I take the reader into the world of musical theater as it is seldom seen—from the underside. Heroine Junior Stieg is a musician in the belly of the beast, that is, the pit.

The story’s backdrop is a musical retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The twist? Dorothy is being played by a young vampire. Complication? Someone’s trying to kidnap her. To protect her, Junior joins with Dorothy’s big, sapphire-eyed bodyguard Glynn Rhys-Jenkins. Together they find the true meaning of love and home.

Junior is a marvelous point of view character for me, letting me show the reader both the best and the worst of musical theater. She manages to keep playing through the almost cataclysmically bad dress rehearsal and endures performances where Toto gets bored and licks his, um, scenery. She also gets to help create the magic of the Perfect Show—the one that moves not only the audience, but the whole town, to tears and applause.

I love everything about musical theater: the drama, the humor, the costumes and the music, all of it larger than life. Pit musicians have a unique perspective on that world.  

What do you find exciting about live theater? Is there a perspective you’d find especially interesting in a story?
***
Real vampires do musicals.
Excerpt from Biting Oz. It’s the first full rehearsal and Junior is late. She’s rushing through the house (the audience seating) to get to the pit, but is blocked by a sea of kids/Munchkins. Glynn helps her out.
I set down my instrument bag and blew out my tension. “Wow.
Thanks. I…”
Straightening to his full height of six-OMG, he faced me, emanating strength and energy. Powerful chest muscles pushed into the jacket’s gap right in front of my nose.
I gaped, realized I was starting to drool and looked up.
Sondheim shoot me. His face was all dark, dangerous planes.
His eyes were twin sapphire flames that hit me in the gut. My breath punched out and none came to replace it. Bad news for a wind player.
He turned to set the sax down. I started breathing again.
A tapping caught my ear, the conductor ready to start. I needed to get into that pit now.
Half a dozen kids and two makeup adults were still in my way.
I’d have crawled over the seats myself but my joints weren’t as limber as the kids’…unless I used my black Lara Croft braid as a rope. I was desperate enough to consider it.
The man, turning back, saw my predicament. He lifted my instrument bag and music stand over kids with the same strength and grace as when he’d snatched the tenor. Then he turned to me.
And swept me up into his arms.
An instant of shock, of male heat and rock-hard muscle. A carved face right next to mine, masculine lips beautifully defined—abruptly I was set on my feet beside the pit. The sax landed next to me with a thump.
“There.” His accent was jagged, as if he were as rattled as me.
“There’s your instrument.” He bounded to the back of the theater and was gone.
Biting Oz releases August 14. Warning: Cue the music, click your heels together, make a wish and get ready for one steamy vampire romance. Contains biting, multiple climaxes, embarrassing innuendos, ka-click/ka-ching violence, sausage wars and—shudder—pistachio fluff.
Hugs! Mary
http://www.maryhughesbooks.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

Writing--art or craft?

Writers argue about this almost as much as pantser versus plotter.

In order to answer the question, you first must answer for yourself what is art (versus craft). I think one of the best explanations I've read recently belongs to Rex Stout, out of the mouth of his genius detective Nero Wolfe. Here's my interpretation of that:

Most detectives work by following leads and asking questions that lead to answers. You can trace backwards--that answer was from that question, and that question was because of that lead.

(Craft, in writing, is following the rules.)

Wolfe arrives at his answers by genius or art. There is no way to trace back from the answer to anything. The answer arrives in his skull fullblown.

(Art, in writing, is when you follow all the rules and the story still doesn't work. It takes a spark of something that can't be reproduced.)

Think about trying to unmake a cake. You can't separate out the eggs, butter, and sugar, you can't work backwards, you can only separate it into crumbs. So though we crafters follow a recipe now to make a cake, nobody before the first cake knew putting eggs, butter, sugar, and flour together and baking it would result in a cake. That was art. (Yes, art is sometimes lots and lots of trial and error until you finally hit something new that works, lol.)

So writing, according to this viewpoint, is mostly craft--and good craft is vital. But the books that breathe, that have an unexpected spark of genius--those are art.


 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, August 11, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is the last of those posts. (Addendum: I found a guest post I'd done before joining the team. See that next month.)

What day is today?--originally posted November 9, 2016.

Back in my IT days, I worked with a marketing database of a famous car company who shall remain nameless, but whose cars regularly passed the 100K mile mark even back in the bad old 80s (when cars were just starting to come out of the rustbucket gas-guzzling phase).

Now you may not know this, but car model years actually start in fall of the year before. So 2017 models will have released already, and 2018 is on the drawing board. For marketing, since we had to get ahead of the selling curve, this often mean I was dealing with the next year in June.

Sometimes I dated my checks that way.  You remember checks, the paper things we used instead of cash before debit cards, lol.

It was always a relief when January finally came. On the plus side, I never made a mistake dating checks with the old year.

Writing is a lot like that. I sit here on a rainy September day, the window open to 68 F temps, writing a post that will go live in November when it will almost certainly be 30s or low 40s. Working on a book that won't be due until December, and will probably release in 2017 but maybe as late as 2018. A book that's set in October. Still marketing a book that released in August of 2016.Thinking about plots for an April Fools short story.

I am in such trouble if I ever get in an accident. When the EMT asks, "What day is today?" I won't know.

ADDENDUM: This is the last of the old Magical Musings posts, and the issue is even more true than ever. I'm putting these together in February of 2017, gearing up to launch a box set next week that contains a book I wrote in 2013, waiting for edits on a book I wrote in 2016 that I think is coming out late 2017, working on a set of stories for release in 2017 that I originally wrote 20 years ago. Fun!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

One of the things you may have to do is show a character not liking, then learning to like, another character.

This is hard to do right, because if you create too big an antagonism in the beginning, you may never overcome it. Say main character M doesn't like and doesn't trust secondary character S--really upsettingly doesn't like--that may be a hole too deep to dig out of.

Some children still don't like Snape...just sayin'.

Here's one way to handle it (works best with adults).
  • Start: M thinks: We have nothing in common. I'm not sure I like S.
  • Move to: Oh, it'd be wrong to dismiss S as _____. (Some characteristic M doesn't like, say a forthright M might not want to dismiss S as sly).
  • Turning point: Find an important (hidden) thing where M can think: Oh, what a surprise! In this way, we're the same.

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, July 14, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is another of those posts.

I'm just a big cat--originally posted October 12, 2016.

The internet is a source of amazing information. Apparently, according to one study (http://www.cnet.com/news/scientist-cats-think-you-are-just-a-big-stupid-cat), my son’s cats think I’m just another big (and slightly stupid) cat.

I believe this. It would explain why they cuddle and take the pets sometimes and not others. Why they steal my chair. And why they lay on papers...specifically, bills and manuscripts. They’re saying “Life’s too short to work all the time. Come play with me!”

Although, with all respect to the researcher, there's another explanation.

Cats think they're human! I have pictures to prove it.

[caption id="attachment_28943" align="aligncenter" width="340"]carpetlayercats Carpet Layer Cats: “Nap break!”[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_28944" align="aligncenter" width="434"]editorcat Editor Cat: “I’m sorry, these thirty pages have to go.”[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_28946" align="aligncenter" width="415"]fashioncat Fashion Cat: “Tie one more thing on me, and you’ll see how good my pedicure is.”[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_28945" align="aligncenter" width="500"]princesscat Princess Cat: “Bring me my tuna!”[/caption]

What about you? Do your cats think they’re human, or do they think you’re a cat?