Tuesday, June 15, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit

 I pick up a lot of storytelling ideas from television. After all, the writers of the best shows are telling stories that enthrall millions of viewers, so they must be doing something right.

This one's from NCIS. I don't have a specific example, but once I give you the gist, you'll see it in many of their episodes and other television shows, too.

Insert an emotional key in the first half of the story, either before or after the inciting incident, but fairly early on. Have a couple developments throughout the story. Then, at the very end, turn the key for an emotionally wrenching/satisfying sendoff.

The beauty of this tip is that the key does not have to be plot-related. Of course it's better if it is. But it can be a B or even C storyline. The important thing is that it's an emotional hook, tension, and release that will leave the reader satisfied.

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, June 8, 2021

2T Repeat Performance - Editing the Muddled Sentence

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

Originally published November 17, 2010 for the Samhellion

One Writer's Journey: Picking out a muddled sentence

Come with me on a writer's journey.

Writing is a journey. The grail might be writing the One True Prose on the first try, but I don't know anybody who's achieved it. Especially not me.

So I plan, then I write, then I edit. Then I read. Then I plan, write and edit some more. A key aspect of self-editing that I've discovered is the ability to see the problem in the first place.

One of my problems is the muddled sentence.

I’m taking my example from Biting Nixie (it's handy, and I know how it got changed for the better. Always good to have the answer book :)  ). Bo's a male vampire, friend of the hero Julian.

The scene: Chaos.  Violence.  Screams. 

Gaunt, fiery-eyed men rampaged outside.  Skull-headed, unnaturally fluid men with teeth like jagged glass.  Evil-looking men, seemingly hundreds of them.  A knot of red fire and flashing knives, surrounding... Surrounding Julian and Bo.

Here’s the original next paragraph:

Bo held a limp bundle, fought ferociously with one bare hand.  The bundle seemed to have two blonde heads.  Then I realized it was two people, one a child.  Both were as limp as puppets.  Neither moved.

Here are the revised paragraphs:

Bo held a limp bundle in one arm.  The bundle had two blonde heads.  I realized it was two people, one a child.  They seemed unconscious...or dead.

Bo fought ferociously with one hand.  He wielded what looked like a long knife, or a sword.  The blade whistled through the air, forcing the gaunt men back.

First, how did I know there was a problem with the original? Well, it feels muddled. It takes a bit of thinking to picture what's going on. Something--language, sentence structure, something--has come between  the reader and the story.

Once I know something's wrong, it's a matter of figuring out exactly what it is. In this case, there's two different things going on in that first sentence. "Bo held a limp bundle," and he "fought ferociously". The tension surrounding Bo’s limp bundle is lost because you're immediately distracted by his fighting. To fix it I used a variation on the old bra slogan--Separate and Lift.  First paragraph talks about Bo's limp bundles. Second brings in the fighting.

Clarity is vital in writing. Actions convey emotion to the reader. For greater impact, the actions (and thus the emotions) must be clear, discrete-- separate. Kind of like color pixels separated by black on a high def TV gives you a better picture.

This isn't the One True Prose. But it's a step on the journey to get there.

What about you? Do you have a favorite book on writing, or a writing gotcha to share? Or a special writing tic?

Happy writing!
Mary

 

 

 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit

 

The internet abounds with idea generators. One of my favorites is TV Tropes.

I had a scene in Biting Oz where vampire hero Glynn is making out with human woman heroine Junior in her third-floor bedroom when her parents came upstairs to investigate.

The scene was funny--I mean, dark sexy vampire and parents--but not funny enough. TV Tropes to the rescue!

If a character needs to hide, make the places successively more cramped, inaccessible, and obvious.

Poor Glynn went from under the bed to a dark corner of the room to bracing Spider-man style on the ceiling.

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, May 11, 2021

2T Repeat Performance - What's In a Name?

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

Originally published August 22, 2010 for Samhain Blog

Come on baby—Bite My Fire in print

The first Biting Love (red-hot romance, acid humor, and alpha vampires) is out in paperback! Elena O'Rourke is an Irish-Latina cop in the small town of Meiers Corners, Illinois, USA. Elena is hungry for two things—her detective's shield and a good lay. Big blond master vampire Bo Strongwell is perfect for the lust, but is actively interfering in the case that would cinch the badge.

 Bite My Fire is also my first story title to riff a song title. As a musician, I'm a huge fan of songs, of the lifetime of meaning sung in a few stanzas. Meaning is compressed even more into the song title, so each word must do double, triple, even quadruple duty. That sets up resonances and echoes and cross-echoes—yeah, like floating in a water park tidal pool, it’s pretty cool.

*Bite: vampires and the type of humor

*My: Elena, taking a bite of her world, and being delightfully bitten by Bo

*Fire: her gun and the heat level of the romance

 Warning: Jammed with hot explicit sex, graphic fanged violence, and acid cop humor. May contain donuts.

(2021 note: This is the theme that also gave us The Bite of Silence and Biting Me Softly.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit

Oh, those whys!

One of the things I didn't understand the first time I  got notes from an editor was so many whys. Why did the character do this and why was the world the way it it was? Why didn't the hero do this or that--and why did he then do the other thing?

The reason I didn't understand was because I hadn't yet learned to put myself in the place of the reader. I knew the answers in my head, or I could make them up. The reader...didn't.

Your reader will have questions, valid questions about things in your story. Here's one.

Why is the hero going into that vampire-infested lair...?

One way to handle revealing the answers is to have an internal monologue. I must rescue the heroine. Another is to have non-point-of-view characters ask. "You're going into a vampire-infested lair with only your wits and fists? Are you nuts??" Another way is to show the reason. The heroine appeared briefly in the third-floor window. "Hero, you promised you'd protect me from this lair of vampires--!" A clawed hand wrapped around her face, yanking her abruptly out of sight.

Whatever you choose, always remember the reader's valid questions must be acknowledged in some way in the story.

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, April 13, 2021

2T Repeat Performance - Are You Happy

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

Originally published August 15, 2010 for ARRA

Are you happy?

(Or how to feel good about buying books.)

Really ask yourself. Are you happy?

My husband sends me articles. Oh, not the painfully silly ones or the ones so twee (sweet) they suck your lips into your esophagus. (My rule of thumb: I only forward it if it makes me laugh out loud or think a brand-new thought.) Anyway, just last week he sent me a link to a New York Times article titled “But Will It Make You Happy?”

Lots of people think more money will make them happy. Then you hear about the missionaries who visit the poorest people in the world, and it turns out those “poor” people are happier than the missionaries.  Necessities aside, money itself isn’t an automatic happy.

So, if not money, then stuff? Well, the article pretty much stomps that idea too.  Mr. Smith’s 3G Stuff may make him happy--until Mr. Jones gets 4G stuff. Then Mr. Smith is unhappy because he wants 4G stuff too.

Here’s my bet. You, dear reader, are pretty happy.

Why? Because, according to the article, the only type of spending that actually correlates to happiness is leisure spending (after the basic needs are met). Fun experiences like vacations, fun activities like golf or computer games. Diversions like TV or movies.

And where do we get the most experience and entertainment for the least money, the most bang for the buck or delight for the dollar?

Right. With books.

Readers who belong to groups like ARRA increase that delight by talking books with other people. Sharing books, in book clubs or with friends (or with other readers who become friends), taps an even bigger promoter of happiness: strong relationships.  The shared experience of quoting great lines, the shared anticipation of a favorite author’s upcoming book--the only thing better to my mind is shared chocolate. (I’m not going to say how that works. I’m an erotic romance writer. Let your imagination soar.)

So are you happy? I can’t answer that question for you, but I can say that if you’re here, you’re a reader who shares--and that’s a great start.

Thanks for having me back as a guest blogger at ARRA!

 

Mary Hughes is an author, a computer programmer and a flutist. Bite My Fire, ARRA nominee for Favourite Erotic Romance and the first book in Mary’s Biting Love series, just released August 3 in paperback. It’s available at several Australian booksellers including Borders, Booktopia,  and Angus & Robertson.