Tuesday, July 20, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit

 Emotional satisfaction. We're good at giving it to our hero and heroine.

But what about the other characters? You know, the ones who've been fighting with the hero or heroine to increase the tension? The ones we gave bad choices to make the hero's good choices stand out (or vice versa)? The best friend who had to step in to lecture the hero about doing what was right?

Give the hero and heroine their HEA, but make your HEA even H-ier by having the non-villain extras get onboard with the hero/heroine at the end. Maybe the hero even apologizes!

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 13, 2021

2T Repeat Performance - After the NaNo Holidays

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

Originally published December 20, 2010 for the Samhellion


After the NaNo Holidays

Did you do National Novel Writing Month? Or are you mid-holiday frenzy? Both explode a lot of energy through a short time.

Here’s my question: What do you do when it’s all over? Are you like me, and find cleanup a little dull after all the excitement? How do you combat that?

After running full out I only have so much oomph, so I tackle the post-holiday jumble one small item at a time. The shards of wrapping paper are first. Then the boxes and plastic packaging my kids inevitably leave strewn around the living room.  The kitchen is next, putting away dishes from the feast. Decorations and cards come down anywhere from a week to a month later--hey, they’re not in the way, right?

And after the NaNo? What do you do after pouring out fifty thousand words in thirty days? Maybe your prose is gorgeous, neat and complete. Maybe it looks like my house after the holidays. There’s a nifty book on how to handle that written by the NaNo guy called No Plot? No Problem! But this wouldn’t be a blog if I didn’t throw in my own two cents, one small item at a time.

Last month I wrote about The Bra Maneuver (Separate and Lift). Today I’m pimping IMMEDIACY. I’m taking my example from Biting Nixie, because it happens to be handy and I know how I changed it. “I” in this case is Nixie, a five-foot-nothing punk rock musician. Julian is a six-plus vampire lawyer. He’s really hot. Trust me. In this scene they’re getting attacked by bad-guy vamps.

In the dark beyond [Julian] I caught the impression of movement.  Blurs, two of them, coming in fast.  I couldn’t see much, sequestered behind Julian.  He was lean, yes.  But big.  His chest was solid and his shoulders broad.  His waist was easily as big as my hips.  That lean, flat waist.

In front of me, Julian’s arms jerked.  Cut through the air, hard.  His hands almost whistled with the force he used.  If he’d held knives, whatever he hit was now sliced, diced, and julienned. 

 

Okay, there are two problems. Can you spot them? First, two good guys, two villains. How much tension is there with even odds? Second, you see the bad guys swooping in, and the next thing you see is Julian fighting. But where is the immediate cause of Julian’s slice-’n-dice?

Here’s the revision:

In the dark beyond him I caught the impression of movement.  Blurs, three of them, coming in fast.  I couldn’t see much, sequestered behind Julian.  He was lean, yes.  But big.  His chest was solid and his shoulders broad.  His waist was easily as big as my hips.  That lean, flat waist.

“Get him!” someone growled.

In front of me, Julian’s arms jerked.  Cut through the air, hard.  His hands almost whistled with the force he used.  If he’d held knives, whatever he hit was now sliced, diced, and julienned. 

I’ve highlighted the fixes. The frosting on the cake is GET HIM. Yes, I could have also elicited Julian’s response by shoving the bad guy right in his face. But dialog is fast, immediate. Command imperative is even more so. For more impact, show the threat as immediate before responding.

What about you? What do you do after the holidays? Or after the NaNo?

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.)