Tuesday, May 16, 2023

3T Writing Tidbit - story structure bonus

I've been reviewing story structure lately. Despite what the pundits say, there's more than one way to tell a story! You have your 3-17 step hero's journey, your 5 plot-point, your 3 act, your 2 step scene/sequel. Let's start on the far end and work our way in.

Last month we did scene/sequel. I have one more structure that I picked up from an interview with a famous actor (I can't remember who or where, so if this sounds familiar please point me at the clip so I can give proper attribute.)

All stories boil down to this basic understanding:

  • Protagonist decides to enter Special World.
  • Protag acts.
  • This has consequences.

I like this because it's super simple and super relatable. We can even apply this to our own lives! The formula works at both micro and macro levels - apply it to a scene, an act, or the whole arc of 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, May 9, 2023

2T Repeat Peformance - the First Person

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, 2012 for Ravishing Romances

Writing a series in first person, is it difficult to switch characters each book?

Sherlock Holmes, Amelia Peabody, Kinsey Millhone—some of my favorite stories are in first person. There’s an immediacy that you get from being right in the hero’s head which works especially well with dry humor. But most of my first-person favorites are mysteries, and all of them feature one unchanging narrator. First person romance? Sequential narrators? Never saw it—until I read Lori Handeland’s Nightcreature series. I fell in love. Each heroine has a smart, kick-butt style that really shines.

I’d written some women’s fiction in first person and had great feedback. But I love romances, so I decided to try combining first person with romance myself. Bite My Fire and Biting Nixie were the result—along with my first sale J.

Making each Biting Love heroine unique is both a challenge and a joy. The challenge is creating a character different enough from the previous heroines—while still keeping her smart and strong. The joy is when, after much preliminary fumbling, the character’s unique voice finally sings through. Nixie, a punk rock musician, slings her slang. Elena, a cop, has a saltier vocabulary than shy geek Liese. To me, these are now truly different people, so in a way it’s easy to write them differently.

But there are a few helpful techniques that all writers can use. I pick a couple specific concepts for every character (not just the heroines), and use those concepts each time I reintroduce the character. Nixie wears kids clothes but swears like a Marine. Liese is wholesome as a dairy maid. Logan is insouciant and graceful. (See Jim Butcher’s Live Journal http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/ for TAGS and TRAITS). I also pick emphasis words/phrases (swearing) that fit the heroine’s lifestyle. For example, when Biting Oz heroine Gunter Marie “Junior” Stieg misses her solo entrance, she snaps, “Stuff me in a tuba and blast me into space.” Each heroine also has a different career path—my varied job history is now a good thing, LOL. Even when two women have overlapping careers (Junior and Nixie are both musicians), they approach life differently (one is all about responsibility, the other is all about individuality).

Finally, even when the characters’ voices are totally different, I tag dialog when there are more than two people in the scene (Junior said; Glynn crossed powerful arms; Nixie danced, or, being pregnant, she wobbled). In a real-life roomful of people it’s a challenge to keep track of all the conversations, so in a story, I try to make it crystal clear who’s talking, not relying on voice alone.

Biting Oz features the first ever meeting of the vampire spouses of Meiers Corners—seven smart, strong women around one table. You can judge for yourself how well I’ve done keeping them unique J .