Monday, July 25, 2016

D is for Diary

Ana muses about the idea of keeping a diary.

During one pre-teen summer, schmancy, floral cloth-covered diaries with "locks" and teeny tiny keys didn't appeal to me. Diaries were for recording successes, and I wasn't the kind of girl who knew the cute boys in school were standing in line to pair up with me.

The how-do-I WIP of my life needed bigger pages, room to cross out mis-written lines. I needed spiral notebooks, narrow lined and narrow margined, so I could get words on a page.

I wrote about serious things. Like where I would live when I grew up, and what I would do. How I would immediately say the right things in casual conversations. How I would be skinny and pretty, know how to make up my eyes to look like deep pools of mystery. How I would be in charge of my life. Be certain about everything.

I ripped out page after page. By the end of that summer, all I had were the yellow cover, hard back, and the wire spiral. School started, and I was tossed back into the pool of social awkwardness without a plan.








Friday, July 22, 2016

C is for conflict


Margaret talks about conflict in romances

 

A story without conflict is about as interesting as watching paint dry, and I’m not talking about pointless arguments. I’m talking about meaningful conflict. Something that matters very much to our protagonists. Something that is almost a life and death situation. Something that will break their hearts if it is not resolved.

Generally in a romance the whole story revolves around two people who either meet for the first time or have met previously in less than happy circumstances. There has perhaps been trouble between them in the past, or there is something in the present that has thrown a spanner in the works.

Very often there is more than one thing causing this dissent and the author has to slowly peel back the layers until the fundamental reason is discovered and dealt with. While some conflicts can be dealt with quite quickly, others are far more deep-rooted.

Maybe they had been friends once but had fallen out over something that now seems trivial. Therefore when they meet again they will need to work very hard to get over it.

Or maybe they’re pushed together through work and she falls in love with him, only to discover he already has a girlfriend. But then she sees this woman out with another man and debates whether to tell him or not.

These are only a couple of instances but the possibilities are infinite. The secret is to keep the reader’s interest engaged, to take them through the many ups and downs until the inevitable happy ending.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

C is for Chloe

Chloe is the heroine in Debra's One Great Night.

She's ready, he's not; it's a battle of the sexes with a twist. reads the tag line for this story.

"I want you to be my sex tutor." is the opening line.

In the story, Chloe creates quite the bucket list for herself, with this show-stopper as the number one item. She's almost thirty and feels like she's never experienced real passion. On the outside she seems wild and carefree and totally sure of herself. On the inside, she's vulnerable and insecure. Here's a peek inside her head at the beginning of the story:

She shrugged in what she hoped was a nonchalant manner. “I don’t know. I mean, everyone always talks about how great sex is, but to be honest, I don’t know what the fuss is all about.” Maybe it was her. Maybe she
was doing it wrong. “So.” She toyed with the napkin under her drink. “It’s kind of on my bucket list. To have a night of really great sex.”. . .“Well, there are other things on my list, too. I want to get this one out of the way.” To silence the everpresent whispers of self-doubt plaguing every relationship she’d ever had.


I couldn't just pair her with any old guy who would take advantage of her crazy plan. Jason, who sees through the sassy exterior to the hidden uncertainty beneath thinks of her like this:

Yep. T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
One, because he hadn’t been lying earlier when he told her he’d never had a one-night stand. And he wasn’t about to start with his best friend’s baby sister. Second, and more importantly, even his body’s instinctual reaction to her sexy flirting couldn’t make him forget the flash of vulnerability in her eyes earlier. Would she ever tell him why she was so insistent on going through with her crazy plan? There was more to it than bragging rights with girlfriends. If she told him, would it explain why she played the vamp and tease to hide that vulnerability?


And throughout most of the story, even though she's never quite sure of herself, her faith in Jason is one thing that never waivers.

He clicked off the set with the remote. “Nope. We have more important things to do.”
“Like checking something off my list?”
“Yep.”
Chloe’s heart pounded. Was it finally time? She licked dry lips. “Well it’s about time, Williams.” Then she paused. “Wait. You said we were going for a drive.”
“We are.”
Was he planning on taking her to a hotel somewhere? Wasn’t that kind of sordid? “Why can’t we just...um...do it”—she gulped—“here?”
“Here won’t work for what I have planned.” The low drawl made her knees weak.
She swallowed. “Remember, I’m pretty much a beginner. I think here is fine. Unless you want to go to your place?”
“We can go wherever you want.” He threaded his fingers through the loose hair at her temples and tilted her face up. “You’re in the driver’s seat.” The deep blue of his eyes scrambled her brain.
She lost herself in the depths for long drawn out moments. “Then I want to stay here.”
He smiled, but shook his head. “Not an option for what I have in mind.”
Yikes. She was in over her head. Like she’d always known. Better to be in familiar, comfortable surroundings. “Really, my bedroom’s right down the hall about ten feet away.” She gestured. “Won’t that be easier?”
“Nope.” He brushed a kiss across her forehead.
“Come on.” He tugged her hand.
“Jason, really, I—”
“Trust me.”
Calm settled over her, stilling the twist of nerves. She did. Enough to follow him to the ends of the earth if he asked.



Chloe and Jason's story was definitely a fun one to write. I was thrilled when it won the honor of Best Contemporary Short in the 2015 IDA Contest. :)

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

C is for Charley

Paula’s secondary character re-invented herself as the main character in the next novel.

While I was writing the first chapter of Irish Inheritance, the heroine, Jenna, makes a brief reference to Charley on the second page. Maybe Charley would lend her the money for a quick trip to Dublin. When I wrote that line, even I didn’t know whether Charley was male or female! By the time I got to the second chapter I’d decided that Charley was female – short for Charlotte, but only my grandmother calls me that – as she explains later. During the story, Charley developed her own personality, often giving Jenna advice in a straightforward matter-of-fact manner. She also met assistant hotel manager Steve, and at the end, she and Steve joined Jenna and Guy in Ireland, ready to establish a Living History group at Mist Na Mara house.
As far as I was concerned, that was the end of it, as I had no plans to write a sequel or series. By the time Irish Inheritance was published, I’d already started another novel, set in England’s Lake District. Then I had an email from Rebecca, my publisher, saying, ‘You have an opportunity here for a spin-off story about Charley.’
My first reaction was, ‘Okay, I’ll think about that once I’ve sorted out the story I’m writing at present.’ In fact, I’d been having problems with that story, having got to Chapter 12 or 13 twice, deciding it wasn’t working, and going back to start it again.
The day after Rebecca’s email, I suddenly thought, ‘What if I move this story to Ireland?’
I thought about it for a few more days. Changing the location to Clifden in Connemara involved far more than renaming places or giving the heroine a different name. It meant changing the original heroine’s backstory, and her personality too. The heroine in the original story had been less assertive than Charley, so I needed to change her whole approach. I soon found that this was easier than I had anticipated, as Charley was already a ‘real person’ to me. In that sense, I didn’t have to wait to get to know her as I wrote her story.
I also found that the new story that developed didn't give me the same problems as the original story had done! Maybe Charley knew all along that this was her story, and not that other heroine's!

Irish Intrigue
Charley Hunter returns unwillingly to Ireland to complete the filming of a TV drama series. She still hasn't come to terms with the tragic loss of her husband there two years previously, and the last thing she expects is an instant attraction to an Irish veterinary surgeon.
Luke Sullivan's life is full as he tries to balance caring for his two young children with his busy rural veterinary practice. After the break-up of his marriage, he vowed to leave women well alone, but finds himself drawn to Charley.
While Charley struggles with the re-awakening of her emotions, Luke faces a series of unexplained crises at his clinic, as well as an impending custody battle with his ex-wife.
How can an English actress and an Irish vet reconcile their different worlds? And will their relationship survive when Luke believes Charley has endangered his children's lives – and then betrayed him?



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

C Is For Children

Jennifer talks about children as secondary characters...

I love writing children. They’re fun to create and they’re extremely useful.

They can be instigators. In A Heart of Little Faith, my heroine has to work late and she needs someone to watch her daughter, Claire. The neighbor steps up and the neighbor’s brother, the hero, entertains her with a board game until my heroine arrives:

Even before she entered, Lily could hear Claire’s giggle, and the telltale popping sound of “Trouble.” Wondering who Samantha had subjected to her mercenary daughter, Lily frowned and walked into the living room. The sight stopped her dead in her tracks. Gideon.
“Claire,” she whispered, but neither Claire nor Gideon heard her. Claire was too busy giggling uncontrollably. Her brown curly hair bobbed as she bounced around in excitement. Lily observed with wonder Claire’s ease around Gideon. Since her father died, Claire’s contact with men had been limited. Lily rarely dated and Claire tended to be shy around strange men. Not so with this man.
He turned around and nodded at Lily. “Hello.”
The sound of his voice, even that one little word, made Lily’s stomach go all jiggly inside and she swallowed as she watched his eyes rove from her wet, raggedy hair to her water-sloshed shoes.

Oftentimes, I use them as a way to explain things to readers. Because young children, especially, don’t know about certain things, they can ask questions that a main character can answer, thus providing the reader with information they wouldn’t otherwise necessarily know. For example, in TheSeduction of Esther, I needed to explain a few Jewish terms to non-Jewish readers:

“Shabbat Shalom and welcome to Temple Beth Am. I’m Dave.”
Nathaniel shook the older man’s hand and looked into kind brown eyes. “Shabbat Shalom. I’m Nathaniel and this is my daughter, Zoe. We’re new members.”
“I thought you might be. Hello, Zoe.”
“Hi, I’m seven and I go to school downstairs. Why did you say Shabbat Shalom?”
Dave smiled. “It means peaceful Sabbath and we say it to each other on Shabbat. Why don’t you and your dad go inside and sit down. Join us at the oneg afterwards for snacks. We have cookies,” he said, with a wink at Zoe.

Children also provide a way to demonstrate a main character’s traits. For example, in Skin Deep, I used Valerie’s niece to show the type of person Valerie is:

Back at the house, John disappeared upstairs, while Valerie searched for Sarah. She followed the noise of children laughing into the basement. Her nieces and nephews played board games, and their laughter, whining and arguing filtered up the stairs and through the rest of the house. Valerie stood on the bottom step and waited for Sarah to see her. When Sarah looked up, Valerie caught her eye, and Sarah ran over.
“Will you do my makeup now?” Sarah asked as she bounced up and down.
Valerie smiled at the endless energy. After her own hike, and the tension caused by dealing with John, she just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep. But she’d made a promise to her niece. And, as John had said, she was a good aunt.

Children are funny. They see things differently than adults. They’re often much more literal. At the same time, their imaginations are usually bigger and they’re more open to new things. So putting them into a situation and watching them handle it is often amusing.

How do you deal with these issues?



Monday, July 18, 2016

C is for Characters' Introductions

Ana goes back for gems of advice for introducing characters in "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers"

"Once you understand a character well enough to bring him or her to life, we don't have to know where the character came from."

"When you defined your characters the minute you introduce them. you may be setting boundary lines that your readers will use to interpret your characters' actions through the rest of the book. But if you allow your readers to get to know your characters gradually, each reader will interpret them in his or her own way, thus getting a deeper sense of who your characters are than you could ever convey in a summary.

"Sketching out your characters for your readers is just plain intrusive. It's a form of telling that is almost certain to make your readers aware that you the writer are hard at work."


"It's often a good idea to introduce a new character with enough physical description for your readers to picture him or her. As with describing your settings, all you need are a few concrete, idiomatic details to jump-start your readers' imaginations."

Friday, July 15, 2016

B is for Back story


 

Margaret talks about writing back stories

 

Back story is an essential in almost all novels, something that happened weeks or months or even years before the story begins. Something that tells the reader a little bit about the hero/heroine’s character, but not too much all at once. To be effective it needs to be fed in gradually, usually through dialogue or each character’s thoughts.

 I develop complete back stories for my two main characters before I begin to write, then add and improve as I go. It’s amazing how their identities begin to emerge - until they eventually become real people in my mind. Real live people whose story I’m telling!

I don’t use every tiny detail that I’ve written down. Back story is simply an aid, put in where necessary as a flashback in the character’s mind, or in dialogue. Of the two options I find dialogue works better because the reader becomes more involved.

And of course everything needs to be woven in seamlessly so that the reader doesn’t see it as pure back story, simply an interesting and necessary part of the book. I actually find it equally as interesting delving in to what’s gone on before I ‘met’ my characters as I do writing about them.