Monday, January 26, 2015

R.U.E. Your Dialogue

Ana resists the urge to explain:

                                        R.U.E.      Resist the urge to explain.

When an emotion is mentioned outside of dialogue, chances are it is an explanation of one sort or another.      Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

Which sentence allows the reader to feel the emotion?
"I can't believe it," she said in astonishment.
She stumbled back until she could grip something solid. "I can't believe it."

I have been reviewing my WIP chapters for my tendency to explain the emotions I am trying to show. It is a bad habit, but one that can be purged.

One way I've discovered to eliminate it is to eliminate as many dialogue tags as possible. Show the character cringing or beaming or shrugging.

Another is to delete -ly adverbs. "Ly adverbs almost always catch the writer in the act of explaining dialogue--smuggling emotions into speaker attributions that belong in the dialogue itself."

Adverbs that modify the verb said are an exception. "He said softly." is much different than "She said grimly."  But these should be used sparingly.

A strong verb is better. "He threw the ball hard." vs "He hurled the ball."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Snippet Sunday - A Peek into Debra's WIP

This story will hopefully be the first in a series of short spin-offs of my Corral Series. It features the brother of Zach, from This Can't Be Love, as the hero. As a disclaimer, it is only the first draft and has not been through any kind of edits whatsoever.

Chapter One
"What do you mean you're stuck in Colorado and can't get home?"
Van Rawlings looked over at the woman sitting a few stools down at the bar. Her open-mouthed expression of dismay might have been comical if it weren't paired with the desperate tone of her voice, which carried even over the energetic beat of Luke Bryan's Run, Run Rudolph currently blasting through the bar's speakers.
Although it had been the content, not the tenor, of the sentence she'd spoken into the phone tucked against her ear that had caught his attention. He also happened to know someone stuck in Colorado unable to get home. No way could it be a coincidence. Not in a town this size.
But who was this woman?
She tucked a strand of long, honey blonde hair behind her ear. "How could you do this to me?" She paused to listen. Made a face. "Easy for you to say. You're frolicking in Colorado with your wife. What am I supposed to do now?"
Van frowned as he took a sip of his beer. Cheating husbands and wives weren't anything new to him, but somehow he'd never imagined his brother falling prey. Was his 'perfect' marriage already crumbling into the dust of impending divorce? Goed to show, even the good guys had trouble keeping those wedding vows.
"Fine. I'll talk to you when you get home." Another pause. A sigh. "No, I'm sorry. I know you didn't do this on purpose. Besides, there's always next year. And you owe me one. Huge." She laughed. "Me too, but don't let Jessica hear you say that."
She swiped the phone off and placed it on the bar. "Better make my refill a double, Nick."
The bartender nodded. He returned shortly to place two stemmed glasses in front of her. He winked. “Double chardonnay, per your request.”
The woman laughed. Not the forced sound of polite acknowledgement, but one of genuine amusement.
Van took another swallow of beer. Should he say something? Confront her? What would he open with… 'So, are you fooling around with my brother behind his wife's back?'
Nope. Best to stay out of it. Really, it wasn't any of his business. Not yet. If it came down to it, he'd offer Zach a family discount.
The woman sighed and tapped long, red fingernails on the bar. Since she seemed wrapped up in her own thoughts, he studied her without fear of getting caught staring. A black sweater hugged her curves. Skinny jeans encased the long legs propped on the rung of the stool. Tall boots molded shapely calves. Definitely attractive.
Still. Even though his life was filled with people who didn't give a damn about upholding the sanctity of marriage, he honestly had a hard time believing Zach would cheat on Jessica, no matter how attractive another woman was. Seeing Zach and Jessica together almost made Van rethink his view on the institution of marriage. Almost.

Friday, January 23, 2015

C is for Colour

Margaret thinks about 'colour' in our novels.

Colour in characters
Colour in writing
Colour in descriptions

Characters take on a life of their own when you begin writing and some are more colourful than others. You might think, for instance, that in romance all heroes are similar – but this is far from the truth. They might be larger than life but they are all individuals with their own likes and dislikes, and their own problems. They are invariably dominant characters with colourful personalities. My current work in process hero is red. He’s totally dominant. I’ve only just met him but he’s definitely not a man to cross. My heroine is in danger of crossing him right from the word go. I can see storm clouds on the horizon – and they, most definitely won’t be red. I’ll leave you to imagine their colour. Readers like to identify with characters. How often have you heard them say that they know someone like the person in a book? It means the writer really has brought that character to life.

Colour in writing is the skilful use of words to describe those characters. A need to make them real people in the eyes of the reader. I could write, “She had blue eyes and blonde hair.” And I probably have done! But if I said, “She had hair the colour of ripened corn and eyes that echoed the blue sky.” it would make the writing far more colourful. Colour is also found in people’s emotions – the most common is feeling blue. Not that any of my characters feel this! We also have green with envy and red with anger. And I’m sure you can think of more.

Descriptions of places need to be vibrant and interesting, described in such a way that the reader can easily see them in their mind’s eye. Having said that it is important they are woven seamlessly into the story so that readers don't even think of them as descriptions but a part of the whole.

All of this brings to mind the words I learned when I first began to write: “Show, don’t tell.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

C is for Complete!

Debra finished the first draft of her WIP.

Yep, that's right. So far my 'attempt' (See my A post for more background information!) to finish a Christmas novella and get it submitted before the March 13 deadline is going well. Extremely well.

Yesterday I finished the first draft. It took me 18 days and turned out to be 13,512 words and 69 pages. I was faithful and wrote everyday. I won't say my writing was consistent (my daily word counts varied greatly), but I got the job done. As I went, I did a running total of my words and how many I added each day. The highest number I did in a day was 2,268, which happened to be a cold/snow day off from school I wasn't expecting. My lowest day was 398 words.

Not only was keeping a daily count of page numbers and progress new for me, I wrote this story in completely different way than my previous ones. For one, other than a few sentences at the very end which I did out of order, I started at page one and kept on, writing the story in chronological order. Most of the time, if I get an idea for a scene, even if it's not at a point in the story I'm at, I write it so I don't forget. This time was a lot more linear.

Another different thing was I didn't go back and do a lot of editing each day. Here and there I did some minor tweaking, but most of the time I used my allotted writing time to keep on moving forward with the story. I also left a few yellow highlighted spots, where I know I need to go back and fix or look for a different word or phrase.

Plus, this time around, I had a definite writing routine and time of day scheduled to write. (For the most part. Days off and weekends were a bit different.) Each night after my shower, I'd sit down at the computer and write. I didn't use that time for anything else: e-mail, blogs, Facebook. It was designated writing time, and I used it as such. Last Saturday I was a bit 'stuck' at one point in the story, so I hopped in the shower. Call it 'muscle memory' or a version of Pavlov's Theory, but it worked. The ideas started flowing, and I was able to finish the scene.

Now, of course, I'll be using my designated writing time for editing and revising. I am curious to read the story from beginning to end, because a lot of the scenes I haven't gone back and looked at since I wrote them. My next step will be to print out the mss and do a read-through.

All in all, I'm excited about my progress, my new routine, and my new procedures. Will they carry over to my next project? Only time will tell. But so far they are working like a charm on this one.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Characters in search of names and occupations

Paula thinks about her characters in her next novel

I’m still in the process of editing my second Irish novel, but I already have an idea for the third one. In fact one of the secondary characters in the second one gave me the idea for the third! He’s a screenwriter and, in one scene, he’s telling my hero and heroine his idea for a new screenplay. I wrote this scene totally off the top of my head, but once it was written I realised it could become the basis of my next novel. It was a surreal kind of moment!

When I wrote ‘Irish Inheritance’, I had no thoughts of any spin-off story until my publisher suggested I had an opportunity for a story about Charlotte aka Charley, the heroine’s best friend. If I’d thought about this beforehand, I would have given the best friend another name, as Charley wouldn’t have been even my tenth choice for a heroine’s name. However, it was too late to change the name in the first book, so I was stuck with it. However, now I’ve written the story, I can’t conceive of my heroine being called anything but Charley!

Charley, like Jenna (the heroine in Inheritance), was an actress, and that fitted well with the plot of the new story, especially as it allowed me to bring in a retired actress (who, I admit, bears an uncanny resemblance to Maggie Smith LOL)

However, with a third Irish story in mind, I’m being rather more careful with names and occupations. Part way through the second story, I introduce a taxi driver called Ben. He’s the one who (I think!) will become the hero in the third story – but do I want him to be called Ben? Or what other name should I choose for him? And maybe taxi driving in the evenings is a way for him to supplement his earnings, so what should his day job be? After having a volcanologist as the hero in one of my novels, and a veterinary surgeon in the second Irish novel, I’d quite like an occupation that didn’t require  so much research! So I’m thinking about an occupation for Ben (or whatever I decide to call him).

As for the heroine, she needs to have been brought up in America, even though she wasn’t born there (no spoilers, all will be revealed in due course!). Somehow she found her way into the final chapter of the second book, as a cousin of Guy, the hero of the first book. I called her Kara, but do I want to keep that name for her? Decisions, decisions! And should she be another actress? Or do I want to get away from actresses for a while, since my last two heroines have been actresses. In that case, what occupation shall I choose for her?

Bearing in mind that both these characters will be living in the small town of Clifden, on the west coast on Ireland, I’ll be interested in your ideas – both for their names and their occupations.

P.S. This stage is fun, isn’t it? Creating the characters you’re going to live with for the next few months! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

C Is For Character

Jennifer discusses character...

We all have our favorite characters that we read or write, our “book boyfriends” that we can’t stop dreaming about long after we’ve finished the book. I have several characters that I still think about and further develop, even though I’ve told their stories and they should get out of my head to make room for others.

When asked to describe them, we usually start with their physical traits—eye color, hair color, muscle tone, etc. But what about their “character”—their internal traits that make them who they are? Those are the things we need to “show, not tell” so our reader can experience the full personality. Sometimes, though, those traits are harder to describe.

I’m currently filling out a form for my agent, called a Character List. I have no idea how prevalent these are, but I’ve never had to do it. It seems quite simple on the surface—a list of names, whether the story is told in their POV or not, their career, their story function and a physical description.

As I fill it out, I realize I have way more characters in my story than I thought. It sounds funny to say, but I forgot about some of these people—they’re minor townspeople, who flesh out the story, but don’t move the plot along much. Still, every character, no matter how minor, needs to be listed. And after I’d put it aside and checked it off my to-do list, I realized I still forgot a few that I have to go back and add.

I wish there was a spot on the list for character traits, as I’d love to describe the “whys” that give my characters depth. I guess whoever reads the list will just have to find those out when reading the book!

Monday, January 19, 2015


 Since showing is the best way to reveal things in a novel, Ana dives into cadence.

The cadence with which a character speaks reveals (shows) his or her geographical, educational or social background. So does their choice of words as well as their grammar. 

In Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (one of my favorite self-help craft books), Browne and King recommend reading dialogue aloud—something I’m starting to do when I edit. Reading out loud reveals places where the reader might trip over my wording.

“Passages of narration and description will read better once they have the sense of rhythm and flow you edit in while (or after) reading them aloud.”

I have also found that re-reading the next day is a good idea. Different phrasing or word choices often come into my mind. (This is a virtue that is readily applied to critiquing. Words or phrases that bubble up when critiquing may well be valid, and sometimes an improvement.)

With diligent attention to cadence, I am deleting places where I used skewed dialect spelling (for effect) as well as many dialogue tags. I’m striving for words that, as Browne and King write, “real people would actually speak. Explanations, -ly words, oddball verbs of speech, trick spellings—these can’t really help your dialogue because they don’t really change the dialogue. They take the place of good dialogue rather than help create it.”