Friday, April 30, 2010

Plotting Basics

Some people find plotting to be difficult. One thing to remember is that a plot is like a road map that takes you from home to the final destination. While some of us would get in the car and just drive, most people at least have a vague idea of where they want to go. The problems with having no road map are multiple but the two most common ones are driving in circles and coming to a dead end.

Before a writer starts to map a plot there are some things needed. The first is an idea. Writers are often asked where they get their ideas. I usually tell them the problem is not getting ideas but in finding too many and deciding which ones either interest me or might be marketable. Ideas often come from people, places or things. A chance meeting with a friend, observing someone doing something strange or interesting. Visiting a new scene or even an old one. Reading an article or a chance phrase in a book. magazinem newspaper or on the internet. This is where ideas are found. Everywhere and anywhere.

Before the road map can be constructed, there are some other things one must need. First are the characters, at least the major ones. Minor characters can arrive in a story as needed and walk-ons as well. Besides the general material one needs to know about the characters like physical description, career choice, education, there are two important things to discover. What do they want and Why do they want this particular thing. Doing this for all the major characters will help when it comes time to develop complications. Characters can want more than one thing,and their reasons may be in conflict. One also has to know where the story will be set and when or the time period. These will all help develop the how or the map to the destination. Do not be surprised if some of these things change during the writing. Characters like people are subject to change.

Next week, we'll start designing the road map.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Paranormal Romances

I've been trying to decide is my latest WIP is fantasy of a paranormal. Also, are all romances with a touch of the different to be considered paranormal? I understand that time-travel is paranormal. What I'm working on is perhaps time-travel but it's an alternate world. My heroine arrives in an ancient Egypt that is a parallel world to the one she has studied. Does this take it into the realm of fantasy?

What other forms of romance can go by the title paranormal? Ones where dreams play an alternate role. The use of Tarot cards or astrology as part of the plot? Does one consider urban fantasies as paranormal? These are answers I've been searching for. Vampires, shapeshifters could be considered paranormal, that is if they happen in the world we know. Is that where the line is drawn.

I've written fantasies and I consider them as just that. I've never even thought to think they are paranormal. I have two reincarnation novels and those I consider as paranormal.

I really would like to hear other people's ideas on this.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Writing Life -- Critique Groups

I've been a member of the same critique group for twenty years. Now the members have changed over the years and there are only one other of the original group who comes at least some of the time. Among the writers who have been part of the group, some have gone on to great success and others have dropped out of the writing life.

I wonder about some of the ones who have dropped out over the years. Several of them were better writers than I am. Some dropped out because life slammed them and they stopped writing for a time. This I understand since I stopped when I went back to work as a nurse. Families, illness and other such events can dam a writer's creativity. The ones who have returned to writing have been welcomed with open arms.

What about the others. I can think of several beautiful writers both published and unpublished who have given up writing. I don't think I can and I also know I'll never reach their expression.

What does this have to do with critique groups. Writing is a lonely business and often families don't understand a writer's obsession. In a critique group a writer finds support, companionship of other people who hear the voices of characters, and often ways to overcome the flaws in their writing. The group I belong to has people writing a variety of genres, mostly romance, but in the multitude of spinoffs in that area. Hearing other kinds of work is always a treat, even if I don't write that kind of fiction.

The question for today is Do you belong to a critique group? What are the pluses and minuses you've found in the group?

Friday, April 23, 2010

More on Point of View

Last week there was a quick look at first person viewpoint in a story. Now we come to second person. This is you. I've never used this viewpoint but I'm sure there are writers out there who have. If anyone can think of one, let me know. This might be a point of view for a mind reader or a computer. But now I'll move on to third person.

Third person, he and she is the most usual point of view used in fiction writer. There are several variations of third person viewpoint. There is limited where one person's view is the sole one used. In some ways this is almost like first person in that all is shown through what that person hears, says, thinks, sees and all the other senses a writer used.

Another form of limited third person is used mainly in romance fiction. Where the hero and the heroine each have a point of view. Thus all other characters are shown through the viewpoints of these two characters.

Third person can also have multiple view point characters. Many works of fiction follow this pattern. There are many he and she characters. These books become some kind of ensemble books. Third person allows the writer to get into a number of heads and show the actions and especially the reactions of more than one character,

Now we come to pitfalls of third person. One I see often is when a character think about her long blonde hair or a hero about his well-developed muscles. This a a step from third person into almost omniscent. People seldom think about the color of their hair or how well their bodies are developed. Another problem I've seen is head-hopping. There is nothing wrong with changing viewpoint in a scene, especially if it's done skillfully. But to jump from person to person from sentence to sentence can be confusing to the reader. If the view point is to be shifted in the scene try to go for several paragraphs at the least. I once read a contest entry where there were three viewpoints in the same paragraph and one of them was the horse. Needless to say this became funny when the writer hadn't intended this to happen.

The final viewpoint is omniscent. Here the writer delves into anyone's head, including minor character. I find this a hard one to maintain. Though many of my stories are in third person with multiple viewpoints. Here I stick to one character per scene or chapter or I change midway in a scene and stay there to the end.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Romance Fiction - Can this marriage be saved?

As I finish each new romance I read, and I read a book every two days, one question pops into my head. Can this marriage be saved? Sometimes I don't think the romance I've read is one where the couple will remain as a couple for long.I've been guilty of this in some of my romances and wondered what the problem was. I've come to several ideas and I'm sure those who write romances can think of others.

The first thing is that the writer becomes so involved in the plot which usually involves the outer conflicts that the romance is while not neglected, is not completely developed. I;m a plot person and love weaving all the lines and sometimes must pull myself back and ask "What's happening to the romance part of the story?

Another thing that makes me wonder if the relationship will last beyond the words "The End" comes from another problem. Often the writer is so intent on what keeps the characters apart of in looking at the conflicts, why these two characters are going to stay together is forgotten. What common interests do they have. In revising one of my current projects, I was surprised to see the number of common interests the couple has. Not all are major but often in real life it's the small things that drive people apart. My couple share a love of cooking, the same tastes in reading, movies and music.

So, what are your thoughts on the matter? Does every romance that ends in happily ever after stand a chance of lasting well beyond the end of the book? Even if the epilogue says they do.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Writing World -- Friends from the past

My week has been busy with trying to work on three mss in various stages of life. One is a revision of a spicy romance Heart Throbs, the second is the final draft of In Other Worlds -- Egypt -- Aries and the third is The Amber Tower in the rough draft stage. Sometimes I feel dizzy but that may be my nature.

The amazing things that happened to me this week had to do with friends, new and old. Did a reading at a local library with two rather new friends. An old friend who is one of my greatest supporters was unable to come but she wants to buy my book. That's the kind of support a writer needs. A second good thing came from this reading. I was able to make contact with the children's librarian and to talk about EPIC's New Voices contest. She has the flyer and I've volunteered to give a talk about the contest during the summer. I have plans to speak to the librarians in all the other libraries in the county.

The other was a friend on Facebook but a young woman I've known on line for perhaps ten years. She once was on a committee that awarded my Fantasy then called The Jewels of Erda second place in a contest. Stacey put a message on Facebook wanting to know where she could buy what has become a trilogy The Quest For The White Jewel, The Brotherhood of Mages, and The Secret of the Jewels. I sent her the information and she emailed me and asked for three book plates. This is another type of friend one wants to keep.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Writing tips Point of View

A group I belong to once wrote a booklet called What's the Point of Point of View.
This series of tips will be about the two most commonly used ones. First and third person accounts of a story. This will start with First person.

In first person, the I's have it. In some ways this is the easiest viewpoint to write and it is also the hardest. First person is used when the story is to be told from a single person's point of view, most of the time. A favorite historical writer once wrote a book using first person hero and first person heroine.
When writing first person, only what the viewpoint character can see, hear, touch, taste, smell and think are possible. Unless the character can read minds he or she can't know what a person thinks or feels other than what they can discern through observation.
There are several problems that can be encountered while writing first person. The first is the constant use of I and varying the sentences can help here. Searching for ways to eliminate the use of I takes work. Another problem is tangents. The story can be forgotten while the character goes off on something that's not related to the story.
I speak from experience. I have a series of cozy mysteries begun in the first person. When I finished the second or third draft of the book I had a lot of words, but I had to go through and excise all the ones that didn't do one of three things, advance the plot, develop characters, or give vital information such as descriptions of places and clues or wild geese to fool the reader.
First person is very effective in mysteries, especially cozy ones. Another place I've seen it very effectively done is when the writer uses it in short segments to allow the villain to have a voice. Lately, I've read a number of romances done in first person and when reading the love scenes I feel very uncomfortable. I'm not sure why and for some people writing in first person comes easy. Maybe that's the reason.
Just remember when using first person, try to remember the story and rein in your character when they get carried off on some tangent or when an I pops up in nearly every sentence.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

About genres and subgenres -- Romantic Suspense

I read a lot and I read in a variety of genres so I've decided to look at the genres and see what I like and don't like in the books I've read. Romance will be my first and Romantic Suspense is the first subgenre, probably because I don't write in this area. I've done one suspense book, Obsessions, but that's a medical suspense which is a different sort of thing.
Romantic Suspense has two focuses, one is the romance and the other is the suspense. Combining them can be tricky and falling short can happen easily. I'm not going to mention specific books because this isn't a review site. I'm just going to look at what I like in these books and how they fall flat for me.

What I like about Romantic Suspense are villains who are powerful and really evil. I want to see the hero and heroine face someone who is worthy of the fight to the finish. I love to see the sexual tension develop between the hero and heroine as they face adversity. There are a number of kinds of romantic suspense. There can be as the enemy spies both foreign and industrial, criminals of all kinds. There can be bad guys from the past that come to haunt a hero or heroine's present. The ones I enjoy the most are those with tension that carries through the book that keep the pages turning. This is a real talent.

Now on to the things that bother me a lot. The first is figuring who the villain is if this is being kept a secret. I remember reading one romantic suspense and I knew who the bad guy was by page three. Needless to say I didn't finish the book. A second is when the heroine or the hero is "too stupid to live." I've read so many of these where the heroine or hero goes into a situation tha no reasonable person would entertain. A third is when the love scene occurs at a time when no reasonable person would make love. Another is erratic writing. I remember reading one where the suspense elements were riveting and drew me forward, only to come on to a hero/heroine scene with back and forth dialogue that was supposed to be amusing but broke the tone of the book.

Plots are the backbone of good romantic suspense. There are two kind of plots here that drive me to toss the book away. One is the simplistic plot where the suspense is only a vehicle for the romance. The suspense part could be solved too quickly and the romance becomes the major part of the book. The other is a plot so convoluted that the reader has no chance of every decipering it. The convoluted plot often forces the hero, heroine or both to act in ways that make them appear to be fools.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


This is not conflicts in the sense of writing but deals with myself and the writing world. Once I belonged to four professional writing groups. When the time to renew one of them arrived, I decided not to renew. The reason was that I had no personal connection to the other members of the organization. All was done through a newsletter and a promotional item. When the promotional way was closed to those who chose the publishing path I had entered, I felt there was nothing in it for me. Two of my professional groups I have no problem with renewal. In fact on both I usually renew early since I have that option. One group supports a genre among the number I write and even when I sell in another genre people are quite free with congratulations. I am able to take part in any of the promotional projects I care to and have done in a number. The second of my keepers deals with my particular publishing path. Support is freely given. I have learned more about the publishing world than from any group I've ever belonged to. I have made friends and acquaintances. Many among them have bought my books and I have bought theirs. One thing I like about this group is that all the members are published or connected to publishing in some manner. Another thing is that they are published in every genre you can think of including poetry and non-fiction as well as fiction. There are sometimes scraps and sometimes heated discussions but all settles down in the end. The only criteria to membership is that the author must be published on a certain path. Some are published on more than one publishing path. I am one of them.
Now I've come to the third group. I've belonged for a very long time and have gained some benefits, mostly friends. One problem I have is my chosen paths of writing. To be a member of this group one must be actively seeking a career in a single genre of writing. I am writing in a number of genres. Actually, I'm pursuing
a career in writing fiction with an occasional excursion into non-fiction. The particular publishing path I chose ten plus years ago was not recognized by this group. I could have left then but I would have missed the many friends I have made over the years. Now this path is recognized and the reason I see for the recognition bothers me but I won't get into that. What really troubles me is that some people who were violently opposed to this publishing path now think it's wonderful.
Now my conflict is one of personality. I am a Cancer with six planets in that sign and that makes me very much this kind of person. What this means is I hate to see things broken without trying to fix them. I like to hold onto things far beyond their use. I tend to mother people and this is sort of what I've done in the last of the professional groups I belong to. I have mentored a number of new writers who have gone on to become published. I enjoy doing this as much as I do writing and if anyone knows me, I am completely obsessed and in love with writing and reading. At this point I am still conflicted about paying a lot of money for a group that mainly offers me friendship and little support. I will probably stay another year unless I get tossed out on my ear.