If you know me, you know I have way too many quests. I seek the Holy Grail, to become a Hybrid Published Author. I seek to finish my trilogy by the end of the year. I seek to keep my anthologies working and moving forward. And in my spare time, I seek to read a bunch of books. Continue reading
Has it been two months already? It’s my turn again? Wow. Okay. I have something to write. I had a brilliant idea a month ago, and decided, “nah, I don’t need to write this brilliant idea down. I’ll just make sure to write it in the morning.” So the next morning, chaos broke loose in my house, like it always does, because kids and school. And I said, “I’ll get to writing my blog post later.” And then I didn’t. But I remembered what I was going to write about. Continue reading
Some authors write to fill their lives with the missing bits of happiness others seem to have gotten. I never went to my prom, I only went to one dance, and I had so much fun standing in a corner all night rocking out to covers of Strange Brew. I didn’t go to college with a degree in mind and never belonged to a sorority. I was never one of the cool kids. Because I was fat and wore glasses some kids thought I was smart. They often friended me to tap that knowledge. And that’s the only tapping that went on back then.
Many writers and artists keep or have owned pets; there seems to be a special affinity between cats and writers in particular. They provide companionship in what can be a rather lonely profession. In this collection (under one of my other pen names) you can find some quotes from famous artists about their pets.
How a person feels about and treats animals is an excellent gauge of their character, a fact that has been exploited by fiction writers countless times. A responsible, nurturing person – the kind who will make a first-rate spouse and parent – is fond of, and looks after their pets. On the other hand, a single kick at an animal will signal, irrevocally, that readers are supposed to hate a new character.
In Georgette Heyer’s classic romance The Grand Sophy the heroine, Sophy, arrives at her aunt’s town residence not only with her Spanish stallion, but a dog, a monkey and a parrot (the latter two as gifts for the children). From her very first entrance you know this is no ordinary young lady.
In another book by the same author, Frederica, an unruly big mongrel named Lufra chases the cows in Green Park as Frederica walks him, and is only saved from the authorities by a noble marquis, who pretends that the animal is a rare “Beluchistan Hound” smuggled into the country at great expense.
In Arabella, the elegant Mr. Beaumaris accepts an ugly mongrel as his constant and incongruous companion, shocking society, because he did not want to disappoint the girl he is courting.
These incidents provide occasions for the future romantic interests to interact and show their mettle – they also remain in readers’ memory long after more generic romances have faded.
Perhaps conforming to a paticularly British prejudice, in Heyer’s works you can tell the good guys by their having dogs, while the villains tend to prefer cats.
Of course pets can be an interesting addition to any genre, not just romance. In J.D. Robb’s (aka Nora Roberts) In Death series, Eve and Roarke have a tomcat. Cats and dogs feature prominently in “cozy” mysteries. Shifter romances on the other hand rarely feature pets, since the main character is half animal himself or herself.
In my own romances I have also used pets here and there, mostly dogs. In Margaret’s Turn, the hero gives Margaret a guard dog after a burglary, an early sign of his desire to protect her. In Catching a Rook, the hero’s unwanted fiancée dislikes dogs, so he sends for his favorite hound as one of several ploys to make her cry off. Here the animal serves to underscore their incompatibility.
While animal characters cannot talk, depending on a writer’s skill they are excellent foils for the human characters, and can be highly memorable in their own right. Think of romance books and films you have enjoyed, where a pet has played an important part … why not include one in your own next story or novel, if it fits?
Before I say good-bye, here is a foto of my own dog Millie, who keeps me company while I write and edit, and ensures that I go out and get some fresh air every once in a while. She is a soothing and lovely dog, the best-behaved I have ever owned.
May Burnett writes historical romance series as well as fantasy and non-fiction (under other pen names.) She lives in Austria and loves animals.
About eleven months ago I started working on my current “work in progress.” I finished a first draft and had a team of wonderful women give it a thorough critique. Once they were finished, I reviewed everything they said, devised and plan and after giving the story a few week’s rest, began edits.
Editing took about two months. It was tricky balancing my day job with family commitments and editing on top of it, but I got it finished. I’d done a decent job of fixing some of the plot points, smoothing out the character’s arcs and adding a bit of action. My hope was that after my beta group read it, I’d have a few minor issues to clean up and I’d be ready. So two weeks after my betas finished reading, I again found myself sorting through comments, thoughts, and unresolved questions.
The feedback was awesome and highlighted a few issues which i believed could be easily fixed with a few additions and deletions. Problem solved. At least that’s what I thought. Continue reading
Columbus sailed the ocean blue
Got completely lost,
ran into the Caribbean islands,
and went home thinking he’d found East India. Continue reading
Over most of my writing career, I have this frustrating scenario that repeats itself. I’m either driving, in the shower, or in the dark just about to fall asleep. This happens during the silent times, when not much else can distract me. Of course, it’s also when I have zero easy access to pen, paper, a napkin, or a computer. It’s when my story creating brain goes on overdrive, and the best of my best comes out. And then, I race in my head to memorize as much as I can until I can get to something to record it on.
So you’ve mastered show not tell, motivational reaction units and kicked the passive voice to the kerb. You understand structure, have an interesting protagonist and strong conflict, but still it all feels – meh. With this in mind, I have recently been thinking about emotional resonance, what it is and how to accomplish it.
Editor, Jessica Morrell, says resonance takes place when a story evokes a ‘responsive chord’ in a reader and that writers must place ‘stimuli’ in the story to trigger this response. The key to achieving this is creating characters readers can identify with and care about.
The other week I watched Sleepless In Seattle, a film I have always enjoyed. But this time around I was watching as an aspiring writer with a more critical eye and a plot issue with the story immediately jumped out at me. When 8-year-old Jonah takes a flight to New York by himself, no-one contacts the airlines, police or Empire State Building staff to alert them that an unaccompanied minor child is headed their way. Instead, his father, Sam, hops on the next flight to NYC to search for Jonah by himself.
Yet I found I was willing to overlook the issue because by then I cared about Sam and Jonah. We had witnessed Sam struggling as a single dad and grieving the loss of his wife. I was desperate for him to get together with Annie so Jonah could have a new mum.
The film generally received positive reviews. Vincent Canby of The New York Times said: “Not since Love Story has there been a movie that so shrewdly and predictably manipulated the emotions for such entertaining effect.”
How, then, do we go about creating these emotions in our audience? The answer lies in the protagonist’s struggle. Author, KM Weiland, says the struggle and the stakes have to be personal. “How much and why will he suffer if he loses the fight? And for the bonus round question, ask yourself: How much and why will he suffer even if he wins?”
In Sleepless in Seattle, Sam’s struggle couldn’t get more personal. He’s lost the wife he loved to cancer and has to bring up his adorable 8-year-old son by himself. He doesn’t believe true love happens more than once in a lifetime and plans never to remarry. In winning the chance to love again with Annie, Sam is forced to abandon the belief that his first wife was his one and only true love.
Emotional resonance is what gives a story the ‘X Factor’. In fact, writing teacher, Lindsey Barrett recommends looking to TV reality shows for inspiration. The contestants we root for, she tells us, are those who have overcome adversity to get there.
Nothing encapsulates the hero’s journey more than the struggles of an Olympic athlete. A stand-out moment for me at the 2016 Paralympic Games was when Will Bayley won gold in table tennis having overcome cancer, arthrogryposis and many reconstruction operations. Over-joyed, he jumped onto the table to celebrate. When a stern-faced official marched over to present him with a yellow card for a code violation, he ignored the card and, still beaming from ear to ear, hugged her.
“I have given everything,” he said afterwards, “training six hours a day. People don’t realise what I have achieved. I have done mission impossible.”
And it is these emotive moments we need to re-create in our writing; the longing, the need, the fear, the joy, the elation and sheer desperation.
No pressure then!
Lizzie Hermanson is a wife, mother and talented procrastinator. She writes contemporary romance when her cat isn’t hogging the keyboard and loves Happy Ever Afters. Find her @lizziehermanson
As a child I struggled with it so much. My sisters (I have 4) would say I am anti-social. They weren’t trying to be cruel with their remarks but they still struck a nerve. Yet, no matter how much I tried to just hang with them and their friends, do normal stuff that constituted “fun”, all I wanted was to retreat with a book in my hand, get lost in my own small world. Actually everyone thought it was small and constricting- I traveled in my imagination to lands and situations they couldn’t imagine existed.
“Anyone who’s going to be a writer knows enough at 15 to write several novels.” May Sarton aka. Eleanore Marie Sarton.
Thanks to reading too much (is there such a thing?), this quote applies to me. By the time I was 15 I had read too many books to count. At that age, I didn’t know that I wanted to be a writer, I simply enjoyed the joyous solitude of completely immersing myself in a good story with great characters. My favorite place was the library and I didn’t feel weird at all. In fact, I felt safe on my own. A crowded party on the other hand, made me feel exposed, vulnerable and believe it or not, lonely.