Jilly: Powerful Shots of Story

Michaeline’s post yesterday (Story Bites for When You Just Can’t) was exactly what I needed. I’m tantalizingly close to the end of my draft, and I know what I need to do, but this last handful of scenes is driving me bananas.

I’m not the fastest writer, but once I’ve figured out what’s supposed to happen in a scene, I can normally nail a decent draft in a day or two. Right now, each one is taking me a week or more: write, delete, rinse and repeat.

My problem is that all the key players are coming together and the stakes are high. In my head the scenes are great, but capturing that intensity on the page is hard. My lack of progress has been making me very cranky indeed, so I thought I’d take Micki’s advice and see if approaching the problem from a different angle would boost my spirits and improve my productivity.

I already have a playlist and a collage for Alexis, so I decided to try something different and write a haiku for each main character at this critical stage of the story.

I’m no expert on haiku, but what I know is this: they should be three lines long, comprising seventeen syllables in a five-seven-five pattern. And ideally they should provide an insight by juxtaposing two contrasting—or conflicting—ideas.

That sounds like the perfect structure for a brief story shot that aims to capture the essence of the character and their conflict.

I’m pleased to report that Continue reading

Michille: Recorded Sessions

RWA 2017So many recorded sessions, so little time. Actually, the second part isn’t exactly true. I have all the time in the world. I’m referring to the RWA National Conference recordings. I bought them at the last RWA Conference I attended with every intention of listening to them regularly for motivation and craft reminders. I thought, oh, I have lots of time because I don’t have to listen to them all at once and was looking forward to parsing out the listening as motivation until I went to the next one. Continue reading

Michaeline: Cyber Attacks: Bad News and Good News for Writers

I woke up this morning to news of ransomware attacks on computers in more than 70 countries (The Telegraph (UK) reports 99 countries as of this writing), and my first thought was: BACK UP MY COMPUTER!

Woman from the 1950s with a giant old computer

Update your security and back-up your data. Jean F. Hall would tell you how quick and easy it is today! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been thinking about a major back-up of my data for a few months now, but I’ve always come up with an excuse: I don’t want to spend three or four hours babysitting my computer. There must be an easy fix to keep my computer awake, but I didn’t want to spend five minutes looking that up, either. (UPDATE: Yeah, it took less than five minutes to find out how to do that. No excuses now! Your system may be different, so let me just encourage you to find out if you don’t already know.)

But now, thousands of computers across the world have been invaded by this virus that puts all the files into gobbledy-gook, then threatens to delete everything unless the owner pays up. The Guardian (UK) says the ransom is $300 (233 pounds/34,000 yen). I’m worried. This relatively low ransom, and the scattershot targeting of victims suggests Continue reading

Nancy: The Most Important Question You’ll Ask Your Characters

We writers ask our characters a lot of questions. Who are you? What do you want? How will you get it? What are you willing to suffer, sacrifice, and change to reach your goal? If and when you reach it, are you sure that’s the thing you really want, after all?

These are all important questions. They are fundamental to building believable characters. But they aren’t enough to get to the heart of your story. To do that, you have to ask your characters why? Not just once or twice or even three times, but over and over again. Ask it until there is nothing more to uncover, until it seems your characters have nothing left to say. And then ask it one more time.

The importance of the question ‘why’ is a core concept of Lisa Cron’s Story Genius approach to writing. It makes sense. Of course we want to know why our characters do what they do. One way to learn why our characters want and do and react the way they do is to add whys throughout our development process. So what do you want? is followed by why do you want that?. How will you get it? is followed by why is that the path you’ll take?. Etc., etc. Ad infinitum.

And when should you stop asking why? Continue reading

Jilly: Secret Sauce

It’s a holiday weekend here in London. Spring is in the air. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the city is full of flowers, and my husband just offered to take me out to dinner. Nothing but good times ahead 😉 .

I was planning a Good Book Squee, but that will have to wait until next week. All of a sudden, my head is full of lobster cocktail, shrimp tempura, steak, cheesecake, great conversations and lots of laughter. I’m smiling just thinking about it.

We’ve been going regularly to Goodman Mayfair since it opened in 2008. It’s been my favorite restaurant for almost nine years now and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. Every time I go, I’m blown away by the excellence of their offering, and I always think about what it takes to keep their customers coming back for more, year after year.

A superb steakhouse has a lot in common with an outstanding piece of genre fiction. Continue reading

Jilly: A Snippet and a Question

How likeable do you like your main characters? Will you take strong, interesting and flawed, especially if they grow and change during the story, or do you prefer them sympathetic from the start?

And do you think readers set the bar higher for heroines than heroes?

In the recent Duke University romance forum, Ilona Andrews said that in her experience, romance readers are more forgiving of male characters than female ones. A male character can do appalling things but with the careful application of a little tragic backstory, he can still become a hero. A heroine, not so much.

That set me to wondering about one of my favorite contemporary characters, a super-rich bitch called Sasha Montgomery. She’s on ice for now, but not forgotten. She’s not a nice woman, but I love her a lot and I’d always planned to turn her into a heroine one day. Now I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.

Below is a snippet from the life of Unredeemed Sasha. She definitely has a challenging backstory. I’d be very curious to know whether you think she could be turned around.

Continue reading

Michille: Solving Problems

Challenge

© Niserin | Dreamstime.com – Solve The Problem, Think About Solution, Challenge Concept. Photo

It’s time to get back in the writing saddle (or office chair). I had a brainstorm last night as I was drifting off to sleep on one issue, but I have several other problems that need solved before much more writing happens. The 40,000 words I have thus far, even though they’ve been edited, are essentially first draft words. There are great gaping sections of narrative, long sections of dialogue with little blocking or emotional undercurrents, and some obvious holes where I haven’t figured out what will happen next to inform the end of the scene (so it rolls over and plays dead). That draft was about story structure and it got the bare bones on the page. Now I need to flesh it out. Continue reading