You remember Achilles, right? He had that “heel” problem.
I read two books this past weekend (it seemed much more appealing than cleaning the garage). One was a keeper and the other probably not; one had a historical setting and the other was contemporary; but both had something in common: a realistically vulnerable hero.
First off was Lori Foster’s Under Pressure, book 1 in her Body Armour series. It was one of the freebies from the recent writing conference and, since I’d read and enjoyed her books before, I figured it would be a relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Though I’m pretty sure I’m not the target reader for this particular series, there were a couple of elements that I thought worked really well. The first was the chemistry between the hero and heroine. It can be difficult to capture instant (or very quick) attraction between characters, but in brief brushstrokes the author did just that. The story features a resourceful heroine (Cat), a hunky bodyguard hero (Leese), and a nefarious Bad Guy threat.
As the story opens Continue reading
Recently I’ve been reading my way through Georgette Heyer’s mystery stories, which has been detrimental to my daily word-count, but highly enjoyable nonetheless.
Since I have a mystery of my own that I’m currently working on, I’ve been reading mysteries by a variety of authors – Heyer, Marsh, Hammett, Tey – deconstructing them to see how they were put together, as somewhat of a self-guided “how-to” master course. Until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t even aware the Heyer had written any mysteries. Once they were pointed out I had only intended to read one or two, just to understand the method and style she used, but it didn’t take long to get hooked and fill my Amazon shopping cart with additional volumes.
Reading hasn’t been all fun and games, especially for the poor corpses that insist upon turning up in each story. Along the way I’ve managed to learn Continue reading
Looking for your weekly dose of Writing Sprints? Head on over to our Wednesday post for this week’s words and resulting stories. There’s still plenty of time to play along.
As Michille mentioned in her post yesterday, the annual RWA conference is fast approaching. In going through the proposed schedule of workshops this afternoon I was amused to see that the session about “Optimizing Writers Conferences” is being offered on Friday afternoon – more than half-way through the conference. Somehow that seems less than optimal.
Every year the conference seems to have several sessions focused on a particular theme or topic. At the first conference I went to it was “self-publishing” (that was quite a while ago). Other years have addressed forensics, the military, and crime-scene processing. The last conference I was at had a number of sessions talking about how to increase diversity in writing – both from the stand point of diverse characterizations and attracting diverse writers – a topic that is still being talked about and worked on in the writing community.
There appear to be several new topics on the schedule this year and one workshop that caught my eye was “Creating Authentic Characters with Disabilities.” Continue reading
The quality of my TBR list has improved greatly of late thanks to Jenny Crusie. Last month she added a new weekly feature, Good Book Thursdays, to her blog, www.arghink.com, and invited her online community to recommend something good to read.
Jenny’s followers are a discerning group, so when Katherine Addison’s novel The Goblin Emperor collected a slew of recommendations, I bought it and bumped it up to the top of my list. I’m glad I did. The story is fantasy, which I love, arguably Young Adult (not so much my thing), and with only the barest smidgeon of the possibility of a future love story (bah!), but I really enjoyed it.
The Goblin Emperor is a coming-of-age story about eighteen year-old Maia, half-elf, half-goblin, who unexpectedly becomes Emperor of the Elflands following the death of his father and three of his siblings in an airship crash. He’s the only child of a political mixed marriage, raised in exile by his mother and after her death, by a bitter, bullying cousin. Maia comes to the dangerous, formal and highly politicized Imperial Court without friends or allies and has to decide whom to trust and just what kind of Emperor he wants to be—assuming he survives long enough to make his mark. He quickly discovers that his father’s airship was sabotaged, and he’s smart enough to realize the murderer is likely to be close at hand.
If you’re looking for Continue reading
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
In her post last Saturday, Michaeline talked about subplots and secondary characters. We chatted in the comments about the movie version of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, and Michaeline said she wished the whole story could have been about the master swordsman sidekick, Inigo Montoya.
Which got me wondering: which secondary character(s) would you like to see in a starring role?
In this era of series, especially in romance, many (most?) significant secondary characters are written and signaled as sequel bait. Usually I’m excited about that. I love the promise of more stories in a world I’m enjoying, and if I’m already invested in the characters, there’s a delicious frisson of anticipation whenever they do something that could come back to bite them later.
Sometimes the author dangles the treat but keeps the reader waiting through multiple books. Maybe even through an entire series, like Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green books, where it was always clear that the resolution of Lyon and Olivia’s romance arc would wrap up the series. That’s OK. I’m comfortable with deferred gratification. I know the story will come, eventually. If I care enough, all I have to do is stick with the author and series until it arrives.
Here, I’m thinking more about the cast of supporting players who people a fictional world but who are not set up to step into the limelight in due course. Take Christopher and Barabas, two characters from Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. Ilona put up a blog post a few days ago in response to a reader’s question about whether she would ever write their romance. Click here to read the post in full. In short, Ilona said the decision would not be a question of popularity, but one of inspiration.
If I had my way, I’d beg the story gods to Continue reading
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.