Elizabeth: NaNo Countdown – 3 Weeks To Go

I began the countdown to NaNoWriMo 2017 with last week’s post on outlining, which generated some good discussions amongst our commenters from both ends of the outlining continuum.

Kristi said,

“More and more over the last few days I’m starting to think of outlining (at least the way I usually do it) as a first draft. It’s just lacking details.”

That makes sense to me.  Whether your first pass through a new story is via an outline or via a purely “pantser” style process you’re just trying to tell yourself the story.  However you start out you will (hopefully) wind up with a draft that you can then flesh out into a full-blown story.

The outline for my upcoming story currently looks a bit like a movie script.  For each potential scene there are notes about location and timing, the characters who are involved, who “owns” the scene, and what the outcome of the scene will be.  In some cases where I felt especially inspired, I even managed to capture a few lines of dialog or action that I thought of while sketching things out.

One thing that slowed me down a bit during the outlining process was not having the setting(s) for the story nailed down.  I know where it starts and ends and have some ideas about the middle, but I definitely need to do some more work in that area.

Conveniently, this week my focus is on:  Setting Continue reading

Michille: Romance and Natural Disasters

800px-Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISSWith Harvey mostly a memory leaving a staggeringly colossal disaster area behind it and Irma targeting Florida and another potentially colossal disaster for the U.S., I looked at disasters in romance novels. I read one recently that was set in a flood (freebie from RWA Nationals in a previous year), but I got really annoyed with the author because the hero and heroine kept standing around in floodwater while the rain was pounding down, discussing their history, wondering where his brother was and if her sister stayed at work, sharing scorching kisses and wishing for a bed. I’m not thinking that the folks going through Harvey were standing waist deep in floodwater reminiscing about a high school football game that took place 10 years ago. The memory of that book and the coverage of Harvey led my brain down the path of how an author could set a romance in a natural disaster and do justice to mother nature, the devastation and tragedy, and the romance without minimizing or horrorizing (is that a word?) the tragedy or the reader. As in, people are dying and these two idiots just want to do the horizontal tango. Continue reading

Jilly: The Mistress Problem

I’d really, really like to find a different form of address for the gentlewomen in my WIP, especially my heroine.

Lately I’ve been working on a sequence of set piece scenes toward the end of the book. The setting is a fantasy world, historical, before the invention of guns. Horses ‘n swords. Vaguely Tudor-ish, with a few creative liberties taken. The action takes place at the most important event in the city’s calendar. Everyone who’s anyone is present: royalty, aristocracy, military, and a lucky few gentlefolk. All the guests are addressed formally, even (especially!) when they’re hurling deadly insults at one another.

The problem is my heroine, Alexis Doe. She’s 25. Unmarried, but old enough to be a wife and mother. Of no acknowledged family (her name indicates she’s illegitimate), but invited as a guest of the Princess Dowager, scary and powerful grandmother of the Crown Prince. Alexis has no title, but her connections would carry a certain level of cachet and she would be addressed with respect. As far as I can see, she would be called Mistress Doe.

I did a fair amount of reading around, looking for possibilities, and I found a fascinating article describing research done by Dr Amy Erickson at the University of Cambridge (click here to read more about Mistress, Miss, Mrs or Ms: untangling the shifting history of titles).

Apparently both Mrs and Miss are abbreviations of Mistress. Continue reading

Jilly: Georgette Heyer’s Bath

We spent last weekend visiting the beautiful city of Bath. We stayed in a hotel that was once owned by the Duke of Wellington and walked into town to hear a friend’s choir sing in the stunning fifteenth-century Abbey. It seemed as though everywhere I went, I followed in the footsteps of a much-loved Regency romance. Sometimes it was Jane Austen; more often it was Georgette Heyer.

Most of the time it was Black Sheep. It isn’t my all-time favorite Heyer, but I think it has one of the best settings.

By the time of the Regency, Brighton had become the fashionable place to spend the summer and Bath, which had once been the ton’s favorite resort, had become a kind of posh backwater inhabited by invalids and those who couldn’t afford the expense of living in London. Which makes it the perfect choice for Black Sheep. Continue reading

Michaeline: The Pathetic Fallacy of Weather

A triptych with an outdoor winter storm, two birds, and three children enjoying the warmth of the hearth in front of the fireplace.

Winter weather captures a whole lot of story settings: the frigid cold, the hopeful life hopping around, and the coziness provided by our human technologies. We can create our own bubble of warmth even during the coldest winter. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

“It was a dark and stormy night” has been mocked throughout the 20th century, but I think it’s time to bring back the pathetic fallacy of weather for the 21st century.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about using weather in a story to help boost a mood in a scene. Tragedy accompanied by fog and gloom, horror to the tune of a thunderstorm, and an idyllic love interlude accompanied by sunshine and roses. Some people call it cliche, but I call it a device from our writing toolboxes that can be useful and fresh, depending on how you use it. (-: Perhaps the roses are overkill.

I very deliberately set a short story in February, just so I could take advantage of the weather. In the northern hemisphere, we start seeing the very first signs of spring – in my area, the ice begins to melt during the day, and pussy willows start to bloom. The earth is getting ready for new life, and my characters’ hearts were getting ready for a new season in their lives.

That said, almost every place I’ve lived, February is still the battleground for winter. I took advantage of a wild blizzard to do several things for my story.

First, it symbolized a cold and lonely past. Second, Continue reading

Michaeline: Five Warning Signs of a Haunted Hotel

Vanish ad from 1948 with a housewife staring down a ghost in a "modern" bathroom.

Haunted hotel? Stare down those ghosts and turn them into story fodder! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, my travels took me to The E— Hotel, and based on some observations, you could totally bring some ghosts to your next fictional hotel stay.

5. A visit to the lap pool is . . . refreshing, but a bit creepy. It’s tucked away in the basement, and as you walk around and around, you notice there’s one spot in the pool that’s a little dark in color, and the current runs a little swifter. It gets darker and deeper the longer you walk around and around, and then you realize, you are walking widdershins. Time to get out of the pool. Let’s try the one outdoors.

4. Ah, that’s better. Starlight! Beautiful summer night, with the heat lingering in the concrete. No lifeguard on duty, of course, but it’s not too deep. You Continue reading

Michaeline: Five Happenings to Spice up a Hotel Story

Story basis: a stranger comes to town; someone leaves town. Hotels have both contingencies covered. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Story basis: a stranger comes to town; someone leaves town. Hotels have both contingencies covered. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’m on vacation for two weeks, and . . . well, there was this hotel. It was straight out of a story. It was old, and venerable, and quirky, and certainly was the sort of hotel that’d make a great setting for a story. What happened? Well, let me tell you. Continue reading