Characters lie. They do it all the time. They lie to themselves when they convince themselves they’re after an external McGuffin when they’re really searching for love, or acceptance, or loss of everything so they can start over fresh. They lie to other characters in conversations, and give away the truth in their interior monologues and actions. Sometimes they even lie to readers, especially in the cases of the recently-popular, unreliable narrators in books like Hawkins’s Girl on the Train and Flynn’s Gone Girl.
But what happens when one of the leads in a romance story lies to the other lead? Will readers root for someone lying to our girl/our guy and still want the liar to get the HEA? How long can a character lie and still be considered redeemable? Are there circumstances that make this character choice more palatable?
These are the questions I pondered as I worked on the discovery phase of the next novel in my Harrow’s Finest Five series. This is Percy’s story, for those who have read the novella. And the story kicks off with our heroine (Finola) telling one whopper of a lie to get Percy’s attention and, ultimately, help.
I ran multiple scenarios about when, where, and how my heroine would come clean. I talked to readers. I reread stories I remembered with some level of deception between the characters. After all that, I have lots of thoughts, but my main take-away is that whether the lie is tolerable and forgivable all comes down to “why”. Continue reading →
Sometimes when writers are neck-deep in our own ideas and stories, we turn to other fiction for a mental reboot. Other times, it’s non-fiction, perhaps craft books. For the past week, I’ve been thumbing through Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story and Story Genius as I continue developing a novel with her brain science technique. For fun, I’ve been reading Stephon Alexander’s The Jazz of Physics. (Yes, that really is what passes for fun in my world.)
When I need a quicker fix, a quick shot of creative inspiration, or just a boost in the will to go on (because some writing days are just So. Damn. Hard.), I like to visit some familiar haunts on the web. A few posts have really struck a chord with me these past few weeks. If you feel yourself needing a boost, check out these articles for yourself, and poke around these sites – there’s so much good stuff to discover!
Arghink. This is the blog of Jennifer Crusie, mentor of the 8LW crew. Jenny’s blog is always chock full of great information, fun, and community, but recently, she’s also been sharing early drafts and revisions of her WIP. And it is as amazing as it sounds. Ever the teacher, Jenny is also sharing the way she approaches revisions. Continue reading →
Sometimes basic is best. Getting back to basics. Basic black. Basic humanity.
And so it is with writing. Every now and then, often in one of the revision stages of a story, it’s time to get back to the basics – the point, the goal, and the conflict of a story. That means it’s time to reach into the writer’s basic toolbox and pull out some old favorites to identify festering plot holes, shore up weak conflicts, and fix leaky sinks. Okay, maybe not that last one.
This lesson presented itself to me when I recently found my Harrow’s Finest Five book 1 revision slowly circling the drain (what is it with me and sinks today?). I was dissatisfied with the story stakes. As I read the manuscript, they didn’t seem to be escalating, further complicating heroine Emme’s life, and leading her to an inevitable clash with consequences of her own making.
An author has options at such times. Crying. Chocolate. Booze. Cyring into chocolate and booze. But I’ve heard it can actually be more empowering to use TOOLS. Powerful, writerly tools. In this case, I opted for the tools and pulled the conflict box out of my toolbox to see why my revision had gotten stuck and my story felt flat. Continue reading →
Okay, I’ll admit it. I had absolutely no idea what to write about for today’s blog post, so I decided to do some research (aka “read”) for a while instead while waiting for inspiration to strike.
Fortunately for inspiration’s sake, the book I randomly pulled from my TBR pile turned out to be little more than a series of sex scenes strung together by a barely noticeable plot (thank goodness it was a freebie).
It was disappointing, because I was hoping to get some pointers for the contemporary novel I’m working on, but it got me thinking about the difference between a sex scene that helps move the story along and one that could be removed without any discernible impact.
“Two Strings to Her Bow” by John Pettie, 1882. From Wikimedia Commons.
This past week, on one of the author loops I read, someone posted about her preference to read historical romances in which heroines either don’t step outside the bounds of the time period’s social structures, or suffer (social) consequences if they do. While I don’t want my 19th-century heroines to read like 21st-century women, I can’t get on board with keeping our heroines from stepping over the lines or cutting off their toes if they do.
During our McDaniel classes, we discussed the need for characters, especially protagonists, to be in some ways larger or better or more interesting in stories than most of us are in real life. A story about ordinary people going about their ordinary lives under ordinary circumstances just isn’t likely to be a very riveting read. One or more of those ‘ordinaries’ need to become extraordinary to make our fictional worlds worth exploring. And I want my historical heroines, whether I’m reading about them or writing about them, to be extraordinary. Continue reading →
Four weeks ago, I introduced the five common mistakes writers make in their first few pages, which Chuck Wendig originally posted on his blog, terribleminds. He identified these mistakes after critiquing several writers’ WIPs while at the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference. I then applied
So, do you know what happens when you’re working a lot of hours, not sleeping enough, and haven’t gotten your flu shot for the year? If you’re me, you get the flu. And fast on the heels of that, you might even get a bonus opportunistic sinus infection. I can power through a lot to get words on the page, but some days, rest and healing have to take precedence. And those can be perfect days to spend time absorbing other people’s writing, through books, blogs, movies, and TV shows.
On the surface, it would appear I haven’t gotten very far in my WIP revision over the past week and a half, but as I snuggled under my blankets and watched all sorts of interesting shows and read books that had been teetering on the top of my TBR pile, my writer’s brain was whirring away after all. Today, with the meds finally kicking in and the fog around my mind receding a bit, I took stock of all my forays into other people’s stories, and here’s what I learned. Continue reading →
When I was in the second grade, I fell in love. The object of my affection? The Mystery of the Silver Spider in the Three Investigators mystery series by Robert Arthur. In the months and years to follow, I read not only every book in that series, but in the Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon) and Nancy Drew series (Carolyn Keene) as well. Years before I read my first romance or women’s fiction novel or even knew the fantasy genre existed, I discovered mystery novels, and I was hooked. Continue reading →
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