Elizabeth: The Call to Action

call_to_actionAs writers, we’re taught that a story rightfully begins with an inciting incident; an event that changes something for our hero/heroine, throwing them off their traditional path and setting everything in motion.   It can be as simple as meeting a cute guy in the bar, the death of a family member, or being transferred to a new job, or more complex, like being transported into a whole new world.  Typically, the inciting incident is something that happens to the hero/heroine, rather than something they actively do.

Simply put, before the inciting incident there is equilibrium.  Afterwards, the balance has been upset and there is a problem to be solved. Continue reading

Jilly: Hitting the Go Switch

Boom!So far, so good. I’m still engrossed in the discovery stage of my fantasy WIP: growing the world, developing the community, digging away at the characters of my hero and heroine, adding images to my collection and tracks to my playlist – thank you so much for the great suggestions last week – and generally trying to knit together the jumble of impressions, ideas and loose ends into something vaguely coherent. Getting there. I think.

I’ve also been investigating lots of diverse subjects I know nothing about, including how to field dress a broken arm, much ado about horses, how to maintain a shaved head, leather armor, underwear through the ages, the history of soap, and lots more stuff about fighting.

I was talking to a knowledgeable friend about fighting, sketching out the essentials of the story, and I got to a turning point that makes the heroine commit to the hero’s cause. “Ah,” my friend said, nodding his head. “That hit her Go Switch.”

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Jilly: Romantic Gestures

Romantic GesturesHappy Valentine’s Day!

What’s the most romantic gesture, real or fictional, you can think of?

Credible, lasting, loving relationships are the sine qua non of the romance genre, and we romance writers spend a lot of mental energy trying to find moving ways to show what Michaeline described so perfectly yesterday: two people who find each other beautiful, and suitable, and who listen to each other and get each other. A meeting of both minds and hearts.

The three magic words are important, but they’re an empty promise unless they’re backed by concrete, specific actions.

In real life, the evidence suggests that many people believe throwing money at their beloved is the way to go – last year the estimated retail spending on Valentine’s day in the US alone was almost $19 billion – but in fiction, at least, the reader expects more.

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Nancy: Justified (and Why That Prologue You Love Probably Isn’t)

Justified_2010_IntertitleI’ve spent the past month not getting very far on my own story, so instead of spending a post talking about my progress (dismal), I thought I’d talk about someone else’s story. Justified is a TV series based on an Elmore Leonard short story called Fire in the Hole. And when I’ve come home late at night, too tired to work on my own WIP or even to make much of a dent in my overflowing TBR pile, I’ve been able to satisfy my craving for good story by binge-watching this series (available through Amazon Prime, in case you’re interested in checking it out for yourself). I’ve been enjoying the writing on this series so much, I thought I’d spend some time here talking about the craft behind it.

First, the disclaimers. I haven’t read Leonard’s short story, and I don’t plan to do so until I’ve finished watching all six seasons of the series (I’ve watched the first three so far). Leonard was involved with the series, which I love because it means they’ve kept a lot of his original vision in the story, and the head writer/show runner Graham Yost has made a concerted effort to keep close to that writer’s voice. But I’ve heard there are differences, Continue reading

Jilly: Strong Women and Alpha Heroines

Alpha HeroinesHow strong do you like your heroines? Do you think there’s a difference between a strong heroine and an Alpha? If so, do you have a preference?

Last Sunday I wrote about my theory that Alpha Male heroes work best in sub-genres like paranormal romance, historicals, or romantic suspense, the idea being that extreme manifestations of dominant behavior are fun to read about in worlds where such behavior is not only expected, but necessary. In a setting that’s closer to real life, like contemporary romance, the reader’s tolerance for macho chest-beating is much, much lower.

In last week’s discussion, regular 8 Ladies visitor Rachel Beecroft said “the other BIG reason I love Alpha men is because it generally takes an Alpha woman to tame them (at least in the stories I like – I can’t be bothered with Alpha man being tamed by ‘little me’ heroine). Yes! Exactly what Rachel said, and we agreed we’d follow up today Continue reading

Jilly: Alpha Males and Guilty Pleasures

Alpha Males & Guilty PleasuresHow alpha do you like your heroes? If your favorites are uber-dominant types, do they inhabit a sub-genre that expects or requires that behavior?

In my reading life I greatly enjoy alpha male asshattery. There are provisos: obviously the asshat in question must be a good guy deep down, he must have brains and a sense of humor, and he must be enlightened enough to respect and enjoy being challenged by a heroine who’s his equal and maybe even stronger.

Even with those provisos met, though, most of my favorite heroes indulge in the kind of high-handed, obnoxious behavior that I would find totally unacceptable in real life. It’s been on my mind this week, because I’m in the first draft of a new story and I’m gradually filling in all sorts of details about my hero. As I’m writing contemporary romance, it’s closer to home, and I’m finding it tricky to get the balance right. I found it a struggle with the previous book, too: after reading my opening scene from an early draft (a McDaniel College romance writing assignment), Jenny Crusie said she’d keep reading, but only in the hope that my hero, Ian, would get hit by a bus. Continue reading

Jilly: Are Two Heads Better Than One?

Are Two Heads Better Than OneAssuming you’re a romance reader or writer (and if you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance that you are), do you think it’s better to know one character deeply than two superficially, or would you say books that let the reader into both the hero’s and the heroine’s head have a better chance of delivering a credible happy ending? Of course both can work if the writing’s good, but I suspect most of us have a sneaky preference one way or the other. And if, like me, you’re in the Two Heads Are Better Than One camp, can you drill down further to figure out what style of double-header you enjoy most? Continue reading