Jilly: I’d Love to Read His Story

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

Jilly: Dunbar’s Number for Writers and Readers

How many authors are on your mental auto-buy checklist? How many are on your keeper shelf? And how long have those authors been at the heart of your reading universe?

I’ve been noodling around with these questions for some time—a couple of years, probably—ever since I first read about Dunbar’s Number. If you’re not familiar with the concept, Wikipedia describes it as a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. Or, to put it crudely: there’s a limit to the number of people your brain has space for.

Dunbar’s Number has been around since the 1990s, but I came across it when I started writing fiction with an eye to publication and realized that meant I’d have to get to grips with social media. If you’d like to know more about the idea in the context of online relationships, click here for a Youtube link to anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s 15-minute Tedx talk: Can The Internet Buy You More Friends?

If you’d prefer the short version, it goes something like this: we humans maintain social relationships at various levels of intimacy, and the number of people we have the capacity to manage at each level is more or less predictable.

  • We have a very inner core of intimate friends and relations, people we would turn to in times of deep emotional stress. Typically there are about five of them.
  • We have a group of best friends, people we know well, confide in, trust, spend time with. That group would likely be about fifteen people, including the inner five.
  • The next closest layer, good friends, would be about fifty people (including the first fifteen);

Continue reading

Jilly: Writing Flawed Sex and No Sex

The birds are singing, the sap is rising, and we’ve been talking a lot here on the blog about writing great sex scenes.

Kay started the party by sharing her battle to reward her long-suffering hero and heroine with a gold-plated, caviar-coated, champagne-drenched, Lamborghini-driving, high-quality, meaningful one-on-one. Last Saturday Michaeline shared her thoughts on the sex scenes in Charmed and Dangerous, an anthology of short gay fantasy stories, and yesterday she told us about a pair of happy couplings she decided not to write. In between, Nancy gave us five points to ponder about writing sex in the romance genre.

I’d like to drop another suggestion into the mix.

Continue reading

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: Cold Comfort Reading Recommendations

cold-comfortDo you have a favorite book or author you always read when you’re feeling under the weather?

I’ve been out of sorts for a day or two, but during Friday night I hatched out the mother of all colds. I’m not properly ill, just the usual—head full of cotton wool, sandpaper throat, sneezing the house down—and feeling very sorry for myself.

I had a couple of possible posts in mind for today.

My first topic was the preponderance of gratuitous sex scenes in the mainstream romantic fiction I’ve been reading lately. I love a well-written sex scene, but I expect it to follow the same rules as any other scene–it should be particular to the characters and it has to move the story. Two people repeatedly having a good time together, however inventive they may be, does not of itself move the story forward. It takes up pages of real estate that could better have been used to make the relationship and eventual HEA between the H&H unique and unforgettable.

The alternative was to discuss a romance I just started. It’s standard paranormal romance, not erotica. I’ve only read a chapter or two, but it’s a continuation of a series so I’m already familiar with the characters. I’m reading on, because I like the author, but I’m filled with trepidation because there’s a huge gap in age, experience and status between the H&H. He’s mid-forties, a good guy in a dominant leadership position. He’s freaked out to find himself head over heels in lust with a nineteen year-old girl Continue reading

Elizabeth: In a Word, Joy

joyAs is traditional this time of year, we’ve been doing a bit of goal setting / planning here on the blog recently.  Jilly kicked us off by sharing her 2017 watchword Publish, and several others chimed in with fun, happy, finish, clarity, intention, story, and live.  All great words.

I’ve been mulling over my own watchword for several days now; considering and then discarding any number of possibilities.    In the past, I’ve generally decided on an idea or direction for the coming year.    I was tempted to go with write for my 2017 watchword, but that seemed a little too close to my 2014 “resolve to write” idea.

Back in 2011, my Idea was to embrace a “so what if you’re afraid – do it anyway” mindset.  That was the year I took my first graduate writing class and my first class at Oxford.  In 2012, when my momentum seemed to slow, 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.”

Continue reading