Kay: What’s Love Got to Do with It?


“You’re pulling my hair, and my neck has a crick in it.” Finding love might not be so easy after 30.

About a week ago, a bunch of the Ladies were on our private loop, deconstructing from web searches, interviews, and other disparate sources, exactly which agents are looking for what. Some of us were concerned about doing pitches rather than sending out queries, because agents might be dissuaded by the age of the writer from making long-term commitments to her. Michaeline suggested that we participate in NaNoWriMo and choose as our central topic the older protagonist. Where are the romances of women re-inventing themselves in their 40s and 50s? she asked.

I must confess that I’m not much interested in writing about a heroine that’s my age. Continue reading

Kay: The Reality—or Not—in Fiction

Wikimedia Commons

Phoebe, the protagonist of my story, is on an unpaid leave from the CIA. During this time off, she gets involved in an unlikely adventure, and the way she handles it helps her to decide if the CIA is the right career choice for her. In a beta read, Nancy pointed out that my character could face serious consequences—even prison—merely for making a phone call that wasn’t over a secure channel. Nancy doesn’t work for the CIA (at least, that’s what she says), but she’s in a position to know.

So I sat down and thought about the limits of realism in my story. If Nancy doesn’t believe my premise, will anybody else? Continue reading

Justine: The GMC, Ma’am, Just the GMC

conflict, gmc, debra dixon, goal, motivation, conflictSo I’ve been in judging hell this week. Last week, I’d spent a bunch of time totaling scores for the contest I’ve been managing…this past week, I’ve been reading paranormal entries for the 2015 Golden Heart (the “Oscars” for unpublished romance writers).

Elizabeth wrote in this post about some recurring items that pulled her out of the story (poor grammar/misspellings, not following rules, starting at the right place, etc.).

For me, there was one BIG issue that hit me over and over again on the poorly written entries. It’s something I admittedly didn’t know much about (at a conscious level, anyway) before I started writing, but I’m glad I learned about it. Those of you just jumping onto this writing wagon would do well to learn it yourself: Continue reading

Michaeline: Hocus Pocus

Magician with rabbit, roses, a hat full of carnations, cards, no we are not done yet, doves, a goldfish and a magic case. Whew!

Zan Zig, magician, has a lot of flash and creativity and color going on, but lacks something in the structure departure. Does it matter? It’s still beautiful. And yet . . . . (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a magic wand and could *poof* our story into existence – a perfect story without faults and perfectly entertaining?

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. On the other hand, judging from the Halloween hit, Hocus Pocus, you don’t need perfect to create an enduring seasonal hit. There is no doubt that a lot of hard work went into this Disney movie, but if you need an example of a deeply flawed story to learn from, here you go.

The biggest problem with the story is that the movie takes three feisty, funny women (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker), and immediately turns them into child murderers. And the flip side of the problem is that they are the best damn things in the movie. Every time I want to root for them, I catch myself and say, “Oh, yeah. Complete and utter evil.”

We’ve talked before about how a villain should be understandable, and even likable. Jenny Crusie has talked about how a villain should also be smarter and better than the protagonist. If the villain isn’t any good, the victory is hollow.

But there is such a thing as going to extremes. If you are going to have witty and interesting villains (and you really should!), Continue reading

Kay: Step into This

Christian Louboutin. "Printz," Spring/Summer 2013. Courtesy of Christian Louboutin. Photograph: Jay Zukerkorn and displayed as part of the Brooklyn Museum "Killer Heels" exhibit.

Christian Louboutin. “Printz,” Spring/Summer 2013. Courtesy of Christian Louboutin. Photograph: Jay Zukerkorn. Displayed as part of the Brooklyn Museum “Killer Heels” exhibit.

Our characters move through an arc, changing as they resolve the conflicts, solve the problems, and overcome the challenges that they encounter. One way we can show character change is to show behavioral changes. When our heroine was thwarted in the beginning of the book, she ate a pint of chocolate-chocolate chip Häagen-Dazs. Halfway through the book, though, she’s grown, she’s matured. Now when she’s thwarted, she stomps out of the house. Progress!

Recently I realized that one way I show how characters change is that I change their clothing choices. In an earlier manuscript, I had a young woman ditch her overalls and steel-toed work boots for flowing palazzo pants and high heels when she’d fulfilled her arc. In my current WIP, my heroine goes from suits and high heels to a poodle skirt and saddle shoes, and then to the skinny jeans and ballet flats that outfit her new life. Continue reading

Jeanne: Layering Motivation

demonThe best single workshop I attended at RWA 2014 was on character motivation by New York Times best-selling author Madeline Hunter. According to Madeline, you can escalate the tension in your novel without necessarily escalating the action by layering your protagonist’s (or antagonist’s) motivation. Since I’ve really struggled with how you keep raising the stakes without always getting into bullets flying, this was great news.

Applying this to my own work-in-progress: Dara, my protagonist, wants to keep her clinic open because: Continue reading

Michaeline: Creative Fuel for the Writing Workhorse

Woman with battleaxe on a horse, breaking open barrels of alcohol

I usually start with a protagonist. Then, I’ve got to find a conflict and an anagonist for her. (Published by Currier and Ives, New York, 1874, via Wikimedia Commons)

This blog post was inspired by a conversation over on Jennifer Crusie’s Argh Ink blog about thinking in story. Just where does that creative fuel come from?

I’m still working on becoming a published writer, but I’ve made a few leaps in my development – things that really helped me start to turn my scribblings into story. Continue reading

Elizabeth: What Hockey Taught me about Story

Conflict in action

Conflict in action

Last night, while watching my local hockey team battling for a play-off win that would allow them to advance to the next level of competition, I couldn’t help but see correlations between the game and story structure.

In hockey, the basic goal of each team is pretty simple: score more points than the opposing team by the end of sixty-minutes of play. A conflict box shows a strong conflict lock, with the offence of each team neatly blocking (hopefully) the defenses of the other. Continue reading

Jilly: Story Essential – A Proactive Heroine

A Proactive ProtagonistI’m finally feeling happy with my heroine, Rose, which is a huge relief. She’s the most important person in my book (it’s her story) and she’s been trouble right from the start. In the early days it was my fault – I wrapped her up in cotton wool when I should have put her through hell – but even when I’d fixed that she still wasn’t quite right. Now, thanks to Michaeline and Kay, she’s getting close to where I want her to be.

Rose hasn’t changed much since I first imagined her. She’s small, about five feet tall, 25 years old, with pale skin, cropped, spiky, white-blonde hair and gray eyes, and she lives in jeans, t-shirts and Dr Marten boots. If it moves she’ll paint it, draw it, or embroider it, and she’s been that way since she was a child. She takes after her father and doesn’t gel with her mother and stepfather – they love her but want her to grow up and conform. The story starts Continue reading

Jeanne: Teaching Conflict

Hi everyone, I’m taking a much-needed post-conference-and-contest break with the family this week, so Jeanne Estridge has graciously agreed to take over today’s post. Thank you Jeanne! I’ll be back next week. –Justine

I recently started teaching a class on Plot and Structure at Words Worth Writing. The first week dealt with the basics:

  • Who is your protagonist? What is her goal?
  • Who is your antagonist? What is his goal?

How do their goals set them at odds with each other? How do the actions each takes in pursuit of her goal block the other from obtaining hers? Continue reading