Friday, June 27, 2008

A Rant . . . And A Rave Review

I did it again.

I read a romance novel published in 1987 by a bestselling author. And boy did she break the rules. Especially with POV. (No, it's not Nora Roberts, lol). The heroine described herself in ways that were obviously the writer's words. And of course, there was backstory.
Then I was annoyed by how often the heroine's violet eyes widened in innocence and how she was so petite and perfect. LOL, but that's just jealousy, seeing as I'm a tall woman.

So who came up with the rules? Or the "guidelines"? They certainly didn't play in the eighties. But here' s the kicker.

I read this 400 page, small print book in less than twelve hours.

Agents and editors say this all the time. Or maybe it was Mrs. Snark. Good writing trumps all.

This lady isn't a bestseller for no reason. (Is that a double negative? Whoops.) I was completely hooked by this story. It was wonderful, romantic, if a bit cliche, seeing as it's twenty years old. But even the cliche parts didn't stop me from devouring the story.

The lesson here is that writing "rules" can only do so much. And most readers aren't even aware of any rules. They just help your story be more coherent and structured.

But in the end, a compelling story with gut-wrenching writing is what will snag a reader and hook them.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Momentum

I was out of town and have no clue how to write posts and then schedule them for later. So here I am, a week later and ready to post.

I am now reading the sequel to Just As I Am. It's called Sincerely, Mayla and it's just as good as the first book. I'm halfway through and laughing my pants off.

It started out well, hooked me in, but as Mayla prepared to go to Florida I began to worry about the romance aspect. The thing is, romance is my personal hook. If it faded from the story, I was concerned about losing interest. Don't get me wrong. I love Mayla but I really want to see her hooked up with the guy she likes.

I had no reason to fear. Virginia Smith, the author, keeps the pace going the entire book. Every scene has a purpose. Something changes or is discovered. Especially with the romance angle.

That's one of the keys to remember when writing a novel. Even funny scenes should have a purpose, a reason for being written. Every scene should move the story forward, just as the dialogue does.

I'm happy to say that I'm midway through the book and plan to finish it by tonight.

In the words of TobyMac, this book has momentum, baby.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Sign of A Good Story

As of yesterday at lunch, I'm only one chapter deep into Virginia Smith's novel Just As I Am. And yet, guess who haunted me all of yesterday well into evening?
Her main character, Mayla.
One chapter. And I can't stop thinking about what will happen next. I'm not sure this curiosity of mine has anything to do with the plot. I think Mayla's characterization, her voice, is so strong that I just have to know what happens next.
So far I love this book. The cover is awesome. I don't know how to post it but if you check out Amazon there's probably a pic. The topic is fresh.
I can't wait to finish this story.

What did Virginia Smith do so well that I want to read on? Like I said, it's probably the voice. But maybe this is why she's published. Her chapter was so incredible, so vibrant, that an editor/agent just had to read more.

It's a good lesson for me. The first chapter needs to shine. Needs to pull and leave the reader obsessing for the rest of the day about what might happen next.

That's quite the challenge. But I'm up for it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Heroine Archetypes

I was reading about them here when I stumbled upon the Waif. Not my favorite at all. In fact, this type is almost like an anti-heroine. But she used to be, in romances, a favorite. So I was thinking that she's outdated.
Back in the day women had to rely on men for a lot. Finances, a home, comfort. Think of the countries where a woman couldn't own anything! So I think the waif was popular because women could relate to her.
But now. . . in America a woman can do and have and say everything a man can. In theory, at least. I'm willing to bet very few women can relate to the waif. We're independent and that's the kind of heroine we want. A woman who's strong and makes decisions.
Adios waif! Let's come up with a new heroine.
Just my thoughts.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Motivation and Other Plot Nuts and Bolts

Characters are supposed to have motivations for their actions.

Gee, isn't that obvious?

Apparently not to moi. Several contest entries and critiques have pointed out the lack of motivation on the part of my characters. Ouch. I spent so much time taking apart my words and putting them back together that I didn't focus on making sure my character had reasons for doing things.

This is very important. Like House says, everybody lies. And everyone has a reason. So do my characters. And unlike real people, they should be consistent.

I'm thinking that in a story it's good to have one main thing that drives your character. Perhaps justice. Or truth. Or maybe something more concrete. Like needing a new job.

I guess it goes back to goals. In your story (and mine) each character should have both internal and external goals. And if the story is a romance, well, then the hero's goals should clash with the heroine's.

For me, a seat of the pants writer, this sounds very difficult to think about. I prefer to sit down and plop out whatever comes to mind. This means lots of revisions later. Ugh. So I'm trying to think my plot through before I write it.



Another cool thing to do with your plot is layer it. For more on that, you can check out the Craftie Ladies of Suspense.