I live in the Midwest. Last Monday, my husband and I drove to Shipshewana, Indiana to look for a calendar. I know. A long drive to find one, right? But we take our calendars seriously. You have to look at the picture above the numbered boxes, counting down days, for an entire month. We’d rather look at something we like. Last year, my daughter, who doesn’t shop ahead like we do, ended up with a calendar of birds of prey. I cringed every time I turned my head and accidentally saw talons, ready for a kill. Besides, Monday was an absolutely beautiful day. Sunlight gleamed on golden, crimson, and orange leaves. Farmers were working in their fields. Best of all, Shipshewana is Amish territory. We drove through Topeka and saw Amish laundry drying on clotheslines, stretched in side yards. Horses grazed in pastures. We had a wonderful day.
It was sunny enough that I needed my sunglasses. I viewed the world through amber, not rose-colored glasses. But the amber made everything brighter, more striking and dramatic. That’s sort of the way I see the world when I write. Everything’s amplified. One of my friends teases me and tells me that I’m never mean enough to my characters. That I’m too nice to them. It’s possible, but I don’t need suffering and tragedy to keep me turning pages. I just need enough tension and conflict to make me root for the protagonist to find the solutions he needs, characters that I care about, and a plot that twists and turns enough to hold my interest.
I thought about that as I worked on plot points for the Babet and Prosper that I’m writing on my webpage (I put up chapter 3, if you’re interested). I started with a hook that wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote the damn thing. I kept seeing Hatchet chaining his vampire/wife to the wall of his basement. Hatchet’s devoted to Colleen, and she’s devoted to him. So why in the world would he lock her in silver chains? And then the answer came to me. To help her. Happy day! I liked my hook. And I liked my villains. Worthy antagonists make for good stories.
Now, I’ve read over and over again that most authors state the book’s “big question,” on the first page, if not the first paragraph or even the first sentence. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I don’t, but it needs to be somewhere in the first chapter. So I needed to decide what the big conflict in the book would be–what would the protagonists struggle with for the rest of the entire novel? Once I had that, I concentrated on pacing, how I wanted to up the tension chapter by chapter. And I was lucky enough to stumble upon K.M. Weiland’s seriously deep blog about the inciting incident and the first fourths of books. She said–especially well–what I usually do (in a not so clear pattern). She must divide her books into fourths, like I do. Only she’s even better at it. Take a read: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/your-books-inciting-event-its-not-what-you-think-it-is/
While plotting away, my wonderful editor–John Scognamiglio at Kensington–sent me the book cover for my very first romance novel that will come out next April. I’m pretty excited about it, but April feels like it’s FOREVER away. Some of my writer friends do awesome cover reveals, which I’ve never tried, so I’m trying to decide how to go about it. No brilliant ideas yet:) Anyway, last week was busy enough for me. I wish you a Happy Halloween and a spectacular November!
My webpage: (chapter 3): http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/chapter-3.html
My author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/
Catch me on twitter: @judypost
4 thoughts on “Writing: Can a writer be too nice?”
I so love your humour!
Thanks! I value your opinion. I so love your writing!
April will come before we realize it. The “big question” is how can we slow down, take time in stride, and still be productive? You’re on track.
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Thanks. You’re the best, Rachel!