Category Archives: storytelling

A Funny Thing Happened . . .

A funny thing happened on my way to Mill Pond’s book 4.   I introduced Tyne Newsome in my third romance.  He’s Paula’s assistant chef.  He’s tall, scruffy, and sexy.  He has to beat women away, but the man has tunnel vision.  All he thinks about is opening a restaurant of his own and cooking.  And he came to life in book 3 and jumped off the pages.  So, when I started book 4, how could I not let him shine?

I wrote the first three Mill Pond romances from the female protagonist’s POV.  But when I sat down to write FIT TO BE THAI’d (the working title for book 4), Tyne didn’t want to be pushed in the background.  He has attitude and opinions, and he meant to share them.  The thing is, he’s such a strong character, I worried he’d overshadow Daphne, so I needed to give her a voice, too.  So, for the first time in a romance, I’m writing the male and female POV.  And I think it’s making this book stronger.

Will I write both POVs in my next romance?  I don’t know.  It’s according to how loud the characters yap at me.

The other surprise in book 4?  I ended up with more plot points than any author needs.  Forty of them, and they’re detailed.  And I only had a few, small references to Daphne’s friend, Miriam, in any of them.  But then Miriam walked into Tyne’s kitchen in chapter seven, and that woman had just as much swagger and attitude as Tyne did.  I listened to them go back and forth and loved how they interacted.  So guess who gets a bigger role than I expected?  Miriam is a high school English teacher who doesn’t mince words.

Now don’t get me wrong.  When I have an outline and a character surprises me, that’s allowed.  It’s even encouraged.  But the characters know what their boundaries are, and they have to stay in them.  Miriam doesn’t change any turning points, but she sure enjoys it when she can steal a scene:)

A good writer friend of mine, Kyra Jacobs, experienced the same type of thing when she was working on her Checkerberry Inn romance series and her paranormal romance/dragon series.  On her blog, she wrote, “…it marked a wonderful new beginning for my writing as I stepped away from writing in first person, single point of view (female main character only) to multiple points of view.”

You can find her blog @: https://indianawonderer.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/psst-its-me/

Whatever you’re working on now, I hope you’re having as much fun as I am.  I’m trying to twist Kyra Jacobs’s arm to get her to do a guest spot for you here.  After all, she writes about dragons, who are shifters.  And I write about Prosper, who’s a shifter.  Okay, he’s a bear, not a dragon, but there’s something about shifters, don’t you think?  Those big, strong men who have an animal caged inside them?  And Kyra writes romances…and I write romances.  We have so much in common, except probably the way we write.  If she’s sane, she’s never done forty plot points for any of her novels.  No one should.  But, hey! Every book’s different.  I never thought I’d do it either.

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/

twitter: @judypost

Writing: My Experiment

I’ve put up 12 free chapters on my webpage for Babet & Prosper’s short novel RIVER CITY RUMBLE.  I have at least nine more chapters plotted.  It might go longer.  And I have to say, this has been an interesting experiment.  What have I learned?

  1.  As far as marketing, I’ve read on other blogs that offering free stories on your webpage helps increase sales.  I thought that if readers liked the chapters and free Babet and Prosper stories in the side column, they might spring for some of the bundles on Amazon.  I’ve gotten the occasional hit, but I’ve had better luck paying for advertising than offering free stories on my webpage.  I’ve had a lot more visitors, but that hasn’t translated into sales.  For now, I’m just happy I have more visitors and reach more people, so I’m okay with that.  But as a marketing tool, advertising seems to work better.
  2. As for writing, telling a story as a weekly serial has made me really concentrate on what I put in each chapter.
    1.  Have I kept the characters interesting and alive in the reader’s mind?  It’s been a week since they’ve thought about them.  Do they remember Viviane, Jacinta, or Hennie?  Have I made them distinctive enough?  How do I jump start their personalities again?
    2. Something significant has to happen in every chapter.  There are no “down” chapters that link from one event to the next.  Whatever happens has to be important enough to hold the reader for another week.
    3. Is there enough variety?  Yes, a chapter has to be significant, but I can’t write a battle for each of them.  Yet I want an event that’s significant, that makes the reader feel satisfied that it’s going to impact the final outcome.
    4. Have I offered the reader a variety of emotions?  Have I made the characters complex enough that they care about them?  Worry when they’re in trouble?  Be surprised about how they react?  Have I offered some laughter or amusement to buffer the tense moments?  Some warm or poignant moments to touch the heart?
    5. I try to permeate the feel of River City into the story.  I hope to show the bond between the protagonists who live there, so that each character is part of the whole.  The series is long enough, the cast of characters has grown, and it’s hard to give them each a part and let him/her shine.
    6. Am I cranking up the conflict and tension, so that things just keep getting worse, so that the final showdown will be big and bad enough to satisfy the reader?  Zanor won’t go down easily.  Defeating him has to test the protagonists past anything they’ve done before.

I’ve written other serial stories, but they’ve been short–four or five chapters, and I like them because they challenge me.  This is the first time I’ve tried a serial novel, something longer with more characters and events.  And it’s challenged me, too.  But I’m enjoying it.  Whatever you’re working on, I hope it stretches your writing muscles AND brings you joy.  Happy Writing!

 

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/

Writing & Worrying

I’ve started working on a third romance novel. If you read my news earlier, I signed a 3-book deal with Kensington e-books. I’m ahead of schedule on deadlines, so I can do happy dances and buy a special bottle of wine. I can celebrate. But once Monday morning looms again, I’ll be back at my keyboard, trying to pound out 7 to 10 pages to finish a new chapter. It’s what grounds me.

So why the “worrying” in my title? I’m ahead of schedule and happy with the book I’m working on. But… I’ve never been good at writing the same-old, same-old. I really enjoyed writing the first romance. It has a lot of humor, which I didn’t think I’d be good at, but it fit my two protagonists. I was “hearing” them in my mind, so the humor just came. The second romance had a smart-ass protagonist, so she came up with comebacks that I’d never think of on my own. But both romances followed the norm. Boy and girl meet. There are sparks, and eventually they get together. A proven formula. So what did I do for book 3? Fiddle with it, of course. Lord forbid I should feel comfortable and repeat what had worked for me.

One of the things that kills book series for me is when I feel like the writer found a formula and I can memorize the rhythm because it’s the same, book after book after book. By the time I’m on the third book and I feel like I’ve read it before, just with different names and settings, I’m done. Now, mind you, most of these series run a long time, so readers obviously don’t have a problem with it. But I lose interest, and it’s the same with my writing. I like to change it up. For this book, I want the protagonist to be interested in the wrong guy, but it’s made it a challenge to find a set-up that lets the reader know the right guy is in the wings, but neither of them know it. I have the first fourth of the book finished–at least, a draft to work with, and I’m still doing the juggling act of Paula saying “I want him,” but the reader knows she should kick him to the curb. And it’s been fun.

I might have to tweak my early chapters, but my daughters kissed quite a few frogs before they found their handsome princes, (and even then, one of the princes didn’t work out), so it’s a pretty normal happenstance. I just have to make it work.

By the way, I have three Mill Pond, short-short romances on my webpage, if you’re interested:
http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/. You can click on them at the end of the left column.

https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

Twitter: @judypost

Writing: Wait for it

I’m starting to work on a new romance (my third). I’ve immersed myself in the people and world of Mill Pond so much, I think about them while I’m working on other things. That’s why three Mill Pond short stories have snuck onto my website. In my head, the setting has become as charming as the characters who people it. I want to visit Tessa’s bakery, Harley’s vineyards, and stop at the specialty farms that dot the area. So I love Mill Pond, but I want the new novel to be a little different than the first two. I loved writing about the McGregor brothers, but I want a different set up this time. Instead of boy meets girl, there’s attraction, there are complications, until they finally get together, I wanted to change it up a little. And that’s when the trouble began.

I can picture the entire story in my head. I have a hazy vision of its twists and turns, but when I sat down to write even brief plot points, I couldn’t figure out how to let the reader know or suspect where the story was going. And that’s important. Most writers spell out the book’s big question in the first paragraph anymore, almost always on the first page, but occasionally, not until the end of the first chapter. This story didn’t fall into place that neatly. My protagonist thinks she’s in love with the wrong man. She has no interest in the right man, and he’s not interested in her. He’s interested in the unattainable, and it’s going to take them the entire book to figure it all out. Sounds like fun, right? But how to write the first chapter?

I did character wheels–more complicated than I’ve ever done. I learned new things about my characters, and that will add depth as I plod along (and when I reach the middle of a book, it IS plodding). But it didn’t fix my first chapter. So I did what I always do. I started writing and let my characters take the lead. They weren’t much smarter than I am. The first attempt was crap. It had enough little nuggets, though, to make me think of a short scene I could add. And that scene helped me think of another clue I give the readers. It took three days of writing words I knew didn’t work before I finally had a glimmer of what to do. On the last day, I left my writing room, and my husband looked at me and smiled. “You’re happy with it now,” he said. And I was.

I have nine plot points I pounded out that will head me generally in the right direction. I’m going to write two or three more chapters, let my characters fuss and get to know each other, let me listen and watch them, and then I’ll write more plot points. They keep me afloat when my brain reaches a deadend. And then I should be ready to sit down and dig in. These characters are more opinionated than most I create. Who knows what trouble they’re going to give me? I might get frustated writing this book, but I bet I don’t get bored:)

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My author page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy
Twitter: @judypost

Trash Talking My Method

I have to knuckle down in September, get serious, and start work on a new novel. My break between books is over. I know it was a privilege that many writers don’t get. They barely have time to meet deadlines, so I’m grateful I had a pocket in time to play with different elements of putting words on pages.

When I wrote Witch Gone Bad, I learned that if I don’t know my characters well enough, the story stays flat, even if the part they play in it is small. I thought I could whip out a short scene a day, no problem, because I knew each part of the story and who’d tell it. No such luck. The characters just walked on stage, did their thing, and took a bow. Boring. The plot worked. The story didn’t. No emotional impact. It took three passes before I liked each part. If characters don’t breathe, neither does your story.

One of my friends, who did theater for years, has characters spring from her head, whole and fully formed. All of her training to find what really drives characters so that she could bring them to life on stage transferred to her writing. My characters aren’t that forthcoming. Mine make me work to know them, like meeting someone new for the first time. I learn a little more about them the longer I spend with them. In a novel, that means my first draft will never have the depth, the emotion, that I need.
I have to add that on my second or third pass through the manuscript.

My goal, when I start playing with the beginnings of a book, then, is to get the basics right. My theory is, if I just don’t screw up–so that I have to pitch major scenes–I’m happy. I can tinker and add to the bare bones, but if the skeleton’s wrong, I have to go back to work on the foundation. That’s why I make plot points. But it’s also why I try to nail my characters and what makes them tick.

My actress friend (Julia Donner) writes Regency romances, and when I panicked about writing a romance, her advice to me was solid. “Romances click when emotional problems and histories create a conflict, action, or a scene. A romantic story evolves from the inside out.” She uses Suzanne Simmons’ approach for characters: What do they want, Why do they want it, and What will they do to get it?
Her amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Julia-Donner/e/B00J65E8TY/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1439754290&sr=1-2-ent

That works for her. Like I said, her characters are born whole. My answers to those questions tend to be too basic, like when I filled in the goal, motivation, conflict charts (I’m going to work on that), but I need more prodding. I don’t need TOO much, though. I have friends who write elaborate histories and charts to get to know their characters. I’ve tried that, but that much information overwhelms me. I get bogged down in details. That’s why I do character wheels with spokes crowded with sloppy, scribbled notes as I fill in the blanks. But the truth is, no matter what I do, I learn more and more about my characters as I write them. So, for me, I’m going to try a few more steps before I start my next book–something to keep me on track–but without drowning myself in info. I’ll share, but my method doesn’t work for my friends, so it might or might not help you.

(I’ve listed some of this information on my blog posts before, so you can skip this, if you want to:)

1st: What kind of person is ____________ ? (I like a SHORT answer, something that will stick in my head. For example, in the romance I just finished, I described Brody as brooding.)

2. Why? What made him/her that way? (Brody focuses on his failures or possible failures more than he focuses on his successes. He wants to do the right thing, the right way. He thought he had his life mapped out, had made all the right decisions, and then went through a bitter divorce. Making the right decisons, in his mind, failed him.)

3. What does he/she want? He wants to be happy.

4. Why? {Success didn’t make him happy–his marriage was too one-sided, and failure (his idea of divorce) made him more unhappy. He isn’t sure what to do next.}

5. Fill in my character wheel. (Shirley Jump–http://eating-my-words.com/–did a workshop on this, and it was wonderful. I’ve played with it to make it work for me). Here’s my version:

In the center of typing paper, draw a small circle. Fill in: name, description of character–hair/eyes/build, age, and tag word or phrase for his personality. Draw 7 spokes off the circle.
Spoke 1 = Family. Draw lines off that spoke for father, mother, brothers, sisters, any family member important to him. Give name and how they got along, any important info.
Spoke 2 = Education and training (did he like it? Why or why not? Any mentor?) What career did it lead to?
Spoke 3 = Where does he live? What vehicle does he drive? What does it say about him?
Spoke 4 = Relationships (past/current romances. When and why ended?)
Spoke 5 = 2 friends he can talk to–a reflector and ally. How do they see him?
Spoke 6 = Quirks (fears, habits, hobbies, like & dislikes)
Spoke 7 = Enemies/antagonists/opponents–why?

That’s it for character, for now. Happy writing!

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

Finished. Finally:)

I did way too many rewrites on Witch Gone Bad. What started as a fun writing experiment ended up being more work than I ever expected. But I have to tell you, it’s sure been fun! What I didn’t think about–and should have–is that if I use 5 POVs, I need to know 5 characters well enough to bring them to life. At least, in my head. And since I learn more about characters as I go, that took me a minute. And rewrites. Something to ponder if I ever get a brilliant idea like this again:)

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Writing: I’ve had fun!

I mentioned that I was trying a writing experiment with POV. It’s taken more time than I expected it to, but I met my goals. Each day this week, I’ve put one part of a short story on my webpage, with one more to go up tomorrow. Each part was from a different POV character. What have I learned?

It’s fun writing from the villain/antagonist’s POV. I don’t do that very often. As a matter of fact, I use third person, single POV in every series I write except Fallen Angels. Those are the only books I write with multiple POV, and I still rarely write from the villain’s veiwpoint. I think it might be hard to do without giving too much away, but it worked for a short piece. And letting myself live inside Merlot’s head helped me understand her more. I read once that villains don’t think of themselves as bad or wrong. Instead, they focus on what they want, what they’re striving to do, and they justify their actions. They often feel they’ve been wronged, and they’re putting things right. Merlot has that tendency. Hezra, on the other hand, (in part 4), decided to turn to the dark arts and makes no bones about the fact that she wants power. It was fun writing from her perspective, too, but I still wanted to make her an individual–not just the “evil” who battles my protagonist.

I’m putting up the last part of the story tomorrow–the big showdown–but this experiment has made me think more about villains/antagonists. For me, Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series really got interesting when she had Hugh D’Ambray walk onto the pages to play mind games with Kate and to battle her and Curran. For me, she created two of the most intriguing “bad guys” I’ve read for a long time when Hugh and Kate’s father, Roland, became active in the series. Not that she hasn’t had a strong, almost invincible enemy in every book. That’s part of urban fantasy, but Hugh and Roland are unpredictable and do the unexpected, and that’s made them really interesting. She’s made them such a blend of good and bad that the reader has mixed feelings about them. It’s sort of like reading The Silence of the Lambs. I hated Dr. Chilton more than Hannibal Lecter. Odd, right? But a really well-done villain can pull a reader’s emotions in strange directions. For that reason, I’ve decided to spend just as much time on my villains and antagonists as I do on my protagonists from now on. They can really make a story zing.

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/