Tag Archives: tension

Finding Balance

I’m a Libra–the sign of the scales, so I thought my life came with some automatic balance.  Come to find out, one of my favorite astrologers explained that being a Libra meant I was constantly SEARCHING for balance.  A whole different thing entirely.  And after I thought about it, aren’t most people striving for balance, too?

The old saying “Too much work and no fun make Jack a dull boy” could apply to too much of anything.   I read a thread on twitter recently where Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost (both New Times bestselling authors) worked so many hours writing their books that Jeaniene Frost ended up in the hospital and both suffered from too much stress and felt everything else in their lives got neglected.  What were they missing?  Balance.

Now, I’d love to be a bestselling author, but not enough to ONLY write.  I like seeing my husband, kids, and grandkids.  I like having family and friends over for suppers.  I enjoy cooking and gardening.  I’m not very exciting, but I’m happy.  Of course, if all I did was play, I’d feel out of sync, too.  I like checking off goals when I finish them.  They give me a sense of accomplishment.  Too much down time, and I get antsy.

As a writer, I strive for balance in my books, too.  I recently finished reading Maria V. Snyder’s POISON STUDY.  I really liked it and highly recommend it, but the book had so much action, with the heroine under constant attack from enemies on all sides, that it felt like too much of a good thing.  For me, the book’s rhythm began to feel repetitive.  She created wonderful characters, and I’d have liked to spend a little more time with them.  Valek, especially, was fascinating.  So were many of the minor characters.  On the other hand, though, I’ve read books where action would be welcome.  It feels like nothing is happening, page after page.  No character development.  No clues to add up.  The pacing’s so slow, the story barely moves forward.

I also recently finished reading Cee Cee James’s cozy mystery CHERRY PIE OR DIE.  I loved the characters, the interaction between them, and the clues sprinkled here and there that teased me to solve the murder.  The pacing took its time, taunting me with tidbits of information and red herrings, like cozies do.  And that’s one of the things I liked about the book.

Great books create a balance between action, dialogue, setting, character development, and building momentum through pacing and tension.  Not many of us get every scene, every page right.  And not all of us can even agree on what’s good and what’s not.  What excites me can make another reader close the book and toss it aside.  But for whatever you’re working on now, I hope you find a good balance.  And happy writing!

My webpage:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Twitter:  @judypost

 

 

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Writing: Can a writer be too nice?

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!

Happy writing!

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

Writing: And now it gets ugly

I usually write my blog posts on Sundays, but my sister and I are driving to Bloomington to visit my grandson tomorrow. We’re leaving at 9:30 in the morning so that Mary can take him out for lunch–his pick–and then take him shopping before we drive home. Yes, my sister is the best great aunt any boy could have. Both boys know it. My other sister’s not too shabby either. It’s going to be a great day–yakking with Mary on the way there and back–and seeing Tyler, but it’s going to be a long day. I won’t want to write a blog when I get home, so here goes.

I’ve been working on the romance novel I started. I’m always excited when I start a new book. Ideas churn away in my head, my characters clamor to do this or that, and everything’s new and different. My first chapters usually have problems, but it’s still a joy writing them. I can’t really hear my characters until I watch them act and react to things and listen in on their dialogue for a while. Usually, after the third chapter, I know them better, and then I can write plot points for them. By then, they have opinions of what they will or will not do. I’m a plot driven writer, so I have turning points they have to reach, but they tell me how they’ll manage that. It works for all of us. I’ve been sailing through my plot points, and my characters keep stretching and surprising me, and all’s going well. But now, I’ve finished the first fourth of my book. It ended with a crash–literally. Someone cut the chains of the beautiful, crystal chandeliers that Ian bought for the great room of his lodge. Someone’s sabotaging him.

Now things turn ugly. Not just for the characters. Every conflict cranks up from now on. Ian’s hit his internal and external problems, and so has Tessa. And things are only going to get worse. For me, the writing gets more serious now. There are more balls to juggle, more subplots to weave in and out. We’re past introductions and we’re going for the long haul, the nitty gritty. The longer the story goes, everything has to become more intense, have more depth. Pacing becomes more important.

I’ve never written a romance novel before. In urban fantasies, the bad guys gain momentum, and the battles grow more dangerous the longer the book goes. That’s what I like about reading and writing UF. Eventually, the stakes reach the point of live or die. In romance? There has to be the push-pull of attraction that’s frustrated by the reasons the hero and heroine can’t get together. So far, it’s been fun figuring out what brings them together and then adding things that push them apart. But now, my characters have hit the nitty-gritty. They’re past chemistry and sly looks. It’s time to up the ante. push the buttons, and add the romance. I have some great ideas. We’ll see how they go:)

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Just a note: Another practical blog from Lindsay Buroker: http://www.lindsayburoker.com/