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Archive for March, 2009

Character or Plot Driven?

I’ve been in the writing cave again today and doing some heavy-duty thinking about the story I’m plotting. I took a bit of a break to write a post for Selena Illyria for her menage a trois week. While I was writing my post, I started to think about character driven stories and plot driven stories.

A character driven story is where the characters drive the story. Whatever decisions they make direct the course of the story, and at the end of the story the characters should have changed and grown in some way.

A plot driven story is where the events unfolding in the story direct the characters’ actions. At the end of the story, the characters are not necessarily changed or different.

Romances, by their very nature, tend to focus on the characters and their journey.

When I first started writing, I tended to write a plot driven story. I like action and lots of things happening, and this showed up in my writing. Over time I’ve noticed this has changed with my latest release, Leticia’s Lovers being more character driven.

The Nocturnes I’ve been reading recently are very much plot driven, although there’s a character driven element to the stories as well. If you enjoy paranormal stories and haven’t tried the Nocturne line yet, there are some great reads waiting for you. I highly recommend Patrice Michelle’s Scions series (for a different take on vampires and werewolves) and Rhyannon Byrd’s Blood Runner series.

Do you prefer character driven stories, plot driven stories or a combination of the two?

How Many Characters Are Too Many?

I love reading series and books about families or groups of friends. I enjoy secondary characters, especially the ones who bring humor to a story and lighten what would be an otherwise dark book. Secondary characters sometimes help show the hero or heroine in a different light, give us a new perspective and make our main characters seem more multi-faceted to the reader.

A secondary character shouldn’t overshadow the hero or heroine. If they’re that interesting, give them their own book.

A secondary character should have a specific purpose in driving the plot forward. Sometimes they provide important information for the reader and the main characters.

There shouldn’t be so many secondary characters that the story is overwhelmed. Sometimes a secondary character can do double duty, allowing the writer to get rid of one of their cast of characters.

I’m a big Sherrilyn Kenyon fan, but in some of her books I struggle with the sheer number of characters. I can usually get my head around the main characters and the other Dark Hunters who make an appearance. Add Acheron and Simi and I have no problem because they’re my favorites. It’s the casts of Gods and Goddesses who get me confused.

I’m also a huge fan of Lorelei James’ western contemporaries. I emailed her after reading one of her books and told her I loved her latest release but had she considered doing a family tree? I was getting dreadfully confused trying to keep the family characters straight. Several of them have Christian names that start with the same letter of the alphabet, as is tradition in the area where Lorelei sets her books. She ended up adding an awesome family tree to her website. Here’s the link so you can see her family trees.

With my Middlemarch Mates series, I’m currently working on book nine. I’ve been thinking about doing a family tree for my website. I don’t have any problems keeping my own characters straight, but I’m not sure how my readers are faring. If you’re reading my series, do let me know what you think about a family tree.

How many secondary characters do you think are too many in a story? What do you like most about secondary characters? What do you think about family trees? Do you like having them as a reference when you’re reading a book?

Video Blogging with Catherine Bybee

My special guest today is author, Catherine Bybee. For a few months now, Catherine has been posting videos on her blog about various writing related subjects. I thought video blogging was a great idea and asked Catherine if she’d be willing to do a special blog for me about the video blogging process. Catherine is a star and produced the following video for me. She’s also visiting today and is willing to answer any of your questions. Over to Catherine…

About Catherine Bybee ~~ Her first erotic short story, Kilt Worthy, will come out sometime later this year for the Scarlet line at The Wild Rose Press. Her full length mainstream time travel romance, Binding Vows, is due out December 4th 2009. This will be available in both e-book and print. Her werewolf novella, Soul Mate is due out in fall of 2009 with Red Rose Publishing.

You can find Catherine on the web here, and see her other video blogs on her blogspot here.

Do you have any questions about video blogging?

I’m guest blogging at Maria Zannini’s blog today. I’m talking about dogs and writing. Here’s the link. I’d love to see you there.

Body Parts

I’ve been researching body language recently. It’s a fascinating subject, and I’ve learned all sorts of interesting things.

The Definitive Book of Body Language by Barbara Pease has a section on the things men and women first notice about prospective partners.

Butt, Breasts or Legs?

When it comes to men and favorite body parts, they normally fit into three categories—breasts, butts or legs. This is all tied up with reproduction, believe it or not.

1. Butts – men find rounded, peach-shaped buttocks the most attractive. Female primates display their buttocks when they’re ready to mate. It shows they are receptive and available. Human females display their buttocks all the time, and this gives the males the impression she’s available. Women also store fat in their buttocks for breastfeeding and as an emergency food storage in lean times.

2. Breasts—they serve as a sexual signal. Men are attracted to cleavage.

3. Legs—long legs are a non-verbal signal telling a male a woman is sexually mature and capable of childbearing. Men like high-heels because it gives the illusion of fertile looking legs.

Chest, Legs or Butt?

Masculine body parts trigger a women’s sexual response as well.

1. Chest—a wide chest tapering to narrow hips allows a man to lug heavy weapons over long distances and to carry home their kills. (always handy, I think!)

2. Small, tight butt—a tight, muscular butt is necessary to make a strong forward thrust that’s needed for sperm transfer during sex. A man with a flabby butt has problems with this and tends to through his entire body into the thrust. Not comfortable for his partner.

3. Hips and muscular legs—symbols of masculine power and endurance. Long, muscular legs allow a man to run swiftly, chase and hunt.

Interesting stuff, huh? I tend to check out a man’s butt—don’t tell hubby. I had no idea I was thinking about forward thrusting at all. Really! No idea at all…

If you’re looking at a person of the opposite sex, which body part do you check out first?

Romance and Infidelity

Yesterday my post was about flaws and faults in heroes. One flaw I didn’t mention in my post was that of infidelity.

Infidelity is a real hot button when it comes to romance readers. Some people have experienced infidelity in real life, and betrayal of this nature isn’t something they want to read about for relaxation. Personally, I don’t think romance and infidelity fit well together. I mean how can a book be a romance if it’s about infidelity? It doesn’t seem right at all.

One of the writers I use to critique with said up front that she wouldn’t critique or work with me on any story where one or both of the characters were unfaithful to each other. It was a hot button for her.
If a plot does use infidelity, it usually happens off stage and is part of the hero or heroine’s back story. Or it’s a subplot that occurs in the life of a secondary character.

For example with Scarlet Woman, the first book in my Middlemarch series, my heroine was in a bad marriage where her husband was constantly unfaithful. He cheated on her several times. Just before the start of the book, her husband had died in a motor vehicle accident along with his current girlfriend. Her husband’s death was the impetus she needed to make some changes in her life. She wanted to have some fun and met Saber Mitchell at the Middlemarch Single’s ball. Things went from there. Of course, her husband’s infidelity made it difficult for her to trust Saber and to take a chance on their relationship.

Despite my thoughts above about romance and infidelity, I’ve been toying with using infidelity as part of a plot for a book that’s been swirling around inside my head. I know if I go ahead, I’ll have to give my character excellent motivation and try to make my character sympathetic to readers. A tall order, which is making me hesitate about using this particular subplot. I’ll have to give it a lot more thought.

What do you think about infidelity and the romance genre? Would you read a romance where one of the characters was unfaithful? Can you think of any romances you’ve read where the hero or heroine is unfaithful to the other?

Negative Traits for Heroes

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Negative Traits For Heroes

I’m pondering book nine in my Middlemarch Mates series and the heroes in particular. Of course, it goes without saying that the heroine will love her two heroes to bits and think they’re the best thing since the invention of sliced bread (maybe even chocolate) but they need to be well-rounded. They need to be human. They need faults along with their positive traits. So, here are thirteen possibles for my heroes.

1. Overbearing.

2. Too flirtatious with other females.

3. Smug or boastful.

4. Too arrogant.

5. Possessive or prone to jealousy.

6. Selfish.

7. Moody – prone to dark moods or temperamental.

8. No sense of humor.

9. Impractical.

10. Manipulative.

11. Impatient.

12. Restless or quickly bored.

13. Fails to plan adequately.

Of course, these traits can be applied to women as well. I could also include things like obsessed with sex, speeds in car, leaves dirty clothes all over the floor, gambles or smokes, swears too much, burps or farts in public, hogs conversation.

Which vices/negative traits do you think are good for heroes in novels and in particular in romances? Do you have more suggestions for me? Do you like heroes to have large faults or do small ones work better for you?

Gobbledygook

One of the people I correspond with is an aspiring writer and she asked me about language in sci-fi romances. She was having problems with words to describe things in her sci-fi work that didn’t sound plain stupid. She wanted to know how I attack this aspect of world building to give my work a sci-fi flavor and particularly mentioned my Talking Dog series, which is one of her favorites. I thought this was a great question and decided it would make an excellent topic for a blog post.

From childhood, I’ve watched sci-fi movies and television. I’ve seen how the writers have handled the language aspect and absorbed that. While I’ve never been a huge sci-fi/fantasy reader, I’ve read enough to see how other writers work this aspect of world building. I think the most important thing is to make sure the reader isn’t jerked out of your story because they’re so busy laughing about your made-up language or are totally confused because they don’t understand what is happening in the story. On the other hand, the writer shouldn’t copy everything they’ve seen or read in other sci-fi books or movies. Originality is good.

With my Talking Dogs series, I went light on the “foreign” language aspect. My stories are about aliens crash landing in New Zealand. Just as an aside, a lot of the time my editor and readers think I’m writing a foreign language anyway!

Hinekiri, the aunt, is a seasoned traveler/explorer. She’s good with languages and doesn’t stand out as a tourist. Janaya, the niece who stowed away to save her aunt, had a crash course with some Earth-speak tapes and she sometimes mixes up things when it comes to language. Here’s an example.

“Back on the ship,” she snapped to her aunt as she pulled her weapon free. “Now.”

To her right, the leaves of a fern shuddered. Janaya scented the air. Sweat. Torgon sweat.

“Come on out with your fingers poked inside your ears,” she ordered, aiming her neutralizing weapon at the dark green bushes that had moved.

“That would be, hands in the air,” her aunt said.

With my Talking Dogs, I focused more on the language difficulties, the same ones that people learning English have. With my stories this made sense because my aliens want to blend rather than stand out.

I gave the race of bad aliens (who are a pretty lilac color) the name of Torgons, the planet where Hinekiri and Janaya come from is called Dalcon, and I had a few other things with made up names. As I said, with this book I erred on the light side because it is set in New Zealand and I wanted my aliens to blend.

Foreign languages and scientific names for plants or animals can be a good source of language for sci-fi works. Authors can also use part of these words because some of them are really long while a few of the syllables work out perfectly as a made up language.

With my free story, Interplanetary Love, I used a completely different technique. I took normal English words and spelled them backward, making a new language all of my own. With Fallen Idol, I made up words, plucking them from the depths of my brain and that worked out okay.

With all my writing, I tend to err on the light side when it comes to a “foreign” language. I’ve read books where I’ve had to read the same paragraph several times to work out what the author or the characters were trying to say. I think this part of world building is a delicate balance because if you have too many strange words you frustrate your readers and if you don’t have enough you might as well write a contemporary. If anything, I’m probably on the too light side, but I can live with that. I write what I prefer to read.

Writers, what do you think? How do you tackle this part of world building when you’re writing a paranormal, sci-fi or fantasy story?

Readers, what do you think? Do writers get it right or do we confuse you? Is there a writer who you think does a really good job?

What’s Coming?

Tomorrow I have a mini interview with Karen Erickson about her new release. Reader favorite, Michelle Pillow is also my guest in just over a week on 23 March. She’s giving away a prize so you’ll want to make sure you visit that day.

On 23 March I have an interview at Menagerie Authors.

On 24 March I’m at the Samhellion blog. That will be a mystery topic because I haven’t decided what my post will be about yet!

And on 25 March I’m at Maria Zannini’s blog where I think I’m talking about writing and dogs. :grin:

Themed Read: Lifelines by CJ Lyons

I read another of my chosen themed reads this week. LIFELINES by CJ Lyons is a medical thriller and it fits my theme because of the doctors and nurses with their uniforms.

Lifelines is a story about four medical staff, although the main story is about new ER attending physician, Lydia Fiore. She’s moved from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh, it’s the first of July, which is also transition day, and the most dangerous day of the year because of all the new medical students starting their internships. On Lydia’s first night, a patient comes in to the ER. They’re mystified as to what’s wrong with him and despite every effort, the patient dies. After the death, Lydia learns the man who has died is the son of Dr. Elliot Weiss, the chief of surgery. He blames Lydia for his son’s death and he’s after her blood. She’s put on probation, pending an enquiry and that’s when the fun starts for Lydia. Something isn’t adding up about the death. At the autopsy, Lydia starts to think cyanide poisoning, but others don’t agree, especially Dr. Weiss. When more cyanide poisonings occur some people start to wonder if Lydia is trying to cover her mistake.

Things I liked about this book:

1. It’s fast paced. The entire story takes place over four days from 1st July to 4th July.
2. The setting of the busy ER is excellent and CJ Lyons’ medical background really shows.
3. I enjoyed the characters, both the main and secondary ones.
4. The thriller/mystery component was compelling and hooked me. I read quickly. I was also tired the next day!

Things I didn’t like about this book:

1. The romance element wasn’t the main part of the story. I thought it was a romance. I don’t know why I thought this considering the spine of the book says fiction. Having said that, I’m really glad I read this book.
2. At times the medical jargon made me blink. It wasn’t overdone but in a couple of places I had to reread. Also, if someone could tell me what a wifebeater is? I’m thinking it’s a kind of shirt?

As I mentioned above, I’m glad I read this book. It was a great read, and I enjoyed it so much, I’ve purchased CJ Lyons follow up book, WARNING SIGNS, which follows the same main four characters but focuses on one of the others. Fans of ER or Grey’s Anatomy would enjoy this book. If you enjoy mysteries with a slight romance thread and a medical flavor, this is definitely the book for you.

Do You Do It In Public?

Ah, that made you look. Sorry if I’ve disappointed you, but I’m actually talking about reading – do you read romances in public?

I used to do a lot of reading while I traveled via bus or train to work. I’ll admit that although I’d read a romance, I’d pick one off my to-read pile that didn’t have a lurid cover. These days when I go out, I take my PDA and anything goes in the reading department. If someone asks what I’m reading they get erotic romance with all the naughty words when they ask for a closer look. I’m also more likely to just grab a book and read it, no matter what the cover.

I’m off on holiday in just over a month and considering which reading material to take with me. Along with my ebooks, I’ll probably grab two or three books from my to-read pile since it’s my mission to make the pile of books beside my bed disappear this year. Most of them are erotic romance, so I guess the folks at the holiday resort will have some interesting discussions ahead. Have you seen what that woman is reading over there? I’m not too worried. I’ll be relaxing by the pool with my book and a fruity little cocktail…

Do you do it in public? Why or why not? Do lurid covers stop you from reading in a public place?



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