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Archive for the 'Writing Life' Category

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?

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?

Barbie and Karen Walker

Barbie turns fifty this year, and New Zealand fashion designer, Karen Walker was asked to design some outfits for Barbie’s special celebration. To date around seventy designers have designed special outfits for Barbie’s exotic shape. Karen Walker downsized some of her designs for next season especially for Barbie. Here’s a link to an interview with Karen Walker about the designs. I thought it was interesting that Karen’s very first design was a circular skirt for Barbie and this started Karen on her designer career. (some of you might enjoy the Kiwi accents in the video interview)

Hubby and I watched the news headlines about Barbie. I said to hubby that I’d never owned a Barbie. My doll was called Suzie and my sister cut her hair. Suzie looked bald in the front by the time my sister had finished. You can probably imagine the resulting war in our house that day! Hubby asked if I’d like him to buy me a Barbie. I told him a Barbie might come in handy but I’d need a Ken as well. Maybe two Kens since I’m writing some kinky stuff these days. Some erotic romance writers use their Barbies or children’s Barbie dolls to work out their love scenes. Hubby was aghast. Surely not? It was really funny, and we had a long, very interesting discussion about Barbie and Ken. It’s probably best if I end my blog post right there…

Did you own a Barbie doll? Do your children? And for all the erotic romance writers out there–have you used Barbies or Action figures for help in working out love scenes?

Fated Mates.

Paranormal romances often use a fated mates plotline where the hero and heroine take one look at each other and know they will spend their lives together. Some readers and reviewers consider the fated mates plot overdone. They say it’s a way for the author to cheat on the world building aspect of their writing and that the fated mate plot is a shortcut. I’ve also seen readers/reviewers say characterization suffers in a fated mates story. Others say this type of plot is unbelievable.

Personally, I love reading and writing this type of plot. I read romance for the happy-ever-after aspect and like to think there is a special person or a soul mate waiting out there for every person. In my Middlemarch world, every feline shifter has a special mate. They don’t necessarily have to hook up with that person, but mostly they do end up together. Fated mates stories often contain other elements such as a suspense subplot.

What do you think? Do you like the fated mates plotline? What do you like or dislike about it? Are stories that use the fated mate scenario too predictable? Are there any particular stories featuring fated mates that you’ve enjoyed?

Over and Over

I’ve heard readers comment about authors who write a variation of the same book over and over again. Each new release is a rewrite of the same story. I know I’ve stopped reading a couple of authors because I felt their stories were pretty much identical. Maybe the characters were different, but the conflicts and plot were similar. It didn’t feel as if I was reading a different book.

I’ve written over thirty books now. I’ll admit I think about originality when I’m writing a new book. I like to think each story is distinctly different, but I’m also aware that an author’s upbringing colors their perceptions. Their books may contain the same theme. Many of my stories deal with finding a home and security. I hope my books are different enough that readers don’t think I’m a one-book wonder. It’s hard to judge your own work sometimes.

What do you think? Does an author tend to write the same story over and over?

The Wait Between Books

Last week Kaye Munro did a post about writing and author productivity. I’ve been thinking about this, and I want everyone to put on their reader hats while they read this post about author releases.

It used to be that authors would write one book a year and sometimes one book every two years. These days authors tend to have a higher rate of productivity. Some authors write three or four books a year, depending on the line they write for and also if they write for traditional or e-publishers.

The good thing for readers is this means there are a large number of books available to choose from. We’re spoiled for choice. I don’t know about you, but as a reader, I love the trilogies or connected books by the same author that come out in three successive months. I think that’s reader heaven. I like my favorite authors to have releases at least every six months. That’s a good length of time for me. If the wait is much longer, I forget to look for the next release because I have a lot of favorites. If I can’t find a book written by one of my favorite authors, I tend to look farther afield, and I explore the books of new-to-me writers. Sometimes I find new favorites, so there’s a danger if an author doesn’t have frequent releases, they’ll lose me to another writer or writers.

How long are you willing to wait between books? Can an author have too many releases in one year? Do you think quality is sacrificed in favor of quantity these days?

The Author Persona

Barbara Vey at Publishers Weekly has a recent post about authors, actors and the like called Does It Matter If They’re Nice? while Samhain editor Tera Kleinfelter has a post about professionalism.

We all know how to behave in public or online, or we should. Writing is our job or business and as a writer we need to promote ourselves in a positive light. We’re all human and sometimes, the smile might slip. Sometimes we have a bad day.

I have a confession. I’m a fairly easy going person, but there are a couple of authors whose books I would never purchase or read because they made a really bad impression on me when I met them. Quite frankly, they were rude. I’ve heard others make the same comment about authors, actors and singers.

If an author is rude to you at a conference or booksigning, or they behave badly online, does this create a bad impression with you or do you give them the benefit of doubt and give them a second chance? Does rudeness stop you buying their book, music or watching their movies?