Saturday, November 27, 2010

Your Hero's Journey Starts with a Single Step...

So don't mess it up!

This topic came up after starting to edit a client's manuscript. You see the problem was her Hero was... perfect.

I don't mean just physically perfect, but emotionally perfect. Self-aware. Motivated. Loyal & honest. I kept reading waiting for that veneer to slip, but it only became more gilded.

Um... that's not a Hero or at least not one people are going to connect to.

And I'm not talking simply about the literal definition. I am talking about the bottom line of will readers be satisfied with the novel and give it good reviews and buy your next book.

Heroes MUST be flawed. Yes, I know some people get up in arms when I use the term must and especially when I capitalize it, but it is simply true.

Without an emotionally flawed Hero your story is nothing more than a series of events that happen TO your Hero. If your Hero is not emotionally affected by your story, then how is your reader going to be affected? #howIaskyou :-)

Now you can start with a Hero that seems perfect and let that facade crack as we get deeper into the story until it completely shatters. However I tend to let my Hero's flaws 'all hang out' so to speak. I want that immediate bonding with my reader.

"See. My Hero is just as whacked out as you are."

So take a look at your Hero. Point out at least 3 flaws within the first 10 pages. If you can't... Hmm... you might want to go add some :-)

To listen to Saturday's radio show archive on just this subject click HERE. And while you're at it, set a reminder for next week's episode "Turning Your First Act - A Guide to Getting it Right" Saturday at 2pm PST/5pm EST.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pacing - The Key to Engaging Readers

Pacing is probably one of the least talked about aspects of writing, yet is critical to creating a 'must-read' novel.

There's got to be a rise and fall to your story. At times there should be a sense of urgency and foreboding. At other times, a few quieter moments for reflection or revelations.

The last thing you want is for your story to 'drag,' but nor do you want the opposite and have your story feel 'chaotic' or 'rushed.'

Many writers fall into a common pattern of 'dragging' out the first two acts, then rushing through the climax. Never good #underanycircumstances :-)

I know I was writing a book and I was having trouble landing it. When I finally finished I said "Thank gawd they are dead!" Luckily my writing buddy said... "Um, I don't think that's how your readers are going to feel."

He was right. Just because as I writer I was ready for my Heroes to die, I needed to make their deaths more poignant and meaningful. #duh But sometimes you get so wound up in your process you forget about the reader's experience.

Pacing is not just about how slow or fast your story goes but the weight with which you give certain aspects of your story. In may case the pacing was fine. It is an action packed paranormal romance.

My problem was I did not give enough 'weight' to their deaths. Think of the number of words as having a physical weight or emphasis. If the weight is too light, people will feel gypped.

So what to do with my example. I need a fast paced, taut ending, but I also need to make people feel satisfied.

Therefore I keep my pace, fairly quick sentences with lots of action, I simply extended the scene. I popped around my POVs to keep the tension up. I threw in another surprise. Basically I spiced it up without losing my original vision of the ending conflict.

Want to hear more about pacing? Then check out my last radio show episode HERE plus set a reminder for next week's episode "Your Hero's Journey starts with a single step... So Don't Screw it up!"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your Opening Line...

Does it knock readers socks off?

Many people lament that so much emphasis is put on to these first few words. But why shouldn't they be weighted heavily. After all first impressions truly are lasting.

On Saturday's radio show (click HERE to listen to the archive) we discussed the many facets of this first, crucial set of words you present to your reader.

But here are a few pointers...

You must gain reader's trust... NOW. Think of this from the readers stand point. Why should they shell out their hard earned money if you don't excite them with this first sentence? Why should they trust that you will pull out the stops later, when you aren't clear in this first line?

Be SPECIFIC. If ever there was a time to conjure up your best description, it is now. This does not mean spend seven sentences elaborating on the color of the bathroom tile. However it does mean if you mention the bathroom tile, let me know why this detail is important. Is it stained? Squeaky clean? Smeared with blood? Let the reader know you know what you are doing and give them a taste of the goods to come.

Let your GENRE shine through. Again, if ever there was a time to let your reader know what genre they are reading, it is now! If I am going to read a paranormal romance, I better get some paranormal or some romance (or a whiff of love on the horizon) NOW. gain my trust by showing me you know my genre and how to pull it off.

SURPRISE me. No, not the 'boo' I jumped out at you surprise. I mean legitimately show off a little and make me either smile, cringe, or laugh (whatever is appropriate to your genre).

Make this sentence COUNT. Now, if you bookend your story, this line will need to be referenced in the last few pages of your novel, but even if you don't plan on book-ending, then this sentence MUST have some relevance to your story and your hero. Even if you write a prologue a century and two continents apart, you've gotta make it relevant.

Alright, if you want more of this, click HERE to listen to Saturday's radio show (2pm PST). Plus while you are there, set a reminder for next week's show "Pacing - The KEY to engaging readers!" (Sat Nov 20th @ 2pm PST/5pm EST). "Talk" to you then! :-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dynamic Dialogue

or a.k.a. how not to sound lame... :-)

Dialogue is possibly the hardest aspect of writing fiction to really nail.

Because let's face it, everyone hears people speak all the time, so they know what it should 'sound' like.

The problem is, if you were to write dialogue EXACTLY how we speak, it feels muddled, confusing or worse stilted.

Why? Because we get so many more clues in tone and inflection when we speak. Even when signing, the attitude and hand motions add layer upon layer of depth to the words themselves.

Just imagine the difference between trying to convey a really painful memory to a friend when you are in person, then if you were trying to do it on the phone (less visual information), or in an email.

How many times have you written an email which you thought was perfectly clear (and how many words did you elaborate in) only to have the recipient scratching their head.

Now try to be clear, evoke emotion and do so in a dialogue exchange.

Which doesn't mean it can't be done. Now everyone has heard the advice to listen to how people speak and I completely agree with that, however seldom does anyone talk about how to take that info and pack it into punchy dialogue.

While we will talk about this at length on my radio show the single best advice I can give you is, especially for an important scene to write your dialogue, get what you need to say out, then go back and gut it.

Figure out what you REALLY need to say. In a break-up scene it may not be about her leaving him so much as her having too much trouble dealing with her previous abuse. Or the Hero may say he can't go fight the villain but he is just too scared to fail #usually #again

Now make whatever is the single most IMPORTANT fact they need to get across a secret. Have them do everything in their power to NOT talk about what they really want to say.

Even if you don't use this new dialogue, just creating this tension and friction between truth and secret will help you ground your writing and come up with some taut dialogue.

Listen to the archive of my radio show for an hour of dynamic discussion about how to make your dialogue jump off the page!

Also remember to set a reminder HERE for Saturdays a 2pm PST so you don't miss my show on "Your Opening Line... is it knocking the socks off your readers????"