Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Character Arc

An important element of writing related to GMC is the Character Arc.

During the course of your story, at least one main character should grow, evolve, and/or change. This is defined as a Character Arc.

Does your hero distrust the police? Was he was framed by a crooked cop for a crime he didn't commit and recently got released from prison on a technicality? If the heroine is a detective, your hero has to learn to trust her or the romance can't develop. The path he takes to overcome his distrust is his character arc and his love for the heroine motivates him to learn to trust her.

Is your heroine shy, but she has to stand up for her learning disabled child against the school's uncooperative principal? Her character arc will involve educating herself about her rights and learning confidence in her ability to speak her mind about what she believes. Her child's well-being is her motivation behind this change.

Is your hero plagued by guilt over not being able to prevent his younger sister's drowning death when he was eight years old? Now his best friend and his wife have died, and the hero has been informed he has custody of their three-year-old daughter. The process of taking responsibility for the child and healing from his past experience are a large part of his character arc.

Every character has at least one weakness, even if he's a claymore-wielding Scottish laird or a high-profile district attorney with great legs and perfect hair. No flaws equals not human, and readers want to be able to relate to and sympathize with your hero and heroine. Help them move on, heal, learn, grow, etc. to become more confident and accepting of who they are.

Isn't that what we all work toward in the real world? :)

Next week--Author Intrusion!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--The Synopsis

There's that dreaded word--the bane of almost every writer. The SYNOPSIS!!!

Do you get sick to your stomach thinking about having to write one???

Good news! If you've been following my weekly posts, you're at least halfway done with your synopsis! Do you remember last month's GMC blog? How about last week's Timelines suggestions? Combine the two and you have a good portion of your rough draft.

A synopsis should tell the chronological order of your story, using your characters' goals, motivations, and conflicts to describe what each character wants, why he reacts the way he reacts, and how those decisions and behaviors affect him and his growth (character arc) through the events that happen. The synopsis also tells the progression of the plot and its resolution--whether it's permanent or temporary--and is written in present tense from a narrator's perspective (omniscient POV).

1) Define the situation and setting.
2) Use the cause and effect approach to tell what happens in the story.
3) Clearly tell the actions of the main characters and how they affect the plot.
4) Reveal the emotional cause and affect of the events.
5) Include the characters' goals, motivations, and conflicts.
6) Answer all questions the reader may have, including the ending.

Remember--The synopsis should present a plot with a complexity that matches the word count of your manuscript. It should make the reader want to read your book.

Synopses can be anywhere from a few hundred words to 15 or 20 pages. For a short synopsis, cut out all but the main characters' most important GMCs and the major plot points. For a long synopsis, include subplots and more details about the characters' GMCs.

A couple suggestions for Plotters:

Many plotters write the synopsis before the book. If you make changes to the plot/subplots as you write the story, make those adjustments in your synopsis. If a motivation doesn't seem strong enough in your character bio and you develop a stronger motivation, be sure to tweak your synopsis to reflect the change.

My best advice...Learn how to write a synopsis. It'll help you create cover and promo blurbs as well as taglines. Every writer needs to know how to create this useful tool.

Since I mentioned Character Arc, let's take a closer look at that topic next week!

Don't forget to support Brenda Novak's Online Auction for Diabetes Research! Only 9 days left!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Timelines

Have you ever read a book that you had to look back several pages/chapters to figure out what day/month it is in the story? Did two weeks seems to pass, only to have the author imply two months have gone by? This is where the importance of Timelines comes in.

As writers, we know the setting, the time frame, and all the backstory--but the reader doesn't have that benefit, so we have to create a clear order of events to avoid confusion. Sounds like I'm promoting plotting, huh? Not exactly.

For Plotters--You've made storyboards, outlines, and maybe even a timeline or two for your stories. You've also learned not to info dump (hopefully!), which can happen when you know everything about your characters and plot before you begin writing. However, have you gone too far the other direction to avoid it? Do you have the right balance of information and events to allow your reader to see the sequencing and comprehend how much time has passed?

For Plantsers--Your characters tend to lead the story and often take you on surprising side-trips. So, how do you make sure your time frame is clear? Here's the method I use: I note when the story starts (May 15th). As I write, I jot down chapter numbers and when those scenes occur (May 16th, May 18th, May 21st, etc.), along a very brief description of what happened (first meeting of hero/heroine, heroine discovers hero has children, etc.). This keeps me focused on a chronological order of events happening between each of the major plot points I already know.

For Pantsers--You can use a similar approach to my Plantser method. Keep a record of dates/times and events/scenes as you write to track the story's progress. If the plot requires adjustments in earlier chapters, you then know where to find each particular day/moment in relation to the rest of the manuscript.

Whether you choose to make a detailed calendar or jot notes on index cards or paper, knowing the order of your story can help eliminate reader confusion in your final product. A good critique partner or beta reader can be invaluable for catching glitches as well.

In addition to providing a clear chain of events, your timeline can also help direct your synopsis.

Hmmm...Should I tackle that dreaded topic next week???

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Choreography

Choreography sort of goes with last week's topic, Logic Lapses. While the term is most often associated with dancing, choreography also applies to a character's physical movements in a story. Whether she's walking, baking a cake, or making love to her hero, her movements have to make sense.

Some things to look for during the writing and editing process:

1) Did your character sit down when he was already sitting? Or stand up when he stood up three paragraphs earlier? Is he crossing the room to look out the back window when he's already there?

2) Did your character get eggs and milk out of the refrigerator without going to the kitchen? Do her arms seem loaded down with far more than she could possibly carry?

3) How many hands, arms, legs does each character have? This is especially important in (menage) love scenes. Caressing her cheek, threading his fingers through her hair, AND cupping her breast gives one hero three hands. Count body parts!

4) Is your heroine going in the front door from the backyard?

5) Is the woman standing to the hero's right suddenly on his left?

Draw maps, use dolls, act out the scene with your critique partners. I've done all three, and I have to say checking sex scene choreography with my critters was a hoot!!! Use whatever method helps you visualize the action. Noting every single movement isn't necessary, but be sure the actions you mention work the way you intend!

Let's look at another Logic Lapses related topic next week--Timelines.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Couple Announcements!!!

After months of work, the new Indiana Romance Writers of America website is live and the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest is open for entries!!! If you're an unpubbed author or unpubbed in the last three years, you're eligible to enter the IGO Contest. Like RWA's Golden Heart Contest, entries consist of 55 pages, including the synopsis (maximum of 10 pages). Our score sheets provide detailed feedback by trained judges in the first round. The top three finalists in each category will then move on to the second round--ranking by TWO editor judges! Many of our finalists have gone on to final or win the Golden Heart and/or receive an offer of publication for their entries. Check out IRWA's website for the list of our editor judges, to view the complete rules, to preview the score sheets, and to enter!

AND I have a Super Spicy Gift Basket up for bidding at Brenda Novak's Online Auction for Diabetes Research!

Included in the basket: 1) An autographed trade paperback copy of my book, The Sextet Anthologies Volume 3: Occupational Hazards; 2) A autographed oversized postcard with an ebook gift code for my book, The Sextet Presents...Playing in the Raine: A Toy Story; 3) A autographed oversized postcard with an ebook gift code for my book, The Sextet Presents...Bound by Voodoo: Legends; 4) A red satin sash; 5) Three bottles of flavored lubricants; 6) A sex coupon booklet. Value $70. Current bid is $19. Check out all the great offerings for this worthwhile cause, and PLEASE SHARE!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Logic Lapses

Logic Lapses can strike at any time and anywhere in your manuscript. Some are easily missed, while others will practically whack a reader over the head.

What are they???

They're instances in your story where the facts don't add up or someone behaves in a manner completely out of character for no apparent reason. Many times, these conveniently move the plot in the direction the author wants but make the reader say, "huh?". This can lead to an only partially read book and a lost sale on the next book.

Some examples:

Scenario: Your hero and heroine are on the run from a pair of bad guys. They pay for a few hours in a cruddy motel for some much-needed rest. The bad guys bust in, but the hero manages to take out one dude with a karate move and the heroine bashes the other over the head with a lamp. Both men are unconscious. The h&h make a run for it, leaving behind their coats. They then have to make a stop to buy new coats, and the bad guys spot them again.
Problem: If the men couldn't immediately follow, why didn't the h&h grab their coats? Don't make your characters forgetful to fit in your plot points.

Scenario: Your heroine is a security specialist. The hot guy from the office next door stops by to ask her out for a drink. She forgets to lock her office and a thief steals a copy of her plans for a new client.
Problem: A security specialist would NEVER forget to secure her work area before leaving. Stupid character, angry reader. Too convenient, especially if the hot guy is in on the robbery.

Scenario: Your sexy hero is talking on his cell phone to the buddy he's meeting for a game of pool later. As he's walking along the sidewalk, he spies a trail of fresh blood leading into a dark alley. He tells his friend he has to go, follows the blood, and gets jumped by a vampire dressed like a dominatrix.
Problem: Maybe he doesn't see a problem, but I do. This is as bad as the pretty girl who goes exploring the woods at night when her friend disappears and doesn't answer her calls. Can you say Freddie, Jason, character too stupid to live???

Think through plot points for each scene, either before (plotter), during (plantser), or after (pantser) you write. Do any of them make your character seem stupid? Have you let your character do something out of character to further your plot?

Chances are if you aren't 100% certain it works, it doesn't. Find a different way to make your hero and heroine need new coats--one that makes sense and doesn't give the reader a reason to dislike the story. Don't make your sword-wielding pirate forget he has one, and your wizard better remember he has a wand when confronted by his evil nemesis.

Next up--Choreography! It's not just for dancing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!