How To Write Romance

Hades & Persephone: To the Underworld

The #1 most competitive category on Amazon Kindle is Contemporary Romance. Authors who write romance are bad-ass! Despite which genre your stories belong to, creating believable erotic scenes should be part of any writer’s ammo. Who are the romance writers? Read what three successful authors have to say about their craft and learn.

Joanne Fisher, Sevannah Storm, and Lynda Rees answered my in-depth interview questions about this bestselling genre.

Joanne FisherSevannah StormLynda Rees
1. Tell us about you. Who are you?
My name is Joanne Fisher and I am Canadian-Italian-American. I’ve been published now for just over 3 years and I have published a total of 8 books with genres ranging from steamy romance, historical fiction, murder mystery and travel guide.Call me Sev. I’m a Christian writing romance with a bit of Song of Solomon thrown in.

I love kick-butt strong, independent women who fall for alpha males.

I’m creative; studied art for seven years, lectured graphic design…that sort of thing.

For me, writing is a form of creativity release. I have a pug underfoot, two teenagers and a supportive husband.
I’m a multi-award winning author, part-Cherokee, a coal-miner’s daughter born in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. After a corporate career in marketing and global transportation, I followed my dream to become published in fiction. I’m wife to my personal story hero, mother of two, grandmother of three human children, one feline child, four equestrian babes and a donkey.
2. Tell us your latest news as a writer. What are you working on?
At this moment, I’m working on my second historical fiction titled “Magnolia Blossom” which is a forbidden love story that takes place during the American Civil War.I have dates from my publisher for The Huntress and Xiaxan Fox. It makes it feel more real.

Now, I’m writing a genderswap witcher in outer space.

Across endless darkness, Mick kills or collects creatures for credits. Mutated in one of those attempts, she may be stronger, faster but loneliness eats at her soul. Tasked to confirm the existence of a dragon-like species, she joins forces with an old friend who thought her a boy. Can she survive what he has planned for her, the origin of the death threats and the revelation that her not-dead mother has assassins out to kidnap her? (M)
In December, The Thinking Tree published, sequal to my middle-grade children’s book, Freckle Face & Blondie.

Also in December, The Bourbon Tree, Book 10 of The Bloodline Series, a mystery series set in Kentucky horse country was launched in English, German, French, Italian and will come out in Spanish in February.Kentucky is famous for fast horses, beautiful women and amazing bourbon. Or is that fast women and beautiful horses?

Book 9 of The Bloodline Series, Real Money, detailing Chloe’s hazardous career as a real estate agent, was published in August in English and in audiobook in October. It came out in French, German, Italian in December, and is pubishing in February in Spanish.
3. Why do you write romance?
Yes, romance is my favorite genre to write.I write more than romance. Every story must touch on the basics; adventure, intrigue, action. But such a story without romance means it's missing that special something.

Also, I feel love conquers all. It's that one emotion we have yet to fully udnderstand and it's something everyone searches for... hence The One, Soulmate, Mr Right.

But, on a personal level, that moment when the MMC snatches my breath, makes me swoon... that's the feeling I chase when I write.
That’s tough, like asking why I breath. It’s part of me. If I failed to put my characters’ lives in writing, they’d never let me sleep. As it is, insistently invade my resting brain as I try to drift off. You could say, I write scenes in my head, before they end up in manuscripts.
4. Do you write other genres as well?
Yes. I write historical fiction and murder mystery as well.Not initially. My first book written and snatched up by a publisher was a sci-fi romance so it’s my go-to genre.

Since then I wrote a fantasy romance, paranormal romance and then, a historical fantasy. It was the hardest due to the research.
I mostly write cozy romantic mysteries, but have an award-winning historical conspiracy theory romance Gold Lust Conspiracy. My two middle-grade children’s mysteries published are co-authored with my granddaughter, Harley Nelson. Freckle Face & Blondie and The Thinking Tree, Book 2 Freckle Face & Blondie Series were published in January and December 2019.
5. Why is romance such a popular genre?
Because in today’s culture, chivalry and romance are dying. Romance books and movies are keeping the romance fire alive. With all the different types of romance genres, it is alive and doing very well.Everyone wants to feel loved, to relive moments of joy in our lives and share in others even if it’s fictional.I’m a fan as well as author of the genre. I love it because it takes me into other worlds and gives me experiences I’d never have otherwise.
6. Name one thing you love about romance.
Romance takes you to a world where a woman is not only loved but respected and cherished. The meet-cutes, the first kiss and the I-love-you.Reading romance provides a few tears, some laughs or suspense, and leaves me with a feel-good vacation experience without having to leave home, though I can take it with me anywhere.
7. What are the biggest misconceptions about the romantic/erotic genre?
The major misconception is that it is compared to porn but I assure you it’s far from that. Erotica sparks sensual sensations in a woman and develops it in a way that the reader will feel what the protagonist is feeling. The unintended consequences of this is an awakening of the reader’s sensuality and this is definitely a good thing.Romance is for bored housewives, for women with low esteem and without love in their lives.

A proper romance is a story with a little sex in it. Why is reading it different from watching it? The Titanic, The Kissing Booth, Crazy Stupid Love, The Notebook, to name a few.
I don’t write or normally read erotic romance, so am not be the best to comment. My opinion is erotic literature is misconstrued as trashy or unholy by many. Of course, it’s about sex, which is a touchy subject for some, though it’s what keeps this world going round.

That misconception could be true of romance in general. A man, in an elevator full of writers at an RWA convention, said he’d been having a lovely time in a hotel filled with dirty women. We laughted, but it was a clear example of what those who have never read romance may still believe.

Erotic romance is written with the main focus on sex. Other genres of romance may include sex, but romance is the primal focus. Romance can have several heat levels from zero to five. My books aren’t erotic, though they have sexual scenes in them, depending on the story’s need, ranging from level three to five. This of course, doesn’t include my children’s books.
8. Name the best subgenres. Which fascinates you?
I enjoy a good drama or political suspense that goes along with a murder mystery or a romance.Historical, Contemporary, Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal…because vampires and werewolves are sexy.

It’s not the blood or animal thing, it’s the unapologetic masculinity and strength they exude.
I love and write mystery and suspence. I adore romantic comedy, though it’s difficult for me to put to pen. I enjoy thrillers and U. S. historical and western romance. I’m a history buff and have woven Kentucky history into The Bloodline Series (Books 1-10), God Father’s Day and Madam Mom. My state has an intriquing past of settlers and a little-known history of mobsters, gambling and sin. Gold Lust Conspiracy spawned from my fascination with Alaska’s frontier days.
9. Do you think that every writer should try writing a romantic story at least once? Why: yes/no?
Of course! If not anything, it will awaken the writer’s sensuality along with the thrill romance gives you.No. A writer should stick to what they’re comfortable with, but for an added element of realism, there should be a little romance.Write what drives you, whatever is inside that needs to come out. Experimenting with genres may help you find your voice, but consistency and doing it every day makes you better. A writer must write, and write and write. When the voice finally sets in, you recognize it.
10. Who do you write to? To yourself, to the public? For fame or money?
I write for my fans. Obviously, I’d like to write for money but right now, it’s a hobby for me although, who knows, one day I may write that best seller that will make me famous. I am content to satisfy my readers right now.For myself. I tell the story circling my mind. Once it’s out, I’m at peace. If I could earn a little to do it full-time, then I’d be grateful. Making a living doing something you’re passionate about is the ultimate dream.I write what stirs my soul and hope it helps someone else, if only go give them an enjoyable experience. I love my characters. They’re real, living beings dear to my heart. I hope they’re unforgettable to readers.

I certainly don’t write for fame and money, though that would be nice. Most of my life, a corporate career made money and paid the bills. I’d love my books to be famous, though I don’t need that personally. Fans have written me the most incredible tributes, so I’m a success without my face on television or being a household name.
Joanne FisherSevannah StormLynda Rees
11. How do you find the motivation to write?
I have ideas for at least a dozen books. It’s quite funny how you write your first book (which took me ten years to write) and then the ideas come pouring out. Once I create a word document, with a title and a temporary cover, I’m committed to finishing it. I don’t struggle with punching out word count. The saggy middle is the hardest and I find, to persevere through that, keep to a daily word count.I am and always have been, self-motivated. Some authors are introverted and need the alone time. Though I’m an extrovert, I thrive on writing. At the computer, the room is filled with characters waiting their turn to speak. Jessie, Logan, Jason, Becky, Tisha, Sam, Lemon Sage, Wyatt, Levi, Riley, Corrie, Justin, Calvin, Rose, Chloe, Leo, Jaiden, Sam, Shae, Reggie, Dory, Chance, Zoe and Dex—they’re my motivation. I can’t shut them up.
12. How do you beat the writer's block?
Thank goodness, I haven’t had to deal with writer’s block yet.I push through. It’s easier to edit something written than a blank page.I’ve never experienced it. If I did, I’d take a walk in the woods, dance with my husband, have a cocktail and chat about the day with him or a good friend, play with my grandkids, feed the horses and donkey or go swimming or fishing.
13. What advice would you give to a writer who wants to create believable romantic/erotic scenes?
I would advise to read other writer’s work. This will allow you to be guided by their style and at the same time create your own style.Romantic: Be authentic and natural, place yourself in their shoes. How would YOU react in that moment?

Erotic: Be realistic. The elbow will poke him in the ribs. He will squash you with his weight and you will sweat. It's not pretty, don't make it a ballet dance choreographed to perfection.
-
14. An action thriller needs an erotic scene. Any tips?
Again, I would read a few action thrillers that do have that type of scene in it and create your own style.It depends on the mood and pace at that moment. If it’s after the detective finds the first body, then it’s hard, fast and intense. If his partner’s killed, then in grief, it’s long and slow. If he cries afterward, even better.-
15. How much of your books are based on your experiences in life?
A few of my books are inspired by certain moments in my life but then the characters take on their own journeys.
There are a few that are completely made up or based on someone else’s experience but again, I try to give my characters their own personalities.
The intimate scenes; I had my husband describe what he felt in the moment. The fight scenes; I do Krav Maga for fun and some of those techniques slip into my novels.I write fiction. Characters, places and events derive from my imagination. A splattering of actual events or similarity to historical happenings sometimes play out the way I want them to, instead of how they might occurred. Characters are a mixture—partly me, a spash of folks I’ve met and a measure my fabrication. We all draw on life experiences in order to be who we are.
16. Which format you enjoy reading: e-book/audiobook or print? Why?
I enjoy e-books because they can be carried anywhere where paperbacks can’t go like the gym for example.E-book. Instant gratification. No leaving the house to get my next fix.Some of my books came out in audiobook the past year, and the rest will launch this year in audio; so I’ve experimented in the medium and am learning I like it. It’s great when you’re too busy to read, working, cooking, working out, walking, running, driving or doing housework. People who don’t have time to read, now have access to books. I prefer print, but am also hooked on reading ebooks on my iPad.
17. Describe an excellent romance book cover. Why do you like it?
I like to see a very sexy couple if the book is an erotica or a couple in a romantic position like a kiss or a hug for clean romances. These covers already give the potential reader a taste of they are about to embark on. See, for example, my book “Her Spanish Doll” or “Christmas in Venice”.I grew up with the damsel clasped in a bare-chested man’s arms. Those are classic. For me, I like covers in the middle of an action scene or layered like the epic Tarzan covers. It’s not just the main character. There are bats and a city skyline and a forest with wolves all on one cover.It depends on the genre, but the cover should first of all have stopping power. Secondly, it should be compelling, signify the genre and give a hint what the story is about.
18. Who makes your book covers?
She’s my best friend and we used to work together. When she was let go she ventured in starting her own business and she handles my website, all marketing items and my book covers.
Robin McDonald - MacRed Designs - https://www.robin-mcdonald.com/
I do, for now. I have three novels launching this year. I don’t know who the publishers use.-
19. Describe your ideal reader.
Anyone who has some romance in their hearts or who loves an “on the edge of your seat” type suspense story.Someone passionate, supportive…a squealer. “OMW, I can’t believe she said that…he did that!”He or she reads and is touched in some way by every book I write, and can’t wait for the next one to come out. They post a review at Amazon, Goodreads and/or BookBub; and contact me directly so we can build a personal relationship. I love chatting with readers.
20. What inspired you to write your latest book?
Not who but what, Venice! I lived in Italy for 18 years and I’ve visited a few times while there. Then in 2018, my husband and I visited Italy. It is one of those cities that are unforgettable and for me, it inspired the story that I wrote. “Christmas in Venice”. There are also authentic Venetian recipes at the back of both the e-book and the paperback. I love to cook and I will definitely be trying the most difficult recipies. You should too!I’ve read all of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels and played The Witcher. But I didn’t want to mimic the concept and since sci-fi is my go-to, then that’s what I went with.Two things have driven my need to write Hart’s Girls. I live near the I75 corridor, heavily used by traffickers of all sorts. As a mother and grandmother, child abduction is a concern gotten worse now, with internet access. The Tri-State Area is #5 in top areas experiencing human trafficking. I took a writer’s class last year on the subject, and it has eaten at me ever since wanting to come out.

Secondly, my character, FBI Special Agent Reggie Casse, needs a love interest according to fans. It’s difficult with her career. I want Reggie and U. S. Marshal Shae Montgomery to help get the word out. Child abduction and human trafficking occurs under our noses in all neighborhoods, no matter what income level or social class. Our children are vulnerable.
Joanne FisherSevannah StormLynda Rees
21. How do you market your books?
I use social media a lot and I create my own memes. I use the different seasons to send different messages to my readers. I also have a very active website where you can view the book trailer for each one of my books, along with listening to the audio clip, you can read the teaser and you can buy it if you like what you see, hear and read. I also have a blog on Goodreads and I send out monthly newsletters with a surprise in each one.I thought it was via social media so I built those up. Now I know it’s through advertisements. At this point, I haven’t gone down this path. I’ll start closer to my first launch date.I’m an active member of professional organizations sharing among authors and readers and active on social media. I do news releases in papers; ads on Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads and occasionally BookBub. I blog on my website and share news from there about my work, as well as other authors, and publish a monthly newsletter to VIP’s. If anyone is interested in FREEBIES and PERKS of a VIP, they can sign up at this link:
http://eepurl.com/cTtS09
22. Who is your favorite writer? Why is he/she so good?
I love Wilbur Smith. His way of describing Africa is non comparable to any other writer that I’ve read. Oh! This is a tough one. Christine Feehan; the way she writes is inspirational.

Terry Pratchett; no matter how many times you read the same book, something new is revealed.

David Gemmell; the epic scale of his stories.
I love many authors. It’s difficult to say. If I can only pick one, I’d have to pick Janet Evanovich. She’s responsible for my embarrassment, laughing out loud on several air flights. I love her comedic mind. Also, I’d list Debbie MacComber, Andrea Rhodes, Thayne Rae, Robyn Carr, Jennifer Crusie and many more.
23. Links to your books and social media, please!
Website: https://joannesbooks.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ReadJoannesBooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoannesBooks
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joannes_books_2018/?hl=en
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16797940.Joanne_Fisher?from_search=true
Email: joannes_books@outlook.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sevannah_storm
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/Sevannah_Storm (sample pages only)
Website: https://sevannahstorm.wixsite.com/website (Please subscribe to my non-spamming newsletter)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sevannah.storm
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sevannah.storm/ (So new on this, could use some support)
Tapas: https://tapas.io/sevannah_storm (sample pages only)
Tumblr: https://sevannahstorm.tumblr.com (never on here, still trying to figure it out)
Pinterest: https://za.pinterest.com/sevannahstorm/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/95639379-sevannah-storm
http://eepurl.com/cTtS09 Become a VIP, get FREE reads, gifts and news.
http://www.lyndareesauthor.com Website
https://amazon.com/author/lyndarees Amazon
https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lynda-rees Bookbub
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17187400.Lynda_Rees Goodreads
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https://twitter.com/LyndaReesauthor Twitter
https://www.facebook.com/lynda.rees.author/ Facebook
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Beaches, sand, shells, lots of sunshine and books! Life is grand! Don’t you agree?
JoannesBooks.com or Amazon.com


#amreading #lovetoread #bookworm #books #murdermystery #romancestory #lovestory #JoannesBooks
No book links yet, launches will be throughout 2020.

See: https://sevannahstorm.wixsite.com/website
Love is a dangerous mystery. Enjoy the ride!- Lynda Rees

A Bundle Deal on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JD5CSPL?ref_=dbs_r_series&storeType=ebooks


My latest publication:
https://lyndareesauthor.com/the-bourbon-trail/

 

About Rebecka Jäger:

Rebecka Jäger is a published author, blogger, and book cover designer. She lives in Finland and writes spy thrillers. She also co-authors with a U.S. – based novelist. The setting of Rebecka’s books ranges from supernatural to historical.
A group for writers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/569574570248527/

Using Scene Trackers and Plot Points to Plan Your Story

Beautiful woman in the magic forest

You might wonder what to insert into my Scene Tracker Template or Plot Point Graph. If you’re a pantser, you know your story by heart and use the tools of plot-weaving instinctively as you go. You might strip needless elements and refine your story as you reach the editing phase. But if you’re serious about being a professional writer, you must study your beloved craft and recognize plot points, character arcs, and other tools of drama.

Here are my methods of outlining:

Scene tracker model (Microsoft Office Excel).

PowerPoint Plot Graph Template (Microsoft Office PowerPoint).

Download files from the Internet at your own risk.

The files make it easy to analyze the dramatic arc and structure of your story.  If you don’t want to plan your draft one meticulously, use my templates as a refresher of your memory before you start revising your second draft. You don’t have to include all the crucial plot points, and your arch can curve up and down several times to surprise your readers.

Think of each significant event in your story as a sequence which consists of:

  • setup
  • complication
  • crisis
  • resolution

Your book is one instance of continual transformation which composes of smaller events (acts), which in turn comprise of chapters and scenes. I like to know my word count, and that’s why I included it in the Scene Tracker. I also keep track of days and months which pass in my book, just to stay level with continuity issues.

Keeping Track of Scenes

Scene= “a part of a play or film in which the action stays in one place for a continuous period of time.”

A scene means a small section of your novel where your characters engage in action or dialogue. They are mini-stories with a beginning, middle, and end. A chapter contains one or many scenes. Usually, the scenes within a chapter are related to one another. If you change location, or the clock of your manuscript moves forward, give the reader a pause in the form of moving into the next scene or chapter.  Scenes are like pearls in a string. Each story consists of these pearls, some small and ordinary, and others big, shining ones which surprise the reader.

Both templates let you add cells/boxes for your key scenes and plot weaving mechanisms.

Great scene beginnings include:

  • Put unusual events in motion
  • Tone-building scene setting
  • Intriguing backstory
  • New, interesting viewpoint
  • Introduce uncertain factors

More information: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/writing-scene-beginnings-grab-attention/

Great Scene endings:

  • Cliffhanger – place your protagonist’s life is at risk or produce some other threat which forces the reader to turn the page and begin a new scene/chapter
  • Revelation –something changes the course of the story
  • Setback– one of your characters should be frustrated about the latest event
  • Reveal a secret–a full secret or part of it to keep the mystery going
  • Question left hanging –teasing the reader
  • Unexpected plot twist –keep the reader guessing.

Character Arcs and the Three Acts

“A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character throughout a story. If a story has a character arc, the character begins as one sort of person and gradually transforms into a different kind of person in response to changing developments in the story. “

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_arc

Your protagonists and antagonists evolve through character arcs. An excellent way to build conflict is to make the main character unable to overcome an opposing force at the beginning of the story because he/she lacks skills or resources. The main character must change through learning or achieving new capabilities. Let the MC interact with the environment or produce a threat or a charismatic mentor. At the heart of your story lie conflict and change.

Plotting a Novel in Three Acts

“Aristotle plotted in three acts, and almost every story comes with a beginning, middle, and ending. Act One makes up 25% of a storyline, with Act Two taking up 50% and Act Three, the final 25%. The story is divided in half as well, with the midpoint squarely in the middle of Act Two. The first half of a story involves introducing characters, themes, motivations, settings, conflicts, and important elements. In the second half of a story, all its threads untangle.”

Read more about The Six Key Scenes of Aristotle’s Incline and source of the above snippet: http://livewritebreathe.com/how-to-plot-a-novel-in-three-acts/

Plot Points

A plot point is an incident which impacts what happens next. A plot point:

  • Moves the story in a different direction
  • Impacts character development
  • Closes a door behind a character, forcing them forward

Plot points form a whole, each piece informing the event before it and after it.

Seven-point

Image source: https://blog.reedsy.com/plot-point/

Examples of plot points:

Hook: A story must start off strong to keep the reader reading. The Hook is the point that pushes a novel into motion and sets it apart from others.

First Pinch Point: The middle of the story consists of the character reacting to the Big Event and its respective consequences. Pinch Points put the character under pressure.

Midpoint: Perhaps the most crucial plot point occurs near the middle of a story. The midpoint is a critical turning point that forces the protagonist to stop reacting and start acting.

Final Pinch Point: For the second half of the middle, the protagonist experiments with the agency, taking different approaches to overcome the conflict. The protagonist reacts to or acts on pressure and conflict, with middling success.

Final Plot Point: Going into the third act (or the beginning of the end) there is one Final Plot Point. This shows the protagonist at their lowest, having taken a profound misstep among their newfound actions, which drives them directly into the Climax and Resolution.

Resolution: A great story will end on a Climax, Realization, and Resolution, a series of events that bring the story and character arc in full circle. Usually, these revolve around a choice presented to the protagonist.

Source and more information: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/what-is-a-plot-point/

How to Design Plot Points

  • Draw them from your central idea or theme
  • Show desires, motivations, and setbacks
  • Place plot points at crucial structural junctures
  • Create points of no return
  • Create and arrange summaries of each plot point

Tension

Tension is a product of uncertainty and the resulting suspense we feel.

“To take the analogy of watching a tightrope walker, we know they are moving from an A to B of safe ground. Yet between these two points, how things turn out depends on many variables. Their balance, focus, and how they place their feet. And how swiftly they correct any stumble.”

Source and read more: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/writing-a-scene-that-engages/

 

Romance Kills and Some Advice on Wordiness

Romance Kills Out Now

romance_kills_cover_smallA “Heartless” serial killer has brutally murdered three Romance Novelists on the verge of their breakthrough. The victims died after being stabbed through the heart. Why butcher romance novelists? Has someone he cared about hurt the killer?

Three private investigators decide to fight back, and the women meet in colorful, eccentric New Orleans. They must stop this madman before he strikes again, but are they willing to risk their own lives?

Find out and download Romance Kills from Amazon

The story is a collaboration of three authors: Stephanie Colbert, Schuyler Pulliam and yours truly. Each of use wrote the point-of-view of one character. Amber Buford is mine.

If you ponder about teaming with a fellow scribe, read my blog post about co-authoring:

https://rebeckajager.com/2019/04/04/should-you-co-author-a-book/

The Principal Sin of Wordiness

I write thrillers, and the genre hates rambling. You might write fantasy or romance, but believe me: readers want to get on with the plot! To combine straightforward action with the first commandment of an author: show don’t tell becomes a Mission Impossible unless you’re prepared to re-write and re-draft.

When I wade through the early drafts of my stories, I recognize the complex sentence structures. New writers want to stand out and prove their mastery of the English language. Getting rid of wordiness doesn’t mean that your writer’s voice bleaches as you strip the text. Reading George Orwell is a light exercise. He uses odd words at times and lectures about the dangers of totalitarianism, but the text flows. If you love J. K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins, return to Harry Potter or the Hunger Games with your wordiness-spotting goggles on. These famous ladies know how to get on with the plot. They force you to turn the page almost at gunpoint.

Hiring a professional helps the “green” novelist to trace the celebrity footprints, but most editors charge by the word count. Removing the excess description means you’ll pay less for the slaughter of your darlings.

Scan your writing for the following:

  • “Being” verbs. You’ll have to use “was” sometimes, but it slows the pace of your sentences.
  • Passive voice means your protagonist is on the receiving end of the action. Your characters should act: conquer, fail, and rise—not stand around besieged by lazy words. Use strong verbs which engage the reader’s senses, and paint a scene. Marketing masters know their active expressions: https://www.enchantingmarketing.com/strong-verbs/
  • But don’t go overboard. A thesaurus becomes the writer’s best friend at times, but use variation with taste. Dialogue verbs are the usual suspects which point to the use of a dictionary: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/dialogue-words-other-words-for-said/ 
  • (my pet peeve is “snapped” but replacements like: “avowed, beckoned, beseeched or cajoled” make me wince). Use alternative verbs with due respect: https://owlcation.com/humanities/400-Alternative-words-for-said
  • Filler words. Turn to your WIP and cut words without losing the meaning of the passage. Replace them with others who have more punch if you end up with a naked style.
  • Filler sentences. If you say almost the same thing in five sentences, feel free to cut three of them. I fell in love with northern nature as a child. When my books feature the animals or sceneries above the Arctic Circle, I beat around the bush. Know your favorite sin: wordiness is mine.
  • Clichés. These buggers consume space in your writing, and they have zero impact on readers. “Pitch black” inches it’s way onto my pages, but I know to weed it out. Tropes can kill your entire ending, but they possess sentences as well.
  • Unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. When it comes to description, sometimes less is more. A –ly here and there hurts no one, but these bastards multiply if you let them grow.

More information: https://writeitsideways.com/working-past-wordiness-for-fresher-writing/

The Action Scene

Wordiness destroys your action and adventure. The tempo of combat must be quick and tense. Perhaps you studied the art of fencing before you posed the villain against the hero in swordplay. You feel obliged to describe every gesture with due finesse and detail.

Rid excess wordiness from your action:

  • Avoid writing a character’s mundane actions.
  • Avoid having your characters’ seem to’ or ‘proceed to’ or ‘decide to’ or ‘begin to’ do something.
  • Say it once, say it well. Don’t teach your reader to wield the rapier, show him the cut-throat combat, and place your hero in danger.
  • Remember to engage your reader’s emotions! The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression will help if your words run dry.
  • Use your writing software’s find-function to track repetition. If you find forty instances of “was” in one chapter, you have a problem. If you use a fancy verb and repeat it too near the first occurrence, you destroy the impact.
  • Omit ancillary words and phrases: sit down- omit the down.

More information: https://www.maloneeditorial.com/novel-wordy-7-ways-tell/

My previous blog post on writing action: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/05/24/how-to-write-realistic-action-sequences/

Be Merciful to The Newborn

Evolution has developed writers into a cruel bunch. We flog ourselves without mercy, especially when we re-read our text. This phase can put an end to your writing career if your superego takes control. Let the first draft overflow with wordiness: get the book out of your head and onto the paper. When you revise your second or third draft, take care of tautology with due ruthlessness.

The Art of Descriptive Writing

A fabulous, forest nymph with long hair

The invocation of literary magic lies in mastering the basic elements of storytelling. I’m sure one of these must be your forte:

  • Emotionally attaching the reader to the main character and creating plausible character arcs
  • Vivid descriptions of the setting, which derives from worldbuilding
  • Being the wizard/witch of atmosphere and mood
  • Creating high stakes and mastering the build-up and release of tension
  • Writing dialogue which grabs the reader by the collar and pulls him into your story never letting go until he reads the last line.

Each of the above-mentioned demand descriptions which release only the necessary information. I respect the northern nature because I hunted with my father. My loving memories of him tone my chapters on untamed fells and sacred ponds. I went overboard in my first draft—nothing wrong with the passages per se, except they dragged on with excruciating detail. The reader wants to get on with the plot. You’ll bleed when you delete carefully crafted passages, as I did, but Kill Your Darlings applies to descriptive writing. If you write fantasy, your text feeds on worldbuilding, and the art of choosing becomes a matter of literary life or death. The same applies to historical fiction. As you researched expertise grows, you risk boring the reader with excessive facts.

The greatest classics of mankind can’t be used as a reference on how much to describe. The literary competition has changed since the times of George Orwell and Vladimir Nabokov. Different genres have separate rules on the desired length, and I write thrillers, so you don’t have to agree with me but let me introduce a few interesting theses.

Start With The POV

All fictional descriptions start with the selection of the Point of View. Remember to filter the setting and background through the eyes of your character. Describe what your character would notice, otherwise, you break the spell and cast the reader out of your magical world.

Third Person

The third person is the weapon of choice for most modern authors, and you can choose between omniscient and limited 3rd. Omniscient 3rd: the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story. Limited 3rd: the narrator knows only the thoughts and feelings of a single character, while other characters are presented only externally.

An example of the third person:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

George Orwell, 1984

Notice how Orwell binds the setting to the movement of the MC? He uses verbs to describe. And he wrote dystopian—a genre which demands compelling worldbuilding.

More information: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/third-person-omniscient-point-of-view-1277125

First Person

Although the first person has become unpopular in literary fiction, it’s the right glove if you need to punch the reader with what the MC goes through. The 1st person limits what the main character observes through your descriptive ammo. Be careful and remember to invoke emotions.

An example of the first person:

April

Opposite the fireplace and beside me, the telephone. To the right, the sitting-room door, and the passage. At the end of the passage, the front door. He might come straight here and ring at the front door. “Who’s there?” “Me.” Or he might phone from a transit center as soon as he got here. “I’m back — I’m at the Lutetia to go through the formalities.” There wouldn’t be any warning. He’d phone. He’d arrive. Such things are possible. He’s coming back, anyway. He’s not a special case. There’s no particular reason why he shouldn’t come back. There’s no reason why he should. But it’s possible. He’d ring. “Who’s there?” “Me.” Lots of other things like this do happen. In the end they broke through at Avranches and in the end the Germans withdrew. In the end I survived till the end of the war. I must be careful; it wouldn’t be so very extraordinary if he did come back — it would be normal. I must be careful not to turn it into something extraordinary. The extraordinary is unexpected. I must be sensible: I’m waiting for Robert L., expecting him, and he’s coming back.

The phone rings. “Hello? Any news?” I must remind myself the phone’s used for that sort of thing, too. I mustn’t hang up, I must answer. Mustn’t yell at them to leave me alone. “No, no news.” “Nothing? Not a sign?” “Nothing.” “You know Belsen’s been liberated? Yes, yesterday afternoon…” “I know.” Silence. “You mustn’t get disheartened, you must hold on, you’re not the only one, alas — I know a mother with four children…” “I know, I’m sorry, I haven’t moved from where I was. It’s wrong to move too much, a waste of energy, you have to save all your strength to suffer.

Marguerite Duras, The War: A Memoir. Translated from French by Barbara Bray.

Duras’ short, repetitive sentences convey her traumatic stress. The setting comes through as the objects she touches and the doorway a portal where her imprisoned husband might appear. The text centers on the heroine’s mental state—and that’s the beauty of the 1st person.

The Framework of Sensory Perception

The human species relies on visual perception and that’s why writers tend to concentrate on what the MC sees. A tiger might listen and the dog would rather smell if you wrote their POV. When your character turns into a werewolf, remember to incorporate the canine way of taking in the world.

Our senses fail the objectivity test because the brain translates perceptions to fit the overall world view. If you write historical fiction, the cosmology of the era might define if the MC believes his own eyes or not. If a modern doctor stepped into the scene of exorcizing a demon and gave the patient a cocktail of antipsychotic medicines, how would the people of a Middle Age village react? I’m pretty sure none would explain the miracle with the function of neurotransmitters.

The use of due historical language can make your text hard to wade through. Even if you use modern English for the most part, remember that religious communities didn’t allow cursing out loud. The 21st-century heroine can scream ou F**ck and what not but people were God-abiding folks before the scientific/industrial revolution, and everyone attended the Sunday Mass. The reaction to sensory perception minds time and place.

If you write flashbacks, remember that remembering obeys emotion. The smell is a powerful conveyor of memories across decades, and people tend to weapon-focus during torture and battle. The framework guides you which sensory details to choose into your descriptions.

The Big Five

I’ve addressed the five basic senses before in my blog but here’s a list:

  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Smelling
  • Tasting
  • Touching

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which I quoted in my blog post about worldbuilding? If not, check it out:

https://rebeckajager.com/2018/11/22/give-your-characters-hell-a-crash-course-in-world-building/

Nothing stops you from making up senses of your own (Spiderman). If you write within the fantasy or supernatural genre, your MC exercises a variety of abilities like levitation (what would he see from the bird’s POV?) and foreboding (find a unique way to write the MC’s sensory experience during the premonition.)

“Allowing our characters to use their senses will take our writing to the next level. We hear it all the time: show—don’t tell. This is when we make our words come alive as we invite our readers to experience our story—not just read about it.”

Source: https://thewriteediting.blogspot.com/2016/03/using-sensory-perception-in-your-writing.html

List of Other Senses

  • Pressure: if someone grabs you, you can feel it.
  • Itch: everyone knows this one.
  • Thermoception: the ability to sense heat and cold. Follow this sense into writing physical reactions.
  • Sound: sound doesn’t mean only hearing, but detecting vibrations.
  • Proprioception: This sense gives you the ability to tell where your body parts are, relative to other body parts.
  • Tension Sensors: muscle tension. This one is important if your character experienced a beating or battle.
  • Nociception: In a word, pain. There are multiple types of agony and don’t forget the psychological dimension.
  • Equilibrioception: The sense that allows you to keep your balance and sense body movement in terms of acceleration and directional changes. This sense also allows for perceiving gravity.
  • Stretch Receptors: These are found in such places as the lungs, bladder, stomach, and the gastrointestinal tract. A type of stretch receptor, that senses dilation of blood vessels, is also often involved in headaches. Welcome migraine!
  • Chemoreceptors: These trigger an area of the medulla in the brain that is involved in detecting blood born hormones and drugs. When your character vomits, this automated sense is firing.
  • Thirst
  • Hunger
  • Magnetoception: the ability to detect magnetic fields.
  • Time: and this one is beneficial for a writer!

Source: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/07/humans-have-a-lot-more-than-five-senses/

Make Description an Active Part of The Story

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Descriptions that just sit there are generally known as “narrative lumps.” The medicine for them is show, don’t tell, but remember that you can go overboard with showing. You need traditional narration to move your plot forward, to foreshadow events and to give the readers a sense of character. Avoid info dumps and sprinkle the description evenly. Remember to bind the descriptive parts into action.

Ways to make the description part of the action:

  • Choose the best descriptors and delete the rest
  • Describe what your characters would notice while they do something else, move or speak
  • Use strong, concrete words to describe—active verbs are your allies.
  • Choose which senses fit the scene. What if your character gets blindfolded?
  • Start from basics while you write the first draft and refine through revisions. Make a note to check the use of other senses beyond seeing.

Use Character POVs For a New Angle

Your writing might become repetitive as the plot progresses past page 250. Use the introduction of new characters to change the way you describe. Strong secondary characters have their separate opinions and help you introduce a new side of the MC. Write a scene where the significant other or sidekick disagrees with the MC on which way they should turn. How does the antagonist perceive the events? It takes skill to rotate POV but check out other writers who master the skill. Also, if your world is extremely violent and cruel (like mine), the reader might attach to a person similar to herself.

Foil and Mirror Characters

Foil characters share few or no values or traits. Maybe one character is lazy and boring, and his best friend is energetic and a go-getter. These are foil characters. Put them together, and they’ll highlight each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The most common foil characters are the heroes and villains, who stand for different values and want to achieve separate goals.

Mirror characters are used for a similar purpose. They tend to share several qualities and are used to complement and highlight each other’s traits. Common mirror characters embark on parallel plots, sometimes to achieve a single goal, which tests them and highlights their traits in different ways.

Source: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/literary-devices/

Mirror Characters and Compassion

  • Using clearly stated comparisons allow readers to see what the protagonist sees and better understand the inner conflict and, therefore, theme.
  • Presenting at least two mirror characters will give the protagonist more opportunities to learn and will strengthen his/her evolution with the theme at hand.
  • Remember that the chief role of mirror characters is to show how they’re thematic opposites.
  • A character arc succeeds when readers see how a protagonist’s behaviors and thinking patterns have changed.

Source: https://diymfa.com/reading/how-mirror-characters-can-illustrate-literary-themes

My Website: www.rebeckajager.com

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Give Evil The Central Stage – Groundbreaking Villain Moments

Demonic male with burning beard and arms.

I’m back with the concept of the villain because he/she is crucial to your story. As far as I can remember, I wanted to write a brutal villain who will stop at nothing. And I remember movies by their villainous character actors.

The definition of the villain is:

“In their role as an adversary, the villain serves as an obstacle the hero must struggle to overcome. In their role as a foil, the villain exemplifies characteristics that are diametrically opposed to those of the hero, creating a contrast distinguishing heroic traits from villainous ones.”

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villain

The definition reminds writers of the importance of struggle but contains various traps which can cast your evil one with one of the extras. The antagonist is a series of obstacles on the hero’s journey, but also an entity of his own. He has to be of the same caliber as your protagonist- preferably stronger. You wouldn’t confront Batman with a minor criminal in the final battle, would you? The Joker, played by Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger, is an unstoppable force of nature.

The villain is a central character of your book and you must treat him with respect.

He/she demands a lot of work. I advise you to sit down opposite your villain after you’ve Googled a character questionnaire form. An example of a set of character questions: https://www.novel-software.com/theultimatecharacterquestionnaire

Remember, he’ll fool you- like any respectable villain would deceive a cop during the initial interrogation. Each layer of deceit leads you closer to what makes him tick. That’s the point of the character interview. You might never tell the reader what he does first thing in the morning- unless that signifies something important- but you can resource the library of him when you write the groundbreaking villain moments I’ll discuss next.

If you know the depths of the villain, you know instinctively what his reactions are.

Groundbreaking Villain Moments

Whether you outline your story or start tapping away in the presence of your divine muse, remember to create major plot points for the villain. These key scenes can make the character relatable, or scare the shit out of your readers if that’s what you’re aiming for.

My list of villainous scenes isn’t complete. I’ve chosen the important few, with movie clip examples.

The First Look

The first impression of the antagonist defines the image of the hero’s counterforce. How do you introduce the villain? Hopefully not by describing his hair and eye color, and his dashing good looks which make the ground shake beneath your feet. Don’t get me wrong- I daydream of good-looking villains, but you must start with:

  • his first crime
  • the first harsh word
  • the evil glance
  • he camouflaged as the slightly creepy everyman
  • someone you’d never suspect but happens to be on the scene
  • And so on. The sky is the limit with villain introductions.

When I was seven, a known bully- a big one- waited for me on my way home from school. Trying to outrun him was futile, and he knew where I lived. He caught me and suffocated me with snow. This happened each winter afternoon until I learned the subtle art of evasion.

Meeting your villain is like the childhood moment when an overpowering person grabs your arm and you understand that he’s not letting go.

Think of ways to make the reader afraid of him- or what he can cause- and you’re on the right road. We’re talking about power and violence. You might go the sly route: let him appear harmless, and the fear doubles with shock as he strikes. The ill omen of doubt must be present from the beginning. Building a believable personification of evil is hard work.

The First Confrontation

“The moment when your villain and hero meet face-to-face is a wonderful opportunity to show us why your villain will be a good foil for your hero. These confrontations are at their best when the villain reveals a chink in your hero’s armor.”

Source: https://thewritepractice.com/villain-scenes/

An example from the movie Matrix, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) interrogates Keanu Reeves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4D7cPH7DHgA

At the end of the scene, we understand that something is seriously wrong with the movie’s world.

The Hero’s Temporary Defeat

You’ll recognize the hero’s failure from every Hollywood movie you love. You can combine this scene with The Villain Shows His Cards, or The Monologue– the spot in the James Bond movie where Ernst Stavro Blofeld describes his complete plan to rule the world.

The Hero’s Temporary defeat deals with stakes. You’ve given us the stakes at the beginning of your hero’s journey (inciting incident) and when you introduced the villain. Now is the time to provide us with a bitter taste of defeat. The temporary failure means a foretaste of death.

What would a bad guy do if your loved one was at his mercy and you were unable to stop him?

Let J. T. Walsh tell you while the hero (Kurt Russell) is rendered powerless. A magnificent scene from the movie Breakdown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NAszvB80Ws

The occasional movie-goer knows instinctively that the hero will get help, or he has an ace up his sleeve, or the villain is so mesmerized by his plan that he doesn’t see the sidekick creeping up on him… whatever you choose as the vessel of turning the tables, and moving towards the resolution. Temporary defeat is at its best when the reader believes that the hero cannot recover from the blow.

It’s your villain’s grand moment. Let him show off his hideousness. In movies, this trope takes a hell of an actor to twist the scene into something previously unseen.

The Origin Story

The Origin Story is the villain’s chance to explain himself. Let his humanity shine through, and the reader can relate to him. Take Marvel character Loki: “sibling rivalry and daddy issues explain his actions. Being always in Thor’s shadow isn’t good for Loki’s overall mental health, and finding out that he’s adopted doesn’t help.”

Source: https://io9.gizmodo.com/10-villain-origins-that-actually-make-sense-1742183593

Most of us don’t work for the Devil. Reasons like: “the end sanctify the means” and “history demands action” and “I obeyed orders” have paved the way to hell on many occasion. The explanations don’t make the crime justifiable but offer a view on human logic.

Remember that explaining the Devil can take the scare away. If your evil one is a psychopath, don’t bother with the origin story.

Sometimes the human mind attempts to see something which isn’t there. The search for Ted Bundy’s soul is futile. Javier Bardem offers one of the most accurate movie depictions of psychopathy as the stone-cold hitman Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. He needs no origin story. He is what he is.

The hotel scene between Woody Harrelson and Javier Bardem is pure brilliance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-d1S79zt8c

Enjoy!