Posted in books, creative writing, memory's edge, new release, reading, romance, writing

Excerpt: Memory’s Edge Part 2

Before I move on to the next themed blog series, now that I’ve finished the Marketing Primer series, I thought I’d share an excerpt from Memory’s Edge: Part 2. This is the book I’m currently working on hoping to finish in the next month.

By the time lunch finally arrived, Gretchen was exhausted on every level. She only dragged herself out of her chair to lock the door. Before she could accomplish the task, she saw Desi sprinting down the hall and opened the door for her. Her friend crashed into her, throwing her arms around her and squeezing her hard enough to hurt.

“I am so mad at you! You know that, right?” Desi demanded when she finally pulled back. “I called and called and called!”

Yanking her friend into the classroom, Gretchen locked the door behind her and headed for her desk. Desi plopped down on top of a nearby student desk and glared at her friend. Gretchen collapsed in her seat. “I want to say I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t face talking to anyone.”

“I was so worried about you! John too! It was like I suddenly lost you both!” Her hands flew up dramatically. “How could you do that to me?”

Seeing the tears in her friend’s eyes broke Gretchen down. “I’m sorry, Desi. I know it wasn’t fair, but I just couldn’t. I still haven’t talked to my parents, either. I couldn’t even go home.”

Desi huffed. “Thank goodness Carl at least had sense enough to let everyone know you hadn’t gone off the deep end. I would have banged down your door if he hadn’t texted to say you were alive and as emotionally stable as could be expected.”

“If you had tried to bang down my door, you still wouldn’t have found me.”

Seeming a little surprised by that, Desi asked, “You’re still staying at Carl’s?”

Gretchen looked away from her friend. “Do you remember what the inside of my house looked like before we left for New York?”

Desi sighed as realization set in. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry. I hadn’t considered all the wedding prep scattered everywhere. Of course you didn’t want to go home to that.” She reached forward and squeezed Gretchen’s hand. “Have you heard from John yet?”

Looking up at her, Gretchen stared in confusion. “Why would I? He’s not coming back. He has his old life back now.”

“Yeah,” Desi said, “but what about all the wedding stuff, the catering business, his clothes and things, everything he left behind.”

Blinking away tears, Gretchen said, “It’s not like he needs any of it now, and I’ll deal with the wedding stuff eventually on my own. It’s not his problem anymore.”

Wincing, Desi asked, “So you looked him up too?”

She didn’t want to admit it, but Gretchen nodded. “I can’t even comprehend how much money he and Corey have. There’s nothing he left behind that he can’t buy again.”

“Except you.”

Gretchen glared at her friend. “It was the right choice.”

Propping her elbow on the desk, Desi dropped her chin into her palm. “I know, honey, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be hurt by his choice.”

“It was my choice as much as his. I’m the one who said goodbye and left the stage.”

“Because you knew what choice he had to make and did it for him so he didn’t have to.”

“It was the right choice,” Gretchen whispered as tears spilled down her cheeks.

Practically laying herself out across the desk, Desi ignored the fact that she was wearing a skirt and hugged her friend fiercely. “Sometimes right choices hurt worse than wrong ones.”

Gretchen clung to her friend for several long minutes before finding enough strength to pull back. “Thank you.”

She smiled and sat back up. They were quiet for a long time before Desi spoke again. “It’s going to be so weird without him here. Jake was so upset when he realized John wasn’t coming back.”

Gretchen instantly felt bad for not considering the impact of John’s leaving on anyone else in their life. Desi had gone through several boyfriends while John lived with Gretchen, but he and Jake had become very close over the last several months. Desi cared about him like a brother as well. And her parents…despite Gretchen’s mother warning her about the potential heartbreak loving John would cause, they both adored him and loved him like a son. They must have been as heartbroken over losing him as they were knowing she was hurting over the loss.

“I need to call my parents when I get home,” Gretchen said tearfully.

Desi smiled sadly. “We’re all going to miss him. I know it’s not the same for us as it is for you, but we do understand some of what you’re going through. Stay with Carl as long as you need to, but know we’re all here for you, okay? Whatever help you need to sort things out, all you have to do is call.”

Gretchen reached over the desk and hugged her again. “Thank you.”

They pulled back from each other and Desi sighed. “I better get going. I have to prep for my next class. Pottery week…” She shook her head at the impending mess and stood. “Call me later, okay?”

Gretchen nodded and watched her walk out. Another half a day to go. Then two more days until the weekend. Then one more week until spring break. She could last that long. Maybe by then she’d be ready to start putting her life back together.

Posted in books, new release, reading

Seven Noble Knights by J. K. Knauss

J. K. Knauss’s epic of medieval Spain, Seven Noble Knights, is now available from Encircle Publications. You can order it here or here, and see interviews, historical tidbits, and videos here. Sign up for castles, stories, and magic at JessicaKnauss.com.

Excerpt from Part One, Chapter III: The Wedding

Young Gonzalo’s uncle, Ruy Blásquez, is receiving Doña Lambra as a bride in exchange for his service to Castile. Gonzalo isn’t at all sure Lambra should be marrying his uncle, and during the ceremony his sensations run toward the culinary.

Doña Sancha shooed her sons away from the cathedral door and drew dried herbs and flowers from pockets Gonzalo hadn’t known were inside her tunic and cloak. With a stick, she carved a large circle on the hard earth. Doña Sancha set the herbs and flowers inside the circle in a pattern with meanings she might have shared with a daughter, but were a mystery to Gonzalo.

“You’ll stand here,” she told her brother, Ruy Blásquez. “When your bride comes from that side, you’ll step inside the circle together.” She arranged her husband and sons on Ruy Blásquez’s side of the circle. Gonzalo ended up next to his uncle, so close he could hear each shallow breath he took.

Count García arrived with a full complement of knights and squires and four banners in white with red castles, as well as a fiddler and a flutist who made ready to play. So many people in the plaza must have been making the loudest ruckus since the city had been won from the Moors, but Gonzalo heard nothing.

From between the buildings at the far end of the plaza emerged forty women who walked with their hair covered to emphasize their married status. Their laughter and singing couldn’t distract Gonzalo from Doña Lambra, who tottered on their shoulders.

An heirloom beaded necklace competed with her yellow hair, shining in tight plaits on her shoulders with ornamental brass tips that looked as if they had come out of a treasure chest long ago. A mail girdle, inlaid with brass and pieces of jet at the edges, cinched her bright blue tunic from under her breastbone to down over her hips. Gonzalo shivered at the thought of the bitter touch of the matching mail sleeves, from the decorated wristlets up to her shoulders. A burgundy-colored cloak edged with three rows of golden braid was fastened over her shoulder with a gilded brooch in the shape of a lion rampant. A square cap, decorated all around with braid and gold carbuncles, looked like a royal crown. Gonzalo imagined he wasn’t at his uncle’s wedding, but that this bride had come from the farthest reaches of Christendom to marry the King of Navarra or León.

The married women set Lambra down in the middle of their ranks. She let the cloak fan out behind her unsteady stride. Her face was frozen into a grimace like the one the Virgin Mary wore as she cradled the Savior’s dead body inside the cathedral.

Gonzalo remembered Lambra’s grin at the banquet days before, when her mouth had dripped red with juices from the roasted bull’s testicles and the sauce-engorged bread trencher. Each time she received the goblet, she had made sure to turn it so that her lips didn’t touch the same spot as Ruy Blásquez’s. She didn’t take the same precaution against Álvar Sánchez, seated on her other side. Gonzalo could hardly taste his food through a choking desire to throw his eating knife across the table into the gloating knight’s hand so it could never touch Lambra so familiarly again.

There he was now, that upstart Álvar Sánchez, wearing just as juicy a grin, so close to Doña Lambra that the obnoxious curl on the toe of his boot intruded on the magic circle.

“What is that blasphemous behemoth doing there? Shouldn’t a member of the groom’s family stand next to the bride?” Gonzalo whispered to Gustio.

Gustio knocked his elbow into Gonzalo’s ribs. “Why? Were you hoping it would be you, little brother?” He chortled until their mother hissed at them to be silent.

Count García was addressing the crowd. “…with these deeds, Ruy Blásquez has earned as a bride my loveliest cousin, probably the most beautiful woman Castile has seen since my mother joined the Kingdom of Heaven. May they live many more years and have many loyal Castilian children.” He raised his arms, which the crowd took as a sign to cheer and shout.

Gonzalo noticed that his uncle had already moved into the circle and reached for Lambra’s hands. She was looking at Ruy Blásquez, but not with love or even curiosity. It was a look of judgment. Gonzalo tried to imagine how his uncle’s soft eyes, long nose, and weak chin fared on Lambra’s scale.

“I receive you as mine, so that you become my wife and I your husband,” Ruy Blásquez said. Gonzalo was relieved to glimpse him smiling widely, displaying his straight, white teeth to his judge in the form of a bride.

Ruy Blásquez smiled and waited, waited and smiled. Gonzalo witnessed a thousand expressions cross Lambra’s face like clouds in a stormy sky. At last, Lambra’s maid emerged from the crowd and leaned over the circle. “I receive you as mine…” she prompted so quietly that Gonzalo had to read her lips.

“I receive you as mine so that you become my… husband… and I your… wife,” said Doña Lambra, her eyes narrow. She pulled her hand away from Ruy Blásquez to wipe at her plump lips, as if the words had sullied them.

She craned her neck to look at Álvar Sánchez and Gonzalo knew she wished she had said the words to him. His heart beat faster. Then she shifted her gaze to Gonzalo. He felt as if he were smothered with the parsley, fennel, red carrot, and beet sauce from the banquet. Such was the hunger he saw in her eyes, a hunger he couldn’t help but feel, too, and which raged all the more, the more he tried to contain it. He remembered the way the bull’s testicles had flopped onto Doña Lambra’s trencher under their own weight and the way they deflated when she plunged her knife into the center of the sacs.

He stopped a startled cry in his throat.

“Long live the newlyweds!” The crowd shouted until they were the only words Gonzalo remembered ever hearing.

Buy a copy of Seven Noble Knights on:

You can also pick up a paperback copy at your favorite indie bookstore: https://bookshop.org/books/seven-noble-knights/9781645991205.

Posted in books, creative writing, ebooks, new release, paranormal, reading

Excerpt: The Children of the Seventh Son by @ScottTheWriter

The Children of the Seventh Son

Excerpt: A riot in Constantinople

By Scott Bury

Andrina returned to the inner courtyard then, carrying a large bundle in one hand and dragging something else behind her in the other. It scraped along the stone floor, adding an irritating note to the clamour from beyond the villa’s walls. “Papa!” she panted, before dropping her burdens with a clamour.

Javor knelt in front of her. “Your armour, Papa,” she panted. She held his steel helmet in the crook of her arm. The bundle was his lamellar cuirass, greaves and arm protectors. But she had not brought several other essential items.

It must have taken all her strength to carry it here.

“Mauricius!” Javor called, loosening his great-grandfather’s dagger in the scabbard he always wore on his side. “Take care of Andrina.”

“I want to help you, papa,” Andrina said before Mauricius swept her into his arms and passed her to one of the slaves he had brought. She struggled until she slipped out of the slave’s arms.

Javor put his hand on her shoulder. “You can help me by staying here with the others and showing them how to be brave. Adam,” he called to his oldest son, “you help your mother stay calm.” Adam nodded and went to Calanthe, who had collapsed back onto her couch. He hugged her and wriggled to find a place to sit on her lap.

Javor picked up his helmet and the armour that his daughter had dragged in and nodded at Gaetan, who followed him to his study in the very centre of the domus. There, he quickly took out the rest of his armour. He pulled on the felt cap that went between his head and the helmet. Gaetan, flinching at every sound from the front gate, helped him with the cuirass and arm braces, then held his long sword as Javor fastened his greaves.

Taking the sheathed sword in his left hand, Javor strode down the corridor to the front courtyard. He took a firm stance in front of the little lemon tree as the pressure on the gate splintered the thick board that, held in place by iron brackets, formed a secure lock.

With a final sickening crack, the gate burst open. A group of young men in ragged tunics, shock on their faces, stood just beyond it.

“Rich man,” said the one in front. He grinned, a gap black in his teeth. He had thick black hair and blood on his cheek, dully illuminated by a flaming torch held by the young man beside him.

“I do not want to kill any of you,” Javor announced in a firm, steady voice. “But if you take one more step, I will.” He drew the long sword with a ringing sound. Under his shirt, Preyatel’s vibration decreased to a dull tickle against his chest.

The gap-toothed man stepped inside, grinning. He raised a heavy wooden club. “There are many of us, rich man,” he said, and spat at Javor’s feet. “Let us take what we want and maybe we will not kill you.” The other men behind him stepped closer, too, but not as far as their leader.

The lead man’s eyes flicked to a vase with gold leaf on its edges, sitting in a little alcove on the wall. “Take that,” he said, and a thin teenaged boy behind him ran up and grabbed it. “What are you going to do about that, rich man?” the leader teased.

Javor moved his right foot behind him, presenting a narrow target to the mob. He scanned them. A number held blazing torches, others pikes, heavy clubs or knives. None of them looked like former legionnaires.

What does a former legionnaire look like?

Shut up, brain.

The leader barked a laugh. “I knew it. Didn’t I tell you, boys? These rich men have no balls. That’s why I father all their children!” Behind him, some of the others laughed.

“Take the vase,” Javor said. “Go home. No one else needs to die tonight.”

The leader laughed, and the followers behind him echoed.

Javor stepped closer. If he leaned forward, he could sever the leader’s head. “One warning. You cannot harm me.” Preyatel thrummed against his chest in agreement. “But I can hurt you. If I have to, I will kill you. But I do not want to.”

The leader laughed again. Preyatel leaped under Javor’s shirt, hot as the torch in the hand of the man beside the leader.

Fast as flame, the leader swung his club at Javor’s head. But faster was Javor’s sword into the man’s neck. His amulet vibrated, filling his head with a keening song. Blood spurted, covering Javor’s face and cuirass. Before he could control it, his sword found its way into two of the men with torches. It sang a death song as Javor followed, dancing into the mob, led by the blade and the amulet’s direction.

When he halted in the middle of the street, the mob streamed away down the side alleys. Javor drew his breath slowly, calmly, his sword comfortable in his grip. Light from two sputtering torches on the cobblestones illuminated one side of a single face, trembling before him. Overhead, the moon filtered through smoke.

“Please,” said the half-face. The cheek below the wide eye glistened wetly.

“Go. Tell the others,” Javor said, shaking his sword.

The eye blinked, then vanished. Javor heard slapping footfalls fade into the distance.

About this book

The Children of the Seventh Son is the second novel in the Dark Age series, which began with The Bones of the Earth.

The year 600 of the Christian Era is the darkest time of the Dark Age. Young Javor the Sklavene has settled in Constantinople, the last bastion of civilization against dark forces that have shattered the Western Roman Empire.

Wielding two special weapons made from the Bones of the Earth, Javor has become the favourite monster-killer of the secret Gnostic Order. As his young family grows, he is sent to distant, exotic lands to eliminate threats and learn more about why the earth is intent on destroying humanity.

Every mission seems to bring more questions than answers—until he finds the greatest danger comes not from forces from beneath the surface of the world, but from the very civilization he has been defending.

Pre-order now from Amazon for just 99 cents US.

Read more about The Dark Age series.

Read reviews on Goodreads.

Follow the latest announcements about The Children of the Seventh Son and the Dark Age series on Scott’s blog.

About the author

Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Posted in books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, reading, self publishing, social media, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Marketing Primer: Author Platform Basics

It’s never too early to start building your author platform and marketing base. This week, we’ll do a deep dive into what an author platform is and how to use it.

What is an Author Platform?

An author platform is a writers public face

An author platform brands the author, NOT the book. Set up your social media accounts and fan pages under your author name instead of your book or series name. It will save you from trying to manage multiple accounts or pages, or from being difficult to find.

An author platform presents you as an expert in your field. Many writers balk at this because most of us feel we fit the meme of an author knowing a little about everything but is a master of nothing. The truth is, you are the expert of your book and your characters. Start there and expand your expertise.

An author platform is also a means through which to share your message with your target audience. The more fans you accumulate, the more quickly and easily you can disseminate information about you and your books to an interested audience.

An author platform tells readers what makes your work unique. Your platform should reflect your personality and the aspects of your writing that set you apart from other writers.

An author platform implies a promise of quality. Always make sure you are putting out quality products, images, information, etc. Present yourself online as a professional and release professional quality work.

An author platform says something about you as an author. What keeps you writing? What fills your spare time (if you can find any)? Share more than just your books. Share your writing process and experiences in publishing. Remember that you’re building a community with your platform, not just a customer base.

What does an Author Platform do?

It gives authors an opportunity to shows their personality to their readers. In today’s interconnected world, readers want to know their favorite writers. It adds to their reading experience to have some insight into who wrote the book.

It fosters relationships with readers, turning casual fans into super fans who will help promote you and your work. Friendships are also developed which can help authors feel more engaged with the reading community.

It establishes expertise as an author, writer, and whatever other areas of knowledge you have to share. If you write police procedurals, share some of your research. If you write a character who likes to cook, share recipes. Create a world for readers to explore with you.

It builds communication with readers and opens up opportunities for feedback, help, and encouragement. Many writers get bogged down with deadlines, stuck in the middle of a manuscript, or overwhelmed by life. Open up a dialogue with readers.

It creates community with other writers and with readers. Writing can be a lonely endeavor. Use your platform to gather similarly minded book lovers to talk to and engage with.

It builds visibility and extends reach. The more you build your author platform, the more eyes you will have on your books. Engage regularly to encourage readers to do the same. The more welcome a person feels in a group, the more likely they are to invite others to join or talk about how much they enjoy participating.

Use your author platform to build an community of interested readers.
Posted in books, contemporary romance, date shark, date shark series, delsheree gladden, ebooks, new release, reading, romance

The Final Date Shark Book has arrived!

Ending a series is always a tough thing for me, but I’m so excited to wrap up The Date Shark Series with Leo Bailey’s story in “Repelling the Shark!”

Repelling the Shark

the Date Shark series, book 5

Repelling the Shark

Simple and easy falls apart when secrets revealed require making promises and opening up to the possibilities of hurt and hope.

Leo Bailey has so far escaped the curse of the date shark business. He fills in when needed, but has held onto his casual relationships and family emergency-free existence. hover

Marriage and family are a vague idea for the future, but he’s not ready to give up the freedom of being single and answering only to himself.

When Piper Moretti witnesses the demise of yet another of Leo’s friends-with-benefits relationship, she doesn’t think much of it. She has a long list of more pressing responsibilities and headaches to occupy her mind.

Friends, and the strings that go with them, are at the bottom of her priority list.

When a date shark client who tops the list of bizarre behavior Leo has seen, his half-joking request for rescue drags Piper into the chaos and into Leo’s life.

Neither one wants more than a simple, no-stress friendship. Secrets and surprises force them to admit neither one is nearly as in control of their futures as they think they are.

Helping each other means getting involved, making promises, and opening themselves up to the hurt and hope they’re both terrified to face.

Posted in books, creative writing, reading, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

The problems with second person narration and directly addressing the reader

I’ve been reviewing a lot of writing samples lately for the ghostwriting company I train writers for, and I’ve noticed a trend of using sections of second person narration and directly addressing the reader quite frequently.

While second person narration can be used effectively, it’s generally not ideal for commercial adult fiction. Directly addressing the reader can be used sparingly, but it is often jarring and pulls the reader out of the story by reminding them that they’re reading a book.

Second person narration is when the story is told in the voice of an onlooker (the reader). “You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy.” Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City

Directly addressing the reader is when the narrator “breaks the fourth wall” and speaks to the reader directly using YOU. “Good. Now I know I can trust you. You’re curious. You’re brave. And you’re not afraid to lead a life of crime.” Pseudonymous Bosch’s The Name of this Book Is Secret

Why these are rarely used in fiction:

Directly addressing the reader is NOT a replacement for an omniscient POV. This is often used to remind the reader of something (Now, I told you this wouldn’t have a happy ending) or tell the reader what will happen next (If only she had known the cable was lose, she wouldn’t have climbed out onto it.) If a story is not being written from an omniscient POV, this is incorrectly breaking out of the POV and is jarring to the reader. Choose a POV and stick to it.

They break suspension of disbelief. It’s very difficult for a reader to suspend disbelief and feel they are immersed in the story when they are being asked questions, told direct information, or reminded that they are being told a story.

Both are extremely difficult to use correctly. To make these techniques work, they have to be done consistently throughout the story, to avoid startling the reader every time they are addressed. Few stories are suited to constant commentary from the narrator and can frustrate and tire the reader.

The use of YOU reminds readers of children’s fiction, blog posts, and self-help books. The Tale of Despereaux has a wonderful narrator voice that explains difficult words and concepts to young readers and helps them understand the story. When adult readers are directly addressed, many feel they are being condescended to or instructed on how to read or enjoy the story. Both can be major turnoffs for readers.

It is difficult to develop characters and a story that suits second person narration. The narrator is limiting to watching from a distance with second person narration. Even when omniscient, the reader never truly gets inside the characters’ heads and feels less involved in the story.

Second person narration is difficult to maintain in pieces longer than a few pages. Second person narration is tiring for readers to read. It feels like they are being asked to answer questions or be actively involved in a story rather than enjoying it as an observer.

For a list of more things readers don’t like, check out the link below!

Posted in books, characters, reading, romance, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Creating memorable Meet-Cutes

One of my favorite meet-cutes is from You’ve Got Mail when the main characters meet Meg Ryan’s bookstore and Tom Hanks is explaining his complicated family situation. It leads so well into Meg Ryan realizing who he is and that his mega chain bookstore is going to put her out of business.

What is a Meet-Cute and how they can best be developed and utilized in romance?

The meet-cute is when a future romantic couple meets for the first time.

The purpose of a meet-cute is to set up a burgeoning relationship.

Meet-cutes often use awkwardness, embarrassment, or hostility and should hint at potential conflicts or barriers to the relationship as well as show the nature of the relationship. The meet-cute should also set the tone for the story.

Forms of meet-cutes include:

Bad first impression: sparks embarrassment, hostility, misunderstanding, etc. This provides immediate conflict, dislike, or intrigue.

The twist: gives one character the upper hand and presents a conflict.

The odd couple: presents differences that could be either complimentary or antagonistic depending on the situation.

While it’s okay to use a tried-and-true meet-cute (i.e. literally bumping into each other), it’s important to make it unique.

Try a unique location (car accident, painting class, etc.)

Have one character do something unexpected (doesn’t help the other up after a fall)

Involve a unique item (onions cascade off a grocery store display and hit the other’s foot)

Force the characters to interact in an unusual way (assigned seating at a movie separates one from a group due to buying tickets too late)

Bring them together during an emergency (fire alarm, witnessing a mugging, etc.)

For a little meet-cute inspiration for future projects, check out these real life stories!

Posted in books, characters, reading, romance, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Crafting scenes that stick with your readers

What is a scene from a book or movie that has stuck with you? Why did it connect with you? For writers, recognizing and evaluating these scenes is a great learning experience!

There are several important elements to crafting an impactful scene:

concept-1868728_1920Purpose

Every scene should have a purpose (advance the plot, reveal something about the character, or provide information about the overall plot). The purpose should be able to be condensed into a one sentence summary. Scenes with no clear purpose are filler and should be cut or rewritten.

Point of View

A scene needs to be told from the most impactful point of view. Usually this is whoever is most impacted by the events of the scene. If emotion isn’t coming through in the scene, reevaluate whose POV it’s being told from. POV is often tied to the purpose of the scene: Who will learn the most? Who will change the most? Who will react more strongly? Who has the most to lose?

The High Moment

Scenes within a story should mimic the overall story structure: beginning, middle, climax, end. The high moment uses elevated emotion, action, or revelation to impact the character(s). The high moment should come at or near the end of the scene and it should be something that produces a reaction. The high moment reveals the purpose of the scene. The character should learn something, either about his or her self or the other characters, that affects their perception or choices.

Emphasizing Conflict

Every scene needs some form of conflict: inner, outer, or both. The conflict needs to have meaning, not be pointless arguing. Conflict should get progressively worse throughout the story, increasing the stakes. Keep this in mind while planning scenes and make sure there is an overall progression. Scenes with mostly inner conflict won’t be as explosive, but should increase the overall tension.

portrait-1634421_1920

Showing Character Development and Change

Every scene should demonstrate some form of character change. The change may be subtle, but it needs to show development and growth of the character, or show backsliding behavior. Whatever happens in the scene should have an impact on the character, eliciting change on some level. Change should match the character and the event. One character may see an event as not a big deal, while the other sees it as a huge problem. They need to react and change according to their perceptions.

Staying on Point

Scenes should leave out all the boring and non-important details. Life may be filled with the mundane, but scenes should not be. If the info, actions, or dialogue doesn’t pertain to the purpose of the scene, cut it. Start in the middle of a scene, with action of some kind, and leave out the movements in and out of the scene. Only insert backstory when it doesn’t slow the present scene.

Strong Beginning and Endings

The beginning and ending should not only be strong, but should be related in some way. This may be theme, symbolism, situational, a specific action or piece of information, etc. Tie the beginning and the end together in a meaningful way that relates to the purpose of the scene.

Adding Details

Find the right balance of details to create a full scene without bogging it down. Descriptive details should be pertinent to the action, help create mood and tone, or accentuate the dialogue. Details should use all relevant senses to create a full picture of the setting, the characters, and the emotion. Details should reveal something. A clenched fist shows anger, fidgeting conveys unease, food and clothing choices set the stage and reveal preferences, etc.

Evaluating Scenes

Whether you’ve watched Dead Poet’s Society or not (if you haven’t, you should!), this scene is a powerful one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j64SctPKmqk

What is one thing about this scene that sticks out to you? What impression does it leave and why?

Posted in books, characters, creative writing, reading, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Writing and tortillas and putting in the work

I love to cook and bake, but I’m not the greatest at following recipes. I was in the kitchen with my mom from an early age, and most of the time I really don’t think I need to read the entire recipe (especially if it’s in a blog post that gives the entire history of a dish before getting to the actual recipe). I’m also not very good at planning ahead, so I often have to make substitutions and rush recipes (like not letting things rise for the full amount of time).

2020-03-22 18.05.01

With New Mexico being under a stay-at-home order, I’ve been working from home and have had more time to prepare meals most days. So, I’ve been making an extra effort to plan ahead and follow the recipe more closely.

I’ve made tortillas a few times, usually from a mix, but with the shortages at the grocery stores right now, I ended up making some from scratch. I followed the recipe to the letter, including kneading it for the full amount of time (which I almost never do). They were the best tortillas I’ve ever made!

2020-03-22 19.06.28

What does this have to do with writing?

Writers often feel pressured to get the next book out as as soon as possible to keep readers attention. Some say that writers need to release something every 90 days. This can lead to lower quality writing due to rushing, skipping steps, or not preparing well enough.

A recent book club I led for work featured a contemporary romance from a fairly well-known author with a big backlist and a lot of followers. The group was pretty much unanimous at the end of the reading session that this book suffered from the three problems I just mentioned. The characters were often flat and unrealistic. The story never really seemed to go anywhere because there was a lack of real conflict, and many of the scenes felt like filler used to make the target length.

While it is important to produce consistently, quality is more important. Whether in baking or writing, prepare, don’t rush, and don’t skip the steps it will take to make a project a success.

  • Characters need fleshed out backstories and motivations
  • Every chapter needs conflict
  • Conflict should build to the climax and mean something to the reader
  • Outline or storyboard to make sure you have enough content for the word count or end it when the story dictates
  • A storyline should compel readers by making important promises to the reader at the beginning and fulfilling those promises by the end
  • Don’t rely on readers  “buying anything you write” just because they’re fans

Putting in the work for a story is just as important as it is for a meal if you want to produce something people will love. The tortillas, paired with the fish my husband made, were definitely a success!

2020-03-22 19.17.14

 

Posted in books, creative writing, reading, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Pacing that keeps the reader engaged

A story’s pacing needs to be consistent enough to keep readers engaged while providing all the ups and downs that create a realistic story rhythm. Below are some tips for strong pacing.

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  1. Plan with pacing in mind: Start at the outline level and make sure every scene has some element of conflict/reveal/resolution.
  2. Vary your conflict/reveal/resolution: Not every scene needs to be high intensity. Vary the sources and level or conflict/reveal/resolution in successive scenes, but make sure to keep building toward the climax. Utilize quieter scenes for reflection or understanding important details.
  3. Pace at the word and sentence level: Make sure your word choice and sentence structure match the pacing. Short, quick sentences with simpler words set a faster pace. Longer, more complex sentences using a bigger vocabulary slow the pacing.
  4. Use details appropriately: Sections of narrative with a lot of detail slow the pacing, which works well for scenes of internal reflection, revelation, or self-discovery. Use limited details in fast paced scenes to keep the action or conflict going.
  5. Highlight important moments through pacing: Using sustaining a faster pace builds to a important moments of action, revelation, or excitement. Slow the pace leading into moments of introspection, cueing readers into its importance.
  6. Critically evaluated scene elements: Ask what is the goal of this scene? Does the pacing serve the goal? What is detracting from the desired pacing? Remove elements that don’t match the pacing, such as extraneous dialogue (small talk, rambling), unnecessary details, extended character thoughts that are off topic, etc.

Consider where your scene is in the rise and fall of the plot arc and make sure the pacing matches its position. If the scene is flatlining and not moving the story forward, cut or rewrite it to better match its purpose.