Friday, September 29, 2006

Book with Trish - Pt 5

Enjoy the little rest did we gang??? Ha! Well, it's back to work now!!!

I dunno about you guys but I'm pretty much ready to write up a storm now...

What I want to do now that I have all my back story, characters personalities/looks/histories, setting et all in place is think about getting them onto the page and using the conflicts I may already have gotten from the filling in of my character sheets to set up their relationship...

Starting the story in a Romance or a Modx or indeed in most series or category romances, should have a *jump straight in* quality to it...

I will make a confession at this point and say that I'm a *film-ic* writer. By the time I start the book I have such a clear idea of my characters inside my head that I start putting scenes together as if I'm watching a film. Look at any film - Sleepless in Seattle, While you were Sleeping, Runaway Bride, You Got Mail... any film... and knowing they only have a short time period to tie the viewer to the characters they jump straight in... just like we have to in a Category Length romance... The only difference is we want our hero and heroine on the page together ASAP...

So, in our first chapter (or even a prologue if you're using one) we need to introduce and establish our two main characters - let the reader have an understanding of their relationship at that point and set up the premise for our story. The first chapter is therefore an introduction and a set-up that should ultimately end in a page turner - something that encourages the reader to want to know what happens next... I know that's what I look for when I read a book and I'm sure you're the same, right?

So, as soon as possible let's get their names onto the page. There are lots of ways you can do this...

For example in Marriage Lost And Found I had a Prologue that started:

It was in the gap between Christmas and New Year's, when people started thinking about what the New Year had to hold. About brighter and better things to come. About New Year's resolutions to help everything along in the right direction. That was when she made the decision to let go.

Now, as to the year they were leaving? Well, Abbey Jackman had had a pretty good year. A pretty darned good year, in fact(...)

So, we have begun with a brief narrative, set up the premise a little with the hint that she was letting go (which tells us she already had a relationship with this person - that fact revealed more in the following pages) and we have been introduced to our heroine.... the hero then comes into play a couple of pages later.

In White-Hot! I did it a little differently:

'I have new carpet coming next week.'

Shane laughed, 'Not any more you don't.'

'It's cappuccino.'

'You bought coffee?'

'No, the carpet colour.' Finn nudged him hard in the ribs, ' It's cappuccino. That's what it's called.'

Here we have jumped straight into a conversation. The action and movement have already begun - and we have both characters first names established and to a very small extent their relationship (nudge in the ribs tells us familiarity) -their surnames are then introduced as part of the narrative/dialogue within the next two pages...

But how you choose to get them on the paper is up to you - just do it quickly!

Whether or not the characters know each other prior to the start of the book will heavily influence the way they interact in that first chapter - something I talked about in The Blank Page series. Think about it. Friends will interact better than adversary's - ex's will interact differently from two people who have never met. And we can show this in their movements, their conversation, how they react to each other in oh so many ways. With ex's and people who have never met there is room for misinterpretation that leads to conflict from the get-go - they will naturally have their guard up. With friends we can use the familiarity as a building block (they don't need to spend time getting to know each other) - and with adversary's we have have a combination of familiarity and room for misinterpretation and we get to add in a good dose of pre-conception... Ooohhh the possibilities!!!!

Thing is, by the time we have opened up our story with this first chapter, introduced our characters and set up the basis of their relationship - giving a glimpse of how they inter-act and of that attraction simmering beneath the surface and an idea of how they actually look (particularly the hero!) - we also have to start hinting at the conflicts that will hold them apart without giving too much away... Just a lttle... a drip feed if you like... This is that elusive thing that makes us want to know what happens next - that holds our attention - it's the page-turner...

And the only thing that works for me to get all those things in that first chapter IS knowing your characters before you start. I know. I'll say it again and again and again... and I'll say it because I really believe in it. When you talk to others about these people they should be as real to you as the person you're talking to. Even when I talk to my Editor I will say things like 'She'd hate that' or she'll ask 'What kind of thing do you think she'd wear for the cover if we put her in such and such a place' - they are just that real to us. And they should be to you too!!!

So, let's look at todays exercise and then go through it step by step the next day or so:

Introducing your characters to the reader:

1/ Have you got their names in quickly?

2/ Have you got a description of how they both look filtered into the first few pages?

3/ Have you thought about how their prior relationship will effect how they interact?

4/ Have you given the reader just enough about them to make them want to know what happens next or have you given them so much information they don't need to go any further - or worse still have you had both characters so defensive that the reader dislikes them???

I can tell you after a brainstorm with my Editor we have upped the conflict in Fascination - still the same characters (and castings I've done) - still the same names - still the same setting (phew to all those earlier workshops I thought!!!) - and the heroine has remained the same conflict wise - we just re-worked the hero a little and it set so many lightbulbs running in my head that we had a sudden word-count rush (as witnessed by the worm) So Connor is now a reluctant tycoon - poor soul - and has walked away from his family while he sorts things in his head - which meant he has left the Gym business behind - which was a bit of a problem re hero/heroine being under the one roof... solution? As part of his new business portfolio Connor now owns the building Shannon has her business in... Same thing only different... But MAN did it change the story...

The lesson to be learned there? BE FLEXIBLE. Sometimes it takes just one brain-wave to turn what could be a great story into an even better story. So if you get a sudden flash of inspiration on how to up the conflict - trust your gut and the excitement you feel in your chest...

So - roll call time - how are we all doing? Are we off and running - just starting - still getting to know our people??? Tell all! Don't be shy....


Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Welcome back Trish!
Firstly, I've got to mention (again) how much I LOVE White Hot. Just re-reading your opening has me wanting to read it again.
I love the shape your book is taking, although I must confess my first thought when you said Connor has left the gym business behind was "Oh no, that means we've lost the scene with him parading in the yellow towel." Then I remembered that wasn't Connor but Hugh Jackman! LOL.
Okay, *deep breath* here's where I'm at:
I now thoroughly know both my characters. I was already into my wip when I started your workshop and I'm about to hit 20K. Now for the problems:
My chapters are currently very short. I'm at 20,000 words and I'm already in Ch. 8! My dilemma lies in deciding whether to carry on getting the rest of the story written before I go back and rewrite/add layers etc.
Also, I struggle with keeping their conflict going with each other. They've both got internal conflicts that affect the way they feel and behave, but they're possibly beginning to understand (and like) each other too soon...
So, should I plod onwards or do I need to go backwards?
Sue :-)
PS Feel free to give me a nudge if my comments are waay too long (you're just so easy to talk to!).

Trish said...

LOL honey!!!! You comment away there!!! It makes it look like I'm not the only talkative one....!!!!

THANKYOU for the White-Hot! comment - I *visited* it in a few shops this last week or so and wished every copy of it well...And I've had some lovely e-mails about it... I just can't wait to see what you all make of Rory in Breathless! come February.... If you thought Shane was hot... whew!!!! You'll need sunglasses to read Rory..... He's like looking directly at the sun hot!!!

LOL To the towel - I have *promised* Kate Walker.... I'll find a way of getting it in there... ;)

Hate you for the 20k....Humph...

There is no set rule for chapter length as such.... I've gone anywhere from eleven to eighteen pages in the Courier 12pt layout - but one thing I would say is if you're lower than ten pages per chapter you could actually merge them and make them the one chapter??? Particularly when you're sending in the first three chapters for an Ed to look at - it's worthwhile giving them something to read - now that doesn't mean you make your chapters 20k each!!! (I'd get KILLED fo that suggestion) - but you want to give them time to get a flavour of your voice and style so don't make them too short...

If you're anything at all like me you will end up with plenty layered in at the end (I can add up to 4 or 5k in a final edit...) - but rather than worry too much - and if you're obsessing about it (which is also a me-ism) then why not forget about Chapter headers for now and just write the story scene by scene by scene and put in chapter divisions at the end??? Then you can look at the overall story and decide where might be a good place for a break and as you edit, add a little to up the tension or leave a thread before you make the chapter break???

Any works I have ever critiqued - I have said the same thing - DON'T MAKE THEM TOO NICE - *PARTICULARLY* the hero... Now this doesn't mean that they have to be complete rotten sods... but it does mean that if we have them making polite coversation and getting along all nicey nicey for page after page that we loose momentum... Look back at what you've done and think about where you can use misinterpretation or paranoia or inner POV to up your conflict - maybe change POV from hero to heroine or vice-versa - to show how one may be thinking ooohhh they're just loverly while the other is in fact wondering WHY the other is being so loverly... WHY? What do they want? Oh no the last person who was *nice* to them did THAT... They may be loverly but he/she has been hurt before and can't possibly go through it EVER AGAIN - see??? And then they may do or say something mean to start a fight so they can feel safe... you know? Emotional conflict...

Keep the misunderstandings going as long as possible... they help the story keep running - and a good dose of misunderstanding can give you plenty of defensive behaviour - angst as they fight their feelings - hurt when the other is awful for *no apparent reason* - they may *suspect* why the other party is doing the things they are - but hold it back as long as you can in the first two-thirds of the book... You can then have them make the odd slip up or have the odd lightbulb moment where they *get it* and that can lead to moments of softness - understanding and reluctant honesty - but don't make it solve the problem too early... That's what the last third of the book is for... ;)

I'll be covering a little on my theory of a book of three parts... I write 1/ setup 2/ turnaround 3/ hea... its a very basic rule but works for me.... but if you ever hear me talking about hitting the turn around point then you'll know I'm on the race for home....

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

You've given me LOADS to think about, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

You're spot on - Kate and Matt are both far too nice for their own good. Matt has already given her the reason behind a major misunderstanding.

Hmm... you know what, I'm going to go backwards. I'm going to leave the stuff I've already written because I think (hope!)there's a place for it towards the end, but I'm going to go back to the beginning and crank up the conflict some more.

I can't wait to read Breathless! And I'm relieved that Kate W's extracted a promise from you so we'll get to see Connor wrapped in that towel!!

Thanks again for everything you're doing to help - I'll leave you in peace for a while now, while I go and throw some ideas around...

Sue :-)

Marcy said...

Hi Trish,
After your last workshop entry I figured out that I needed to add some more conflict between my characters(thank you very much!). The result was that I had to give the hero an urgency to get married...a big change from the original hero who was a divorced and never wanted to marry again. Needless to say, the change has created a lot of rewrites. It's kind of frustrating since I feel like I'm never going to move forward and get this sucker finished. But at the same time, I know it has to be done (kind of like a root canal). I'm anxious to see it finished, but it seems kind of daunting now.

Any advice???


allyblake said...

Sue, I soooo know how you feel! At the beginning of writing my current MS my hero was heaven. Swwet, gorgeous, adorable, lovely and mad about the heroine.

And the story felt like it was plodding along like a wet fish with lead in its shoes.

The answer? I found a headline in in a magazine "No More Mr Nice Guy". Boy oh boy did that turn things around for me!!!

I wouldn't panic about chapter length right now. It'll only stall you. Keep writing and you can change such simple things like that when you're done. I've even had eds change them for me!

Trish I can't believe how much you've written so quick! Let us know the moment he appears in a yellow towel please.


Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Marcy, I know how you feel! I've been anxious to get my mss finished, and I feel daunted by it all the time. I'm trying to make myself forget about rushing to get it finished.
I'm now realising that it's going to take as long as it takes, and I'm making myself dizzy with going backwards and forwards, then back again...! I know one thing for sure, you're right about the root canal - it's certainly as painful!! Good luck with progressing with your w-i-p.

Thanks for your input and encouragement Ally, '...wet fish with lead in its shoes.' LOL, I definitely seem to have one of those on my hands! Thanks for sharing that headline, I'm going to pinch it if you don't mind.
Sue :-)

Trish said...

Would it help any to know that in my humble experience the ones that do best are the ones that were most painful to write??? Talk about suffering for your art though...

Marcy is there any way to combine the two conflicts??? If he's been through a painful divorce - doesn't want to marry again - and then finds a reason why he HAS to - it makes for a very good dilemma and lots and lots of angst!!!! He won't want to do what he know he has to do - which means fighting against himself a lot of the time - which makes for a GREAT conflict - and a VERY emotional one... so that his journey will be all the more layered and complex... This means that you should have less re-writing to do as well... Just thread through the new conflict along with the old??? Might that work???

Ally is right - it's so tough to keep that lead thing at bay. And the thing is if you're a nice person - which we all kow our lovely Ally is - you can't help but escape that flowing into everything you do - inclusing your writing... But then - if it was easy gang - everyone would do it!!!

And despite what people think... IT AIN'T EASY...

Am gonna attempt the next post in an hour or two - bear with me - my computer has killed off it's internet connection and I can't do without it long enough to get it fixed while I'm on this book deadline... so I'm having to steal my brothers laptop for a few hours each day to get internet stuff done...

I'm trying to remain philosphical and say it's the writing gods conspiring to keep me at it ;)

jude d said...

Welcome back Trish and thanks for your adventures in writing land!
I haven't put fingers to keys yet but the good news is I've thought of a great intro hook that's got me spinning with possibilities. And suddenly I've realised my heroine's just learned she's pregnant too (last week I had no idea this was in store!) So far it's all good...I THINK?!?
Loving your blog.

Marcy said...

What a great idea--to have the H still divorced but needing to get married even though he doesn't want to go through that again. I think I'll say that he promised his mother (before she passed away) that he would get married and start a family. Enter the h who has seen what marriage did to her mother and has no ambition to go there. Sounds like conflict to me!

Thanks for the encouragement. If the books that are hardest to write do the best, this one should sell for sure! LOL. But I won't hold my breath.