December 24, 2010
I love this time of year. The holiday decorations, the Christmas cheer, the flavored holiday drinks in the bookstore.
Yes, this is my absolute favorite time of year to visit the bookstore! I don’t know why, but to me there’s nothing like sipping on a warm flavored beverage while reading a good book in the bookstore. Next to writing, it’s my absolute favorite thing to do, and I find that nothing is better for getting a creative recharge! In fact, you could say it’s become a holiday tradition (much to the chagrin of my husband, who isn’t a big bookstore fan).
I’d like to wish everyone a holiday filled with warmth and cheers. Happy Holidays!
I’ll be taking next week off to spend time with my family. See you on January 3rd!
December 22, 2010
Posted by Rosalie Lario under General
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I admit it, I’m addicted to urban fantasy. Whether it’s vampires, angels, demons, or other mythological creatures, I just can’t get enough. But I find that I tend to gravitate toward the stories that contain strong romantic elements. Nothing moves me as deeply as characters falling in love.
Jeaniene Frost is my all-time favorite urban fantasy author. Her Night Huntress series, featuring vampires and (to a lesser degree) ghouls, straddles genres. The romance is so integral to the storyline that I don’t think the story could survive if you took it out. Alas, her next book isn’t out until the end of February.
Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series is another favorite. Ms. Singh masterfully created an alternate world where angels rule the Earth, and there is a strong romantic element.
Michelle Rowen’s Living in Eden features a woman who’s falling for the demon stuck inside her body. (Don’t worry, it’s only part of the time.) I’m about to read the second book in the series.
I also enjoy Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassins series. It’s a different world, and tons of fun, though from what I’ve seen so far the romance isn’t as strong as the other series.
That said, I’m on a mission to find a good urban fantasy with strong romantic elements. I would love to find something by a newer author I haven’t heard of. There are many seasoned authors I haven’t heard of too, so I’m open to any and all suggestions. Please do share if you’ve read an urban fantasy that has just stuck with you (you know, in a good way).
December 20, 2010
In honor of the holidays, the time when people all over are taking off work, today I’m blogging about something I bet you’ll all be doing during your break.
No, not that…you with your dirty minds.
I’m talking about watching television!
I’ll admit, I used to be against television. It was 1/4 due to all the propaganda out there about television being bad for your brain, and 3/4 due to the way I saw people around me disappear into their television screen during football season. Hell, for all I know, maybe the tube is bad for your brain. But ever since I’ve taken up writing on a professional basis, I’ve realized that, at least for me, its pros outweigh its cons.
As a visual person, I find television to be invaluable in stimulating my creativity. I write paranormal, and there are a few “go-to” shows that inevitably get my mind racing when I’m feeling out of steam. Interesting enough, they are all CW shows. I love Supernatural because of the strong dynamic between the two “brothers” on the show. Oh, and the fact that they’re major pieces of eye candy doesn’t hurt one bit, let me tell you. Smallville is set in such a fantastic world of superheroes that there’s no way an episode won’t get my creative juices flowing. Buffy’s Spike is another yummy bit of inspiration. And more lately, I’ve gotten into watching Nikita. Not paranormal, but the lead character is a kick-ass chick steeped in such vulnerability that I can’t turn away. The love-hate relationship between her and her former mentor is pretty darn hot, too.
So whenever I’m feeling stuck plotwise or with a scene I’m writing, I generally turn to the television, and to one of my favorite shows.
How about you? Do you find that television and movies stimulate your creativity? Or maybe music does it for you instead? What do you do to refill that creative well?
December 17, 2010
(Okay I have to start out by begging your pardon for the corn-tastic play on the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign. I couldn’t help myself. )
Today I’m talking about conflict in your story (once again referencing the fab Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict).
So just what is conflict?
Conflict is the reason a character cannot achieve her goal. It’s the thing that stands in her way. And it’s absolutely necessary in a story. A story without conflict is boring with a capital “B”. No one wants to read about characters who get everything they want. We want characters to have to work hard for their happy ending, just like we have to.
On the other hand, too much conflict can get overwhelming. The heroine’s mother dies, her dog gets run over by a truck, her son is kidnapped, the hero is wrongly accused of murder: at some point it may become too much for a reader to handle. That’s the point where the reader puts the book down and walks away. (And lest you say this never happens, just recently I put down a story without finishing because all the conflict was stressing me out. At a certain point it was no longer entertaining. My own life is stressful enough.)
So what kind of conflict should a story have?
- External conflict: there definitely needs to be some of this, whether it’s a bad guy or bad luck.
- Internal conflict: sometimes the heroine gets in her own way. There are emotional roadblocks that stop her from achieving her goal, and she will be forced to face her demons. Stories with a lot of internal conflict tend to be very deep and powerful.
Some hints for creating good conflict within a story:
- Petty squabbling between characters is not conflict. If there’s a real problem between the characters, that’s one thing. But if they’re just arguing for argument’s sake, that gets boring pretty quickly. It doesn’t take the story anywhere.
- A misunderstanding between characters (for example, the heroine sees her boyfriend leave his ex-girlfriend’s house early one morning and assumes he spent the night with her) is a weak conflict. Readers tend to become frustrated if it becomes the whole basis for the story. (Have you ever read a book where the characters have a simple misunderstanding that could be cured by honest communication? Doesn’t that get old after a while? Why can’t they just talk to each other?)
- You can use your setting to heighten conflict, such as a thriller written in a creepy old town.
Do you have a favorite novel that expertly combines internal and external conflict? If it’s one you wrote, please do share.
I really loved Larissa Ione’s Pleasure Unbound. Not only was the hero in the throes of a life-altering change (external conflict), but it was one that was sure to prevent him from running his demon hospital (his ultimate goal). Unfortunately the only way to prevent this change was to bind himself to someone, yet the woman he wanted was adamantly opposed to being claimed due to past circumstances, and he didn’t want to force her (internal conflict). That’s some strong internal and external conflict.
December 15, 2010
As I’m sure most of you know, storyboarding is a process of creating words or images that aid in the production of a novel (or film). It can be done in one of many ways. Today I thought I’d share mine.
I use a visual storyboard. When thinking up a story or series, I spend days or weeks imagining how my characters will look, where they’ll live, where the story takes place, etc. When I first started writing I saved the images onto my computer. But I found myself having to reference them often, so I eventually printed them all out and taped them onto a poster board. Once I did that, something amazing happened. It worked perfectly to draw me into the world every time I sit down at my writing desk.
Here’s my end result for my current series (and I’m still adding pictures):
Next to the images of my characters, I’ve added images for places that are important to their story: home, work, places they often frequent. On the right-hand side, I’ve clipped all of my preparatory information: Character Sheets, Timeline, GMCs, plot points. It’s amazing how often I go back and look at these.
So, do you use a storyboard or a similar pre-production tool? If not, do you do anything special to immerse yourself in your character’s world?
December 13, 2010
I don’t know if any of you are Bones fans. As a general rule, I don’t like forensic crime shows, but I’ve always been fascinated by this show because of the genuine chemistry between the two lead characters: Dr. Brennan, aka Bones, and Agent Booth. But, as with many other fans, I found myself growing dissatisfied over the way the storyline was playing out. I wanted to see them together…yes, I am a sucker for the HEAs. I understand the fear of losing the chemistry once the deed has been done, a la Moonlighting, but I personally feel there are plenty of other ways to keep it going…but I digress.
This last week’s episode of Bones was so compelling because it showed us what makes Bones tick. I don’t want to ruin it if there are any fans who haven’t seen it yet, so this is a *Spoiler Alert*.
Okay, with that out of the way…
At the end of this latest episode there was a very powerful confession of love scene between Bones and Booth. It was brilliantly played out by Emily Deschanel, the actress who plays Bones. The scene made me think about writing and the romance author’s job.
A romance author’s job is to make their reader feel the emotions that the characters are experiencing. This is what readers are looking for when they read a book. To be so connected to that character that they live the experience along with them.
What I found so powerful in this episode was the quiet passion with which Bones made her confession. It might not have been so convincing if the writers (and the actress) hadn’t done such a great job of bringing us inside Bones’ head throughout the episode (and in fact throughout the series).
So what are the lessons I learned from watching this episode?
- You need to build your characters throughout the story, to make them so relatable that when the black moment arrives, they live the experience along with the characters.
- A character does not need to shout out her emotions to make them powerful. In fact, a quietly spoken revelation may be far more powerful, especially if it makes sense for the character’s personality.
- We are all ultimately emotional beings seeking to create a connection with others. Our characters must be driven by the same needs and desires.
- Unrequited love, or the possibility of it, is a very powerful thing. One of the bravest things a person can do is throw themself out there and risk getting their heart broken. We’ve all been there. Readers can automatically find something to connect to in a situation like that.
So I’d love to know, what’s your favorite ‘confession of love’ scene that you’ve read or seen on television? Any Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans out there? Remember when Spike confessed his feelings to Buffy? Great episode (especially the ending scene when she slams the door in his face).
December 10, 2010
I mentioned earlier this week that I’m reading through Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict. (This book rocks.) Today I thought I’d talk about properly motivating your characters.
Remember watching one of those B-horror movies where the girl hears a noise in the dark, scary basement and goes down alone, with no weapon, to check it out? Remember screaming at the television, “You’re going to die, beeyatch!”
The reason scenes like these are so unbelievable is because the character is acting in a way most people normally wouldn’t, without any discernable reason for it. In other words, she lacks proper motivation.
There needs to be a believable reason why she would go into that dark basement alone and weaponless, and the reason must be urgent. Maybe her toddler is teetered on the rickety stairs, in imminent danger of falling and breaking his neck. Or her puppy has already taken a tumble and is lying on the basement floor, whimpering in pain.
Adding proper motivation to your characters allows your reader to suspend disbelief and get drawn into the story. If your character is going to act against his or her own interests or do something he or she wouldn’t normally do, there must be a darn good reason for it. The motivation must be larger-than-life.
So what’s the best way to test your motivations, to learn whether they are important enough to sustain the character’s action? Well, it’s reader response. This is where critique partners or beta readers are invaluable, because they can see the manuscript in a way you’ll never be able to.
In one of my manuscripts, the hero is trailing the heroine because he may at some point be ordered to kill her. Now that doesn’t make him seem very empathetic. So what do you do to create empathy in a situation like this? Well, in my case, the hero‘s actions are all done with the goal of saving the world from destruction. His otherwise reprehensible actions can be excused because his motivations are strong and inherently good.
Can you think of a book or movie that just wowed you due to the characters’ strong motivations? (I’m thinking Avatar off the top of my head.) Or maybe it’s a book that you’ve written? If so, I’d love to hear a bit about it.
December 10, 2010
Posted by Rosalie Lario under General  Comments
Today I was honored to be awarded the Versatile Blogger Award by the lovely Claudia Alexander over at Twillwoven.
Here’s the rules:
1. Share 7 things about yourself
2. Pass The Award to 15 bloggers recently discovered (or however many you can manage).
3. Notify the blogger recipients.
4. Link The blogger who gave the award.
Here are 7 Things About Me You Don’t Already Know:
1. I can read a book from start to finish in about 3 hours.
2. I’m a CWTV addict. Dean and Sam from Supernatural, as well as Clark from Smallville, make my world go round. (I love my boys.)
3. I’m a lover of ferrets. Seriously, they are just the coolest pets. Had 13 of them (not all at once).
4. Places I’m dying to visit: New York (my hometown and the setting for many of my stories) and New Orleans (just about one of the coolest cities around).
5. In addition to reading and writing, I’m addicted to Zumba. I think I could do it 4 hours a day.
6. I think I’m in love with one of my characters. If only he was real.
7. In person I’m very shy, but also friendly. I love to connect with people, just not so good at initiating that connection.
Now to Pass the Award On To Some Great Bloggers I’ve Recently Discovered:
1. Maeve Greyson
2. Around the Writer’s Block (Nina Pierce)
3. Ciara Knight
4. A Possessed WIP (Rachel Firasek)
5. Christine’s World (Christine Ashworth)
6. A Writer’s Blog (Lara Dunning)
7. Terry Spear
December 8, 2010
A couple of months ago, after working on a story for close to a year, I decided to put it away for a few months. I had written and heavily revised it, but something just didn’t feel right about it. Well now that I’ve had the distance of time, I’ve finally realized what I was too blind to see all along. The story doesn’t work.
While I can still envision my hero and heroine, I made some crucial, newbie mistakes that cannot be overcome by revision alone (one of them being failing to properly plot out my middle and ending). I’m so glad that I came to this conclusion before I started querying the project, as I had initially planned on doing.
Though it pains me to say this, I’ll have to rewrite my entire story. I can see what did and didn’t work now, and I have a solid plan in my head for how to fix it, but unfortunately that means little of my original story will remain the same. While it hurts to think of this, I don’t think of that year of writing as wasted time. This is the novel where I learned much of my craft. I made just about every mistake you can make and now I have a much better understanding of what to do to make a story work.
So here I go, preparing to rework the story again. Fingers crossed: I hope this is the last time!
For you writers, have you ever worked on a story that just wouldn’t leave you alone, even if you had to do some major rewriting to tell that story the way it needed to be told? I know I’m not alone in this. Right?
December 6, 2010
After repeatedly hearing authors extol the virtues of Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, I finally picked the book up. Now I’ve taken workshops on GMC before, so I wasn’t sure if this book would be able to offer anything new. After reading the first few chapters, I will say that while none of the information is new to me, the book was well worth the expense. Ms. Dixon has an expert way of succinctly outlining the concepts of GMC.
One of the first things Ms. Dixon discusses is the concept of goals. Your characters must have goals. Their actions in working toward their goal is what will make your readers keep reading. But it’s not enough to simply give them goals. The goals must be appropriate to the storyline. If you are writing romance, the hero and heroine’s goals must conflict in some way. Otherwise there is no tension, and if there is no tension, there is no story.
Give your character a strong enough goal, and the character will be forced to respond to situations in a certain way, thereby driving the plot forward.
Ms. Dixon discusses two types of goals that each character should have:
The outward, physical goal of your character: i.e. beat the villain, save the old school house, whatever it may be.
What the character is emotionally looking for. This is usually something he or she does not subconsciously recognize: i.e. looking for love or acceptance, running away from love, trying to assuage feelings of guilt.
For my last novel, I wanted to create immediate tension by writing a woman in jeopardy story. The kicker is that my hero is the one who may have to cause the heroine harm. Since he’s an all-around nice guy, there has to be very strong motivation for this. I knew that the hero’s external goal would be to stop the villain (the hero’s evil father) from taking over Earth. My heroine is instrumental to the villain’s plot, so the easy thing for the hero to do would be to take the heroine out of the equation. If she is killed, the villain cannot succeed in his plot. In order to create tension (and force my characters together), I had to give my hero an internal goal that was at odds with his external goal. Internally, he desires to be a good person and do the right thing, i.e. to be the complete opposite of his evil father. So while it would be easy for him to just kill the heroine, that would be at odds with his internal goals, and he is forced to take alternative action (thereby driving the plot forward).
Characters don’t always achieve their external goals. A good example of this can be found in Jeaniene Frost’s One Foot in the Grave. *Spoiler alert* The heroine’s goal is to find and get revenge on her father, the evil vampire who raped her mother. She finds that she must choose between achieving this goal and keeping her undead lover. That makes for a compelling read because we know just how much she wants revenge. But in the end she finds that her ultimate goals have changed. Revenge is not what she wants most after all.
As a reader, do you feel cheated when characters don’t achieve their goal? When the detective doesn’t get his killer, or the bad guy isn’t stopped? Or is all forgiven as long as a good story is told?
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