writeresI once wrote a post about the Hero’s Journey structure in the movie Clash of the Titans. That post is my second most popular post (by a long shot). Clearly, structure is something we all want to learn about. It’s one of my favorite topics. Structure is the skeleton on which our entire story hangs.

In light of that, I wanted to share the most awesome resource I found. Okay, found is a strong word. Let’s try, ‘I received in a newsletter because K.M. Weiland is an awesome writer folk and I like to know what she’s talking about.’

She created the Story Structure Database. To see an example of this tool at work, check out the structure for Pride and Prejudice. (If you haven’t read it, run to your bookstore now and grab it. Yes, it really is that good.*)

From the site:

Austen begins by masterfully hooking us with her famous opening line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” The subtle irony gives us a sense of conflict from the very first and lets us know that neither the wife in search of the fortune nor the man in search of the wife will find their goals so easily.

Of course, we all know it’s a great first line. But, now we know exactly why. And we can try to accomplish something similar in our own first lines.

This database is full of books and movies, and other people can contribute. I highly recommend using this writer resource if you are having any difficulty with or just want to learn more about story structure.

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*Link: $0.99 e-book Pride and Prejudice from Amazon.

Note: This was written yesterday. Hope your holiday, if you celebrated one, was fabulous.

I have been with my family for about 45 minutes. I have had wine, Cheetos, and coffee– my basic coping mechanisms. I adore my family. If I didn’t like them, I could avoid this altogether!

It got me thinking, though. Families are complex. I love them and I want to smack myself in the face with the turkey roaster lid. I’m including someecards below to show you how common these feelings can be.

As a writer, these days can be pure gold in research. How does it feel? What do people say to each other instead of, “I don’t care to see any more pics of your dog? or “Mom may have had a little too much pink moscato.” Take note, and include it in your novel’s next family scene.

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wpid-wp-1415857899407.jpegI’ve been writing – not reading much – for the last week, which is both awesome and awful (because I got the new Anne Rice Prince Lestat book AND Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Heroes Are My Weakness). Unfortunately, this means no Dating Advice from Romance Novels.

Instead, I decided to write about writing. When I first started, I asked for writing books as birthday and Christmas gifts and scoured the internet for someone to tell me how to write. I’ve since learned that the process of writing is extremely personal. My way is my way. And there is a very specific way that works for me, but I know it wouldn’t work for everyone.

I also learned that there’s no one place to learn everything needed to be a good writer. However, there are some extremely good sites (a lot of which I’ve noted here) and some great books.

GMC

The book I think I learned the most from, that made everything click into place, that made me a better writer, is GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon. I’ve written about it on this site before, so I won’t detail again why it’s integral to writing except to say that you can do almost anything with a character who has legitimate, realistic motivation. Characters have to make sense as people. And people do everything they do for a reason.

The Writer’s Journey

Next, THE book on structure – The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. One only needs to look at nearly any Disney movie ever made or the Star Wars (Original) to see that storytelling is universal. We need to see certain things happen. I’d never say this is a rule book that must be followed. But I do believe it’s essential to understand before drawing your own road map, the plot, to get from beginning to end.

Emotional Thesaurus

I also could not write without the Emotional Thesaurus. The authors of this book began with a site of the same name. When I went back and realized the wonderful material from that site had been added to and then turned into a book, I bought it without a second thought. The organization of the book makes it easy to use. What feeling is your character experiencing? Look it up and see how he or she might show that feeling physically and what might be going through their mind. This makes for a compelling, realistic way to SHOW the experience rather than tell it. It also helps you write a tight story, in which every word does double or triple duty. And that’s essential.

I hope that these books give you some direction and inspiration, as they have for me.

Tweet: “Three books I could never write without.” | Essential Reading for Writers bit.ly/1xPKbeH

Photo used with permission from stock.xchng. Photo by: Nh313066.

It’s that time of year again, when all of your writer friends start asking about your daily word count and offering up encouraging motivational quotes. Basically, everyone is writing but you. Well, and me.

If you’re as determined as I am to not write (like that’s a necessary part of being a writer–whatever), here are some ideas to place in your procrastination bank.

4 things to do instead of #NaNo and #writing Click To Tweet

Play a game

I, for example, sometimes play life simulation games. You know, like that Kim Kardashian superstar-for–no-reason-at-all game. I’m the one in the glasses (to show that there’s more to me than my amazing pouty lips and stunning eyes). You’ll notice I’m on the A-list and I’m on level 18. We’re talking serious mindless procrastination potential here.

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77.1 million fans, baby. Just like real life. Except not at all.

Hit up the Netflix Queue

You should know I’m a sucker for a good story. And sometimes a good story is the perfect distraction from your good story. You can sit back and think about how you’ll never be able to write dialogue that good or tie up a plotline so neatly. Seriously, undermining yourself can wile away hours of writing time. I personally have completed 3 full seasons of Sons of Anarchy in the last week. Take that, NaNoers.

My bucket list is more or less my netflix queue

Sadly, this is true.

Paint your nails

Or, if no one really cares how your nails look because, what the hell? You’re a writer. You probably haven’t worn clothes that weren’t pajamas for like a week, so just look up pictures of adorable manicures and add them to your pinterest wall. I’m partial to the notebook nails, being a writer and all.

Lined Notebook Nails

From Beautylish.com

Write a blog post

Hey, this is useful, right? Develop your voice. Practice organization. Figure out how to use the quote tag. At least it’s not what everyone else is doing. Wait… yes, it is.

This is how a quote tag looks.

You know what? You should probably just go write something. What was your word count today?

siglori

 

Notice a whole bunch of Benedict Cumberbatch to the right.

Added WIP board from Pinterest. I get inspired every time I see him. So. Much. Yum. Right?

My Pinterest Board for the story set in the 1950s that I don’t even know who would possibly publish such a thing

Since I started writing, I’ve wanted to see my name on a cover.

I wanted the surge of joy, of knowing I made that! I started this blog in 2007, and it’s always been my-name.com. Because, this is me. I have a thing about being real and I don’t want to hide anything about myself. (Yes, I recognize the irony of including my web address name on the image. Wait, is that irony or idiocy?)

In the last few months, though, I’ve started to feel a little discomfort.

Writing is highly personal. I’m not saying I act out the risque scenes in my novels at all, but I do fill every sentence with a bit of my soul. And that, for me, is far more personal. Do I really want to deal with people being able to climb inside my head that way?  Not people, reader people or other writers–they get it. But, say, those I come in contact with at work or who attend church with me.

The argument in favor of #writing anonymously. #pennames Click To Tweet

I just keep bumping into this wall.

Don’t post that, someone who comes into the office might take it the wrong way. Don’t talk about your feelings, you have to look people in the eye. And then, I feel fake. It’s not about being fake, it’s about the freedom to be MORE real because there’s a seperateness. My personal life, my professional life, my writing life, my basketball mom life–all different. My life.

And, in the end, it’s my choice.

So, I’ll give you plenty of warning. If you get here by RSS, email, twitter, or my Facebook page, you won’t have any trouble finding me.

siglori

P.S. On the writing side, I’m writing a novella for a submission call. It’s romance set in the 1950s, which I adore. If I don’t get picked up, I may publish it here. Someone’s going to read the damn thing. ;-)

Image was created using images from elitebackdrops.com and Mel’s Brushes.

We are finally at the end of what heroes and heroines do and don’t do for love. Because that title was such a mouthful, I broke it up into 4 segments. Again, I welcome all comments and thoughts below. Without further ado:

Five things your heroine should never do because she’s in love and that makes everything okay (because it, in fact, does not):

1. String two guys along. Not speaking of menage stories here. I’m saying a heroine does not spend the entire story unclear on whether she loves the hero enough to cut loose her backup guy. I don’t like women who do this in real life, I don’t respect them. I will not respect a heroine who pulls this trashy crap.

2. Run away. I know, I know this one happens all the time. I’ve read them. And enjoyed them. But… it’s not entirely satisfying. Yes, he chases her down and she knows he really cares. But… what did she put on the line? She’s gone. It’s all on him to solve the black moment. What’s going to happen the first time they hit the next crisis in their relationship? Because happily ever after doesn’t mean easy ever after. It means this couple has proven they will stick it out and make their relationship work.

I have to clarify, though, that this isn’t the same as the heroine offering him her sacrifice and giving him the choice, then going so that he can make his decision. On the other hand, I’ve also read books where the heroine arced and ran away for no other reason than that it was time for a black moment. If that’s the big crisis they need to solve, there’s no motivation for her to run–it’s not really a crisis. Your story already ended and you forgot to write it that way.

3. Stalk him. Caveat: Stalk him in a way that doesn’t involve an external plot detail. For example, if she’s a detective hired to follow him around, then that’s not stalking. She’s doing her job. If she’s sneaking around to see what he’s up to because she’s a jealous psychobeast or she doesn’t trust him–there’s not a happy ending in their future.

4. Belittle him. Remember, I’m describing actions after the two have come to care for one another, whether they admit it or not. She doesn’t have to realize she likes him yet, she doesn’t have to stop with the witty banter. But she does have to not be cruel, demeaning, or humiliating in the way she speaks to him.

People have arguments, you say. Might these things not slip out? I suppose they might. But she’ll feel bad for it. And when we truly feel remorseful, we make sure not to repeat the mistake. You’re supposed to be writing a character who is growing, who is learning from her mistakes. This is a mistake.

5. Trade sex/her body for anything. I don’t care if it’s the house her grandmother grew up in. I don’t care if it’s the last jelly doughnut. Don’t do it! Don’t send the message that the heroine’s only worth, especially to the love of her life, is her body. It’s demeaning and sad. Do you think it’ll crank up sexual tension? Yeah, someone having sex they don’t want to have because it’s a trade-off for what they need, because that’s the only shred of power they have left, is not at all sexy.

Sure, it happened in Pretty Woman (a romantic comedy). But, the writer made a distinction between the sex she was paid to have and the sex she wanted to have (with the kiss). Not to mention that she spent the entire movie fighting against everyone’s belief that she held no worth because she traded sex for money. And, come on. You know and I know, that was prettied up for a story. Sex workers don’t do that job because it has perks. They do it, often, because life or bad choices have led them to a place of desperation and, more often than not, a man takes away their choice. I could rant all day on this. But, I won’t. Just don’t do it.

But writers break these rules all the time!

That’s because they’re not rules. First of all, I made them up and who am I to give anyone rules? Second, like most of writing’s rules, they can be broken with wonderful results. But you better be good. And I don’t mean talented. You don’t send the fella who is a genius at filleting fish to the hospital to remove a brain tumor. Talent does not equal skill. Skill is acquired through learning and practice. So, you’d better be good skilled.

And you don’t break any rule because it makes the story easier to write or it puts this character where you need them to be. There are only three reasons to break a rule: character, character, character. Yeah, I lied. There’s only one reason. Because your character is well-motivated, fleshed out, and it serves their story. Good writing never serves the writer.

And this concludes my whackadoo ideas series of blog posts on how heroes and heroines should and should not show love. Next week, my fantabulously brilliant daughter will be guest blogging (unless she stands me up) about stories in video games. I’m excited.

“Lady love gone bad in romance | The Black Moment is a Restraining Order P2” ~ Click to Tweet

“Five things your heroine should never do in romance” ~ Click to Tweet

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–Credit for suggestions 1,2, and 3 go to my critique partner, Landra Graf (Twitter, Site). She thinks way faster than I do, apparently. Because, while I was coming up with 4 and 5, she was rattling them off.

Photo used with permission from stock.xchng. Photo by: Przemyslaw ‘env1ro’ Szczepanski.

Last week, I added a parenthetical remark to my list of things a heroine should do. That aside sparked the idea for this post. I’m limiting myself to ten randomly chosen ideas (broken into two weeks–my words go on and on!), but there are probably a million more. Please  add yours in the comments.

Five things your hero should never do because he cares (in no particular order)

1. Beat her. I would have believed this self-explanatory as well as perhaps negated by the-hero-is-flawed-but-always-acts-heroically rule. I was wrong. Sophia Martin (Twitter, Site) shared a story she remembered in which “the hero BEAT the heroine for a transgression AND SHE FORGAVE HIM.” Then, she (the heroine) found herself charmed by a promise to beat their children and send them to her for comfort.

Heroes never assault women. Any women, but especially the heroine.

2. Cheat on her. Nothing says, “I couldn’t care less about your feelings,” like cheating. I’m not talking glittery hoo-ha here. There’s a line where the couple starts the you’re-my-potential-mate dance. Heroes don’t step outside that line.

I might, and that’s a doubtful might, forgive a hero who cheated in the past. But a hero, in the story of loving the heroine, who has sex with someone else after they’ve kissed, declared their intentions, or become intimate? No. Just no.

3. Dump her because he has trust issues. And is a stupid ass-hat. This, and the one above, were shared by Carinae L’etoile (Twitter, Site). She read a book where the heroine has a twin. That she doesn’t know about. Who stars in porn. See the big misunderstanding coming?

Hero sees new, unknown twin in porn (how did he explain that?) and, according to Carinae, “viciously kicks the heroine to the curb.”

What?? So, heroes with trust issues? That’s fine, if it’s fear of the future or of being hurt. The fear that his heroine is a big whore? That’s abusive, not heroic.

4. Manipulate her. I’ve read lots of books where the hero or heroine try to make the other jealous. And I’ve enjoyed them despite the fact that this is a form of emotional manipulation.

In real life, as it should be in romance writing, it’s never okay to act in a non-genuine way to force an emotional response.

All I can say is that there’s a line. As a subplot, intended as a comedy, or maybe even as a flaw the character arcs from, you can pull it off. But, be aware, that’s a fine line. Go over it, and he becomes an emotionally abusive asshole.

5, Dismiss her. Does he misjudge her at the beginning? Fine. He doesn’t even know her and maybe he has really valid reasons to dislike her.

But once he beings to care for her, once she shows vulnerability, then don’t treat her like she’s not smart, or capable, or enough.

Do you know how many women have felt this way? Pretty much all of us. I know I don’t want to identify with a heroine because the future/current love of her life makes her feel that way. That drives me right into wallbanger territory.

Disclaimer: I’m sure these have all been done. Some of them even successfully. I’m not criticizing anyone or calling anybody out. It’s just… my blog, my opinion. But, I’d love to hear yours! Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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Photo used with permission from stock.xchng. Photo by: Przemyslaw ‘env1ro’ Szczepanski.

Last week, I went into ways to show your hero’s feelings for the heroine, despite engaging in conflict. A lot. This week, I’m flipping things around.

Ways to show your heroine cares, even though the hero is the most arrogant/insufferable/stubborn man she’s ever met.

1. Men have a tendency to get caught up in themselves, in this persona they’re showing to the world–macho, manwhore, major asshole. Whatever. The heroine doesn’t take him too seriously.

She knows he’s strong and virile–and he’s a big baby when he’s sick. Maybe he has been spreading his love all over town–but she doesn’t sweat the girls who came before her. Okay, maybe a little. Who wouldn’t, a little? But, she knows he wants her. Insecurity? Please. And that alpha who can make people cry with a withering stare? She’ll step up and give it right back to him. He doesn’t intimidate her.

She calls him on his BS because she sees right through it.

2. Life has knocked her down, in some fashion, like it does all of us. Maybe she had a rough childhood, maybe she was deserted, left holding all the responsibility, by another man. Maybe she’s just been a doormat her whole life and needs to grow as a character enough to stand up for herself. It doesn’t matter how she learned it, she knows that most people let you down. But there’s something about this guy. A thousand things scream to her, he’s a good man. And even though part of her tells her she’s crazy to believe it… she does.

She trusts him, even though a lifetime of experiences have taught her that people suck.

3. When he screws up (and I don’t mean by being unfaithful), when his back is against the wall, when the whole worlds hangs in the balance–she doesn’t wait at home and hope he can put everything right again. She’ll be right by his side, standing up for him or wielding a gun and shooting it out with the bad guys. It’s not about him needing her help–though he does, we all need help when we reach our biggest crises–it’s that she wouldn’t dream of letting him face it alone.

She will always stand by her man.

Again, I’d love to hear ways that struck you that a heroine showed her true feelings or even examples from your own stories.

Got ideas on all the wrong ways characters show their true feelings?

Next week, I’ll be writing a post about absolutely messed-up ways to have your characters show that they care. If you care to contribute your ideas, please email me, tweet me, or PM me on my Author page. You can find all of those links on my contact page. I promise to give full credit next to your ideas!

“Show a heroine’s feelings for her hero–no telling required!” ~ Click to Tweet

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Photo used with permission from stock.xchng. Photo by: Viktors Kozers.

Yesterday my husband shared this photo with me. My man, he’s not a showy, affectionate guy. So, this was particularly sweet to know that he thinks about the ways we love each other. And, it’s a truthful depiction of us, really.

But then, I started thinking about romance and how we have our characters show their feelings for one another, particularly our hero, when they’re in all this conflict.

Ways to show your hero cares, even when he kind of wants to throttle your heroine (even though he’d never do that because he’s a hero. And he loves her.)

1. He can’t help himself from taking care of her. And I don’t mean in the old-fashioned way, that she can’t take care of herself. She absolutely can take care of herself. Maybe she’s this super independent woman. She’s educated, she’s successful, she can change her own flat tires. But she has this silly fear of spiders. And she can call an exterminator. Of course, she can do that. It’s just, there’s one in her bedroom, right now. And she can’t go back in there. She maybe can’t even stay in her home, knowing that ginormous, mastermind spider is just waiting, biding it’s time, to catch her off guard and spring at her. So, he spends an hour searching for the pesky arachnid before ultimately finding it and killing it with one of her sandals.

Because time + effort = love. This will always be true.

2. He can complain about her all. day. long. He has a million reasons why she’s a crazy-making, devil of a woman. But nobody else can say a bad thing about her. Or he will all up in their business.

This is our modern day version of defending her honor. And heroes will always do that, from knights to astronauts. To vamps or weredragons, come to think of it.

3. He sees things in her that others don’t. Maybe that she doesn’t even see in herself. Take my super independent chick from above. Everyone else thinks she cold-hearted, calculating even (because, hey, that’s what our society thinks of women like that–but that’s another post). But he sees that she has a soft side. Maybe he recognizes it in the way she take time to comfort a person because she can relate to them. Maybe, instead of kicking someone when they’re down and climbing on top of their unconscious body to plant a conquering flag in their backside, she offers to help.

We have to give our heroines some traits that people can identify with. That’s key, and it’s also another post. But he sees those traits in her when everyone else writes them off or doesn’t even bother to notice.

Heroes recognize their heroines. They get who they are and they respect them for it.

Can you think of other ways for a hero to show his growing feelings for a heroine? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. If you’re a writer, feel free to include examples from your own stories.

“How do we write our heroes to show their feelings, in spite of conflict?” ~ Click to Tweet

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I could not find the creator of the lovely image above. I looked. I’d buy a print of it, if I could find it and gladly give credit / remove it, as they wish. If you know who owns this image, please let me know.