About Me

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A writer by predilection, an aunt by blessing and a friend by choice, Shelley has spent many years journaling before sitting down to draft her first novel. She has a B.A. in English discourse and is currently working on her third romantic-suspense, the title of which will be announced soon pending publication. Shelley is a member of the Romance Writers of America as well as her RWA state chapter of the Maryland Romance Writers.
"I love story-telling. It's a way to live an experience through the eyes of a character." - Shelley N. Greene

Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for ZOOM IN, ZOOM OUT


The last letter of our alphabet, I wanted Z to stand for something important. 

            When writing a story, it’s a challenge to move back and forth between the small details and the overall plot.  It reminds me of those satellite maps, where you “zoom in” to see a city, and then “zoom out” to see the entire parameter of where you’re going.  It's like that in writing; one minute you’re in the character’s private world, the next you’re moving the entire narrative along, the lens of the telescope pulled back.

          It's a tough balance defining the character in tempo with the unfolding events.

 Talk about “Seeing the forest for the trees.”
            
            Too much “step up close—leap back” and you could leave a reader with vertigo. While too much of either extreme may give your story a plodding tread.  I have yet to find any exact guidelines to managing this issue other than, “If the scene sounds drawn out, it most likely is.” 

It’s advised that you read a scene aloud when drafting, then wait a few days before going over it again. This helps to prevent you from lolling in the distanced perspective or the personal character mindset for too long.  This allows you to look at the section of writing with a fresh perspective.

It’s also good to let your critique partner (or group) review it.  They’re sure to give you an unbiased opinion about the pacing and character development.  

            Zoom in and out only as needed and you can’t go wrong.


            This is it?  Seriously?   It’s Z end?

            I’d like to thank everyone for checking out CN.  I’ve had such a great time talking craft with you, and the experience has taught me so much!
           
            Keep reading and writing! 

And I’m here, so please check back for more of the NARRATIVE.  ;0)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Y is for YARDSTICK


I switched days again.  This is Saturday’s post.  I just needed some time to think about this one, the yardstick I have in mind is a personal one.

            I think you’ll know what I mean.  In every career endeavor made, one is bound to compare themselves to other successful examples.  In writing, you look up to other great authors.

            This is okay to do at first, it’s good to get feedback and not reinvent the wheel when you’re starting out.  However, it’s important not to take that search for knowledge too far.

            You want to grow as a writer, not as a clone.

            And I’ve learned that when you look too closely at what makes a good writer, you aren’t allowing yourself to be a good writer.  It’s a hard lesson, albeit an important one. Writers are like snowflakes; each having different styles, different goals.  You’ll never be exactly like someone else, and that’s a good thing.

            I think of the famous quote by Oscar Wilde,
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” 

            You’re encouraged to learn the rules, to follow the example of the greats, but in application, follow your own path.



            In the end, measure your accomplishments against your own yardstick.     

           
            Are we down to our last letter, already? 

Please come back tomorrow—Z is for ZOOM IN, ZOOM OUT

-SNG

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for X-MARK


            I cracked open the dictionary and there were like, five words for X.

            Okay, I’m exaggerating—there were twelve.   But I suspect that everyone participating in this challenge has had to get creative with this letter.

            For me, X stands for an author's simple signature. Your mark.  

            Whatever you write; be it romance, comedy, action, science, erotic or intrigue—it has your fingerprint  on it. 

            And that’s one heck of an X. 



            Only two letters left!   Where has April gone??


            Tomorrow Y is for YARDSTICK. 

            Goodnight!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for WORD CHOICE


              Keeping it simple tonight.  


              I almost changed W to be something else because this topic is another one of my weak areas.  There are subjects I get windbag about, some that I know a little something and then topics like this.  But everyone has been accepting of my naivetĂ© so far, which I appreciate.  The more you practice, the more you learn, right?  :0)

            And the way I understand it, word choice is where you choose the most succinct and appropriate word in a sentence.  The word can be long, short, multi syllable or humble, as long as it sums up your point concisely.  This concept is simple enough, but the biggest hurdle I've encountered with word choice is vocabulary.  

Or in my case, limited vocabulary.  



It’s tough to cinch a sentence when you have a narrow list of words to pick from. 


In the T is for TENSE entry I’d mentioned that children learn by hearing and repeating, and it’s interesting how language is picked up from one’s environment that way.  Traditionally, you need to hear a word or expression being used before you integrate it into your own verbal collection.  And when I think about it, my vocabulary consists mainly of idioms and terms spoken by people in my surroundings, my family and friends.  And while this is good for everyday conversation, it's generally expected that a writer’s glossary be much more expansive.

            So with my writing I strive to be a word collector, contributing new terms to my mental dictionary every day.  Call me strange, but in my nightstand I keep a 5”x8” steno pad of paper and a pen handy to jot down words that stand out to me when I'm reading.  I make a mental note if I hear a new phrase used in conversation, and I even have a word-a-day calendar on my wall, so I can take a new word with me. 


             My goal is to use the new word at least three times that day, allowing its meaning and application to sink in. 
             
            The game is pretty fun.  In the last month alone I’ve come across words such as: 

Parietal,   DisingenuousKitted,  Semaphore,  Gloze,  Evince,   Prurient, Estival,  Didactic,  Vinaceous,   Anneal,   Popinjay,  Intestate, Turbid  and  Deft


            And there are terms that really center in on the action like:

            Susurrus,  Flyting,  Keelhaul,  Deke and  Chicane

          Simple formations of letters that have prompted me to explore new places, situations and things.
           
             Isn't it amazing how powerful one little word can be?
 

            Please come back tomorrow—X is for X-Mark. 

            Goodnight!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for VILLAIN


*Shelley clears throat—hums loudly*  

MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Tonight’s letter gave me the perfect opportunity to do that—V is for Villain.

One would think that a villain would be an easy topic, but I found that it really brushes up against our last letter, the Usual suspects. 

In a majority of fiction today, the villain is one dimensional.  He’s bad to the literal bone.  Which makes sense because he is the bad guy, but like secondary characters, there are archetypes to the baddies.  

These outlines make for strong villains, they play the role rightI mean, if you can’t be good, heartless is the way to go, however in the genre I write--Romance--the villains need not always be so mean.  In the last novel I wrote, I took a different tack with my villain, and in turn, got a lot of feedback.  Going into it I thought of the bad guy as a real person, and I asked, “What would make this character do this despicable thing to the heroine?” 

In the story, the baddie is an ex-fiancĂ© who technically leaves the heroine at the altar on their wedding day.  This should make him an unforgivable @#$&*!, right?

But I wanted to pull on the heartstrings of the reader a little bit, so I gave the ex a reason for doing what he did.  Yes, I gave the jerk enough “likeableness” for the reader to be conflicted over his motives.  In the end he still does the evil deed, but you can sort of understand why.

This is a fantastic counterpart to have in your story.  The reader wants to connect to the villain but can’t because the badness gets in the way.  This technique has been used in breakout fiction quite a lot in recent years—Severus Snape has one of the biggest frickin’ fan clubs I’ve ever seen.  

When the reader can relate to the villain—just a little bit—then the drama begins.  The bad guy isn’t merely a dark soul, he's a lost one.  

 It’s important to keep the balance, the villain has to remain parallel to the hero, but a touch of concern makes the reader really consider your bad guy, rather than simply write them off in the beginning.  That makes for great tension.  You want your reader to be torn, to scream, 
               “I want to like you, why must you be so bad?!”

Then your bad guy can tip his black hat and reply, 
         “’Cause I’m the villain. Muahahaha.”   ;0)

Only four more letters to go! 

Please come back tomorrow—W is for WORD CHOICE.

-SNG

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for the USUAL SUSPECTS


            Let’s do this.  Time to throw open the door, trot ‘em out and line ‘em up.   You know who I'm talking about - the Usual Suspects.




            When writing fiction, your hero and heroine are always the main focus.  While they interact with the leads, the secondary characters are primarily in place to play specific roles: the temptress, mentor, confidant, fool, trickster, devil, fool, king/father, etc.  These functions are important to the story, but often the rudimentary job of the secondary character gets a little played-out.  That’s when they become the usual suspects.  

            The bubbly best girlfriend, the trusty guy companion, the smarmy rich guy there to rival the poor-guy hero, to cite a few. 

            Essentially the usual suspects are stock characters and they get that bum rap because, let’s face it, they work.  They have the heroine's back at the right time and enable the hero to ride to the rescue on his horse.  This is good, but if you want your writing to stand out, you want to push against the tried-and-overused.  Turn the usual on its head.  Avoid the stereotype.  

            It is okay to go with the same ol' suspect line-up, just give them new traits.  For instance, don’t let the trickster look so mischievous.  Let him act smooth, almost innocent.

            Make the mentor reluctant; the sage scatterbrained, the confidante assertive.  Keep them simple, but hard to pick out of the crowd.  Call in the unusual suspects.  


            We’re in the homestretch to Z!  Twenty-one letters down, five to go! 

            Please join me tomorrow—V is for Villain.   *evil grin*

            Goodnight! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for TENSE


          Looking at my letter list, I figured that this would probably be the “See Spot Run” entry, but that’s okay.  Twenty letters in and we’ve had a few tough ones, funny ones and brief ones.  Our alphabet is winding down fast.

            And verb tense determines in what time your narrator is speaking.  It basically determines if the action is currently happening, will happen in the future or has already occurred.


Simple Present:       She writes

Present Perfect:      She has written

Simple Past:             She wrote

Past Perfect:            She had written

Future:                      She will write

Future Perfect:        She will have written


            I think I got that right(?)  Honestly, verb conjugation intimidates the crap out of me.  All the perfects, participles, regular vs. irregular and subject-verb agreement makes me anxious.  With all those rules, there is too many ways to mess up.




   The best advice is to choose a tense and then play it by ear.  Children learn language by hearing and repeating; adults are the same way.

The only caution in writing is that you want to try to avoid passive language.  The verb “was” is an indicator of the passive “to be” when paired with a past participle.  An easier way to spot this—as a wise contest judge once taught me—is to search your word document for the term “was.”  If more than fifteen highlights pop up on the page, you’re using passive language.  It’s not officially wrong to write passive, it’s just that staying in the moment is the strongest way to hold your reader's attention.  You can write in the past tense and still be in the center of the action.

            Okay, this is the last toughy letter, I swear. 

If you come back tomorrow, we’re in for some fun—U is for the USUAL SUSPECTS.

            *heeheeheee*  Goodnight!

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for RESEARCH


            Research is a double-edged sword for some.   For me, it’s another one of those, “I know a little about it, but not everything” kind of topics.

            This being the digital age, I understand that most research is done through the internet.  

            And when preparing to write a story, a writer has to perform a lot of research on an array of different topics.  What your character does for a living, their psychology and even the car they drive can all be reasons to hit the search engines.

            One personal research experience I have is with my second romantic-suspense. The plot centered around a team of FBI agents, which resulted in more research than I ever imagined.  Sarah and I had quite a few long conversations about everything from what firearms an agent would carry to whether or not my injured hero could handle the kick-back when shooting one-handedly.  

           And aside from all the physical spy-guy stuff, there were a several girly queries too.  The HEA for one of my heroines involved a hunk of a diamond engagement ring.  When looking up information on Harry Winston, I discovered that the company rarely works with stones that are smaller than three carats.  So in order for the facts and the fiction to come together and still be feasible (a FBI agent with a Harry Winston-sized salary), I had to do a lot of research. 

Pretty detailed stuff, right?  Lol. 


                          

            And Sarah’s real-life knowledge helped me a lot with that story. I've still never met anyone else who knows the dynamics of shooting a gun, blinding by engagement ring, a fireman's carry, biting by a toddler and Judo.  LOL!  She’s just THAT good.

            And if you happen to have a certain area of expertise—include it in your story. I guarantee readers will notice the mindful detail. 

            Personally, I feel like I still have much to learn about formal research—I would love to discuss it with other authors and compare techniques.  

Over the years I’ve heard many authors talk about how they’ve conducted interviews to gather data.  When your character is a police officer or an FBI agent, a chef or a PR rep, it’s good to perform that kind of thorough research about their job.  And while you’re at the interview table, don’t be afraid to ask about the inside facets of that career. 

That's one perk I love about being a writer--you get the inside scoop on so many areas of life.  

The only caveat to keep in mind is that not all information regarding certain positions (i.e. federal law enforcement) can be made public, so it’s good to also note what is open to fictionalization and what is not.  There are workshops offered on going “Inside the FBI for Writers,” and I imagine that’s a good place to start when writing a Fed-based book.  

And here I’ll beseech everyone to teach me—in what ways have you conducted writing research?  Any fun stories to share?  Any systems or methods that you find helpful?  How do you go about setting up an research interview? 


            Thanks for stopping by and please come back tomorrow—
            S is for SUBTEXT.

            Goodnight!   :0)

Q is for QUIRK


A big aim for fiction writers is to create memorable characters.  You want your heroes and heroines to be funny, cute, handsome, accomplished, brave, loving…

            (Stay with me, we’re almost done) …strong, charming and kind.

            That’s a long list.  And, let’s be honest, I know a few of you were yawning halfway through.  That’s okay.  That’s what our Q is going to fix.  All those attributes are great, it's what makes a hero a good, likable character.  We just don't want them to be TOO good.  


            Admit it, too good is kind of…annoying.


            I mean, if your characters are flawless, then what do they have to change?  How can a reader relate to them?

              One easy and fun way to solve this dilemma is to give your character a quirk—a unique or weird tendency that makes them different.  Quirks can be habitual like gum-chewing, a coffee addiction or a pattern of speech like stuttering when nervous.  Your character can have a weakness for shopping, drive like a maniac or be an uncontrollable flirt.  Quirks help define a character and are a good way to let the conflict and humor naturally unfold. 
            
            And quirks can be more complex, too, like a medical condition, something that challenges your character, which in turn adds depth to your story.


                   
            And that’s the power of a good quirk.  Let it flesh out your characters and thicken your plot.  

            Tomorrow—R is for RESEARCH. 

            Goodnight!  :0)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for PLOT


I'm going to keep this uber short tonight.  It's been a looooong day!

Plot is tiny word with big meaning.  It's the timeline of events in your story.  The map of how and when your book unfolds.

The most basic plot can be dynamic.  It's mainly comprised of five phases including:

 INTRO - INCREASING ACTION - CLIMAX - DECREASING ACTION - EXIT

There are other models out there that break it down and define it well.

And that's it.  Short, sweet.  


I'm worn out from all that pan-banging yesterday.  Tomorrow will be another fun letter, though.  


Please come back for:  Q is for QUIRK.

See you then!  ;0)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for ONOMATOPOEIA


               "Holy polysyllabic Greek words, Batman!"


            A long fancy word, Onomatopoeia is the BOOM! BAM! POW! of writing.  Simply put, it’s the spelling out of sounds.  

            Oddly, I catch myself tossing out onomatopoeic words all the time.  In an earlier entry I told you that my learning curve tends to make me “go splat.”  When I rule out or cite something, I refer to it as getting dinged. 

            I’ve gonged options that don’t appeal to me. 

Hit it, Chuck. 
(image source)
             
           And the great part about onomatopoeia is that you don’t have to wield a striker or don a batsuit to use it.


I believe writers utilize onomatopoeia pretty effectively, plus we have an official weird license—a get-out-of-funny-looks card for when we have to perform unusual research or ask strange questions.  Or, say, drop an inexpensive ceramic platter out a window to document what kind of breaking sound it makes.  I’m just using that as—you know—*cough*—a random example. 

Okay, moving on…

            I did have another onomatopoeia experiment just this week.  One of my characters is going to get a little beat up in the not-too-distant future (please see C is for CONFLICT for rights to character provocation), and I needed to know what being hit with a saucepan sounded like. 


Yes, I’m a bully.  Luckily that’s part of the author package, too.

            Sooo, I moseyed downstairs to the kitchen, notepad in hand; weird license at the ready, to discover in what ways a saucepan could Ka-DONG!   


            I'll say that, similar to entertainment street acts, a crowd forms quickly when you're inexplicably beating on Revere Ware.  Within five minutes my cat, little niece and sister were all in attendance as I noted the various dongs result from hitting the pan with:  a serving spoon, a small melon, the bulb end of a turkey baster… (It’s surprisingly difficult to replicate a human noggin.)

     
    Granted the cat was drawn in by the funny noises, staying with the expectation that tuna would miraculously appear.  Little Niece was there to pet the cat.
       
              My sister was there to laugh at me. 

                          
And so is the beauty of onomatopoeia.   

                       
*Note: No siblings, nieces, felines, fruit or turkey basters were harmed in the making of this blog.


            Please join me tomorrow—P is for PLOT.


            Goodnight!  :0)

N is for NARRATIVE VOICE


In books, there is one goal—the suspension of disbelief. 

            As a writer you want your reader engrossed, submerged, so entrenched in the story that they are a part of it.  Once they’re sucked in, you want to be careful not to interrupt the magic.


Narrative voice is what you use to do this.  It’s the VOICE of the storyteller.

            The styles of voice are complex, so it’s advised that you pick up a few good books with writing exercises to help you get comfortable with them if you’re just starting out. 


But here’s a rough summary:



            Before you begin you want to decide which voice would best tell your story.  Third person narrative voice is the most traditionally used in fiction writing, although in the last decade first has made a big comeback. 

The one exception to this rule is prologue and epilogue.  Those are seen as separate “bookends” to the main story.  You can have a first person story and a third person epilogue, that’s fine.  It’s just important that throughout the main event you keep one narrative and do not switch voice
  
This is usually the point where someone shouts, “But in Ethan Frome…!”  Yes, Edith Wharton's ETHAN FROME is one of the rare examples where the story is structured to have two voices.  Reading it, I believe it to be crafted that way.  The difference is that most modern books are going to follow the standard, and the voice switch has to serve a purpose.  It can't be there to make-up for anything the voice you picked initially didn't cover.  Unfortunately, voice is one of those "learn the rule, then you can bend it" principles.  

The guideline isn’t put in place to be stodgy or to thump the rulebook, it’s to say that jumping voice halfway through disrupts the flow.  It puts ripples in the suspension of disbelief.

Essentially you’re putting two narrators in one story: the character’s voice and the omniscient’s and that’s going to startle your reader.

Imagine that you’re riding along in the character’s first person perspective, it’s “I felt,” and “my life.” Then out of the blue, a loudspeaker turns on and starts calling the character “she, her”   The story shifts, doesn’t it?  You look around and start to ask questions: Who in the heck is this other voice??

It’s funny but true.  The last thing you want is your reader questioning who's telling the story.  There’s a fine line between creative freedom and inconsistency, and you don’t want to sink your manuscript by being too avant-garde.

Sticking with one voice is the way to go.


Tomorrow’s letter is one I’ve been looking forward to—O is for Onomatopoeia.

I promise to keep it short and fun.

Goodnight.  ;0)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for MANUSCRIPT


The first time I’d heard the word manuscript was in a FB conversation with another author. 

            “How’s your MS going?” she said.

            “My MS, what's that?” I asked back, completely clueless.

            She patiently went on to explain, at which point I felt greener than pre-ripe banana, but I'd much rather be informed by a friend than say, an editor.     *facepalm*  


            I warned you in the beginning that I learn things the hard way.  

            And so MS stands for manuscript.  You know, that stack of paper that when published is your book. 

Image Source

Kinda important to know, right?

            At the time I’d written for an online website for a couple of years prior, at the beginning of my journey to try to get published.  The lingo used in the digital publishing world differed slightly, like the variance between AMA and MLA writing formats, so I hadn't heard the term used much before.

Since that discovery however, I’ve noted that manuscript guidelines are pretty straightforward:

·        Single page, front only
·        12-pont font
·        1-inch margins on all sides
·        Double-spaced (to let your copy editor work his/her grammar and syntax magic)
·         New Times Roman and Courier font are the most commonly used.  Possibly Georgia.
·        Check with your publisher as to the max/min word count required (typically based sub-genre and story type).

  
That’s it wrapped in a bow.  MS--know it, live it.  Don’t get caught without it.

Please come back Monday:  N is for NARRATIVE VOICE.  

See you there!

-         SNG

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for LITERATURE


Keeping it super simple tonight.   Literature. 

Required reading in school and the staple of intellectualism in life.

I’ll confess that I’ve read many of the great works solely because a teacher made me. However I understand, looking back, why they're important to slug through.


It’s not every day that a book comes along that manages to capture a time, a principle or human state of mind so poignantly that the reader is forever transformed afterwards.

I took a quiz on Facebook one time called “Have you read 6?”  Out of one hundred titles of classic literature, it turns out that I'd had read twenty, the list including authors Austen, Bronte, Dumas and Steinbeck.

Such themes:  Love and caste systems, suffering and strength, loyalty and vengeance, poverty and survival.

The way literature captures the conflict and character, it’s the kind of writing that teaches and makes you think.

There are a few books that have opened my mind that aren’t on the list, but that’s okay.  Even if not seen, the principles remain. 

J

Tomorrow – M is for MANUSCRIPT.

Goodnight!




Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for JOURNAL


There are no limits how, where or what you write.  

            For years I wrote only for myself, journals of my thoughts and memories.  I pull out my notebooks every once in a while, and appreciate them anew.   Some entries are written when happy, contemplative, frustrated and pensive.  Many document an event that I’d long since forgotten about, bringing out a smile at the memory.  


While the mind is a powerful instrument, it doesn’t retain everything.  Journals are a way to hold on to it all. 


             Randomly flipping open one notebook, I revisited a day when I stood in line at the craft store, a little boy playing nearby with a rubber glitter ball that bounced my way.  Catching it with my free hand, I returned it him, for which he politely thanked me.  A simple memory, but one that I’m thankful to have preserved.  


             This blog is like a journal, too.  It’s a place to document my reflections.  The A to Z challenge has enabled me to practice and helped me become diligent in getting the writing done. 

            The only side-effects with journaling (and blogging) is that I do find it hard to get back into manuscript voice.  Third person drafting is primarily He, She, It, while journals allow for more freedom. 


            As much as I preach about being consistent with narrative voice, I’m a hypocrite with it while off-stage writing.  I consider this blog and my journals to be “no holds barred” areas.  Commonly referred to as “Stream of Consciousness” writing, where it follows your train of thought.  I call it my “stream all over the place” writing because I'm a weird thinker, bouncing in and out of First, Second and Third voice.  It’s weird and informal, but it helps me differentiate from character script. 

I treat blogging like I’m talking to a friend; part personal opinion, part advice, part storytelling.

            And whether you journal, diary, scrapbook or blog, it’s a great outlet.  Keep at it and watch your style and expression develop.


“Keep a diary and one day it'll keep you.” ― Mae West

;0)

Tomorrow is another interesting letter:  K is for KINK.            

I is for IMAGERY



            The cursor blinks at me.  Blink-blink-blink.  Ignoring it, my eyes are preoccupied with the rectangle of cotton peeking out from the dog pile across the room. 

            Rotating my head to back to the computer screen, I try to concentrate. 

Imagery.  IMAGE-ry.  The verbal photograph. Poetic description.

The selection of words used to create written texture.  

My eyes find their way back to the bed.  Pliant, touchable, like the striped pillow sitting king-of-the-hill atop of the decorative throw pillow heap.  A good pillow.  Mid-weight fabric, but not scratchy.  The run-proof, stain-resistant, take-a-beating kind that your face still glides against when you grab it for a ninja nap (Sarahism ©2012). Blissfully squashy, as if hand-packed with cotton balls, neither too firm nor too flimsy.  Just right for mid-Sunday stuffs behind my head while watching TV, late night prop-ups of the neck when settling in to start that anticipated new book.  Great for elevation of a sprained ankle… 


What a good pillow.  Who’s it made by again?  Waverly.

That's right.  Expensive but worth it.

The blinking cursor is more like an impatient tapping foot now.  Asking, “Is your tangent over?  Care to get this entry finished sometime tonight?”

I let it blink, noting the similarity to my equally blank mind. 

How do you describe imagery?  You don't.  It's too intimidating.  Too—big.  

Full, vivid.  Colorful and illustrated.  Crafted in letter box format. 


I grab a steno pad and a pen.  Maybe I can hash this out Old School-style. 

Ten minutes pass:  I jot.  I scribble.  I draw.

Five minutes more and I have a paragraph of bad poetry that reminds my sister of Pink Floyd lyrics.   No imagery.

The pen taps on the edge of the paper now, in step with the tyrant cursor.  My fingers are quick, my eyelids heavy.  The mental egg timer of my brain ticking out the final marks before going off.

A few feet away my bed sits made.  Still.  Serene. The carefully tucked covers no barrier to the understated siren song drifting up from its cozy center.  My head gravitates towards what awaits me.  When I fold the corner of layers over, the triangle will reveal an angled line of poufy head pillows, the convex dominoes crowning muted green cotton sheets.  Regular sheets, nothing fancy, but organic for certain.  Soft as satin, a cushion of heaven against my legs after I’ve shaved.  Topped with a ruffled knit throw in case any of the other twenty blankets aren’t enough to keep warm, the frilly edges beckoning me to come rest.

Yes, when I’m done I’m going to burrow in like a groundhog, nestle up to a pillow or four, and then sleep for as long as it pleases me.

That is my reward— as soon as I think of some imagery…


Tips:

·        Imagery doesn't imply the use of flowery words or over-the-top dramatic prose.  Powerful description is often made up of simple words.  Play with pairings and meanings then see what comes of it.

  My favorite line of imagery comes from a college classmate’s poem: “Fetal Pink.”

·        I’ve read somewhere that a majority of writers begin their stories with setting imagery.  This is a moving way to start, but it’s also a common opener.  If you want to rock your editor’s socks, you might want to experiment with your first page.  Maybe start with action or a strong line of dialogue, and then use that as a springboard into the imagery.  

      As my HS journalism teacher used to say, “Reach off the page, grab the reader by the sweatshirt, and pull ‘em in!”


Now—bed.   Tomorrow—J is for JOURNAL.

Hope to see you there.  Goodnight!   

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

H is HEA


This entry is going to be late because Photoshop is giving me grief.   Yes, I’m being polite and refraining from uttering anything unladylike while I’m quietly cursing under my breath.  It wouldn’t let me draw a line, for pity's sake!  

            I know.  Through the immense frustration I did learn something, however: how to use a digital pencil.  And therefore I've made my own happy ending—which happens to be our H.  Woot! 

Way to segway into our topic, right?   (Yay, me.)

            For anyone who is not familiar with the acronym, HEA stands for Happily Ever After.  A.K.A: The big finale of the story, the riding off into the sunset, the setting sail together on a placid sea, the eternal kiss that cues the end credits...



              And in that everlasting end scene the hero and heroine get to keep their peace forever.  The HEA is the best because unlike real life, it is assured that all obstacles will be overcome in the end.  The couple’s future is eternally preserved, like a picture or a painting.  

Or as I’ve always thought of it, like a plateau.

            In real life people work hard, going up against challenges at numerous times in their lives, each major event a climb before they reach a period of rest and reward for their efforts.



            In books, the HEA is usually the only plateau.  Readers accompany the hero and heroine on one journey, experience one period of major conflict, making the conclusion of the characters adventure more monumental.


“The End” truly marks it as your dramatic time with those characters comes to a close.

              That said here are a few things I think make a solid HEA.

·        With couples, it's good to let the unfolding connection between them be a part of their happy ending.  A story where one character brings out the best in the other always strikes me as superlative.  It’s moving to watch the heroine grow to trust her man and I absolutely love it when the hero brings out something dormant and sassy in his girl.  With character development like that, you know that the happiness will be there well after the screen fades to black. 



·        Let the ending fit the characters and don’t leave anyone out.  I know I write romance, but it's important to not forget about my hero.  Look to find a HEA that benefits all involved, and don't make it too "girls only" in the end





·        Strive to make your HEA worth the fight.  The ending’s importance is developed throughout the conflict, but if the ultimate reward is weak or not worth suffering for, why should your characters bother?

·        Be original.  That sunset is at full capacity now.  In what ways can you shake up the traditional HEA?  What ending can you create that is uniquely special? 


Wrapping up I wish I could leave you with a dynamic ending of my own, but let's face it - I just learned how to draw a line.  That can stand as my big accomplishment for the evening.

But I do have another letter waiting for you if you come back tomorrow: 

I is for Imagery.   Hope to see you then!

-         SNG