‘Hurray!’ I wish that for you!

June 12, 2008 at 9:10 am | Posted in life, Meg, writing | 3 Comments

This morning, I sat in a crowded, hot gymnasium and watched my child sing his heart out at his Kindergarten Celebration. It was amazing. Amazing that I did not fully break into sobs (only got teary eyed). Amazing that just about every kid performed their heart out. And amazing that I found inspiration at this monumental occasion for my last blog.Okay, so that last one wasn’t so amazing. As you read last week, writing prompts come from everywhere, at any time, so elementary school shows can be a perfect place for that clarity and ‘aha’ moment. For me, it happened during the last song when all three classes sang:

“We’re great, but no one knows it
No one knows it so far
Someday they’ll realize how wonderful we are.
They’ll look at us and point at us
And then they’ll shout “Hurray!”
We’re great, but no one knows it
But they will some day!”

I think this is a mantra we should all memorize. For those of us struggling to finish that book, suffering through rejections or the endless wait for agent/editor responses, or yearning for our current published work to rise up the New York Times Bestseller’s list, we should all remember that we are great. Even though we might still have a lot left to learn, we are gifted and fantastic and someday soon, everyone will know it as long as we keep trying and working hard.

So for my last entry on this challenging and rewarding adventure in my life, I hope you take away the hopes and dreams I have for each of you. Keep working at it, keep writing and living your dream, because one day everyone will know how great you are. Someday you’ll walk into a room and get a ‘Hurray!’ I wish that for you!

And I wanted to thank Jessica and Bria for this journey. I learned so much about writing, myself and friendship, that I never would’ve experienced anywhere else. Both of these ladies are wonderful people and I hope they receive all the best in life.

-Meg

What Prompts Your Writing?

June 5, 2008 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Meg, writing | 2 Comments
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On Monday, Jessica ever so eloquently talked about writing prompts as a way to jump-start your writing. These prompts can be words, statements or high-tech concepts that can launch a scene or an entire book. The catalysts can be given to you (Jessica suggested numerous sites to find lists of prompts) or they can come from life. Inspiration can happen while your picking up your kids from school, shopping for groceries or watching Oprah. One never knows when lightening will strike and the concept for the next Golden Heart or RITA winner will rise in someone’s imagination.

 

My first book came from one simple statement uttered by a colleague at work (the same ‘prompter’ became the inspiration for the hero, but that’s another story for another time). My second story rose from a ‘what if’ moment. What could have happened if I had chosen a different path and stayed with ‘him’ instead of ending the relationship (mind you, I don’t think this ex-boyfriend would’ve turned into an alcoholic abuser, but the imagination travels far from reality sometimes. That’s the beauty -and curse -of being a writer). And believe it or not, the concept of my current manuscript came from a coffee stain on a book I’d borrowed from the library. It made me wonder who else had read the book and if they had enjoyed it or failed to finish it.

 

So writing prompts are everywhere- current events, past experiences, actual people, etc. I once had the pleasure of hearing Susan Wiggs talk about her process and she explained how a historical picture of a young woman launched the path to her current release, The Charm School.  Imagine the power in that photo.

 

And writing prompts can be used to develop characters as well. As I’ve admitted often, I struggle with making my characters three-dimensional and have found worksheets to be useless. Instead, I’ve recently used a poetic device to remember the important characteristics I want in my hero and heroine. Once I’ve named the character (Sadie in this example), I use the letters to illustrate personality quirks, traits, etc.:

 

Strong 

Aching from multiple losses

Determined

Invested in family

Escapes from life momentarily

 

Even names can be writing prompts to developing stories.

 

So what about you? What prompted your latest story, scene or character?

 

-Meg

Listening to Your Inner Voice

May 29, 2008 at 12:03 pm | Posted in Meg, motivation, writer's block, writing | 2 Comments
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While I was on ‘hiatus’ (i.e. writer’s block from hell), I did a tremendous amount of work on personal growth and transforming myself into the person I’d like to be. You know, what you wish your obituary will say about you. Morbid, I know. During this time, I listened to numerous books on CD including Jack Canfield’s Success Principles, Joel Ostein’s Become A Better You, and Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret.

 

In addition, I finally read a book that had been gathering dust for years. It is by a group of life coaches and focuses on vision. One of the articles helped me when the words wouldn’t flow and inspired me to return to writing. Written by Claudette Rowley, a life coach I had met with when I had envisioned my own coaching practice, the article discusses the Five Pathways to Listening to your Inner Voice. I adapted Claudette’s words to my struggle with writing and thought I’d share them with you:

 

  1. Check in with your heart- Ignore your head, that inner critic or that logical letdown, and open your heart and soul. Your heart is the source of your creative energy and imagination. It’s the place where romance comes alive.

 

  1. Connect with your body- You know when your story is heading down the right path. You feel alive. Energy pulses through your fingertips and you worry the computer will blow up. The same goes for when you’re forcing the story- you become frustrated. Your stomach ends up in knots. The body has the amazing ability to tell you when your writing works and when it doesn’t. Listen to it.

 

 

  1. Allow your intuition to surface- Ever write a scene and when you reread it, you wonder where the hell it came from? This has happened to me often. The words flow like I’m in a trance and I don’t recognize the paragraphs the next day. I know I’ve written them (unless someone has tapped into my computer and kindly left the brilliant scenes for me), but they came from a different level of consciousness. Something greater than my forced cognition.

 

 

  1. Lock the self-saboteur in the closet- Learn to distinguish from the self-saboteur from the self-editor. The editor looks at the writing with constructive criticism- recognizing areas of brilliance and identifying ways to improve the scenes needing work. These ideas don’t come self-doubt or negativity, but encouragement to create the best story possible. It’s important that a writer knows when the inner critic has surfaced and to lock that destructive energy away.

 

  1. Identify limiting beliefs- We all have a belief system that gets us through the day. Unfortunately, sometimes these beliefs hold us back from reaching our goals and dreams. If you always find yourself inches away from the place you’d like to be, it may be a useful exercise to figure out if you have any values or beliefs that are holding you back. Identifying them allows you to become aware so you can change them.

 

Try to use some of these tactics in your own life and see what happens.

 

-Meg

The inevitable question…what do you write?

May 22, 2008 at 11:16 am | Posted in Meg, writing | 2 Comments

Over the past few weeks, I’ve interacted with numerous writers who are new to the writing world- the vocabulary, the genres, the rules. This led to me to thinking that an explanation of some of these nuances may be of benefit to us all. An introduction for the ‘newbie,’ a reminder for the veterans and maybe something innovative for those of us in the middle.

This week, I thought I’d tackle genres since I’ve been asked a few questions about this subject (and it might help me understand what urban fantasy is). When we first started this blog, Jessica, Bria and I shared what we wouldn’t write and we listed numerous aspects of the romance genre. I’d like to expand on what was presented and give an explanation of each so that you can decide where your current ms falls and/or what you would and wouldn’t write. And I’m blatantly borrowing this from Wikipedia (my favorite online resource).

http://www.romancewiki.com/Romance_Genres (is it plagiarism if you cite your source?):

The Very Basics
Category romance (or series romance) is the basic girl meets boy, conflict ensues and then they kiss and make up. These shorter books (less than 250 pages) are published in clearly delineated categories, or lines, each month (and stay on the shelf usually for only a month). Each line has its own rules for the level of intimacy, subject matter and levels of sensuality so the reader knows what to expect and is not disappointed. Harlequin is a leading publisher of category with numerous lines ranging from Blaze (red-hot reads) to Steeple Hill (Inspirational line).

In contrast, single title romance novels are longer (around 350 to 400 pages) with no set rules as to when the hero and heroine meet. They are not published in conjunction with other novels. While these stories also follow the standard ‘girl meets boy’ outline, they have secondary characters and subplots to add layers and juice up the story.

A third type is the novel with strong romantic elements which does not feature a key romance in the storyline. While the lead characters may fall in love, this relationship is secondary to the plot or character development (but can still be lots of fun!)

Adventure romance vs. suspense
These two styles are often grouped together, but there is a significant difference in them – the soundtrack. Adventure romances have the Indiana Jones theme running through them – they have action, adventure, strong heroes and heroines. You can’t turn the page fast enough because you’re so caught up in the fast moving plot and energy. Think Suzanne Brockmann’s series on Navy SEALs.

Romantic suspense’s tune is the eerie, spine tingling music that makes you grip your teeth in anticipation. You turn the page to get to the next level of mystery or danger which is the key facet of the story. My favorites are Kay Hooper and Alison Brennan.

The World Building Genres:
The key to this subgenre is fantasy. To write this kind of story, you must have the ability to create an entire new entity whether it’s a new planet, time or character. Here are the current styles of romantic fantasies:
Paranormal covers imaginative characters or extra-human characteristics that can range from vampires, shapeshifters and werewolves to faith healers, psychics and ghosts. Success in this genre is not only about creating such characters, but about developing them so the reader believes they exist. In my opinion, the best in the business is J.R. Ward and her Brotherhood series.

Time travel involves one or more characters starting in one time and traveling in the book to another. It could involve a dream, hypnosis, concussions or a magical transport into the future of past.

Science fiction often blends with the futuristic so I’m going to lump these two together. Both are different from true fantasy as they deal with the plausible, and what could really happen when you base your ideas on proper scientific and logical consequences. Usually the worlds are other planets or space settings, but I may be overgeneralizing since I don’t read this genre. J.D. Robb’s In Death series is a great example of futuristic romance.

Urban fantasy has fantastic elements incorporated into a modern-day, urban setting like Boston or Paris. Often protagonists must navigate a fantasy world that coexists with the ‘real world’, and includes magical/paranormal creatures such as werewolves, fairies, vampires, or witches. Romance is usually a subplot to the issues arising from these blend of real and fantasy worlds. Dark urban fantasy contains the same elements as urban fantasy, but usually has serious leanings towards horror elements. Dark and bloody events can and do happen in these novels, and a happy ending is not a necessity. J.R.Ward would fall into this category.

Age defining romance
Chick-lit follows the trials and tribulations of women in their 20s and 30s as they navigate the dating scene, work settings and shoe shopping. While the romance structure requires a happy ending, the more flexible chick-lit structure allows for ambiguity. Bridget Jones’ Diary is a great example.

Young adult novels or YA tend to portray adolescents coping with tough life and developmental issues. Although originally, the focus was on innocence of first love, these stories have matured with sexual experience woven into the plotline. The target population is generally ages 12 through 18 and can involve any of the above subgenres as long as they are written under the caveat that youth will read them. YA can range from the fantasies of Harry Potter to Judy Blume’s coming of age novels. YA is a huge market and many of our favorite Honorary Heartlettes write YA- there’s no mistaking that Stephenie Meyer is one of my favorites. Middle Grade follows the same guidelines as YA, but the target audience is younger, usually 9-12.

Time involved romances
Contemporary romance is set in present time. The hero and heroine live and work in a world most readers understand, with modern conveniences and current social mores.

Historical romances are not set in contemporary times. I’m new to this subgenre and discovered that you don’t necessarily need a degree in history to understand what you’re reading, but an understanding of the time periods may be helpful. Here’s a quick breakdown of popular eras:
 Medieval 938 – 1485 AD.
 Georgian 1714-1811, but usually refers to the period of George III reign from 1760-1811
 Regency 1811-1820, but usually covers the period of 1795-1837
 Victorian 1837-1901
To elaborate on one of these periods, regency romance has its own rules on marriages of convenience, arranged marriages, nanny and/or governess romances. Although there is sexual attraction and tension, there is usually no sex between the unmarried hero and heroine and the writing is more formal or stylized. Jane Austen is possibly the most celebrated regency romance author, and Loretta Chase has quite the fan base as well.

Cultural romance
African-American romances tend to focus exclusively on relationships between African-American or black heroes and heroines, and are commonly set in urban areas. African-American romances are also sometimes referred to Multi-cultural romance, though the latter also includes all non-white groups. Interracial romance is also sometimes included in this group, though the term technically refers to romances between a hero and heroine of different ethnic background.

GLBT stories involve gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgendered people as the main characters. These stories can fall under any subgenres within the romance genre. A new subgenre within GLBT is Yaoi , a purely fantasized and highly romanticized take on male/male fiction. The relationships might have complicated plots, but the graphic action is designed to get the reader’s pulse pounding. Intensity is the key.

Range of Smut in the Sex-
 Inspirational romances celebrate traditional Christian values, though they can focus on other faiths and can be written as historicals or contemporary.
 Sweet romance has no explicit sexuality.
 Erotica focuses heavily on the sexual relationships between the characters and often pushes boundaries with multiple partners and kinky situations. Language can be graphic and sexual fantasies — often not considered politically correct in today’s romance novels — are enacted.
 Erotic Romance has a high level of sexual activity, but there are boundaries. The sex is within the context of the romance and the story can stand alone without the explicit scenes. But if you’re a reader of erotic romance, you wouldn’t want it to! Passionate Ink is a great site for more info on the differences of erotic fiction.

What makes a character a character?

May 15, 2008 at 4:05 pm | Posted in character, Meg, writing | 3 Comments

Characters are a fundamental piece of the story. In my opinion, you can have a great plot, one that captures the reader’s attention and makes them stay up until 3am, cramped on a loveseat with a full bladder, just so they can get to the happily ever after or resolution of the killer. However, if you don’t have great characters to get the reader to care about what happens, then you may lose them before the black moment.

I’ve teased my good friend, Kristan Higgins relentlessly that her latest book, Catch of the Day, angered me because it caused me to lose sleep on a weeknight. However, as much as I loved her plot, it was my investment in the characters that made me burn the midnight oil. I wanted the heroine to find love, to get over her crush on the town’s priest and discover where her heart would find happiness. She was my new best friend and I needed to make sure she was taken care of before I went to bed.

Another example of great character development comes from my fantastic critique group (hello ladies!) when Sherry posted a chapter with a incredible cliffhanger. An explosion occurred that put two characters in jeopardy. Everyone immediately reacted to the possible losses, but more so for the dog than the man. Was her male character unimportant, no, but she had written the dog as such an integral part of the hero’s life. We all knew that the hero would never be the same without the four-legged mutt. He needed to survive and we didn’t want to deal with the emotions that would surface for us if we’d have to mourn his loss.

I struggle with character development in my own story. I love my characters, hang out with them often and worry that what I see in them translates correctly on paper. Am I capturing their sense of humor, their strengths, their funny quirks? Do I show enough of their weaknesses or losses so everyone else understands their motivations without making them whiny or pathetic? They are real people and I want everyone to love them as I do.

So how can we create characters that people cry out for and want with them at the next office party? I’ve tried the character worksheets to 3-D my hero and heroine, but find I can’t get in touch with them that way (Bria has many of them posted in yesterday’s entry). Instead, I have to develop my characters as I write and edit them. A flaw in my writing method, maybe. Something I’m trying to overcome.

I am also trying to figure out what I love about the characters that stay with me. What draws me in so that I pull out the book while waiting to pick up my kids at school? What qualities in the heroine causes me to miss my favorite show? Perhaps knowing what works in other books, I will figure out how to make mine as captivating.

So I challenge you- think of a favorite character and tell us what you loved about him/her. What drew you in? What capture your attention? What made you fall in love with him/her (or caused you to loathe them if it’s a villain)? Let us know so we can all learn how to develop characters that make the world lose sleep!

P.S. Check out my follow women’s fiction writersexchange’s blog: Lynn Romaine at Ecosuspense. Her latest entry poses the important question of character vs. story- which do you remember most clearly? Please leave a comment for her!

Meg

Overcoming Writer’s Block

May 8, 2008 at 10:04 am | Posted in inspiration, Meg, writer's block, writing | 8 Comments

Writer’s block for a writer is like a broken leg for a marathoner. You can’t do the thing that brings you stress relief, releases endorphins (anyone who’s written that perfect scene knows the ‘writer’s high’) or fulfills a life long dream.

Yet a runner can go to a doctor who can put the leg in a cast, and after an indeterminate amount of time, the leg will heal. Maybe some rehab is necessary, but most likely the runner will be back on her feet in no time. Back to training and reaching that goal. For a writer, there is no literary doctor. No prescribed healing tasks that will set it right. Nothing to guarantee a complete restore to health. So what does one do? What did I do?

First, I tried to push through it, but then remembered my personal promise to not force myself to do anything in life that wasn’t fun. Then I took a vacation, otherwise known as giving up. And I enjoyed it. For a while. I read, I watched way too much TV and I walked around aimlessly without that one thing that I did for MYSELF and for personal enjoyment. And I realized I missed it. I MISSED WRITING.

So the cast is off and I’m ready to start my rehab. I surfed the web, looking for sites to overcome writer’s block and I came across this great one: http://grammar.about.com/od/yourwriting/a/wblockquotes.htm

Writers on Writing: Overcoming Writer’s Block from Richard Nordquist http://grammar.about.com/mbiopage.htm. On the site, he captures numerous points in a writer’s career where writer’s block may interfere with the process and uses quotes from successful authors to help jumpstart over the hurdles. These are the ones that caught my eye, but I recommend you refer to the site for full details:

GETTING STARTED:
§ “The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.”
(William Goldman)
§ “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.”
(Paul Rudnick)

The easiest thing to do is not write- very true. There are all the things that Paul Rudnick itemized that you can do to not write. BUT, and this is a big but, if you are a writer, if composing sentences and scenes is in your blood, after a while, the hardest thing to do is not write. It shows in your attitude and behaviors. It hurts.

CAPTURING IDEAS:
§ “I carry a notebook with me everywhere. But that’s only the first step. Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”
(Sue Grafton)

I started doing this. Jotting down ideas, moments, descriptions of setting and people. This helped me realize that I was back in my writer’s head- seeing the world as a resource and it excited me.

COPING WITH THE BADNESS:
§ “We can’t be as good as we’d want to, so the question then becomes, how do we cope with our own badness?”
(Nick Hornby)
§ “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
(Octavia Butler)
§ “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.”
(Anna Quindlen)
§ “I think writer’s block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible. But as a writer, I believe that if you sit down at the keys long enough, sooner or later something will come out.”
(Roy Blount, Jr.)
§ “Lower your standards and keep writing.”
(William Stafford)

WOW- this section is what made me see the light. What hit me over the head and said, “You idiot! You let your inner fears stop you from doing something you loved!” I did stop writing, even this blog, because I felt my writing was horrible. I had let people read my last novel without it being polished and the feedback was nonexistent. I should’ve held myself back until I knew it was ready and showed it to someone who would give me feedback on what was right and what still needed work.

ESTABLISING A ROUTINE”
§ I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”
(William Faulkner)
§ “I have to get into a sort of zone. It has something to do with an inability to concentrate, which is the absolute bottom line of writing.”
(Stephen Fry)
§ “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
(Barbara Kingsolver)

With all life demands, I do find it hard to establish a daily routine when it comes to my writing. The idea of putting six pages together each day won’t work for me. Instead, I hope to carve out one day a week that I can concentrate on my latest work. Progress won’t be easy, but I can use other unstructured time to think, jot down notes and observe the world to further develop characters and scenes. That way, even though I only have a set number of hours each week to write, I am working on my story every day.

WRITING:
§ “My block was due to two overlapping factors: laziness and lack of discipline. If you really want to write, then shut yourself in a room, close the door, and WRITE. If you don’t want to write, do something else. It’s as simple as that.”
(Mary Garden
§ “If you want to write, write it. That’s the first rule.”
(Robert Parker)
§ “The writer’s duty is to keep on writing.”
(William Styron)
§ “Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun.”
(Daniel Pinkwater)

It sounds so easy, go write, but when you’ve fallen into one of the above traps, it’s not just about putting words on the page. It’s finding your inner confidence to battle the critical demons or carving out the time to join coherent sentences into paragraphs. Or maybe it’s figuring out the conflict that will tear your hero and heroine apart or even developing your characters. No matter what the cause of your writer’s block, I empathize with you and feel your pain. I promise the cast will come off eventually and when you are ready, you will be able to run again. And maybe even fly!

-Meg

Knowing when to say…

February 29, 2008 at 11:26 am | Posted in life, Meg, time management | 5 Comments

On Wednesday, Bria made an excellent point that sometimes you have to write through the pain- whether it’s writer’s block, personal issues or actual emotional pain, because once you get to the other side, it’s amazing. I agree with this one hundred percent. If you love something, inevitably there will be rough times and you need to stick with it to get to the joy again. However, sometimes you also need to know when to say when.

Maybe the when is after 50 rejection letters and you realize that maybe you should stop sending out queries until you analyze the feedback. Or maybe it’s after editing for six months straight and you have to accept that the manuscript is as polished as you can get it right now (and you need to start sending it out). Or maybe it’s when the words just won’t come anymore on your current ms and you know it’s time to try something new. Whatever the occasion, sometimes you have to stop pushing.

As you know from my last few months of blogs, I’m not writing. Stuck isn’t even the word for it anymore. Creatively tapped? Artistically blank? Devoid of all literary skill? Regardless of the fancy description, it’s just not working. So I’m saying ‘uncle’.

I don’t remember where this password originated, but growing up with two physically overpowering brothers, ‘uncle’ was the only pass to escape the pain. When they would twist my body into five different pretzels and yell ‘Say it, say it!’ into my ear, I would struggle as long as I could, but inevitably I’d have to yell ‘Uncle!’ Only then would tthey let me go.

Using ‘uncle’ was not giving up, but it was conceding to the fact that you weren’t in the position to fight anymore. Like being backed into the corner of the boxing ring and you need the bell to sound so you can take a rest, rinse out your mouth and start over again. I need that not only in my writing, but also in the blog.

In talking to Bria this week about it, I used a bad analogy to explain how I’ve been feeling about the blog. It’s like we’re talking about France- Jessica and Bria live in Paris and I’ve recently relocated to Rome. I can reminisce about chocolate crepes, but Jessica can actually smell them and tell you what street corner vendor has the best ones right now. Memories of the Eiffel Tower dance in my head, but Bria can dance under the lights tonight and share about the people enjoying it with her. They are living writing, I’m remembering.

That being said, I know I haven’t been putting 110 percent into my blog entries and I apologize greatly. My fellow heartlettes and our readers deserve that level of participation and commitment. I can’t give it right now and feel I need to take a hiatus to concentrate on figuring out how to adjust to my new living environment. After all, when in Rome…

So I hope to return from my hiatus soon and re-embark on this adventure with everyone. In the meantime, I won’t be gone far and look forward to the posts of my colleagues, maybe even post a comment a time or two. Until then…

Uncle.

-Meg

Agent Shopping- take two

February 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm | Posted in agents/ editors, Meg | Leave a comment

It’s been a week of sick kids and stressed out me, so I’m going to cheat this week and refer everyone to an old post I wrote months ago about agents and editors. It will probably be deja vu with some of the great information Bria and Jessica gave out this week, but I thought it would go in line with the theme this week. So here goes…

An Agent by any other name

Chemistry research- it’s not just a high school class

February 15, 2008 at 3:32 pm | Posted in hero, heroines, Meg, research, young adult | 1 Comment

Last week I talked about hotties and this week, since yesterday was Valentine’s Day (and since I’m horrible at research), I thought I’d continue along this vein and focus on chemistry. You know, that elusive quality between two people that catches your breath, causes a lump in your throat, makes you smile or touches your heart. It’s invisible, but you see when it’s there, and know when it’s not.You see it in the movies. The two main characters’ eyes meet and the screen comes alive; the temperature in the theatre turns up a notch. You forget you’re surrounded by strangers and find yourself holding your breath. Some random examples are: Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Patrick Dempsey in Lucky Seven, Jude Law and Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, Ashton Kutcher and his love interest in The Guardian.

On television, I live for The Office. The first few seasons, when Jim would gaze longingly at Pam across the room or when they would joke around. Ahhh. A shit-eating grin always spread across my face. And I feared all summer that their chemistry would not continue if they started dating (yes, sometimes I exert too much emotional energy into my entertainment world) as often happens (cite the Dave and Maddie fiasco of Moonlighting), but never fear, Jim and Pam are hotter than ever. I also noticed it last night as I watched the Masterpiece theater’s version of Northanger Abbey (and yes, I know for true Jane Austen fans, these versions don’t measure up). When Mr. Tilney smirks at Catherine Morland, a silly flutter goes through me. The two actors have that special something that brings a sunny day to normally dismal London (or Bath in this case). Or what about Sydney Bristow and Vaughn. Or Pacey Witter and Joey? The list goes on and on.

And in books, I’ve had my heart skip a beat as I read many novels. Nora Roberts is the queen of chemistry. Rarely does she write a book not swimming in it. Others noteworthy to mention are: Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight (yeah, I know, I continue to rave), Mildred Lee’s The People Therein (my all time favorite book as an early teen) and…

Chemistry between the hero and heroine is hard to come by. Usually I’ll watch or read something and I’m left feeling empty, that something’s missing. I don’t feel the characters or the story. I’m probably the only one in the world who’s glad McDreamy has moved onto Rose in Grey’s Anatomy. I think they have that special something. That extra fizzle that I never felt between him and Dr. Grey—wow, I can’t even remember her first name right now. That’s how forgettable their interactions are for me. LOL

And that’s the ultimate goal with your characters. You want the reader to remember them long after they close the book. You want them to be so lifelike and full of energy together, that the reader begs for a sequel and dreams of the characters.

How do you create this chemistry in your writing? Well, research. You watch those movies and television shows with your thesaurus nearby to determine the words to capture what you see. Or you write down the responses of the hero or heroine in the books and see how you can regenerate them (without plagurizing). Or you people watch- one of the best ways to garner information on human interactions.

<>As for my own research, I might elaborate Jessica’s grand idea of bridal research (Jess- I love this idea and will go with you anytime!). Since I’m stuck on the YA, maybe I will pull a 21 Jump Street and go undercover in a high school (when I walked the halls of one a few years ago, I was asked for my hall pass, so maybe I could pull it off). Or hang out at the mall or local dining establishment. Maybe that’s what I need- immersion in the world I want to build. And the world of YA is much easier to visit than a sci-fi fantasy. Or is it?

-Meg

<>

How to use a hottie

February 8, 2008 at 12:17 pm | Posted in character, hero, Meg, television, writing | 3 Comments

Hottie. Cutie pie. Sweetheart. Sex personified.Whatever you call ‘em, we love ‘em. Men who make us smile, sigh, blush, catch our breath, quiver, melt, beg, laugh, flirt and want more. Men who inspire us to wake up early to shower and shave (our legs), put on makeup, wear sexy clothes, exercise and keep ourselves looking good. Men who cause us to toss our hair with that silly little giggle or bat our eyelashes. Men who might come between you and a good friend or break your heart into a million pieces.

Hollywood has an unrealistic percentage of them. There’s Patrick Dempsey on Grey’s Anatomy- he could cut open my brain anytime. Or Chad Michael Murray on One Tree Hill- how I’d get in trouble if I were his teacher! And let’s not forget Lost– I don’t think I’d be trying to get off the island if I were trapped with Jack, Sawyer and Locke (something about that man just melts my butter). And a few American Idol hopefuls have me actually tuning in this season. I love television!

And what about in my real world? There’s the teenager I met last week- the way he twirled his pencil mesmerized me. I couldn’t stop staring at his hands. Or the juvenile probation officer I worked with a decade ago whose humor and voice caressed my ears and made me crush on him before we even met. And an old childhood friend who always knows exactly what to say to elicit a blushing smile.

All of these hotties in my life (real and theatrical) get used in my writing. That adolescent’s hands will entice and tingle the virginal skin of my YA heroine. The PO inspired the hero in my first novel (one I just might drag out and dust off again). And the childhood friend’s comments made their way into the mouth of the hero in my second women’s fiction. And there’s no denying the resemblance between Patrick Dempsey and my last hero- the twinkling blue eyes and magnetizing smile.

Psychologist call this sublimation, or the act of transforming unwanted impulses into something less harmful. You see, I’ve been married over ten years to my own hottie. He’s sweet, smart, sexy, funny and lights my candle (lol- the clichés are getting thick aren’t they?). BUT, he’s nowhere in my writing. You’ll never find a hint of him in my characters. Why? My writing is fantasy. It’s the energy behind all those naughty thoughts I’ve ever had about other men put into something constructive and positive. I don’t think I need to explain my outlet for mischievous thoughts about my husband, do I? 😉

So your assignment this weekend, if you choose to accept it, is to find a hottie. Maybe it’s a complete person, or some quality of someone (in your real life or theatrical) and figure out what makes that person a hottie. Then use that in your writing. Juice up your hero- his voice, his looks, his mannerisms and behavior. Make him HOT!

-Meg

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