Thursday, January 30, 2014

Is Less Really More?

Hi there. It's Karlie on the mic today.

I'm a big fan of fade to black, both in violence and otherwise. I feel like it gives the scene - and the action - a greater emotional impact.
  But on the other hand, there's a voice saying, "But what if the reader doesn't get it? Will they be put off by the vagueness? What if the scene doesn't affect them at all?"
  Rationally, both from reading about others' preferences and my own experiences, I know different. But it's hard not to spell every single thing out. Our thoughts and perceptions of each scene, each character, each subtly symbolic action, are so important to us we want to make sure everyone else sees it that way too.
However, this can lessen the impact of our words. Just like over explaining the punch line of a joke, it sucks all the meaning from it.
So how do you feel about fade to black?

Lisa: I'd like to fade to black sometimes (for my own sanity) but I feel like that leaves the reader out in the cold. There's no impact. Your character has been impacted but not your readers. What's better than describing every single thing that's happening is giving more of the character's emotional reaction to the events. I'm not saying in sex scenes we have to say this went here and that went there. Just don't leave off with he asked me to make love with him and I said yes...fade...waking up an hour later and pulling the sheet to my chest.

Caitlin: It depends. Is it important for the reader to “witness” the scene? Is something gained by leaving those details out? I have a fade to black sex scene in one project and kept it that way (so far) because it makes an actual (light) sex scene later in the book stronger. There are some scenes, too, where it would just be boring or redundant to “sit in” on, and you don’t want to bore your reader! Those can be summarized or left off at the point where the reader understands what is happening. (For example, if one character is about  to tell another character a great secret, but the reader already knows the great secret, we may not need to detail the actually telling. Once it is clear that character A is about to spill the beans to character B, we can end the chapter.)

What are your thoughts readers? Writers? Have you ever came across a scene that you wish would just end? Writers, ever wanted to expand upon a scene but too nervous to do so?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Turn It Up Tuesday: Crazier

Hey! Karlie is in the house! It’s Turn It Up Tuesday once again, and my song is Crazier by Taylor Swift.

I'd never gone with the wind
Just let it flow
Let it take me where it wants to go
'Til you open the door
There's so much more
I'd never seen it before
I was trying to fly
But I couldn't find wings
But you came along and you changed everything

  In my novel Forsaken, Anne Brisban is a straitlaced, perfect princess. She doesn’t take chances, her appearance is always just right, and step out of line? Never.
  But when Nolan Cabaret blows into her life, all bad-boy charm and social flippancy, she’s forced to step back and take a second look.
Because being around Nolan has shown her what she’s been missing all these years.
And suddenly she’s riding bareback behind him, sneaking in late, stealing kisses by the fountain…and loosening her corset strings. (Literally and figuratively).

  You lift my feet off the ground
You spin me around
You make me crazier, crazier
Feels like I'm falling and I am lost in your eyes
You make me crazier, crazier, crazier

I've watched from a distance as you made life your own
Every sky was your own kind of blue
And I wanted to know how that would feel
And you made it so real
You showed me something that I couldn't see
You opened my eyes
And you made me believe

Perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A little crazy is actually kind of nice.
  And then Fate stepped in…but we’re not getting into that today. ;)
  Anyway, Anne Brisban learned spontaneity, and Nolan Cabaret learned some measure of responsibility. So they were good for each other, right? Well, not exactly. But there I go getting off topic again.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How much is too much?

Hiya! It's Lisa again, and I'm here today to pick your brains.

"I'm mean to my characters." It's a common phrase among authors. We laugh it off without considering: Are we too mean? Have you ever read a book and considered the conflict to be too much to be realistic for one character? All the twists and turn of events and just bad things in general that was thrown at the character was just too much to be believable? Is it realistic for a person's dog to die, mother to get into a wreck and be in a coma, house burn down and get a snake bite while running away from said burning house...all in one week? Sure we're in the conflict business but we have to consider, what are the odds of this really happening to one person in this time frame. If nil, then perhaps we should reconsider adding in that snake bite. :)

Have you ever pulled back on your character's conflict to make the story more realistic? Do you think that's necessary? Are you staring at your computer screen right now, trying to figure out the best way to say "Shut your yapper, Lisa."

Karlie: This is one of the things that plague me, Lisa. I'm always agonizing over should I have really killed this character? or does this ending seem cheap and overly dramatized because so much went wrong for him? 
So yes, I have pulled back on conflict. Is it necessary? I think it all boils down to making the consequences, good or bad, reflect the character's choices. Just as every action has a reaction in life, every move the character makes needs to have a countermove somewhere in the story. A tragic death in the right place makes the book stick in a reader's mind long after they put it down. A tragic death in the wrong place just results in eye-rolling and the reader going off to find something else to read.
Instead of putting a character through hell just because you can, ask yourself "What needs to happen next, to keep the plot going?" If it calls for more beating up on your character's girlfriend, fine. If not...maybe you better let her off with a warning. ;)

Caitlin: I very rarely have this problem and am  constantly criticized (by my writers group and even my husband :) ) for being way too nice to my characters. I love them and want them to succeed and have fun, which doesn't make for very suspenseful plots.... I have been getting better though. I even had a character run through bullet fire and get nicked in the arm! Only to hear that guns in that situation were unrealistic. Sigh....  I still think though, for me, I should keep trying to put more danger and obstacles  in, at least in early drafts, because that's my challenge. I can always scale back later.

Lisa: In the book I'm planning now, I've been rethinking part of my "plan." I do think I'm being too hard on my character for it to be realistic, hence the idea for this post. But some of these particular plot points still have to come through for the plot to work. I have a character who must decide something. But I've built up his determination too well to make the choice that I need him too. So I was trying to figure out what would make him finally decide this. Got it! This one person he has a bond with says he should do it, they argue about it, then she dies. One of her arguments was life is too short...with her dying, he's got proof in his face that life really is too short. So he decides.

So, what do I do now that I've decided this is too much combined with all the other things I've put him through? I think I'll make it where her death announcement is a misunderstanding. It was someone else who died, but he's not going to be told so for an entire 24 hours. He does his deed before finding out. (It took me a full 24 hours to decide this. LOL, my character was paying me back.) My point is fake it. If some of the stuff you're loading on your character is too much, make one of the bombs you drop an innocent misunderstanding, or make it where someone tricked him. Plot point is met - business is done.

That's my advice. What's yours? Do you think it's possible to put too much bad luck on one character?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Turn It Up Tuesday: Say Something (I'm Giving Up On You)

Say something, I'm giving up on you
I'll be the one if you want me to
Anywhere, I would have followed you
Say something I'm giving up on you

Hey! Karlie here, dropping by for Turn It Up Tuesday. Say Something by A Great Big World is today's feature.

They say love is blind. For two of my characters, Clark and Aria, that was certainly true, but in vastly different ways. He loved her so much he let her step on him, ignore him, laugh at him. See right through him.
She loved someone else so much she never saw his true colors until he betrayed her, all her friends, and tried to kill her - nearly succeeding. When all that heartbreak and pain was over, Clark was still there for her, just like he'd always been. And she realized that she loved him, and had all along.
  But he was tired of waiting. Most of all, he was sick of being second choice. The day she tells him the truth, is the day he's decided to say goodbye.

And I
Am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all
And I
Will stumble and fall
I'm still learning to love
Just starting to crawl

He suddenly realizes all the chances he's missed out on. Letting her go hurts, but it's a cleansing pain. The sudden feeling of freedom is intoxicating. For the first time, his perceptions of her don't color the world.

And I
Will swallow my pride
You're the one that I love
And I'm saying goodbye
Say something I'm giving up on you
And I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you
Anywhere, I would have followed you, oh, oh,
Say something I'm giving up on you.
Say something...

Time will tell if their love is dead, or if circumstances throw them back together - one thing's for sure, any relationship these two share will be anything but boring....anything but easy.
But true love never is.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Craft/Business Balance

Hi, this is from me, Caitlin. :)

There is so much advice on writing and often it’s hard to figure out what to follow and what to ignore, especially when advice conflicts.

I’ve heard that writers should spend just as much time understanding the business of publishing as they do working on their craft. But I’ve also heard that, instead of going crazy drafting a query and researching agents, you should just work on writing great stories. The rest will fall into place.

It’s tricky, because queries are tough and rather important. And, you need to know what agents do as opposed to editors. You need to know how to avoid bad, or even mediocre, agents who will hurt your career more than help it. So you have to do some research in order to "play the game."

My problem is that I find the business side of things fascinating and really enjoy learning about it. So, for me, it can become a rabbit hole, a safe dark place where I feel productive (I’m doing industry research!), but I’m not actually advancing things. I’m reading some of the same advice over and over instead of free writing or tackling that tough scene or reading inspiring flash fiction or doing exercises targeted at fixing my weaknesses.

So, I’ve realized that I must consciously stop myself from doing too much research and instead spend much much more time on the writing side of things.

Most of us are doing this in addition to day jobs and families and other obligations, so it’s obviously important to use that sacred writing time wisely. How do you think writers should balance becoming industry savvy with becoming a better writer?

Karlie: I feel that you should only do a little research on the side until you've got a book ready to go on the market. Then time should be devoted to finding an agent, writing your query, and getting publicity platforms together. Don't get me wrong - I think every author should have at least a working knowledge of all these things pretty early on. I just think the writing is more important, at least until you're ready to pitch. I do find myself doing the same thing you said, Caitlin - when I get stuck, I tend to hide behind the guise of doing research.
So I guess, in a nutshell, that every writer is different, and your time should go towards whatever will make your book - and your career with that book - the best it can be.

Lisa: I think that it should be a 70/30 balance after you've hit the publishing stage - 70% being the writing.
After all, if you don't have a decent book to publish, what good is the agent research or the blogging, platform building? By the same token, it's not advisable to have an excellent book but refuse to do any of the other for lack of merit. Gone are the days when an unestablished author can refuse social media (does J.K. Rowling even have a Twitter?). I wish those days weren't gone as I am the classic introvert writer. Of course I can be social, and even have a little fun doing it, but my comfort zone is in my imaginary world. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Turn It Up Tuesday: Cough Syrup

Lisa's in the house for Turn It Up this Tuesday, but my song is a downer. Cough Syrup by Young The Giant is a song about children being wronged and there being temporary fixes but the problem doesn't really go away.

Life's too short to even care at all, oh, oh
I'm coming up now, coming up now out of the blue, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
These zombies in the park they're looking for my heart, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
A dark world aches for a splash of the sun, oh, oh

My character is equally wronged, and her problem was put in prison. When her problem is released, her cough syrup loses it's potency. The zombie in the park moves to her house.

Life's too short to even care at all, oh, oh
I'm losing my mind losing my mind losing control

So she chooses to live what's left of her life as crazily as possible, and she gets into trouble. This new trouble only brings her more misery when it hurts the only people left who love her. (Told ya it was a downer.)

So I run now to the things they said could restore me
Restore life the way it should be
I'm waiting for this cough syrup to come down

This song perfectly matches so many of my individual scenes in my newest book, not yet named, but it really fits the whole story.

Just so you know, I tend to gravitate to live recordings rather than studio versions. To me there just seems to be more emotion to them.

I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Dark Side

Hi there! Karlie speaking.

Most of us (well, okay, me) tend to need beautiful people in our stories. And not only beautiful heroines and dashing heroes, but those mustache-twirling villains who get in their way. Black and white is easier, less work, and more swoon-worthy.

Most of my stories follow this stereotypical criteria in more subtle ways, but it's still there. They don't need a reason for their actions, other than one simple fact: It's their role. That's just the way they have to act. Heroes don't whine, they don't back away, they don't let the damsel save them. The villain is just monstrous because you need a villain. And in the end two perfect (literally) strangers fall instantly in love and ride away to happily ever after.

News flash - it don't work that way, folks. 

My New Year's Resolution is to give my good guys a dark side. A secret passion, a buried longing, a moment of weakness. A fatal flaw that somehow manages to rise to the surface in a critical scene. 

I have slowly fought my way out of the perfect princess trap (at least, I like to flatter myself that I have). Now my damsels aren't always the ones in distress - heck, sometimes they ARE the distress. 

I'm having a little more trouble on the antagonist front -  my villains shouldn't be there just because they're evil. No one is born wanting to hate, kill, destroy. Someone made them that way. Twisted them beyond recognition until their soul only wanted to emulate the darkness they learned. 

Perhaps, in that darkness, a shred of compassion can also be born. And the reader can think, "Maybe he/she isn't completely deserving of hatred." And that's when you know you've done your job.

So from now on, I'm going to take a close look at my characters - and find the gray mixed in the black and white. The rust inside the shining armor, the cheekiness in my perfect heroine, and the reasons behind the villain's handle-bar mustache. 

What do you have the most trouble with - the good guys being too perfect? Or the bad guys being too evil? And how do you propose making a truly monstrous man/woman deserving of sympathy?

Readers, what are your New Year's novel resolutions? What are your favorite characters to read?

After Lisa's and Caitlin's answers, I fully expect some of your thoughts on the subject below. Hey, I'm nosy!

CaitlinI have a very gray (i.e., not black and white) view of people in general, so, I don't struggle too much with this. I like my good guys to have faults and I like my bad guys to be sympathetic.  If anything, I run into the problem where my bad guys (and girls) are too sympathetic and readers grow too attached to them and then don't believe they are capable of what I have them do. Heh. 
In one book, I did have a side character whose main role was to, well, be a bitch. She wasn't that important and didn't have a ton of screen time, so I didn't spent a lot of time developing her. But it bothered me more and more that she was a "bitch without a cause." I'm revising that manuscript now and it has been really rewarding to "learn" more about why she is the way she is. I think the book is much stronger for it. 

LisaI thought I had fully fleshed-out good guys and bad guys until I really sat down and thought about this post. I'm thinking I could do better at both. The love interest in my recently finished book only had one flaw - a past transgression. Granted, it was a pretty big one, but his personality at present is perfect. He could be a little more flawed. And my bad guy in the book was just bad. There's no depth, though I never considered doing anything more than making him bad because the spotlight isn't supposed to be on him and what made him the way he is. He's just the bad guy that pushes my main characters to do what they have to do. However, I could have more of a backstory for him that I don't use in the actual story. That backstory might peek through in some of his dialog, his actions, etc. I think I'll work on that. Thanks, Karlie, for a great question! Don't forget you can leave your thoughts on the subject in the comments below.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Turn It Up Tuesday: Armored Hearts

One more day my heart's in armor
Though I meant to let you in.
In an effort to protect it
I have missed my chance again.

Hey! Karlie speaking. Welcome to Turn-It-Up Tuesday!

I always listen to music when I write. It inspires me, helps me get a feel for the mood of whatever scene I'm writing, and most of all it helps me connect with what my characters are going through.
"Hearts In Armor" by Trisha Yearwood is high on one of my favorite character playlists. It describes my master assassin-turned-sort-of-good-girl perfectly. As if it had been written just for her.
This song rings true in a lot of ways - Vivian is slowly falling in love with an innocent Healer who has no problem saying I love you. 
But when you've gone your whole life needing nothing and no one, those three simple words just don't come easily. She tried. She really did. I'm not going to write out the whole song here, just the parts that really apply:

Every hour that goes by
The harder I become.
Because I let that well run dry
Because I left you unanswered…

One more day my heart’s in armor
Though I did not see it then 
I would finish what you started
If I had that chance again.

It ends on a sorrowful note, describing lost chances and empty hands and hearts. One especially poignant scene in the book has Vivian watching Tristan pack for a journey he might not return from. It's dangerous - they both know that. But when he says his last I love you, she can only answer as she always has. I know.
By the time Tristan returns, he's seen and gone through things no one ever should. It's changed him in a lot of ways, both physically and mentally. Vivian's finally ready to say those words back to him, but it's too late.
She doesn't get another chance.
This song was instrumental in writing these scenes - I must have listened to it dozens of times. So give it a listen! It's my character and her tragic romance in a nutshell. Here's the link:

And now that I've depressed everyone sufficiently, I'm going to go listen to a Disney soundtrack. LOL. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Hey *waves*

I'm Lisa and thanks for visiting our new blog. Isn't it pretty? We worked hard on it to make it as nice as possible for you. Take a look around. Our bios are in the post below in case you're wondering who the heck we are. We're just a small group of writers, in various levels of the publishing process, who decided to give our families a break from our endless novel chatter. (You're welcome, family). Also, we thought we'd try to help each other as well any visiting authors who find themselves in writerly trouble.

Every Thursday we'll pose a question that we'll each answer; it's our Here Comes Trouble question. Hopefully our answers will offer a tidbit of help to everyone reading. If you ever have a question of your own, post it in a comment on any of our blog posts, and we'll try to answer it. Or we'll put it out there so that hopefully smarter people than us can come along and answer it for all of our benefit. It's a win, win!

So this is my first Here Comes Trouble question:

Writers typically know the mistakes they have the tendency to make, big or small. Sometimes they already know how to fix them and sometimes they don't. What are your typical mistakes you've learned to look for in your writing? Do you have any mistakes you haven't gotten a strong grasp on how to fix yet?

My smaller mistakes like "you" instead of "your" are easy to fix upon edits, though they're still aggravating when I come across them. My bigger issue is character dynamic/relationships. I don't think I'm very clear on my characters' relationships: why they're friends or boyfriend/girlfriend, what role they play in each other's lives, etc. However, I'm working on fixing this. *Psst, any advice would be GREAT*

Caitlin: My biggest mistake is not having enough emotion. I just can't wait to get to the exciting stuff, the funny interactions; the blunt, unruly dialogue; the touching of cheeks and kissing; the grim fights! But then I forget to put in the characters REACTING to those thing. My MC might have an amazing kiss, but I forget to add that her skin felt tingly and her heart raced. I guess I feel that it is implied so I get annoyed at having to pause and put it in, but I realize that without it my characters seem flat and devoid of feelings.

Along those lines, one of my other big mistakes is having too many filter phrases. When I do add emotion/thoughts, I'm tempted to just say "I love his smile." I should probably read this post every day until it sinks in!

Another weird tick I have is not writing in contractions. My books are filled with I-ams, They-ares, do-nots, etc. etc., which would be a weakness in any voice, but especially YA and still working on that one!

Karlie: I think my biggest mistake in fiction is getting all my loose threads to tie up in one tidy plot. I always end up rewriting at least twice just to get the plot tight and connected (and that's not counting all the other revisions for other things). I know where I'm going, it's just making all roads lead to one destination that gets me stuck.

I also have problems with believable romantic relationships. If I'm not writing heavy angst, or sunshine and rainbows, my dialogue turns cheap and predictable. My "arguments" become stilted and forced, and before you know it I have two cardboard cutouts arguing about absolutely nothing.

One thing I usually don't have trouble with is typos. I'm obsessive about fixing those as I go, (some sort of complex I got stuck with, LOL). So there are almost no grammatical errors or twisted sentences in my first draft - all the problems lie in my character dynamics and plot arcs. (Now that I think about it, the typos would be a lot easier to fix.)

What are your common mistakes, writers?

Readers, what do you commonly see in published books lately that can be improved upon?