Villa in Tuscany

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Meat and Potatoes

I know I've touched on this topic before but sometimes it hits me and I feel like talking about it again. I'm talking about the core emotions involved in a book. The deep center of a story which defies a pure definition; the heart and soul of a novel.

Some books are easy. Probably not for the writers but for the readers. I'm sure in high school and college you had to dissect a book, dig in for the deeper meaning. Books like "To Kill a Mockingbird" were pretty obvious along with most Shakespearean plays. Some aren't so easy. Who knew "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was about more than a kid on a raft? I still remember hissing "the horror, the horror" for more reasons than one after reading "The Heart of Darkness" in high school.

At the time I really had no other understanding why my teachers were forcing this crap down my throat. I didn't have a whole lot of interest in writing at the time. I think my career goal at that time was to become Mrs. Adam Ant or President of the United States. But when I started writing I finally figured out why all this is important.

The meat and potatoes of a story is the emotions evoked. Our personal stories are based on the emotional issues we feel. But our own lives are not played out in the extreme. In our fiction, we have the freedom to get as extreme as we want. In reality, we might be sad because the San Diego Chargers won't be going to the Superbowl. When we write, we need to kick that emotion up a notch. In our novel, we might translate that emotion into something else. Maybe our heroine is despondent because her husband went to Vegas and bet the farm on the Chargers and now the bank is going to foreclose and they are out of a home. Now if we wrote literary fiction, we could keep this heroine down. But if you are writing commercial fiction, you gotta bring her back up. For us, our sadness will be eased because we know next season will be back before you know it and the Chargers will have a chance again. That's not going to work for our heroine, it's going to take more. Maybe she discovers her secret half-brother plays for the Chargers and he pays off the bank loan. Her home is safe again AND she had found a sibling she never knew existed. The happiness she experience is twofold.

We as writers need to take those everyday emotions and make them worse or better. It is the heart of our story. It really doesn't matter what genre you are writing in, whether it features a Regency miss or a vampire-hunting amazon, the foundation is the same. Too often I can see authors who forget that the heart and soul is what is important. They start thinking it is their characters and plots that are bringing in the readers. And that may work for a book or two, but eventually a reader will drift away if they aren't getting the satisfaction of hard emotions.

After a long hiatus from writing, I started back again. I wrote 7 pages of a story and realized I had no idea what emotions were driving the novel. It was more of a mish-mash of normal emotions. Seven pages is too long to go without evoking the emotions I want. Instead of starting with the story, I need to start with the core emotions I want to explore and go from there building my characters and my plot. And if you are one that does a lot of pre-writing, maybe make a character chart for the emotions you want to explore and the issues you want to delve into. In the end, it makes for a more satisfying read and an easier write.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Believe In Me

To the agents and the publishers who've given me the nice rejection letter that invariably states, "World War II is a hard sell" or "we're not looking for this type of story", I have three words:

Believe in me.

That's all I ask.

I've done my homework. I've studied my craft. I've written a terrific query letter. I've written a detailed synopsis. I know all about marketing. I worked in a book publishing marketing department for two years. I have written more than 500 back cover copy blurbs for fiction and nonfiction. I have a blog. I network. I have attended writing workshops. Belonged to writing groups. Have critique partners. Entered contests. Wrote two novels - complete and finished, not drafts. I've read and read and read. I keep up on the industry. The Publisher's Lunch email lands in my inbox every single day. I read published authors' blogs. Read agents' blogs. Make deadlines for myself. Have writing friends who encourage and support me. Have a family who encourages and supports me.

I write. And I write some more.

I don't write what's hot - I write what I love.

Believe in me.

Take a chance. Read it. Start a new trend, a trend that features the Greatest Generation because that's what I, and many, many others - write about: the Greatest Generation. I write about their struggles to live in a world at war. I write about a war that drew the distinction between good and evil. I write about good triumphing over evil.

Believe in me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let's Toast Your Success

Did you get any writing done? I got maybe a page. However, I've written 1200 words since BIAW ended. So perhaps it did some good.

Even if you didn't accomplish your writing goals, hopefully you spent some time thinking about your writing and placing it higher on your priority list. With all of the other hats we wear during the day, it is hard to remember that we are writers and we owe it to ourselves to indulge our passion.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

OH, Come ON! Can't you BLEEPING WRITE?

No Chef! Yes, Chef! Sorry Chef!

As you can see, Dirty Harry's warm, cuddly approach hasn't had its desired effect and I'm moving on to Chef Gordon Ramsay of Hell's Kitchen fame. I have been an utter slug about writing until the evening and suddenly I caught literary fire. But then my hubby got home and I had to work on dinner. However, I did come up with some great stuff later on in the evening. So though I didn't actually write, I had a mental break through for my plot. Sometimes that is worth a thousand words.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Did you get your writing done? Well did ya, punk?

As much as I hate to say this, especially with Clint's steely gaze fastened on me, I have to confess, I didn't get a word written. I have no real good excuse (I got watching a documentary yesterday afternoon about people waking from comas). I fell asleep last night before I could get near a computer.

But there is always today.

This is a forgiving BIAW, kind of like "Weight Watchers." Don't worry about what you didn't do yesterday and focus on what you do today. Hopefully some of you did have some sucess. Please share with us who might need a little extra boost.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

BIAW Begins Tomorrow

Gerard has that smokey look in his eyes because his is thrilled with the idea of you writing this week. Lets not disappoint him. Make sure you check in tomorrow with your word count. Let us know what your are working on as well.


Friday, July 06, 2007

BIAW: Summer Edition

Summertime and the livin' is easy. I don't know about you, but I've gotten lazy. So its time to put a kick in writing and do a BIAW (Book In A Week). This is a time to focus on your WIP and devote a little extra attention and hopefully rekindle the spark of your creativity.

It starts on Monday. Post your totals and lets all celebrate and encourage one another.