Realigning with Characters’ Feelings

I’ve been trying to jump back into writing my story, and in so doing, I’ve had to come back to a method that I’ve employed time and time again. I thought maybe, for the sake of other writers who are in the same sort of situation, I should share some advice:

If you think you can jump back into your story after a length of absence, and pick it up right where you left off, don’t. You may be able to. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that you think you remember all that your characters have been through, but you don’t. You remember the facts, the events, the flat progression.

You don’t remember your characters’ feelings.

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do is go back and reread all of your work thus far to give yourself a clue. It’s too time-consuming. You’ll be tempted to go back and do revisions instead of writing new material. Your writing style has changed since then, and you can’t match it.

My solution?

Take a piece of paper and a pen, and start jotting down the key points of what your characters have been through recently, in chronological order. If you’re totally clueless, you could try starting at the beginning. But if you were in the middle of writing a building-block scene or a significant event, start with the beginning of that event. For instance, I left off 4-5 days into a weeklong party in my story—a party which will have a rather drastic culmination. So I glanced over my chapter titles, and skim-scrolled down my story document from the first party chapter, and began writing bullet points of emotion-driving moments that stuck out as changes from the characters’ previous thoughts or actions.

In other words, I’m tracking character development through the most recent progression of events.

You don’t have to write down things like “he was angry” or “she was jealous,” but your bullet points should bring such things to mind when you see them. Like, “she saw him kissing another girl” brings to mind a bunch of emotions the character should be feeling (i.e. jealousy, loss, a sense of urgency to fix it, etc.).

The purpose of the bullet points is to bring your own emotional scale into line with that of your characters. You felt with them once. You need to feel with them again. If you saw your love interest kissing a girl who was a complete stranger at a party, you would feel ___. If someone offered a pleasant distraction from your girlfriend making out with another guy, you would be ___ if she condemned you for accepting it.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

It’s not enough to jump back into the plotline events. You have to realign yourself so you can breathe in sync with your characters. Only then can you feel out what needs to happen next to move things along.

Hope that helps you as much as it helped me.

Little Bits Everywhere

I feel like little bits of me are spread everywhere at once. I’ve been training at a new job for the past couple weeks, and the influx of diverse information has had my head reeling and troubleshooting and scrambling to catch up even in my off-hours. I come home in Go Mode, but within half an hour I’m flopping around like a dying fish. Normally I go to one particular place to write, but when I get home from my new job the last thing I want to do is leave home again. It has made submerging into a writing mentality very difficult.

On the flip side, I believe that some of the things I am learning at my new job will prove helpful when I finally market my story. For instance, “trade cloth” and “trade cover.” Who knew there were so many words for “hardcover,” or that every paperback format has its own name and durability factor?

I haven’t been reading much fiction, either. A few pages here and there, maybe, but no immersion. However, I just picked up a copy of Cruel Beauty, a Young Adult novel by Rosamund Hodge, which I am excited to add to the Beauty and the Beast section of my personal library. I’m hoping it’ll get me back into my ravenous speed-reading habits. After all, they say a writer should always be reading (and by that, I’m pretty sure they don’t mean reading handbooks, policies, printouts, and product specs). Because of the positive feedback I have received about the reviews I posted here, I do plan to review this book after I finish it. Hopefully this and any future reviews will help other niche readers like me find the kinds of books they’re looking for.

I subscribed to a workshop for last week—Starting Your Story in the Right Place, taught by Kristan Higgins, offered through RWA University—but I was unable to keep up with it through the job training frenzy. I ended up just saving the lecture documents; I still haven’t had a chance to leaf through any of them yet, except Day 1. Very unlike me, since I’m always an active participant, eager to learn. But this time life got too crazy.

I’m wavering right now between cracking open my new book (which I will probably devour within a day or two) and working on my story. Reading could help me get back into a better story mindset. But the amount of time that has elapsed since my last chapter update is quite alarming.

I did manage to work on chapter 15 one or two days in the last week. It’s been slow going, not only because of starting a new job, but because I clearly underestimated the amount of work it would take to meld three semi-complete versions of a scene into one. Mostly, I underestimated how much of a problem it would be to choose between one or two settings. I wrote way more sensory detail pertaining to the settings than I initially gave myself credit for. Marble versus wood, standing versus bending, public versus private, an echoey corridor versus an enclosed room (acoustics)…What happened in the ballroom, versus the hallways, versus the bedroom… Yeah, it’s an editing mess. And emotionally for the characters, it’s even more complicated. There have to be so many layers on these scenes. Memories, secrets. Fear and pain mixed with hope and desire. A reckoning/mini-resolution of some kind.

So, more work ahead.

Watch Your Step! WAFF and a Doosey

It’s about that time now when I expect that my dear readers are poking around my blog and around FictionPress, looking for a new chapter. Because I have posted the last couple chapters at 2- to 2.5-week intervals.

The good news is I’m sitting on about a chapter’s worth of handwritten text. The bad news (for your immediate gratification) is I was free-writing, which means my notebook is a mess. I didn’t stop to plug holes; I just kept writing. There are scenes to consolidate, and at least one transition to add limeyness to. And, I’m suspecting, there’s one scene I’m going to go back to and make a whole lot of limade. Which means I’ll probably have to bump the scene I’m currently writing to next chapter. (Don’t worry; you’re not getting any less limes out of that. I couldn’t stand to ditch the scene I’m on the brink of orchestrating.)

That’s all just logistics, though, as far as I’m concerned. I only have one actual dilemma: whether or not you get a lemon. I told Ney13 I wouldn’t. I said at the beginning of the volume (before I edited out the globs of foreshadowing) that the first lemon would happen in the snow. I’m now reconsidering both of those plans, because of what’s coming up with the temple.

That’s one of the dangers of writing “by the seat of my pants” with a vague goal in mind. I love the creative freedom it gives me, to let the characters take on a life of their own, and it automatically surprises the reader with twists and turns because even I don’t know when I’ll write them. But it also has the potential to frustrate the heck out of my dear readers, who have to bear with my writing process in order to hear the rest of the story.

I’m hoping you’ll bear with me now.

lightbulb-idea2OH MY GOSH, IDEA MOMENT!!!
(That is the sound of a lightbulb clicking on.)

And by “idea moment,” I mean re-insertion of plot into limeyness, and reintegration of two minor characters.

Yes, my mind works that randomly.

Back to re-orchestrating chapter 15’s lime! Because chapter 16 is gonna be a doosey. ;)

Longer Chapter 14 & Other Plot Developments

Well, I’ve officially passed the two-week mark on posting a new chapter. I’M SORRY!!! ): Chapter 14 has turned out longer than I expected, and I haven’t been sure how to end it. I thought I knew where to end. But then I realized I was already over 9k words in, and I wouldn’t be ending for at least another couple thousand. Ack. So either I have to divide into party days what I already have written, and just have a short chapter 14 and a longer chapter 15, or I have to break in the middle of party day #4.

Just so you know, it’s going to be well worth the 2.5-week wait—and I don’t just mean because of word count. You’re going to get all that limey action you’ve been waiting for, twice over. And you’re finally going to see what happens when Bre gets her hands on Rome. I’m not skimping on the details of the second encounter; I’m putting you straight in Rome’s head for the whole thing. I would say “Minors beware,” and all that jazz, but when I was a minor I certainly didn’t run. I poked it with a stick. Curiosity: It kills us all. Let’s see when Bre realizes that, shall we? ;)

will, however, give you a “borderline-consensual” warning for this chapter. Rome is beyond interested, but he is rather trapped. He kind of has to be, in order to “agree” to this kind of thing for the first time.

Now I feel like I’m talking in riddles.

Suffice to say, I have already contrived an ending for chapter 14. If I can write it down within only a page or two, I might be able to post the chapter late tonight. If not, it may have to wait an extra couple days.


The “Balancing the Paranormal and the Romanceworkshop that I was taking for the past month through FF&P has now ended along with the month of March. Through this workshop, it has been brought to my attention just how many holes there are in my storyline. It’s fine, as far as real-life progressions go. But if I want Fantasy to have an irrefutable place in my story, and if I want Labriella’s escape from the temple and Rome’s continued association with nobility to be considered plausible, then there are some major Fantasy aspects I have to write into the plot. And if I do that, my story will undoubtedly turn “Fantasy with romance.” I thought that by choosing not to write such things, my story would default to “Romance in a fantasy setting.” But it would seem that instead I’ve just created indelible plot holes.

You have my assurance that, in my next revision, the romance will remain integral. But I will also be adding in more Fantasy elements from the get-go—possibly in the form of an object of magical power, which would be the errand Bre was running when she got locked out of the temple. It sounds cliché to my ears…unless that object is kind of like Tolkien’s “One Ring”: possessed secretly, but coveted by many, until suddenly it’s very important because the wrong person has it.

One advantage to tying in such an object, is it could serve as a link to Rome’s parents’ murder—a very important stone yet unturned.

Then again, so could another object I have in mind—an object possessed by Rome’s mother, which could tie in the temple’s goddess.

We’ll see where all this goes. :)

As of now, I have no plans to enroll in another workshop. So from here on out, my energy should be funneled toward writing the remainder of Lord Alonza’s party. Expect more limes.

Party Day 3: Two Can Play This Game

Thanks to my lovely readers’ input, chapter 13 is now officially complete and posted! I’ve named it “Two Can Play,” as in the saying, “two people can play this game.”

Rome begins to realize what it means for Labriella to be the party’s “special selection” showcase when Lord Alonza orders Bre to give every noble in the room a sample of what it’s like to kiss her. Just when Rome can’t take watching anymore, one of the nobles takes pity on Rome and lends him one his extra escorts. Rome has no desire to take him up on his offer. But with Alonza flaunting his control over Bre, and the lent escort’s master watching her like a hawk, more than one fate is at stake.

When Lord Alonza baits Labriella into looking up, all Bre sees is Rome’s passionate lip-lock. Is she so easily replaced? If she’s not careful, performing her Alonza-ordained duties might push the man she truly cares for away from her for good. Her only chance to win back his attention is during the talent show…and she never mastered that part of her training. Can she piece together an alluring performance without failing like a total klutz?

The next two chapters will be epic. Don’t miss them!

Plotting a Runaway

The latest lecture in my workshop has shed significant light on my plotting problems. Such problems are difficult to put words to, and until now, I have only been able to come up with the words “too slow”—as pertaining to pacing. Another writer (or two) said my first book had no plot, but the romance was the point. As a reader primarily of Fantasy novels, in which there is a hero (or background hero, or antihero) that I fall indirectly in love with, the notion of my own fantasy-set novel not having a plot was shocking.

Lately, another reader’s long-ago comment has been rolling around in my head. They said Labriella’s unsanctioned break from the temple had lost its sense of pressing danger. Sure, she was worried about being tracked down by hunting dogs, but as of yet, nothing had ever come of it. How strange for her to be looking out at the lavender-eyed noble’s dogs with nervousness, when thus far she appeared to be in the clear from everything but nobles and wolves (and maybe Rome’s less-than-charming self).

Then today, after fumbling through my online class’s jam-packed lesson, it dawned on me: That’s what is missing from volume 1. That is how to get the plot moving, rather than just having a slow-paced, anticlimactic (IMO) Romance. Labriella can’t tell the reader about Rome, get locked out of the temple, run into Rome, and lay low somewhere until Alonza comes a-calling. It’s not enough for Labriella to be chased in the first chapter. She has to be chased repeatedly, by multiple people. The temple should be actively hunting her down, right off the bat. And there’s no way Labriella wouldn’t try every day to return to the only place she could call home, unless she got notice not to.

So there you have the first part of the new Book 1, which I am of a mind to call “Runaway” (though the overuse of that title in the book market, according to a GoodReads search, looks troublesome). The first few chapters must consist of Labriella actually running away, not just hiding out. The idea must be that every time she thinks she has found a safe place to settle for the time being, somebody else finds her. That makes it plausible that the only safe place to be is potentially with Rome.

The question that then arises, is what to do with Rome’s perspective. If Labriella is running for three chapters, that’s all in her P.O.V. Is it really okay to switch to Rome’s P.O.V. in chapter 4? Maybe, if I continually mention Rome and compare others to Rome in her thoughts? That’s setting her up for quite the heartbreak when Rome debuts his beastliness to save her. If he does that, can I really play the “she doesn’t know it’s him” card, if she is expected to go with him? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean she has to know he still has affection for her…yet. That sounds like a job for a few well-placed keepsakes Bre shouldn’t be snooping around.

The other question is, how much do you (the reader) need to know off the bat? In other words, how much of Labriella’s temple life should I be showing you in the first chapter? Should I give you a one-day walk in her shoes before I shake everything up? Some people would say that means “starting too early.”

Also, because of this new running-away progression, it would probably be best to take the near-rape, Rome-saves-the-day situation out of the would-be first chapter. That’s better left for jealous romantic times.


 

In other news, I am largely done writing Day 2 of Alonza’s party. That’s always a dangerous kind of pronouncement to put in writing—especially since I’ve been lagging for 2-3 days on writing the ending, and am almost out of my groove now. It’s because I would rather be writing the next exciting scene, then following up the scene I just wrote with dialogue. Bitching and moaning, I know. Maybe that means the talking part will be super brief, so I can just get on with it. I want Day 3, damnit!

Ending dialogue: Tomorrow’s project.

And no, that is not a procrastination statement.

New Chapter, New Workshops, New Member

For those of you who haven’t dropped by FictionPress in the last couple days, I have (FINALLY) posted chapter 12.

Bre_showcaseLabriella and Rome reunite in time for Lord Alonza’s party, and there is definitely still chemistry between them. But when Lord Alonza makes it clear he plans to use Labriella to provoke Rome, can Rome trust Labriella’s loyalty enough to play it cool?

Go look up “Showcase” to read about how Rome and Labriella fare on Day 1 of Lord Alonza’s party!

Just so you know, I’m thinking of all of the chapters dedicated to Alonza’s party as falling under the banner of “Showcase.” I’m just dividing them up into parts by length. I’d love to have each chapter/part be a separate day, but I think Day 2 will be a little short for that, and Day 3 might be a bit lengthy.

Thank you so much to my 12 readers who have responded to my end-of-chapter request! Your support has inspired visions of what the next few chapters need to be. I welcome any additional suggestions or constructive opinions/feelings my other readers have yet to voice. :)

◊     ◊     ◊

My workshop frenzy has slowed, but not ended.

Last month I attended a YRW (Yosemite Romance Writers) seminar presented by Margie Lawson, called “Empowering Characters’ Emotions.” I admit that, based on the title and the bullet-point description, I went into the event expecting a prolonged lecture about how important it is to communicate characters’ emotions through speech, body language, and portrayal of settings. I can honestly say that I am glad that is not what I got. Margie Lawson has created a color-coding system for self-editing your mach_highlight_EDITSnuscript. And considering she is both an editor and a psychotherapist, you can expect her home-crafted EDITS system to be analytically in-depth. If you’re on the verge of your next major revision, and you want to take your editing to the next level, I highly suggest you look into this. I won’t be ready to employ half of the techniques I’ve learned from her until I complete my next step of revisions, but that doesn’t mean I’m shelving them. This EDITS system is a MUST for self-publishing authors, and a “should have” for authors aiming for traditional publishing. I’ve read too many indie books on my Nook that could have benefited from this.

The members of the RWAOLKiller Openings” workshop by Alexa Bourne provided some extremely helpful feedback for me on which opening for the BeastKing Chronicles would be most gripping. It would seem now that which opening I start with depends upon whether my series is considered Romance with fantasy elements, or Fantasy with romantic elements. At this point, Book 1 almost solely Romance, with Book 2 leading that way as well. But I have buried the original plot. If I bring that plot back to the forefront in the next revision, as I plan to, then my instructor for this month’s workshop believes that my story will be Fantasy.

claws1This month’s online writing workshop is called “Balancing the Paranormal and the Romance,” taught on Yahoo Groups by Shannon Donnelly through FF&P (Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance Writers—an offshoot of RWA). I realize my novels are High Fantasy, and “Paranormal” usually connotes Urban Fantasy. However, seeing as Rome’s beast nature is very much a paranormal anomaly within the High Fantasy world that I have created, I hope this workshop will inspire me with ways to subtly introduce, mix in, and play off of the supernatural elements in my story.

ch-network_RWATo give a little perspective to the workshops I’ve been attending (thinking they were separate entities)…RWA is a big non-profit, international organization, and each RWA offshoot is called a “chapter.” I stumbled onto this Chapters network by accident, by following an author’s blog links to a master listing of RWA workshops. You don’t have to be a member to attend the workshops, although membership does afford you discounts. You do, however, have to be a member of the larger organization in order to become a member of a Chapter.

I recently became a RWA member so I could join the Online Chapter…Or so I thought. What I didn’t realize when I signed up was that I wasn’t just paying for Chapter access, discounts, a magazine subscription, and getting my name out. There are all kinds of opportunities and programs built into a RWA membership, even for an Associate Writer (which I became)—not the least of which is a Critique Partner Matching Program. And, as an Associate member, Romance doesn’t have to be my primary genre. Perfect fit. If you don’t mind throwing down 100 bucks, plus a startup fee. I admit, that was a little painful for me. I consoled myself by realizing the price of membership is equivalent to the difference between the annual conference cost for members vs. non-members, if I attend.

Feel free to comment with any questions you may have about workshops, etc. I know what it’s like to try to navigate and figure it all out on your own. I’ll be honest if I don’t know the answer to your question, but then again, I might be able to point you in the right direction.