Ten Common Author Mistakes #7

Zap-Pow! Then What Happened?

Tension is king. Never miss an opportunity for a good argument!

Definition: Most of us hate conflict and confrontation. Even in our books. But tension is king! Donald Maass suggest tension on every page. Better yet, on every line.

Tension doesn’t mean argument. Tension means “things aren’t going well.”

For example: A conflict arises for your heroine. She gets pulled over for speeding. Instead of the officer letting her off, she gets a ticket. This upsets her. While she’s getting a ticket, her mother calls to say Uncle Ned is coming Sunday and our girl is expected at the house for dinner. She blows up. Why is Mama always so bossy?  Our heroine will do what she wants for Sunday dinner. She might have plans already. Ever think of that, Mama?

Tension! Use every opportunity to create tension. To up the stakes. To distance the protagonist from her goal. Keep it real. Don’t have characters apologizing to other characters and relieving the tension.

Now, we do want those down moments when protagonist is exhaling, relaxing, laughing, doing well. Those are the sequel scenes where we see the protagonist advancing toward his or her ultimate goal.

Remember our scene from showing emotion? Jane found out John was moving to Peru to live in the jungle? What if she just accepts what he says and doesn’t fight back?

“W-what? You’re moving to Peru? I don’t understand.” Jane pressed her hands against her temple. John couldn’t be serious.

“I know it’s hard but I need to do this, Jane. I feel it is my way to salvation. I must deny myself.”

“Well, if you really feel it’s what you must do.” Jane crossed the room and embraced her fiancee. “I love you. I’ll miss you.”

What?! Nooooo, we want a fight here. You may think I’m being ridiculous, but I’ve read this in books before. Usually it’s because the author is trying to get rid of a character to bring in another one. What if John is not the true hero but Steve is? Either way, you must up the emotion. Jane doesn’t know about Steve yet. All she knows is she loves John and he’s talking crazy!

The scene would be more engaging with a tense conversation.

“W-what? You’re moving to Peru? To live in the jungle?” A sardonic laugh rolled up from Jane’s chest. “You don’t eve like to go on picnics. How are you going to live in the jungle?” She crossed her arms, regarding him, waiting for his answer. “I don’t believe it.”

“Well, believe it…” He snorted, dismissing her with a wave of his hand. “They said you’d react like this.”

“They who? John, you’re being brainwashed.” Jane fired across the room, gripping her fiancee by the shoulders. “Wake up. What has gotten into you?”

“The light, Jane.” He jerked out of her grasp. “I suggest you find a bit of the light in your own dark soul too.”

Much better right!? It’s so much more emotionally driven. Oh, John is going to leave and Steve is going to enter Jane’s life but until then, she’s in turmoil. Show that. Up the tension.

Rule: Never miss an opportunity for an argument.

Workshop it: What scene in your WIP needs more tension. Did you let the protagonist or another character off the hook?


Checklist for Meet the Girl Scene

Yesterday I posted the Meet the Girl scene for our Romantic  Suspense novel, written in Luke’s POV.  Read it here: Chapter 2.Scene 2.Luke with SMW Comments

What are the things you need to cover in a Meet the Girl scene?  Below find a My Book Therapy Chapter Checklistchecklist!
1.  Remember to start with Storyworld/Anchoring!
2. Do we understand the state of the Love Life of the POV character?
a. What is their history?
b. Have they ever been in love?
c. What holds them back from love?
d. What kind of person do they need to meet?

3. What is your story structure – a Why/Why Not or a Why Not/Why?
a. If it is a Why Not/Why, do you start with the essential conflict between them?
Do you follow with a hint of the Why they might fall in love?
b. If it is a Why/Why Not, do you start with the essential values that will bond them together?  That initial spark of love?
Do you follow up with a hint of the Why Not?

4. Don’t forget you’re writing a suspense – have you created a setting/situation than can carry a sense of suspense?  Keep the genre in mind even as you construct the non-suspense scenes.

Next week, we’ll return to Kenzie’s scene, and move into ACT 2.

Happy Writing!
Susie May

Chapter 2: Meet the Girl!

It’s time to Meet the Girl!

Writing a romantic suspense has its own challenges – not only does the author have to deal with the suspense storyline, but the romance must be threaded in as well, usually in equal parts.

Because we’ve already jumpstarted the suspense in chapter 1, Kenzie’s scene, and moved her forward into the Noble Quest (staying alive!) in Chapter 2, we’re now going to turn our focus on Luke, our hero.

In Luke’s first scene, in Chapter 1, we started in his home world, and because the suspense plot hadnt’ quite touched him yet, I started out with a glimpse at his character, the heroic man he is, and a taste of what he’ll do for others (namely, risk his life). And, although his first scene doesn’t have the suspense plot in it, it does contain an element of suspense.

And, the event serves to propel Luke into this awkward moment with the heroine in Chapter 2.  He thinks she’s a reporter coming to interview him about his rescue of his nephew.

It gives us the opportunity to really cement the essential conflict between Luke and Kenzie – their different worlds, different expectations.My Book Therapy

As I write this Meet the Girl scene, I’m going to cover a number of foundational romance elements from Luke’s POV.

We need to understand the state of Luke’s Love Life. What is his history with women?  Has he been in love?  What holds him back from love?  What kind of woman does he need?

Then, as he meets Kenzie, we move into the elements of their romance.  This is a Why Not/Why romance, which means we’re going to start out with the conflict, then they’ll fall in love as the story moves forward (as opposed to having “love at first sight” and then the big Breakup.).  So, we’ll start with the things about her that drive him crazy and highlighting their essential conflict.  (even if they don’t recognize it).

However, we want to see some potential for love between them, so we’ll hint at something Luke likes as well, maybe something he doesn’t even realize.

Of course, since it’s a suspense, I’ll weave in words that highlight that.  I added in a rainy day to insert an element of chaos.

Here’s the scene:  Chapter 2.Scene 2.Luke with SMW Comments

Tomorrow I’ll give you a Meet the Girl chapter checklist!

Hello to all my friends from ACFW! What a fun conference!  Don’t Stop Believin’!
Susie May




Ten Common Author Mistakes #6

Cry Me A River

Telling emotion rather than showing.

Definition: Showing verses telling applies primarily to emotion. It’s the authors job to show the reader what the characters are doing and feeling. Even what the character is thinking through the action on the page.

Telling means the author is describing the emotion and reaction in the prose.

Struggling to show verses tell might mean the author doesn’t know what the characters want in the scene or the scene goal.

Showing “pictures” the emotion, pictures the action. Most authors do this well.

He slammed the door shut as he left the room.

She gunned the gas as she headed for home.

We get they are angry.

But where we get a bit lost is in showing the emotion of the scene. Let’s say the heroine has learned her fiancé has joined a group of religious fanatics and wants to move to the jungles of Peru.

What’s the emotion of the scene where they argue over their future? She tells him she won’t go. He tells her this is the only way to be saved.

Don’t tell the reader in prose she’s hurt and angry, scared for his well-being. Show them. How do you do this? Dialog and action. Description of body movements. Sights and sounds around them.

Jane felt the blood drain from her face as John repeated his intention. “I’m moving to Peru. It’s the only way.” His hard glare contained no light.

“W-what about me?”

“You can come with me if you want. I recommend you do. For your own salvation.”

“John, you can’t mean any of this,” Jane pressed the heel of her hands against her temple. “It’s insane. I don’t understand –” Tears burned in her eyes and around her heart.

“They told me you’d say that.” John moved toward the door, his footsteps quick and heavy.

“They?” Jane fired across the room, propelled by the fury in her own voice. “Who is they? Who, John? Who?”

You can see and feel the emotion of that short exchange. We get she’s upset and tense. We get that he’s hard and resolved.

A lot of times what we see is more telling.

Jane couldn’t believe what she just heard. John was moving to Peru to live in the jungle. He said it was the only way to be save. “What about me?” she asked.

“You can come. I think you should,” John said. His blue eyes watched her.

“But I don’t want to go. I want to live here.” Jane moved over to him. How could he break her heart like this? “Tell me what’s going on?”

“I’ve come to the light,” John said, turning to go. “So should you.”

Okay, that’s a nice exchange. We get what’s going on, the dilemma. But we miss the emotion. It’s telling. We don’t “get” Jane’s torment and heart break. We just read about it.

Rule: Show primarily applies to the emotion of the scene.

Workshop It: Take a scene you’ve written that lacks a bit in emotion and rewrite it to show what the characters are feeling.

(Hint, you can “tell” some things. But the emotion is shown!)