Wednesday 27 May 2015

Do you come here often?

If you are writing romance, the first meeting between your hero and heroine is crucial. It ought to happen early, preferably on the first page, and it will probably set the tone for the rest of the book. It's the writer's equivalent of the chat up line - it needs to be interesting, memorable - plausible. Like locations for chat-ups there are favourite situations, a close encounter between vehicles in a car park, the start of a new job, some sort of mix up over a booking, where hero and heroine end up sharing anything from a hotel room to a house. Wills and inheritances are good too. As is falling, literally, into each others arms. 

He gives her flowers - is that cute?
It's frequently referred to as the 'Meet Cute' - if you can find a good one, you are probably onto a winner. But it isn't always easy. One of the complications is that instant attraction thing. Assuming you are not going down the love at first sight route, which can make it difficult to keep them apart later - why not just walk off into the sunset right now - then the couple has to go from strangers to soul mates in whatever the time span of the book happens to be. Fine if that's a year or so, but not if it's only a week. It is a bit simpler when you write romantic suspense, tension and life threatening situations turn up the heat nicely. 

Pondering this has made me wonder if this might be a reason for the apparent popularity amongst readers for 'friends to lovers' and 'lovers with past history' plots - the love story has had longer to work out, even if you don't see it all happening, and it is easier to believe that the relationship is the forever kind? 

I've been wondering as my recent ideas have all involved lovers with past history - the novella which I hope will be published this year, the one I am currently working on, which is a Romeo and Juliet type reunion, and another idea that has been bubbling on the edges. Am I taking the line of least resistance? 

Time to break out a few new ideas for a meet cute?   

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Things that we don't do now.

I've been reading some of the classic crime books re-issued by the British Library, from mostly forgotten authors. They are still very enjoyable, particularly if you want a bit of a wallow in nostalgia - the village bobby and the wily police detective, the amateur sleuth, the total absence of DNA, telephones that are few and far between - bit like trying to get a signal on a mobile now :).

Get your quotes here?
One of the things that struck me while reading was something that you rarely see these days - I can't remember when I last encountered it in a book - chapter titles. Not only did the book itself require a title but each individual part of it also got a headline and/or a line of poetry or a quotation.

From Dickens to Tolkien and CS Lewis, and one of my great inspirations - Mary Stewart, who favoured the quotation method, they all gave individual chapters a heading. (Titles of books themselves were frequently quotations too - from the Bible, from Shakespeare or from poetry - again some of Mary Stewart's are lovely and intriguing - Nine Coaches Waiting, Madam, Will You Talk? This Rough Magic.)

The naming of chapters still happens in academic writing. When prowling the archives I am always on the lookout for snappy phrases and quotes to head up the sections of my dissertation. And resisting the temptation to invent a chapter just because I have a lovely quote.

When did the naming of chapters in fiction fall out of fashion? And why? E-books might have something to do with it, but I think it was declining before they were on the scene.

Will it ever come back, I wonder?

Wednesday 13 May 2015

You are where you live?

I remember when I was in school, doing various quizzes designed to teach you about words. They probably don't do that kind of stuff now. (Stop sniggering - I've heard all the jokes about sharing the class with the dinosaurs) One of them was matching the animal to the home - bees to hive, badger to sett and so on.

So - how important is the place you call home to a character in a book? I think the choice could tell you a lot. A couple of my heroes probably would have very sparse, minimalist places, not really from choice, but simply because they don't accumulate much in the way of possessions - and, let's face it, it's the 'stuff' that ties you down. (Speaking as someone who has promised herself to de-clutter for at least the last two years!!!)

Or castle?
At the moment there are a number of historical buildings in my area that have been converted to residential use and offered for sale, which are what got me speculating about who might live  in those sort of spaces? How far does the place you live reflect or affect the person you are? How big a character revelation is your choice, if you are choosing a home?

Not something I've actively thought about in relation to characters before. I've known where they live, and why, without really thinking about it. Does that make sense?

Something else to put on the list of fun things to think about when you should be writing. Or even better than thinking - visiting. I'd love to spend some time in some of the unusual holiday venues I see advertised, like yurts and light houses.

Research. Its called research.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Pardon me, but your theme is showing ...

Now this picture seems to have the theme of buttons :)
There is a lot of advice out there for aspiring writers. I've read most of it and ignored a lot. Or at least, discovered that it doesn't work for me. Which is not quite the same.

One of the classic pieces of advice is - you must have a theme. I have to admit it is not one of my top ten  'must-dos'. As a reader I get irritated when books beat me over the head with the chosen motif and everyone seems to be suffering from a variation of the same problem. But other people must enjoy it, or it wouldn't be one of the perennial pieces of advice. I can see that it would be helpful to the writer in giving shape to the book and, done well, could be extremely satisfying to execute. It just doesn't suit me. We are all different, thank goodness.

But having said that, themes do creep up, without me being aware. The subconscious at work, I suppose. Not every book, but in some there is a definite thread that was not obvious when I started. In Never Coming Home it's lost children - and that applies to the adults in the book, too.

And of course, all my books are about secrets. The things people conceal or the things they don't know. And secrets can be a threat- something you have to protect, or a danger you don't appreciate. The nitty-gritty of romantic suspense.

The idea I am trying to work on at the moment, (When will someone invent the 36 hour day - please!) seems to be about names and identity - changing them, and the effect that has on life. It was definitely not there when I started, but it's interesting to see it playing out.

Maybe that advice to writers about themes goes deeper than you think?