Walking the Tight Trope

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Tropes are unavoidable in the world of genre fiction. In fact, readers expect a certain level of “tropiness” in storytelling. However, one could also argue that the reader doesn’t want to notice the trope. If it smacks them in the face, well, they might just toss the book across the room, labeling it derivative nonsense. 

Not sure what a trope is? Trope = a common or overused theme or device.

Such as: Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wins girl back. Practically every romance novel or romantic comedy written in the twentieth century had a bit of this trope in it. Sure, it may vary. Girl loses boy instead or Girl tells boy to shove off, but the basis of all romance is providing the reader with their Happily Ever After.

One of the most common tropes EVER is the orphan child destined/thrust into greatness or, at the very least, part of an interesting event. With this one trope, I could be describing the hero or heroine from hundreds, if not thousands, of fantasy, middle grade, science fiction, literary fiction, comic books and a zillion movies.

Don’t believe me? The devil is in the details. And as a writer, the details and inner life you give the character is what is going to elevate your story beyond the usual cliches.

For argument’s sake, let’s make the orphan a boy. But, this isn’t enough. Let’s give him more, shall we?

  • Cruel relatives. If I give him a wand and send him to a wizard school – poof – Harry Potter. If he enters a giant magical peach – James and the Giant Peach. Or forget magic – his own sister (basically all the women around him) treat him badly and he comes into his fortune because he helped an escaped convict – Pip (Great Expectations)
  • Caring relatives. Raise him on a world with two suns and hand him a light saber  – Luke Skywalker. Or, he’s an alien from outer space, his planet long dead and behold – Superman! Or his parents are gunned down in alley before his eyes. Bam! Batman! If he lives in a hole in the ground and is bequeathed a magic ring – Frodo Baggins
  • No relatives. Poor or living on his own, surviving with his wits – Oliver Twist, Huckleberry Finn, David Copperfield, James Bond.
  • Animal relatives. Throw in a jungle and some apes – Tarzan is born. Or, if you like historical myth, two orphans raised by a she-wolf – Romulus and Remus – founders of Rome.  Oh, but wait, if the animals talk  then it could be Mowgli from A Jungle Book.

And don’t think there aren’t any orphan girls. Let’s not forget: Cinderella, Heidi, Dorothy Gale, Snow White, Pollyanna, Jane Eyre, Anne Shirley, Little Orphan Annie.

Oh my! The list goes on and on!

One thing these characters have in common besides their orphan status – these are all considered classic characters either in film or literature (sometimes both). The trope was merely the stepping off point to their greatness. Their creators went beyond the cliché. Made us care about these characters and turn that page (or watch the movie again and again).

So, a word to the wise. Go beyond the trope. Really, your readers will thank you for it.

Be A Big Meanie!

I’m happy to report that Mystic Hero finally crossed the 60,000 word mark. That means the end of the first draft is in sight! Unlike the previous books in the series, Devlin’s story is a bit different.

IMG_2249He’s got issues. Big ones. And just like in real life – everything that can go wrong, does. We Scribes have mentioned a few times the importance of being mean. And I totally agree with that. The most satisfying tales always involve some emotional pain and the eventual triumph over that pain.

Normal people generally steer clear of conflict. And most people don’t enjoy watching others suffer. At least not in real life (and I know the glut of reality shows probably says otherwise), but I think the big exception is in entertainment. Movies, TV, books – they would all be booooring if there wasn’t some kind of challenge to conquer.

And really, in fiction, we have to be extra tough on our characters. One of the things I realized so far about Devlin’s journey is that I wasn’t being hard enough on him emotionally.

Sure, it was easy to throw bad guys his way. Since I write paranormal, they are often extra weird or super creepy. But I also realized that I was shying away from his substantial internal demons. And that is short-changing the reader. I know when I pick up a romance I want to go on an emotional ride with the hero and heroine.

How does one overcome this problem?

1. Don’t let your characters have what they want. At least not until the very end. Dangle the prize in front of them and take it away a few times. Again, think emotional stakes. What will they lose if they don’t change?

2. Make them earn the payoff in the end. This means, the character has to suffer. They have to doubt themselves, question their choices and reach a low point (or two or three) before they can transform.

3. Bring them to their darkest place and throw in their worst fear in for good measure. And I don’t mean lock them in a dark room. Not unless your hero or heroine has a phobia of the dark and the only way to save the day is to overcome that fear.

4. If you get stuck – ask yourself again – how can I make things worse for this character? Never better. At least not until the very end

One caution  – There’s a fine line between being too sappy or preachy (no one wants to read an ABC After School Special – at least I know I don’t!) and creating an emotionally satisfying and believable experience.

What are your tips for character “bashing”? And what books do a great job of torturing the poor hero and heroine?

Rub my belly!!
Rub my belly!!

Why Books are Like Babies

First off, can you believe it’s already August? Where has the summer gone? There’s something about this time of year (and around Thanksgiving) where I feel IMG_2970like I’m on time’s roller coaster ride.

One minute it’s May and then suddenly August is here and I feel like the whole summer has flown by. I suspect the school calendar plays a part in this phenomenon because younger son would always start whining about having to go back to school (the infamous countdown would begin).

Well, not this year. Steady readers of this blog, may recall he graduated in June (my baby, my baby!). This year he and his older brother will be attending college together. So while they are still going to school, there is no complaining involved (well, except for the ridiculous cost of college texts).

All this thinking about time, combined with the recent birth of the royal baby (HRH Prince George) got me to thinking about how books are born in my brain. While pursuing two books at once (Mystic Hero is pulling to the lead, so by the time you read this, it might be the only book I’m writing), I’ve noticed that the story is often born while I’m writing it.

What?!? But what about all that talk of plotting and planning?

Oh, those things still happen. But like any story, I leave room for new ideas to hatch. I also rely on the characters to dictate how they react to the barriers I toss out. There is no way I can script every waking moment of the story. I decide on the big events and let the rest fill itself in.

So like a baby, sometimes a book can take forever (Mystic Storm – almost ten months) and others are done in less time (Misfortune Cookie – two months). The Undead Space Initiative poured out of my brain like there was a big hole in it and I could barely keep up!  (Note: this is writing time. Not the time it took for me to plot and plan.)

And like babies, nature can’t be rushed. Some characters, like Zephyr, in Mystic Storm, gave me nothing but trouble. I think it may be because of the whole “cursed to be a woman by day” thing (which I am not apologizing for!).

Not to be too graphic, but any woman who has gone through labor knows that babies don’t just come out in one easy push. And neither does my writing. I can have a week of super productivity and then another week where I have to flog myself to sit down and write. However, I will add a caveat. I did have younger son in my bathroom (in under a half hour of going into labor). He was apparently so eager to enter the world, he couldn’t wait!

Just goes to show –  you never know!!

Has anyone else had this experience? Do you have some books that just take forever to come out of your head?

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Kitties Do Love Boxes

Today, I’m a the 7 Scribes sharing my view on preliminary character development – Getting to Know You in the Most Shallow Way Possible By Casey Wyatt.

And in other news, the final edits for Mystic Storm are done and handed in. If all goes as planned, the book will be out by the end of May. Yay!

I hope you have a wonderful Friday. I leave you with – my kitty in a box. Isn’t she cute?

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Down with Shameless Exposition

Ever heard of the term “shameless exposition”? No? Then you’ll want to visit me at the 7 Scribes today. I’m talking about dialogue – Just Say It, Already!

And for you Renaissance Fair lovers, a photo from one my excursion this past summer. When it was sunny and not snowing (yet again!).

 

I’ve Got a Pirate!

One of the best things about being a writer is when characters consent to interviews. Today, I’m sharing an interview between debut author Gerri Brousseau and her sexy pirate hero, Captain Edmund Drake.

Read on through to the end to find out how you can enter for a chance to find out how you can claim “the ransom”!

Let’s listen in:

Interview with Pirate Captain, Edmund Drake

Gerri Brousseau: Captain Drake, What motivated you to kidnap Lady Catherine?

Captain Drake: Now, now, Milady, kidnap an overly harsh word. I prefer to think of it as detaining. I merely detained Lady Catherine from arriving in London.

GB: Ah, I see. Then what motivated you to detain Lady Catherine?

Captain Drake: The ransom, of course.  I saw an opportunity and I seized it.

GB: How difficult was it having a woman aboard ship?

Captain Drake: It was a situation that mightily tested my resolve.

GB: How so?

Captain Drake: Keeping my men away from her was a small challenge in comparison to staying away from her myself.

GB: How did you manage to do that?

Captain Drake: By constantly calling to memory the fact that without her virtue intact she would garner no ransom. Still, despite my great efforts, I must confess that many a time I found my resolve to be shaken.

GB: I understand she was stolen away from you by Blackbeard.

Captain Drake: That black-hearted son of a … I beg your pardon, Milady. The answer to your question is yes. Yes, Blackbeard did indeed kidnap Lady Catherine, and had the most vile of plans for her.

GB: Now, now, Captain Drake, we can’t reveal too much about the book.

Captain Drake: Again, I beg your forgiveness, Milady.

GB: Tell me, Captain Drake, how do you feel about the Duke of Devonshire?

Captain Drake: He was merely the means to an end. I would rather not discuss the Duke. Next question, if you please.

GB: You are quite well mannered for a Pirate, Captain Drake. How do you account for this?

Captain Drake: Thank you, Milady but as you have so aptly pointed out, we cannot reveal our secrets now … can we?

GB: No. I suppose not.  Allow me to ask you a different question then. Had you a long acquaintance with Blackbeard? (I watch as his fingers graze the thin scar on his cheek bone.)

Captain Drake: Yes. It was he who graced me with his blade, leaving me this scar as a constant reminder of him.

Q: And how do you feel about your rival?

Captain Drake: My hate for him is part of what has made me the man I am today.

GB: Thank you, Captain Drake, for joining me today and for your candid replies to my questions. It has been a pleasure speaking with you.

Captain Drake: You are quite welcome, and rest assured, Milady, the pleasure was entirely mine.

GB: Would you like to say some parting words to our readers?

Captain Drake: Aye, there are two things I wish to impart. Firstly, they should read my story in “A Pirate’s Ransom” and secondly, they should visit Lady Gerri’s website (www.gerribrousseau.com) and enter her contest for a chance to “Claim the Ransom” for themselves.

Thank you, Captain Drake.

The following links will allow you to purchase “A Pirate’s Ransom” (links go here)

To enter the contest and have a chance to Claim the Ransom, please visit Gerri Brousseau’s website at www.gerribrousseau.com, click on “Claim the Ransom” and follow the instructions. Best of luck to all who dare to take a chance to claim A Pirate’s Ransom.

Thank you Gerri and Captain Drake for being my guests today!

A Pirate’s Ransom is available now from Soul Mate Publishing, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

So dear readers, if you have a question for Captain Drake, now is your chance to ask!

Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

I saw an interesting quote on Facebook by John Rodgers – “You can’t think yourself out of a writing block, you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.”

Once again, I find myself at odds over the story for Mystic Storm. I don’t why Zephyr’s book is such a challenge, but there is no way I’m not delivering this book.

First off, I’m not suffering from writer’s block (honestly, I don’t believe in it), but I’m having what I think of as “organizational” issues. The book is plotted out and I’m proceeding according to my plan, however, I seemed to have strayed off the path.

How does that happen?

Easy.

I often let the story wander in other directions as I delve deeper into my characters. As a result, there are portions of the timeline that have been skewed. Rather than stopping completely to fix it, I’ve decided to re-read what I have, take notes, then keep on trucking.

Why?

Because the end is not changing. It’s only how I’m getting there that might differ. If I stop right now and try to fix the book, I know it’ll stress me out and I might never finish Mystic Storm.

Since I know there are people out there who would like to know what I did to Zephyr at the end of Mystic Ink, I can’t leave them hanging. Not to mention, I have Devlin’s book – Mystic Hero – waiting in the wings.

So, if you’re spinning your wheels on a plot, might I suggest skipping over that part and moving on? I’ve found that it’s much easier to keep writing and deal with it later because as John Rodgers suggests – the issue may solve itself, but only if you keep writing!

How does everyone else cope when the story is off kilter or not quite right? And do you agree with John Rodgers?

And if you have a free moment, visit the Scribes. I’m interviewing Gerri Brousseau about her debut novel – A Pirate’s Ransom.

Zephyr visits this lighthouse on his walks through the streets of Stonington Point, CT.

Stormy Weather

Finally. It’s Friday! It’s always tough to get back into the groove after a week of vacation.

It’s funny how 5 minutes on my work laptop can dissolve every ounce of tranquility.

Anyway, I wasn’t totally idyll last week. After completing the first draft of Misfortune Cookie and sending it off to my first readers, I moved onto Mystic Storm (Zephyr’s book) and Redemption (Galen’s book).

So far, Zephyr continues to resist me. Galen, on the other hand is being more cooperative. The only problem, Redemption is the next book after Ascension, which I still have out on submission. Normally, I wouldn’t spend time on Galen’s book, but he’s been itching for completion since I started in it in January 2010. Plus, he’s so much fun to write. I’ll miss him when the book is done (maybe that’s why I’m still working on it).

I have a theory that Mystic Storm is harder because it’s the next book in a published series. I admit there’s a small shadow of concern in the back of my mind. I don’t want to disappoint people who enjoyed the first book. I know I need to forget all that, but sometimes it’s hard.

I am happy to report I’m over the 30,000 word mark and that seems to be the “sweet spot” for me in my writing. I believe it takes me about 30,000 words to get into the groove of the story. At last, Kalli and Zephyr have come into their own and the story I’ve plotted seems to be flowing more smoothly. Yay!

Does that happen for anyone else? Is there a magic amount of words you need to get on the page before you know your characters?

If you have time, please stop by and visit me at the Scribes where I’m talking – Hootsuite!

Until we meet again next week, I’ll leave you with an image from my photo collection from Stonington, CT – Zephyr’s home.

This is the building that’s the inspiration for the Gallup Inn – Zephyr’s hotel/day spa.

I’m so Pretty – Beautiful Blogger Award

Yay! It’s Friday. Don’t forget to visit me at the Scribes for  – I am Not A-MUSEd!

Sabrina Garie has awarded me The Beautiful Blogger Award. Thank you Sabrina!

As most of you may have guessed, there are rules.

Rule #1 – I must share 7 things. Today, I’m going to be different and share fun facts and a secret or two about my characters. Let’s face it, you all must be sick of hearing about me!

Rule #2 – Pass this award to 7 bloggers. More on that later.

From Mystic Ink:

1. Devlin Ward has a potted plant. It’s name is Medusa on account of its snake-like fronds. He would never, ever admit that to anyone
since the real Medusa would not be pleased. And we all know what happens to men who make her angry. Let’s just say it’s not the kind of rock hard Devlin would enjoy.

2. Nix is the most independent of the fifty daughter’s of Nereus. She is adamant about earning her own money and making her own way in the world. Her Uncle Memphis fostered her independence by taking her on as an apprentice in his tattoo shop.

From The Undead Space Initiative:

3.  Cherry Cordial doesn’t like enclosed spaces. Once, when one her fellow vampires jokingly trapped her in a dark closet, she dumped dead fish in their beds for a week.

4. Jonathan, Cherry’s maker, first noticed her because of her beautiful singing voice. It was her rebellious spirit that made him turn her into a vampire. Later, whenever he’d complain about her sassy attitude, Cherry would remind him, “Tough cookies. This is what you signed up for. Don’t blame me that I have big mouth and know how to use it.”  Cherry would like to remind you to get your minds out of the gutter. She’s a stripper, not a whore. Just saying.

From Ascension:

5. Kyra was recruited into the FBI by her boss, Terence Lange after she beat him and hundreds of other veteran sharpshooters at a
regional competition. Lange is inherently distrustful of magic, but does trust Kyra. Both of their understanding of supernatural phenomena are about to be shaken up.

6. Valerian is a stickler for rules and order. Clutter drives him crazy and he can’t stand salt and vinegar chips. Galen uses this information to annoy Valerian every chance he gets. While the two are friends, Valerian is also Galen’s superior, and Galen’s cheekiness often gets him into trouble. Not that Galen would have it any other way!

And from my WIP:

7. This isn’t a character fact per se, but my latest WIP has something to do with fortune cookies and evil spirits. Don’t worry Mystic Ink fans, I am still working on Mystic Storm (Zephyr’s book), but I opted to complete this book first since it was flowing faster.

Seven Beautiful Blogs:

1. Writing Secrets of 7 Scribes – Stop by and say hello. We’re friendly, fun and love to dish about all kinds of topics.

2. Meggan Connors – She makes me laugh with her honesty and self-depreciating humor. I love Edinor and her travels. You have visit her blog to find out who or what Edinor is!

3. Janna Shay – Kind and generous, Janna always makes me smile. She’s also an incredibly supportive and I do appreciate it!

5. Marian Lanouette – A great blogger who shares great advice. Plus, she is one sexy lady. Have you seen her Facebook photo? Her debut novel – If I Fail –  comes out in September.

6. Leia Shaw – Whether she’s blogging at her own site (The Paranormal G-spot) or at Nights of Passion, she always has something interesting to say.

7. Julia Rachel Barrett – C’mon, did you think I wouldn’t pick the lovely Julia? Julia blogs every day and it’s always worth reading.

To the recipients of the Beautiful Blogger Award – go forth and share the beauty!

And feel free to share your favorite blog (s) with me!