Saturday, 28 September 2013

Creating conflict.

Plan each conflict scene carefully so that it rings true. Don’t have those ridiculous scenarios where a character is offended by the most innocuous things another character does or says. Ask yourself if it would honestly offend you personally. Don’t set them up in stupid situations just to create conflict.
Here at least, I’m all for honestly and realism in fiction. If a third character is creating confusion that leads to the conflict, then that can work. But I don’t know many people that just shut up if confronted with the person they believe wronged them. I guess a writer can make it work, but they have to be damn clever in crafting it.
Then you have to love those romances where, despite all indications to the opposite, they just don’t believe the other character is attracted to, or loves them. Seriously? The characters must be blind or plain stupid.
For God’s sake rather give them a flaw where they just don’t see themselves as lovable. And don’t make the rejection a reason for the other character to have a hissy fit because they don’t believe them. I hate stories that go around in ever diminishing circles of inanities until they disappear up their own arses in a puff of obscure dialogue.
Arguments—make them cohesive and logical. Above all, don’t make your hero or heroine look like a complete idiot with a daft argument—it makes you, the writer, look even more stupid. 
One of the reasons why writers create these improbable conflicts is to fill space, make the story go further. They need to pull their heads out of their backsides and get real—be original, make it plausible and put some work into the plot..

What this sort of contrived writing tells me about such authors is that they have one thing in mind, churn out books and hope to fool some poor sod into buying them. Why would one keep reading an author that does this? “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” Chinese proverb.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

What is mystery?

Novels are put into genres. But what if a novel has equal doses of mystery, romance, conflict and adventure? Then where does it fit?
Those arbitrary comments aside, let’s talk about mystery today.
Mystery feeds the need for adrenalin rushes, that thing that keeps us the edge, even though it’s only words. The imagination is powerful and allows us to live, with electrifying clarity, in the written moment.
Mystery is the skeleton of a novel. The novel may be pure romance, but there is always mystery of some sort. Even if it’s simply, why she doesn't want him or visa verse, and how will it be resolved.
If there isn't mystery, then one has to be damn clever in crafting the story or the reader will die from an overdose of love, sex, gratuitous violence or simply endless descriptions of what characters see and feel.
Conversely, all mystery and no meat on the bones will be anorexic, tiring. Is there such a thing as too much tension? Do we become inured or just plain exhausted from living on the edge? Well, vicariously that is. I think that’s possible.
Mystery keeps us turning the pages, but it has to be original, well planned and cohesive. These three elements are one of the hardest things to achieve in a novel.
Then, of course, there’s that phenomena where characters take on a life of their own and move in another direction, or develop personality defects one didn't plan.
Don’t confuse mystery with conflict. Conflict is a result of the mystery, but the subject of conflict is for another day.
This is true for any novel. Create a document called, “Story Outline.” This should have all the character names, their traits, habits, hair color, eye color and other characteristics that define them. Use this document to make a chart outlining the plot. When changes are forced, note these so that the plot can be remolded to fit.
Get the manuscript edited or proofread to ensure it makes sense. As the author, one always has the plot all sorted in one’s head. The reader isn't privy to this head knowledge. What may seem quite clear to the author may not be so clear to a reader.

Pay careful attention to which character is doing what. It’s dead easy to have the names, times or places mixed, thereby confusing the hell out of a reader.

Romance and those private bits

Romance? Well, it’s tricky. You can take the route of chaste, stolen kisses and absolutely nothing beyond a semi passionate embrace and matrimony, which is frankly a yawn for me. Excluding Jane Austin and the like, but for me they are simply research vehicles into period dress and such like.
Then there are innuendos that the characters actually manage to get into the sack. Well, one assumes they do, or else a stork brings the baby. But miracles happen—if you’re Mary. This scenario can definitely be done, and spectacularly, if you’re clever.
Having said that, some readers enjoy the no erection, no breast touching foreplay. For a young adult (YA) novel this type of romance is imperative, and I admire those writers who can carry it off.
I guess it also works for adults who've never admitted to feeling, tear-his-pants-down or rip-her-dress-off and go at it like bunnies kinda passion.
However, your average full-blooded male or female wants the nuts—did I just say that—and bolts. I’m not talking full on porn, although that definitely appeals to some—boring.
For most readers, sensual foreplay is what excites. The power of suggestion seduces the mind, but the average romance reader wants it all, right up to the climax and the pillow-talk after. Well, women do. Hell, they fantasize about the perfect lover. 
Most adults know what goes on in the bedroom. But do they know scintillating romance and sex? That is where the writer comes in and delivers.
After the first flush of passion, most couples slide into the realm of making the relationship work. Or relationships degenerate into downright boring, or worse, become bitter and selfish. Obviously, there are moments of passion, but it doesn't often stay at the level it first enjoyed—life happens.
Novels are not life. They are fantasy worlds we escape into.
Most people, especially women, like a feel-good fairy tale romance laced with steamy sex. And there is no shortage of that on the market, ranging from great writing to positively barf-horrible.
The trick is writing the scenes in an original way in every scene and avoiding what look like cut and paste sections. Worse than that is churning out what a thousand other romance writers have said before.
Then there’s the dreaded “purple prose.” This malaise seems to infect most new writers. Avoid it at all costs.
What is purple prose? It’s an extravagant or flowery use of words, exceeding what is required to describe a scene. Anyway, it absolutely kills the flow.
But purple prose has a buddy, “the unmentionable private parts.” Nothing beats a throbbing member or petals of pleasure for a fall-off-the-chair laughing experience. Call it what it is penis/erection, vagina/clitoris or variations of these.
Intense emotion isn't necessarily conveyed by focusing on sexual organs anyway.
Having slammed purple prose royally, no pun intended, it’s all too easy to fall into the purple trap in the heat of the writing moment. But thank God for editing, and there is ALWAYS a better way to say something.
Close your eyes and relive moments in your own life that turned you on, gave you an earth-shattering thrill. Nobody gets into your bed when you have sex. Well, unless you’re into kinky stuff.
Feel arms around you, feel your lover in your arms. Lips touch, bodies cleave. See it, feel it, taste it, smell it, and then write it. This works, unless you've only ever had horrible experiences. Then your story will have to be about horrible experiences, I guess. Not exactly a feel-good novel.
Get your head around the horrible experiences and use your imagination.
Read aloud what you've written. If you pack up laughing, then something has to change. If you blush and feel as though you have the reader in bed with you, then you’re probably on the right track. The key word is ORIGINALITY. Dig deep.

Write the things you like or fantasize about in sex. Interview the opposite sex and find out how they feel, what they like. Good luck with that. Some men don’t even like to admit they masturbate, and most women sure as hell won’t admit to it readily.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Ready to get naked for the critics?

When you put your manuscript (MS) out there and ask for a critique from fellow writers on a website like Romance Writer’s Community (RWC) or Book Country (BC), think of it as taking off your clothes in front of complete strangers and asking them to tell you what they think of your body. If you’re comfortable with that thought, then go ahead and strip.
DON’T get naked (unveil your writing) if you’re not ready to have your flaws pointed out.
If you receive a critique, expect to get comments like your stomach is fat and flabby (too many adjectives) or you’re bony and need to put on weight (add descriptions). Your critic might say your adverbs (boobs) make your sentence top-heavy and need reducing. Alternatively, the critic says you’re flat-chested and need fleshing out. Now, turn around. There are those dreaded analogies, metaphors and similes that abound and bounce around like over-sized butt cheeks in your MS. You get the picture, I’m sure.
Okay, so you've decided your MS (body) is perfectly toned and ready for publication (exposure.) You've spent months, years sweating it out at the editing gym and know it’s good, but if you think everything is trim and fit—think again. Gird your loins and be prepared to hear you have typos, spelling errors, run on sentences, gawking narrators and just plain weak prose. What? But you checked a thousand times—fifty members of your family and/or friends checked as well. If they did, then they obviously love you dearly, too dearly to be truthful. These critics you've undressed for are emotionally detached and don’t know you. Professional editors are even more direct. Best look at them as judges for a Miss/Mr. World Beauty Pageant. They’re paid to be brutally honest.
Even editors write books and may end up on one of the critiquing websites willing to undress. If one of them looks at your MS then I suggest you shut up, sit up and listen very carefully. Opportunities like that don’t come one’s way often. Oh, and you’ll recognize them because they waste no time telling you they’re editors. However, they will listen to a critic because they learned the hard way. I'm talking reputable editors here, not wannabe editors.
Develop a thick skin.
Some critics are kind and only point out obvious errors—Jed’s blue eyes that turn brown two chapters later. They will almost always say your writing flows and the story sounds really interesting (dull) from what they've read. They tell you the things they’d like to hear about their own MS. You know, do unto others . . . . I don’t say this is always the case, but “interesting” is not usually the adjective you want to hear about your MS. You need to ask yourself if the “kind” critique is honestly what you want. I doubt it, unless you have your head in the sand. You need to know the truth about your MS. If it’s fat and flabby, then you need to know so you can go on a grammar diet and hit the edit gym, or if it’s too skinny and flabby, you must eat more of the healthy stuff—and buff up.
Set aside the transparent robe of hubris and arrogance and put on a robe of humility and LEARN. You don’t have to agree with everything your critic says, but you do have to consider every criticism or concern.
Above all, remember that your editor/critic set aside his or her valuable time to look at your MS and, assuming they are not emotionally involved with you and owe you nothing, you owe them the courtesy of listening if nothing else.
Don’t get indignant because they think your writing falls far short of brilliant—listen to their suggestions. Perhaps there is room for improvement. No author ever writes the perfect sentence, but that is what all good writers strive for.
It’s okay to ask why they say what they do, but hear them out. If you still disagree, then seek clarification from expert sources before blasting their criticism out of the water.
The people who critique your work are the vanguard for readers. If the critic misses a typo or plot error, chances are your readers will find it. And readers really don’t give a damn about your feelings—they paid for your book. Readers are not like RWC, BC, or other websites like this with monitors to ensure everyone plays nice. Once your MS is published you can’t run to “mommy” and claim you’re being bullied.

Above all, stay calm, forget the bruised ego and LEARN. Accept the suggestions you agree with, and, after considering what they say with an open mind, delete the stuff you don’t agree with. And NEVER be rude or dismissive. Be excited that, because of the opinion of another writer or editor, you have the opportunity to rewrite—the opportunity to make your “interesting” MS brilliant.

Friday, 16 August 2013

The Hook and other bait.

Hooking the reader:

This is an example of and opening line in a first chapter—the hook:

The captain stood on the deck of his ship in torpid heat, slowly whipping his wife.

This was an example given to me years ago by a publisher, and I use it all the time. A number of things cause the reader to want to read—things that hook them.
1) What era is it?
2) Torpid heat? Where is it happening?
3) Why is the captain whipping his wife? More curiously, why is he whipping her slowly?

The reader wants these things answered. They are almost compelled to read on. Hook your reader in one or two sentences. 
Don't confuse this with a tagline. That is the line that goes on your blurb and grabs the essence of your book in one or two sentences. It's the one thing that will make your reader want to buy your book.

Example of three great movie log lines/taglines:
Erin Brockovich – She brought a small town to its feet and a huge corporation to its knees.
Silence of the Lambs – To enter the mind of a killer, she challenged the mind of a madman.
Bonnie and Clyde – They're young, they’re in love, and they kill people.

Hit the ground running:
The first paragraph is the next most important thing, then the first page, but having said that, if the first five pages aren't fantastic you will lose the reader. Most certainly, you will lose the publisher or agent. They are very busy and can tell in the first paragraph if they want you or not. Then they are more convinced when the first page is great. However, that interest wanes if the second page doesn't deliver, but they will probably forge on for another page. After that, it’s all downhill and your MS ends up on the slush pile.

First thing:
Under “Chapter 1” put in the era or year and location of the story in italics. It just grounds the reader, lets them know where they are.

Put in the date you start the book, for your own interest. (To be removed later.)

Make a Story Outline:
This is a new file you open called Story Outline for Concoctastory. (J Bet that had you running to the dictionary)

Name of hero/heroine – hair and eye color, height, build, defining features, age, scars, deformities, habits, twitches, tastes, occupation, likes, dislikes, traits—good and bad, ambitions, goals, obsessions, status in society, domicile, marital status.
In fact, anything you may need to remember as the story unfolds. This will change as time goes on, but the physical traits will probably remain the same.

As you write, add each character’s name and physical appearance. It’s all too easy to forget that Joe had blue eyes. One often errs and gives characters brown or green eyes later in the book.

Minor characters, like a barmaid or footman, don’t need a name if they only make one or two appearances. In fact, it’s better to keep names to a minimum. Only add a description if you gave them a specific thing like eye or hair color.

The names of ships, streets, buildings and places must also go into this file as they crop up in the story.

Make a note of things like Elvis borrowed $50,000 from Danny the hobo, or he gave Leonardo da Vinci a $1 tip for opening his chariot door.

Be very careful to keep names varied—don’t have Joe in love, working with or related to Jasmine, or worse, Josephine.
Keep another file of cool male, female, dog, cat or bird names. I make a habit of putting the alphabet in a list form and use only one letter per memorable character—lesser characters aren't important, unless their relationship is too close to the character they relate to.

The author bio, query, synopsis, letter for agents/publishers, plus back cover blurb and tagline go in another file.

All these files go into a folder with the book title.

Writing needs preparation like anything in life. There is only one problem, a story can take on a life of its own and change direction—just go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

New Website

My new website has just been launched. It has my books on it and three other authors that are brilliant.
A book on writing tips and techniques
Three Christian romances
Two brilliant poetry books
My three mystery romances.
Here is the link:

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Three novels released

I have just released three historical romance novels. I will soon make one of them free on a five day promotion.
check them out on Amazon Kindle under my author name, C.F. King

Set in Hanoverian England, circa 1745 during the Jacobite uprising. The novel is a rather dark mystery romance of 116,000 words.
A man is so driven by revenge and righteous anger that the line between good and evil becomes blurred and he all but destroys the woman he loves.
His life is dark, his past is violent. He is haunted by a murdered wife and child and obsessed with avenging their deaths. This is Marquis Blake de Montfort, the most powerful man at court, but his power is not vested in parliament, it’s more insidious. He’s a ruthless master spy for King George II. The marquis is hated by men, desired by women and feared by all.
The king lusts after Tanisha Ashburn and forces the marquis to marry her. She has no idea that she’s surrendered her life of travel and searching for antiquities for the lusts of men and betrayal.

Unprepared for the marquis’ verbal abuse and the intrigues surrounding him, Tanisha’s life becomes a misery. Left alone for days, she explores her new home. She stumbles on a hidden study and surprises a handsome stranger. He introduces himself as the marquis’ brother. Evan is everything her husband is not. Tanisha succumbs to his seduction, but she is unaware of the dire consequences that will forever change her.

Set in Victorian England, The Bohemian is a 90,000 word historical romance with humor, adventure and erotic love scenes.

Fire meets ice. The naïve Calla Marshall is wild. Ryder Stanton is a lieutenant Colonel ruled by discipline. Calla has never known restraint, social or otherwise. Ryder has never known anything except restraint. He is a soldier entrenched in discipline with an eye firmly on social correctness.

On his father death, Ryder returns from India to take up his duties as the sixth Earl of Felton. He resents the curtailment of his military career. But more than that, he is ill prepared for Calla, who comes with his responsibilities. His answer to the problem is Lady Sandering’s finishing school in Bath, a season at court and a suitable marriage. The free-spirited Calla has other ideas. In Ryder’s wild pursuit to control her, he completely forgets his betrothed, the correct Miss Langford, and his life unravels.

Set in Southern Africa, circa 1872. A 97,000 word novel of adventure and romance with notes of humor.
Dara Claiborne didn't know the meaning of no, until she met Oran Randall.
The headstrong English suffragette arrives in the Calvinistic Cape Colony like a whirlwind. Dara’s outspoken opinions set her at odds with the hardworking, taciturn Oran, who manages her father’s two wine estates in Stellenbosch.
Her ailing father asked Oran to take Dara on a photographic safari. Oran readily agrees to his mentor’s request, until he meets her. Not only is Dara irresistibly beautiful, but she is a magnet for trouble.
Then her father dies, leaving a strange will. Oran inherits one of the farms, but Dara must marry Oran or inherit nothing except enough to support her. Viticulture and horse breeding are Oran’s life. His mistress, Elspeth, is his only recreation. Dara’s passion is photography. They marry and agree to lead separate lives. But Oran can’t resist her, any more than she can resist him. They make love, but Dara accuses Oran of rape and takes off on safari alone.
So begins a pursuit through a savage land from the Cape Colony to Zululand.