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Fiction Groupie Archives

These are my writing posts from my former blog, spanning 2009-2012. To see new writing posts, click on the blog tab above. To see these archived post organized by topic, click "For Writers" above.

Entries in mystery writing (4)

Friday
Nov112011

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Links of the Week!

 

Hope everyone has had a great week! It's time to gather up the best links of the week.

 

But first, I wanted to announce the winner of Mia Marlowe's Sins of the Highlander from Wednesday's contest. Congratulations to Buffy Leonard!

All right, now on to the links. Enjoy!

On Writing/Publishing:

Fascinating Interview with Stephen King in NY Times

On Ebook Pricing from Indie Author Selena Kitt

The Craze for Long Books Goes On and On an On by The Guardian (found via Anne R. Allen)

8 Press Kit Elements for Your Author Website at The Fearless Self-Publisher

5 Mistakes Writers Make with Virtual Book Tours by Working Writers

On Humor in a Romance by Sierra Godfrey

The Creation of an Agent's TBR Pile by my lovely agent Sara Megibow via Romance University (This fascinated me.)

It's Not a Competition by Beth Revis

Book Bloggers: The New Publishing Gatekeepers by Jennie Coughlin

When to Modify Your Name for SEO Concerns by Jane Friedman

Why An Author's Early Works Are Usually Most Original by Vicki Hines

On Your Mark: Marketing Your Novel by Janice Hardy via The Bookshelf Muse

On Writers Covering a "Territory" In Their Novels by Laura Oliver

Are Social Media Sites the New Publishing Slushpile? by Publishing Perspectives

For Fun:

Okay, so I usually stay away from politics on here, but I was watching the Daily Show last night and knew I had to share this. Dude, I almost fell out my bed laughing at "I smell toast!" You have to watch it to understand. Go to the 6:30 mark in the video, that's when the funniest stuff starts. Hilarious.

 

 

What You May Have Missed Here:

 

What You May Have Missed on the Author Blog:
(GREAT discussion going on in the comments)

 

Alright, that's all I've got for you this week. What were some of your favorite links of the week? Have a great weekend!

 

 


"Revved up and red-hot sexy, CRASH INTO YOU, delivers a riveting romance!" --Lorelei James, NY Times Bestselling author of the ROUGH RIDERS series

 

 

CRASH INTO YOU is now available for pre-order!

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All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren 2009-2011 |Copyright Statement|

 

Friday
Feb042011

Oh no! Melodrama! -- Avoiding the Reader Eye Roll

 

Photo by Joe Green

There are a lot of fine lines in writing: creating a sense of place v. bogging down reader with description, creating a new spin on an old idea v. being derivative, creating characters with depth v. backstory overload, etc. Another one that I've had trouble defining the line between is drama and melodrama.
Our stories are supposed to have conflict and drama. What's the point otherwise? However, when that story inches into melodrama we risk losing our reader. Instead of connecting with the characters and feeling part of the story, our readers start rolling their eyes. So how can we tell the difference?

This is especially difficult to determine if we're writing a teen story. I'm not going to stereotype, but looking back at myself as a teen, I was quite melodramatic. My high school was my whole world and every event and emotion was amplified. When my crush didn't like me, it was cause for tears and incessant listening of depressing and sappy music. When a good friend gave me the silent treatment for a week, I thought we would never be able to overcome such a terrible turn of events. So how do we make sure our characters and plot are authentic and believable and interesting without sending it into the realm the soap opera?

First my quick definition...
Melodrama is when emotions, plot, or actions are too over the top. My litmus test is if a scene that is intended to be emotional/heartfelt/painful would tempt readers to groan, roll their eyes, or laugh, then I've crossed over the line.
I'll use Twilight as an example since most of you have probably read it or seen the movie. In the scene at the hospital in the first movie, Edward tells Bella she needs to stay away from him for her own safety. Bella sits up, panicked, stuttering "No, you can't leave me! We can't be apart." The line in and of itself is fine, but this scene made me giggle in the theatre. Also, in the book New Moon, Bella's reaction to Edward leaving is um, intense, to say the least. Months of depression and becoming an adrenaline junkie seem a tad melodramatic to me. (Disclaimer: I have admitted to enjoying Twilight, so please no hate comments from devoted fans.)
So what can we do to avoid crossing this line?
  • Beware the exclamation point! It's rarely needed and is usually a beacon of melodrama!
 
 
  • Watch words like screamed, shouted, sobbed, cried, etc. Use them sparingly.
  • Put yourself inside your characters. If A, B, or C happened to you, how would you react? Of course, your character hasn't a different backstory than you, but this will give you a start to find an authentic reaction. I mean, really, how many of us are actually swooning or drooling when we see a hot guy?
  • Don't have your characters act contrived just to fit a plot need. They're actions must be based on realistic/logical motivations that you've developed in the story. i.e. If a character is mild-mannered throughout, but you need an emotional scene so all of a sudden she flies off the handle with no logical motivation to do so or previous behavior to back it up.
  • No TSTL (too stupid to live) characters. i.e. running up that stairs when a serial killer breaks into the house, heroine believing something the bad guy tells her when she KNOWS he's the bad guy. Your readers won't buy it.
  • Avoid stereotyped characters--the wise old man/woman, the evil ex-wife/other woman, the naive virgin, the bitchy popular girl, the hooker with the heart of gold, the perfect/infallible male love interest. If you use any of these, you need to make sure there is a twist on it. For example, in PC Cast's Marked series, Aphrodite starts as the stereotypical blonde mean girl, but develops into something much different as the series goes on.
  • Watch out for huge coincidences. Yes, when writing, we're playing God, but that doesn't mean we can twist fate to create unbelievable coincidences. Your reader will give a big "yeah right" or "my, isn't that convenient?"
  • This is related to the coincidence thing, but be careful of creating conflict after conflict after conflict to where there is no way to believe that all that would happen to one person. The best example I can think of is the first seasons of 24. Jack's daughter's Kim couldn't keep herself out of trouble. How many times can one girl get herself kidnapped or put in mortal danger? It became a joke in our house--how will Kim try to get herself killed this week?
 
And if in doubt, picture a scene through the eyes of a Saturday Night Live writer. How much rewriting would you have to do on that scene to recreate it for comedy/satire on the show? If the answer is "not much", you may have jumped into the melodrama hot tub.
So am I the only one who struggles with this line? How do you determine if you've gone too far? And what are some of your favorite melodramatic books/movies/tv shows?

*repost from 2009

 
 
**Today's Theme Song**
"Selling the Drama" - Live
(player below--go ahead, take a listen)

 

Friday
Sep242010

Bom Chicka Wah Wah: Types of Love Scenes

 

Constitution Beach - Within Sight and Sound of Logan Airport's Takeoff Runway 22r

Photo via The U.S. National Archives

I promised on Wednesday that I'd post about heat levels in love/sex scenes and how to decide which level to go with for your book. This is an updated post from earlier in the year.

This information was pulled from two classes I attended at the DFW Writer's Conference on writing sex scenes--one by author Jenni Holbrook and the other by author Shayla Black.  (Great conference btw, if you're looking for a conference to go to DFWCon is coming up in February and is going to be huge. I think there are like 10-12 agents already confirmed to be there for pitches, plus the workshops are always great.)
Now on to the sex (or not as the case may be)! As most of you have figured out, I write and read sexy and erotic romance, so love scenes are an integral part of my stories.  Now, I know many of you may cringe at the idea of writing sex on the page and think this isn't for you.   But even if you're writing clean cut YA, you should know what the components are because a simple kiss IS a love scene if done correctly.

First, let's get the main rule out of the way:
DO NOT put in a love scene unless it changes the character(s) and moves things (usually internal conflict) forward.  Just like any other scene, it must serve a purpose.

Okay, now let's identify the types of love scenes (care of Jenni Holbrook):

1. Closed Door/Fade to Black
--This is where the sex is implied, but not shown.
Use this:
--When the change in the characters does not happen during the actual act.
--Think of old movies where they kiss and then the camera pans to bedroom curtains fluttering in the breeze.

2. Glossed Over Sex
--This is where a little more is shown--maybe a little touching and buildup, but then that door slams shut.
Use this:
--When the change in the character happens during the intimate moments leading up to the actual bom-chick-wah-wah.
--Ex.) Dirty Dancing (one of the hottest scenes EVAH), when Baby and Johnny dance in his room.  (YouTube won't let me embed the video, but here's the link, if you'd like your daily swoon.) They take off shirts and touch and kiss while dancing, but that is where the change happens--when she says "dance with me" and he accepts the invitation.  Then we see them in bed, kissing, and the scene fades.

3. Full Sex Scene
--This is what you'll see in many mainstream romances and other genre fiction.  The sex happens on the page, door open.
Use this:
--When the change in the characters or revelations about the characters happen during the actual sex.
--Ex.) The Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood books.

4.  Explicit Sex Scene
--This is most often used in erotic romance and erotica.  A full sex scene, like above, but everything is described and the language used is no holds barred.  (Yes, you know what words I'm talking about.)
--FYI: the difference between erotic romance and erotica is that e. romance has a primary relationship and there is a happily ever after.  Erotica is more about sexual exploration, doesn't necessarily need to be relationship based, and doesn't require HEA.
Use this:
--Just like a full sex scene, the character change happens during the act.
--If you are using kinky sex acts
--This is not for the faint of heart.  Make sure you read lots of erotic romance to get a feel for exactly what explicit means, lol.

So, how do you decide which level to write at?

1.  Comfort level has to be there.
--If the idea of writing a sex scene makes you squeamish or if you are one of those people who (*gasp*) skips past the love scenes in books, you're probably going to want to fade to black or gloss over.
--The reader will be able to tell if you were uncomfortable about writing it.
--If you think you want to write sex, then make sure you read widely in your particular genre to get a feel for what works and where those lines are. 
--And as I mentioned in the comments on Wednesday, I think it's helpful to read one level of heat above what you're planning on writing. So if you want to write sexy, read erotic. It will help you get more comfortable about what you're going to write, desensitize you a bit to the embarrassment factor.

2.  What does your character/story need?
--According to Shayla Black, if you can pluck out a sex scene and it won't change your character's arc or transformation, then you probably didn't need the scene in the first place.  Do not put it there just to have one (see main rule above).

3.  Know your audience
--You have to know what you are writing and who you are writing for.
--If you put a full sex scene in an inspirational romance, your readers would be appalled.  If you're writing erotic romance and you fade to black, your readers will want to string you up by your toes and beat you with your book.  :)
--And if you're writing YA, you have even more of a challenge.  Figure out if you're writing edgy or traditional and how far your want to push.

And one last Public Service Announcement since this came up in Wednesday's comments:

Even though it's hard, try not to let the "my mother/grandmother/father will read this" factor hold you back. I get it. I've had the same thoughts about what I'm writing BUT here's the thing--will you keep yourself from writing the story you want to write, a story that could entertain thousands of readers because of ONE or two people in your life?  If you're not comfortable writing love scenes because you personally aren't cool with it or it's not your thing. That's fine--you shouldn't do it if that's how you feel. However, if you like to read/write sexy but are stopping yourself because of what others think, then you're letting other people dictate your passion. Don't give others that much power over you.  (Just my humble opinion. Take it for what it's worth.)  

Alright, so I hope this helps.  Writing love scenes is one of the most challenging things to get right.  If you want to know more, I also have posts on sexual tension and writing sex scenes you can check out.

So, where do you fall on the levels in your story?  And are you a person who loves to peek past that door or do you skip those scenes?  (For the record, I'm fascinated by you scene skippers.  How do you do that and why? lol)
 
 

 

Friday
Jul092010

Author Elizabeth Craig on The Elements of Mystery Writing


Small sized DELICIOUS  SUSPICIOUS cover

Today, I am so excited to host mystery author Elizabeth Craig as my guest blogger today.  Elizabeth has a new release, a fabulous blog, and is, by far, the most helpful writing person to follow on Twitter.  If you're not following her, get to it as soon as you finish this post!  Now, I'll turn it over to over to Elizabeth.

Some Basic Elements to Remember When Writing Your Mystery

Thanks so much, Roni, for hosting me today at Fiction Groupie!  I always enjoy reading your blog and all the useful information you provide for writers.

Today I’m going to be genre-specific and talk a little about writing mysteries.  Mysteries aren’t only my favorite genre to read, they’re my favorite to write, too.  I think that’s because you get all the character development and conflict resolution of a novel with the added bonus of a puzzle to solve.

First of all, you need to consider your mystery subgenre. What types of mysteries do you enjoy reading?  If you like a faster-paced book, then consider writing thrillers. Slower-paced and less-gory?  Try writing cozy mysteries.  If you enjoy following along as fictitious detectives crack the case, then try your hand at police procedurals.  Other types of mysteries include noir and hardboiled (private investigator stories.)  Whichever subgenre you focus on, make sure you’re able to identify it in your query or cover letter.

Follow the rules:  Mysteries have to be fair. You’ll want to make sure that you’re letting your reader in on the fun of solving the case alongside your sleuth.  Clues should be in plain sight (no moments where the detective goes “Hmm. Very interesting…” and doesn’t share the information with the reader.)  The murderer should be introduced at the same time as the other suspects—there shouldn’t be any 11th hour introduction to the culprit.

Setting: Frequently, setting plays a role in a mystery novel. The setting can limit the number of suspects if it’s a remote island, for example. For a thriller, you may want a faster-paced, big-city environment. Check and see  how the setting plays a role in your book. If it doesn’t, you may want to consider tweaking your manuscript.

An Engaging Beginning: Have you started out with messy backstory that no one wants to wade through at the beginning of your book? Make sure you’ve lured your reader in from the very beginning so they’ll want to stick with you.  Think twice before using flashbacks at the beginning of your manuscript.

Have You Got A Murder that Happens in First 50 pages or so? Don’t wait until you’re half-way through the book for a body to be discovered. The sooner the investigation is started, the better (as a general rule.) And most mysteries out on the shelves today are murder mysteries. Yes, you can definitely find examples of cat burglar-type mysteries, etc., but usually mystery publishers are looking for murders in the mystery genre.

Sleuth: Is he or she interesting enough for your readers to want to spend time with? What special talents do they have that make them especially capable of solving the crime? Are they easy to talk to? What sets them apart?

Suspects: Do your suspects all have motive, means, and opportunity?  You’ll want to make sure that the suspects’ motive makes sense and is believable.  Have you given the reader a chance to meet each suspect and learn about them? Have your suspects misdirected your readers and provided some red herrings? Have they lied to the sleuth and the reader? Do they have secrets? Do they have some depth?  


Murderer: The killer will need to be fairly clever so he isn’t caught right away. Is your culprit believable but not obvious?  If the murderer ends up being the least likely candidate, have you made his motivation realistic?
 
Clues:  The clues need to be made available to the reader as well as the detective.  You have to be fair with your reader in providing them the clues, but make sure they don't stand out too obviously in the scene.  If they do, think about pointing the reader's/detective's attention in another direction, quickly.  Providing a distraction is a useful technique. There also needs to be more than one clue.

Red Herrings:  Make sure your red herrings don't last the entire length of the book---that's generally considered unfair.  Red herrings are a good technique to mislead your reader, but  they can be taken too far. If the entire focus of your murder was blackmail and the ensuing investigation is wrapped up with blackmail victims and scurrilous gossip: and then the real motivation ends up being revenge or obtaining life insurance money,  most readers will end up wanting to throw your book in frustration. 

Victims: You know you need at least one. Do you need two? Do you need more? (Remember that some genres, like cozies, generally don’t have a high body count.)

Element of Danger: Does your sleuth or detective know too much? Are they getting too close to the truth? Adding some action or a touch of danger can help with sagging book middles, or can provide an exciting showdown between the killer and the sleuth.

Resolution: Did you catch the bad guys in the end?  Check and see if you’ve tied up all the loose ends that you created.  Did you explain how the sleuth/police followed the clues to deduce the killer?

Need some extra help? Try checking out these sites:
Book Crossroads , which has links to online mystery writing groups, hardboiled slang dictionaries, forensic information, and legal overviews.
A Yahoo Group for writers on firearms : a good place to start your research.
Tripod.com's Classic 12-Chapter Mystery Formula : Reading this can help you see the bare bones of many mystery novels. You don't have to follow it exactly--it's just a guide.
Don't Drop Clues: Plant them Carefully! by Stephen Rogers does a great job covering the types of clues, how to misdirect your reader, and mistakes to avoid.

Elizabeth Spann Craig
Bio:  Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin as Riley Adams, the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink (under her own name), and blogs daily at http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010. Delicious and Suspicious released July 6, 2010.

As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as Brownie leader, referees play dates, drives carpools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips.
Elizabeth Spann Craig (Riley Adams)
http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com
http://mysteryloverskitchen.com
Twitter: @elizabethscraig

Elizabeth will be checking in throughout the day, so feel free to ask her your burning questions in the comments!  

**Today's Theme Song**
"Building a Mystery" - Sarah McLachlan
(player in sidebar, take a listen)