Thursday, January 10, 2008

From the Trenches: Maven Tips #10-12

Maven Lacey KayeAs you must be aware by now, thanks to B.E. Sanderson and the Roar for Powerful Words Award, we're blogging about writing tips this week. Now, so far, the other girls have done a great job of sharing tips they've found useful over the course of their writing career. If you know me, though, you probably won't be surprised to read that I'm planning to give you some tips that I made up. Hey, it's more fun for me that way, and besides, I'm too lazy to try and think up where I've either heard or used someone else's. (Although, to be totally fair, *of course* I heard these somewhere else. It's just that I wasn't looking for them at the time; they sort of rolled up together over the last few years. Or maybe if I read them, they didn't really make sense at first. Only with experience and crushing rejection can come knowledge and growth!)

Tip #1: Subplots and subcharacters can be used to add setting to your h/h romance / primary story

Of course, lots of stories have subplots or subcharacters that don't contact the h/h at all. Like a villain subplot or character, for example, that may not share scenes with the h/h until the end of the book. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about using your subplots (Mavens prefer "story threads") to give your main characters something to do besides sit there (or stand there, if you prefer) and nod, wink, arch their brows, shrug, and generally stare at each other. Especially if one or both of them have beguiling eyes.

If your hero has a hobby, for example, he can be doing it. A heart-to-heart between an h/h in his conservatory while he's elbows-deep in roses is always way more fun to read (and strikes more emotionally) than a scene where he's having dinner. Unless your character's hobby is eating, in which case, the dinner isn't the setting (fork to mouth, fork to plate) as much as the character's reaction to it (savoring, laughing, piling more on his plate).

My point is, give your characters outside interests (subplots, hobbies, friends, etc) who can give them stuff to do that hopefully ALSO reveals something personal about them. And then don't forget to write the payoff scene. I read one recently where the hero destroyed his rose garden after the heroine left him. Powerful stuff.

Tip #2: Never forget the reaction

In relationship to Tip #1, this could be the big payoff scene. If you mention roses 10 times and never have a rose payoff scene, what was the point? Well, maybe it was the 10 reactions the characters had to the roses. At first, the hero might take private pride in his garden. Then the heroine discovers it and he's embarrassed. He's mean to her (because he's embarrassed) and she snaps back at him (because she's embarrassed she embarrassed him). Then he feels guilty, so he secretly starts making a new kind of rose for her (when she gets it: payoff. But don't forget to have her react!).

Similarly, adding detail for detail's sake is a waste of print (generally speaking). If she notices his cuffs are blue, what difference does it make unless blue is her favorite color, the hero's eyes are that same blue, the blue totally doesn't match the hideous nectarine waistcoat, blue was the color of her father's face when he died, etc. It's not that we don't care for detail at all, but just that we care MORE when we know WHY we should care.

Tip #3: Characters as actors

Yeah, yeah, I wrote a whole blog on this subject. With pictures. But I can't get enough. My characters are actors, plain and simple. I want their body language, what they choose to wear, how they wear it, the patterns in their speech, their favorite poses, to all remind the reader over and over that this is who the character is. If the character is nice to old people, there must be old people in the story. Otherwise, it's backstory -- I have to tell you he has patience with old people. I had to learn this the hard way with If You Asked the Devil to Dance, and I'm still not entirely sure I nailed the hero in that book. I even know why that is: the hero was dealing with a reputation brought on by a perception of him that he didn't have of himself. Because he was already a loner by the time I started the story, he had very few people to show this perception to until the heroine got to know him and she could debunk the myth. Tricky story. I should've gone for something easier (which I totally did in the 2nd book; hence, there's at least 20 people in it to witness the hero's idiocy).

Ok, well I could talk about that subject forever, but I'm already woefully off-schedule. Thanks, B.E., for the opportunity to blather on! We (heart) you, too, MaveFave. (That's going to get my vote, unless someone can do better...)

Oh, and one thing I almost forgot: Though all the Mavens provide complete support and are utter devotedly to each other (and, more importantly: me), and I would consider them all to have provided the same level of encouragment for my writing career, more than anyone else, Maven Erica has come across more writing tips and created more of her own processes that have affected me in hundreds of little ways than any one other person on the planet. So while I love them all equally, Maven Erica gets my vote for Most Bestest Tip Giver Award. *cheers*

Stolen from Darcy, stolen from Carrie, stolen from Erica
YOUR TURN: 10 days into the new year, people! How much have you written so far? A scene? 20 pages? A book? And did you vote for us over at the Preditors & Editors' Readers Choice poll? (Oops, how did that shameless self-promo get in there?!)


Bill Clark said...

So while I love them all equally, Maven Erica gets my vote for Most Bestest Tip Giver Award. *cheers*

Great minds are thinking alike, Lacey - as if you didn't already know! :-)

Kendra said...

Nice tips, everyone!

I love the phrase "characters as actors." Sometimes simple words clear a cloud and you get that Aha! moment. Love that! I'm struggling with a few characters and those words simply pointed my brain in a different direction and now I can see what's missing.

In the world of writing tips, Allison Brennan has a great post and extra links on antagonists at today. I had an Aha! moment over there, too.

Lacey, looking forward to seeing you and Erica again next weekend!

Vicki said...

Great tips! I'm loving this tip week. :)

#2 is one I've come to think of more and more. I find myself doing an action to try and figure out I would show that action in the book. Weird? Not to me, Science Guy on the other hand has to wonder why I'm having my own little playhouse (minus the stage) in the back yard. :D

I voted for the Maven's even after I saw my own blog there. Although I like/love my blog (of course I would, right?), the Maven's ROCK!!! They/ you guys so deserve to win this.

brownone said...

I'm not a writer but just meandered over here from Jackie's site, which I found after checking her out on the Spiced Tea Party Blog. I'll definately go over to the Preditors and Editors site and vote for you guys though!

Tammi said...

Great tips! I'm going to have to use as many of them as I can! Thanks sooo much!

lacey kaye said...

Bill, indeed--I am not at all surprised you were thinking Maven Erica, too. She rocks!

Kendra, can't wait to see you, too. We're gonna rock Rose City! Thanks for the link to Allison's site. Fellow tipsters are always appreciated.

Vicki, rock on! Begin Total MaveFave Domination!

Thanks, Brownone, and thanks for reminding us to go check out Jackie's guest blog. Jackie, shame on you! We can't be expected to remember such things on the day after Hump Day :-)

Tammi, welcome back!

Ok, I think I'm all out of exclamation points today. Let's go for the tongue smilie to change it up? :-P

Darcy Burke said...

Wow, tip #2 is so succintly and brilliantly put. Once again reminded of how insanely lucky I am to have Maven Lacey as a CP!

Thanks for coming over brownone and for the vote!!

lacey kaye said...

nce again reminded of how insanely lucky I am to have Maven Darcy as a CP!

Jackie Barbosa said...

All brilliant tips, but #2 definitely gets my vote. Something I'll be keeping more strongly in mind as I get crackin' on the WIP again (I haven't written a WORD--except blog posts--since the first of the year; yes, I am going slowly insane, lol).

And of course, Erica's blog rocks. I pimped her over on The Spiced Tea Party already, though. Were your ears burning, E?

B.E. Sanderson said...

I knew I picked you guys for a reason. Your tips are always awesome. =oD

I (heart) you guys, too. I need a t-shirt that says "MaveFaves have more fun" or "Maven-in-waiting" LOL

lacey kaye said...

Maybe Maven Erica will get right on that, B.E.!

Jacqueline Barbour said...

B.E., can I just say that I heart "maven-in-waiting" more than anything I've ever heard?

Erica Ridley said...

Awww! I love you too, Maven Lacey!!!

And great tips. Am still reminding myself of #1...

Manuscript Mavens

Manuscript Mavens