“Essential Element for Writing a Successful Series”- Repost

Came across this article today via Word Whores by Linda Robertson.  This article, itself, is good.  But what I really found useful is the links Ms. Robertson included that gives additional insight into character emotions and the revelation of the 3 story arcs.

I happen to agree with her and the point she makes on the Hero’s Journey.  I have an extremely hard time making it fit with my contemporary romances and paranormals.  Now high fantasy, I have no trouble making the connections.  I guess my brain just isn’t fluid enough at this point to adapt it. 😀

I highly recommend all writers take a read. And to make things easy, I got permission to repost the  article here. 🙂

THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENT FOR WRITING A SUCCESSFUL SERIES is, in my humble opinion,

<insert drumroll here>

…a character who grabs our interest with both hands.

You know, someone whose emotions cause us to keep turning pages.

“Emotions?” you ask.

Yes. Emotions.

In an article that I highly recommend (and which of course supports my statement), Martha Alderson, aka the Plot Whisperer, says:
“Moviegoers and readers identify with stories through the characters. The most powerful way to reach an audience is through the characters’ emotions. For only when we connect with the characters on an emotional level, does the interaction become deep and meaningful. Well-written scenes that include characters’ emotions allow the audience to viscerally take part in the story and bond with the characters.” LINK HERE Go read it. I’ll wait….

The character feels something about their situation that defines that character; even their apathy tells us something. Their actions convey to us the core of their emotions. Their reactions to other characters, to a new situation, to someone else’s display of emotions –or lack thereof– and the words they speak divulge to us as a whole something more than the sum of the actual words on the page.

Why? Because we feel and react, too. Our experience, and the experiences shared with us by our families and friends and loved ones are all a part of our lives and influence us as we grow and mature across the arc of our lives.

And using that as a convenient segue…

Your series character must be able to A.) maintain an interesting arc or B.) have an endless stream of storylines and options in his/her/its life. Or both.

In The 3 Types of Character Arc – Change, Growth and Fall HERE Veronica Sicoe talks about character arcs that stray from the standard Heroes Journey, arcs called: the Change Arc, the Growth Arc, the Shift Arc and the Fall Arc.

Each of the installments in a series in part forms the large “whole” of the character’s arc, like the stones in the picture.

In what ways are you preparing your character for the arc? Or are you letting their story prepare you? What forces are at work beyond the control of the character, forces that will inevitably force difficulties upon her, ones that she, where you have placed her in the opening of your tale, cannot anticipate, ones leading her to places she cannot imagine going?

Tell me those questions waft like a seductive scent under the nose of your curious and inspiration-seeking writer brain…

To see the original article in it’s in entirety, with all the referring links and images, please click here.

A “Feast” for the Imagination: The Use of Senses in Your Writing

A Feast of Ice & Fire cookbookI stumbled across the Inn at the Crossroads food blog over the weekend.  This is not just any food blog, oh no.  This blog is dedicated solely cuisines of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones world!  The owners of this site have done an excellent job researching the food of the Middle Ages and those featured in the series.  So much so, they were rewarded with creating the official Game of Thrones cookbook.  Now, how awesome is that I ask?

Needless to say, I’ve been exploring GRRM’s world via it’s cuisine for the past fews days. Let me say, some of the entries looks excellent, while some…..well…. (Jellied Calves’ Brains anyone??)

All of my exploration lead to an epiphany.  And no, it’s not that I’m a geeky nerd that can’t wait til season 4 in a few months. 🙂  It was about the importance of using setting and the five sense in your writing and how they can work to create lasting impressions with your readers. One of the tools GRRM uses in his Game of Thrones series is setting the scene and atmosphere via description & this includes food, it’s almost a character unto itself.  For example:

“She broke her fast on sardines, fried crisp in pepper oil and served so hot they burned her fingers. She mopped up the leftover oil with a chunk of bread torn off the end of Umma’s morning loaf and washed it all down with a cup of watered wine, savoring the tastes and the smells, the rough feel of the crust beneath her fingers, the slickness of the oil, the sting of the hot pepper when it got into the half-healed scrape on the back of the hand. Hear, smell, taste, feel, she reminded herself. There are many ways to know the world for those who cannot see.” -A Dance with Dragons 

See how GRRM uses food organically to add flavor to the scene? Can’t you almost see, smell, feel, and taste that?  See how he tied that to the character? Even if you’re not familiar with this series, or this character, you’ve gotten to know her by reading this.  And experiencing her half healed scrape this way was more engrossing than him just telling us about it. (a classic example of show vs. tell here).

And even if you don’t go into this much detail about a dish, a drink, or even a flowery meadow, just the mention of certain items can evoke the senses.  Using “bacon and eggs” vs. “breakfast”, or “steaming mug of chai” vs. “cup of tea”, or “the lone pink rose” vs. “the single flower” evoke the five senses in a way that allows the reader to sink into the book and experience the words on the page, as well as read them.

It’s been said that the sense of smell has the strongest tie with memories.  Use this to your advantage.  Every reader is different, with a different set of experiences and feelings tied to certain objects and smells.  The smell of roses may remind some of the bouquet their significant other sent them as a gift, while for others it may recall the pain of losing a loved one.

As an author, you have no way of knowing what all these connections are. But it’s a good idea to select specific nouns and adjectives to evoke visceral responses from your readers. Arousing their memories is a great way to help them personalize your story which, hopefully, will pull them deeper into it.

I used smell to layer in setting in the opening of Found Rhythm

“Isa hurried through the hallowed halls of hell, otherwise known as Hill View High School.  She rounded the corner and was met with a renegade blast of the late southern summer that whipped through a propped open door.  Her nose wrinkled in protest since it carried with it the aroma of sweaty teens, cheap perfume, and industrial cleaner.” 

While I am no where near as masterful as GRRM, a reader did mention my use of the five senses in a positive review of my story. :-)

GRRM’s writing invoked a visceral response with the creators of the food blog, allowing their passion to put them in position to not only author an official companion piece for the Game of Thrones series, but also help fans immerse themselves in one of their favorite fantasy series.

What author doesn’t want that type of response to their work?

So when writing your masterful works of fiction, allow your characters–and thereby your readers– to experience and explore their environment–whether is the “real world” or a fantastical one– organically through their five senses.

Of course, I HAVE to get this cookbook now. Who knows, I may host a dinner party for the Season 4 premier. Sansa salad, honeyed chicken, black beer bread, lemon cakes, & Widling cider any one?

Permission to Write the Crap/Olimpica

WhirlwindI have been STRUGGLING lately to actually write my new wip I’m working on.  This is a fully flushed out idea (as full as I am going to get that is) with distinct beginning, middle, and end.  Not to mention characters that, while I don’t know extremely well, I do have a solid internal GMC with one, and an external GMC with the other that I can work with.

Yet. The. Words. Would. Not. Come

I am a perfectionist by nature, with a touch of OCD, and a pretty good smattering of anal retentiveness.  Which, as you can imagine, does not always play well with the more organic nature of my creative writing side.  But still, I consider my Starting Sludging Jitters–the name for the murky mire I have to type through in order to hit my productive stride on a story, to be the main issue that plagues my writing.  It has since I first started pursuing writing in 2008.

However, I am now 5 years into this, and I absolutely know better than to allow a stalled beginning on a first draft hold me up.  So this morning at got up at 5:30 am with one goal:

To write the damn book by placing my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

I also did one other thing, I gave myself permission to write the crap as well.  As long as I was producing new words, I could write the lamest metaphor, the oldest cliche, or the longest stretch of stale telling that was ever placed on a sheet of paper.  Like I said, it’s sometimes tough for my regimented side that continually strives towards the impossible–a perfect first draft full of tension, conflict, balanced characters, and emotion–to produce what’s akin to lukewarm poo on the page.

It worked! Today in the 20 mins I was able to take for myself to write, I produced twice as many words as I did writing the ENTIRE DAY YESTERDAY.  (Don’t go getting excited, I didn’t produce a full masterpiece.  My progress  speaks more to me actually writing today vs. sitting around, zoned out, looking at my computer screen most of yesterday 🙂  ).  Not only do I have a few hundred words on the page, but I was also able to channel this new character for the first time.  For me, it’s a lovely feeling to connect with the character on the page.  And while I may be writing mostly dribble at this point, at least it’s dribble organic to my character and my story.  And most importantly, I’ve crossed the first hurdle and I’m actively writing my new wip.  YAY!!

Although today is Muse Music Monday,  I felt it more important to share my re-learned revelation of  giving yourself permission to write the crap in order to get to the gold.  However, I will not leave you without a muse inspiring selection. I present “Olimpica” by Roberto Cacciapaglia 🙂

Now if this doesn’t inspire you to get up and conquer something, I don’t know what will!

*Lyrics & music are property and copyright of their owners; provided here for educational purposes and personal use only.

Guest Blogger: Rayne Hall

Today author Rayne Hall is my guest blogger and she’s talking about love spells and how to write about them.  For all of you that write paranormal, fantasy, or looking to add a magical element into your contemporary works, this is for you!

Writing About MagicWRITING ABOUT LOVE SPELLS

by Rayne Hall

Love spells make great fiction, full of secrets, conflict, drama and passion.  Your character can cast her own love spell, or she can seek professional help from a magician (from a witch, a ritual wizard, or other type of mage).

The most common ingredients used  in the ritual are roses (often red or pink),  something from each of the two people (usually a lock of hair, and in modern times, a photograph),  red candles, a fruit (for example, an apple), a crystal (rose quartz is a favourite), herbs (such as dittany or balm of gilead), spices (especially cinnamon), and red wine, and a ribbon (red or pink).

However, the ingredients vary between different types of magic. For example, an Enochian may use different ingredients from a Wiccan.  Also, individual magicians have their own preferences.  The actual ritual also differs.

Typically, the magician may cut the fruit in halves, insert the locks of hair, and tie the fruit back together with  the pink ribbon.  Or she may brew a love potion which involves red wine simmering in a cauldron with rose petals, herbs and cinnamon.

If both people are present, the magician may link their hands and tie them with a ribbon or scarf.

If only one person is present, the spell won’t be complete until the second person has become involved, for example, by drinking the love potion.

CLIENTS
Most clients are besotted with someone who doesn’t requite their feelings. They are convinced that this person is the one for them, that they’re meant to be together, that they will not be fulfilled and happy until that person is theirs. They also believe that the love spell is in the best interest of that person, and that the relationship will be a happy one if only the person would return their love.  They are desperate, can’t bear the pain of their unrequited passion any longer, and are willing to pay almost any price for a love spell.

Other clients are lonely and looking for love. They want a spell to help them find a mate. These include teenagers whose self-esteem is low because they don’t have a boyfriend,  single women whose biological clock is ticking, and men who can’t get a date.

On rare occasions, a couple may seek a magician’s help to save their crumbling marriage.

In historical fiction, parents and politician may resort to love spells to bring about an advantageous match, or to bring affection to an arranged marriage.

CONFLICTS
Most modern magicians consider it unethical to interfere with a person’s free will. Although they will happily help the couple who wish to strengthen their bond, and the lonely heart in search of a mate, they will refuse to force a specific person’s feelings.

However, not all magicians have the same qualms, and in earlier period, many made good money from love potions. Even today, many magicians advertise on the internet, promising to deliver one’s heart’s desire.

Some magicians compromise by creating spells which work only if there is already some affection between the couple.  For example, the desired person must drink wine from the same cup as the client, immediately after he has drunk from it – something she wouldn’t do if she hated him. An ancient Egyptian love spell required the man to anoint his member with a potion before having intercourse with the woman of his desire – and for that to work, she already had to fancy him quite  bit.

Other magicians try to dissuade the client from focussing on a specific person. Instead, they recommend a general love spell, one which will help the client find a suitable mate.

For the strictly ethical magician, requests for love spells can lead to terrible dilemmas. Here are some ideas you may want to play with:

● What if the client is suffering terrible pain from unrequited love, and the magician wants to ease his suffering? What if the desperate client is her own sister, her best friend, her son? What if turning down the request for a love spell causes a rift between them?
● What if if the client won’t take no for an answer? What if the client is the king, the chief inquisitor, or other powerful person? What if the client threatens to punish the magician for her refusal?
● What if the client is rich and willing to pay a lot for a love spell? What if  the magician desperately needs money to save her lover or to feed her starving child?
● What if a ruthless magician agrees to waive his principles and grant the heroine the love spell she craves … but only if she pays a terrible price for it?
● What if the magician herself suffers from unrequited love? What if her ethics forbid her to manipulate someone’s will, but she is convinced that it is for that person’s own good?  What if her need overrides her conscience?

CONSEQUENCES
Love spells interfering with someone’s free will can lead to disaster.  Here are some plot ideas:

● What if the love spell works at first, but wears off after the wedding? What if the person finds out that their spouse had trapped them with a love spell?
● What if the two people love each other, but their relationship is desperately unhappy – and they can’t out of it? What if they blame the magician for their misery?
● What if the client loses interest and wants to end the relationship – but the other person is still obsessively in love and won’t let them go? What if that person stalks the client for the rest of his life?
● What if the client regrets his action, and wants to undo the love spell – and it can’t be reversed?
● What if a pedophile uses love potions to seduce minors? What if a serial killer applies magic to lure victims to their doom?
● What if a fortune hunter tries to trick an heiress into drinking the love potion? What if she’s been alerted to his intentions, and has to be constantly vigilant to thwart him?
● What if the family hires a bodyguard or detective to protect their heiress daughter from love spell assaults?
● What if the victim’s family find out that the girl has been the victim of a love spell, and try to save her? What if they make great sacrifices to enable the spell to be undone – but she doesn’t want to be saved?
● What if the heroine discovers that her best friend’s intended is a ruthless man who forced her feelings with a love potion – and the friend refuses to believe it? What if the victim of the love spell is a man whom the heroine has secretly loved all her life, and now another woman has ensnared him with magic?

The fiction potential of love spells is endless. I hope this article has inspired your creativity.

ABOUT RAYNE HALL
Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror Stories, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes, The World-Loss Diet, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and  has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England. She can be found on Twitter at: @RayneHall

SPELLS V3BELTANE witch fantasy Rayne Hall  cover Oct2011