After getting comments back on my work-in-progress from a critique partner, it was clear that she hated my main character to the core. Of course, I defended my reasons as to why I had given her a Scrooge personality. For one, she is actually the antagonist in the first book so I had to stay true to her character; and two, I thought I had managed a deep character arc.
Then I received comments from a second critique partner. She didn’t show such disdain, but still she’d marked certain places where the character made her feel uncomfortable and where she’d thought she’d gone too far … pretty much saying the character was mean.
I had spent a year with this character (on just this book) and it was hard to think about making drastic changes. But I had no choice but to really pay attention now. So the first thing I did was just add an extra clear “remorse scene,” one where the MC poured her heart out saying how sorry she was for all her wrong-doings.
I was satisfied with that for a little while, but my nagging brain wouldn’t let it be. I knew it wasn’t enough. *Sigh* The character was the heroine, not the antagonist anymore, and even though she was feisty, tough, and determined, I also had to make her likable. So I went through the novel, softening her up where needed and only having her feistiness appear as reactions to situations.
But I still had this feeling that something was missing. Finally, during the rewrite, a writing concept I had forgotten all about popped into my mind: Save the Cat. If you are a writer, you have probably heard the term. It is a concept and the name of screenwriter’s how-to book by Blake Snyder http://www.amazon.com/Save-Last-Book-Screenwriting-Youll/dp/1932907009
Here is the writing rule from the book Save the Cat: “The hero has to do something when we meet him so that we like him and want him to win. A screenwriter must be mindful of getting the audience ‘in sync’ with the plight of the hero from the very start”
Even though this information is in a screenwriter’s book, I think it applies to novels too. It makes sense and it certainly applied to my story. Even though I was fixing the character in later chapters, I needed that initial scene so that the readers would sympathize with her immediately. It didn’t take me long to find the obvious spot for this in my first chapter. (A shout out to my honest and tough critique partners!)
I wrote down the three little words and posted it to my bulletin board with my other two important writing reminders: “Emotion, Thought, Decision” and “A scene is never about what a scene is about.” It will sure save a lot of grief and time if I remember to “Save the Cat” before I start writing my next rough draft.
Love and Laughter,
One of the search terms used to find this site is fairy tale story ideas. I’ve been using fairy tales as inspiration for many years. I like using the formula: fairy tale + paranormal element = supernatural fairy tale. Sometimes I even give myself an extra challenge to help inspire me; a certain genre, a picture, fairy tale moral, etc.
Some years ago (about 7) I started a blog called Supernatural Fairy Tales. One of the things I used it for was to challenge myself. At the beginning of the month I would announce my supernatural fairy tale challenge, and by the end of the month, I had my short story posted. As a result I have two fairy tale novels (which were based on my short stories) and over 20 short stories – 9 of which I loved and published as a collection, and lots of poems.
I thought it might be fun to share these story starters with others who are interested in a writing challenge. And where better than where my fairy tale journey began – on my blog, Supernatural Fairy Tales - which has sat patiently awaiting my return.
There are three number generators: one to pick your fairy tale, one to pick your paranormal element, and one to pick an extra little challenge – just follow the links to your picks and then let your imagination take it from there.
I used it myself and this is my story starter: Fairy Tale: The Fisherman and His Wife – Paranormal Element: Witch/Warlock – Extra Challenge: Genre Steampunk. This ought to be interesting…
Love and Laughter,
I would like to invite you to download Passage to Queen Mesentia. It will be FREE today through January 27, 2014. Passage to Queen Mesentia has romance, mystery, comedy, and adventure. The story starts out in Texas where a cowboy, a princess, and an immortal travel to Egypt for a old-fashioned treasure hunt. It is also a five-thousand-year-old love story: forbidden, cursed, forever, lost, reawakened.
Here are some links- followed by the blurb and the first chapter. Have a great week!
Love and Laughter,
The assassination of her archeologist parents thrusts Lillian Steward from her comfortable life into a dangerous quest for an ancient Egyptian artifact. The mystery guides her from Texas to Egypt as she follows the clues left by her parents. Accompanied by a mysterious stranger with a romantically tragic past and her protective ex-boyfriend, who is still in love with her, Lilly walks a tightrope of forbidden attraction and blind determination. Will they finally be able to bury the past, or will a history of love, hate, and blood repeat itself?
Thursday April 14, 2005
“That was so freaking boring,” Wade Roberts said as he lowered the passenger side window. “Please, don’t ever make me sit through one of those again.” He fought with his tie until he won and then threw it in the backseat.
“Really?” Lilly said. “I found it fascinating. Would you mind? With the window… we still have dinner.”
Wade pressed the button, and the window made its way back up. “That’s because they’re your parents: the greatest archaeology team in the whole universe.” Even though he knew Lilly would freeze in her little sundress, he turned on the air conditioner. She had been the one who had insisted he wear the hot, miserable suit in the first place. He knew the reason he’d been the only one Sunday-schooled up at the lecture was because she wanted to impress her parents. That’s what had annoyed him the most about the entire evening.
“That’s not it,” she said. “I mean, I am proud of them. My goodness, they discovered the tomb of an Egyptian queen who no one even knew existed.”
“It doesn’t even make sense. This cat Unas…”
“The last pharaoh of the fifth dynasty.”
“Yeah, yeah. Why wouldn’t he want anyone to know he had this third wife? It’s not like they had to worry about bigamy. Everyone already knew he had two wives. What’s one more?”
“Oh, so you were paying attention.”
He exhaled, causing his lips to putter, and shrugged his shoulders.
Lilly tucked her long, dark hair behind her ear and her face lit up as she said, “But that’s what makes it so incredible. Don’t you think it’s weird how they found Queen Mesentia’s mummy buried off on its own and not with the other wives? No pyramid or any other indication that there was a tomb, just an underground tunnel.”
“Uh huh. Hey Baby, stop over there at that fillin’ station so I can grab me a pack of cigs.”
“Wade, we’ll be late.”
“Well, call and tell them we’ll be a little late. Unless you want me to pace and be nervous all night.”
She huffed but pulled off the highway and then into a Texaco station.
Wade got out of the car and took his time walking inside. No way was he going to hurry. He could see Lilly through the window with the phone up to her ear. Probably saying, “Mommy, I’m so sorry Wade’s such an ass.” Actually, he mused, she would never use the word ass, it would be more like, “He’s such a meanie-wienie,” or some other silly word she had picked up from her 3rd graders.
Wade climbed back into the car a couple of minutes later, hitting his cigarettes upside down on the palm of his hand, packing the tobacco.
“I tried them three times,” Lilly said as she drove onto the access road. “I don’t understand why no one answered. Even if they’re upstairs, Constance should answer in the kitchen. “
When Wade noticed she had turned the air off, he started rolling the window back down.
“You’re not going to smoke that now are you?”
“Uh… yes,” he said with the unlit cigarette already in his lips and his thumb on the lighter.
“Come on… I don’t want to stink.”
“What the hell did you think I was going to do with the things? Eat ‘em?”
The tires squealed as she turned into the next driveway and made an abrupt stop.
“Get out,” she said.
“What?” His mouth dropped open, and the cigarette fell to the floorboard.
“I’ll wait while you take a couple of puffs. All right? And please, take off your jacket.”
Wade gladly rid himself of the jacket. With the door ajar, he lit the cigarette, inhaling a long satisfying drag.
“Why aren’t they answering the phone?” Lilly asked, holding the phone up to her ear.
“We saw them like five seconds ago,” he said, wishing he had a cold beer to go with the nicotine.
“You know how they hate it when I’m late, and we’re already thirty minutes behind.”
“Will you stop? It won’t hurt them to wait a couple of minutes.” He squished the fire of the cigarette out with his fingers and put it back inside the pack. He sighed as he sat back down in the passenger seat, hoping she would catch his annoyance so he wouldn’t have to tell her what he really thought of the situation. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Perfection. He didn’t understand why Lilly wasted so much energy on people who would rather be half way across the world digging up bones than near their only daughter. He did hate that they were home, but it would be hard on Lilly to see them go back to Cairo in a month to count, or catalog, or whatever people did with mummies, when she hadn’t seen them in over a year.
As Lilly sat there, all tight mouthed and mad at him, he remembered what he used to call her when they’d first met: Princess Lilly. How someone as classy as Lillian Steward had fallen for a blue-collar cowboy like him, he would never know. Her parents still didn’t approve of him and probably hoped Lilly would grow out of her rebellious behavior and get back together with Mr. Sophisticated. They especially didn’t like them living together without a piece of paper but didn’t want them to get married either. He couldn’t wait for their reactions when she finally did say yes. He had proposed to Lilly twice, and even though she had shot him down both times, he knew one day she would be his wife.
As Lilly turned the wheel and pulled into the circular drive that led up to the four-columned two-story, she said, “Answer my father when he talks to you, don’t be bored, and please don’t fall asleep after we eat.”
“Yes, Miss Steward. I will raise my hand if I have to go to the bathroom.”
“I wonder why the lights are out.” She turned the ignition off letting the night sounds in.
“Maybe they got tired of waiting and went on to bed.”
“They wouldn’t do that,” Lilly said as she stepped out of the car.
“Sure they wouldn’t,” he responded, right after she had shut the door.
Wade gathered all the mental strength he could find to face Lilly’s parents before forcing himself out of the car.
Lilly stood on the front porch and slowly turned towards Wade as he walked up stairs. “Something’s… off,” she said.
Wade absorbed the same weird vibe. Other than the streetlights filtering in through the huge oak trees, darkness surrounded the house. After a moment of neither one of them moving, he said, “Maybe we were supposed to meet them at a restaurant.”
“No, Mom said here.” She put her hand on the door knob. The door hadn’t been shut all the way; it silently glided open. After a pause, she looked at Wade with an expression of worry hardening her delicate face.
“Stay here,” he said.
Lilly shook her head. “No,” she whispered.
He tried giving her a firm looking at, but still she shook her head.
“Fine,” he said through his teeth. He walked through the dark entrance with Lilly right behind him, holding onto his shirt. He waited a second for his eyes to focus, and then jumped when the light overhead snapped on. He turned to Lilly, and she shrugged her shoulders, her hand on the switch.
When Wade got a whiff of dinner, the silence and the darkness of the house didn’t add up. And then Lilly glanced past him. Her brown eyes narrowed but then quickly widened. Wade followed her stare to the destroyed living room area.
“Mom… Dad?” Lilly ran past him, stopping for a second to examine the living room.
“Wait! Lilly, don’t!” Wade yelled.
But Lilly didn’t stop. She ran up the stairs calling her parents’ names, each time her voice a little more panicked. Wade chased after her, but as soon as he reached the top of the stairs, he heard Lilly scream.
There is no secret as to how you finish a novel, you just steadily work on it: page by page, chapter by chapter, day by day.
I write 4-5 days a week. And I pretty much follow the same ritual. I write in the mornings when it’s quiet. I drink 1-2 cups of very strong coffee with half & half. I open the file and go to the page where I left off. For several years, I haven’t had a daily word count nor a time goal. I know I’m finished for the day when I’m finished, when I just can’t focus and my mind shuts down. I don’t force myself to keep going. I’m done.
To me, taking a break and writer’s block are two different creatures. I purposely take a break by not even opening the file. I take breaks all the time, but when I’m ready to sit back down and write, it’s business as usual.
One morning, not too long ago, I sat down at my computer with my cup of very strong coffee with half & half, opened my book file, and got that feeling I get when I’m finished writing for the day. Um … what? This went on for a couple of days until I decided to “take a break.”
I have my suspicions as to why this happened, and I’m sure every writer has different reasons for writer’s block. But for whatever reason my brain had for not wanting to write, I didn’t like it. For goodness sakes, I’m almost finished with my second draft!
So here are a few things I did to get back to writing:
- I sat at my computer at night, when everyone was home and it was noisy, with a glass of Pinot Grigio – So Instead of: morning, coffee, and quiet, it was: night, wine, and noise.
- I told myself I was just going to read over a chapter – I started changing a word here and there and eventually I was reconstructing sentences.
- I have the rough draft, but there are some major changes that I want to make, and I haven’t actually wrote those down, they’re just in my head. I told myself I needed to make notes on the chapters so I wouldn’t forget during this non-writing time – thankfully, I never got to those notes, instead I started working on the book.
- Instead of my usual start where I left off, I went to the end of the book and worked on the very last chapter of the novel.
You get the idea. So my conclusion: lies and deceit are the best solution to writer’s block.
I’m still not at pre-writer’s block, but the story is not at a standstill either. Because there is no secret as to how you finish a novel, you just steadily work on it: page by page, chapter by chapter, day by day.
Love and Laughter,