How To Be A Successful Hooker

Oct 10 2020, 8:23 am in

Hooker? 
 Did you come to the blog thinking I was going to talk about a very old profession? If you did well……..

HA! Made you look. You fell for my HOOK.

I’m talking Writing Hooks. Hooking a reader into your story.

Grabbing them so hard and fast they can‘t put your book down.

 

     So what is a HOOK?

     Mary Buckham, in her lecture packet on Hooks and Pacing, says, “Hooks create an emotional response from a reader. Not just any emotional response but one that gets under your subconscious, raises a question and compels a reader to turn one more page in order to find an answer.

     Hooks can, and should be used, in the opening sentence of a book, the opening paragraph, the end of the first page, the end of the third page, the end of the third chapter, opening a chapter as well as an ending one, at each new scene and, if you’re writing a series, the last sentence.”

     In her book, How I Write, Janet Evanovich says:  “The beginning is the most important part of the book. It must capture the reader immediately and force them to keep reading.”

      In his book Hooked Les Edgerton says, “ If your beginning doesn’t do the job it needs to the rest of the story most likely won’t be read by the agent or editor or publisher you submit it to.”

     Agent Donald Maas says hooks are vital to open your book, open each chapter, open each scene, and end the book. The best books contain one or more of twelve different hooks.

* Action or danger

* Overpowering emotion

* A surprising situation

* An evocative description that pulls a reader into a setting

* Introducing a unique character

* Warning or foreshadowing

* Shocking or witty dialogue

* The totally unexpected

* Raising a direct question

     Still not convinced hooks are important? Take five of your favorite books from the shelf and read the first paragraph. Is there a hook?  Does the end of the first chapter have a hook?  I looked at 20 of my favorites. All have hooks and all but a handful had the story GMC in the first pages.

     My very favorite opening is Michael Connelly’s The Brass Verdict. It completely lays out the story.

“Everybody lies.

Cops lie. Lawyers lie. Witnesses lie. The victim lies.

The trial is a contest of lies. And everyone in the courtroom knows this. The judge knows this. Even the jury knows this. They come into the building knowing they take their seats in the box and agreed to be lied to.”

     There is an Eloisa James book, (Historical) the name of the book escapes me now, that begins “I didn’t mean to marry them both.” Brilliant. The reader knows what this book is about instantly.

     Does your opening immediately draw the reader in?  Don’t know? If you open with a character talking about grocery lists or what’s on TV, probably not. Your opening signals what the rest of the book is about.  

     Openings don’t have to be explosions, fires, or murders.  Although I do like those.  It does need to make the reader want to read on and on and on. You only have a few pages to ‘hook’ an agent, editor, and most important, your readers.  

     Make the best of your first pages.  In the first paragraph drag the reader in with a grappling hook, use a spinner to end the first page.  End the first chapter with a treble hook.

      Go all out for the end of your story and use a big game hook that satisfies the reader an has them searching for your next book.  

     Share a opening hook from a favorite book or, one from your own writing. 

                                                                                                 Rita

Writers are Super Heroes – Part Trois

Sep 18 2020, 8:30 am

Yes they are.

The Creativity Super Power

With all going on in the world there has been some discussion about how to keep the joy in our writing. There are a bazillion possible answers to this.

I think one is by indulging our other creative talents.  Yeaph. OTHER creative talents. Authors are very creative people. Writers think about all the other talents you have and how those creative outlets can nourish your writing. 

Here are a few.

Sewing. BTW I hear it’s coming back as a thing. Many Historical Romance authors make costumes for their events. 

Knitting and crocheting.  

 Setting a proper table is now considered an art. Ha!  I giggled when I saw a Facebook post about setting a table and there was no place for the cell phone.

Family wrangling. 

Cooking. Baking. Look at all the TV cooking shows.

Painting as in, on a canvas and the walls. 

Carpentry.

Sketching.

Coloring.

Gardening.

Decorating.

Giving Parties.

Yeah. I hear you asking what these creative endeavors have to do with writing.  Consider. When you begin writing a new book you write a synopsis. Make a plan. Develop a structure or a pattern.  Look at the talents I mentioned above. How many need a plan, a pattern?

When sketching a face you start with the basic features everyone has, head shape, jaw, ears, nose eyes. But, it is how we shape those features that makes the face unique. Take sewing a dress. You begin with a pattern. Each one has an opening for the head and sleeves, but think of the creative possibilities in achieving the finished product.

When you begin to write every word inside you doesn’t rush out like a water fall onto the page all at once. It’s like knitting and crocheting. One stitch/word at a time culminating in this great design/book.

I believe spending a few hours or minutes a week with your other talents can help feed the writing beast. I know many authors creative in other fields. One is what I call a perpetual creative bottle rocket. She’s an entrepreneur, baker, swag maker and always has amazing creative ideas. Another, is a knitter extraordinaire. Others are or have been a TV producer, an opera singer, teachers, farmers and gardeners.

Me? I sketch. Drawing my characters. Although I have to admit I sometimes use the Flash Face app to get the basics. I may or may not admit to coloring in the big girl books. I click the knitting needles and crochet with basic stitches. Garden. A new design is emerging in the out of control back yard jungle thanks to my improved chain saw skills.

What are your other creative talents? Take one of yours and examine it for similarities with writing.

Do you think enjoying all your creative venues can help keep the joy in your writing?

 

Writers Are Super Heroes – Part Deux

Sep 16 2020, 8:20 am

Yes they are. 

The Curiosity Superpower.

Author’s professional curiosity is a huge subject on many levels. It begins with, can I write a book? Should I write a book? How do I write a book? Flash forward to a truck load of how do I promote and gain new reader questions.

I believe an author’s personal curiosity keeps joy in their writing. It ignites the imagination and fuels the creativity tank.

Curiosity isn’t just asking questions, it’s challenging yourself to come up with your own discoveries. Please. Please. When you do ask questions, don’t be an ask hole.

DefinitionAsk Holeone who takes another’s time asking a million questions and not only doesn’t listen to the answer, but if asking for advice, has no intention of taking it. 

In asking questions be prepared for the responses you may receive. I asked a couple married 60 years a simple question. “When did you first know you were in love?”  The couple had never told each other and their answers had everyone in the room dabbing tears.    

The Curiosity Superpower takes a writer places. Not like in horror movies when the dude goes out into a dark and stormy night to see if the guy with the chain saw needs help. Like asking a perfect stranger in line at the Post Office a question that can lead to a romance or lifelong friendship. Ask the elders in your family what their earliest memories are. Call the local apiary and ask how they get bees to give up their pollen. BTW, I still haven’t gotten an answer to that one. 

Being curious gives you the courage and confidence to step out of your comfort zone. Even if it’s a tiny bit and for the briefest moment it can take you to the next level with new experiences to use in your writing.

Schedule a day, few hours, an hour, to question everything in your world like a joyous five year old. Finding the fun and joy in your life carries over into your writing. Use curiosity to wake up your senses. Take a ‘feel’ trip. Invite friends. Touch everything you see. Well, not hot stuff and not other people you don’t know. High end department stores, craft stores, and garden centers are great for this. When you write about the silk duvet on the heroine’s bed you’ll smile remembering exactly how it looked and felt when you flopped on it at the chi-chi boutique.

Equate the wool textures from the craft store with your protagonist’s sweater. You won’t have to imagine what his girlfriend feels as her fingers drift over his sleeve. You will know.

Finger flower petals and leaves. They have an incredible lush feeling. Leaves can release a surprising scent. Instead of the heroine stomping through the lavender, you can use lemon balm, geraniums or any other scented plants you discover. 

Ladies, talking scent, do an experiment to find which is more alluring to the Y chromosome homo sapiens in your life. Does bacon, stink bait, or a slightly spicy Jo Malone scent dabbed behind the ear drive them crazy?  I found it broke down to the first two depending on how hungry and how close to the weekend it was.

Guys, are you more likely to be drawn to a woman with the scent of bacon wafting from her bag or who smells of Freesia and nectarine blossoms?   

Are you curious and courageous enough to taste python pizza?  Find out if eel is really that nasty. Blah. I say yes. It’s nasty. Does a hot dog taste as good without the bun? That’s a big N O for me. How many shots of grappa does it take to make you drunk?

So using my curious endeavors I could write a story about a bee pollen hijacker who slams back grappa with python pizza and carries bacon in her purse to attract men who wear sweaters.

Where has your curiosity taken you?

Come back Friday to read suggestion on how to fill your Creativity tank. 

                                                                                              Rita 

Writers Are Super Heroes.

Sep 14 2020, 8:35 am

Yes they are.

Why?  Because writers swirl words on the page in a way that captures the reader’s imagination with descriptions and conversations and carries them away to other places and times. 

They are able to do this using their Superpowers of Imagination, Curiosity and Creativity. Every writer, no matter the genre we write, has theses super powers.  No joke.  If we didn’t have them we couldn’t write.  

The Imagination Super Power.

Writers are blessed/cursed with the double edged sword of wild, vivid imaginations propelling us to conjure stories of the same ilk.  I firmly believe imagination is everything to a writer. It’s a way to preview life’s coming attractions. It’s the ability to change the past in our mind’s eye. And……therefore allows us to write about such things.

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

I’m not going to argue with Al.

Authors are frequently asked: “Where do you get your stories?” 

When I first started writing I was hesitant to say the people living in my head tell me what to write so, being the snarky person I am, I quickly said, “the Amazon story store.”  I mean, Amazon sells live lady bugs and rents goats, why not sell stories?  But alas, I had to stop because too many asked me for the link. 

The correct answer is writers get stories everyplace. Remember that double edged sword?  Through our senses, into our minds, we ingest the world around us then reshape it all into new images in our imagination.   

Last year my imagination was triggered by The Bureau of Land Management seeking volunteers to spend the summer in the middle of nowhere Montana in an abandoned haunted town.  Not happening for me but, my mind took me to an abundance of romance possibilities and spooky stuff.

Then there’s the abandoned and boarded up Baker hotel in Mineral Springs TX.  A big ole empty hotel just sitting there. I imagined a story about a group of mystery writers spending the weekend. I even came up with a last sentence for the book. “How would you rate your stay at the Baker Hotel?”   

And songs. For me songs are writing prompts. Take Ray Stevens’ DEAD SKUNK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. I immediately thought of a squished ex sprawled across the double yellow line. The protagonist, a very hot detective BTW,  is convinced the ex-wife killed the skunk.

Who but an author can admire an ancient oak and imagine couples from every time period falling in love under the spreading branches? Then wonder how many bodies the roots are embracing.

I believe authors are a special breed. Every day we fade into the alternate world of books. Those written by others and the ones we’re writing. We extend our arms, put our fingers to the keyboard and imagination flows, letter by letter, across the screen. We can imagine anything and happily share what we conjure up with the world. 

I use my imagination to write the Under Fire series about extraordinary women and the men they love. Military heroines. A Coast Guard helicopter pilot. A Coast Guard admiral. A Marine Corps Intelligence officer. A Federal agent who works closely with Special Ops men. Women at the top of their field in a man’s world.

My imagination got the best of me and I published Let Me Tell You a Story.  A collection of eight twisted and tattered tales from the odd side. It felt amazing to finally free these characters from my mind and put them on the page. 

BTW I now answer the question, “where do your ideas come from”, with a huge smile and say, “I imagine every single one of them.”

Where has your imagination taken you today?  Or, where has an author’s imagination taken you today?  

Come back Wednesday to talk about another writer’s Super Power –Curiosity.

                                                                               Rita 

TIPS FOR SELF EDITING.

Jul 29 2020, 10:00 am in

 

First draft finished. Woot. It’s strong and somewhat as bloated as a T-Rex.

As a writer my goal is to have the reader devour every word I put on the page and keep them turning those pages. I strive to make my writing crisp and to the point. Before a manuscript goes to my editor I go through several self-editing steps. First, I search for weak works and phrases, redundant words, and overused and unnecessary words. If I’m writing in a series I refer back to my series bible and make sure characters who appeared in previous books have the same color eyes and hair etc.

Next, I read the story aloud or have a program read it back to me. I catch many things that way.   

My job is to de-bloat my story like these pink birds tackled the T-RexHere are some editing tips you may find useful to de-bloat your WIP.

Weak words and phrases. 

Weak words drain the power from what you write. Watch for these weak words: even, very, some, sometimes, occasionally, before, maybe, really, often, especially, somewhat, actually, few, fairly, many, most, and just.

Some editors insist you never use just. I use just when I speak and consequently insert it into my work. It’s the first word I search to remove.  

Wasted phrases and vague words.

Do you best to eliminate these wasted phrases: in order to, by means of, in fact, for the purpose of.  and any other combination of wordy words that can be deleted and not missed. 

The more specific a word or phrase is, the more information the reader has. The more information the reader has increases their connection to your story. We want to keep readers hooked.  Using vague, useless wasted words unhooks them.

A little pregnant.  Somewhat hungry. Halfway angry. Say they’re hungry or angry. Start to. Start is sufficient. He almost exploded.  Either he did or didn’t. 😯 

Redundant words.

Using two words when, by definition, you’ve said it twice. For example, baby puppies.  Puppies are babies. The word baby is unnecessary. Examples. 

Flinch back

Crouch down

Stand up

Sit down

Climb up

Kneel down

Frigid ice

Honest truth

Burning hot

Short midget

Tall giant

Protrude out

New recruit

Free gift

Bare naked

Completely naked

Burn down

Recur again

Cancel out

Basic fundamentals

Definite decision

Completely destroyed

Eliminate common overused and unnecessary words.

Search for— that, was, had, the, as if, but, when, again, against, by. It isn’t possible to eliminate all these words. But when that is used 13 times in one paragraph. Well…..some can go. 

Read your sentences with and without these words aloud. Decide which you prefer.

 

                   Happy editing.

                                             Rita   

 

 

 

 

Guy Speak – Writer tips

Apr 25 2019, 10:50 am

Guy Speak 

This is not about a man saying one thing and meaning another.

I’m discussing male dialogue in romance books. It drives me bonkers to read dialogue that has a man speaking like a woman. Male and female brains are hardwired different. While the male and female of the species have the same basic needs they communicated those needs in different ways. Therefore Y chromosomes express themselves differently and their dialogue is going to be different.

We as writers need to remember not to mess with the hard wiring and show that difference on the page. Don’t make your heroes fit so perfectly into some fantasy Prince Charming mold that the characters no longer resemble the male species.

Let’s begin with the differences in the way the two sexes talk. Women tend to qualify a statement by ending the sentence with a question.  “This color looks good on me, don’t you think?”

Guys get a new paint job on their muscle car. It will be, “Dang. My car looks good.” He doesn’t give a hoot or a holler what anyone else thinks.

Ask a guy a question that requires a yes or no. “Do you want to ride into town with me?” Men will respond with yes or no. Ask a woman the same question. “Yes, but can we stop at the mall first cause I want to exchange a blouse I bought the other day for a smaller size. If you don’t want to stop, I don’t think I want to go. But, ask me again before you go. I might change my mind.” 

When writing dialogue for a guy the less words used the better. A cowboy won’t ask the cows to please go into the corral because he has things to do, he’ll yell, “Yee-ha.”  A police detective isn’t going to say to a struggling bad guy “Please stop struggling and put your hands behind you so I can get these cuffs on.” It will be, “hands behind you.” And maybe an expletive added.  Men cut to the chase. They don’t hem and haw and beat around the bush. They say what’s on their mind. “Nice dress. Take it off.”  Thank you Janet for that brilliant line.

Now let’s discuss feelings.

Men are not as complicated as women want to make them. There’s an old joke about what it takes to please men and women. There are 99 items on the woman’s list. Things like bring her flowers, candy, rub her feet, take her to dinner, etc. On the men’s list are 2 things: show up naked with beer. Pretty much sums it up.

Does your hero tell your heroine how he feels? Does he answer her when she asks how he feels?  If the answer is yes, then take your hands off the keyboard and step away from the computer cause we need to talk. Even though you want your hero to be the man we gals want, having him talk too much about feelings could be pushing the edge of the envelope.

Men will gladly tell you what they think, but what they feel…? Try this experiment.  Ask you DH, SO, any guy, what they feel about a topic you know they are interested in. A couple of days later ask them what they think about it. In my tests the how do you feel question was met with blank stares, and a “huh?” The what do you think question was answered with a five minute monologue and way more information than I wanted.

What’s the difference? The survey says a Y chrom is sure about what he thinks, but with his feelings, ehhh…he doesn’t want to look a fool to his woman. Men seem to be intimidated by the fact women are born with a master’s degree in the discussion of feelings. They figure if the relationship is good their woman won’t want to talk about feelings. Talking feelings when things are going well, throws a guy out of the game. He gets nervous.

This can be an excellent opportunity to add conflict on the page.

Her: “Why won’t you tell me how you feel?”

She’s thinking -OMG there must be something wrong he won’t talk to me.

Him: “I don’t feel anything.”

He’s thinking- OMG. She wants to talk about feelings. I’ve screwed up big time.

It can be a way to show character arc. In the beginning he doesn’t share much. As the relationship grows and he wants to make her happy, he begins to open up about his feelings. He doesn’t exactly like it, but when she lets him know how worthwhile he is, he becomes more willing to expose his own insecurities and sacrifice his comfort zone for her. As in TALK about how he FEELS.

Careful about the writing here. Even though you want your hero to be the man we gals want, having him talk about feelings to soon with TMI could be asking your reader to suspend beliefs. Above I said a man will sacrifice his comfort zone for his woman. Why? Because guys feel sacrifices show love. Men love the power struggle, love to be in control and those sacrifices, big or small, will center around that.  Something as small as letting his woman pick the radio station in the car when he wants to listen to the game, going shopping with her, holding her bag when he wants to be home watching the game is another way a man expresses love. He derives great satisfaction when she acknowledges that sacrifice with a simple thank you, or a smile. I’m not saying a guy should forgo flowers on her birthday. I’m saying write smart. Show love in more than one way.

And remember men are fixers. A woman goes to her man with a problem his first reaction will be to fix it not give sympathy.

Her: “My beloved VW was stolen.” She’s had that car since high school and loves it. She needs a hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Him: “It was old. Come on let’s head out and get you a brand new one.” He’s all puffed up cause his woman had a problem and he fixed it just like that.  

To wrap up. Writing the guys dialogue use less words. Get to the point. Cut through the unnecessary. As for the feelings part, consider subtle ways your hero shows love and your heroine shows understanding that’s what he’s doing.

 To get a handle on men’s dialogue I suggest you listen to love songs. The vast majority are written by men and feelings are rarely mentioned. They sing about what they are doing, are going to do to their woman, or what they want their woman to do to them. Read a book or two

BTW, my opinion is most women aren’t looking for Prince Charming. They want someone who knows about unconditional love, how to be honest, true and faithful.

What do you think?

Rita 

 

 

 

What Outlander Taught Me About Writing.

Nov 16 2018, 5:53 pm

If you are not acquainted with the Outlander books and Starz series here’s a quick rundown. The first of the 8 books was published in 1992. The TV series first aired in 2014 and is now in the 4th season.  It’s about a woman, the Sassy Sassenach, who sets her clocks back too far and lands up in 18th century Scotland. Her goal is the get back to the 20th century. But there is a hot Scot, Kilt Daddy, whose goal is to keep her there. Her motivation is to get back to hot baths and toilet paper. His motivation is love. He loved her from the moment he saw her. Sigh. Conflict is behind every bush. Redcoats waring with Highland Clans. Waring 20th and 18th century morals and values. I could go on but think you get the point.

I’ll begin by saying I feel the Starz series does a good job of transferring the book to the screen. I don’t agree with all the changes they’ve made but, no one asked me for my opinion.

I believe no two people read the same book or see the same TV show.  We read/watch with our own POV. Our world views and experiences. Everyone’s mileage differs. This is my perspective. 

The author, Diana Gabaldon, intrigues me most with her characters emotional connections and journeys. Everything between tender to brutal, funny to heartbreak is on the page. Her intimate scenes are more about emotions than the physicality.

Gabaldon weaves her fiction around historical events. She immerses her characters in actual places and events. To the point the settings and events become characters. When the very name of a place is mentioned a reader is able to conjure up the image. Not so much because of complicated physical details but because of the addition of sensual details. I’d venture to say everyone knows what a rock wall or tree looks like. But a rock wall with lichen the same as covered the grave stones. Or the oak tree live the one he’s carved their initials in.       

We are frequently treated to 18th medical practices and all manner of lotions and potions that are used today. There is an Outlander Kitchen Cookbook. Do you remember in a Breath of Snow and Ashes when the kiddos get into the Cherry Bounce? There is very little about taste. There is plenty about the effects. The reactions of the unaffected. The reader can’t help but smile.  I think it tastes like industrial strength cough syrup.

As the family grows so do sub plots. The reader becomes as deeply involved with secondary characters as they are the main characters. Every single character elicits emotional responses from me. When Fergus had his hand severed. O. MY. The death of a beloved child.  Some characters we absolutely hate. These books have many villains. They cause emotional and physical havoc. Secondary characters are popular enough to spawn character spinoff novellas.

I adore the way this author uses animals as characters. Ian’s dog. The family mule. Sassy Sassenach’s chitty. Kilt Daddy’s horses. They have their own personalities. Their interactions with humans is amazing. The readers become emotionally vested in the animal’s stories.   

Okay, I’ve rambled long enough. My point I’m trying to make is the story isn’t simply being told. I feel I know Kilt Daddy, Sassy Sassenach, their family and their connections to each other. When something happens to them I feel it. I have an emotional connection to people, places and animals in this book.

How does Outlander speak to you?  Does it give you ideas to improve your writing?  

 

 

 

The Writers Voice

Mar 21 2018, 7:14 pm

Let’s talk about voice.  No, not the TV show. The ‘voice’ that comes through in your story. Your book. And I don’t mean reading it out loud. I mean what YOU bring to the story.

Ever ask anyone to define voice? Most times I’ve gotten something along the lines of, I can’t tell you what it is exactly but I know it when I see/read it. Or, have you tried to explain voice to a newbie author? Yeah.

Okay, so here’s my take on voice.   

There are layers of voice in a book.

First is the author’s voice. It’s how you, the author, tells the story. Ten people can be eye witnesses to an event. Each will give a somewhat different account. It’s according to their world view. The way their experience leads them to see and understand the world.

Edna St, Vincent Millay said:  A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with their pants down.

How come? Because in writing we reveal our own world view. How we feel about events going on around us. Not so much the events. A tree falling is a tree falling. But in the telling of the tree falling you reveal feelings, perceptions and the process of dealing with the event. Your voice.

We don’t need to be a serial killer to write about one. The emotions and how you deal with them in your story reveals how you feel about serial killers. Your voice.

Second is the character’s voice. Each character having a distinct voice is important.

Ernest Hemingway said, When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”

In order for me to do this I have to know my characters. I take James Scott Bell’s definition of voice to heart. “Character background and language filtered through the author’s heart and rendered with craft on the page =voice.” 

 To find a character’s voice I create a world view for them. Give them values, secrets, fears, misguided beliefs and so on. The characters become real to me.

This is the way I create emotional connections with the reader. Make them feel something. It’s said people will forget what you do, say, and write unless you make them feel when you do, say, and write something.

When someone says the voice wasn’t strong, I believe what they’re saying is the author failed to make them strongly feel something.

What do you think?

                                                             Rita

My go to books for studying voice are: Voice by James Scott Bell and Finding Your Voice by Les Edgerton.     

Since I said we all have our own world views we all more than likely have different views on what voice is. Please share yours and any books you find helpful.    

How To Be A Successful Hooker.

Nov 16 2017, 12:41 pm in

 Hooker? 

 Did you come to the blog thinking I was going to talk about a very old profession? If you did well…. 

HA! Made you look. You fell for my HOOK.

   I’m talking about hooks in your writing. Hooking a reader into your story. Grabbing them so hard and fast they can‘t put your book down.

  So what is a hook? Mary Buckham, in her lecture packet on Hooks and Pacing, says it best. “Hooks create an emotional response from a reader. Not just any emotional response but one that gets under your subconscious, raises a question and compels a reader to turn one more page in order to find an answer.

  Hooks can, and should be used, in the opening sentence of a book, the opening paragraph, the end of the first page, the end of the third page, the end of the third chapter, opening a chapter as well as an ending one, at each new scene and, if you’re writing a series, the last sentence.”

  In her book, How I Write, Janet Evanovich says:  “The beginning is the most important part of the book. It must capture the reader immediately and force them to keep reading.”

  Agent Donald Maas says hooks are vital to open your book, open each chapter, open each scene, and end the book. The best books contain one or more of twelve different hooks.

* Action or danger

* Overpowering emotion

* A surprising situation

* An evocative description that pulls a reader into a setting [think a specific setting here that impacts the story line vs simply description per se – simple description of a generic or vague nature is not evocative nor qualifies as a setting]

* Introducing a unique character [Introduction of a character is not enough – they must be unique.

* Warning or foreshadowing

* Shocking or witty dialogue [internal or external]

* The totally unexpected

* Raising a direct question

  Still not convinced hooks are important? I wasn’t either. I didn’t see the need for an opening hook. This is what a smart author told me. Take five of your favorite books from the shelf and read the first paragraph. Is there a hook?  I had twenty-one books on the table before I became a believer. All save one had a hook. All but a handful had the story GMC in the first pages.

   My very favorite opening is Michael Connelly’s The Brass Verdict. It completely lays out the story.

“Everybody lies.

Cops lie. Lawyers lie. Witnesses lie. The victim lies.

The trial is a contest of lies. And everyone in the courtroom knows this. The judge knows this. Even the jury knows this. They come into the building knowing .They take their seats in the box and agreed to be lied to.”

  I am blown away when a reader remembers my opening or asks me if I’m a helicopter pilot.  Let’s get back to your opening. Does it immediately draw the reader in?  Don’t know? Think about it like this. Say your book is about an asteroid on a collision course with earth and the heroine who saves the day. Should the first page begin with the heroine sitting on the sofa, channel surfing, eating ice-cream, thinking about calling the hunky new neighbor that just moved in next door? But, first she has to make her grocery list, call her sister and make sure the new puppy doesn’t pee on the carpet?

OR…The heroine learns there is a giant asteroid headed her way. She snatches up puppy, runs next door, grabs the hunk out of shower and drags him from the house seconds before the asteroid hits demolishing both homes. 

  Which are you going to want to read more of? Do you care about what her grocery list includes? What flavor of ice cream she prefers? Do you want to read farther to learn if the puppy pees on the carpet?  Not me! I’d kinda like to know if hunky neighbor had time to grab a towel, what he’s going to do for clothes and how he is going to thank the heroine for saving his life. Hmm. HOOK!

  Your opening does not have to be explosions, fires, or murders. It does need to make the reader want to read on and on and on. You only have a few pages to ‘hook’ an agent, editor, and most important your readers.  

Make the best of your first pages.  

In the first paragraph drag the reader in with a grappling hook, use a spinner to end the first page.  End the first chapter with a treble hook. Go all out for the end of you submission and use a big game hook.  

  Feel free to share your opening hook.

 

Guy Speak 

Nov 1 2017, 5:00 pm

 

This is not about a man saying one thing and meaning another.

I’m discussing male dialogue in romance books. It drives me bonkers to read dialogue that has a man speaking like a woman. Y chromosomes express themselves differently therefore, their dialogue is going to be different.

I’m going to take it to the very basic bottom line. Male and female brains are hardwired different. It goes back millions of years when primal instinct ruled. It was survive and procreate. Relationships as we know them didn’t exist. Females sought out a strong mate for his genes and to protect and provide for her and the resulting offspring. Males driven to spread their seed, sought females with large breasts and wide hips considered to be good breeders. They spread their seed, grunted, scratched, pounded their chest, and protected their offspring.

Some things haven’t changed. Women still look for a protector and provider. The definition of those roles has evolved. Protector may now mean having her back, sharing a life. A teacher and role model for offspring. Men are still driven to spread… well, we know.  

Mercifully, some things have changed. Each species still has the survive and procreate instinct but they have evolved, wants to be in a good relationship and find true love. Those needs are communicated in different ways.

We as writers have to remember not to mess with the hard wiring and put that difference on the page. Don’t make your heroes fit so perfectly into some fantasy Prince Charming mold that our male characters no longer resemble the male species. BTW, my opinion is most women aren’t looking for Prince Charming. They want someone who knows about unconditional love, how to be honest, true and faithful.

Start with the differences in the way the two sexes talk. Women tend to qualify a statement by ending the sentence with a question.  “This color looks good on me, don’t you think?”

Guys do not do that. “Dang. This is a good color for the Mustang.”

Ask a guy a question that requires a yes or no. “Do you want to ride into town with me?” Men will respond with yes or no. Ask a woman the same question. “Yes, but can we stop at mall first cause I want to exchange a blouse I bought the other day. It isn’t the right color. If you don’t want to stop, it’s a no.” 

When writing dialogue for a guy the less words used the better. A cowboy won’t ask the cows to go into the corral, he’ll yell yee-ha.  A police detective isn’t going to say to the bad guy “Please put your hands behind you so I can get these cuffs on.” It will be, “hands behind you.” And maybe an expletive added.  Men cut to the chase. They don’t hem and haw and beat around the bush. They say what’s on their mind. “Nice dress. Take it off.”  Thank you Janet for that brilliant line. Or, do men just have lower standards?

Now let’s discuss feelings.

Guys are not as complicated as women want to make them. There’s an old joke about what it takes to please men and women. There are 99 items on the woman’s list. Things like bring her flowers, candy, rub her feet, take her to dinner, etc. On the men’s list are 2 things: show up naked with beer. Pretty much sums it up.

Does your hero tell your heroine how he feels? Does he answer her when she asks how he feels?  If the answer is yes, then take your hands off the keyboard and step away from the computer cause we need to talk.

Even though you want your hero to be the man we gals want, having him talk too much about feelings could be pushing the edge of the envelope.

Guys will gladly tell you what they think, but what they feel…? Try this experiment.  Ask you DH, SO, any guy, what they feel about a topic you know they are interested in. A couple of days later ask them what they think about it. In my tests the- how do you feel- got blank stares, and a “huh?” On the- what do you think,- I had a five minute monologue and way more information than I wanted.

What’s the difference to a guy? The survey says: a guy is sure about what he thinks, but with his feelings he doesn’t want to look like a fool to his woman. They are intimidated by the fact women are born with a master’s degree in talking about feelings.  Also, they figure if everything is okay in the relationship she won’t want to talk about feelings. Talking about feelings when things are going well, throws a guy out of the game. He gets nervous.

I feel this is an excellent way to add conflict on the page with a relationship.

Her. “Why won’t you tell me how you feel?” She’s thinking -OMG there must be something wrong he won’t talk to me.

 Him. “I don’t feel anything.” He’s thinking- OMG I’ve screwed up big time. She wants to talk about feelings.

It can be a way to show character arc. In the beginning he doesn’t share much. As the relationship grows and he wants to make her happy, he begins to open up about his feelings. He doesn’t exactly like it, but when she lets him know how worthwhile he is, he becomes more willing to expose his own insecurities and sacrifice his comfort zone for her.  As in TALK about how he FEELS.

Careful about the writing here. Even though you want your hero to be the man we gals want, having him talk about feelings early on could be asking your reader to suspend beliefs a bit too far.  I just said a man will sacrifice his comfort zone for his woman. A man feels his sacrifices show his love. Men love that power struggle, love to be in control and those sacrifices, big or small, will mostly center around that.  Something as small as letting his woman pick the radio station in the car when he wants to listen to the game, giving in to what she wants, is another way a man expresses love. He derives great satisfaction when she acknowledges that sacrifice with a simple thank you, or a smile. I’m not saying a guy should forgo flowers on her birthday. I’m saying write smart. Show love in more than one way.

Do men get the wiggles in their knees when they fall head over heals in love?  Yes.

In the world cup succor matches in South Africa, the Spanish goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, missed a goal that lost the game to Switzerland. Fans believe his girl friend, Sara Carbonero, a beautiful sideline reporter was so close to the field before and during the crucial match she distracted him and Casillas allowed the game’s only goal.  Sounds like he got the wiggles in his knees.

BTW, after the game, Sara interviewed her boyfriend and on live TV, she asked her lover, “How did you fuck this up?”  Yup! SHe really said that. Sista was not going to take the wrap.

Do guys do crazy things to protect thei woman? Yeah!   Lets not forget when Helen of Troy took off to Paris with a bunch of Trojans in her luggage and Brad Pitt had to go get her. Wait…is that how it went?  Why do men do these crazy things? Because failing to provide and protect is a failure to show their love.

To wrap up. Writing the guys POV use less words. Get to the point. Cut through the unnecessary.  Consider subtle ways of him showing his love and showing her understanding that’s what he’s doing. Guys do fall crazy in love and will risk everything for their woman.

To get a handle on men’s dialogue I suggest you listen to love songs. The vast majority are written by men and feelings are rarely mentioned. They sing about what they are doing, are going to do to their woman, or what they want their woman to do to them. Read a book or two written by a Y chrom.  And read scripts. This link, http://www.simplyscripts.com/ has dozens to research.

 

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