Monday, May 23, 2011

What Should Have Happened

It's that time of year when all the network TV shows are having their season finales.  This past week I've watched cliff hangers with heroines sprawled in a pool of their own blood and heroes taking the law into their own hands.   Some of the shows will have us wait all summer to know who lives and who dies.  Some of them have emotional tension being carried over to the next season.  One of my favorite shows, Justified, has left the hero pondering his professional career and his relationships with his pregnant ex-wife and fellow marshals.  Now I have to wait until next winter to see what happens there. 

But I often wonder when these important last episode of the season occurs on TV shows if I would have written it different.  I think 'this is what should have happened.'

The heroine bleeding from gun shot wound is a little cliche for me.  I like the ending better if she shots the bad guy but the circumstances are questionable.  We know she's not going to die but if its her professional life on the line it will make for some interesting drama as she tries to get out of trouble.

I loved the season ender Mentalist, but shouldn't Red John have been someone we know?  Shouldn't he have been visible in an earlier episode?  

Blue Bloods didn't let me down with the Regans handling the murder of their family member like the good cops they are.  And then the satisfying scene of the family dinner wrapped up a great freshman season.

I finished watching the Showtime series, The Tudors, a few weeks ago on DVD.  I wish they wouldn't have ended the series with Henry.  Of course, how many movies have been made about Elizabeth?

I also recently read The Count of Monte Cristo on my ereader.  I loved the movie with Jim Caviezel and especially the ending.  The book ended completely differently.  Though I really enjoyed the book, I liked what happened in the movie better.

I can't help but thing about the ending of my books and wonder if readers finish them and then ponder 'what should have happened.'  I write my romance books in series but each book is a complete story about a different set of lead characters.  Each ending is complete with the HEA.  On the other hand, my fantasy series in a continuation of an epic tale progressing from book to book.  Each ending has to satisfy the reader yet leave enough questions to convince them they must read the next book.  The ending is a fine line between what should have happened and what might happen in the next book. 

I've read books where I hated the ending, including some fantasy series of multiple books where I loved it until the last few chapters.  I hated that the tale didn't end the way I wanted it to end.  I could make a list of what should have happened.  I won't name them here because I don't like to do that to other authors or ruin a book for someone interested in reading it.

Can you think of some books you loved right up until the ending?  How about movies and TV shows that don't follow the tale you've imagined for the characters? 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Starting the Conversation

I'm working on a scene in my current WIP where the hero confesses something to the heroine.  It's the most important dialogue in the book.  I'm not a dialogue specialist and I've been putting a lot to time into getting it exactly right without using silly tags or a boat load of adverbs.  If the reader isn't crying or at least choked up but the end of the scene, I failed to convey the emotions of my characters.

I have two books on writing dialogue, have read dozens of articles about it in writing journals and sat in on sessions at writing conferences.  It helps but I think I've learned the most from two other sources.  I have a few authors I think are dialogue gurus. Pick up a Nora Roberts book, a Robert Parker suspense novel, Jayne Ann Krentz or Lee Child and study their dialogue.  Sometimes Parker is too stingy with tags but he certainly never overuses them.  I keep books by each of these authors on my re-read shelf.

Another place to study dialogue is at the movies or on your favorite TV show.  No tags or adverbs there. Facial expressions, body language and tone color the meaning of the words spoken.  I try to figure out how to write that in so the reader knows my character is speaking 'hysterically' without using that cursed adverb.

I have a favorite version of Sense and Sensibility I watch on occasion.  In one of the final scenes when Edward visits Elinor and her family believes he has married another and broken her heart, the characters are sitting in awkward silence in their salon.  Elinor's little sister, noticing the tension but not knowing what to do about it, says something about the weather.  It's very funny and her sister pokes her in reprimand. 

Writing a conversation about the weather in your book would likely be very boring but in this movie scene it is perfect.  I think I'll go watch another favorite movie and study the dialogue.  That's not really procrastination before getting back to that difficult scene.

How did you learn to write dialogue?  What guides do you use to improve the dialogue in your novels?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Get 'Em Next Time

I never met a writer who had never been rejected unless he or she had never submitted a piece of work.  Submission means the risk of failure and sometimes, perhaps most of the time, and failure happens.  I learned early on in my writing endeavors not everyone believes my prose needs to be enjoyed by the entire world.  Unthinkable but true.

Last night I had the joy of watching my daughter's high school softball game.  It was the first game in their conference playoffs.  My daughter was the designated hitter for this game, batting in the fifth slot.  Her first time up she hit a grounder and one of our base runners interfered with the fielder and made the last out of the inning. The next time she was up she popped out.  Third time up she struck out for only the second time all year.  At the end of regulation, seven innings, the game was tied 2-2. The skies had opened up as they seem to do nearly everyday and it was raining pretty good.  We were the visiting team and batting in the 8th.  Our first two batters got on base with walks and then moved to second and third on a wild pitch.  The other team walked our number four hitter to load the bases and set up the double play bringing my daughter to the plate.

Now to delve into my monthly sports/writing analogy.  My daughter was without a hit, the game was on the line and there was no tomorrow(though there is next year).  The pressure was on. I had seen my daughter's frustration in her previous at bats.  But she stepped into the box and got ready to hit.  She hit a long fly ball, our runner on third tagged up and scored.  We won the game, 3-2.

It's easy to give up after a few failures.  Failure can strip us of our confidence.  But no one bats a thousand.  No one gets a hit every time.  But if we stay in the game and keep trying, there's always the chance we'll get 'em next time.  Work hard, practice and one day the game winner will be ours.  If we keep failing, we need to work on our game, improve our skills and seek some coaching.  Then we step up to the plate and take another swing at it. 

Hopefully you all don't mind sports analogies but at our house, we're either reading or playing sports.  I can't help myself putting them together.

Have you had some winning hits lately to make up for the strike outs?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Location, Location

Setting the scene is a common theme of many bloggers.  I always read those posts and usually find new ideas.  Setting helps set the mood for the conflict occurring in the scene. 

In my latest released fantasy novel, Beyond the Gate, the first third of the novel takes place underground in a long winding tunnel beneath a mountain.  The hero, Cage Stone, and heroine, Sabelline Shelton, are surrounded by darkness and solid rock.  How much mood setting can I do with that?

The two characters experience the dark differently.  To her the black is complete, the silence deafening.  To his superior eyesight, the path is revealed and the voice of the surrounding rocks speak quietly to him.  She feels the brooding presence of the massive mountain looming over their heads while he wonders how the wondrous cave was constructed. 

The cave's air varies from unwholesome and foul to cool and even refreshing.  The fell beasts hunting them make a variety of sounds and fill their air with foul odors. 

Hopefully the reader will understand something about the two characters as they experience the setting from their perspective.  Cage and Sabelline see the world through the lenses of their own personalities and quirks.

What is the most challenging setting you've had to describe?  Do you have an example of an exceptionally well set scene from something you've read?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Comes After Z?

Like over a thousand others, about two weeks ago, I finished up the A to Z blogging challenge.  And it was a challenge.  I've learned many things from my first attempt at participating in such an event.

It's a lot of work to blog six days a week and I have an even greater admiration for those who blog every day than I did before.  I know many of them hold full time day jobs like me yet still they manage to create new posts day in and day out.  Wow.

It takes a lot of time to visit blogs and comment each day.  Before the challenge I visited between ten and twenty blogs every day.  During the challenge I stayed with that number during the week and tried to visit triple that number on weekends.  By the third week I was falling behind during the week and on weekends.  I never made my goal of visiting over half of the blogs involved in the challenge.  My loss.

I learned there are a lot of wonderful, informative and clever bloggers out there.  I met only a fraction of those participating in A to Z and found dozens of blogs I wish I could visit every day.  I read many of them and wondered how some of these interesting people weren't already famous published authors.  Talent by the bucketfuls.

Another lesson I learned is how I can be overwhelmed by what I feel are my responsibilities to my writing career.  I have a new book released during the last week of the challenge.  Suddenly I had too many things to do each night.  To top it off, thanks to PA's wettest April ever, water came into our basement.  My husband was working nights and I had to deal with most of the problems by myself.  And promote my book. Guess what got lost in the chaos?  Visiting blogs.  I felt guilty about it every day.  But I'm back in the grove now and I owe lots of visits. 

My book, Tiger's Mate, is now over a week into its published life and doing well I hope.  It's difficult to tell with those young ones.  This week I'll continue with some promotion, kick a little activity into my blog and get back on track with my WIP which is a third book in the Tiger's series.  A great thanks to all my new followers. Can't wait to get to know you all better. 

Did you participate in A to Z?  What did you learn?  Would you do it again?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Know Me?

Mother's Day has come and gone for another year.  My gifts are scattered on my writing desk.  How well my family knows me.  My husband bought me flowers and a gift card to Borders.  Lovely.

My oldest son bought me a gift card to Barnes and Noble.  Oh yes, got both big stores covered.  My second son bought me a gift card to the local convenience store so I can buy my ice coffee there.  Heavenly.  My third son bought me a lottery ticket, $5 winner, and a small, beautiful leather portfolio.  He received it free at the golf tournament he was in but he is a poor college student.  And even if it says Penn State PGA program, it is perfectly suited to me.  My daughter bought me an iced tea at Border's and then gifted me with a feather quill pen and ink as well as a genuine Moleskin notebook.  Do they know me or what?

Of course they know me and love me as their mother but their gifts demonstrate the way their perceive my needs and desires as well as what they see as my profession.  They see me as a writer and gift me with wonderful little things to help me along.  Could I be a writer without those things? Yes and I probably wouldn't buy them for myself but they are so cool to have.

Does your family gift you with writing toys?  What favorites have you received or wish you would receive?