Monday, June 15, 2009

Black, White and Shades of Gray

What I'm reading: Fatal Secrets, by Allison Brennan; The Language of Bees, by Laurie R. King.


I hope everyone enjoyed Detective Hussey's "copspeak" over the weekend. And I'd like to take a moment to congratulate my daughter for finishing a half-ironman in Kansas on Sunday. Near as I can tell, there were almost 100 entries in her age class, and she finished 27th. Her final time was 5:36:47. I can't even comprehend 'exercising' that long, much less competing! She cut an hour off the time of her first half-ironman.

Other tidbits:

I discovered that the Quincy, IL Library had WHEN DANGER CALLS as a "Staff Pick" on display in the lobby.

And don't forget my June contest for a chance to win an autographed copy of WHAT'S IN A NAME?

There's a special 10% off sale at the Jasmine-Jade website. Seems that they've been upgrading, and there have been some glitches, so in a 'thank you for your patience' gesture, all titles from their site, both digital and print, will be discounted through June. To get your 10% discount enter ECWEB2009 into the coupon field when completing your purchase at their site.

On to the business at hand:

Last Saturday, Gennita Low was our guest speaker at my RWA chapter meeting. She's a roofer by day, a romantic suspense author by night. Talk about a strange mix of professions. She discussed writing romantic suspense, and stressed the need for emotional involvement.

Keep Reading...

Everyone, Low says, has fears. The task of the author is to channel and use the emotion the fears generate. You might never have been in the same situation you put your character in, but you can translate the emotion. She also pointed out the importance of being able to look at things from another perspective. If you abhor violence, but you have a violent character, you have to be able to understand where that violence is coming from. You need to look at the goals and motivations of that character, to see how it drives him or her.

Another important consideration is shades of gray in emotion. A story where everything is black and white won't be as interesting as one where the lines are blurred. Many thrillers tend to be much more action oriented, and don't show the emotional side of the characters. She did mention that many male authors don't seem to put as much emotion into their books. We've had that discussion here before, more than once, especially in my series on His Brain / Her Brain (Series started Sept. 2, 2008)

In a romantic suspense both the suspense (or, in what I write, the mystery) have to be balanced. She warned of some pitfalls.

First, you need to decide if your story is hero-centric or heroine-centric. Even in romance, one's story will edge out the others, even if it's only by a slight margin.

The language in a hero-centric story is apt to be harsher. Things that might mean your pendulum is swinging too far in trying to make your hero too alpha: Is he too overprotective? Is he taking over, not letting the heroine show her own strengths? Does he discount anything she says or does? Or is he too distrustful? Won't let anyone else do anything? Men use harsher language, but dropping F-bombs doesn't necessarily make your character any more likeable, or any more alpha.

For a heroine-centric book, you don't want your heroine too perfect. She can't be too smart, or too talented. (In fan fictions, these were Mary-Sue characters). On the other hand, she shouldn't rely on the hero to save her; she can't be too weak.

All of these lead right back to those critical 'shades of gray.'

Another caveat: Beware Authorial Intrusion. Not only your 'writerly' voice, but also your own personal agenda. Remember, it's about the characters. Unless they share your viewpoints, leave your own biases off the page.

Low also reiterated points made by so many other successful authors. Use the push-pull of the relationship to create sexual tension. Secrets are good. Moments of danger allow insight into how the characters feel. This is an excellent way to show emotion IF it doesn't stop the story.

And, she advises keeping your eyes and ears open at all time. (Hey, I'm not eavesdropping, honey, I'm doing RESEARCH). All her experiences with roofers can be used to add color to her stories. Not that they have to have roofing scenes, but hanging around a roofing crew gives insight into how males talk, think, and act, which CAN be carried over into a book.

Tomorrow, my guest is author Liana Laverentz who's going to be talking about reasons for getting published. She's also going to offer a critique of the first 15 pages of a manuscript, so be sure to drop by for a chance for some fresh eyes on your work.


Dara Edmondson said...

I really enjoyed Gennita's presentation and got a lot out of her insights. Congrats on the Staff Pick!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Dara.

Katie Reus said...

Thanks for the recap!

Jenny Milchman said...

woo hoo, on the ironman! i too would peter out around five minutes in ;)

Mary Marvella said...

Thanks for sharing the notes. I know the presentation must have been inspiring.