Slow Reveal


One of the things I love about having a writer’s critique group is the learning opportunities it provides. I learn by reading the work of my CPs, through them critiquing my work, and through critiquing them. I’ll be the first to admit some of the things they suggest to help me strengthen my work are things I already know. Every now and then I’ll let a passive sentence slip by when it can easily be converted to an active one. Sometimes, I don’t dig deep enough because writing can feel like frothing egg whites by hand. It takes concentration, dedication, and by the end you ache from the effort.

Photo credit: Jon Rieley-Goddard aka baldblogger’s photostream

During a recent review of my current WIP Dark Intent, an adult paranormal romance, one of my CPs busted me on this very thing. My main character has a severe fear of the dark. I established my MC’s distress by showing her emotional/physical reaction to darkness. After watching her internal struggles for a while and not understanding the root cause, her responses lost impact. To avoid ‘info dumping’, the source of her terror must come out in bits and pieces.

The ground work for this was already there, I just didn’t dig deep enough. My CP helped me see how I could use the existing framework to strengthen my story. She recommended I go back to all those places where my MC attempts to confront her fear and reveal snippets of the inciting incident of her anxiety. Nothing major, just incomplete glimpses because in the dark, its often the thing we can’t fully see which scares us the most. It took my story from ‘can relate’ to ‘now I have goosebumps’.

Have you come across something similar in your writing/revising/editing process? Do you have any tips on slow reveals? Do you have character(s) coping with phobia?

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The Voices Told Me To Write It


 

If other writers are anything like me, they write what characters tell them to write and don’t always immediately understand why things unfold the way they do. This happened with my current adult paranormal WIP, which is 87% complete. I knew my human heroine possessed otherworldly abilities, yet I didn’t know where those powers stemmed from, only the cost she paid for using them. I also knew her fate was tied to the immortal hero’s and that their first encounter would change both of them fundamentally.

It wasn’t until my critique partners (CPs) Dawn Allen and L.L. McKinney sent a tidal wave through my WIP that I fully understood how deep the characters’ connection ran. Immortals have a lot of history to sift through. Sometimes, its tough to decide which part of their past is pertinent to the current plot. I knew something major in my hero’s past was coming back for him and that it was somehow connected to the heroine. My CPs helped me dig deeper with the hero to learn how his actions in the past could affect the heroine centuries later.

The fun part? The foundation for our discovery was there all along. The new information we uncovered fell into place like lost puzzle pieces.

I LOVE my CPs, which includes Nicole MacLaughlin who meets with us once a month. They are my girls and without them, I don’t know where my writing would be. They challenge me to push harder, dig deeper, stay true to my characters, etc.  We don’t always agree with one another, but when we do…magic! And goosebumps.

Have you experienced and “AH!” moment in your writing? Do you push yourself to dig deeper? How do you know when you’ve gone deep enough? Do you have awesome CPs you want to give a shout out to?

 

Getting Unstuck


I love my new adult paranormal WiP, DARK INTENT (excerpts here and here). Sometimes, the words flow from your fingertips and on to the keyboard. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for me. My muse and I haven’t exactly been getting along lately and I refuse to let it stop me. My word count is slow, but I like to think the progress I’ve made is quality over quantity. Although I have technically typed THE END on this manuscript, I don’t feel it’s agent ready yet.

Right now, I’m stuck on a new scene near the beginning. I already know where it starts and how it needs to end. I keep sitting down to write it, and ending up revising other sections of the manuscript instead. So, I contemplated the value of the new scene (another stalling technique – or is it?).

I asked myself things like:

  • What’s the purpose of the scene?
  • What’s kind of conflict is in this scene? How does it worsen things for my character?
  • Or does it resolve a minor conflict from earlier chapters?
  • Does it move the story forward?
  • Does it reveal important information about the character, setting, plot?
  • Which characters will make an appearance?

After I broke the scene down into parts, rather than trying to write the whole thing at once, I started making progress. I wrote one-word lines and the value I thought they would bring to the story.

Pain (worsen, reveal setting)
Hunger/Thirst (worsen)
Embarrassment (external conflict, worsen, reveal character)
Escape? (physical conflict, forward progress, reveal plot)
Failure (physical/emotional conflict, backward progress, reveal plot)
Frustration (internal conflict, worsen, reveal character)
Iago (appearance – POV character)
Adele (appearance, forward progress)
Minor characters (appearance, external conflict, worsen)

Next, based on those words and values, I wrote sentences starting with the conflict I planned to introduce, how my characters would respond to it, what would result from their actions. Then, I looked at those sentences to find places where I could bring in sensory information (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) and considered how they might affect my characters’ actions/thoughts.

Before I knew it, words covered the blank page. Words I could revise, and edit, and sculpt into something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to share with my critique partners. I got unstuck!

Do you ever get stuck when writing? How do you deal with it?

Thankful Thursday: Bad Guys


This Week’s Thankful Thursday Topic: What’s your opinion of writing from the perspective of the “bad guy?” (think Dexter) — since this is Thankful Thursday, Jessie tweaked the topic into how writing from the bad guy perspective has improved her writing — something she’s always thankful for.

Me too. Truly understanding the ‘bad guy’ and what motivates them to do the things they do — whether we agree with it or not, or if it’s even moral — helps round out characters. In my current WiP DARK INTENT (formerly “Bloodlines” for those of you who’ve read snippets in blogfest I’ve participated in), the ‘bad guy’ is power-hungry, controlling, manipulative…. You know, the typical antagonist. But she’s also a mom trying to save one daughter from an agonizing death and prevent the other one from dating an ‘unsuitable’ guy. Knowing her disposition helps me figure out how she will respond to a variety of situations and people. Although I don’t agree with her methods or motivations, knowing them has helped me flesh out Celia in a way that makes her real in a way people can relate to and hate, if they so choose.

I can’t remember if I read this technique in a book, heard it at conference, or learned about it at my weekly writer’s group, but I’m thankful for having it. Writing from the ‘bad guys’ perspective, even if it never shows up in the novel, has profoundly improved my writing. And to answer Jessie’s question below, you bet I like reading stories from the ‘bad guys’ POV.

What about you — do you ever try to examine your story from the perspective of the bad guy?  Do you like reading stories by or about the “bad guy”?

Hope you’ll join the fun for next week’s topic:  What’s the worst writing blunder you’ve ever made that you realized later was actually a blessing? Click here to find out how.

So Excited!


I’m back from the OWFI conference. I recommend this two-day conference to any writer looking to improve their craft. They had tons of workshops ranging from newbie to novice writers. The people are super friendly and I made so many new friends. Plus, OWFI hosted a contest with tons of categories and one entry fee. I entered five pieces.

I was so nervous during the Award Banquet on Saturday, I couldn’t finish my chocolate cake. My “Blood Lines” manuscript earned 1st Place in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror category, “When I Eat Blue” earned a 1st Honorable Mention for Picture Book, “Called To Hunt” received 2nd Honorable Mention for Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror, and “Wyatt’s Burden” earned 4th Honorable Mention for Short Story. Then, I finished the cake.

I’ll be posting notes on things I’ve learned in the workshops eventually.

[note: Somehow, my 4th HM for short story got left off the list during the actual Award Banquet, but I’ve been told it will be listed in the OWFI newsletter.]

For a complete list of winners, click here.

Blogfest – The Nature of Magic


The Nature of Magic Blogfest starts today! I’m so excited to participate in this blogfest hosted by Laura B Diamond and Tessa Conte. The basic premise is to write or share something you’ve already written that, to you, shows the nature of magic. I’m using another excerpt from my adult paranormal romance “Bloodlines” in which my MC uses homeopathy + magic to seek a cure for a pandemic. As a participant you can also use something you’ve written for this blogfest, poetry, or whatever strikes your fancy. It just needs to show the nature of magic as it exists for you or for those you write about. To sign up, read the rules and learn about rewards, click here.

Here’s my entry:

The amethyst necklace served as my anima gemstone – the one that proved the most powerful boost to my ability. It was a stone for healing, had a calming effect, and was good for meditation because it enhanced intuition and gave clarity and insight. Exactly what I needed to untangle my latest vision. Holding it soothed me.

I selected four additional gemstones, then went to my meditation corner in the front room. An oversized pillow on the floor cushioned my crossed ankles. The back of my hands rested on my knees. One slow, deep breath in. One long breath out. Muscles relaxed, heart rate steady and mind opened, I closed my eyes.

The vision waited like a predator in the shadow.

The abyss surrounded me, drowned me. I struggled to keep my eyes closed, to hold the vision, but lost the battle. My visions were usually so vivid, not void of light. I could do this. I drew another deep breath, and let the blackness swallow me this time. The loss of light terrified me. I wanted to run. I had to stay. It couldn’t hurt me. I was safe. The words became my mantra.

My fingertips glided over the smooth surface of the iridescent obsidian. I concentrated on that sensation to help ground me as I summoned the stone’s white magic for protection. Despite my best efforts, my heart raced and my breathing sped up.

The pitch black seeped into my skin, pulling me further down. I was in control. I was safe. An awful screech shattered the silence. Goosebumps raced across my flesh. I struggled not to plug my ears and to focus on the clue instead. It sounded like the scrape of a shovel against rocks. I’d encountered that cringe-causing clatter many times in my garden. Yet, this noise sounded more intense, like dozens of shovels dragging across boulders and sent shivers down my spine. It grew louder. The sound pummeled my ears. I refused to give up and squeezed the garnet to help increase my psychic sensitivity.

Where was this place?

A flash of light revealed a slanted rock surface. Too rough and large to be man made. A mountain, maybe? Not one I recognized.

What else was near?

Three strobe light flashes revealed a gnarled tree, a moss covered boulder, and a dark tunnel. A cave. Claustrophobia kicked in. I trembled, but I held on. I ran my thumb over the iolite gemstone to help me stay focused.

What did I need for the cure?

The darkness grew thicker. My nose crinkled at the scent of death. It was the same strange odor from the first vision. I’ve smelled my share of death – rodents, livestock, people. The unnatural smell of the not-quite-dead slicked my palms with sweat.

Evil resided here.

I squeezed the emerald, calling on its protection from demonic possession. A longer flash revealed cave walls with horizontal grooves carved into them. Then, blackness slammed down shutting me out. The suddenness disoriented me. The gemstones grew hot against my palms, almost burning me. I’d never experienced anything like it and doubled my grip, determined to hold on to my only line of defense. A low, deep rumble echoed off the walls.

Was it inside that cave, the thing I needed?

The growl intensified. Multiplied. I wished I had more emeralds to protect me from whatever lingered in the darkness. Too late now.

Why couldn’t I see it?

The snarls became louder. Closer. I cringed. My ears ached. I didn’t want to have to summon this vision again. Determination coursed through me.

Show me. Now!

Silence. Suffocating stillness.

I gulped for air. My whole body vibrated with fear as I staved off hyperventilation. They were tiny at first – the glowing red eyes – but grew larger as they flew toward me.

Hovering, the eyes stopped three yards away. I panted and struggled to maintain control.

Something wanted me gone, but I refused to leave without an answer.

Reveal!

By force of will, I summoned light, but wasn’t strong enough to hold it for more than three seconds at a time. The eerie strobe effect disoriented me, but I’d take whatever light I could get. Or so I thought until I saw him. Less than two feet away. Haunting eyes peered directly at me. Seeing me.

Impossible.

Visions didn’t work that way. Terror ripped through me. He grinned, wickedly. But there was something wrong with him. Something not quite… human.

Click read more to find the Linky list of other The Nature of Magic participants.

“You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby” Blogfest


 

The Writer’s Hole, “You’ve come a long way, Baby” Blogfest is today. Click over and help Christine celebrate by showing everyone how much you’ve progressed as a writer. Sounds easy, right? I’m proud of how far I’ve come, but can’t believe I’m about to post this for the world to see. AH!

Deep breath. Deep breath. Here I go. This is an excerpt from my adult paranormal “Bloodlines” I started more than five years ago:

Spring brought with it the vitality of new life. The trees grew lush with green leaves. Exotic flowers released their fragrance on the gentle breeze. Beauty flourished every where except in the heart of Tasaria Blest who trekked the mountain side.

By moon and lantern light, she climbed over rocks and boulders as she made her way around the mountain in search of an entrance. The thought of what she was about to do set her nerves on end. She felt safe in the moonlight, but once she entered the mountain, the darkness would swallow her.

She tried to remember what it was like before she was afraid of the dark. A time when she welcomed the night and all of its shadows. When she enjoyed skinny dipping in the river basked in moonlight. And it work for a few minutes, but then she saw his face.

Just then, she tripped over a stick and fell forward. She caught her balance before she hit the ground and broke the lantern. She held the lantern up high and glanced around. Up ahead in the distance, she spotted the red scarf she’d tied to a tree days ago. She tried not to let herself feel discouraged as she sat on a boulder to rest.

Okay, not as bad as I thought. The revision….

The stench of death clung to the air. Old death, but not decay. Absolute darkness made it impossible to see anything. The sound of something sharp and hard scraped against stone. Where am I? A cave? A mausoleum? Not knowing made the blackness suffocating. I wasn’t alone. Something lurked nearby. Something that I couldn’t see, yet it set off every internal alarm.

I needed to get out of there. A pair of red eyes flared a few yards away. I stumbled back and landed hard against a jagged surface that cut into my elbow. I winced, but managed to stay quiet. It didn’t matter. The red glow crept closer.

I jolted to back to reality, drenched in sweat. Part of me wanted to summon the trance again to interpret the meaning of the vision. The other part needed sunshine to wash away the lingering sensations. The latter won.

Just as the sun broke the horizon, I rushed to my place of solace, my garden and studied the bright colored flowers and vegetables. Long, deep breaths brought with them the sweet aroma of roses. The soft babble of Moose River filled my mind as I knelt to dig my bare hands into the soil. This is real – the cool dirt, the tiny pieces of gravel, the worms.

Obviously, I switched from third to first person. It felt right for this piece. I learned about using other senses (sense of smell, sound, touch) to bring a story to life. There’s more showing, less telling.

Okay, your turn. How much/how have you improved your writing over the years? If you decide to participate this Blogfest, please leave something in the comments below so I can click over to your blog.