Tag Archives: romance

The Details Start the Engine


by Kay Springsteen

Imagine building a car and forgetting to install a crucial part of the engine. If it starts at all, it’s not likely to run well, and it may end up stopping rather abruptly. Those who assemble cars, no matter what stage of the car they work on, follow a blueprint—detailed plans that outline exactly what part goes in what position. Every part has a place and every place requires the part that fits.

Writing is much the same. A story is made up of various elements, to include characters, plot, setting… And it’s the details of each of these that are built upon to present the whole picture. A thought here, a bit of dialogue there, the way the wind pushes the curtain or a ticking clock fills a silence.

When my collaborator, Kim Bowman, and I wrote A Lot Like a Lady, we researched the historical details surrounding our chosen time period and our setting. We probably didn’t get it all right but we’re confident that some of it, at least, is as authentic as we could make it. But because of our research and desire to get it right, our writing actually suffered. Kim and I both tend to write in deep third person point of view and we love to show our characters’ emotions to the point where the reader feels them along with the character. We also like to pay attention to details of the setting – not heavy paragraphs loaded with description but a kind of filtering in of the details as the characters (remember in deep third pov) might experience them.

But in the writing of A Lot Like A Lady, it was as if all the research into the history meant something had to be displaced—the filing cabinet was too full and the detail folder slipped to the rear, or the detail tool bar slid to the side and we failed to notice it. So we wrote a good story between us. We knew what things were called, we found the procedures, the hierarchy of nobility, what servants did what…

And then we went to editing. We were thrilled to have one of the best historical fiction analysts out there as our content editor, J. Gunnar Grey. The attention to historical detail Gunnar gives when writing is carried over into the editing field. This was it. Picture Kim and I giving ourselves high fives. Our good story was about to be made better.

And then the sound of a whip cracking could be heard amid the partying.

“What room are they in? Is it light?”

“Does sunlight filter through the window? What does it hit?”

“Do sounds reach the characters from outside?”

“Are there any vases of flowers sitting around? Is the fragrance light and pleasant or overpowering?”  

Page after page of questions like this. Now imagine Kim and I looking at each other in confusion. Did we really write our story and forget all the settings?

The short, and somewhat embarrassing answer here is simply: Yup. We did. At least for the most part our first draft of A Lot Like A Lady had our characters telling their story in a vacuum.

Now, once we were made aware of this by our jewel of an editor, it became a simple matter to do what we both always do—that being to run back through the entire manuscript and filter in the details that show what the characters saw, heard, touched, tasted, and smelled. We added splashes of sunlight and gentle breezes, the scent of lilies, the splash of a brook.

To soften the blow of pointing out our mistake, our editor did, very nicely, tell us that it was obvious we had simply overlooked layering in these details during our first self-edit in our zeal to provide a more historically accurate picture.

Bottom line here? The details make all the difference. We added a few thousand words worth of details and our characters were no longer telling their story in a vacuum.

~Kay

Find A Lot Like A Lady on Amazon, Astraea Press, and Barnes & Noble

“Tag! You’re It!”


by Kay Springsteen

If you were a director, or producer, would you make a movie that was nothing but a blank screen and a bunch of people talking? Maybe every once in a while a light would come on and show who was speaking so people wouldn’t lose track. Would that help?

How about a book? Would you write a book that was nothing but dialogue with an occasional “said John” or “Jane said,” tossed in?

Your characters have a lot to say. And it’s up to you to sort through it all and help them say it. Now, as the story teller, the writer has a fair idea of how things are unfolding. The writer hears it as the character is saying it, sees it happening as the character does it. The writer knows what the characters feel, what they think, what plans they may be making. The reader has only the knowledge the writer imparts. So a writer may have a firm grasp of the scene, but the reader starts out with absolutely no clue.And that’s where the writer’s job come in. The writer advances the story through action, thinking, dialogue, and narrative, all wound up into a presentable package that the readers shouldn’t want to put down until they get to the last page.

To set up mood in a scene, there is nothing better than action. Clenching fists, punching a wall, stalking away — great demonstrations of anger. Biting fingernails, lip chewing, fidgeting in the seat, shuffling from one foot to the other — great depictions of nervousness. The author can use dialogue here as well. “Where do you think you’re going?” or “I’m not sure I want to.”

In the past, extensive use of dialogue tags and adjectives conveyed the tone to the reader. “Where do you think you’re going?” he demanded angrily. The most recent trend has been to eliminate all but the most common dialogue tags and to limit the use of adjectives, especially those ending in -ly. In the light of this trend, how can the writer make certain the emotions are communicated? With the tag and the adjective eliminated, we have the simple statement: “Where do you think you’re going?” The words themselves show a possible degree of firmness. If two people are in an argument and this statement is used, there is little doubt the words are said with at least a somewhat angry tone. But to emphasize it, the writer has the option of inserting an action. Actions, when used in passages with dialogue are the punctuation that explains the emotion. “Where do you think you’re going?” He grabbed her arm and jerked her back against him. “Where do you think you’re going?” He slapped his palm on the door and slammed it shut before she got it all the way open.

But what if the tone is not meant to be angry? “Where do you think your’e going?” he asked playfully. Take off the tag and the adjective and add an action and the picture becomes crystal clear. “Where do you think you’re going?” With a chuckle, he hooked an arm around her waist and pulled her back into his embrace, tickling her until she burst into helpless laughter.

The actions in your story give the readers a visual to go with the audio they are reading. Combining action in dialogue passages not only keeps the reader immersed in the story but also keeps the story from becoming stagnant and motionless.

5 Great Lines from Suzanne Brockmann, Out of Control


5 Great Lines from Suzanne Brockmann, Out of Control

1

“I’ve been talking my ass off for more than an hour now, telling you shit no one’s ever heard anything about, hoping that I’ll say something, Jesus God, anything that will convince you to have sex with me.”

2

“If you want, I can carry you—”
“I’m fine,” she said shortly. “Let’s go.”
He’d said that wrong. He should have said, “I want to carry you.”

3

“You love me,” he said. “That’s all I need to know.”
“You always say the right thing,” Savannah told him, her eyes so filled with love that he almost wept. “Sometimes it takes you awhile to get to it, but you always get there, and what you say is always worth waiting for.”

4

““I’m going to carry you now,” he told her, “so we can move even faster. I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. Any response from you is unnecessary and unwelcome.”

5

“This wasn’t Weirdville, this was fricking Wonderland. Alice here was all grow up, but she was still chowing down on too much of that psychedelic mushroom.”


Ava Delany
The Fetish Club Series, The Homecoming Series, and The Beginnings Series.
Look for my newest release- A Surprising Day – on Kindle, Allromanceebooks, and many other places where ebooks are sold.

5 Great Lines from Elizabeth Hoyt, Wicked Intentions


5 Great Lines from Elizabeth Hoyt, Wicked Intentions

1

“Like the legless man, I’m unaccountably fascinated by those who can dance.”

2

“Every word you have ever uttered, is engraved upon my heart.”

3

“If he presses, tell him it’s a female matter. That stop any question.”

4

“You’ve used me to punish yourself, haven’t you?”
He watched dawning realization spread over her face, a confirmation more positive than anything she could ever say, and that arrow twisted deep in his
chest. Yet still he had to ask the last question.
“Am I anything to you but a punishment?”

5

“I’d walk through fire for you,” he rasped, his voice hoarse and broken. “I have walked through fire for you.”


Ava Delany
The Fetish Club Series, The Homecoming Series, and The Beginnings Series.
Look for my newest release- A Surprising Day – on Kindle, Allromanceebooks, and many other places where ebooks are sold.

5 Great Lines from April Dawn, Crushing Desire


5 Great Lines from April Dawn, Crushing Desire

1

Reena’s hands twisted at her skirt, and she bit her lip, willing
him without a sound to face her. Suddenly, he turned in her
direction and their eyes met. A vibrant shock ran through her
body. She stared at him entranced for a moment. If his hair was
the sandy beach, his blue-grey eyes, the lake on which mysterious
clouds had formed.

2

“What? You know as well as I that the twins are merely courting
me because of their rivalry. I still remember the day in that
alleyway. They fought each other so that each ended with the
other’s head in his arm. It was rather ridiculous.” She grinned at
the memory, in spite of herself. “Anyhow, they are competing for
me. Remember when Uncle Howard had to turn them away when
they started to bring me flowers? It started with a single red rose
from Michael.”
Emily grinned as she grabbed the dress from the bed. “Your
uncle was quite put out with a house full of flowers and poor
Martin on the doorstep with four dozen roses.”

3

“You came to me and said:
‘Excuse me, but could I trick you into sailing to America where
you know no one and then leave you in a gutter with nowhere to
go’?”
She laughed.
“You’ve discovered my plan.” Reena put a hand to her chin
as if in contemplation “Well, I’ll just have to come up with a new
one.” She

4

“Reena closed the book and held it for a moment. She wanted
to get another peek at him. She loved to study Joshua, and when
he didn’t know she was watching, she could really take her time.
Her foot began to tap, and then her leg began to shake. Before Reena
even realized she’d made the decision to move, her book was
on the table, and she stood at the window of her uncle’s study.

5

“No tears now, my love. This is a moment for happiness, love,
and passion.”


Ava Delany
The Fetish Club Series, The Homecoming Series, and The Beginnings Series.
Look for my newest release- A Surprising Day – on Kindle, Allromanceebooks, and many other places where ebooks are sold.

Breaking Through Like the Boss


By Kay Springsteen

“Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true…Or is it something worse?” ~Bruce Springsteen, The River

Bruce Springsteen has long been an iconic superstar in the music business. You might love his music or hate it, but you know who he is and more than likely you’ll recognize at least one of his songs. Born in New Jersey in 1949, he had a life that was fraught with many of the elements and tensions other kids his age grew up with. But instead of letting his family angst get the better of him, he used the emotions he experienced in his music. It wasn’t immediately accepted. Before he made it to the big time with his particular blend of music, he played the bar circuit. His popularity grew and he had moderate success in his early career.

And then he wrote an emotion-packed, story-song that Springsteen refers to as: “A breakthrough song for me. It was in the detail.” The song he refers to is “The River,” and it was based on conversations he’d had with his brother-in-law after the man lost his construction job and was struggling to support his wife and child. The wedding in the song refers to Springsteen’s sister and brother-in-law, who married young. The exquisite attention to the small details and the seamless way Springsteen presented them in the song told an emotional story that haunts the listener in the same way as the broken dreams and faded memories he sings about in the song.

As writers of fiction, we struggle with our creations, too. What to include, what to leave out. How much does the reader need to know? We may have had some moderate successes but maybe we haven’t hit The New York Times top ten yet. So in the meantime, we learn things and practice them…we hone our craft.

It’s no surprise to me that Springsteen’s breakthrough song was “The River.” When Springsteen states the success is in the details, he may have been speaking of all the emotional minutiae of the story that he told from beginning to end—not only did he tell a story but the song conveyed the feelings of sadness and frustration and the longing for happier times. He did this quite well with the words. But he also did it with the way the song is paced, which is, in itself, a detail. The verses that speak of the ongoing story itself are slow and carry a sad flavor. But with the mention of the river and all the carefree memories and sense of youth the river represents, the tempo of the song picks up to a livelier and happier beat.

As romance readers, we feel anxiety to get to the heart of the story, to see the couple come together that first time in a kiss, or a caress in the moonlight. We are restless, wanting to see them work through their issues and come to an understanding. Depending on the heat level we read, we might want the big reveal love scene. Knowing these things are ahead of us is part of what keeps us turning the pages of the book and reading the story.

As romance writers, it is a struggle to not simply skip the preliminary dancing around the mat and get to the center of the ballroom for the big dance. After all, we know what we want when we’re reading a book – to get to the meat of the story. So why not start at the meat and heat?

When we read over our own creation, however, maybe it seems to fall a little flat. It doesn’t produce that same desire to keep turning the page. We may lament and wonder why it doesn’t flow as smoothly or what it’s missing. When I’m asked this question as an editor, the answer in almost every case is the same. The writer moved the couple from encounter to encounter, and gave nothing in between these interactions to show who they are, what’s happening to them as individuals, and what is keeping them apart.

The answer is in the details. Some details the reader needs to know. And some details are part of the overall story. If you leave these out, you risk unbalancing the story. Is it still a make-up love scene if you omit the fight that sets up the need to make up? What to use or leave out is all in the detail of pacing. If you don’t lead your readers along a trail of fear and trepidation, or allow them to remember when they used to be happy, give them a taste of future happiness…if you don’t take the time to build the chemistry between the couple through evoking emotional responses in the readers, when you get to the love scene, you’re shortchanging those readers by showing them just another day in the life of a romantic couple. You’ve removed the C from the GMC (goals, motivation, and conflict), and reduced your readers to nothing more than voyeurs in the lives of ordinary loving couples.

If I could offer new romance authors one bit of advice, it would be to build chemistry between your main characters by setting a pace that will at once interest and frustrate your readers. The balance is tough because you don’t want to send your readers into tearing out their hair saying “get to it already.” But the romantic aspect needs to follow a reasonable progression of time and events. Not only that, but it must take a few back steps that also follow reason. Consider this romance you’re portraying like a sword fight, to include dancing (around the subject), engaging (sometimes nicely, sometimes with a sharp edge to the tongue), parrying (giving back as good as they get), and, well…you get the picture. I promise if you build slowly and evenly, rather than diving headlong into the kissing and sexing, when you finally get your reader there, the explosion of emotion will make an unforgettable read.

It really is in the details – what to include and not include…all the elements that drive the pace.

~Kay (storyteller, editor, and romantic at heart)

5 Great Lines from Kresley Cole, Dreams of a Dark Warrior


5 Great Lines from Kresley Cole, Dreams of a Dark Warrior

1

“For the record,” she continued, “it’s not my fault I came in here looking like Chesty LaRue. You caught me on laundry day, so I have no undergarments on. Though I will cop to a little extra spring in my step for your benefit.”

2

She murmured, “You’re unfinished.”
“Aye, precisely.”
“I need to go.”
When she moved to get up, he shoved her against his side and slapped her arse to keep her there. “You stay with me.”
She snapped, “What do you want from me, Chase?”
He drew his head back in confusion. “I want everything. You’re mine, Regin.”

3

“Your ultimatum didn’t sit well with me, so naturally, I voiced my opinion.”
“Which was?”
“That you should go copulate with a pig. It sounded way cooler in medieval French.”

4

“One day I’m going to make that little piggy cry all the way home.”

5

“I can draw you a diagram. Hint: I’m slot B, and you’re tab A.”


Ava Delany
The Fetish Club Series, The Homecoming Series, and The Beginnings Series.
Look for my newest release- A Surprising Day – on Kindle, Allromanceebooks, and many other places where ebooks are sold.

Is Your Story Filled with BS?


by Kay Springsteen

I find it ironic that back story can be abbreviated BS. Because most of the time, when I read a lot of back story information dumped into a book, the other word for BS pops into my mind. To be sure, back story is something we need to know and most of the time show…but as a reader and an editor, I can’t read even a paragraph of expository back story without thinking “wasn’t there SOME better way of conveying this information?

And the answer, of course, is yes. There most definitely is. In developing my characters I do find I need to know who they are and how they got to their age in life. I need to know their back story in order to understand how they will react to the plot elements my story throws at them. My readers, on the other hand, don’t need to know everything about the character to start their story. In fact, the whole point of writing a story is so the reader will meet and get to know your characters over the course of the story – in romance, usually right alongside the other character.

So when my heroine in Elusive Echoes got a letter from her brother, I gave a hint that this was not a welcome occurrence in her reaction to the letter. What I did not do was go into exactly how it could mean trouble, or why, or what exactly their relationship had been growing up and so on. All of this was given to the reader at the appropriate time – through snippets of the letters she read, from her sitting down and telling some of her story to the love of her life, or to the sheriff, or to her love’s father, etc. Some was through thinking, and the final piece fell into place when her brother actually showed up.

Hopefully, by the time the pieces started coming together, the reader would think, “Ah, so that’s why she feels the need to be independent…” or “So that’s why she knew how to deliver a baby.”

Basically, fiction is ALL back story being told inside of present story. The woman running from an abusive ex, for example, has a story to tell, but the story needs to unfold so the reader receives just the right amount of information at the right time. This attention to pacing helps avoid information dumping and giving the reader more than they need to the point where – well, there is no point in finishing the story.After all, you already know it.

One thing I’ve noticed while editing, is a tendency to rush the relationship. Often, on speaking with the authors, I find out that when they read, they find themselves unable to wait until the hero and heroine overcome the obstacles and end up together. Many times, they translate their angst (which is actually the original author’s goal for the reader to have) into a tendency to rush it during their own stories for the sense of gratification. Only thing is, it frequently falls short because it’s all tied up and there is nothing left for the characters to discover about one another and overcome. Seeing a page of back story, especially in the form of the characters sharing their long sad stories with each other, so there are no more secrets is a warning sign that the relationship is being rushed.

So if you find your stories filled with BS, you have a specific course of action to follow: (1) Determine how much is necessary for the readers to know (and how much is not relevant to the story), (2) Determine when the readers need to be given this information, and (3) Find creative ways to present the back story in little sprinkles instead of one long dump.

Happy writing!

 

5 Great Lines from Jill Shalvis, Simply Irresistible


5 Great Lines from Jill Shalvis, Simply Irresistible

1

“There isn’t any poison oak in the winter. It’s hard to convince a girl you’re sexy when you can’t stop scratching your ass because of the rash.”

2

“Smile…it makes people wonder what you’re up to.”

3

“She’s drunk dialing contractors. Someone should stop her.”

4

“Sorry,” he said. “Let me drop the belt-”
“No.” She held on when he would have pulled away. “Don’t. I like it.”
Again, he lifted her face, and he smiled. “The tool belt turns you on.”
“No.” She closed her eyes and thunked her forehead to his chest. “Little bit.”

5

“I’m already yours. Always have been. All you have to do is step into the ring.”


Ava Delany
The Fetish Club Series, The Homecoming Series, and The Beginnings Series.
Look for my newest release- A Surprising Day – on Kindle, Allromanceebooks, and many other places where ebooks are sold.

5 Great Lines from Sarah Mayberry, Can’t Get Enough


5 Great Lines from Sarah Mayberry, Can’t Get Enough

1

He couldn’t just come right out with it, could he? No, that would scare her off. He had to be subtle, build up to it. Explain himself.
“I love you.”
Of course, straight to the point was also an effective strategy.

2

“Excuse me, your attention please.”
He waited until the whole floor had stopped what it was doing and turned to face him. For a split second his impulse control kicked in, but by then his mouth was fully engaged.
“For the record, Claire Marsden and I are not having sex.”

3

“She didn’t sound overjoyed. She didn’t sound even slightly joyed.”

4

“Just leave me alone, I want to be alone,” she said when Jack tried to open the car door. She hit the lock, and wound the window up. Since the roof was down, it was a fairly pointless exercise.

5

Then Jack turned to her.
Safari? That was the best excuse you could come up with for me not being at a meeting?”
She winced apologetically. “I’m sorry. I’m a terrible liar.”
What was wrong with simple sickness? A nice, normal bout of food poisoning?”
He was in a bad mood. I kind of got carried away,” she admitted.
Boy, are you lucky I watched Tarzan so much as a kid.”


Ava Delany
The Fetish Club Series, The Homecoming Series, and The Beginnings Series.
Look for my newest release- A Surprising Day – on Kindle, Allromanceebooks, and many other places where ebooks are sold.

5 Great Lines from Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary


5 Great Lines from Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary


1

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”

2

“I will not fall for any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, people with girlfriends or wives, misogynists, megalomanics, chauvists, emotional f@ckwits or freeloaders, perverts.”

3

“Being a woman is worse than being a farmer. There is so much harvesting and crop spraying to be done: legs to be waxed, underarms shaved, eyebrows plucked, feet pumiced, skin exfoliated and moisturized, spots cleansed, roots dyed, eyelashes tinted, nails filed, cellulite massaged, stomach muscles exercised. The whole performance is so highly tuned you only need to neglect it for a few days for the whole thing to go to seed. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if left to revert to nature — with a full beard and handlebar moustache on each shin, Dennis Healey eyebrows, face a graveyard of dead skin cells, spots erupting, long curly fingernails like Struwelpeter, blind as bat and stupid runt of species as no contact lenses, flabby body flobbering around. Ugh ugh. Is it any wonder girls have no confidence”

4

“Can officially confirm that the way to a man’s heart these days is not through beauty, food, sex, or alluringness of character, but merely the ability to seem not very interested in him.”

5

“Come on, let’s get you a drink. How’s your love life, anyway?”

Oh God. Why can’t married people understand that this is no longer a polite question to ask? We wouldn’t rush up to them and roar, “How’s your marriage going? Still have sex?”


Ava Delany
The Fetish Club Series, The Homecoming Series, and The Beginnings Series.
Look for my newest release- A Surprising Day – on Kindle, Allromanceebooks, and many other places where ebooks are sold.

5 Great Lines from Nicholas Sparks, Dear John


5 Great Lines from Nicholas Sparks, Dear John

1

And when her lips met mine, I knew that I could live to be a hundred and visit every country in the world, but nothing would ever compare to that single moment when I first kissed the girl of my dreams and knew that my love would last forever.

2

“Passion is passion. It’s the excitement between the tedious spaces, and it doesn’t matter where it’s directed…It can be coins or sports or politics or horses or music or faith…the saddest people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t care deeply about anything at all.”

3

“It’s possible to go on, no matter how impossible it seems.”

4

“”It’ll be hard, but life moves fast-we’ll see each other again. I know that. I can feel that. Just like I can feel how much you care for me and how much I love you”

5

“They inspire you, they entertain you, and you end up learning a ton even when you don’t know it”


Ava Delany
The Fetish Club Series, The Homecoming Series, and The Beginnings Series.
Look for my newest release- A Surprising Day – on Kindle, Allromanceebooks, and many other places where ebooks are sold.

5 Great Lines – Jennifer Crusie, Faking It


5 Great Lines from Jennifer Crusie, Faking It.

1

“You’ve lived in America for twenty years. Eat badly, damn it.”

2

“Very few people mate for life with the people they fall for at twelve. Doesn’t mean is isn’t real, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter, but basically, we’re talking a practice swing in the big game of love.”

3

Mason was leaving her for a fifty-four-year-old woman who didn’t moisturize

4

“Everybody’s crooked. The trick is to find out how they’re bent.”

5

“Dempseys are never in trouble. We just have stretches of life that are more interesting than others.”


Ava Delany
The Fetish Club Series, The Homecoming Series, and The Beginnings Series.
Look for my newest release- A Surprising Day – on Kindle, Allromanceebooks, and many other places where ebooks are sold.

What’s Your Hurry?


By Kay Springsteen

Have you ever read a book and when you get to the end you let out a big dreamy sigh? You wanted to get to the end – to see the characters you’ve come to adore get their satisfying ending. And yet…when you turn that last page and read the last word, you’re sad, too…because you have come to love these people and you really hate to leave them behind.

Those are the books we wish we could prolong…the ones that generate excitement when we realize there’s a sequel.

But lately, I’ve been reading books and finding I’m sorry to read the last word for a completely different reason. I’ve been running across stories that have absolutely superb potential. I come to care about the characters, wonder about their future…but instead of that satisfying ending I’m reading toward, I get a rushed rendition of winding up the events in the story with long expository paragraphs, often a quick kiss, and some version of  “…and they all lived happily ever after.” (Or sometimes, just happily for now.)

Whatever happened to showing how the bad guy is discovered and ultimately foiled? Why can’t we be shown in greater detail how the couple got over their differences and decided to make a go of it? Why can’t writers throw in an extra plot twist, increase the stakes and the tension, so I (and other readers) have to wonder if that happy ending is going to happen?

I don’t know exactly what has brought on this rushed phenomenon in the industry. But lately I’ve been reading more books that are little more than short stories with shallow, single-stranded plots. There is no intricate path to follow on which I may lose myself in the story – it’s a straight shot from beginning to end, and over far too quickly to become lost in. There are only limited events occurring through which the characters actually develop chemistry…and in some cases, there are so few events, the characters themselves don’t develop beyond cardboard cutouts.

I recently read a very, very well-written historical. That is, the writing itself drew me into the story, made me care what happened. The research into the era had been solid. The story revolved around one main character nursing the other through a dangerous illness. With something like 80 pages spent on the nursing part, the ill character was mostly unconscious and/or delirious. So I was ready for some serious chemistry to develop when the character pulled through, became stronger, and started working about the farm. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. In the space of the next 20 or so pages, the farm was tilled, planted, and some bad guys chased away, and the couple was ready to build a life together. I loved this author’s writing so much, but what made the story disappointing was that rushed ending. With so much intricate detail spent on nursing a character to health, I would have loved to see the same poured into building more chemistry between them. But the ending of the story was rushed once the character became conscious and aware, and opportunities for character development and couple chemistry were ignored or lost, not to mention a pack of loose ends that were left dangling.

I’ve seen this altogether too often lately. While the reverse is just as appalling (that is, a story that runs on and on and on, well past its expiration date), it is these suddenly ended but not quite finished stories that I’m seeing too many of lately. They simply don’t feel complete. They often feel more like watching one episode of a weekly TV series and not being able to see the other episodes. Certainly, they don’t have a movie feel about them, and not a complete novel.

A story needs to show a balance of action narrative, dialogue, and descriptive narrative from beginning to end. Back story is a place where many readers become hung up. They aren’t sure how much to tell, or when/how to present it. Back story often presents as a problem in the form of an information dump.

Information dumps can about along in a variety of ways, but they all have one thing in common. They have the potential to jar the readers out of the story. Any time too much back story information is being given to the reader, whether in the form of the character thinking about the past, or telling about an incident from the past in lengthy passages of unbroken up dialogue, or (worst of all) narrative that simply explains what happened that brought the character to a particular place, the story slows down and becomes a bit of a yawn…and far too easy to put down. A lot of attention has been devoted to showing authors the perils of not being careful with presentation of back story.

But back story is not the only time information can be presented in a less-than-ideal manner. Consider the following, which is not back story, but a telling of current events, and yet is no less an information dump than is back story.

They all went to Stan’s house, where Stan and Stella met them at the door. Stan hugged everyone, and then they went inside, to find Stella had cooked a nice dinner. They all sat down at the table and chatted while they ate steaks and baked potatoes. Then they ate dessert out on the patio. After a while, the conversation turned to a discussion of their latest problem: how to handle the new boss at work.

This is glossing over the present details. Just as too much back story slows down the reading of a story, so does glossing over the details throw off the pace by making the readers feel they were dragged through. The thing is, if you, as a writer, find yourself glossing over details, it is entirely likely the information you are presenting is unnecessary to the story. Look at the passage again. How much is really required?

They all met at Stan’s house for dinner but they kept conversation light until they got to dessert.

“Let’s take this to the patio,” suggested Stella, dishing up pie ala mode. “We can talk about the new boss.”

On the other hand, maybe the meeting at the door was important, or the dinner conversation was relevant, or the fact that Stan hugged everyone when they arrived. In that case, the passage should be expanded.

Jim, Kari, and Buddy arrived at Stan’s around the same time. Stan was waiting in the front yard. As Kari stepped out of the car, Stan locked her into a giant bear hug.

“I’m so glad you all could make it.” He turned to Jim and shook his hand. “You must be Jim. Buddy’s told me a lot about you.”

Stella joined them. “I have steaks on the grill. Who wants to help peel the potatoes?”

Pacing in a story is critical, and that’s why the balance is important. Just as you need to plan your beginning, middle, and end to avoid rushed endings or endings that drag on, you also need to plan how much action narrative, dialogue (including thought), and descriptive narrative will give you the most balanced scenes throughout the story. You may also find yourself with explanation narrative, but it’s best to place this in dialogue or thought when possible or you risk point of view problems.

The key here would be to take it one scene at a time. Plot each scene within the overall plot of the story. For the pantser this will be harder to do, but it is not impossible. A plotter would decide during the outlining phase. A pantser simply writes the scene and then must be willing to go back into the just-written scene with red pen and scissors to trim the unnecessary bits and add in the layers and details that will round out the people and the scene itself.

One thing I sometimes suggest to authors I have edited is to use the font color option on the computer. When you read back what you’ve written, simply change the color of the font according to what type of writing – for instance, blue for action narrative, red for dialogue, and green for descriptive narrative, and perhaps keeping the explanation narrative black. Then check the colors for evenness or chunkiness throughout the scene. Frankly, there should be much less explanation narrative than action, description, or dialogue. Action and dialogue, and to an extent description are what should actually drive your stories forward.

Do you pace your stories in any way?

And now for a bit of shameless promotion: My Christmas novel, Operation: Christmas Hearts, has just been released. For today through midnight Tuesday PST, anyone who purchases a copy of this book and provides proof to my email address, wordsprite@gmail.com, will be given a PDF copy of their choice of any of my previous published works. Just include the words Operation: Christmas Hearts Cyber Monday in the title of your email.

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5 Great Lines – J.R. Ward’s Dark Lover.


5 Great Lines from J.R. Ward’s Dark Lover.

1

“You’ve won the evolutionary lottery: You’re a vampire. Let’s go to Disneyland!”

2

The half-human was the hottest thing he’d ever gotten anywhere near. And he’d cozied up to a lightning strike once or twice before.

3

“Perfect date material, she thought. A vampire with the social equivalent of road rage.”

4

“Tell me something,boys. Do you wear that leather to turn each other on? I mean, is it a dick thing with you all?”

5

Wrath dragged Beth into his arms and hugged her hard, talking in that other language again. When he pulled back, he ended the monologue with something like leelan.
Beth: “Is that vampire talk for bitch?”


Ava Delany
The Fetish Club Series, The Homecoming Series, and The Beginnings Series.
Look for my newest release- A Surprising Day – on Kindle, Allromanceebooks, and many other places where ebooks are sold.