Monday, June 24, 2013

3 act structure

I have to admit that for most of my career I didn't think my books had any structure at all. But I recently noticed that I've been using three act structure for quite a while.

First, what is it?

Your book begins with an inciting incident that gets the characters together. But by the end of act one, usually chapter 3 for me, everything changes.

In NANNY FOR THE MILLIONAIRE'S TWINS the heroine tells the hero she is engaged.(That'll change a romance.)

In THE TYCOON'S SECRET DAUGHTER, the hero has demonstrated that he's a totally different man than the man the heroine was married to. No longer drinking, he's like a brand new person and she has to deal with him that way.

Act II has the characters dealing with this change. A lot of times that change causes work and/or new goals. For instance, in THE BABY PROJECT, the hero and heroine who have been given co-custody of a baby move in together. Act II is all about the changes that happen when they move in together and try to raise this baby together. He has to learn how to change diapers. She has to deal with a baby when she's still hurting over the loss of her own child.

Of course, in that time together (Act II) in a romance, the things that they do to solve the problem discovered at the end of Act I, will bring them close enough that they will fall in love. the end of Act II there is a black moment. A point in time when these two people who have been falling in love suddenly realize this isn't going to work.

Now, all black moments are different. So sometimes your heroine will think it's working but the hero freaks out ... or sometimes the hero has a secret that when discovered ruins everything. There's no pat answer for a black moment, except to say that it DEMONSTRATES (not tells but shows...demonstrates) to the H and H that maybe this love they think they have is wrong.

Which means there's misery in Act III, along with some soul searching until either the hero or heroine realizes they were wrong in thinking this love wouldn't work and one of them goes back to the other and professes love or explains why this love will last.

That takes us to the happy ending.

Now, I'm sure others may draw up three act structure differently. But I've hit the highlights of what I do. (And it's worked for 54 books! LOL)

Happy Monday! And thanks to Anne for the question!


Monday, June 17, 2013

The passage of time

I'm teaching a class on writing a category romance this month and I asked the attendees for questions they'd like to see answered in this blog.

The first question was about dealing with the passage of time.

Here's my reply...

If you've ever read any of my books, you will notice that my people fall in love quickly. Over a Christmas holiday. For the two weeks she's helping him with his baby. Or while they're stuck together in a cabin in a snowstorm.

Because the timeframe is so small, I take advantage of every 'event' to show how that impacts their feelings for each other.

That's how I use the "stuff" of every day life to show how their feelings are growing (their conflicts are being revealed and obliterated) and how they "could" fall in love in such a short period of time.

But if your characters seem to be falling in love too quickly, and you feel they need more time together to make their feelings realistic, you sometimes have to "show" the passage of time -- without every ding dang movement being on the page.

For instance, the first week of a hero and heroine (who have just met) working together, everything is important. Because they are just finding out about each other. But in the next week, if I banged the drum on everything happening in their lives it would be boring and repetitive.

So I might start a chapter with ... Two weeks later, they were still at odds over that baseball game. Or two days later, he read her most recent report and realized she'd begun to put his suggestions into action.

Or ... They ignored each other for four days, but on the fifth day she couldn't keep silent anymore.

I know. I know. That's telling. And telling usually isn't allowed. But if you only do that once or twice in a book, readers won't mind.

Another way...

May turned into June and June became July. And suddenly one day he was on her doorstep.

A lot of what you use depends upon your writing style and your voice...and your story.

But sometimes, really, you can't tell every detail of every day and you do have to say things like..."The next day..."

Happy Monday, and thanks to Margaret for her question!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reading from Hard Copy

The book that was due June 1 is finally about ready to go in. (When I got the flu, my editor kindly granted me an extension!) I've read the beginning of the book at least four times. Every Monday morning I start at the beginning of my wip and read EVERYTHING I have, taking time to fix typos, pump up dialogue and descriptions and out-and-out change scenes that are wrong. So by the time I'm at the end of my book, the beginning has been through several revision processes.

So...Why did I print a hard copy of my book yesterday to read today?

Because I'm one of those old school people who believes books "read" differently on paper.

I have no idea if this is true or not, but I do realize that when I switch media I read differently. I see things on paper that I didn't see on the computer screen.

I also make a list of questions. i.e. Could you find a soccer game on TV in June in Italy?

I also make a time line. In one book I accidentally had two Wednesdays in the same week. Learned that lesson.

I also make a very brief (new) storyboard that shows me the important points of every chapter so I can go back and read the storyboard, following each character arc and making sure all story threads are tied up.

It's a long process. LOL!

But in the end I'm always glad I took the time to do all these things. You will never see two Wednesdays in the same week in any of my least not the recent ones! LOL Loose ends will be tied and all arcs will work.

Which makes it worth the extra hour or so I spend every day in the last week of writing each book!

Happy Monday


Monday, June 3, 2013

What's so funny?

I read a Facebook post a few weeks ago wherein a angry writer told her fellow writers three things that she hated in books -- mistakes she thought others were making. Included in the mini-rant was the warning that banter and sarcasm were not humor...

What? Wait?

Since when are banter and sarcasm not humor? They are. fairness to the author of the rant...Done POORLY they aren't funny. LOL

In fact, banter and/or sarcasm that go on too long definitely aren't funny. My rule of thumb for "funniness" is to find the funniest chunk in a piece of banter and use only that.

But that's not the purpose of this post. The purpose is to warn you, as writers, as readers, as contest judges and people who write fair. But also be careful. :)  You don't want to be the one who comes out looking bad for making a statement that's off the mark. You can't make a broad and general statement "banter isn't humor" that will turn some poor unsuspecting newbee writing soul into a crazy person trying to get rid of her banter,  when the real bottom line was that the writing you'd judged wasn't good.

Also remember your own personal prejudices. I'm not a fan of sarcasm because I live in a house of men who do nothing but make sarcastic comments. So when I judge a piece of work that's laced with sarcasm, I keep in mind that what annoys me might be hysterically funny to others. :)

Still, as I read the mini-rant I understood exactly where the author was coming from. Humor is very hard to write and what's funny to one person may not be funny to another. Still if we want to draw a truth from her post...I think it would be the kiss rule. Keep it simple, sweetie. Keep it short, sunshine.

Happy Monday!