Inhabiting the Prose

author prose tips

author prose tipsby Patricia Bradley, @PTBradley1

Do writers ever stop learning the craft of writing? I don’t think so. Or maybe I’m just a professional student. But at any rate, this month I took a class from Outreach International RWA (oirwa.com) with Alicia Rasley on Active VS Passive Writing. It’s been a fascinating class, and as always she gives her students little nuggets beyond the scope of the lessons.

On the very day I was stuck in a scene, Alicia talked about inhabiting the prose, and how to make your prose sound like your character rather than just flat, unemotional words. She gave us a free-writing exercise to do, and the exercise (adapted from Les Edgerton’s Finding Your Voice) helped me to connect the emotion of the character and scene to the physical action I wanted that character to perform.

The goal is for the writer to anchor her/himself in the character’s perspective of the setting and emotions for the scene.When I finished the exercise, I had some very interesting sentences that I worked into the scene that had given me problems.

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Here’s my example. In this scene, my hero’s daughter has been kidnapped. His wife had been murdered six years ago.

Where are you?

At my house, in the living room.

What do you see right around you?

The planner that belonged to my wife. Equipment to monitor phone calls; white board

What time is it? What is the light like?

8:30. It’s pitch dark outside. I’ve turned all the lights on so that when Lexi comes home, she’ll know I’m here.

What is your body doing?

Pacing. Picking up Lia’s journal.

What do you hear right this moment?

Voices. The house is full of people, everyone except Lexi. She must be so frightened right now.

What do you think that sound is?

Gram in the kitchen talking to Mrs. Baxter, my brother, talking to his tech, Maggie is the only one not saying anything. She is strangely quiet.

What do you feel under your feet?

The wooden floor. I see little dents put there by Lexi’s tap shoes.

What do you feel in your hands?

A leather bound journal. Lia’s journal. I gave it to her for Valentines one year.

What do you feel on your face?

My hand, scrubbing it at times

What do you feel in your heart?

Fear. What if I don’t get Lexi back?

What do you smell?

Another pot of coffee brewing. Will need it for the coming hours.

What do you taste in your mouth?

Soured coffee.

Who is with you?

My brother. He’s pulled the white board in my office into the LR and is studying a printout of my cases. Maggie’s here beside me. Gram is in the kitchen with Mrs. Baxter.

What do you hope will happen?

That the door will open and Lexi will come running through it.

What do you fear will happen?

That she will never run through it again.

Once I did this exercise, it was much easier to visualize the scene and write it—one that I am very proud of, by the way.

I hope this exercise will help you keep your writing fresh. Many thanks to Alicia Rasley and especially to Les Edgerton who encourages the use of his material.

MORE WRITING TIPS

5 Types of Rough Drafts by Michelle Griep

Numbering Your Days with One Word by  Beth K. Vogt

It Only Takes A Spark. . . Or Does It? by Rachel Hauck


Justice Buried

In an effort to get her security consulting business off the ground, Kelsey Allen has been spending a lot of time up in the air, rappelling down buildings and climbing through windows to show business owners their vulnerabilities to thieves. When she is hired to pose as a conservator at the Pink Palace Museum in order to test their security weaknesses after some artifacts go missing, she’s ecstatic. But when her investigative focus turns from theft to murder, Kelsey knows she’s out of her league–and possibly in the cross hairs. When blast-from-the-past Detective Brad Hollister is called in to investigate, Kelsey may find that he’s the biggest security threat yet . . . to her heart.

Patricia Bradley lives in North Mississippi with her rescue kitty Suzy and loves to write suspense with a twist of romance. Her books include the Logan Point series and two Harlequin Heartwarming romances. Justice Delayed, a Memphis Cold Case Novel, is the first book in her next series and it releases January 31, 2017. When she has time, she likes to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens.

 

Emotional Wounds & The Lies They Cause

by Pamela S. Meyers, @pamelameyers

This past month I became one happy novelist when Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, authors of the Emotion Thesaurus and other writingthesauruses came out with The Emotional Wound Thesaurus.

Many, if not most, people believe a certain lie about themselves. In building my characters I use one of eight basic lies as the foundation for my protagonist’s character. The list, which is not exhaustive includes:

  • I’m a disappointment
  • Not good enough (this is a very strong lie, often used for men and strong female leads)
  • I’m not enough – or defective
  • I’m too much to handle and will get rejected
  • It’s all my fault
  • Helpless – powerless to fix (this leads to a fear of being controlled)
  • Unwanted/unlovable
  • I’m bad (which could possibly be used as a symptom or excuse for another lie)

There is usually a trigger early in life that moves the person to believe a lie about themselves. Figuring out your character’s lie should be one of the first steps in developing his or her characterization. Once you have the lie figured out, much of who they are will fall into place.

Thelie that I used in my novel Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, which was republished later as Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, was “I’m not good enough.” My heroine Meg had come to believe this about herself because she struggled with Attention Deficit Disorder back in the thirties when educators were just learning about ADD. When she was around ten years old, Meg overheard her teacher tell her father that Meg would never amount to anything. She believed the teacher was right. Because her father, not knowing she’d overheard the discussion, never mentioned it to her, she believed he agreed and spent most of her life trying to prove to him the teacher was wrong.

If I had access to the Emotional Wound Thesaurus while I was writing my story, I could have gone to the section about failing at school and learned what my character may fear, possible responses and results, personality traits, triggers that might aggravate the wound, and opportunities to face or overcome the wound. All of which would have helped in developing my character who, in my story,is trying to prove herself in the man’s world of newspaper journalism.

I have several craft writing resources I turn to time and again, and the Emotional Wound Thesaurus is going to be a huge help to me as I develop my next story.

Do you have a favorite writing resource you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments.


Second Chance Love

Chicago lawyer Sydney Knight and Texas bull rider Jace McGowan have nothing in common but everything to lose when they are thrust together during a weekend rodeo in rural Illinois. Sydney is determined she’ll get Jace out of his contract and return to Chicago with her heart intact, but Jace is just as determined to help her see they are meant to be together. Can a city girl with roots deep in Chicago and a bull-riding rancher with roots deep in Texas give themselves a second-chance love?

Pamela S. Meyers lives in northern Illinois with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Second Chance Love, and Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (a reissue of Love Finds You in Lake Geneva). Her novellas include: What Lies Ahead, in The Bucket List Dare collection, and If These Walls Could Talk, in Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Midwestern spots for new story ideas.

Color Your Writing with Emotion

by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

Writers are always looking for ways to deepen their writing. That’s who we are and what we do.

We explore the psychology of our characters to add tension and conflict to our projects.

We twist our plots and add dimension to narrative and setting.

When writers use color to establish emotion, the reader is able to experience the actions and reactions on a higher level. Emotions become vivid, and symbolism weaves into the storyline.

Writers, take a look at the following colors and explanations then think about your current writing and how to make your projects more meaningful.

Red is a warm color that causes strong emotions. From warm and comforting to anger and hostility. Red can stimulate the appetite. Now think about your favorite restaurant. Think about these phrases: redneck, red-hot, red-handed, paint the town red or seeing red.

Blue carries a range of emotions from calmness to serenity. Many offices are painted blue because people are more productive in blue rooms. Blue can also mean sadness. Anyone enjoy the blues and a weeping saxophone? Blue Monday? Blue ribbon day. A recent magazine article stated that blue helps a dieter keep her weight in check.

Green symbolizes nature and growth. The color has a calming affect. It’s been proven that those who work in an office painted green have fewer stomach aches. It also can mean wealth, greed, and jealousy. In the 15th century, green represented fertility and wedding dresses were green. Think about that the next time you select a green M&M. What emotions do these spark in you? Green with envy. Greenhorn. A green thumb?

Yellow is often described as cheery and warm. It can also be a color of frustration. More tempers are lost in yellow rooms, and babies tend to cry more in yellow rooms. This is another color that can stimulate the appetite. But what about the coward who’s referred to as yellow? Or a yellow traffic light?

Purple is often associated with royalty, wealth, wisdom, and spirituality. Sometimes it symbolizes arrogance. Remember the book and movie, The Color Purple? The Purple Heart?

Brown is a natural color that invokes a down to earth feeling. However for a person who is isolated on a farm and feels imprisoned, the color brown may be depressing.

Pink is a romance color. It suggests love, femininity, calmness. Some consider it soothing. Are you in the pink? “The very pink of perfection.”

Orange mixes red and yellow to create a warm affect. It means excitement and enthusiasm. Orange is also associated with autumn, the end of the growing season and the entrance into winter.

White signifies purity and innocence. It can also mean spaciousness or a sterile environment. Remember the fairy tale Snow White?

Black
means evil, power, death, or mourning. In the fashion world, it’s used to create a slimming affect, even sophistication. Consider these phrases: Black Death, blackout, black cat, black list, black market, black tie, black belt.

Gray is a mix of black and white, death and life. Gray clouds. Gray moods. What about a gray sea where fishermen brave the seas to provide for their families, but a twist of the weather can mean death?

Understanding color can add emotion and symbolism to your creative process. How can you apply color to your writing?

TWEETABLES
_____________________

High Treason


When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt.

Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.

5 Tips for Creating First Dates for Your Characters

by Lisa Jordan @lisajordan

Do you remember your first date? Or maybe your first date with the person who ended up becoming your spouse?

My husband and I had a unique courtship—we met in our hometown while he served in the USMC but had come home on leave. For the next 18 months, we communicated via handwritten letters, phone calls, and infrequent weekend visits.
Our friendship had bloomed, but then our romance had blossomed with our first date that had taken place before he’d gone on a week-long fishing trip with his dad and brothers. We’d spent our evening talking and getting to know each other face-to-face after communicating via snail mail for the past two months. Upon his return, he’d given me a handwritten letter on a piece of birch bark he’d peeled from a fallen tree. At the ripe old age of 19, I didn’t know a lot, but I knew I was head over heels in love and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. 28 years later, I still feel the same way. 

But not all of my first dates had gone so well. In fact, I’m sure you could think of a first date you or a friend had experienced that could end up in the Horrible First Dates column.

Romance writers create characters who get to know each other and fall in love by book’s end to embrace their happily ever after…and I can experience my heart sigh as a reader. But it’s also a writer’s job to complicate their characters’ time together in order to build tension, create conflict and making overcoming obstacles difficult. So let’s talk about five tips to help you create first dates for your characters:

  • Are they unique? Sometimes it’s a challenge to come up with unique first dates. Think about your story’s genre and setting. What makes it unique? How can you pair your characters together and pull in different storyworld elements to enhance their first date experience? How about apple picking? Collecting seashells at the beach? Geocaching? Rock climbing or hiking? Cooking a meal together? Think about the mundane and twist it up. 
  • Are they relatable? When writing first dates, you want your readers to relate to them in some way. You don’t want off-the-wall dates that will have your readers rolling their eyes or skimming pages. On the other hand, you don’t want to bore the reader, either. Make the first date believable to the story you’re writing. 
  • Do they move the story forward? Every scene in your novel needs to move the plot forward. Otherwise, your story risks becoming episodic, that is stagnant scenes that do nothing to enhance the story. My editor has said she doesn’t care for dinner dates in our manuscripts because eating dinner does very little to offer conflict or propel the plot. So when you’re writing those scenes with the first date, have the characters doing something integral to the plot to keep the story moving forward and be sure to throw in obstacles to complicate their time together. 
  • Do they show emotion? Let’s face it—we read and write romance because we want that happily ever after, right? Your dates need to enable the reader to feel along with the characters. Think about how your characters are feeling when they’re beginning these dates? Color your scene through that emotional lens. Think about how you can add complications to that growing attraction. Remember your own dating fiascos? Draw on those experiences and reactions to weave them into your stories. 
  • Do they build tension? Adding conflict and tension keeps your reader turning the pages. Last night I watched a movie, and the heroine had a date with the hero, but she was asked to work late. She tried calling the hero, but he didn’t have service where he was. So when she arrived to meet him for their date, they had lost their dinner reservation and the kitchen was closed. They ended up eating pizza on the steps of the building they both lived in. Not high action conflict, but the tension kept me watching to see how the issues would be resolved. So, think about how you can build the tension throughout the scene through external obstacles and emotional complications. In real life, we want our dates to go well, but doing it for characters doesn’t make for engaging reading. 

When creating dates for your characters, take some time to show the right emotions. Add elements of humor and snappy dialogue. Draw in the storyworld and unique setting. That way you’re creating scenes that will keep your reader turning pages until they’re disappointed to see the story coming to an end. 

TWEETABLES

Heart, home, and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories with those elements come naturally. She is an award-winning author for Love Inspired, writing contemporary Christian romances that promise hope and happily ever after. Represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management, Lisa also serves on the My Book Therapy leadership team. Happily married to her own real-life hero for almost thirty years, Lisa and her husband have two grown sons. When she isn’t writing, Lisa enjoys family time, kayaking, good books, crafting with friends and binging on Netflix with her dog Penny. Learn more about her at lisajordanbooks.com.