Tag Archives: Scene

Conveying Emotion in Scenes

Writing emotion in a scene is crucial. It’s the only way a reader can truly connect Angerwith a character. In most cases, it’s the best way to determine whether a novel is great and will succeed. For writers, sometimes it’s extremely difficult to capture the right emotion, and level, in a critical scene.

Like a particular chapter I’m writing in my latest WIP. To be honest, I’m stuck. I can’t capture the right emotion in words and stick it on the page. And perhaps it’s because my inner conscience is telling me the scene isn’t going the right way and I need to steer it in a different direction entirely.

But I remember a scene in another manuscript I wrote where I pulled anger from one very vivid memory stuck in my mind. Which is what I think most great writers do. They use some of their experiences to portray emotion.

And anytime I need to write a scene full of pure anger, I go back to that one memory. It’s a very personal memory that took several years to get over, but I remember it so vividly that it’s easy for me to pull from. The time I was the most enraged I’d ever been (even to this day) and relive it in my mind. Needless to say, I can’t be near anyone when I do this, because it puts me in a very bad mood. But I pull from the emotions and write what comes to me through the character.never_wrong_a_writer_tshirt

Obviously, the scene may require tweaking afterwards, but it’s the main way I can make sure the emotion is there.

Writers: what do you do to invoke the right level of emotion in a scene? Do you remember the moment in your life that you were the most enraged or the most hurt? Does it help to pull from those memories, or just piss you off more?

 

Beta Reading Challenge

My writers group just started a new program called Beta Readers Round Table

Five of our members submitted their completed manuscripts to be reviewed by Beta Readers (myself included). Each Beta Reader critiques 2 manuscripts based on content (not line editing). Searching for plot holes, characterization errors, point of view switching, change of tenses, the bigger stuff (not grammar, punctuation, etc). And it’s a challenge.

This is what critique groups are for, in my opinion. Our meeting sessions normally focus on 10 pages at a time. The online critique sessions can be anywhere from a chapter to 5-6 chapters long. This is the first time we’re doing entire manuscripts in one swoop. And two manuscripts at that. This seems like a great opportunity to capture big plot holes and voice, flow, all the big stuff all writers want to know about their unfinished babies. A great opportunity, and a big responsibility.

When all of the beta readers are finished critiquing their ‘assignments,’ we’ll get together in a round table forum and go over everyone’s work. I’m sure this session will take well more than an hour, but it should be with gold-level content. Writers are supposed to walk away from the session feeling good about themselves and their stories. And feel like they’ve carried away a massive ruby or emerald in their pocket of exceptional critiques.

How many opportunities do these manuscripts get before a writer submits them to an agent or editor?

I’ve just finished the first of two, and I’m really impressed with the stories our members create. Truly original and completely new perspectives. But at the same time I’m also hesitant to be too critical. I’m not published, yet. I don’t have an agent, and no experience in what editors look for in submissions. But I’m an avid reader. I know what I like to see. I know the difference between ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ and I’m much more entertained by ‘showing.’ I love the emotion in stories. So those are the kinds of things I look for in manuscripts. When I give critiques, I try to give ideas on how to make something better (not just, ‘I don’t like this scene. Not realistic.”) I give a suggestion on how to make it more realistic, or better for the reader.

Don’t close a door for someone without giving a them a window they can open.

I hope the other Beta Readers do the same for my manuscript.

It’s challenging. Seeing a potentially brilliant story with vibrant and genuine characters in its most raw form- I want to help the writer make it better. I don’t want to ruin it with my suggestions that may not be the best ideas. Its challenging trying to help someone. But if it’s the right idea, I’m proud to say I helped make their story better.

Can’t Wait to Plot

So, I’ve only gone through the first round of revisions on my manuscript and have sent it out to my critique group. And I’m not stopping there.

I’ve already started plotting and creating the character sketches for the next book that’s twirling around in my head.

Some could call me a glutton for punishment, since I have at least 2 more rounds of revisions on this thing. But I’d rather get these ideas on paper than let them continue to torment me in my head. I’ve had this story idea for a little over a year, but didn’t have enough of a concrete plan to bash it out on paper.

But this time around, I’m paying more attention to the character development than before. Because in this particular story, their personalities are going to be a lot more center-stage. So for the first time in my life, I’m focusing on the characters first, and not the plot.

Even searching several screenshots of people online (Yahoo Images) to see if I can find anyone that closely resembles the image I have in my brain of my characters. I can’t draw for crap, so literally sketching them isn’t gonna work. I’m much more visual.

But I can sketch the rest of them on paper. Their goals, motivations, conflicts (GMC to any of you writers out there). What makes them tick, sing, cringe, and I can find all their buttons (and push them relentlessly!)

A writer friend of mine gave me what she uses for Character ‘Interviews,’ where she gets to know them more by playing the role of a therapist while her MC’s sit on a couch and dish out their lives and inner most thoughts. Creative!

If you peruse around on the web, you’ll find a whole bunch of different resources to help you create your characters. Character Development, character sketches, character questions… type in anything for ‘character’ and you’ll find umpteen-million.

The one I’ve used before I found here.

But clearly that’s not the only thing I’m going to use to know every inch and cranny of my characters for this iota of an idea. But you need to start somewhere.

Cartwheels over Finished Rough Draft

Cartwheels, electric slide, general happy dance inspired by Steve Carrell, once again.

I finished my rough draft on Friday this week. While my husband and son went to sleep early, I pounded at the keyboard for another 3 hours to finish it. I had to keep up the roll I was on earlier in the week and it paid off. (I wish literally, but for now just figuratively). Don’t ask me how long it took me to complete the first draft. It’s embarrassing. But that doesn’t matter. What counts is that I finished it.

I’m under no illusions that this is ready to submit. Far from it. I have an ungodly amount of revisions to complete that I kept track of during the first crash course, and obviously I have to pass it through my writers group, trusty critique partner Kim, and a few others. Then revise. Then do it all over again. Then revise. And all over again once more. Then maybe… maybe,  I’ll be ready to submit to agencies again in January. That’s my goal, anyway.

And hopefully avoid the pesky slushpile. 

 

 

 

So for now, as the weekend winds down and I gear up for my writers meeting later today, I shall do the happy dance.

Commence Celebrate music…

“Ce-le-brate good times, come on! Duh, nuh-nuh-nuh, nuh, nuh-nuh-nuh, Weehoo!”

Doesn’t that just make you smile?

On a Roll…

The last three days have been exactly that- on a roll. And I’m lovin’ it!

Vacations really do work wonders. Before my vacation I averaged about 500 words a week on my WIP. In two days I wrote 1700 words. The following day I wrote another 3000. The story just flows from my fingertips, I can see my characters so clearly, it feels great. For months I struggled through scenes because I couldn’t see my characters, couldn’t follow which themes were most prevalent and back tracked time and time again.

Now my WIP is at over 75,000 words, and I’m expecting to end around 85,000 (first draft).

Now I feel like an Olympic runner, or swimmer (yes, let’s keep this water-based since my WIP is based on a water sport) in the middle of the Individual Medley, in the zone, and surpassing their best personal record.

I’m all giddy when I get to update the word count meter on my blog page, even if there’s only a 100 word difference since my last update. Seeing that bluish-purple bar approach the end is fantabulous and self-affirming.

Now I’m off to take a break and go swimming with my son, hubby, and parents. It’s a great way to relax my brain, beat the record heat wave hitting Texas and share my accomplishments with the main supporters in my life.

I hope everyone has such an awesome cheering section as I do because it makes all the difference.

Take it easy, stay cool, and keep writing forward!

Refreshed for More Writing

My vacation this past week was the typical summer family vacation: exciting, entertaining, full of laughter and joy, a breath of fresh air and out of the ordinary… and exhausting.

The typical need-a-vacation-from-your-vacation kind of feeling when you get home. I LOVED the break from the daily grind in Hilton Head and plan to go back. But I have to add it’s a great feeling to be back home and sleep in your own bed and get back to your normal routine (as a parent to a toddler, routines are essential).

I had hoped for a few brief periods of writing time on my vacation (while my son napped or was busy playing with his cousin), but that didn’t happen. Nap times seemed to disappear while on vacation, or were significantly shorter. And I can understand that; when I was a kid I wanted to spend every moment ‘on vacation,’ and napping just seemed like a waste of precious time. And when my son napped, we spent the time cleaning up the condo or planning for the rest of the day or doing laundry. Kinda like at home.

But now since we’re home and getting back into routine, I’d like to say I’m refreshed and re-inspired to continue with my WIP. And in a way I am. I thought about my story and characters, and scenes I’d already written, and the scenes yet to come and unfortunately I’m backtracking. Again.

New ideas sprang to mind throughout last week and I’m struggling to find a way to incorporate them into my work without a complete re-write. Complete re-writes scare the crap out of me. Makes me feel like the time I spent on the first version was a waste (even though my logical brain knows it’s not a waste) but it feels like one.

Changes to my character’s emotional growth, and even major plot changes.

So to combat this feeling, I move forward in my WIP with the new ideas and know I’ll have to go back and fix previous scenes during my revisions (and make note of it in my trusty “Revision” file.)

So, am I refreshed from my vacation to continue writing and actually get the first draft completed? YES I AM. I just hope my son will let me focus on it, instead of pulling on my arm to go back to the beach. Or pulling on my own arm for the sand between my toes.

Inspirational Settings

In a few short days, I’m heading to this lovely island with my family.

Guess which island? Nope- not in the Caribbean. It’s actually not even tropical.

Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

As I look at these photos knowing I’ll be playing on the beach with my son and hubby, it reminds me of the exotic and far away settings a lot of books have. I’m a big historical romance reader, so a lot of settings are in mist-covered castles all over Europe, all built against picturesque lakes, lochs, or cliffs. Those kinds of fanciful stories are a great escape from the every day life of toddler tantrums, runny noses, laundry, dishes, and fretting over potty training.

Then I compare these incredible settings to the ones in the stories I write. I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense. And they all take place in North Texas. Hardly exotic. And it brings up an interesting question in my mind. How can I love to read about unique settings and be thrown into fantasy worlds, but I write about normal people in every day settings? They could take place in a Normalville in any state. But perhaps its because I view contemporary hometowns (like mine) as my strength. Perhaps writing in far away islands or mountains is my weakness. I don’t know. I’ve never tried.

But they say to write what you know. And I know my state. I know my surroundings. And when I close my eyes and envision the setting my characters live in, I see Texas. And they always tell you to write what you see. Maybe that means I’m not very imaginative. And I’ll be the first to tell you that, if I truly am not as creative.

But then I widen my scope (literally, as I sit here and type this), and think of the vacations and exotic places I’ve been. And I’ve been to several. Heck, I’ve lived in several.

Maybe if I steal away a few precious, uninterrupted hours on my vacation I’ll try to write a short diddy in one of these locations: Curacao, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Belize, or Honduras. I mention Curacao first because its one of my favorite vacations I’ve ever taken. Pure white sands and the most awesome scuba diving ever. I could write a contemporary romance in that spot any day. But now I just have to imagine the characters and the jaw dropping storyline.

Any romance author or editor will always say setting is crucial; like another character intertwined in the storyline with its own personality and flavor. And I’ll admit, characters aren’t my forte. In the stories I’ve written I focus on the plot first and think secondly on characters. Which is why my local settings aren’t as creative. It’s like a tertiary character to which I hardly give any thought.

So that’s what the back of my mind will focus on while I’m bouncing around Hilton Head Island with my family. Widening my scope to more creative settings.

What about you? What settings capture you in your readings, and if you’re a writer, what places do you see in your mind?

I Win the Fights in my WIP

I don’t get to win too many arguments in my life. Mainly because I get too tongue-tied or flabbergasted to respond, until several hours or even days after the argument, I think of the perfect comeback or stinger, and by then of course it’s too late. I’ve already lost. Easy to say I’m not a confrontational person.

Except for writing. I just finished a scene in my WIP where my heroine and hero have a fight (not with fists, although she has the urge to slap him), but with words. I still suffer from the same deficiency and have trouble creating comebacks on the spot, but that’s what’s great about writing. I can think of the perfect quip and insert it in the middle of the argument later. Doesn’t matter how much time has passed. It still flows, and either way I WIN THE ARGUMENT! ;)

It’s interesting to note that the fight scene between my main characters flowed from my mind more easily than other scenes. I wonder if it’s the same with other authors. The most tense scenes in novels are often the easiest to write (or the scenes authors already have visualized before the rest of the book is plotted. It is said that JK Rowling had the last scene between Harry Potter and Voldermort completed before she even started the series). I write out the harsh words as I feel them come to me, and if I think of something later that’s better, more damaging to their self-confidence, or more of a knife-in-the-gut, I can amend it.

Writing has helped me explore my confrontational side, which I believed was non-existent before I started. I’m not saying I’m more confrontational in real-life now that I’ve started writing, but it’s helped me delve into a side I didn’t know I had. And I’m glad I’m able to put that side of me into a character that’s on paper, that way none of the evidence leads back to me and the only people who are hurt are entirely fictional. ;)

I must say, its nice to win an argument every now and then. 

Thinking Ahead… Revisions

Post-it notes

Image via Wikipedia

Alright, now that I’ve done a quasi-happy dance that I’m 3/4 done with my WIP, I know once I’m finished with the first draft I have to start revisions. MAJOR revisions. I’ve received feedback from friends in my writers group and a few online critique sites, and I’ve kept track of those suggestions in a separate file. But I haven’t incorporated them into my WIP yet, because I knew those had to be a part of the revision. If I sidetracked myself to work on the revision, I knew I’d never get the whole first draft completed. (Trust me, I’ve done that before and my first manuscript took YEARS to finish just the ‘first’ draft).

So, I’m keeping the ‘known fixes’ tracked on another file. The vast majority of the suggestions I’ve received I believe are good and I’ll implement them. There may be a few small suggestions that don’t fit (in my opinion), and I’ll wade through those as I go.

But I think its important that items for revision in any WIP be tracked on a different file, whether it be a notebook, computer file, physical file, or even sticky notes (that could be quite a mess, particularly with a 2.5 year old roaming the house that loves to tear up paper). If you think of something while you’re writing, or a friend makes a suggestion about Chapter 3 when you’re on Chapter 22, and you’re too tempted to go back and fix it right then, you’ll do that over and over again and the first draft will take three times longer to finish.

I actually have my revision items separated into categories. I have a characterization section, plot section, emotion section, even a dialogue portion. And when I come across something that I need to change, I note it in the proper section. Something quick, so it won’t take away my time from the first draft. (Example: Ch2, Parag4- Stacey needs to have more sense of smell.)

Occasionally, I’ll have a scene come into my head that I absolutely HAVE to write in full, even though I don’t know where it goes. A quick scene of 4 or 5 paragraphs of an argument or other pivotal moment, and I’ll shove that into my “Revision” file as well.

All of the revisions above are the bigger things, not the smaller stuff of grammar, punctuation, and word order. That in-line detail needs to be done once those major items are implemented. Otherwise, I’ll just go back and do it all over again. (Which is a given anyway- revisions take several more ‘drafts.’) A lot of times, I’ll get caught up in those in-line grammar fixes and miss the bigger issues like a major plot flaw, or the feel of a conversation isn’t right, or yet again my MC has bi-polar issues.

But I think revisions (the main parts of it) tends to be the most fun, at least for me. Even though it can be tedious, I like to take the step back and look at things from a different angle. Many times, scenes will progress completely different from the first pass. It’s always interesting to see how those scenes will morph into an alternate reality. Almost like those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books!

Writers: What is your process for revisions? What do you during the first draft when something comes to you that needs to be changed? What do you like more: first drafts or revisions?

Back to writing. Keep writing forward!

Writing on the Fly

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Image via Wikipedia

I used to read the ‘choose your own adventure’ books when I was a kid.  Things like “Where in the World is: Carmen Sandiego?” was one I really liked.  They of course made a whole bunch of software games out of it, but the idea is still something I admire.  Yet fail to replicate.

I’m one of those writers where I have an outline, a plan, for both my storyline and characters before I even begin the first chapter.  I may not have all of the details worked out or know what ‘quirks’ my heroine will possess, but I know all of the main scenes that build tension, conflict, and the climax, and I know how my story will end well before I start. Writing on the fly by the seat of my pants is never something I was able to do effectively.  I’m not an impromptu person.  Anyone who’s ever seen me give an impromptu speech completely understands it’s not my forte.  Writing is the same way for me.  I’ve tried it and end up going back and re-writing much of what I just wrote when I led myself into a dead-end or something extremely boring.

I admire the writers who can, literally, sit down without a single thing planned in their head, and write a manuscript.  And even more amazing, they write a story that’s intriguing, unique, and one I can’t put down.  They don’t know what comes next, they let the characters decide the next scene.  The next problem.  Everything evolves in their mind as they write.  My mind can’t ‘evolve’ like that.

But even if I can’t get my mind to work like that in my writing career (can I call it a career even though I haven’t been published, yet?), I love those kinds of stories.  They give you a scenario and you have to choose a path: Option A- he travels to the crime scene, Option B- he calls the reporter with all the info, Option C- he fights the bartender for another drink, Option D- he kisses the girl senselessly and they drive off into the sunrise.  All choices lead you in a different direction.  And I wonder if the final outcome would be the same among all the various paths to choose?  Now, with Carmen San Diego, they would lead you to dead ends and you’d have to back track to find the ‘right’ path (much like how my mind works when I write), but I still liked the option.

I wonder if these writers who can write on the fly feel the same kind of wonder?  They must wake up thinking, ‘Where will my story lead today?’ Or ‘What kind of mischief will my hero get into today?’  Or for the more cynical writers, ‘What horrible catastrophe or torture can I put my heroine through this morning?’

On the Fly Writing

 

What do you think?  Do you like ‘choose your own adventure’ stories?  For you writers, can you write on the fly or do you have to plan it out?  For you readers, which do you think would be the most interesting to read?