Tag Archives: writing

World Building vs. Relationship Building

One thing contemporary romance writers don’t have to worry about is world building. After all, the setting of contemporaries, by definition, is the world as it is today. The characters are regular human beings with no special powers, and the settings are identifiable. All I have to do is mention New York or Paris or London, and you automatically have a picture in your head, even if you’ve never personally visited those places before.

Those of us who write speculative fiction like SFR or PNR have a much more difficult time. I can’t just refer to planet Quixotok and expect you to form a mental image of it. Is it a desert planet? Jungle? Industrial? Are the skies blue or purple or red? Is there even any breathable air there? I have to describe this planet if I want the reader to visualize it. I also have to go into a certain amount of detail about the people/aliens, culture, and customs on this planet, the same as I would need to describe the special abilities and social arrangement of any group of paranormal creatures I might create in another book.

While I’m building this whole world for these aliens or supernaturals, I also have to make sure I spend enough time on the romance. The relationship between the main characters has to build too. It’s not always easy to balance those two elements, and there’s rarely a perfect 50/50 split. If there’s more world-building than romance, the book tends to get classified, for example, as romantic science fiction or science fiction with strong romantic elements.  If the romance is definitely the main focus, then the work gets classified as a Romance, but with the subgenre Sci-Fi or Fantasy or Paranormal.

What kind of balance do you like to see in your mixed-genre romances?

I’ve Got the Power

Okay, cue music from Snap! circa 1990. Don’t worry, Pinky, I’m not plotting world domination. But I do think it would be cool if I could have some of the powers the characters in sci-fi and paranormal romance have.

What powers would I want? I love big cats, especially tigers, so I’d love to be able to shift into one of them. Super strength like a vampire would also be nice, although I wouldn’t want to be restricted to a liquid diet. There have been times when I’ve been stuck in traffic that I’ve wished I could teleport or at least get beamed to my destination by a starship transporter.

Hmm. Now what powers would I want my hero to have? An empath would be more sensitive to my feelings and needs, while a shifter or alien who mates for life would always be faithful. And of course there’s super stamina and finesse, 😉

I may not ever possess supernatural or sci-fi powers in real life, but never underestimate the power of the imagination. What powers do you wish you had?

Celebrate Success

We’ve probably all heard this advice before. Celebrate your successes and concentrate on the positive. This is true for life in general, but I most often hear it in connection with writing. It can be difficult to follow this advice, though. Negative things like a bad review or failure to hit a word-count goal can easily drag us down. Here are a few ways I’ve used to combat negativity and focus on the good stuff:

(1)   If I struggle with a book, I remind myself that some of the most difficult works to create have turned out the best in the end. I still love to write, so it’s worth the trouble. 

(2)   When faced with something like a bad review, I try to keep it in perspective and not blow it out of proportion. If only one in ten people don’t like my book, then nine in ten did.

(3)   Successes, on the other hand, should be played up. I try to get as excited about a new contract, book release, or good review now as I did when I first started writing. Successes should never be taken for granted, and no success is too small to feel good about.

What do you do to stay positive?

Counting Down to Release Day

My new shifter romance from Loose Id is currently scheduled to release on October 1, and I am so excited. I’ve finished content edits and have now moved into line edits, and today I got my first glimpse of the cover art. It’s beyond fantastic! Everything just needs to be finalized and get its last bit of polish. I can’t wait to share.

For me, the two best parts of writing are the original creation of the story when I’m immersed in the characters and plot and this point when everything is coming together and I get to see the finished product. These are the moments that make me feel so passionate about being a writer.

Back to Basics: Building Character

There seems to be a lot of writers block going around these days, and I’m not immune. In my case, I realized the heroine in the book I’m working on isn’t entirely clear to me. Since most of my work is character driven, this is a serious problem. What’s the solution?

Well, part of what I’m trying starts with the physical and will hopefully end with a crystal clear image of my character and her motivations. I decided to go back to basics. Anyone who has read articles on writing or has attended a convention has heard again and again that you should engage the five senses. I’ve found that this is something that you can apply to the characters and not just the settings and the rest of the plot.

  1. What does the character look like? Is he/she human or alien or a paranormal creature? Tall or short? What color are his/her hair and eyes and skin, and how might the character’s looks have affected the way he/she experiences the world?
  2. What does the character sound like? Does the hero have a deep bass voice? Does the heroine sound sultry? Any accents? How the character speaks can tell you a lot about where they’re from, what their cultural background is, etc.
  3. What does the character smell like? This is an element that’s especially important in shifter romances and the like, though it’s key to every romance. Maybe the hero enjoys the scent of the heroine’s shampoo, or she likes his sexy cologne. It says something about a character if, for instance, the heroine wears expensive perfume versus never wearing anything but the natural scent of her soap.
  4. What does the character taste like? This can deal with something less risqué, like a kiss, to the more erotic.
  5. What does the character feel like? Is the hero covered in scars and has calluses on his hands? Does he have a gentle touch? Does the heroine have the softest caress?

Using the five senses on characters from the beginning can really help define them and make them clearer not only during the writing process, but for readers once the book is finally polished. After all, who doesn’t want to read about a nice smelling, yummy hero?

Let’s Get Hairy: Hair Length on Heroes and Heroines

Anyone who has read a romance, even one of the darker ones, has probably noticed a certain trend: long hair. The heroines have cascades of hair reaching their lower backs and beyond, a silky waterfall with which to tickle and curtain their lovers in the bedroom.

I’m reading a sci-fi romance by a very popular best seller now — an author whose work I like and respect — and the heroine has hair just about down to her ankles. A powerful visual image? Yes. Easy for the reader to visualize during action scenes? Not so much. Maybe I’m too practical minded when it comes to extremes like this.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I grew my hair out for many years to donate (it finally went to Wigs for Kids), and I managed just a foot of extra hair. Let me tell you, I did feel very sexy with it at times. I also cursed it daily as I tried to keep the knots out. Hair past a certain length gets blown in your face, pinned beneath your shoulders or wrapped around your neck in bed, and can generally be a nuisance. How can a heroine with ankle-length hair fight off men using martial arts, run through dense forests, or swim for her life, let alone roll around in bed with the hero without careful choreography?  Maybe it’s just me. My only real point here is I think there should be some careful consideration of the character’s background, role, and actions before the author gives her such a striking attribute.

And what about the heroes? Long locks are not confined to the fairer sex. Whether we’re talking about a soldier who wears his hair longer than regulation length or hot Alphas with ponytails, the long-haired hero is in. Oh, and they always have their hair held back by a leather thong. That’s a must

Personally, I like variety. I like to visualize all sorts of yummy heroes with different physiques, styles, etc. All authors have a preference for a certain type, and there’s nothing wrong with writing about what you like. It’s more a question of balance.

Laurell K. Hamilton obviously likes long hair on her male characters, Nathaniel’s being the longest. Since most of her books’ men have long hair, I was kind of happy when Richard shaved his head despite the motivation behind it. J. R. Ward has displayed variety among her vampires with Z’s shaved head vs. Phury’s beautiful tresses, although Wrath keeps growing out his hair longer to please his shellan. Then again, Wrath is acting as king now, so it makes sense he might wear it longer than he did when he was always fighting in the field.

Mind you, I thoroughly enjoy the works of the authors mentioned above, so this should in no way be construed as criticism. I simply find it interesting how different writers describe their characters’ physical appearance. The trend right now definitely seems to be slanted to long hair. Maybe the next hot thing will be balding men, women with shaved heads, or mohawks on both sexes. It seems our fictional worlds are subject to the same fashion changes in clothing and appearance as our real one.

A Quickie vs. a Long (Writing) Affair

I read almost constantly, and I like to change things up from time to time. Full-length novels can be wonderful when they’re well done, and you don’t even want them to end when they’re especially great. Once in awhile, though, you don’t want to invest that kind of time and devotion in a single story, so you turn to something fast and fun

Shorter works, which you can find as both stand-alones and contained within anthologies, can be a nice change of pace. You can devour these in one or two sittings, which is perfect when you don’t have more than twenty minutes here or there to read. Thanks to their length, shorter works often have tighter, clearer plot lines and fewer characters to keep track of — another benefit if you already have nine hundred other things on your mind.

Authors can easily become slaves to word count because of the restrictions some houses have on the length of their works. Not every idea is a novel-length concept, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make a good story. On the other hand, sometimes a story or novella doesn’t give a writer enough room to really develop the characters and plotline. Full-length novels contain more layers and nuances, a greater depth of characterization, and room to fully explore conflict and resolution.

The trick is to find the stories that end exactly when they’re meant to end and not a page before or after. Personally, I say mix it up and just have fun.