Thursday, May 15, 2008

Writers' Q&A 4

I'm trying to cram everything in - with the Lincoln Book Festival Event coming up on Saturday - and the workshop in the afternoon. So I have Trish Wylie staying with me and we're having a lot of fun talking writing, heroes and playing with the kitten.

But I have another question for the Q&A and this one is from Johanna who says:
I'm told that my writing is still too plot-led rather than character-led. I think part of the reason is because I like to plan my books before I begin writing them; the idea of writing blind is terrifying for me. Do you have any tips for how I could still do this but make sure my story is still driven by emotion?

I've already answered Johanna personally but I'll share my answer with you all here:
The main question is - are you planning your books by EVENTS ? Things that happen 'on the outside' so to speak? External events - things that happen to your characters are far less likely to create emotional tension than events that happen inside them.

You can still plan - but try taking a look at your plots and trying to plan according to the emotional changes that happen to your hero and heroine and try to write a scene that shows that change rather than where something you've decided on happens.
You can decide that your Spanish hero arrives at the heroine's home and this is where your story starts . In order to gte into the emotions from the very beginning, you need to get inside your character's mind and then let that dictate the action . . .
So - your Spaniard arrives at the house - in what mood - why?
What he sees there confirms his mood or changes it? Why?
So what is he feeling when he meets his heroine? Why?
How does this make him behave?

Ditto for heroine

Then - what would this make him/her do and why?
If she does xxx - how will that make him feel and so how will he react?

Take a look at some books - good ones would be Michelle Reid, maybe even a Kate Walker! Read for the story first so you get to see the 'what happens next' progress of events - you'll find there are fewer than you think. Someone like Anne McAllister is also a good example because here the conflict is perhaps less high octane might be easier to 'watch' the emotional changes taking place. Sometimes the pace of a highly intense emotinal conflict can carry you along so fast you don;t spot the subtle emoti0onal changes and adjustments.
Then try to analyse the book on the level of where the emotional changes happen, when and why. Try and see how they direct the 'plot' of the book. Because the plot is the emotional relationship developing. Don't be afraid of having to little plot - in your opinion - you need the emotional development and changes at the centre of things

One final piece of advice is don't put in any 'event' unless you know why it happens/how it changes things and why it changes things .

It's not easy. I know with Presents/Modern the 'plot' is pared down to just the relationship between the hero and heroine so you need to make sure that you have a conflict that isn't one simple thing but that changes and makes the characters change as things develop between them

Hopefully looking at books from the aspect of emotional changes rather than plot events will help. I understand how you'd be afraid of launching into the unknown rather than planning but if you work from why characters are doing and what they are feeling at each point it should get the balance back

To summarise - instead of saying 'he's going to do this ' and then thinking 'but Kate is going to ask em why - so I'd better think of an answer ;o) try sayinghe/she's feeling this way so what would that drive them to do next in response to the way they are feeling?

A common mistake for beginners is to think that they need to have lots of action, lots happening in a story or the pace will drag. But in a story where there is action as opposed to emotion the emotion then needs to be added afterwards and that can slow the pace down.

Readers come to romance for the emotinal journey. And as long as the characters' emotional relationship is deeveloping, then the events are largely catalysts to this and so can be used as sparingly as possible. Otherwise the events drown the emotion and your book becomes 'too plot led'. Your characters and their reactions to each other are what should really lead the story.

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