Thank You, Betas

And thank you very much to everybody who posted a crit of my scene for giving me a lot of food for thought. I’ve been flailing because there’s so much STUFF in this book, and I knew this scene was way off, but it was obscured by the other Stuff. So this has been excellent.

Liz should be the protagonist in the scene but she’s passive, just letting ML wash over her. She’d have done that as an eighteen-year-old, but not at thirty-three. So everybody who said she needs to step is right.

ML needs to be more interesting. I think she really is a virago, and after I stepped back (which is what I’ve been doing for the past couple of days) and thought about her, I realized I had her conceptualized badly. Continue reading

Scene Revision: Liz vs. Aunt ML

So here’s something to practice on: a severely lacking scene from Lavender. Here are your beta reader questions for analysis:

Scene Critiques Questions (for Beta Readers)
Who is the protagonist? That is, who owns this scene? What is her or his goal?

Who is the antagonist? That is, who is the person causing the conflict in this scene; the person, who if removed from the scene, would cause the conflit to collapse?What is her goal?

What expectations does this scene create?

What must be kept in this scene?

What needs work?

And here’s the scene: Continue reading

Revising Scene

Okay, I’m slammed again today and tomorrow is PopD (His Girl Friday! YAY!) so here are the rough notes for another teaching handout that’s going up on the website soon, this one on revising scene. Yes, I am buying you off. You’re going to see some similarities to the Revising Story handout because novels are made up of acts, and acts are made up of scenes, and scenes are made up of beats, and novels, acts, scenes, and beats are all units of conflict, just different lengths. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, the structure of the atom is the same as the structure of the universe. Be the scene. (Too bad Caddyshack isn’t a romcom.)

The PROTAGONIST (who owns the scene)
The ANTAGONIST (who shapes the scene and who if removed from the scene would cause the conflict to collapse).
(The concrete, specific, external things they are trying desperately to get, not inner peace.) Continue reading

The Basics of Fiction

I taught a fiction class in Columbus Saturday (and by the way Columbus, did you have to make Exit 108B unreachable both north AND south? not that I’m bitter), and then I went to Wapak for a family day (Callie is two, can you believe it?), and then I came back and realized they were delivering a refrigerator this morning and the downstairs is still completely torn up so I had to . . .

Never mind. Here are the notes from the class on basics of writing story. I’ll get them cleaned up and put into a PDF later, and they’ll be posted on a section of the website called Class Notes, but for right now . . . Continue reading

Gothic Interruption, Continued

So we’re talking about doing a Gothic romance seminar on Cherry Forms, reading a different book each month in a historical survey. For the purposes of this project, a Gothic romance is a novel that combines horror and romance, featuring an orphaned/isolated/innocent protagonist thrust into a dangerous and mysterious and possibly supernatural old house/wilderness with psycho-sexual overtones and at least one run through the darkness in a nightie.

The tentative list so far is:

1. Intro to Course, Mysteries of Udolpho, Radcliffe (1794)
2. Northanger Abbey, Austen (1818)
3. The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe (1839) [Link is to book of short stories that “Usher” appeared in.]
4. Jane Eyre, Bronte (1847)
5. The Turn of the Screw, James (1898)
6. The Circular Staircase, Rinehart (1908)
7. Rebecca, DuMaurier (1938)
8. Nine Coaches Waiting, Stewart (1958)
9. Mistress of Mellyn, Victoria Holt (1960)
10. [something from the 70s?]
11. Someone in the House, Michaels (1981)
12 [something from the 90s? Gaffney’s Lily was in 1996.]
13. [something from the 21st century?] Continue reading

We Interrupt This 12 Days for a Gothic Suggestion

So my life is a little hectic lately and I’m complete failing at the 12 days thing although I am gangbusters on getting the MTT promo together and working the Popcorn Dialogues (tomorrow night: Ninotchka, which Lani hasn’t seen and I’ve forgotten so that should be interesting) so when Molly and Jill reminded me that we’d talked about a survey of gothic romance, of course I said, “Hell yes, I’d love to do that.” Yes, like the PopD blog, only on Cherry Forums and on books not movies and run as a bookclub. This wouldn’t be an academic study of the gothic, although we’d end up doing some of that, it’d be an analysis from a reader/writer point of view: what makes the gothic powerful, what do readers respond to in it, how has it evolved as readership has changed, etc. Also, some side discussions about the marriage of romance and horror with nods to Buffy, because, that’s why. One book a month for a year. We’re still in discussions with the book club mods about all of this so it’s just a lets-put-on-a-show-in-the-barn project for right now, but the mods are pros and I think this is going to work out just fine.

This was my first pass at the reading list and here’s some good news: The first seven are available for free on Project Gutenberg, so many thanks to the very good people there: Continue reading

Lavender 8: What Is This Book About

At some point in every book, I have to step back and say, “Okay, what the hell is this book about?” Not “What is the plot of this book?” but “What ties everything in this book together?” And that’s what I did last night until I looked up and saw that it was 6:48 AM. I’m a little groggy. Plus, you know, the Drowning Jesus burned. But here’s what I did.

First I made a scene list. Usually I have about sixty to sixty-five scenes but this time I have forty. I may add one or two extra ones, but that’s about right since this book is about two-thirds as long as my third-person novels.

Then I went through and did a beat breakdown for each one, trying to figure out what each scene was about. As usual, for a lot of them there was no there there. Yet. I’ll have to dig into each one and figure out where the focus is, but I can do that.

Then I did a logline for each one: Continue reading

Lavender ?: Ohio Will Never Be the Same

It’s been hell in Ohio. I stayed up until the sun came up structuring Liz and it’s actually looking pretty tight (until you get to the scene level) but then I read the news and tragedy struck last night. Well, actually, lightning struck. Touchdown Jesus, aka Drowning Jesus is no more. I can’t remember if I posted about Touchdown Jesus before–he made a great H in the O-H-I-O cheer–but anybody who ever went north into Ohio on 75 knew him well. And now he’s gone, completely burned in a lightning strike. I’ll be back to post again later, but suffice to say, Ohio has lost one of its favorite landmarks and we are sad. Or as Lani said, “If that thing had burned before I’d had a chance to see it, I would have been upset.” (You really had to experience it without knowing it was coming. On our way up 75 the first time, I’d said, “Pay attention on your right coming up,” but it really wasn’t necessary. The thing was sixty-two feet tall. As I recall, she said, “Oh. My. GOD.” and then laughed hysterically all the way to Wapak.

They’re planning on rebuilding.

Updated to add: Gawker has the story, too, and there are many links in the comments.

Lavender 7: That Scene in the Bar Analysis

So since I can’t sleep, let’s do a little work here.

1. The conflict is Liz vs Vince.
Except there are Molly interludes, but I can work with that.

2. Liz’s goal is to escape; everybody in town wants something from her and she just wants to sit and talk with Molly, the one person she trusts.
Vince’s goal is to burn off some time. Later on Liz finds out that he stops by the bar around closing to make sure Jill doesn’t need any help since her husband works a night shift and her dad is ill. He can see that there’s potential trouble in the back at Cash’s bachelor party, so he’s hanging around until closing, sees Liz, and decides she’s a good way to kill time.

Hmmm. Conflict problem. Vince does turf Molly, but Liz doesn’t seem to mind. Damn. How long have I been doing this and I STILL can’t get conflict right? Continue reading