Give Each Character the Best Lines

There’s an NYT article by Eleanor Stanford about her favorite line from “When Harry Met Sally . . .” that’s my favorite, too: “You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that (and thank you, Nora Ephron). The essay analyzes why, and it made me think about some of my other favorites. Like . . .

“That escalated quickly.”

“There’s no crying in baseball.” (Bob hit me with a variation on that one yesterday.)

“And someday you’ll die, and I’ll come to your funeral in a red dress!”

I was thinking about the reason some lines stick around and I think it’s because they reflect some universal feeling, encapsulate that feeling in few words–surprise, fear, rage–while recalling a moment in a film that just nailed that complex emotion. The way “I miscalculated” is not nearly as effective as “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Or “I’m done here” is not nearly as delicious “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Or “I love you madly for all time” is not nearly as knee-weakening as “I know.”

Your turn: What lines from books, movies, songs, whatever do you use because they shorthand the moment for you? Or for whatever reason?

The Working Protagonist (and Antagonist, Too)

Phred wrote “Nope. This is the one with a PR person and a neurology professor,” and it made me think of how we remember romances (and Friends): Protagonist and the Love Interest. Which makes sense, although we don’t think of mysteries as Detective and Victim, we think of them as Detective and Murderer, which makes sense: the relationship is the key, the push and pull of both sides as they get to know each other, zero in on each other. Love and death.

Where was I?

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What Makes a Good Love Interest?

I was going to title this “What Makes a Hero?” which is a lot punchier, but since “Hero” implies male and not necessarily a romantic figure we’re going with “love interest.”

At base, a love interest is somebody the protagonist falls in love with, so that’s where we’re starting. The next question, the interesting one, is “Why this person?” Granted this is going to depend on the protagonist (and the writer), but there must be some criteria across the board. It’s when I try to pin it down, that things get slippery. Continue reading

Argh Question

For once, something Google can’t answer.

What is the nickname “Dillie” short for?

Yes, I know I named her that, but it was a long time ago. The only thing that comes to mind is Tom Bombadil and just no on that. Dylan is a possibility, but that would make her Dylie, wouldn’t it?

This is going to drive me nuts.

Romance, Sex and Context: A Theory

I’ve been thinking about sex in romance novels lately. (This is going to ramble some. My Deep Thoughts often ramble.)

I used to get reviews that said my romances were pretty hot. I reread a couple of those books recently and compared with what’s out now, they’re barely lukewarm. That’s fine with me, but I’m wondering now what the blurring of the lines between romance and erotica means to the genre. That is, how is it redefining romance? I have no problems with erotica, but it doesn’t have the same aims as romance, any more than women’s fiction is romance-centered. I’m not even sure chick lit is romance, but then I’ve never really been sure what chick lit is. The point is, romance is the only genre that’s romance centered, so what happens to romance within the genre is important.

And I think sex is mugging it. Continue reading

HWSWAnswers: Characters

And we’re back with more answers to questions you asked earlier in the week. There’ll be more on Monday. Today, it’s all about character.

Nicole asked:
How do you prevent your characters or plot from always being the same thing while on the surface level they aren’t? There are a few authors I’ve read where it’s always the same story in the end – dif plot, but it just feels the same. Continue reading

Hope Is the Thing With Feathers, or At Least Fairy Wings

I started reading Sarina Bowman’s The Year We Fell Down, about a college freshman with a spinal cord injury , and when this first-person narrator meets her roommate for the first time, she says . . .

“. . . a little specter of hope had alighted on my shoulder. And this feathered, winged thing had been buzzing around for weeks, whispering encouragements in my ear. . . . Now, facing [my roommate] in the flesh for the first time, my little hope fairy did a cartwheel on my shoulder.”

She has a little Hope Fairy. I rolled my eyes. (Yes, I am a bitch.)

But as the story progressed, the Hope Fairy became less twee, showing up nineteen times in the course of the book to help the narrator undercut the anguish of her situation, and I started to pay attention to what Bowen was doing with her. Continue reading

Questionable:How do we know when it’s okay to Tell instead of Show?

Olga asked:
The old writers’ dilemma of ‘show’ vs. ‘tell’. All the writing teachers and textbooks instruct us: “show, not tell,” but many successful writers use ‘tell’ a lot. Georgette Heyer is one of them. There is a lot of ‘tell’ in her novels. I’m not even talking about Jane Austen and other old-timers.
Did this demand of ‘show not tell’ change with time. What was allowed 50 years ago isn’t recommended today? Or are there some universal guidelines? How do we know when ‘tell’ is okay? And how much of it?

First, you can do anything you want. It’s your book. Seriously, if it feels right to tell, tell. Continue reading