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
The thing about writing love stories when you’re a naturally cynical person with disastrous relationships in her past is that achieving the willing suspension of disbelief necessary to convince the reader that they all lived happily ever after is really difficult. I have found, in trying to do this, that the most useful thing to remember is that we’re writing to promise mature love. Immature love/infatuation is easy to write, but everybody knows that doesn’t last. Mature love, the connection beyond conditions, is hard to write, but if we can get that promise on the page, it’s what powers the romance.
So when I turned back to Nita and thought, Okay, it’s a romance, but they’re only going to know each other five days, how the hell am I going to foreshadow mature love in that time?” And then I was reading the Gil Cunningham mysteries which made me think of Renaissance poetry (those mysteries are pre-Renn, but still, ye olde times), and I remembered my favorite love poem of all time, John Donne’s “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.”
This book is going to be the death of me.
Okay, that’s probably just me whining. But it’s making me think about story in different ways than I have before and making me second guess myself. I think that’s good, but it’s disconcerting.
So this weekend I did something very Bob-like: I set up a table for the major action events, divided by acts, and then analyzed all of them for character arcs and relationship arcs. The tables looked like this:
So many romances show the story from two points of view (and many readers complain when there is only one) that I was under the impression that romances at least were better with two protagonists. Obviously, I was mistaken in assuming two points of view, even if given equal time, meant two protagonists, but I was curious why you felt the story should belong to one protagonist, even if some scenes were in the other point of view.
Let’s start with the first question (the one I put. in the title) which is what’s the difference between a protagonist and a point of view character?
Jinx asked about a Scientific American essay called “The Real Reason Fans Hated the Last Season of Game of Thrones.” by Zeynep Tufekci:
“I read a recent article from Scientific American . . . with a thesis . . . that the series broke its implicit promise to viewers because when it reached the end of the author’s previously published material, the new showrunners switched from Martin’s more sociological approach to plotting and character development to one that is common to most film and tv writing these days, with a purely psychological perspective. So… individuals moving through their conflicts with others, in place of individuals within a social framework adapting to others and finding their place in a complex social world.”
Criticism and analysis can be thought-provoking and insightful, but it’s rarely good writing advice. It’s not meant to be writing advice, it’s not craft, it’s theory. So while Tufekci’s analysis is interesting, it’s not a practical application for writers (which was not her intention, so not a flaw in her work). The essay reminded me of my PhD course work (no I never finished the dissertation) when I did a ton of literary criticism, then started to write novels, then did my general exams. One of my profs said, “Your criticism really changed once you started to write fiction.” Well, yeah. After publishing, I was on the inside looking out instead of on the outside looking in. Big difference.
“I have a question about villains – and layering them so that they engage with each other and the heroine. Some say the hero (love interest) is the main antagonist, others say there needs to be a stronger antagonist because he’s not one by the end. What say you? What have you found works the best? Do more antagonists pop up as you write? How do you like to layer them? Do you have a limit/rule that you like or use?
Let’s start with the basics.
My question is about how to write a book in one PoV only, while still implying someone else’s PoV. I’ve seen it done (clumsily, I think) in many many books: the PoV MC will say something off-hand to a potential lover (John) and the author writes, “John paused for a moment before replying, as if her remark had hurt him.” That seems to me to be cheating: the PoV MC is meant to be oblivious of John’s real feelings at this point, but the author shows us the card anyway. How blatant do I need to be in using the PoV MC to reveal someone else’s feelings? I know I need to a bit, but I’m struggling between clumsy (as above) and so subtle no one else gets it.
Unless you’re writing in third omniscient, you only get one point of view, no implying others. So let’s review PoV first, then I’ll answer your specific question. There are four PoVs to choose from: first person, second person (don’t pick that one), third person omniscient and third person limited.
This is another one from Draft Vault, and it included this note: “Somehow I hit “Publish” while this was still in draft form. Therefore, whatever went out in the RSS feed was a rough draft. Sorry about that.” I’m pretty sure I cut almost all of the previous draft, so this shouldn’t be a re-run at all.
Cate M asked:
“Could you do a post on a character chemistry? Not necessarily romantic chemistry, although that would be helpful too. Basically, once you’ve got your checklist of goals, motivation, conflict, how do you make sure the characters are actually fun to spend time with, and better together than they are apart?” Continue reading
I would love to hear more about the difference between making love, having sex and erotica in a romance novel. What exactly makes them different from each other? . . . I always hear it described as ‘different levels of sizzle or heat’ but it seems to me that there is more to the grading than that. . . . Are there market expectations now re detailed sex? Romance novels seem to be getting more and more graphic (or maybe those are just the ones I’m buying!) I noticed in the [comments to the favorite love scene post] how few people listed a love scene that had any sex in it – I think I spotted one that took place in a bed. That’s interesting.
Sex is in the eye of the beholder.
Let me put that another way. Continue reading