This section contains a small library of bite sized craft pieces and writing tips that a budding writer might find useful. Check back as this section will be expanded over time.Article ONE - Conflict
I've seen and heard many debates about conflict. Some authors break it in to internal and external conflict. But what does that mean? This is my take on it, other people may view it differently. External conflict is caused by a source outside of the hero or heroine e.g He has to get married by Tuesday or he loses a million pound fortune.
Internal conflict is caused by the emotions of the hero or heroine e.g He doesn't mind getting married by Tuesday as he's madly in love with the bride to be, but knows she's in love with someone else. In the later case it's his fears which provide the conflict, he loves her but she doesn't love him, or so he thinks.
For most writers they have a conflict to start the story but then they hit chapter three and they feel they've used up all the conflict issues. This usually isn't true, what's really happened is they have exhausted the external issues but haven't even scratched the surface on the deeper internal ones. An editor at Mills and Boon told me once that if one good heart-to-heart conversation could solve the problem the conflict wasn't deep enough.
To make a reader emphasise with your character you have to dig deep into their psyche, explore those deeper layers of conflict which lurk under the surface.
Take our hero with the enforced wedding -
He loves his bride - he thinks she loves someone else, now a heart-to-heart would solve this, right? Wrong! If we dig a little deeper - why does he not believe his bride when she says she loves him? - This is where the digging comes in - surface conflict - he saw her kiss someone else. Deeper conflict - his ex-wife cheated on him, his mother cheated on his father, he believes that given the opportunity all women will cheat, so to protect his heart he won't let his bride-to-be get emotionally close to him.
Can you see where this is going? How is he going to change? How is the heroine going to teach him to change? Can it be done? The latter part would give you the conflict and character growth for a novel. The other surface conflict might give you a short story.
How deep are your conflicts?Article TWO - Point of View (POV)
1) Within a chapter try not to change point of view more than three times. If you change too often, unless you are an expert like Nora Roberts, it won’t work. The reader doesn’t get enough time inside the characters head to empathise with their feelings and emotions.
2)Always write the scene from the point of view of the character with the most to lose emotionally. This raises the stakes and the reader becomes immersed in the scene.
3)Avoid using extra points of view, in many stories the hero and heroines points of view are all that is needed. Always think carefully if you really need that extra POV.
4)Don’t use an omniscient point of view, this distances the reader and lessens that all important emotional impact.
5)Remember if the character whose head you are in cannot see it, smell, feel it, touch it
or hear it then you cannot describe it.Article THREE Alpha or Beta?
How do you keep a beta male looking sexy and not weak?
For me the answer is in the balance between the hero and his heroine. Just as pairing an alpha male with a beta female can make him appear overbearing, cold, arrogant and unlikeable, pairing a beta male with an alpha female will leave him appearing weak, wimpy and passive.
A well-written beta male is confident in his own skin, he is aware of the needs of others including the heroine and it’s his quiet certainty that is attractive to the heroine and the reader. The heroine knows she can’t take him for granted but that she can count on him listening to her when it’s important and being there to support her through all the decisions in her life.
Many beta heroes are portrayed in caring or nurturing roles, single dad’s, doctors, firefighters, and gardeners. These are all roles which strike an emotional chord with the reader. None of these images can be perceived as ‘weak’ and this helps to build the caring, sensitive but very masculine picture of the beta hero.
Power is often equated to sexiness and the beta hero needs to have that aura of understated power if he is to make the reader as well as the heroine fall in love with him. He doesn’t need to wear it openly, unlike the alpha male, but his heroine, and the reader, knows it’s there.
A good example of this can be seen in the character of Jane Austen’s Mr Knightly. Unlike Pride and Prejudice, where the alpha male Mr Darcy is paired with (for her time) the alpha female, Lizzy Bennett, In Emma, Mr Knightly is just as masculine and strong but in a different way. His quiet, calm character is paired with the frivolous Emma. His strength contrasts with her gaiety and grounds the scenes in which he appears, and as readers we are left in no doubt about his feelings for her even if Emma herself is sometimes rather obtuse.Article FOUR - editing part 1
This is the first in a series of bitesized pieces on editing your work ready for submission. Remember with all of these craft pieces I can only talk about what I do and what works for me. When I do my first edit, I have a hit list of words that I love to use. The problem is I love them too much, so I do a find search for all of these words and see if I can rewrite or replace the majority of them to make my writing stronger and more vivid. You'll have your own list of favourites but in case you're wondering what I mean here is my list:
the passive was -ing combo!
those pesky -ly words
he/she (this is when you get a cluster of these all together)
Go check your work - which words do you love a bit too much?Article FIVE - editing part 2
Culled all those pesky -ly words? Been ruthless with the passive was -ing's and the felts? Next step - hunt out those over used words that you haven't recognised. Try creating a WORDLE
out of your manuscript. You'd expect your characters names to come up a lot but what other words are in there more often than you think?Article SIX - editing part 3
The power of the paragraph. Read your ms one paragraph at a time. Does it advance the story? Have you said this before? Does it build a picture? Is it interesting? Now is the time to be ruthless. Cut out the repeats and what doesn't work. Rewrite those flat zones so they are tighter and move your story on.Article SEVEN - editing part 4
The final cut. Leave your ms for as long as you can bear it. Then read through from beginning to end. (I do this backwards as it stops me from fiddling around too much with the beginning) Don't touch anything. Keep a pad next to you and make notes on what you think needs tweaking. Don't go and do these until you've been right the way through. Finally - before you hit send and let your baby out to an editor or agent do your final grammar, punctuation and spelling check.