Tuesday, June 29, 2010
by Ann Lethbridge
Not so long ago, I attended a workshop given by Donald Maas, and among the many things I learned, I keep remembering one of them. No one ever complained that a story had too much conflict. I took this message too heart and each time I write a page I am asking myself-- enough conflict? How can I make it worse for my hero and heroine?
We only have to look at the newspapers to know that people love conflict. Journalists focus on the bad news, not the happy stuff, because it is conflict that sells newspapers. Remember the Volcano that had Europe closed down in May? I think we got to the point where everyone could say its name. But since it is not causing anyone any trouble at the moment, not a word can be found.
It is conflict that fascinates readers. The conflict our characters face. Characters they care about. Real conflicts that readers can relate to. Not misunderstandings e.g. the heroine seeing the hero with another woman, who happens to be his sister, though she doesn't know it. This is not conflict, at least not for more than a moment or two. It is a misunderstanding. But if the hero lies about who the woman is, perhaps because his sister is an undercover cop, that is conflict for both of them. He is conflicted because he will want to tell her the truth. She is conflicted because she wants to trust him, but now.....
Certainly a villain can create lots of conflict. But what fascinates us most is the conflict facing the protagonists. The choices have to be between a sucky choice and a suckier choice - this last is my critique partner Molly O'Keefe's favorite saying.
A character conflicted about their choices will keep a reader turning the page.
A heroine who has to choose between her beloved father's freedom and her own virtue is going to have conflict.
A man forced choose between helping his brother and helping a woman in danger and doing either will cause harm to the other, is going to have conflict. He is going to try to do both. But finally he is going have to choose.
Conflict on every page. It is one of the keys to making your manuscript a page turner.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
My blog day here happens to fall during my blog tour so I hope you don't mind if I tack on the details of my blog contest to the end of this post.
I think I've found the best books for learning how things were done in the 17 and 1800's. When I find a great resource I like to share. I've used these books to learn how to make brooms, beds, soap, preserve meat, and harvest wild plants for food.
If you don't have these books they are worth getting your hands on if you write American historical stories.
They are the Foxfire books. I have books 1,2,& 3. I bought them used and have found them invaluable. There's no author. They are articles that were first published in Foxfire magazine. I used information in book three to learn about making brooms for my current release Doctor in Petticoats.
Blurb for Doctor in Petticoats
After a life-altering accident and a failed relationship, Dr. Rachel Tarkiel gave up on love and settled for a life healing others as the physician at a School for the Blind. She's happy in her vocation--until handsome Clay Halsey shows up and inspires her to want more.
Blinded by a person he considered a friend, Clay curses his circumstances and his limitations. Intriguing Dr. Tarkiel shows him no pity, though. To her, he's as much a man as he ever was.
Can these two wounded souls conquer outside obstacles, as well as their own internal fears, and find love?
“I’m going to look in your other eye now.” She, again, placed a hand on his face and opened the eyelids, stilling her fluttering heart as she pressed close. His clean-shaven face had a couple small nicks on the edges of his angular cheeks. The spice of his shave soap lingered on his skin.
She resisted the urge to run her cheek against his. The heat of his face under her palm and his breath moving wisps of wayward hair caused her to close her eyes and pretend for a few seconds he could be her husband. A man who loved her and wouldn’t be threatened by her occupation or sickened by her hideous scar.
His breathing quickened. A hand settled on her waist, slid around to her back, and drew her forward. Her hand, holding the lens, dropped to his shoulder, and she opened her eyes. This behavior on both their parts was unconscionable, but her constricted throat wouldn’t allow her to utter the rebuke.
Clay sensed the moment the doctor slid from professional to aroused woman. The hand on his cheek caressed rather than held, her breathing quickened, and her scent invaded his senses like a warm summer rain.
Blog Tour Contest
This is my second day of my fifteen blog/twelve day tour. Leave a comment and follow me to all the blogs on my tour and you could win an autographed copy of my June release, Doctor in Petticoats, a B&N gift card, and a summer tote filled with goodies. To find out all the places I'll be go to my blog- http://www.patyjager.blogspot.com to find the list.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
We often think of the nobility as living the life of luxury. While a princess or a duchess probably never had to pick up a broom or bake bread, the wives of those with smaller domains many times had to do their own chores. Though the lady spent much of her time giving orders to those under her husband’s rule, she also had to know how to do everything they did. A lady knew how to bake, brew, clean, make soap that was tough enough to get wine stains out of table cloths or delicate enough for a baby.
The noble lady was not just a housekeeper. Husbands who pledged allegiance to those above them could be gone for months or even years. In her husband’s absence, the lady had to be able to represent his interest in every aspect. As wife to the lord, she had to be capable of doing everything her husband had to do, except perhaps swing a sword on the battlefield. Though there are instances of women doing even that. The lady had to know what grain to plant, when to plant it, which field to use and which should lie fallow. Many times the lady was also the healer in the household. She had to know how to take care of the sick and wounded and what herbs to grow for cures. She had to be aware of what her husband owned and how to keep account of it.
When lords were away, their wives held court, made contracts and there were those who had no qualms about trying to wrest a title from the hands of the lady left behind. A wife had to be able to defend her husband’s land and people in his name. And when the lord got himself held captive, his lady wife was responsible for squeezing every possible penny from the estate to pay his ransom.
So not only did a noble woman have to be a homemaker, she was also an accountant, a lawyer, and a general as well.
In my first novel, Widow’s Peak, Amye Barnard, Lady Edensmouth, takes on all these tasks and more. When she takes in an injured traveler she finds herself forced to choose between her title and her heart. Just like many of us today she had to make a choice between career and love. Which would you choose?
Next Month:Part 2-Sex in the City
Monday, June 21, 2010
Who doesn’t love a bad boy?
Whether a hero or a scoundrel,
the classic bad boy is hard to resist. Some of my favorite heroes in literature and film are bad boys at heart. I can’t speak for all women, but bad boys make my pulse race just a bit faster. I’ve always had a thing for the bad boy. Even watching reruns of I Dream of Jeannie, I wanted Jeannie to dump Tony, the All-American good guy and choose his bad boy buddy, Roger. And then The Fonz came along, with his finger snap and toughness, followed by greaser Danny Zuko, and I was completely hooked on the bad boy. What makes a bad boy so darned appealing?
The classic bad boy is a sexual being. These men aren’t metrosexual. They aren’t betas. They’re alpha all the way. Gerard Butler is the epitome of the bad boy. Whether he’s playing Dracula (Dracula 2000- if he’s Dracula, I’ll never wear a turtleneck or a crucifix again), the Phantom of the Opera (honestly, the mask was not a deal breaker for me…a little kinky, but not over the top), a Spartan warrior (300), a mercenary with biceps of steel and a heart to match (Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life),
a risqué TV personality advising women to toss their How to Get A Man to Love You guidebooks and get on a Stairmaster (The Ugly Truth), or an ex-cop with an attitude (The Bounty Hunter), no one could ever believe Gerard is a man who’ll spend his Saturday night dozing in a chair after watching an episode of Cops.
Bad boys can be suave and worldly, like Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man, Tony Stark, or intellectual and socially awkward, such as the actor’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is brilliant, analytical, bucks authority at every turn, and lacks social graces. Robert Downey, Jr. has created two distinctly different characters who are both bad boys at heart. I don’t imagine Sir Arthur Conan Doyle envisioned Sherlock as a rebel, but RDJ’s characterization is all rebel, all the way. Whether he’s dealing with the police or a brilliant villain, he’s not about to conform to their expectations. Perhaps the thing I like most about both Sherlock Holmes and Tony Stark is their attraction to smart, strong women. Bad boys aren’t intimidated by women who are their equals – they thrive on the challenge.
The classic outlaw is undoubtedly a bad boy. Jack Travis, the hero of my new release, Destiny, steals Emma Davenport, a high-powered senator’s daughter from the train carrying her to the scoundrel she’d planned to marry, imprisons her in a remote cabin in the heart of the Appalachian valley, and teaches her that seduction doesn’t always involve poetic words and courtly manners. As he falls hard for Emma, a woman whose sheltered existence has masked a strong will, keen intelligence, ingenuity, and guts, he’ll risk his neck and everything he’s ever cared about to protect her. His bad boy arrogance doesn’t change one fundamental fact – Jack is an alpha with a strong sense of his principles, a man who’ll fight and die for the woman he loves.
Bad boys don’t run from a fight. They might even pick the fight, if it suits their purpose. My soon-to-be released historical, Angel in My Arms, features Jack’s partner, a Union spy who starts a drunken brawl for a very deliberate reason. It lands him behind bars and he’s facing a noose the next day, but Captain Steve Dunham do it all again – if it gets him closer to his goal and the heroine.
Intellectuals can be bad boys, too. Indiana Jones (be still my heart – the image of Harrison Ford with that white shirt, unbuttoned just enough…) is a scholar, an archaeologist of all things. After watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, I never pictured archaeologists as dusty old men again.
Romance is filled with bad boys. One of my favorite bad boys is Captain Doom from Teresa Medeiros’ wonderful Thief of Hearts. I’ve read it so many times, my copy is ready to fall apart. Leo, the hero in Lisa Kleypas’ wonderful Married by Morning, is a rake through and through, but his vulnerability and responsibility for those he cares about make him irresistible. And who wouldn’t wish, just for a little while, to be abducted by Justin, the Duke of Kylemore, in Anna Campbell’s Claiming the Courtesan?
Who are some of your favorite bad boys from romance and film? What do you love most about them? I’ll choose a random commenter to win a pdf of Destiny.