Paranormals Are the Best: Part 2: “Oh, the world’s I have travelled …”

March2013 005This week we’re celebrating the world-building in paranormal fiction.

While all fiction has to do some amount of world-building, paranormal fiction here gets to play with its cousins fantasy, SF, and sci-fi. The author takes us to different places, times, adds and subtracts species, creates sub-cultures and secret histories, or perhaps plays with the rules of science in things like time-travel.

And let’s face it: picking up a book to travel somewhere new and exotic is WAY cheaper than the airfare there (especially the really far-reaches, where time, space, and current known-rules-of-the-universe sadly apply).

Talented authors create (and perhaps fulfill) in paranormal fiction the ultimate “what if” fantasy. What if … a secret culture of vampire protectors / warriors existed, or magic, fairies, the whole shebang really did exist? The possibilities (and the fun!) are endless.

Which is why I can’t end a post about paranormal fiction’s wonderful ability to take readers to new worlds and possibilities without a brief list of some of the favorites I’ve visited (and revisited).

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Yes, some might consider this world that rides balanced by 4 turtles atop a giant tortoise flying through space more urban fantasy, maybe SF. Don’t care. Love this world, the Watch, and the comparisons and perspective it offers us on our own world.

-Susan Kearney’s The Challenge series. Before this, I never would have wanted to travel across the universe through space, see this unusual future, or be best friends with a spaceship’s computer system. The tickets for trip would have been out of this world. 😉 (sorry, couldn’t resist).

P.C. Cast’s Goddess series. Because really, who hasn’t wanted to wake up and discover they’re a goddess with a centaur husband in this magical kingdom with some connection to our own?

Elizabeth Vaughan’s Xyron, featured in the Warprize series. Somewhere between Earth’s early history, warring kingdoms, and intricate, intriguing cultures, you’re drawn into this kingdom, and asked to pick a side.

Okay, so that’s been enough from me. Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite world’s created in paranormal fiction (and you can see I’m pretty open in that definition)? Why? If you could revisit one again and again, which would it be, and why?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a terrific week. And hey, if you liked this post, why not sign up for the blog so you don’t miss one?

Paranormals are the Best: Part 1: Powerful Female Characters

Shamelessly, I proclaim that I love paranormal romance (must be at least part of why I write it). 🙂

Actually, I love paranormals altogether – the creatures and whatever falls under that category (which can include time travel, dystopian, sci-fi, fantasy, etc). One reason is that paranormals very frequently offer up powerful, female characters who exceed gender expectations, are more than equal to their male counterparts, and take control of their lives.

Surely you can think of a few examples from books and television. To name a few (and, ahem, is my geek showing?):

  • Buffy, and Firefly’s Zoe, from Joss Whedon
  • Angua, the werewolf officer in Terry Pratchett’s Disc World Series
  • Gwen Cooper, from Torchwood
  • Kira Nerys, commander from Star Trek Deep Space Nine
  • Elena, from Kelley Armstrong’s “Bitten” series
  • Susannah, from “Anchored” by A.J. Larrieu

So, who did you come up with? Chances are, you came up with at least a few. And certainly, there are strong female characters all over – which is fantastic. But there seems to be a higher concentration in paranormals. These are females who defy the position and mold that sometimes their societies would squash them into. And this doesn’t mean they’re invulnerable (though some are, I suppose). Instead, their gender often plays a significant role in their strength.

How do paranormals help these characters be strong? I have a few theories.

First, I think that often the paranormal / supernatural / magical aspect of the character already sets them apart from other women. In other words, they already don’t belong, which may make it easier for them to avoid the typical female role their society / time / family demands. Think of Angua and Elena, who both have tremendous power because they’re werewolves – which already makes them different than any other woman they meet. Because they have difficulty therefore relating to some of these other females – and they’re not men – they have to define their own roles.

Second, because they’re women, their power and how they react is different than how a male would react. Men and women can and do think differently; they also act differently. This still sets the powerful female protagonist apart, even when they relate better to males than other females.

Third, sometimes they have the element of surprise in their favor because they’re the unlikely hero – because they’re the heroINE. They can equal the male hero in all ways – perhaps even exceed him – but somehow, they’re not usually what the villain expects. Guess he’d be better of more gender neutral. 😉

So, what do you think? Why do paranormals allow such strong feminine protagonists and characters?

For more great reading on this topic, check out: “What Makes a Heroine Kiss-Ass?” by AJ Larrieu over at Paranormal Unbound, the post which inspired this one. 🙂

Thanks for reading. Have a great week, and happy writing! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Write YOUR True Story

Are you writing YOUR story?March2013 005

Now before you castigate me as an idiot, read a bit further.

I had the opportunity to read the writing of what was obviously a very novice writer. Now, in terms of craft, there was a lot to be desired. But in terms of energy, excitement, and joyful exuberance? The words and plot burst with them – more than I’ve encountered in almost any other writing. I could practically picture this young author pounding away in a frenzy on the keyboard. Nothing held them back, like plot conventions, rules, grammar. And compared to some other writing? I’d actually be more interested in their story because I have no doubt it would take me somewhere unexpected – even if it didn’t do it in the most conventional, or even readable manner.

What about your writing? How does it compare?

Kristin Lamb recently wrote an excellent post about the various stages of writing [view post here: Three Phases of Becoming a Master Author]. And for most of us, it leaves us in Act II, as Apprentices. It’s where we continue to learn, to shape our craft and stories, to come into our own.

And it’s where, if we’re not careful, we can end up chasing our tails writing stories that aren’t our own.

I’ve been writing for some time now, and I’m stubborn, I’m frequently more out-spoken than I should be, and I thought I knew myself pretty well. But I’ve realized, while re-reading a recently completed re-write, and enjoying new (and better) authors, that perhaps my story has become lost along the way. While it’s been a joy, a learning experience, and I’ve grown as a writer by meeting and interacting with other authors, perhaps I have let their voices, their ideas influence me too strongly, to such a point that I’ve somehow internalized outside ideas instead of listening to the stories whispering inside my own head, the stories that have always been there, always will be there.

YOUR story is the one that speaks to you. It’s in the characters that you choose, the plot devices you employ, in every decision about the story you – and only you – would make. That’s why while three-thousand people can write a story about a vampire, YOURS is still different, still unique. Because it’s in your voice, told from your point of view, with your unique, particular twist on it. That makes it precious, because only you can tell that story. And if you don’t tell it, it will vanish in the wind, gone forever.

Always watch that you’re telling your story. Absolutely listen to and learn from others – we can’t grow if we don’t. But also remember to listen to that voice inside, the dream that repeats on you the plot idea that has always been there, the character in your head that just won’t stop talking. And make sure their story is told, too.

As for me, I know what I have to do: I have to take only the characters and basic plot premise from a book I thought was pretty good – a book I thought I was done with – and if I want to save it, I have to throw away all the rest, and start again. To ensure that the story I write this time, is really and truly my own. Wish me luck. 😉 For truthfully, I’m a bit choked about throwing away literally years of work, but in the end, it will be worth it.

Don’t you think?

Thanks for reading, keep telling YOUR stories, and have a great week. Happy writing. 🙂

The Power and Danger of “If”

BC2010 Holiday Aug4_10 040“If” is a strange, tiny little word. On it’s own, it doesn’t do much. But give it a dance partner, and it changes everything.
Think of all those “if then” statements from programming.

And of course, the all important “what if.”

What if leads us to wondrous places, flying wherever our creativity can take us. We soar and dance with this statement, ever onward and upward. There are no limits to where “what if” can take us – and then, in turn, our readers, whoever else it touches. “What if” is powerfully contagious.

Of course, his darker brother is, too. “If only.”

While “what if” can let us soar, “if only” plops us right back on our behinds, or mires us in depression. “What if” leads to our dreams, whereas “if only” laments and regrets, depresses us, dampens our dreams and our pscyhes. “If only” leaves us looking sorrowfully back at the “could have beens” and makes us ignore the freedom and possibility of happier creatures, like “what if.”

Funny think, that one tiny little word, the power of “if.” And the danger. Be careful where it takes you.

What do you think? Where has “if” taken you?

Thanks for reading. Have a great week – and may “if” leave you soaring. 🙂

Intimacy: So much more than “A” meets “B”

If you’ve come looking for something salacious or scandalous, sorry to disappoint. If, however, you’re thinking your written love-making scenes might need help, this may be the post for you.

As you probably know, I write romance. But I also read romance, and I’ve read and edited anything from “closed door” love making scenes, to scenes where frankly, I didn’t know most of the terms or quite what was going on. In any case, what always annoys me is when an intimate scene between characters is distilled (and reduced) to little more than “insert tab A into slot B.”

It’s horrific. It’s boring. And usually, the same kind of scene is repeated throughout the book with little variation.

Okay. Hopping up on my little soapbox …

All intimacy (from casual touch to love making +), should ALWAYS be:

  1. Relevant and appropriate for the characters.
  2. Relevant and appropriate to the genre and plot.
  3. Come from the characters and the place they are in their imaginary lives.

Here’s the thing: I truly believe that if you want to write believable lovemaking scenes, than you need to remember that your characters are supposed to be people (or person-like). And people make love and enter into intimacy for a lot of different reasons, and in a lot of different ways. An intimate scene could be slightly awkward, or off-beat, or a bit unusual – just like the characters in it. Characters may have different levels of experience, different preferences, different motivations – just like real life. Why does this seem too rare in written love scenes?

Don’t believe me? Check out this article about a study done in the U.S. – I read some kind of summary of it years ago, which got me thinking. Why We Have Sex: 237 Reasons.

This article speaks to motivation – and some of these might be worth keeping in mind for fiction. Because even if a scene may be more than slots and tabs, if there wasn’t anything leading up to it (like clear motivation, growing intimacy, etc), it comes across as awkward and embarrassing for the reader and you. Sometimes this is an issue of placement within the plot of the intimacy, sometimes layering (such as increased layering of attraction between the characters), sometimes lack of clear motivation or clarity within the text. I’ve read fantastic books where intimacy can occur very quickly in the text, and it works – just so long as there is some build up or explanation to clearly motivate the action. And, of course, that it’s significant to the plot and (especially in romance) the journey to the happily-ever-after (HEA) ending.

Considering these factors, far from decreasing how readable, relevant, or sexy the scene is, instead increases the significance and impact of the scene – and helps your story, rather than hurts it.

Finally we come to how revealing and detailed a scene should / can be. And that, dear readers, comes down to personal preference – yours. I started out writing closed door scenes, and (probably because of writers I’ve worked with), I’ve progressed to a fairly spicy level. But always, it comes down to the characters to determine when, if, and how they make love.

As when you decide anything for what your character will or will not do, you may want to consider:

  1. Previous experience. A Regency wastrel and a virgin are probably going to have different views on what is and isn’t appropriate intimacy – especially if it’s before marriage.
  2. Personal beliefs. Religion, cultural, and social reasons, to name a few, can determine your character’s actions.
  3. Current situation. Is there a pressing reason that might make a character do something unusual? Might force their hand? Would their current situation / life make them more or less likely to want to engage in intimacy?
  4. Motivation. Why would they want to engage in intimacy? Has this been explained?
  5. External plot. How does an intimate scene and /or growing intimacy between characters fit into the larger plot? Is it motivated by the character themselves? Circumstances of external factors?
  6. Repercussions. What will be the result of this intimacy? What is the purpose for the character? What is the purpose for you as a writer?

Hopping off the soapbox now. So, no more tab and slot scenes for you, right?

Am I off base? Have I forgotten anything? Do let me know.

Thanks for reading, and happy writing out there!