A romance trend I wish would die.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t put books down.

Really, I don’t.

But I did last Friday. It was a romance, and I had almost reached 50% when I gave up on it. The last straw isn’t something I’m going to discuss, since I think it’s specific enough that people might recognize the book, and I just don’t do that.

I will, however share what had me laboring through a few hundred pages for eight freaking hours on a public holiday.

Conflict. See conflict to a writer is supposed to be something that keeps a main character from achieving his/her goal. When it comes to pure romance, it’s about what’s keeping the characters apart. Sometimes, it’s something like either the hero (MMC) or heroine (FMC) being engaged, or them wanting opposite things in life, or one just not possibly imagining that the other could be a suitable spouse/partner/whatever.

With the latter, it’s usually about one or both of the characters being magnificent assholes/bitches. (Think Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give or Sandra Bullock in The Proposal. Or my personal favorite: Harrison Ford in Sabrina.)

Now rule of thumb is that the more hard-assed and untameable the character, the sweeter the happy ending. And time and time again I have seen people simply taking this rule at face value and abusing it. Which often takes the form of the “Happy Ending” being with someone who’s either almost or fully abusive. This is particularly prevalent in the falling for the alpha male trope.

The argument could be made of “what message is this sending to the reader”, but as is very well documented on my blog, I don’t believe in moral preaching in my writing. As such I won’t expect it from others.

I do, however have a major issue with writers abusing that rule for one season and one reason alone:

Suspension of disbelief.

Any fictional story, no matter how realistically written, requires for a reader to suspend disbelief. With romance, this is incredibly important because the reader must want to believe that two characters will be together. Because unlike most other genres, this goal is usually not decided on by the characters. (The opposite, in fact.) It’s all in the reader’s mind.

So if one of the characters in the prospective couple is an asshole (since I mentioned the alpha male, the character will be male. This is the same for female characters too, though), the writer has an additional problem. She/he will have to engage people in the asshole enough for the readers to want him to end up with the FMC. And then, the readers must believe that the FMC would be happy with him. 

This can be done in a variety of ways. First, by showing the reader that there are other sides to him. That there’s more to him than the hard-assed exterior. (And even if there is, nothing excuses him from remaining an ass towards the FMC in the end. I repeat: NOTHING.)

The second (and I admit a preferable way) is for the character to go through a growth arc before the get-together in the end. Note the three movies I mentioned above all have this happening.

But in no shape or form is half-way the place to start with this. If it’s half-way into a romance and I as the reader would reverse over a character if I hypothetically hit him/her with a car, there’s something seriously wrong. And if I get to the end and the character has nothing redeeming him (hot sex doesn’t count), the writer of that book has essentially betrayed the trust required for suspension of disbelief. Because 1) I don’t want the FMC to spend the rest of her life with and asshole because 2) I can’t imagine her life being happy for long because of it.

So please please please, romance authors. Throw us readers a bone. Let us actually like the characters as much as you do?

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Query woes

I’m meeeeeltiiing!

Yeah… really. I wanted to do this post hours ago, but it was so hot that my only option was to stay in the pool until I resembled a raisin.

And then I remained in the water for an hour longer.

Which means, of course, that nothing I want to do is getting done. But while I’m there, I’m swimming and doing some resistance stuff, so at least I’m getting a bit fitter.

Other than that, I’m basically resisting the siren’s call that is the Doorways sequel. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with writing it per se… but it’s a problem when I still haven’t worked on the query or the synopsis like I’m supposed to.

That’s a problem.

Thing is. I don’t really know what to do with the query. Even an agent said that I should have people look it over, but all I get when I do that is more contradiction. How am I supposed to learn what I’m doing wrong when all I’m getting is some people saying add more and others saying take more away?

It just really annoys me. Then there’s this situation where some agents insist that my sub-genre is unsellable, but when asked directly, agents say that there’s no such thing.

So yeah… me wondering if it’s even WORTH the effort isn’t helping me get a new query done.

It’s all just one big procrastination exercise right now.

Anyone else getting frustrated with queries?

I mean, I don’t mind getting no’s. But getting no’s when I don’t know what’s turning the agents off really is starting to annoy me.

A to Z Challenge: Quarrels and High Emotions

Credit

Stories without changes in emotion really feel bland and monotonous when you’re forced to read through it.

And nothing spices up reading like a scene with tension and high emotions between characters. It just makes things more interesting.

BUT if done wrong, a tense scene can really annoy the reader.

The best way to create a tense scene the wrong way: contriving the tension. If the characters are screaming/punching each other for a stupid reason, the reader will not be amused. There’s one good way to describe a scene like that: Melodramatic. Another way to describe it: a terrible waste of perfectly good paper and ink.

So if you read through your work and find that the characters’ reactions are out of proportion to what they should be, it’s time to tone it down.

Look Out for These:

1) Arguments about something insignificant, that amounts to the main conflict of the story.

2) Reactions out of proportion to what it should be.

3) Characters arguing with each other when everything points to the fact that they should get along. EXCEPT if there’s a good reason.

How do you catch melodramatic moments?

How spectacularly the wheels came off…

So… last night sucked.

Well, last night and this morning, since I spent four hours trying to recover my lost manuscripts.

Yes. Lost.

They can’t be active undeleted. That can’t be system restored. They can’t be called up out of the hundreds of back-ups made, because according to the writing program I used, they never existed.

So I can’t open my Doorways rough rewrite, but I have a copy of it to Word, if I decline all edits I made.

Half of the original opening for Don’t Look Back is missing, but at least I hand-wrote it over to my notebook for NaNoWriMo.

Guardian seems to open and refuse at random, but I’ve managed to copy/paste it to Word.

No. My problem lies with Eden’s Son I.E. WiP2. The entire rewrite is gone. Poof. Up into the ether. All of the back-ups only read up to before I started it. There are no Word versions because I didn’t send it to anyone to read. I didn’t copy/paste because a) it’s freaking tedious and b) it’s safe as long as I back up? Right?

Turns out no. Turns out backing up manually to create an extra copy obliterated months worth of work in less than a second.

So lesson number 1: NEVER use freeware. It’s worth as much as you paid for it.
Number 2: NEVER assume that programmers think further than the tips of their noses. They don’t. So that thing that seems obvious to do because it’s what is supposed to happen? Don’t do it before going to help and making doubly sure that that isn’t the one that in his own words “DO NOT DO UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.”

But now I have to wonder: If I risk losing my work if I don’t back-up and if I do? What action should I take? Print every page every freaking time? Because apparently it means bullshit to people that you spent most of a year on the work you lost, because apparently: “It can’t vanish.” is a satisfactory reply.

But like I said. I spent four hours last night looking for the data. My mother spent two this morning. It isn’t there.

I am starting to accept this. Slowly, but it’s hard, because now I know that my end of January goal for WiP2 is screwed. In fact, I downloaded the trial for Scrivener last night with the plan to buy the program in a month, but you know what? I don’t want to write. I don’t want to even look at my rough draft. Because all that I can see is the end of the document that’s supposed to be followed by 26 chapters or thirty five thousand hard-fought words.

And then I want to kill something.

But on the flip-side, I’ve never thought I could lose over a hundred thousand words of everything and survive, but here I am.

So… what’s your record loss? Got any horror stories to share? How did you recover?
Any Scrivener users out there? Is the program any good?
Any other drafting programs that I can look at?

A to Z Challenge: Conflict and Complications

Hi all! Just a reminder that I have a competition going to draw a map for the winner. So if you want a map but can’t draw it yourself, e-mail me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.






There was once a girl who decided to write a book. She opened a word processor and started on her story. She wrote and wrote and before long, her story was finished. After a few adaptions, she believed her book to be ready and queried her favorite agents. The fifth one signed her and by the end of the year, she had a book deal. She published and the book became a best seller and she got an interview on Oprah. 


The End. 


Not very satisfying, is it?


Well, I’m happy for the girl. I mean I would love to go through the experience of finishing a book with no issues and getting an agent very quickly.


BUT. Do I feel happy and completed for the experience of reading the girl’s story?


Uhm… no.


Why not? Because I write, and I know that just the process of writing is not simple. In fact, this whole idea of someone picking up a pen and quickly scribbling off a story with zero effort sort of grates my nerves.


I mean she didn’t even fight for it! She made a decision and the fruits of her minimal effort fell into her lap.


That’s where conflict and complications come in.


A common mistake among novices and non-writers is the belief that conflict involves at least two characters snarling each other and making each other hurt/sad/angry.


In reality, conflict in the literary sense refers to internal and external things and events that stands in the way of a character achieving his/her goal.


With internal conflict, the character has to face obstacles within him/herself in order to “win”. To me, the lack of confidence, alcoholism, phobias and certain thinking patterns can serve as causes of internal conflict. For example, spiders standing in a character’s way to the goal might not be that much of a problem unless the character wants to melt into a quivering heap because she/he’s arachnaphobic.


If the spider is in fact Shelob, that would be an external conflict. Because now the character has to face a massive spider that is keeping him/her from the goal. Now, the factor serving as the obstacle is moved to outside the character.


So, the example of the characters above not getting along can become conflict if it is made bigger than petty squabbles. For example, one character can be the evil antagonist. Or the characters have to work together to get to the goal – and then the relationship must be on the verge of fracture.


The attainment of the goal(s) must be threatened.



There was once a girl who decided to write a book. She opened a word processor and started on her story. She wrote and wrote, but about half way through, a virus crashed her computer. For a long time, the girl wanted to give up, after all, she’d given everything she had to get to where she was. And now it was all gone. Still, she needed to write, so she started again. She edited her book to as good as she thought it could get, but then froze. What if she wasn’t good enough? What if none of her wish list agents said yes? But she ended up doing it any way, because she knew she worked so hard. Then the rejection letters streamed in. One after the other. But she kept querying, knowing that one would say yes. The fifty-ninth agent on the list signed her in the end and by the end of the year, she had a book deal. She published and the book became a best seller and she got an interview on Oprah. 

The End. 

Better, right? I’ve already got a lot more sympathy going for the character. But is it as suspenseful as it can be? Not yet. 

I mean… everything is so cut and dried, isn’t it? 

That’s where complications come in. To me, complications make things difficult for the character. It won’t necessarily stop him/her from reaching the goal, but it will certainly add extra stress that the character could deal without (but we readers couldn’t). 

So that example of the characters bickering can be a good complication, because it makes thing harder on the character. 

I could list more examples, but the possibilities here are endless. Anything will work as long as it gets to the character. 

There was once a girl who decided to write a book. She opened a word processor and started on her story. But she soon found that the writer’s life was far from easy. For the rest of her life had to carry on too. Her family did not always understand the depth of her passion for the story and seemed to interrupt her every time she touched the keyboard. Every now and then, she’d get work assignments that she couldn’t postpone. But on she worked. Until disaster struck about half way through the story. A virus crashed her computer. For a long time, the girl wanted to give up, after all, she’d given everything she had to get to where she was. And it was all gone. Still, she needed to write, so she started again. It took months for her to get back to where she was, but eventually, the battled her way through. She edited her book, but struggled to get the story to shine. One crit partner would say they loved the story but hated the characters. The other said they loved the characters but thought the stories needed some more work. She took both into account, but still followed her gut and polished away to as good as she thought the story could get. When time came to query, she froze. What if she wasn’t good enough? What if none of her wish list agents said yes? But she ended up doing it any way, because she knew she worked so hard. Then the rejection letters streamed in. One after the other. But she kept querying, knowing that one would say yes. The fifty-ninth agent on the list signed her in the end, but although the agent was great at getting interest in the story, the girl and the agent just didn’t really like each other. Still, they stuck through it and gained each other’s respect and by the end of the year, she had a book deal. She published and the book became a best seller and she got an interview on Oprah. 

The End.

So that’s conflict and complications to me. How do you think about it?  

Er… thanks for your opinion, but…

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m a different breed of human. Maybe I am. After all, I write.

Maybe, the distinction that I write is why I seem to have problems with communicating with people about writing.

Odds are that all of us writers have met the group I’m thinking about.

I’m not talking about the “Oh! When will you be published?” or “So one day you will be famous!” gangs. No. I’m talking about the: “Oh what is so difficult about it?” and the “I could write a book with my eyes closed” gang.

To become even more specific, there is a faction in those two gangs that makes my blood boil. The “You’re going about this all wrong!!!!” crew.

I mean… seriously, if they were so wise and wonderful and knew everything there is to know about how to optimally work towards publishing, why in the name of all that is holy, AREN’T THEY PUBLISHED?

Yes, they can’t write with music (or at all, as is attested by the fact that their idea of a completed work is a text message) or they think that my preferred music is an absolute creativity killer. Or they think I should have a ten foot tall Easter Bunny whispering plot ideas into my head.

I couldn’t give a monkey’s arse. Because guess what. They’re not QUALIFIED to even give me a tip.

Let alone CRITICIZE MY METHODS!

How arrogant must you be to insinuate that my writing things in a certain way is stupid and bound to fail? After all, I have finished a first draft. They haven’t even attempted to write an essay. 

I might as well go to Hussein Bolt and tell him he’s running wrong.

And you know the worst of it?

I NEVER ASKED THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

#Happyplace
#Happyplace
#Happyplace

Generally, I smile blandly and imagine creating a character in my head that will die violently. How do you deal with these uhm… professional advisers?