Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Building Up From Bare Bones

"Writing from the heart requires vision, and vision is beyond skill. Vision writers write what they want to write. This means they write about things that have moved them deeply. Such writing is not something that you can learn. For vision is a gift. But if you open your heart wide, the gift will be great." --- Cyn-Young Ahn

I've been working on building a website over the past few days. I have an ambiguous idea of what it should look like and what it needs to accomplish. I want it to look clean and be user friendly. It took me two days of a lot of hard work to finally figure out a look I liked. Now, of course, I have to put in all the data, and there is A LOT of data.

I got to thinking about how building it was a lot like writing. I always write romance, so have a basic idea of the skeleton of all my books: H/H meet, there's conflict, they overcome, fall in love and live HEA.

That's pretty bare-bones.

So I consider either an idea or a character. For "Now That We've Found You", written from a writing prompt in one of my groups, I had certain parameters to meet: I had a list of astronomical words that had to be included in the story. Interestingly enough, most of them ended up edited out in the final version, because I cut off the whole original first scene that included most of them. But the words? They gave me a dinosaur (one of the words!) crazed character and a setting -- The Smithsonian -- and added on to the skeleton.

For one of my recently contracted stories, "A Christmas Curse", I knew I wanted to write a Christmas story, and so I sat down and wrote every single thing I could think of that's associated with Christmas, no matter how silly. And silly is what came out of it. I loved writing this story, because I got to dream up ways to torture my heroine -- both in her present and in her past.

I am not a plotter, exactly, though I usually know how my stories will end by the time I've written ten or twenty pages. At that point, I'll write the final scene and give myself somewhere to go. IMHO, if you know the ending, that's half the battle.


But things can change. I knew, KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt who my villain was in the mystery I'm almost finished with. He was a slimeball and I wanted him to get what was coming to him -- and he did in the ending I wrote. But I got about 35,000 words into the story and thought, "Yanno, everyone is going to know he's the slimeball doing all this bad stuff, and that's just not cool. I need another villain. Someone who flies under the radar." And, POOF!, a new character was born more than two-thirds of the way through the book. I've managed to layer this person in, hopefully without making it too obvious. More flesh on the skeleton.

I love creating things -- from websites, to stories, to meals in my kitchen (no, I never follow a recipe as written... where's the fun in that?). My DD asked me the other day how I became a writer, and I told her I figured I was born one. It's the only thing I've returned to over and over, despite walking away now and then.

Speaking of my DD... she came up to me last night crying. When I asked what was wrong, she said she didn't want to grow up, that she wanted to be cute. I told her she was cute, and she shook her head and said she was too old to be cute. I countered with, "I'm cute and I'm forty!" and she said, crying even harder, "You're not cute, you're PRETTY."

I'm still not sure if I was complimented or insulted...


Pillar Place is very quiet. All swallowtails are cooking and should be done in ten days or so. Otto is still my only Monarch -- but he looks like a Monarch pillar now -- before he was just sort of see through with a black head. Now he has the little black lines and green body he should have. He's still only about 3/4" long, but he's managing to eat through the leaf now instead of just munching the top layer.

I'm going to have to separate him from the others, though, as apparently the larger pillars find the new babies a great snack.


You are Totally Realistic

"Romance" means you're about to roll your eyes
Seriously, you can do without the sap or drama
Save it for someone who has nothing really going on in their relationship

For you, love is real - and easily integrated into your life
You don't need candles, flowers, or chocolates to know he's the one
Just some stimulating conversation... and maybe a great smile.

Oddly enough, they're really quite right! I'm very much a realist IRL. I wonder if that's why I prefer romance and escapism for my entertainment...


anno said...

Your explanation of how you've discovered plot was totally intriguing -- it's an aspect of writing that always escapes me. Congrats to Allie! I'm off to see her site!

Jen said...

Your description of your plot device was very similar to the way Dickens worked - nice partner to have! ;-)

I found it interesting that you got the totally realistic part in terms of your real life.

How did you start with romance?

Marianne Arkins said...


From the very beginning, my stories were romantic -- even as a kid. Despite being very much a realist, I like to escape into the rosy life of romance. I find little to interest me in books that don't include at least a little.

I read Dean Koontz -- he's very romantic, even when people are dying right and left. And lately, Stephen King is, too.

I don't know what it is, exactly, about watching people fall in love that intrigues me, but it does and always has.

Not really an answer to your question, but the best I can do!

Brandy said...

I enjoy hearing how writers reach the ending of their books. Thank you for the insight.
As for the quiz, I knew what the answer would be even before I took it! I am a Romantic. *g*

Have a great day!

Tori Lennox said...

I'd be happy to be described as either cute OR pretty. :)

And I got:

You are a Romantic Realist
Okay, so you fall in the middle. You know that love isn't like a greeting card... Yet you can always find a greeting card to describe your feelings.

You are the best of both worlds. Girly yet independent, dreamy yet serious. Almost any guy can find balance with you.

So where's he at? That's what I'd like to know! *g*

Dru said...

I'm really intrigued with the way many authors/writers develop their stories.

According to the quiz, I'm totally realistic girl, which is right on the money.

aaawww DD is so cute.

I hope you had a good Tuesday.

Michele said...

You are a Romantic Realist

Okay, so you fall in the middle.
You know that love isn't like a greeting card...
Yet you can always find a greeting card to describe your feelings.

You are the best of both worlds
Girly yet independent, dreamy yet serious.
Almost any guy can find balance with you.

Somehow, my answer seems weird, like me. LOL
Fascinating to read about "how-to's" and "How-do's" regarding writing.
When I try, I just make myself dizzy. Yet, I've never taken any clasess...maybe that is something I need to do. Hmmmmm.

Still fun at the Pillar Palace.