If you write historical fiction, find out about the time period where you’ve set your story. What did people eat, where did they work, and what did money look like? How did they live? What did they have around the house? (Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, butter churns, cast iron skillets?) What was invented then? If you’re writing about a character living in the 1800s, you have to know everything about the time period and “live” through the character to show the reader what that person’s life was like. (For example, don’t surround your Revolutionary War-era fort with barbed wire – it wasn’t invented until the late 1800s.)
5 Fun Writing Tips for Anyone – Part 2October 11, 2013 - writing tips
Here are the rest of my writing tips! To see tips #1 and #2, check out Part 1 of my post.
3. Do Your Homework:I once tossed a book across the room because the author had tulips blooming in October. (Nope, sorry. Didn’t work for me. On my planet, they bloom in spring.) Maybe it’s a small detail that a non-gardener wouldn’t notice (or care about) but a little research could have fixed that problem.
Whatever you’re writing, it pays to do your homework and research a topic. This is especially true if you’re writing historical fiction, and it is essential if you’re writing non-fiction. Research provides interesting details the reader might need to know for a part of the story, but in the very least, it lends itself to the believability of the setting, characters, and plot.
Sometimes you have to do research for contemporary stories. If you live in the Northeast and set your story in the spring in Arizona, you need to find out what the weather is like during that time of year, what flowers are blooming, etc. (It’ll be different from where you live.) Ditto if you’ve set a story in another country – find out all you can about the food, culture, housing, what time the sun sets, what kind of trees, flowers, they have, etc. The Internet is a great place to do some quick detail-related research. Personally, I like to wander through the library and check out books on the different states, or read some travel books/brochures to give me a good idea of setting and culture.
When I wrote my contemporary romance, Four Days with Jack, (http://amberquill.com/AmberAllure/FourDaysWithJack.html) I ordered several vacation brochures from all-inclusive resorts to get a feel for the setting, types of activities offered, layout of the resort, etc. You never know what will inspire you!
4. Gotta Have a Goal: No matter how grand or simple, everyone has a goal. When you’re writing a story, you have to know what your characters want most – at least for right now. Different characters will have different goals, and along the course of your story, goals may change, or a character will develop secondary goals.
Goals can, will, and should, vary depending on the type of story you’re writing, but they generally fall into two categories: emotional, or internal goals, and physical, or external goals. An internal goal is something the character needs or wants. (This can be meeting a soul mate and falling in love or healing grief after the loss of a loved one.)
An external goal is something the main character physically must do, such as steal a magic ring from a dragon or climb down into a cave to rescue his beloved. Sometimes goals start out simple (like buying a house or getting to a wedding on time), and your job as a writer is to make it hard for your character to achieve his or her goal by throwing in conflicts and obstacles that force your character to work harder.
Vinnie Valentine’s goal in A Perfect Match (http://amberquill.com/AmberHeat/PerfectMatch.html) was pretty simple – hide his knee injury from everyone and make it through the most grueling wrestling match of his career. He had a lot at stake both personally and professionally and needed to stay focused despite all the distractions around him. When he learns that Danni is involved in his match, his secondary goal of protecting her adds to his burden. (Remember, the worse you make things for your characters, the more they have to grow – and that adds drama and tension to your story!)
But writers don’t just give their characters goals, they also have to motivate them to reach those goals. Ask yourself “what’s at stake?” for the character. What if he or she doesn’t reach the goal, then what happens? If the answer is “nothing, he just moves on” then you need to up the stakes and get your character motivated. It will increase the action and keep the plot moving.
In Dalton’s Temptation, (http://amberquill.com/AmberHeat/DaltonsTemptation.html) Princess Elara starts off with a simple goal of spying on her husband while he’s at a pleasure palace. Over the course of the book, the stakes get higher for all the characters. Spying on Dalton while hiding her identity starts out as a game for Elara – but it soon becomes a matter of survival.
5. Sex is personal – for your characters!: No blog written by a romance author would be complete without talking about sex! Readers always ask me sex- (or love scene-) related questions. Some people want to know how to keep the sex fresh from story to story, or wonder how much graphic detail is the “right” amount, and others want to know “how hard” it is to write a love scene (pun perhaps intended!) Here’s the best advice I have:
My Amber Quill Press romances run the gamut from a heat level of 1 (mild) to a 3 (scorching hot). I let the characters in each story determine the sexual content, graphic details, and overall heat level. Every story is different, and so are the sexual lives of the characters.
Writing in different romance genres also influences the sexual content. In The Dark Lord,(http://amberquill.com/AmberHeat/DarkLord.html) Katarina is innocent, so I approached her character as curious, yet eager to learn. Lauren in The Sexy Stranger (http://amberquill.com/AmberHeat/SexyStranger.html) is a modern, sexually experienced woman. Writing for the different characters and their individual situations helps keep things interesting and fresh.
When I write love scenes, I stand back and let the characters do what comes natural. I generally know how far the scene will go ahead of time, but I let the characters take over and enjoy themselves. (After all, it’s their story, they deserve to have fun!) Later, when I edit/revise the story, I go back and cut anything that doesn’t work with the scene. I think love scenes have to flow naturally from the plot and the characters.
As for “how much to show” within a book or a scene, I think it depends on the book and the characters. Sometimes it’s nice to give the characters some “privacy” and imply what goes on; and yet, other times, readers want to see the passionate (fully detailed and repeatedly consummated) side of the relationship. I blend a little of each into my books.
No matter what kind of love scene I write, I try to keep most of the focus on the characters and what they’re thinking and feeling emotionally — how the experience makes them more connected to their lover — rather than focus on what their bodies are doing. In Four Days with Jack, (http://amberquill.com/AmberAllure/FourDaysWithJack.html) David and Jack discover their long-hidden attraction of each other and explore their sexual feelings while building a romantic relationship. (Want more examples? Check out all of my Amber Quill Press romances here: http://amberquill.com/AmberHeat/bio_Wilkins.html
I hope you’ve enjoyed this “inside look” at the writing process. It was fun sharing my thoughts with everyone, and I hope these writing tips help you with your next story!
Kelli A. Wilkins
Kelli A. Wilkins divides her time between writing romance and horror. Her romances vary in genre and range from sensual to super-sizzling hot. Kelli invites readers to visit her website www.KelliWilkins.com and blog http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com to catch up on all her writings.