Thursday Writing Quote ~ Lili St. Crow

Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch. ~ Lili St. Crow

Nuggets for February

Time to share my favorite recent links:

An excellent analysis of how to keep your middles from sagging using Jaws as an example

Patricia Wrede talks about breaking the rules in dialog. 

Lessons from a master. What you can learn from Hitchcock's Rear Window 

 The 3 things Hugh Howey says makes great writing

Thursday Writing Quotes ~ Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman’s First Law: Never polish the first chapter until the last chapter is written.

The Sountrack - Jerry Jeff Walker

Even though I'd heard the name for years, I didn't really know who Jerry Jeff Walker was. I did know some of his songs, and I'll bet you do, too. In fact, one of his songs was a long-time favorite of mine. I even learned all five verses, so I could sing it on Sunday nights when my local pub went all jam-session and any one could get up and sing. (No, this wasn't karaoke. No monitor with the words. Just a live guitar player and my jangly nerves.) My signature song? Mr. Bojangles.

... which has been recorded by everyone from Sammy Davis Jr to Neil Diamond to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I'm not good at Name That Tune, but this is one I recognize from the first few chords. I love that.

Another favorite of mine. No, not the Eagles version. This one will tug your heartstrings.

I remember this, too, from my younger days.

Happy Valentines Day

When I was thinking about posting something on Valentines Day (and I'm a romance writer, so shouldn't that be obligatory?), I knew there'd be an embarrassment of riches to choose from on the internet. But I like being different, so what I thought I'd share instead are two of my all-time favorite posts. Yes, with everything that's on the internet, I have favorite posts that have remained the same for years.

The first one is an old post (2007) from Jennifer Crusie's blog about the glittery hooha. No matter how many times I read it, I end up rolling on the floor laughing (and clutching my sides.) Like so much that's funny, there is an element of truth to it.

And in a (somewhat) related post on Lucy March's blog:

Don't pass on reading these two. And thank goodness, I'll never have to hunt for the links again.

If you enjoy their humor, I encourage you to pick up their books.
My favorite Crusie book is  Manhunting
Lucy March's latest is  That Touch of Magic
Lani Diane Rich's latest is  Crazy In Love

Thursday Writing Quotes ~ Oscar Wilde

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon, I put it back again. ~ Oscar Wilde

Some days are just like that, aren't they?

The Hero's Journey

Yes, I've posted about the Hero's Journey/story structure before, but it bears repeating because it takes repetition to lodge it firmly in your mind.

Dialog: What Goes Unsaid

Dialog is my favorite part of writing. Probably because I'm good at it and people tend to enjoy what they're good at.

If I'm at a loss about how to start a scene, writing the dialog is my go-to response. I may go back later and write an opening for the dialog, but the dialog is often the first thing I write. I've found that dialog gives me the rhythm of the scene. It shows me the characters' state of mind and the direction the scene will go. For me, the story takes shape through the dialog.

As an added bonus, the characters sometimes reveal things to other characters through dialog I didn't know about them. It's a joy to let them talk to each other. It's even better if they're talking to cross purposes. But even better than what they say is what they don't say. The secrets they keep.

Protecting those secrets, whether they're rooted in fear, ego, shame, or any of the other emotions that cause us to hide who we are, can lead to arguments, and that's conflict, which are what good stories are made of.

So when I reached the place in the climax of my WIP A Dark & Stormy Knight where my heroine has privately faced her fears and is ready to own up to her mistakes with her ex-husband, I was shocked when the dialog was lackluster and boring. I couldn't even get a good argument started.

It turned out that the problem wasn't with her side of the conversation, but with his. Even though she's ready to own up to her mistakes, that doesn't resolve their estrangement. Emotionally, she wants the answer to a question she should have asked twelve years ago, but none of his possible responses worked. If he said, "Yes," everything resolved too easily. "No," wasn't even an option because it destroyed that illusion so vital to romance that they are meant to be together. I even tried "I don't know" (which I still think is the most realistic answer), but that was too wishy-washy for a romance novel.

My solution turned out to be having him say yes, but letting her not believe it while he focused on her failure to ask the question before they wasted those twelve years. What neither of them focus on is the question that really needs answered: What would his response be today?

This decision turns the climax into a two-parter, which seems much more satisfying to me, because it's unrealistic to have him say the things I want him to say unless he has time to think it through and come to his own set of realizations, just as she has.

But what my characters say isn't what I enjoy the most. It's the things they refused to say before the climax. The things the reader knows they feel but that the character is holding back in an effort to protect their most vulnerable sides. They have to expose that soft, white underbelly eventually, or the character arcs are unsatisfying, but holding back on that makes them feel more real and increases the tension.

At least, that's how I hope it works.

So what sort of things do your character leave unsaid?