Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Moments that take your breath away

Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by every moment that takes your breath away.

My last post explained what glimmers are and how I found out about them. For the last week, I've been trying to force myself to gather a glimmer or two every day and I keep forgetting.  I really think that doing so will not only enrich my writing, but would also enrich my life.

Now, I'm sure if you have kids at home, glimmers will be much easier to come by, but I am going to keep trying, to stay aware, alert to what's going on around me.

Yesterday, as I prepared to leave work, on the first workday of Daylight Savings time, I glanced out of my sixth story downtown Tulsa office window and the slanted light that found its way through the tall buildings was highlighting just a few objects, cars on one road, the side of a building, and I'm  certain I gasped at the beauty of it. When I walked over, however, to take a better look, all I saw was pavement, cars, brick and mortor buildings. Not that beautiful after all, but that quick glance, the yellowness of the sunshine, the sharp angles it outlined did take my breath away.

I hope today provides some glimmers.  I'm watching for them.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I attended my first writer's conference yesterday, but it won't be my last! What a great day. I got to hear Poet Laureate Philip Levine read. What a powerful voice! I attended a session with an ex-literary agent and was able to ask quite a few questions. And I attended a session with Pam Houston author and professor, She spoke about glimmers.

Ms. Houston uses what she calls glimmers to compose her stories. Glimmers, she explains, are moments that resonate within you. Sometimes they happen several times a day, but you have to be paying attention.  She writes down the glimmers she experiences and later finds a way to string them together into a story. But she doesn't really connect, she explained to us. She just fits them closely enough together that the reader can easily make the jump between them. 

Another writer who spoke briefly said something very similar. She concentrates on the mechanics of the story and lets the real message come out in the gaps she's too busy to notice. And she also said, "Pay attention to the things they tell you not to notice."

Ms. Houston, as a good professor, gave us 15 minutes to write three glimmers of our own. One was to have happened in the last 24 hrs. One over ten years ago, and the last, any time.  Here are mine:

The young girl woke up and peeked out of the window into the ravine. It was the middle of the night and she had no idea what had woken her. A blue light glimmered in the trees, moving slowly, and she could see the outline of a person. The hovering craft was just large enough for one.


She picked up her son from the airport. He'd spend the last two months in Tajikistan. As she filled him in on what had happened in Tulsa since he'd left, he remarked, "Mom, you're SO American!"
And she thought of all the battles she'd fought and sacrifices she's made to give him the opportunity and understanding to make that statement. And she smiled at him in the way a mother does.


The couple watched the movie, sitting at the bar in the kitchen, sipping wine. The woman in the movie was hesitant to believe in love again. The man pursued her. 

"She can't accept him yet!" protested the woman watching. 

"Why not?" asked her husband.

"Because you can't let most men win to easily. You know why I love you? Most men will not let a woman love them. We have to learn to be hard. In you, I finally found a man who would let me love him."

Ms. Houston's blog:


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Traditional or Indie?

Which way should I go?

On the one hand, I've read too many indie books that badly needed editing. And some publishers/editors turn down writers JUST BECAUSE they had bad performing indie books. And it would be fun to be a part of the publishing industry, 


On the other hand, I would LOVE to do all the Indie stuff. I want to format my book. I want to create my cover (and I'm pretty good with a camera and with Photoshop).  I'm pretty good with Webpage design and social media. (I don't stay up to date on my blog though). And I'd like to run my writing like a small business, especially if I quit my job like my hubby wants me too.

Hummm..... What do you think?

This article claims you sell fewer book as an indie writer, but make more money, and that the only way she'd go traditional again was if he got a VERY GOOD DEAL. Of course, he has a day job.    http://traceywritesbooks.com/who-sells-more-books-indie-authors-or-traditional-publishers/ 

"$2.99 books, on average, nett authors more earnings (profit per unit, multiplied by units sold) than books priced at $6.99 and above.  When we look at the $2.99 price point compared to $9.99, $2.99 earns the author slightly more, yet gains the author about four times as many readers.  $2.99 ebooks earned the authors six times as many readers than books priced over $10.”

Yeah, this guy owns Smashbooks, but...hummm....


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Poem of Dreams

So, poetry has been happening lately. And I haven't known what to do with it. But I've decided poetry is all about voice. Am I right? Anyway, here's my latest. It's about last night.

Struggling with shadows between dream and life
As I twisted and turned, tangled in sheets,
Pictures spun by like the images in the tornado
that spun Dorthy to the Emerald City
And each was wrapped in a memory
Of touching and smelling and hearing
And each cried out as it tumbled by
Write! Remember me and write!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Character Profiles as a Marketing Tool: Zane Bowman

Sydney Aaliyah, on her blog, came up with the idea of using Character Profiles as a marketing tool. I like it! Kind of a video character card. OK, since I’m really concentrating on Zane right now… My MC Character Profile:

In the profile, I show Zane Bowman's character. In 15 seconds you learn:

  • Zane is an All-American guy, at least he thinks of himself that way, and he knows exactly what he wants…until he meets Hadley. 
  • He is good with his hands: He builds (and races) high end wooden boats, he sculpts in wood, and he knows just how to touch a woman.
  • His mission is to help Hadley get out of town as quickly as possible while hiding secrets about her mother’s death, but something about the tiny Parisian beauty turns his resolve…and his world…. upside down.

*Imagine these lines delivered by the movie trailer guy voice.

In an action packed promo, they tell who he is, his motivation and his role in the series. They use images and quotes from him that make you instantly like him, relate to him and want to root for him.

 In my case, you see him interacting with a puppy at his father's log cabin, manhandling a wooden boat to safety in a storm, and taking a midnight swim in the lake with Hadley. Maybe in a pickup truck or tractor on his father's farm. Maybe some dreamy flashbacks of him with his Native American father and blonde European mother dancing wildly around a bonfire when he's very young and he and his father recently standing back in the shadows of trees at the cemetery as Hadley buries her mother. Then in the end, you zoom into the amber pendant hanging on his chest.

Quote: “These Barrington women are only trouble for us. Well, her mother isn’t any more, true, but I’ll breathe easier when this one is gone too.”

And his looks! OK. I'll admit it. He's a young Antonio Banderas, looking like he did in Desperado. Except he has topaz eyes. Don't you just want to eat him up?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Query: What do you think?

I entered my query in the contest over at the Mother Write blog. I welcome advice, feedback, comments here or there.

And, while I'm not querying agents yet, I'm getting ready to start soon.


An Agent's Inbox #10


Hadley Barrington has lived in France long enough to know she wants nothing to do with Oklahoma or the old wooden yacht she inherited from her mother. But she does want to know what caused her mother's death. And to sell the boat so she can get back to her life as a successful jewelry designer and free French woman, unfettered by any desire for long term relationships.

Zane wants nothing to do with anyone who is not all-American. His future lies right here on Grand LakeOklahoma. And that includes marrying a local girl…when he finds the right one. But his comfortable world dissolves into spicy chaos when his father asks him to take on the mission of making sure the tiny Parisian beauty leaves the lake--and the country--as soon as possible.

Zane is a hunky, Native American solution to Hadley's problem of getting the boat ready to sell, with his long dark hair and the amber pendant dangling on his handsome bronze chest. But Barrington women are dangerous for the men in his family, and he must keep secret what he knows about her mother’s last days. A secret that might rock Hadley’s French view of love. The story is set on GrandLake ‘O the Cherokees. The “front side” is a playground of wealthy oil men and a unique wooden boat culture. The “back side” is where the locals, many of them Native American, live out their lives, often in poverty.

My book, a story of returning home, culture shock, and finding true love, might be called Through Amber SmokeCougars on the Dock, or Eurotrash Accent. The manuscript is complete and consists of 75,000 words. It fits firmly into the Contemporary Romance genre.

I am a professional non-fiction writer and teacher in business and the university. My short play, Every Boat’s for Sale, was recently performed in a local theatre. This story was inspired by my fascination with boats and my involvement in the wooden boat culture of Grand LakeOklahoma. In fact, a significant portion of the book was written on a boat.

I blog about my writing, tweet about it (over 1000 followers), maintain a Facebook Page and an author fan page.



Hadley frowned and rubbed her sweaty palms on the seat of her shorts. Why wasn’t the door shut? Was someone on board? She paused to listen, but all she could hear was the creaking of the wooden dock and her own heart pounding. Her expression, more a grimace than a smile, hurt her face. Nothing else could go wrong after the h*** of the last couple days. She’d used up her share of bad luck. She was sure of it. All she wanted was to sell the stupid boat and head back home to France. With her toe, she nudged the door of the neglected old yacht the rest of the way open, then squinted into the dim interior, wary of spiders and other creatures that thrived in abandoned places.

“Are you Hadley?” A voice erupted from the shadows, sending her scrambling backwards up the stairs and out onto the deck. Her gaze darted up and down the deserted dock. Could anyone hear her scream, if that’s what she decided to do? Forget screaming. She was alone. She’d handle this man herself. Sucking in her breath and keeping a safe distance, Hadley faced the stranger. She stood as tall as she could, crossed her arms, lifted her chin and tried her best to appear intimidating.

Oui. I am Hadley.” She hoped the golden man couldn't hear the tremble in her voice. “But who are you, Monsieur, and why are you on my boat?”


Janice Sperry said...
I like your premise. This is my favorite kind of romance. In your query, take out the But that begins the second sentence and combine the third sentence with the second so you don't begin two consecutive sentences with but and and. (Similar problem in the second paragraph.) Your 250 is great. I would read on.
Ryan said...
I'm not normally a romance reader, but I like the sound of your protag. And I LOVE your title ideas. I can tell this is going to be a funny one.
The one thing I thought was weird is how you're giving the synopsis, and then in the same paragraph you sort of switch back to talking to the agent. At least start a new paragraph with "This story is set.." Or you might be able to do without that last little bit. I think the first part's good enough!
Congrats on being able to write for a profession! (envious sigh)
Your no-nonsense greeting made me smile. Yo Vicki!
Kristen Wixted said...
I love the wooden boat aspect. Learning through a story is the best way to learn about a culture or a lake you've never heard of, or how, exactly, to keep a wooden boat looking good and floating.
Susan said...
"She was the owner, but her education into the nuts and bolts—and wood and caulk--of the nautical world was about to begin."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

GUTGAA Meet and Greet

Deana Barnhart

Where do you write?
I write at home, on my boat, and even sometimes (don’t tell my boss) at work

Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
A magnetic poetry wall with some Haikus and hundreds of words to create more.

Favorite time to write?
Anytime I have a few minutes free

Drink of choice while writing?
Coffee in the morning. Water and iced tea at other times.

When writing, do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
I like silence when I write--Occasionally vocal-free music. I really should be listening to some Dean Martian and Edith Piaf as I write this one. Both would be in the sound track for the movie....

What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
Oh so many places. I love wooden boats and Grand Lake. That’s the setting. I actually started out wanting to write about my hero and heroine’s parents and their love affair, back when Grand Lake was really grand, at the peak of the oil boom, but it seems that era-60s-is not a popular time for romance books. It’s not long enough ago to be interesting, so I told the story of a pair of lovers who did not end up together, but their children who did.

What's your most valuable writing tip?
I learned so much from my RWA group, before I had to leave it, then it broke up. When I edit parts of my WIP I wrote before then, I have much, much more work to get it up to par. The story is still there, but dialog tags, adverbs, etc. litter it. I truly wish I was still involved in that kind of writers’ group, So if you have one near you, take advantage of it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Learning to be French

Finding the Frenchness in myself was not a motive in reading all the book about French women lately, or in watching all the subtitled French movies...but as an added perk in my research, I'm kinda finding the French woman in myself!
My heroine, although born in Oklahoma, lived in France between the ages of twelve and thirty, so, yeah, a lot of French Culture has rubbed off on her.  I've never been to France and some readers commented that I had her acting in ways a French girl wouldn't act, so I had to go back to the drawing board and find out just exactly who she was inside. It's been a fascinating journey!

As a result of the books and movies that have educated me in the ways of French women, I now take better care of my skin, wear less makeup, let my hair flow more naturally (although I've never really been a hairspray person) and I'm working on flirting with my eyes. Letting my eyes do more of my smiling. Maybe that's scary in a woman in her fifties, but I'm having fun.

I have always been able to non-verbally "flirt" with babies. Love getting in line behind a baby over its mom or dad's shoulder. I can "talk" to it with my eyes for quite a while, and I'm trying to use that technique more with people too. Is that weird?

The one thing I know that the French would look down their long noses about me is my weight, but that's OK because I really, really need to do more about that anyway. I am now buying gourmet greens at Whole foods and bringing ziplocs full  to snack on at work. I hope it works.

Looking forward to a new book about French women that was supposed to arrive today. No telling what it will teach me! (And yes, I am a little bit French in my DNA, but not much!)

This is the book that I hope is waiting for me tonight.

Monday, June 25, 2012

How Can a book with a French Heroine Have a HEA?

Why did I make her French? From my research, French women do not really believe in HEA. So how can a French woman be the heroine of a romance book, since that genre's number one requirement is a HEA?

I made the decision for Hadley to live in Paris a long time ago. I've been writing this first book for several years. And she's not really French. She just lived there for half of her life, but a thirty year old who had lived in France since she was fourteen would be pretty French, I think. I chose France because I planned for her mother to be Cougar on the French Riveria, but now, after a lot of research, I'm realizing that Cougars on the French Riveria aren't really Cougars. They're just French women, sexy, deliberately selfish, unconserned with what other people think. And I'm realizing that Hadley's issues are not so much by being taught to be a cougar by her mother, but just the general attitude of French women. I may have to change the name of the book from Cougars on the Dock, but I love that name. We'll see....

I must be French. Well, I actually am a little, in my DNA.  But how did a girl from a religious family in Arkansas and Oklahoma, who has not even traveled much end up with those attitudes?  Must be because I've really so many books. I think that's it. Anyway, even before I started really researching French women, I'd given Hadley a pretty French attitude. And I think it came from me. And some reader really don't like her. She'd not like them. Neither am I. But if I'm going to write Romance for an American audience, I have some issues to resolve.

Thank goodness, Hadley lived in the U.S. for half her life. She can come to recognize that both she and her mother were more "American" than they'd thought. She can come around to some American attitudes. I guess in many Romance books, women go from reserved American to someone whose had the French attitude of chancing everything for love, then back to the American when it turns out that the sacrifice isn't really necessary because, you know, it's a HEA.

But I don't think I'll ever be the same after realizing that I'm a Free French woman. And the thing that makes my heart sing about French women is they grow up with no concept of needing to be popular. They need to be themselves and think popular is boring.

Elphaba and I agree!

Some resouces I've used to research French Women:

French Kiss (Movie)

French Kiss Poster

Paris in Love (Book)

A French Gigolo

Breathless (Movie)


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I met an old man when I took a group of students on a trip to Orlando Florida to work with Habitat for Humanity. He and I sat on a rock bench and watched children play in the courtyard of a church that was helping sponsor us.

My son, back home in OK, wasn’t even a year old. The old man, who volunteered to read to the children each week, told me to always read books to children that were above their level and to start reading chapter books early. To make them look forward to the next day’s reading.

Turned out that old man had sold most of his property to Disney World to create the theme park. A pretty smart old man. I listened to him.

His advice worked with my son (now almost 19), but how does it apply to my writing? He would have told me to push the envelope–to do more that is expected of me. I guess his message was similar to that of my favorite song as a teenager, “Dream the Impossible Dream.” (Yes, I’m that old)

I am just finishing up my first novel and I have a play being performed in Tulsa theater this summer. The future is bright as long as I continue to push that envelope and dream that dream!

This post was originally written a a comment on the guest post of Lorenda Christensen (Golden heart Finalist in Paranormal Romance) on the blog of "The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Learning to Write the Male POV

I'm taking an online class about writing the male POV this month. Here's my thoughts as I read this week's lesson: 
My hero grew up with an Eastern European mother, in rural Oklahoma, and a Native American father. His mother was exotic, beautiful, intelligent, and he loved her with all his heart, although he didn't always act like he did because a part of him wanted her to be like all the other mothers. Although he had time to make his peace with her before she died of cancer, he still carries shame and guilt about some of the ways he acted when he was younger. As a result, he wants an ordinary life in the community where he grew up, and an ordinary Oklahoma wife.

Then his father reignites a relationship from his youth with a woman who lives in Europe, which sours him even more on the lure of exotic European women. 

So when he meets Hadley, who lived in Oklahoma as a child, but has spent most of her life in Paris and on the Riviera, although he is wildly attracted to her, he’s angry with himself for feeling that way. He is also ashamed because his grieving father has asked him to help this chick so she will leave the lake, and here he’s getting involved.

I’m wondering if I have him musing too much about the way he feels about his mother and who that influences his mixed emotions about Hadley. Should he be aware of this motivation, or should I just write his thoughts, and let his motivations finally break to the surface later?

The critique group I used to attend told me that when I’m in his POV, it’s cheating to not tell what he’s thinking, you know, the deep stuff, but sounds like that’s exactly what I should not be doing, because that’s what he’s not doing. His conscious thoughts are surface, emotional thinking, not analytical thinking.

So…. Does that mean we’re really MORE analytical than men?

So, he made up with his mother, but hasn’t changed his views…consciously, about women who aren’t all-American. Check.

He’s afraid he’s going to lose his father. He lost his mother a year ago. He does insist his father is going to be OK, although obviously, he’s very worried about him and dedicated to him.  Check

Hadley is not the clinging type. In fact, she’s not the relationship type, which, I guess, is one of the reasons he falls for her so hard. And in the end, he does come after her. He realizes they should be together before she does.  Check.

My former critique group thought she was also way too liberated. And yes, the little girls who see their mothers as role models. That’s Hadley.

I need him to scoff at her when she’s freaked out in the storm and tell her to, “Calm down.”  Should he ponder more about the meaning of her obvious come-ons to him? (She’s not shy about sex, although they don’t actually “do it” until near the end of the book.) I guess he needs to see her as a flirt, a tease, that first day, and think that way.

Take away:
  • Men will do anything not to feel loss or let loss change their viewpoint on life.
  • Men will do anything not to be feminine, including talking dirty, etc.
  • Men want specifics in conversation. Vague references and hints go right over their heads.
  • Men will scoff at emotions from a woman.
  • Men do not analyze feelings.
  • Men feel shame if they can’t fix every problem, yours included.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Leaving my Writers' Group

Update. Shortly after I quit, this club  disbanded. Since I was no longer a member, I don't know the details.

Whew! I am a free woman again, so it's time for me to roar.

My writer's group sent out proposed new bylaws yesterday, essentially saying that not only can any member not discuss anything about the group with outsiders, but that if we express any opinions INSIDE the group that those in charge find offensive, they can throw us out.  

When one member protested, guess what? The club's leaders "accepted" her resignation. Today they get to accept mine. 

These women do not know me well if they think they can tell me what to say. Ask my husband or anyone else who knows me. It's one of the reasons I'm a writer. I believe in the power of communication, spoken and written.

I almost quit the group just a few months after I joined, when I found out that they'd excluded S/S works from their chapter contests. Yeah. That's my group. You may have heard of us.

I am ashamed that I didn't quit then. I had planned to quit after this first book, I promise. I had promised myself, my husband and my son that I would. But I'm quitting today, and today I promise that quiting will not slow down my progress toward being a published writer--without this club's help.  

Below, I've included the blog post I wrote and never published when I first found out about the contest fiasco. Maybe too little, too late now.  

So sad. So very, very sad.

Today is the third day in a very hard week for me.  Monday, I learned that my local chapter of Romance Writers of America has taken a stand that saddens me. They chose not to accept stories featuring same sex romance in their published writers' contest this year.

The board made the decision, as is their right. I am a very new member. I bow to their decision. I guess it's right for that group. They cancelled the contest and gave all monies and scripts back to the writers.  Good move.

But what about me? This is, after all, all about me. It's not really about the writers who want to enter same sex romance books in this contest. They'll find plenty of other contests. It's not even about same sex couples who see this decision as discrimination. They're OK. The world is coming to understand them more and more. They really will be OK.

But me! I really loved being a part of this group of writers, women struggling just like I am to learn the writing craft and loving it. Women who enjoy discussing how to punctuate quotations, or audience expectations, or self publishing vs. traditional publishing.  And women who have achieved so much more than I have, who are published, who are spunky, like our oldest member, with a walker and a spark in her eye, who used to teach in Cuba. 

Darn. Will I never be able to get more information about those experiences from her? I mourn. This group of women accepted me, such a newbie, and took my writing seriously, and I really need them. 

But, on the other hand, I won't shop at Lowes now because they pulled their advertising from a reality show because it featured American Muslims. And I don't even watch reality shows. I have gay friends and always have. I went to the prom with a gay guy in 1972.  I really believe in diversity and acceptance. I worry that racism is playing too big a part in our politics. 

And (me again), I wonder how decisions like this will affect this group's reactions to my work later down the line. I will disclose that I am extremely hertro.  Just ask my husband. But what if I want to write about a character whose two best friends are same sex lovers--not that far fetched in my life. 

What if I want to write about a single mother whose son marries another man, and, through her growth and acceptance of that relationship, she discovers that she can love again, and builds a family with a new man who also accepts her children as they are. My next book is going to examine some pretty far fetched spiritual topics, possibly crossing the line into Wicca.  How would they feel about that?

And reading! And writing! Reading is all about opening your mind to ideas and places and thoughts that someone else put on paper. It's about receiving. It's about living veraciously. 

And writing is about making your fantasies take flight and sharing them with others. Reading and writing are magical experiences, and I cannot condone putting limits on either reading or writing.

I was tempted to just fade out the back door of this situation. I thought about making up an excuse for the next meeting, then just fading, dropping communication and going on with my life. They'd probably know why, but that way would be easier on everyone. But even that solution bothered me.

I don't want to go to the meeting and express my opinions. What if the press is there? What if I get glitter bombed? Remember, this is all about me. And I do not want to stand on that side of the aisle. I am not that person.

So, sadly, oh so sadly, I must take my stand. I want the members of my writing group to know that I admire and really like each one of them individually, and that I did look forward to a long and constructive future with them; but, with tears in my eyes, I have to withdraw my membership. 

I will look for a new writers' group. I hope I find one. I need to be a part of one, but, for now, I once again travel alone. But I am richer for knowing these women.

Today a new online Romance Writers' Critique was formed. We've started with a Facebook page and will be adding other tools to allow us to share and critique online. Please visit us and like us at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tulsa-Paper-Hearts/437822656232066# 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How to Make a Simple Book Trailer

Book trailers are so much fun--to watch and to make. Actually, I haven't made one yet, but I've made trailers for plays and I absolutely love creating YouTube videos of all kinds.  Well, I did just make a trailer for the book I'm completing now, but it won't be the one I really use. It's just a demo. A demo of how to make a book trailer using ONLY PowerPoint.

What you'll need:
  • PowerPoint 2010 
  • Pictures (legal)
  • Music (legal)
  • Words (Yours)
What you'll need to know:
  • Basics of PowerPoint
  • Inserting images
  • Formatting images
  • Animation
  • Transitions
  • Inserting audio
  • Adding timing
  • Saving as movie
Here's the simple trailer I created: 

Check out my new Book Trailer tab here to find out more information and see links to tutorials that will help you. http://mysticwyngarden.blogspot.com/p/book-trailers.html

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

FINALIST!! A Very Good Week!!

FINALIST--Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest

"Thank you for entering the 2012 Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest sponsored by NEORWA. I am thrilled to tell you that your entry Cougars on the Dock was among the top three in your category!"

My first contest!!!

Plus my son was accepted into the program he wanted at college & my stepson passed the bar!!!!

I'm ready to celebrate (but when am I not?!)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Author & Playwright

I keep reading authors telling me that I am a writer, even if I don't have anything published, well, not fiction anyway. Actually the sofware workbooks I create sell for a lot of money, although I don't get much of it.  But now I can say I'm a playwright! 

I just entered my first play in a local contest, and if it's selected, it will be performed in a local theater. What would it be like to sit in the audience and see actors make your story come to life? I'm excited and hope I get the opportunity to find out.

Then, I want people to read my book. Gotta get that thing finished.

Monday, March 19, 2012

That Darned Plot!

At my local RWI meeting, lingering over books in our lending library, I had a chat with a published member about plot. Although my group has critiqued my book through chapter five, and seemS to like my writing (except for too many spiders), no one sees my plot yet. I do have one, so I outlined it and sent it to Jennifer. She responded with some suggestions she'd learned at a recent workshop. Since I've never attended a fiction-writing workshop, I'm taking her suggestions very seriously.

In the example of a book that sold quickly, Jennifer outlined a plot where the two lovers' goals are completely opposite. In my book they are the same, but if both achieve their goals, they will not end up together.

Some "rules" say that the characters' goals must be in conflict. For one to win, the other must lose. Humm. So, in my plot, if they end up together and one gets their goal, the other loses. If they stay apart and go their separate ways, both can have their goals. They each have to grow & change to achieve HEA.


My characters goals are:

Do what she needs to do to get rid of the boat & satisfy guilt about mom. Get back to her life in Paris.
Get Hadley back to Paris without involving his father, and get on with his life at Grand Lake.
Then I found one article that clarified my goals and also questioned the "rules."
Conflict and Resolution in the Romance Novel  by Linda Shertzer
For me, the best plots make the hero's and the heroine's goals the same. Sounds silly. Sounds impossible! If they're both working toward the same goal, where's the striving? Where's the conflict?
In reality, there are two types of conflict: the apparent conflict and the underlying conflict. The apparent conflict is loud and showy, and starts your novel off with a bang. It seems irresolvable. It may eventually be resolvable, but the solution lies beyond the control of your hero and heroine, as in the outcome of a battle or natural disaster. As devastating as it may seem, it may be of relatively minor importance in the actual relationship between hero and heroine. The underlying conflict gradually makes itself shown through the unfolding story. This conflict is what is really important to the continuing relationship of your hero and heroine, and is resolvable. Not easily resolvable, I'll grant you, but there is a solution.

Linda says a lot of what I was thinking, but.... she made me realize that the goals I have for each of my characters above are not their underlying goals. Here are their real goals:



To continue the life she’s always expected to lead, based on her mother’s perceived values.

To continiue the life he’s always expected to lead, based on his father’s perceived values.

Hadley has farther to go to change because Kain has already learned a lot about his dad that has upset his apple cart. But both come to the realization, through several subplots, that their parents were different than they thought and that happiness will be found together if they can learn from thier new insites into their parents.


When I had first plotted my book, I based it loosely on this 5-scene plot chart:

Today, I found a chart that Kurt Vonegut used in some of his talks and used it to analyze my plot:

Kurt Vonegurt Story Grid for Cinderella:

When I plotted my story, it was a little more complex.  It had four peaks and three valleys. What I realized in looking at it was that, at first, each peak did not rise higher than those before, so I adjusted it. And I made sure my last valley was the deepest. We must plunge our characters down, down down to make that last peak even more extreme, right? 


So, with this analysis, I don my fighting gear and punge back into the story with a better idea of my characters MAIN goals and what the rythm, the pattern, should look like.  I also realize that I need to work on outlining what the obvious (not so much underlying?) plot is in my first chapters. My readers need to know that they're in for a rocky ride.  I thought I'd had, but I see now that I didn't do it well enough.

Thanks Jennifer, for asking the questions you did and inspiring my next total re-write! 

I still have these questions:
  1. Do editors really like very simple, clear-cut plots the best?
  2. I know that you can't base a book on a misunderstanding that can be solved by a good, honest talk, but can't a scene be based on that...a small misunderstanding that prevents the resolution of the main plot for a bit? 


Three scene plot: