Monday, September 24, 2018

Making a Fight Seem Real

QUESTION: I'm writing a fight scene, and I'm having a horrible time making it real. I've never hit anyone or been hit. How do I make it real?

That's a good question. If the scene and actions don't seem real to you, you can't make it real to the reader.

One way to make a fight real for you is to choreograph it by yourself or with the help of a friend or family member.

You play the hero and have the other person be his opponent. Don't just figure out the blows and what the other person will be doing. 

Imagine yourself hitting that person. What are you feeling? Where would your hand hit? How would that feel to you? 

If your hero is a trained fighter, how would his feelings differ?

Imagine how it would sound. To do this, hit your fist hard against your other hand and listen. 

Also ask friends if they have ever hit someone and how did it feel?  Find an online resource on fighting where you can ask questions.

You may never have been hit, but you have been hurt. Remember how it felt when a rowdy toddler clobbered you in the face with his foot while you changed his diaper. Or that baseball that hit you in the face or chest. Increase the sensation, and you've got some idea of what it feels like to be hit in a fight.

You may want to read examples of good fight scenes.  

An author I recommend is Western author Louis L’Amour who was a bare-knuckle boxer.  You can find his books at your library.  For choreographing of weapons fighting and battle scenes, you can’t go wrong with Ilona Andrews.  a

Monday, September 17, 2018

Reaction versus Goal in Plot

When I started plotting my romantic suspense novel, GUARDIAN ANGEL, I decided that my plot line would be the following--

(Back story) High-powered defense attorney Lauton O’Brien hires Gard Gardner to protect his daughter Desta if one of the organized crime lords or killers he defends decides to go after him or his family.

(Book plot) Lauton realizes one of his clients is out to kill him. He sends Desta and information about who is out to kill him to Gard, and he disappears. Desta comes by boat to Gard’s lake home. The boat blows up with the information, but Gard saves Desta. 

Desta and Gard go on the run with hired killers hot on their trail.

At first glance, the plot sounded great. Lots of action, adrenaline, scary bad guys, and a perfect situation for two people very suited to each other to find love and a happily-ever-after.

Then I realized the plot had a fatal flaw. The two main characters spend the whole novel reacting to what others are doing to them. Reaction is passive, and passive creates less than stellar main characters and a much weaker book. 

I needed to give the characters a goal which is active. 

I wanted to keep the hired killers hot on their trail, but I decided that Gard and Desta weren’t running away, they were working toward their goal -- following clues to find Lauton so they can figure out who is trying to kill them then stopping that person so they can have a life together. 

When you are creating your main plot, you also need to be sure that your main character or characters have an active goal instead of being swept along by circumstances or by someone’s actions against them.

Make them heroes, not victims.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Making a Character Likable

Sometimes, you can start out your story with a main character who has unpleasant elements to their personality, but a character must be likable or, at the very least, relatable for the reader. Here are ways to show more than the prickly outer elements of her personality.

If you give the main character a worthy goal in the first pages of the novel, then you give yourself time to make a seemingly unlikable character grow on the reader.

By worthy, I mean something the reader will want that character to succeed at–- rescuing children, helping a nice person find happiness, etc. Even if the character starts out doing it for a base reason like money, the reader will still want him to succeed.

Simple things can help make a character start to grow on the reader. Pets are always a good option. Either he has one, or he can't resist the heroine's kitten, or something like that. Having him interact positively with a child is also a good likability quickie. 

Recently, I read a short story in which the heroine breaks into the apartment of a possible villain-- a hard-ass security agent. A teddy bear is sitting on his couch, and he later admits it belongs to his nephew. With that simple stroke, the author made a seemingly unlikable bad guy a much nicer person.

Giving a character a vulnerability that the reader can relate to is also a good likability quickie. It can be as simple as a chick lit heroine having a bad hair day and the boss from heck, or the bad ass hero getting into a small plane and freaking out because he finds a snake. 

Eventually, more likable elements of that character's personality will have to be shown, though, so the bad parts of her personality don't overwhelm the reader.

In some genre fiction like thrillers, the immediate likability quotient doesn't have to be high at the beginning, particularly if the character is strong and effective in what he needs to do.

But in a romance, the hero or heroine should be likable from the very beginning. The other main character can become likable as the book progresses, but he should not start as totally horrible. Some character traits like cruelty can't be forgiven or changed because, in real life, they never are.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Research or Make It Up?

My guilty pleasure is TV shows about the paranormal, and I love novels featuring mediums and ghost hunters.  

I finished a book about a medium a few days ago, and the worldbuilding and plot choices which were created without regard to the current research brought a question to mind.  When is it time to use the research on the subject instead of making everything up?

Science fiction writers really don’t have a choice.  When scientists realized that Mars couldn’t support human life, writers stopped writing about Mars with humans without space suits roaming around the planet.  Now, writers use hard science fact when they want humans on Mars.

Parapsychology isn’t an accepted science for many, and some scientists will never accept any form of proof that ghosts, psychic ability, etc., exist because it is against their materialistic worldview.  The same is true of some non-scientists and those whose religious faith denies the existence of the otherworldly that is not part of their faith.

Yet, many people do believe in the paranormal, and many watch shows like GHOST ADVENTURES.  These shows and paranormal research have certain accepted facts in common like the kind of electrical energy that is generated by ghosts and the use of EMF meters to detect it and that spirit voices the human ear can’t hear can be heard on audio recording equipment.  

So, the question is should you make everything up or should you use the established research to write your paranormal story?  

The first thing you should consider is your readers.  Most people who read paranormal novels have a working knowledge of the current information on the subject, if for no other reason than they’ve read enough stories to pick up the basics.  There’s also the real possibility that someone who enjoys a good ghost story may also enjoy GHOST ADVENTURES or THE DEAD FILES. Making it all up may annoy these readers.

However, it’s your story so you can make it all up.  

If you decide to create your own paranormal world, your first consideration is that you must create a reasonable set of rules for your ghosts and their interaction with the living.  

If your psychic character is experienced, she should know those rules completely and not dotter around like an idiot.  

Most knowlegable readers will forgive you if you create your own understandable world of spooks and the people who chase them.  

They will not forgive you if you break your own rules for plot expediency.

A middle ground is to use most of the common knowledge then add elements that are strictly of your own invention, such as mediums can only see spirits from a specific period.  

This is another situation where it’s best to understand the rules/current common knowledge then decide the direction you choose rather than being a lazy researcher and doing it your own way.  


Victoria Laurie in her "Ghost Hunter” series.  (Author is a psychic intuitive.)

JL Bryan in his “Ellie Jordan: Ghost Trapper” paranormal mysteries.


Robin D. Owens in her “Ghost Seer” paranormal mystery novels.  

Darynda Jones in her “Grim Reaper” comic urban fantasy series.