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Point of View: the Heart of the Elements of Fiction

2017 April 20

I recently had someone ask me about “head hopping” within a manuscript and what would cause a reader to believe that a person was switching point of view (POV) in the middle of a scene. “Head hopping” is clearly a grievous violation of POV, but I discovered that not all POV violations are “head hopping” issues.

Let me start by setting out why this element is so important:

  • Seasoned editors usually look first for POV issues because that tells the editor the extent of the author’s knowledge of the elements of fiction.
  • When POV issues are evident, a manuscript is in danger of being rejected after the editor reads the first line.

For that reason, I thought I’d provide a check list of POV violation indicators:

  • Are the thoughts of all your characters laid bare throughout a scene. Does one character act, react, and think and then another character does the same. That’s head hopping. Don’t do that.
  • Is there an omniscient being telling the story? That’s omniscient POV, and that practice hasn’t been vogue since I began to study the art of fiction. I’m pretty old, and I’ve been writing since I was five. So, you don’t want to introduce omniscient POV to an editor. They won’t like it. Also, the excuse that “so-and-so author did it, and she’s famous, doesn’t work.” You will not get away with it. You should not get away with it.
  • Are you setting the stage for your POV character? Readers don’t always consciously realize this, but when an author gives the POV character the first action (not thought or dialogue) of the scene, the POV character is set in the head of the reader. If you’ve ever gotten midway down a page or even into the chapter, and you have to go back to look to see which character should be leading the scene, it is most often due to one of two things: 1) the POV character was not set in that first paragraph; or 2) POV switches are occurring.
  • Are your POV characters making comments with an adjective or adverb to describe their facial expressions or other actions? Unless the character is looking in a mirror and making a purposeful expression, this is a violation of POV. A POV character can smile, but when you add that adverb or adjective, you are adding a thought about the action. For example in Mary’s POV, a rueful smile or the indication that she smiled ruefully, is indicating that the character is so self-aware that she actually realizes what she’s doing. That is not normal behavior for a character. To avoid this violation, one would indicate only that the POV character smiled. Then the “rueful” smile is shown through dialogue or action. Since I had to look up “rueful” to determine what the action requires, let me share the definition: “expressing sorrow or regret, especially when in a slightly humorous way.” With that definition in mind, we might write: Mary put space between her and Dave. She bowed her head, tilted her gaze in his direction, and smiled. “I’m sorry that you and what’s her name broke up, but since you could never remember what to call her, I think it for the best.”
  • Are your POV characters making an assumption of the intentions or emotions of other characters? Some editors might not flag this problem, but this editor will. Yes, it is possible for us to properly assess the actions of another as an indication of his or her thoughts, but in this instance, real life truths don’t translate well to the page. So, the best way to handle this problem is to provide a different slant on the POV character’s thoughts or to give the other character an action indicating the emotion/intention of the other character. Instead of saying Dave looked at her in anger, the anger should be shown in Dave’s actions or dialogue or the characters thoughts should be tweaked. Examples: 1) Dave’s hands curled into fists and his jaw raised with the clenching of his teeth. “That’s not fair, and you know it. I called her by your name, and you’ve never shown me any interest. What am I supposed to do when the only woman I love ignores my love for her?” 2) Dave stared off into the distance, an action she had long associated with his fighting for control of his anger.
  • Are you telling rather than showing? I  am so convinced that deep POV is the technique that allows a novel to play like a movie inside the head of the reader that I find a novel lacking this element boring and keeping me at a distance from the story. When I invest my time in a novel, I expect to have a total connection with the character. I want to be in the story with them. That is done by immersing the reader so deeply into the thought of the character that they are right there with the character. Telling is the enemy of deep POV as telling keeps the reader at a distance from the story. Therefore, it makes sense that deep POV would eventually result in better showing. When reviewing a manuscript, take special care to look for all telling phrases such as “he realized,” “she watched,” “she recognized,” “she knew,” etc., as well as all “ly” adverbs and eliminate them with revisions. This practice will make a story much stronger. Most times the revision is made simply by taking out the phrase. Example: “Mary watched Dave walk away” would become “Dave walked away.” With the proper setting of the scene as Mary’s POV, the reader understands Mary is watching him. Telling the reader she is watching him is redundant.  As noted above, the “ly” or any type adverb should be replaced with a stronger verb or an action that shows the adverb. Be careful. Not all “ly” words are adverbs, and not all adverbs are wrong. The rule for flowery adjectives should be applied to weakening adverbs: the less the better.

Point of view has many aspects, and deep point of view requires continued practice to master, but I can promise that practicing will be a fun process and will definitely bring about the best writing an author can produce.

Fay Lamb writes emotionally charged stories that remind the reader that God is always in the details. Three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, are available: Stalking Willow, Better than Revenge, and Everybody’s Broken. Hope is the third book in The Ties that Bind Series, which also includes Charisse and Libby. Fay’s adventurous spirit has also taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay will be: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series, and Delilah, Book 4 from The Ties that Bind.

Art of Characterization Cover FINAL FRONT (2)Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook and on Goodreads. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor.

Finding Those Wondrous Story Moments

2017 April 5
by Fay Lamb

Recently, while working on revisions for Frozen Notes, my next release in the Amazing Grace series, I came across a moment that I had been searching for from the time I started to write the story. The heroine has a pretty valid reason for not trusting the hero. At first, I’d made her too compliant and forgiving of him. Then I got to thinking that if he’d done that to me, I’d probably never speak to him again, let alone let him back into my life. That provided a lot of fodder for internal and external conflict. Still, her back story (brought into the present instead of stopping the story and slamming the reader into the past) told me there was some deeper internal conflict that caused her to make some horrendous mistakes that bring her to the disastrous story’s opening–as in a heart-wrenching moment and not that the story opens poorly.

Still, something was missing. The heroine’s brother is a preacher, but I sensed that she had no relationship with the Lord. I’ve worked hard at keeping the spiritual journey on the edge of the story, letting it fold in without preaching or offering a sermon. With a pastor as a secondary character, that would be an easy trap to fall into. In revision, I kept asking the character to show me why she distanced herself from God, just a hint of it so we could show it to the reader.

I don’t think the heroine understood her reasoning until the moment when she saw it mirrored for her in the acceptance and other actions of a pretty important secondary character (hint: he’s the only character who has been in all four books in the series). There we were, the heroine and I, standing in the middle of this scene, and in my imagination, I saw her turn to me with wide eyes that matched my own. We’d found the reason. As I thought over the story line, I realized that the truth resonated throughout the novel without one need to scream it or preach it to the reader. That moment was all we needed to show.

I call these times wondrous moments. I believe they might even happen to those who outline their novels because, really, do our characters ever walk a straight outline? If yours do, I’m glad I’m me and not you. I like the little surprises they throw at me, so long as they don’t take me off on a rabbit trail that has nothing to do with building the plot or subplots.

For me, those times in the story always come when I plant the question into my noggin, and I continue to go forward. The characters are inside my imagination, and my imagination is in my noggin. As they move around inside what’s left of my brain, they produce the answers, either purposely or, as I just noted, quite by delightful accident.

So, how do you find those wondrous moments in your story?

Fay Lamb writes emotionally charged stories that remind the reader that God is always in the details. Three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, are available: Stalking Willow, Better than Revenge, and Everybody’s Broken. Hope is the third book in The Ties that Bind Series, which also includes Charisse and Libby. Fay’s adventurous spirit has also taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay will be: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series, and Delilah, Book 4 from The Ties that Bind.

Art of Characterization Cover FINAL FRONT (2)Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook and on Goodreads. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor.

The Shack

2017 March 1

The Shack TEDisclaimer: I have not read The Shack.  I had it in my house for a short period of time, and I returned it because I was disturbed by what the story was said to reflect. Now with the release of the movie, the blog posts and articles are everywhere. The Shack is the “inspirational” book/movie currently tearing apart the Christian community, arguing over its scriptural accuracy.

I very much dislike fiction that claims to be inspirational in the Christian sense and thus mistaken for “Christian.”  Honestly, I don’t know the author of the story. I don’t know what he claims. However, I am easily upset when Christians begin to justify the reading of such a book by declaring it Christian, making it a stumbling block for some Christian brothers or sisters. Sometimes, I wonder if Christians have taken a good look at the “Christian” or “Inspirational” bookstore aisles (in most case they are the same section) and what most publishers considered “Christian” and “Inspirational.” Trust me, while all Christian fiction should be inspirational and sound in Scripture, the world’s understanding of “inspirational” is not always “Christian.” I’ve seen non-fiction books on the art of satanic worship and witchcraft in a “Christian/Inspirational” aisle.

In my reading, I have found plenty of books by Christian publishers that definitely work hard at misconstruing Scripture. The Edge of Grace created a world in which homosexuality is not a sin and those who think it is and would speak truth in love to an individual in that lifestyle are compared to those who killed Matthew Shepherd because of his homosexuality. I was sickened by the book. I noted that the person in the sinful lifestyle was the one with the New Testament on his bed, the one who read the Bible nightly, but he was also the one who left his female bride at the altar and ran off and took his honeymoon with his male lover. (Try that with a heterosexual couple and not show it as wrongdoing and see the fit a Christian publisher will throw–including the one that published The Edge of Grace). The character’s actions left me thinking how many other verses of Scripture the author refused to accept so that the book could be written. In the story, the man’s sister, who had trouble accepting his homosexual lifestyle, is the one who in the end needed to ask God for forgiveness and for the ability to accept her brother and his lover’s lifestyle. And that was the very untruthful lesson of the novel. If you want to read inspirational Christian fiction that treats the issue with love and uses scripture truthfully, try Ryan’s Father by June Foster.

What about The Da Vinci Code? Do you know that readers of that book of fiction swear it as truth. They see a grand conspiracy in the Catholic Church and believe Dan Brown’s fictional precepts are gospel. Dianetics, the book that appears to be a bible for Scientologists was actually L. Ron Hubbard’s take on the work of a science fiction writer, and it has brought a grossly false religion into the mainstream of Hollywood, which is seeping into the real world outside of fantasy land. This is the danger when Christians pronounce a book “Christian Inspirational.”

Personally, I don’t care if you read The ShackThe Da Vinci Code, or any other book that might not have a true grasp of scripture. My problem is not in the works themselves but with those who want to make it a spiritual issue so that they can justify reading the works and passing it along to Christians who may not realize what is truth and what is not. For me, it’s like a reader shouting to the world that she’s reading Fifty Shades of Grey because even a Christian wife or woman needs spice in her life.

My advice is to stay far away from Fifty Shades of Grey if you value your marriage. I didn’t have to read that book either to know that it depicts a lifestyle that shows bondage as healthy when, in fact, the world is trying to save hundreds of thousands of people, many of them children, who live the real-life horror of sexual slavery.

If you realize that you are not theologically grounded, for any reason, or if you are a new Christian, I would suggest leaving The Shack on the shelf or reading it with pencil in hand, writing questions you might have. Then find some sound Biblical teacher or mentor who can help you reason with the precepts the book presents.

Whatever you do, though, read the book as it is intended: as fiction. The story might be an inspirational one. The story might be an excellent read, but don’t confuse it with Scripture. Don’t try to find Scripture that allows God to appear to you in any form except Himself–and that appearance will be through His word.

Realize that when Jesus revealed Himself in the Old Testament, those who saw Him recognized Him. Sometimes, they would worship an angel, and they would be corrected, but when Jesus appeared, He was recognize and received very due worshiped. In the New Testament, Jesus never changed, not in His righteousness or His message. While the Lord has many roles in our lives: our Father, our Brother, our Friend, our King, our Protector … He deserves the utmost respect. The Shack doesn’t offer Him that respect.

There’s a song that I love: I Could Only Imagine, but the precept is inaccurate when it asks if I will stand or will I fall before Him. I think that question has well been answered in Scripture. We will fall before Him with our faces to the ground, and we will worship Him. And not in a shack.

I still love the song I Could Only Imagine. I simply accept the inaccuracy in the wording. Someone can love the story behind The Shack and still understand its scriptural inaccuracies.

Fay Lamb writes emotionally charged stories that remind the reader that God is always in the details. Three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, are available: Stalking Willow, Better than Revenge, and Everybody’s Broken. Hope is the third book in The Ties that Bind Series, which also includes Charisse and Libby. Fay’s adventurous spirit has also taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay will be: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series, and Delilah, Book 4 from The Ties that Bind.

Art of Characterization Cover FINAL FRONT (2)Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook and on Goodreads. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor.

What’s So Important About a Book’s Cover?

2017 February 22

Okay, I’m tooting my horn here. I have a new release coming out in March. I’m excited as excited about this story as I am about every release. The thrill of seeing your novel come to life to be held in the hands of another and read will probably never leave me.

As an author, the cover is important to me. In every way, it is the first impression for the reader, especially when said reader may have never met the author who penned the pages. The book cover has many things to say to the reader:

  • “Look. I’m here.”
  • “Psst. Want to read a good story? This is what this book is about?”
  • “Hey, let me tell you a little about the author.”
  • “Yes, the story within is as good as the cover.”

I’m picky about my covers. I think they should catch the readers’ attentions in a good and positive way. The picture on the cover must be crisp and clear, and even when the reader might not know it until they finish the book, everything on the cover should depict something important about the story.

HOPE front COVER 1 concept (2)Hope is my release coming out in March. As you can see, the cover depicts an artist, a smiling artist, who reached out to me and said, “Not only is my name Hope, but I am filled with hope.” The carousel … well, it’s very important to the story, and I’ll let you figure out why.

The cover with Hope’s smiling face and the carousel also hides a bit of sadness, because the picture only captures, as is said in the book, “What God sees about Hope.” And when I look at the brilliant design, emotions flood through me because I know … I just know … that Hope’s happy ending comes at the end of a very long journey I want the reader to take with her.

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. I do judge a book by its cover. I was asked to do some work in our church library a while back. I tossed out book after book after book. When asked why I would get rid of a story or a non-fiction work that still had value, I had to explain that no one has picked up the book and why no one has picked up the book. The reason for most of my decisions: the cover was off-putting; it screamed antiquated or amateurish or just plain not interesting. The dust on the covers and the lack of any checkout card proved that I was right. Oh, there was some old tried and true classics that kids and adults will always pick up, and I was sure to leave them. Those stories have transcended the ages and have won a place in the hearts of generations of readers. Yet, a so-so book with a cover that looks as if someone threw it together speaks to the reader as well. It says:

  • “Yeah, I’m here. You might want to have a look.”
  • “I’m not too interesting on the outside, but you might like what I have on the inside.”
  • “The author? They might have cared about the story, but my cover doesn’t really relay that, does it?”

I’m so fortunate to have an editor and a cover artist at Write Integrity Press who care about what’s on the outside of a book because they want the outside to reflect what they know is on the inside. To those individuals, I say, “Thank you. This is a favorite part of my writer’s journey.”

all-current-books-01-17-2017-collage

Fay Lamb writes emotionally charged stories that remind the reader that God is always in the details. Three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, are available: Stalking Willow, Better than Revenge, and Everybody’s Broken. Hope is the third book in The Ties that Bind Series, which also includes Charisse and Libby. Fay’s adventurous spirit has also taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay will be: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series, and Delilah, Book 4 from The Ties that Bind.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor, and Goodreads.

The Make-You-Feel-Bad Myths about the Writing Life

2017 February 8

Lately, I’ve done some soul searching, plundering my conscience for advice that might hurt rather than help me.

While a lot of the plumbing of the depths is spiritual, I did ponder some myths that I’ve bought into the writing life that may have set me up for a certain amount of failure.

I’d like to share my two-cents worth about them.

Write a Certain Number of Words Every Day

While writing daily can certainly up your word count and your productivity, the expectation might be a grand one for some. Granted, setting a daily word goal can help someone who needs a push. Setting a daily goal is not a bad thing. To the contrary, goal setting is the way we achieve. However, if you’re working an eight-hour day, have children to raise, dinner to get on the table, extra-curricular activities, etc., a daily goal might not be best for you. Perhaps a weekend goal or a monthly goal to eek out a count when you can is more in line. As long as you pick the goal that’s best for you and stick to it, there should be no guilt when someone brags about their daily word count.

I sit down and write in spurts, and I do have a daily word count that I rarely reach. Sometimes though, I bountifully exceed that count–and then I brag.

A Real Writer Can Work Any Where

Yeah, really? While some folks can write in a crowded coffee house, I’m too busy making sure I don’t spill the coffee or that I don’t have crumbs on my face. When I’m satisfied no one will find anything to use about me in a novel, I’m searching for people to write about–I’m not writing.

Sometimes, my office is a little too quite. Sometimes, my office is a little too loud. I’ll move to my porch. I’ll write with the music blaring, or the house will be as silent as tomb. I’ve written on the beach. I’ve written in my car during a long ride. Other times, I can’t seem to find the right place to click away on the keys.

I wish I could say that I’ve persevered through my inabilities, but the truth is, if I’m not comfortable, I’m not writing–anything of value, that is. I don’t use it as an excuse not to write. I use it as an excuse to find a better place to write.

I Don’t Need Criticism

I’ve seen authors who enter critique groups and spout off how no one understands. They get their feelings hurt, and they storm off and … well, they self-publish a book that isn’t as good as it could be. Balanced criticism is always helpful. You’re not always going to hear what you want to hear about your work. You’re not always going to get good criticism. By that I mean that the criticism you receive might not always be right. That’s why it’s good to have three to five people critiquing your work. That gives a balance. Two people might suggest changes while three others don’t pick up on it. Place the critiques on a scale and decide what is good and what is bad advice.

Just as a fool appears in court as his own lawyer, a writer who can’t take criticism and publishes what they alone think is wonderful has a fool sitting at the typewriter telling their story. And that’s a criticism you can take to the bank.

There Is Only One Way to Tell a Story

At a writer’s conference, I was surprised to hear an editor declaring stories non-publishable because a format wasn’t followed. Now, I know there are publisher guidelines, and a writer who wants to be published by XYZ Publisher should follow those guidelines. For that publisher, a formula might work. However, the advice given by the publisher was that all stories must follow that same formula. Oh, what a dull world that would make. I live for the rare story that breaks the mold.

As to the declaration that there’s only one way to tell a story, I say hogwash. Yes, there are elements that should go into a good story, and the way an author uses those elements creates a voice. One element might be used heavily by one author while another lingers in the background. Formula is just a guideline used by certain publishers to create a work that has been proven by their readers to be popular. An example of such a guideline is having the hero and heroine of a romance meet in the first chapter. That formula doesn’t always work for me. In Better than Revenge, the hero and heroine met in the past, so the tension is amped by the reader’s anticipation of them seeing each other again, which occurs in chapter seven. I’m glad that this editor didn’t have that book.

There is nothing wrong with being a renegade so long as an author knows where to pitch a rebel story line.

Grammar Myths

Runaway grammar rules are often set forth by someone who knows what they’re talking about and given to someone who doesn’t understand the rule and runs with it. I fell victim to one early in my career, and I managed to write an entire novel without a form of “to be” in my manuscript. However, my sentence structure was lacking. Not all forms of “to be” are passive. In fact, passive writing has everything to do with sentence structure.

Then there’s the runaway rule that drives me insane. Please note that “that” is a viable word, and it has a place in the English language. To take out “that” from some sentences creates vagueness. Yes, make every “that” prove its worth before you take it out, but for goodness’ sake, use common sense.

While you’re reviewing the “that’s” and the forms of “to be” in your manuscript, look at the writing advice you receive as subjective and not objective. This means that what works for someone else, might be a good idea for others, but it could derail your writing if you’re not careful. Set goals and thicken your skin with criticism. Write your story so well that whether it is traditional published or self-published, the reviews will set you apart as someone to be read.

all-current-books-01-17-2017-collageFay Lamb is an editor, writing coach, and author, whose emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. With the release of Everybody’s Broken, three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, which also includes Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released. Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, and A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella Heart Seekers series, which includes A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay are: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series and Hope (Coming March 2017) and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind series.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor, and Goodreads.

 

The Trouble with Floating Body Parts and Misplaced Modifiers

2017 February 1

A fellow author posted an example of a misplaced modifier. While I don’t want to use the published example, I have created one of my own: Gliding easily across the lake in ice skates, my head wasn’t prepared to hit the frozen tundra. One man’s focus on a misplaced modifier is another author’s focus on floating body parts.

I did not coin the term floating body parts, but kudos to the individual who did. The words provoke such an image for me that I am probably over-sensitive when body parts go rogue. When I read a sentence drafted much like the example, I tend to look at it literally. Therefore, the head in said sentence is imagined as sitting atop a pair of ice skates. This image is brought about by the “ing” construction of the sentence. In many cases, an author forgets to assure that the “thing” doing the “ing” is the right “thing” to do the “ing.” So, a better construction of that sentence would be: While I glided easily across the lake in ice skates, I wasn’t prepared when I fell and hit my head on the frozen tundra OR I glided easily across the lake in ice skates, so I wasn’t prepared when I fell and hit my head on the frozen tundra.

A note: not all “ing” constructions are incorrect. The key to eliminating floating body parts and misplaced modifiers in a manuscript is to work toward clarity in every sentence and by attaching a pereson to the body part doing the action.

Misplaced modifiers are much like the missing “of,” “the,” and other often used words that escape an editor’s careful scrutiny. Editors and authors tend to see the image they’ve created clearly, so that the misplaced modifier and/or the floating body parts are unseen until someone with a fresh eye catches it and calls it out.

So what other floating body parts should be avoided?

Her eyes rested on me. *Shudder* Better: Her gaze/stare/attention rested on me.

Her hand fell over mine. *Call it Thing.* Better: She covered my hand with hers.

His shoulders slumped. *Minor, yes, but annoying.* He slumped forward.

His foot held the door open. *That’s a weird doorstop.* He pushed his foot into the door, blocking me from closing it.

I’d love to hear if you have any examples of misplaced modifiers or floating body parts.

all-current-books-01-17-2017-collageFay Lamb is an editor, writing coach, and author, whose emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. With the release of Everybody’s Broken, three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, which also includes Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released. Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, and A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella series, which includes A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay are: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series and Hope and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind series.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads.

The Truth about Coincidence in Fiction

2017 January 25

The definitions for coincidence are: 1) a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent casual connection; and 2) correspondence in nature or in time of occurrence.

By its very meaning, coincidence is not something that happens every day. If it did occur daily, we would take it for granted and think it nothing remarkable.

Therefore, when an author brings in events or circumstances that seem remarkable in nature, the imagination of the reader could be stretched to the point that they no longer see it as remarkable, but implausible.

All uses of coincidence, whether small or large, should be reviewed and weighed carefully by the author. A reader is more likely to accept the wonderful and imaginative worlds of Spec Fiction before they will accept some of the following situations in a novel outside that genre. The following are examples of coincidence in fiction:

  •  A character is thinking of another character, and lo and behold, that character being thought of enters the scene or calls on the phone or sends an e-mail, a text, or a direct message on social media. The author would be better served by layering in the fact that the character stops by often, sends e-mails, texts, or direct messages on social media, so that the reader can reasonable expect the person will act at such a time as needed.
  • A character is thinking of something and uses a word or two that sets that thought or spoken idea apart. Enter another character who uses the same words or thinks the same thoughts. This situation can be made more believable for the reader if the author would give the second character a synonymous word or phrase that doesn’t smack of ESP.
  • An angel or a rescuer shows up right when they are needed with no indication of how that person knew trouble was afoot. Giving a hint of an angelic being or layering in a rescuer’s journey to where the individual needs help, especially if that character is a hero or heroine, will help make this situation more believable. In regard to the rescuer’s journey, throwing in conflict to keep the rescuer at bay only adds conflict to the novel, and every novel, no matter the genre is made better by conflict.
  • A break in the weather, a change in conditions, a much needed occurrence happening at the right time. This type of sudden change waters down the suspense. The author would be better served by keeping the situation and using it to its fullest potential to stretch out the tension for the reader.
  • Right when a character needs a plot device, it is suddenly on hand. This is the equivalent to the gun in the drawer. If the reader has not seen the gun in the drawer prior to its necessity, the gun does not exist for the reader. Therefore, when the gun is produced by the character, reality has been stretched and the bond broken between the reader and the stoyr. Let the reader know the gun is in the drawer before it is required.

These are only a few of the examples that bring in unwarranted consequences. When layered in correctly, the coincidental events will read less like high fancy and more like a believable occurrences.

all-current-books-01-17-2017-collageFay Lamb is an editor, writing coach, and author, whose emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. With the release of Everybody’s Broken, three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, which also includes Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released. Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, and A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella series, which includes A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay are: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series and Hope and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind series.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads.

Deadline Ramblings

2017 January 18

I’ve been dealt one of those nasty little things I call a deadline. I don’t like them. I avoid them like the plague, but for this story, I was given a choice between an earlier release date or one at the end of the year.

The reasons I usually shun a release date are fodder for a “How Not to be a Writer” post, so I thought I’d share those with you today:

  1. Deadlines choke the creativity out of me.
  2. I’m a quality writer not a quantity writer.
  3. I’ll dare anyone tell me when I have to have a story ready. I’ll know it when it’s time to let it go.

Some authors bloom with adrenaline when a deadline is imposed. I actually know an author who writes under some pretty tight schedules while running a national writer’s conference and a very large writer’s organization. Yet, she thrives under deadline pressure.

I do not.

However, I have had to face the truth about my writing diva-ness.

  1. A true author is creative whenever and wherever creativity is needed.
  2. A quality writer who does not produce quantity will be a starving writer.
  3. Editors have a right to demand a story within a reasonable time, and they understand that most authors are never ready to let a story go to press. Who knows? They may have missed a comma.

So I’m off to shrug off the diva-ness and put my big gal panties on and write, write, write. After all, the manuscript was two-thirds written, and I found a chapter-by-chapter synopsis I don’t remember writing. How cool is that? I must have some professional author in me somewhere.

all-current-books-01-17-2017-collageFay Lamb is an editor, writing coach, and author, whose emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. With the release of Everybody’s Broken, three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, which also includes Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released. Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, and A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella series, which includes A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay are: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series and Hope and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind series.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads.

Inspriration: Because a Story Starts Somewhere

2017 January 11
by Fay Lamb

A question I’m often asked is where do I get the ideas for my stories. My ideas come from several areas, and I’d like to share those with you to help you get a jump start on a new project.

Ideas are “iffy” little things. Sometimes an inkling for an entire plot might come into my head because of some trigger. Other times, I might get the inspiration for a lead character, secondary character, or a plot device, maybe even a simple scene to build the story upon.

Bumblebee the Bear in Everybody’s Broken was an inspiration received when I saw the cutest picture of a bear. In fact, that picture reminded me that a series set in the mountains of Western Carolina would not be complete without a bear. At first, Bumblebee’s character afforded comedic relief and nothing more. What she became to the story surprised even me.

The idea for my novel, Charisse, was born out of a collaborative effort. Therefore, I want to call this inspiration necessity. When I first began to write Charisse’s story, she was not called Charisse. She was Faith, and her story was one of five novellas. When the story came close to a contract but didn’t get picked up, each author took their special character and did what they wanted to do with her. Faith became Charisse, my first attempt at writing simple romance, and I learned something inspirational about myself. I cannot write simply.

In my novel, Better Than Revenge, the hero clicked with me right away. His inspiration came from him. He walked upon the stage of my mind, stared down at me, the director, and said, “I’m an ex-convict who went to jail to protect my heroine. I’ve just found out that she has a seven-year-old son, and the kid is not mine.” As I neared the end of the stories first draft, I realized that the heroine wasn’t as concrete as I liked because I didn’t have a strong picture of her. I worried over that until the day my husband and I drove by a farmhouse in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. That farmhouse instantly became the heroine’s abode and gave me a link with her that I didn’t have before. Add two cows, some chickens, and a psycho’s return looming over her, and she became very real to me.

My favorite way to for inspiration to strike is to see an actor or actress in a role and connect with that character. At that point, I have something one dimensional. I study the actor or actresses roles, and I pull good and bad traits from the various characters they’ve portrayed until I have a fully formed, three-dimensional character to which my readers can bond. When that happens, the creativeness flows through my veins like a shot of intravenous fluids because if I know if I’m bonding with the characters, my readers will, too. Ideas swarm inside my imagination, and while working around the house or taking time away from the computer, I allow the character and his or her friends to come out on stage for audition. The lead characters work as co-directors telling me who can stay, what role they’ll have, and where their stories will take us. They cast different scenarios for me, and when the right one comes along, I know it. The story sticks. The plot doesn’t grow cold … it heats up.

Another way to obtain inspiration is so obvious that many authors dismiss it.

Just write.

Write every day. Write without inspiration so that it can be stirred within you. True authors cannot cite a lack of ideas as a reason to stay away from the page. Often, putting the hands to the keyboard is what brings the ideas out to play.

Do you have a special way to be inspired? If so, I’d love to know.

all-current-books-01-17-2017-collageFay Lamb is an editor, writing coach, and author, whose emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. With the release of Everybody’s Broken, three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, which also includes Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released. Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, and A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella series, which includes A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay are: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series and Hope and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind series.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads.

 

The Four Movies that Impacted My Writing and Why

2017 January 4

the-four-moviesOnce upon a time, I was a movie buff. Now, I pretty much avoid most of what Hollywood has to offer, but in that land far, far away were four movies that literally changed my writing, and I’d like to share those with you and tell you the impact they made on my technique.

First, I do believe that there are seven essential elements to writing fiction. Each element is necessary to write a novel worth reading. The way an author uses those elements is his developmental style. In the way that a great script comes across the screen for the audience, so should a story come alive in the readers’ imaginations. These four movies helped me to create that move in the minds of my reader.

A warning, though, before we start. Two of these movies might be considered PG; two of them are definitely R-rated due to content and language, especially the use of God’s name in vain as was the surprise I received when I studied one of the most iconic and beloved stories of our time. I tell you this because I want you to make an informed decision before you decide to watch. Oh, and there could be a few spoilers below.

The Mummy (with Brendan Frasier)- PG

Clarification of the classic is important here. I’m a suspense writer, but more and more when I watch anything on television, let alone a movie, I have to turn the channel. The explicit violence is not something I feel comes with suspense. That’s a horror flick. I don’t do scary.

Yet, The Mummy is a horror flick. I believe the charm I saw in the movie the first time I watched it was a result of director, Stephen Sommers’, use of old Hollywood techniques that allowed me to experience the “horror” without turning away. While I do not believe there ever was a time when Hollywood was sensitive to what it pushed upon an unsuspecting public, there was a point when they were not allowed to get away with it. Sommers took us back in time to when a hero was a hero; a heroine was a competent damsel in distress; the sidekicks for both the antagonist and the protagonists add dimension to the story, and tension came in what was about to happen and not in the grossness of showing it.

Sommers heightened tension for the viewer by placing into our imaginations what was about to happen to a hapless character who ran across The Mummy. For example, we know when the professor loses his glasses in the tombs that the mummy is on his way. Something inside of us wants to scream, “Get away. Get away.” Then the mummy appears, and the professor can’t see him. Fear rings in his voice as he explains to the stranger that he’s lost his glasses. We see the grotesque mummy standing over him. My senses are on alert. I know the fellow is about to meet his demise. Does Sommers show the monster crushing the life out of the man, his eyes bulging out, his neck broken? No. This wise director cuts to shadow, and on the wall we see the man shrink up as the mummy drains the life from him.

Another technique utilized by the director is that of speeding up the action yet slowing it down with conflict. While Evie is tied to a slab, awaiting her sacrifice and Rick is fighting the mummy, who is getting the best of him with his conjured mummy priests and his own strength, Rick’s sidekick is running around trying to read an ancient spell. Jonathan isn’t a student like his sister, Evie, and he struggles with the translation, spouting out to Evie that the symbol looks like a bird. He has to describe the bird, and Rick is yelling at him to hurry up with the translation. That’s classic suspense. Still we’re waiting for the results of the scene, and the audience is caught up in split second action while all the time the suspense is being slowed with the conflict of Jonathan’s ignorance.

Everything about The Mummy is either a “wait for it” or a “my heart is racing,” moment. The viewer does not have to see the brutal violence. The suspense results in artfully leaving the audience to their own imaginations until the dreaded action occurs–in shadow or off camera–or at a fast clip with conflict hurdles.

This technique happens to be about pacing. The next movie includes pacing as well as an important lesson in layering.

Back to the Future- R  (for language)

Marty McFly takes the audience on the adventure of a lifetime. I’d watched the movie several times before the masterful script caught my attention. In Back to the Future the layering and back story begin from the opening credits in which the only words spoken come from a television newscaster and Marty’s exclamation after he strums the guitar on Doc Brown’s amp-on-steroids. In the opening credits alone, the reader learns Doc Brown’s history and why he lives in a garage. The viewer understands that Doc is obsessed by time and that he has stolen some plutonium. We know he has a dog named Einstein, and we understand that he and Marty are very good friends. The fun of this movie, for me as a writer, comes in ferreting out just how much the screenwriter had to layer into the story for it to make sense. I only caught one problem, and I won’t tell you what it is. You’ll have to find it for yourself.

As the movie continues, though, we see the layering of plot devices from Marty’s cassette player to the movie camera he takes to the past. We meet his parents in the present so that when Marty goes back to the past, we understand that his parents aren’t exactly who they present themselves to be in the present, and we learn why they are like they are. In this movie, back story is unique because it’s everything, and the way it is layered in to each scene, building the conflict is amazing. Layering is also important because what Marty does in the past is largely because of what he’s brought with him from the future, whether it is information or plot devices.

L.A. Confidential-R (for content and language)

With regard to violence, this movie is the exact opposite of The Mummy, but the layering is dynamic, especially for writers like me who love character and plot and developing separate plots that converge into one story at the end.

This story has three concurrent plots. One officer is attempting to rise in the ranks, and his desires make him a target from others on the force. He’s not too shy about his aspirations, and when a group of people in a 1950’s dinner are shot up and killed, including a police officer, our man gets his chance to investigate a crime. That crime leads us to hero number two.

He’s a bruiser of a cop. He collects extortion payments from citizens by order of his chief, but this hero isn’t all bad. He’s multi-dimensional. He doesn’t like hero number one because that hero is everything he isn’t and everything he doesn’t want to be. He takes orders. He does what he’s told. He’s not seeking advancement. Then into his world walks a woman who appears to have been beaten. Our hero number two kicks into action. He seeks her out, trying to find out if she’s okay. He finds out that she’s an escort, and the cuts and bruises on her face were due to surgery to make her look like a famous actress. His infatuation with the escort collides with hero number one’s aspirations of solving a crime.

Hero number three is getting his money in another way. He sells Hollywood gossip to the local gossip rag, and he makes money. He also stages events and sets up stars for trouble so that the columnist can get his story. His actions tumble him into the escort service world when he sets up a rising star and finds him dead. That’s when his world collides with the worlds of hero number one and number two.

These stories evolve with each scene, cutting from one lead to the next until they get closer and closer and closer, and finally, we see how it all fits together. If you want to know how to move one or two or even three plots along, I recommend this movie.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof-PG

I saved my favorite for last. When I first saw the expertise of the screenwriter in bringing a classic to life, I thought it was only about the conflict. The story of Brick and Maggie Pollitt, Big Daddy, Big Momma, Goober and May is all about conflict that rises as the story goes forward and climaxes pretty much in the first part of the second act when all of the mystery concerning Brick and Maggie’s back story explodes and leaves the characters to put out many fires and also causes another explosion or two.

Is this a thriller? No. It’s the story of an ex-football player, ex-sportscaster, ex-football team owner whose marriage is falling apart. From scene one, we see not only the conflict but the dynamics of character.

This movie teaches every element of writing: plot, pacing (back story and scene development), conflict, character, point of view (the deeper the better), dialogue, and showing (not telling). It’s a rich movie for an author to watch and to glean. And when you get to the end of it, you’ll find out that everything that happened in the story was about back story–deep, rich back story. However, you’ll also note that the screenwriter never took one moment to throw the reader into the past with a flashback–my pet peeve. The story has deep, dark soil, and every bit of back story comes to life in front story, in words that are spoken and in words that are never said.

I’m sure there are more movies out there that utilize techniques that authors can learn. I’d love to hear any that have helped you develop your story.

all-current-books-01-17-2017-collage

Fay Lamb is an editor, writing coach, and author, whose emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. With the release of Everybody’s Broken, three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, which also includes Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released. Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, and A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella series, which includes A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay are: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series and Hope and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind series.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads.