Tag Archives: description

Are you repeating yourself?

PJ here. I love the editing process. Well…love might be too strong a word. What I do love, though, is learning my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and layering my story with the fine brush strokes that hopefully make the characters leap off the page and the plot keep readers riveted.

As I’m reading through a printed copy of WESTERN DESERT, my editor’s voice rings in my ear.

Coming June 24, 2013!
Coming June 24, 2013!
She has pointed out a specific weakness many times, but I couldn’t see it for myself until I read it on a printed page. There are just some things my eyes don’t pick up on the computer screen. In my case, it’s the glaringly repetitious -ing sentence structure that results in lots of “telling”. It seems I have a habit of structuring my sentences as follows:

We stopped only when necessary and took turns driving, making good time and closing in on our destination.

All in all, it’s not a horrible sentence, but repeating this pattern frequently can really bog down the writing. This is clearly a case of “telling”–beginning with a subject/verb construction, using –ing words, and making it a weak sentence that is unnecessarily long. Ooops! I did it again! Did you catch it? I’ve used two phrases connected by a comma, requiring me to use the gerund form of the verb in the second phrase. Darn it! I did it yet again! I can’t seem to help myself, LOL. Believe me, it was an eye opener when I finally saw it. Hopefully, I’ve taken care of the problem through most of the manuscript. If not, I’m certain my second round with an editor will catch it.

As for strengths, I’ve been told I have a knack for description. Here’s an example of using description to ground the reader in place and to paint a picture of the scene.

In the distance the Western mountain ranges turned a deep purple under clouds of smoke from wild-fires gone unmanaged. The coastal winds from the ocean beyond carried the wayward flames toward the desert, but with nothing but sand and cactus, they would die of starvation long before they reached us or the city of Las Vegas.

Although this could be considered telling, in just a few sentences you get a clear picture of the environment and lots of information about what’s happening. Like most writers, I struggle with brevity—the art of saying more with fewer words—but I’m definitely improving.

Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Do you have any particularly stubborn habits that bog down your writing?

Pictorials, Paper Dolls and Old Magazines

We went to Arizona to visit family over Christmas vacation. It was our first trip there ever and one of the highlights (among many) for me, was our visit to Tombstone, the town that didn’t die. I walked the streets of history that I’d only seen in books — pictorial histories, which I discovered years ago when I wasn’t writing, hadn’t been published, hadn’t a thought I ever would be published.

Pictorial histories put me in the picture. I didn’t have to have lived in that time and place to describe what I saw in those old photographs, I was writing westerns initially — five of my first nine books (I know — who would have thought) — so I relied heavily on pictorial histories (Before Barbed Wire is a good one) to describe how it was from those taken-at-the-time photographs.

I love them, don’t you?

When I veered into the Victorian era, I found troves of photographic histories on everything from harems to Sherlock Holmes’s London. I also loved the reproduction editions of the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues from the 1890s. Especially the house kits. I love floor plans.

And for clothes — I bet most of us have the Dover paper doll editions as well as their photographic histories of fashion. But at some point, it occurred to me that there might be a wealth of other kinds of paper dolls on-line : fictional characters, movie stars (from the thirties and forties), teenagers from the fifties, along with accurate depictions of the fashions of the times.

And then — old magazines. I found about a half dozen copies of Ladies Home Journal from the 1920’s in a basement we were clearing out. I pored over them for years. I added to that collection when I realized I could find more magazines from the 20s on-line — from any era, really. Is there anything more immediate than reading a woman’s magazine of the day? The articles, the advertisements, the fashions, the advice — personal and decorating … how different, how the same …

I haven’t succumbed to one of those “build your own” western towns or southern plantations. Yet. (I’m very tempted by the plantation, though.) I do have a Victorian house pop-up book that came complete with its own punch-out family. And lots of furniture. I haven’t set it up. Yet. I just like looking at it and imagining what’s happening there. You know — family secrets, secret panels, something the family album, ghosts on the staircase, eerie dreams, hovering fog, blanketing snow, a haunted attic …

Of course, a lot of this is available on-line. Call me old school. I like holding a book.

And of course, before we left Tombstone — I took loads of pictures. I don’t know if I’m ever going to write another western, but you never know: I do have a couple of ideas.. So — do I even need to say? — I bought all the pictorial histories I could find as well.
Do you love paper dolls, pictorial histories and old magazines? Do you ever use them? Do you have a secret source you’d like to tell?

My Secret, just between you and me: there are Downton Abbey paper dolls on-line.

Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic contemporary romance — and readying those original backlist westerns for eBook release.

What Makes A Hero

I watched the other day as a male cardinal flew into our bird feeder, pecked at the seed and then flew up to the branch above where his female waited, and gave it to her.

That is a hero.

He put his loved one first.

Does your hero put his loved one first — especially when he hasn’t confessed yet she’s his loved one?   Does he always tell her what she doesn’t want to know (always a sure sign)?

Is he a guy who takes out the garbage without being asked, cleans the cat box, does his share of the cooking, shovels the snowed-up path to make it easier for you, makes sure you don’t trip on the curb you didn’t see, copies the NY Times crossword puzzle for you every Monday and Tuesday?

Would he do the two a.m. newborn feedings?  Carry your colicky baby around for hours?   Fix things like small electricals and minor plumbing?  Build bookcases for your ever expanding library and not complain?

Is he a problem solver?  A man of few words, a man of action?  Would he search high and low for a way to repair an almost irreparably storm damaged canoe just because you love it?

Does he have your back?  Has he seen you at your worst — and still loves you?  Is he your best friend?

Does he listen?

Does he give you space to create?

These are all the traits of my hero, and I confess, there’s a little bit of him in every male protagonist I write (don’t tell).  And he does all those small, loving things and more (except the bird part) that are much more meaningful (to me) than larger, grander gestures.

And so, reader, I married him — 46 years ago this month, and all this time later, he is still my hero, now — and forever.

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Thea Devine is the author whose books defined erotic historical romance. She’s currently working on Beyond The Night, a sequel to her June 2011 release, The Darkest Heart, to be published by Pocket Star April 2013.

Heroes We Love To Love

Thea Devine here, ruminating this week about heroes we love to love, the ones who drive us nuts, but we know we can’t have a fabulous story without them.   This is my list, in no particular order:

 The Good Guy: 

Everyone loves the good guy. He’s the renaissance man who’s just been waiting for the woman of his dreams.  Healthy childhood, no wounds, handsome, successful, willing to cook, change diapers, the best best friend when you need someone to listen.  He’s the one you lean on when your life is turned upside down;  he’s steady, gives fantastic advice, is decisive, funny, and loves his mother (always a prime point for a mother of sons).   And he’ll always fall for the woman who is in critical chaos because he’s the problem solver, the rock, the calm center, and he’ll always be the thing a woman wants most:  an anchor.

 The Bad Boy

He’s experienced, and knowing.  He’s that guy in high school that had that gleam in his eye.  He’d take one look at you, and he knew everything:  who you were, how far you’d go,  and where he’d like to take you.  He’s magnetic, a little rough, a little rakish, a leader without really wanting to lead;  strong, decisive, probably doesn’t like to talk much, especially about his feelings — but oh, man, does he ever have them.    He loves women, but no woman is ever going to tame him.  And when he falls, he takes a nosedive to eternity.

 The Wounded Hero

He’s the guy who suffers  There’s some great trauma in his past, or something in his present, something with his parents, another woman, his best friend, the war:  he is psychically damaged and  he’s not going to let any woman into his life because he can’t give her what she needs.  He’s too busy tending that crippled inner self to give anything of himself to anyone.   He doesn’t want to feel,  and he habitually picks fights, so he can chase everyone away.  He can’t share his life, can’t allow the heroine to assume his stain, his burden, his guilt.  She, of course, won’t rest till she does, so while he just wants to be off on some island, alone, nursing that part of himself that needs to be made whole, guess who’s right in the rowboat behind him?

 The Unobtainable Man

This guy seems not to like women at all.  No one gets to him.  It’s like battering at a wall.   He’s cool, logical, seemingly without emotions.  He never lets you see him sweat. He’s an island unto himself.  He’s got all the answers.  And he always reveals them first so he can cover his behind.   He doesn’t need anyone, which he won’t hesitate to tell you..  But of course, he’s the one who needs someone most of all. The heroine must storm the fortress, and if she can find his tender spot, he is hers forever.

Mr. Unflappable

Nothing rattles this guy.  He can be in the  middle of a war and crack a joke.  Nothing scares him; there’s no problem he can’t solve, no situation he can’t get out of.  He’s walking the line, but he’s got such a sense of humor and irony, nothing jolts him. He doesn’t take anything seriously, and he takes love too lightly. Forget about prising up his past. Some days the heroine can’t even get him to commit to saying hello.   He’s a pretty happy guy, probably real successful, and not in a button down kind of job;   but somewhere along the line, someone probably hurt him, so his deal is, don’t get too close too soon.  And of course, the heroine can’t get too close soon enough.

The Scoundrel

He was badly hurt by a woman sometime in his murky past.  So he loves ’em and leaves ’em, uses ’em and loses ’em.  Takes out his anger on all womenkind, especially the heroine, and particularly because she gets to him and he doesn’t want to be gotten to.  But she’s under his skin and before you know it, he’s protecting, defending and loving her, protesting his misogynist nature to the very end.

 The Outlaw

He’s been convicted of murder or some other heinous crime that he didn’t really commit.  But they’re after him.  He’s a loner.  He may be on the run. but he’s always got a reason, and it’s always plausible as hell.   He’s going to protect the woman he loves by NOT letting her into his life, and by reappearing in hers often enough to drive them both crazy.  And she can’t stay away.  Truth to tell, he doesn’t want her to, but he’ll never tell her that either.  It’s always her choice, and she believes in him in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  She’s so loyal, she’ll go on run with him, or be the first one to ferret out the clues that will vindicate him.   She knows what she’s letting herself in for — and she always believes he is worth the effort, because in the end, she will make him vulnerable — and hers.

And, isn’t that the ending we strive for, in fiction, and in life?

 

So who’s the hero you love to love? Any of these guys sound like your husband/boyfriend/significant other?  (My theory is all romance authors are married to the same man — and he’s usually an engineer or should be one.)  Any of them sound like anyone you know?

Thea Devine’s latest book, The Darkest Heart, was a June 2011 release from Gallery Books.  She’s currently at work on a sequel.