Writing/editing groups are really helpful for plotting your story, checking to make sure you haven't used "very" very often and catching errors like the metaphor "wobbly as a three-legged table." (Three legged tables actually don't wobble.)
But when you're mid-paragraph and have a crucial character question (especially considering the character in question is Our Hero), it is particularly helpful to have a husband with no sentiment regarding your plot.
For example, writing from Our Hero's point of view, the thought crossed my mind that when he noticed that Our Heroine's dark hair was similar to his own, he would think what lovely dark-haired babies they would have. I started to type this but stopped...something didn't feel write. Sure enough, when I consulted with the hubs, he laughed aloud. "Men never think things like that. He's probably just looking at her chest wondering how to get her in bed."
Sigh...I didn't write the bit about the dark-haired babies.
A few silken tendrils of hair had escaped their confines and lay against her cheek like a lover’s caress, tickling at her jaw line, catching at the corner of her mouth.
I love historical fiction and I love romance and I really love historical romance. And honestly, I think all great stories have an element of romance in them. Even Star Wars! In the first movie, there was that chaste kiss on the cheek from Leia to Luke...they were both kinda short, both cute. Of course we didn't know at the time they were brother and sister, but still....Then the dynamic sexual tension between Han and Leia in the second movie...well, you get my point.
So I write historical romance because you should write what you know and I know (or at least really like to learn about) the past and I love the way a well-written romance makes me feel.
But there is a world of genres out there and it is nice to challenge oneself, so on my back burner, simmering until I finish the current Regency romance I'm writing (only 22K more words to go! Any day now!) is the idea for a Steampunk novel. Action, adventure, some other ingredients I'm hoarding until the time is right. And of course, romance.
I'm rather new to the whole Steampunk thing. And honestly, I got into it for the costuming. Some friends started a CosPlay group and set as the first event a Steampunk event. Corsets, gears, top hats, goggles. I had a blast making the costumes for myself and daughter number one. Then (literally, the day before the event) daughter number two, hubby, and dad decide to join us so I whipped together three more outfits. But I digress...the point being that I love the whole mix of old and modern that Steampunk provides (Corsets and Gears!) BUT what makes a good Steampunk novel? The first one I read was...ehhh. And there was even a hint of a love interest (but guess what, only hinted at so you'd read the next book in the series. Not even a Han and Leia in the passageway of the Millenium Falcon scene!).
I went back to reading and studying historical romance and left the Steampunk idea on low. Then I saw an article on NPR by Christina Dodd listing the best romances of 2012. And guess what? There was a Steampunk romance listed! I'll tell you the title when I've finished the book. At this moment the jury (me) is still out. I'm mildly intrigued, but have yet to see sparks between the love interests. (I suppose you could track me down on Goodreads and figure it out...)
But whether or not this book turns out to go on the re-read list, I still have to figure out how to really KNOW the genre. And make it my own. Hmmm...I made need to make another costume for inspiration. The trials of being an author...
History has always fascinated me. As a young teenager, I became enthralled with Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, namely because of the fashions of the antebellum society. Who wouldn't love to wear hoop skirts and carry parasols. Several re-readings later, I knew the dates of all the major battles of the Civil War and could name half a dozen colonels and generals who were important figures.
I joined a medieval recreation group on a whim--a college friend invited me to an event and again, attracted by the thought of wearing long skirts and saying, "m'lord" when someone said, "my lady." A historical romance I read at about the same time took place in Wales around the time of Llewelyn's last rebellion. I delved into the history of England and Wales to develop my "persona" for the group, a fiesty Welshwoman of the 15th century (the century determined, of course, by the fashion of the time).
Enter Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander." Need I say more? No, I don't. Suffice it to say that that, combined with my Morrison surname led me into learning more about Scotland. (And yes, Morrison is my married name, but thanks to genealogical research, it turns out I have Morrison ancestors myself!)
The Tudor period has always fascinated me, started by, you guessed it, the costuming. I mean, have you studied the elaborate brocade/velvet/silk gowns worn by Henry VII and his fellows? Not to mention where his daughter Elizabeth took wearable art!
But long skirts and corsets aside, I've always been keen on learning just what is "period." Accuracy has always been important and part of the delightful challenge of writing, costuming, or camping as a 15th century Welshwoman (rather grateful those last days are past!).
Things get tricky in writing historical romances, however, when you want to engage a modern reader with modern sensibilities. It's all very well and good for a Tudor-era leading man to be devoted to his faith and appalled at the rather pagan leanings of our leading lady, but in trying to stay true to the mood of the times, my knight ended up coming off as a bit of an intolerant prig! (This is the one book I mentioned earlier that I've not finished--and this is a major reason why!)
Regency England with it's proper manners and fancy balls, house parties, and social rules is one of the most popular eras for historical romance. But try having two people fall in love under the strict and watchful eye of a chaperoning great aunt! Try having a young protagonist appear ravishing when as a young lady, she's largely restricted to wearing white and pale pastels. Most importunely, it is a challenge to write strong women characters and respectful male characters without having the book feel too modern. Of course there were strong women and respectful men in the 19th century, but it was a different level or manner of strength and respect than we expect now. And perhaps it's age, but I find myself less and less tolerant of simpering female characters at the same time I'm put off by female characters who act like modern big city Americans when they're supposed to be from a small town in Hampshire! What a conundrum! What a balancing act as a writer. I am confident I have not mastered said balancing act, but that's what's been weighing on my mind lately as I read and write...
I usually hate unfinished projects. Whether it's reading a book I'm not enjoying, a sewing project I've lost interest in, or a dance choreography without a deadline, I generally try to push through because you never know what gem you'll find at the end. (I mean, was it just me or the first time through, did the beginning of Outlander seem to drag a little?)
So I'm a little disgruntled that I have a half-finished manuscript that I walked away from several years ago. I liked both main characters, but about the middle of the plot, I discovered that the hero was a bit of a prig and the heroine was way too passive. Don't get me wrong, they were completely correct for their time period, but as a modern reader/writer, I didn't want my hero to judge his love interest based on religious strictures and I didn't like that my heroine was allowing herself to be pulled into sixteenth-century politics without at least voicing some opposition.
Normally I would have done a hard print (for some reason I cannot edit on a computer screen) and enlisted some hard-core re-writes. But these characters overwhelmed me. I didn't see how I could reform their personalities without reforming them. So I hit "Save" and stashed them in my generic writing folder on my desktop.
For some reason, lately I've been thinking about them... I think it was when Aunt Constance (see earlier blog post) took over in my current work that I was reminded of their intractable nature. Aunt Constance has proven to be useful in deepening the plot in which she was before only cursorily involved. And, she's been remarkably tractable ever since she established her dominance, if you will. Perhaps my Elizabethan characters will be willing to renegotiate how they come across to modern sensibilities
So I am a list addict. I make lists for the grocery store (obviously) which are on the same page right under my list of meals I intend to make that week (so I can cross-reference at the grocery store and see if I forgot anything). I make weekly to-do lists (broken down by day and with little boxes to check off...I know, I know).
On those daily lists of things to do, I include WRITE. It usually gets crossed off, though that doesn't necessarily mean it was a terribly PRODUCTIVE day.
With each successive book, I've tried to become more organized. I have lists of characters and lists of chapter summaries. Then as the writing progresses and editing commences, I start adding lists of things to add, check, or fix. So on the book I'm currently writing (Wherefore Art Thou is the working title simply because the lead character's name is Juliette. I hate coming up with titles...), why oh why didn't I include a list of what exactly each character looks like? I know I planned all that out--it must be buried in the manuscript somewhere, but suddenly I can't remember if our hero's eyes are light or dark. Pretty sure his hair is (if for no other reason than I prefer dark haired men!), but no so much on the eyes.
I think I need to design a database template for each successive book. In it I will be forced to answer questions such as height, coloring, distinguishing marks of all characters. Also immediate family, alive and deceased. That would be helpful. Also, whether or not they are allergic to peanuts. Oh wait, that's the kiddo's field trip form. Still, might come in handy for a character too.
The long and short of it is I don't think you can be too prepared when it comes to details and background material on a char
Nothing like success to motivate you to succeed, right? Saw yesterday that a prolific list creator on Amazon.com had included The King's Rebel on her list of favorite medieval romances. Duly motivated to engage in not one but two writing sessions as a result.
And was promptly caught unawares when a heretofore background character stood up and announced, "I believe I shall have a starring role for a spell!" This happens frequently--someone you think is important fades into a minor role in a book while someone else takes over. And yes, I know I'm the writer, but seriously, sometimes you just feel like a funnel for this, this Thing, which is your story/book/muse and it's best to simply sit back and watch it unfold. Besides, you can always edit later (although something tells me Aunt Constance will not be edited quietly...).
Great, all I need is one more reason to procrastinate! As if Instagram wasn't enough...