A TeePee and a Wigwam

You’ve probably heard the old joke:

A guy goes to a doctor and says, “I keep having the same dreams. First I’m a teepee, then I’m a wigwam. What does it mean, doc?”

The doctor says, “You’re two tents.”

Yeah, I know. Groans everywhere. Especially since I’m writing about a whole different tense today.

Present tense. In fiction. It drives me nuts.

(It especially drives me nuts in a first-person narrative, but that’s a whole other blog. Last week’s, in fact.)

You’ve seen it:

He gets out of the car and looks around. No one’s out on the street–no cars, no pedestrians hurrying down the sidewalk. Except for the dog who’s trailing a scent into the alley, he’s alone. He walks into the store and the bell rings. It takes a while for the clerk to appear. “What can I help you with?” she asks.

I’ll tell stories in person in present tense, but it just strikes me as so, so wrong for books. I might just be old-fashioned or old-school or old-something, but to me, a story at its very base is a telling of something that happened. Happened, not happening as it’s told. And I want it told in past-tense. I’ve never read a present-tense book that I didn’t sincerely think suffered for the method of its telling.

Though, truth be told, I never finished a present-tense book.

Do you like it, hate it, don’t care as long as the story interests you?

 

 

Countdown to Halloween

It’s almost Halloween. Are you ready? Got that candy bowl filled and waiting for all of the little ghouls & goblins to arrive? Do you get into the spirit and dress up to answer the door?

I used to do that…when we lived in a neighborhood where there were lots of kids coming by. Had a blast putting on a long black dress, turning out all the lights in the living room with just a large candle lighting the entryway and spooky sounds coming from the stereo in the background. The kids loved it! But that was decades ago and we now live just far enough out that no one comes to our door. Kinda sad, too and I miss it.

We don’t decorate our home anymore, either. We loved to carve pumpkins and have various Halloween decorations scattered throughout the house. In fact, I think my hubby likes Halloween better than Christmas. Go figure. Maybe I should get rid of those decorations because they’re only taking up closet space. OR, maybe I should drag them out again…just to surprise him. What do you think? 😉

I know a lot of the malls and church’s now have events for the kids. My church holds a pot luck dinner, then a trunk-or-treat for the kids. The parents know it’s safe and the kids still have fun. There are some people out there who enjoy (for some sick reason) hurting kids. I’ve never understood that. If you don’t want to give out candy, or can’t, then turn your porch light off. No one wants their children going to a dark house and they’ll leave you alone. Honest.

So to all those taking your children Trick-Or-Treating, pick a safe neighborhood or party. To the non trick-or-treaters who still love to get dressed up and celebrate, enjoy the parties. Oh, and if you could take pictures and share, I’d love to see them. ♥

Its still monday…

Right? 10:45 PM counts. I honestly haven’t been aware of what day it is for the past few weeks. Homecoming (GO POKES) was crazy. And then there is Iba Hall’s haunted house….

I spent the night covered in fake blood, laying in the basement floor screaming at the top of my lungs. I felt like I was a stand in for Carrie. My mother would be proud.

I also have been up since 5:00 AM, and breathed in way too much from the fog machine.

My insides hurt. It was a productive day.

Yeah.

Wish my mom happy birthday on wednesday; Happy Halloween!

 

YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GONNA LEARN!

Last week, one of my fellow Smart Women, wrote about going to visit a plantation that would be perfect for a setting of a book. She was right. This past week, I’ve been reading books by English author, Betty Neels. I love reading books set in England, historical or contemporary, or books written by English authors.

One of the fun things of reading authors from other countries is how they use words common for that country’s readers, but may be unknown to American readers. I often look up these words, just to see what they are, so for fun, I thought I would tell you some of those words.

Airing Cupboard: this is generally a closet, often a walk-in, built around the hot water heater or central heater and with shelves for keeping linens damp-free.

Gentleman’s Relish: an anchovy paste served on toast at tea time. I really thought this sounded yummy until I realized what was the main ingredient.

Harpic: You know how American books might mention a brand name product. This is a brand name for a toilet cleaner, around in England since 1929,

Toad-in-the-hole: believe it or not, this is a dish. Sounds grim, doesn’t it? But it’s basically browned sausage links baked in a flour-egg batter. A fast and simple dish.

Beans on toast: and this is just what it says…beans on toast. In 1886, Heinz Baked Beans hit the English as an exotic food item. Exotic enough to be considered breakfast food along with kippers and rashers of bacon. The beans in tomato sauce a literally spread on toast. Even today, they are considered a cheap protein food and as many as 2.3 million Brits eat this daily. One interesting note, in World War II, the single piece of pork in each can was removed due to rationing and was never returned to the Heinz sold in England.

Now, wasn’t that entertaining? Just goes to show, you never know what you’re going to learn when you read. Especially if you go that extra mile and look up the people, places, or words that intrigue you.

♪♫ Tell Me a Story ♪♫

An engraving from the Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor.

An engraving from the Cyclopedia of Wit and Humor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

♫♪ Tell me a story

Tell me a story

Tell me a story, before I go to bed.

You said you would, You promised you would,

You said you would, if I’d be good!

So tell me a stor-ry before I go to bed. ♫♪

If you want the REAL words and tune, you can go here. Mama must have changed the words a little to fit our situation. And she only sang the chorus–the best part. 😉

Some of my earliest memories are stories Mama told. She often changed the story to make it easier for little ears to hear.

My favorite story for a long time was Little Red Riding Hood. When Mom told me the story, she said the big bad wolf raced ahead to Grandmother’s house and locked the grandmother in the closet. When I got a year or two older, I heard someone else tell the story or maybe they read it.

In that version of the story, when BBW got to Grandmother’s, he didn’t just lock her up, he ate her up! What’s up with that? I wondered.

So I asked Mom about it. “Why do they tell the story wrong?”

She shook her head. “They don’t tell it wrong. I changed it for you.”

“Why’d you do that?” I felt really silly, not knowing how a story as elementary as LRRH really went.

“Because when I told you the part about the Grandmother getting eaten up, it made you cry.”

Mom wasn’t the first one to change that story. There are a ton of versions. One, called Red Cap, was adapted by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

So if you’re studied very much about writing, you know there are only so many plot scenarios in the world.

According to Lori L. Lake,

The bare bones plot of Romance looks like this: boy/girl meets boy/girl; conflicts arise; something or someone is lost; conflicts are dealt with; boy/girl finally gets either the object of his/her affection or someone better. Within that plot construct, there are at least a dozen scenarios such as the following.

ROMANCE PLOT SCENARIOS

  • Amnesia – One character helps (or takes advantage of) the other who has lost his or her memory.
  • Beauty and the Beast – One of the characters is marred or scarred—usually physically, but sometimes emotionally.
  • Cinderella – A classic plot where the protagonist (male or female) goes from rags-to-riches and wins a Prince/Princess after experiencing deprivation and want.
  • Class Differences – One is in a different class or world than the other. Doesn’t have to be monetary—could be due to education, lifestyle, or work. 
  • Family Feud – Two characters are interested in one another, but their separate worlds seem closed because of family hatreds and misunderstandings.
  • Good/Bad Dynamics – Character #1 is desperately in need of redemption, and Character #2, who is clean-cut and straitlaced, is amazed to find him/herself attracted to and interested in the “Bad” Boy or Girl. Another version of this is that Character #1 is somehow kinky or kooky and drives the clean-cut Character #2 to distraction, but between the two of them, they find a way to bridge their differences.
  • Homebody v. Adventurer – The characters have opposing traits. Which one will change in order to preserve their love? Another variation on the theme is City Mouse v. Country Mouse.
  • Kidnapping – One character is kidnapped.  The other character may be the kidnapper, a helper, a detective, bystander, or someone else.
  • Lost/Snowbound/Stranded –Two characters who were formerly not interested in one another—perhaps didn’t even like one another—are thrown together in solitary, forced intimacy complete with pitfalls and danger. They learn to get along and, surprisingly, grow in respect and caring. 
  • Mistaken Identity – One character isn’t who the other thinks he or she is. 
  • Secret – One character has a secret that must not be revealed or all love could be lost. This works well with coming out stories, too.
  • Unknown Baby – One character has a baby, but the father never knew. At a later time, the father and mother meet again, with him still not knowing the baby is his.

If there are only three or seven or twenty story scenarios, why isn’t one book exactly like the next?

Okay, Red Riding Hood isn’t a romance. It’s a fairy tale. But my point with Red and Wolfie is that even with all those people writing same story line and working independently (or not so independently) they ended up with completely different tales. The same way romance writers, using the same romance plot lines, end up with completely different books.

Back to my favorite childhood fairy tale. If I were writing it, I’d call it The Wolf and the Hood–and in my version, Red, without the help of the woodsman, would rescue Granny and kick Big Bad’s tail.

But then, that’s just me.

How would you pen it?      

SHE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ RULES

As writers, we’re told there are certain rules we have to follow: don’t use passive voice, show don’t tell, make your characters likeable, don’t overwhelm your readers with large numbers of secondary characters, don’t use flashbacks…

Marilyn Pappano says there are no rules.  However, if you’re going to break the rules, do it well. I recently I started reading books (six so far) by an author who breaks all the rules. And it clearly works for her since she’s a multi-published author who was first published in the early 1980s.

She uses passive voice. She often tells instead of showing.  She uses flashbacks. Actually, I think she’s the Queen of Flashbacks. She may have invented them. Her books are full of secondary characters, sometimes as many as eight to ten.

What makes her novels pop are her intriguing plots and her incredibly human, unlikeable, but real characters.  Each book has a mystery in the past (an unsolved murder or an unexplained disappearance) that seems unrelated to the events taking place in the present. Oh, but they are inextricably linked, and it’s the twists and turns that are both plausible and believable that leave me thinking, Wow! I didn’t see that coming. That’s part of what keeps me turning the page.

Oddly, her characters are not likeable—at least not in the beginning. Ah, but talk about character arc! Her guys and gals go through some amazing growth.  In one book, the hero is still reeling from the sudden death of his first love.  She committed suicide after he ended their relationship. He broke it off with her because he discovered they were brother and sister. I know ick, right? Except, neither of them knew they were siblings. (Different mothers who didn’t know each other. Same jerk sperm donor man slut). So the hero falls for another woman…a nun. (don’t worry all they do is kiss). In the end, she remains in her convent and he decides to seek some counseling for why he always falls for the women he can’t have. Remember romance doesn’t have to have a HEA, just a satisfactory ending. And while here on this blog it might now sound that wonderful or romantic, this author is masterful at moving this poor guy through his character arc in such a way that as a reader, I was pulling for him, and in the end, I understood him, and liked him.

All in all, I think that is why I’ve enjoyed her books so much. It’s like being the fly on the wall in some psychologist’s office. These folks are ordinary humans, with extra-ordinary flaws, searching for meaning in their lives…and someone to love.  By breaking the rules, this author shows there’s a HEA out there for everyone if they just keep looking.

Changing My Mind

Rarely when I like something do I change my mind about it, but the time has come.

I’ve always been a big fan of first-person point of view in romance novels. I like the voice that shines through in a way that’s impossible with third-person POV. I like the humor and the way we really get to slide inside the character’s skin with her.

Or, I should say, I liked those things.

After reading a slew of first-person POV books in a row, I’ve realized that a rule of life in general applies to books, too: not every thought a person has is worth voicing. It’s perfectly all right to keep some thoughts private. And not every comment has to be snarky.

Maybe I’m just on first-person overload right now. Or maybe it’s that these particular characters whose heads I’ve been living in, frankly, aren’t that interesting. Certainly in one case, she and I don’t share the same sense of humor. While she carries on at length with her hilarious-to-her internal monologue, I’m hitting page-forward button as fast as my callused thumb can move.

But I think what I’ve outgrown about first-person pov in romance novels is the one-sidedness of it. If the hero is truly a hero, I want to get to know him. I want to spend time with him. I want to see what he thinks and how he feels about his heroine and everything else in his life. I want balance and perspective and knowledge, and a first-person pov book just doesn’t give you that.

Now, I’m still fine with first-person in other genres. It works great in mystery and elsewhere, but we don’t have the same emotional stake in a mystery or adventure or horror that we have in a romance novel. But if you want me to fall in love with your hero and your heroine, give me both their points of view. I’ll be a happy camper.