Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When a 'Meet Cute' Becomes 'Meet Am I being stalked'?

Writing the random meeting of two characters that you know are going to have romantic or friendship relationship is one of my favourite parts of being a writer. Whether it’s the love interest of the MC, or their future best friend, the Meet Cute is so much fun to create!

However, recently I realised how important it is to step outside of the fact that you, as the author, know these two characters are destined to spend a lot of time together. Instead, get into their heads during that first meeting. For example, when revising the love interests’ first meeting in my WIP a few months ago, I revelled in their witty banter and loved making both characters’ personalities shine through so that they could see they were meant to be. It wasn’t until I reread it, getting into my characters’ heads at that particular point in the story (rather than my own head which knows them inside-out), that I realised…


My poor characters were simply trying too hard. Realistically, when you meet someone for the first time, you aren’t that invested. Yes, I believe in instant attraction, and you can want someone to like you straight away, but ultimately, if you’re going about your daily business and strike up an unexpected conversation, you aren’t going delve into straight-up teasing/banter/surprising that person with your one-of-a-kind personality. In fact, if someone starting taking the mick out of me within seconds of first meeting, I’d probably think they were an idiot, and not in a ‘hate-to-love’ type of way, just a ‘leave me alone’ kind of way.

Of course, if you want your characters to find each other annoying then it’s perfect! A person who is initially annoying to your MC can grow into something else (and it’s SO much fun to watch that happening!). But my point is if you’re trying to give your characters an instant spark, then sometimes you have to forget that you already know they’re going to become friends or lovers. Imagine the situation as though the interest were any Tom, Dick or Harry and ask yourself, WHY is my MC continuing this interaction? WHY is the friend/love interest continuing this conversation? Have they got a super friendly personality and talk to anyone? Or are they singling your main character out (if so, why? And is that a bit creepy? Are they just hanging around waiting to meet your MC?)

These are all questions that I ask myself when I write character meetings. Of course, fiction isn’t an exact reflection of real life, and so it’s OK to keep your characters talking when in reality your MC might have walked out of that coffee shop checking their bag for stolen items. Simply take a moment to get into your MC and romantic/friendship interests’ heads and ask yourself why they’re still chatting. If you know that, then the Meet Cute will stay cute!

Monday, February 20, 2017

#PitchMadness - I want you to woo me!

There is no doubt about it - I love pitch contests. And my two favourite are definitely Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness, which I am both involved in.

And Pitch Madness is about to start! You'll find me as the leader of Team Liquorice Castle, waiting impatiently for your pitches, along with my cohost, Jeyn Roberts, and our readers Heather Bryant and Laura Brown.

What would I love to have on my team this year? Well, at the moment it's totally up for grabs! Woo me with your wonderful words.

There is no doubt I'm a fan of weird. I adore unusual stories, especially those that come under the speculative fiction umbrella. SciFi and Fantasy are my jam. I love underrepresented voices in fiction, and there's bonus points for Own Voices. Geek is a family past-time so anything to go with gaming, cosplay, comic lovers and the like could make me swoon. Topics that are dear to my heart at the moment include women's rights, refugees, mental health, hidden conditions (such as epilepsy) and family. I'd also like to see some non-conventional settings (outside of the US/UK).

Here's some #MSWL inspired topics that also tickle my fancy:

  • A villain MC. 
  • Space Opera
  • Activists/protest kids - in YA or MG
  • YA Mystery
  • Gender-flipped League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Historical female superheroes...time travel optional). 
  • Spies
  • Anything with dialogue that rivals Buffy!
  • Cowboys from a wild west that isn't in the US.
  • YA X-Files
  • Under utilised historical figures in retellings/reimaginings
  • Bookstore romance
  • Literary Horror (Think Stranger Things)
  • Intergalactic refugees (Think Titan A.E.)
  • Ancient underused folklore
If you're thinking about entering, you can find deets here, and the agents participating here

I hope you see you in the slush. Make me fall in love with your pitch and your opening words, and you just might end up on my team. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Normal Love

The month of love is nearly over. Whether it was great, or you just curled up in bed and waited out the baby with the bow and arrow, congratulations, you’ve survived another Valentine’s Day!
In writing YA it’s easy to believe that every date is a make or break moment for your life. This boy is the one! This date is the start of something amazing (or, depending on the genre you’re working in, how a serial killer chooses you as his next victim)!
Sometimes I worry that the literary community is setting the world’s youth up for disappointment. In all likelihood, that date is just going to be a date. Hopefully it won’t be terrible. If it is terrible, maybe you’ll at least get a good story out of it. Maybe you’ll have a second date, maybe you’ll stay together for a while, but in all likelihood, it’ll just be a date. Telling stories that promise breathtaking romance seems like a cruel lie when the beginning of Bridget Jones is more likely to be the truth.
In an age where social media gives us polished looks into people’s lives, it’s easy to think that being swept off your feet by the perfect partner happens once a week, lavish bouquets are standard practice for Tuesday breakfast, and if a relationship does end, it will be in utter tragedy. It’s all either perfection or disastrous. It’s what we see in storytelling and online.
How do we normalize…normal? It wouldn’t make a good book. A long string of average dates with a side of being ghosted rather than dumped. I don’t know how many people would want to read a whole book about having nothing to say when someone flirts with you.
So then what? If the author platform won’t work, then perhaps we should rely on the storytelling of those around us.
My Valentine’s Day consisted of brunch with my husband and a ten hour rehearsal. There were no rose petals or drama involved. But that’s okay. That’s how life should be. It might not be a great book, but it is a great day.

So how was your normal, non-literary Valentine’s Day?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

ABC's Revenge Taught Me How To Write An Ambiguous Romance

It might seem strange to realize this, but television and literature overlap despite being different mediums. One common element is romance. People will always love shipping (rooting for a couple) regardless of whether the couple is from a book or television show. Shipping isn’t silly because it’s the sports equivalent of fantasy football. One type of element related to romance is a love triangle. Common examples are Team Edward and Team Jacob in Twilight and Stelena versus Delena in The Vampire Diaries. However, there’s another complicated love situation people might not be aware of. It’s called a love square (or love rhombus). The former ABC television show Revenge made the concept of a love square famous because Emily (real Amanda Clarke) had three suitors (Daniel, Jack, and Aiden). But for today’s post, I’m going to talk about Emily and Daniel’s complicated relationship. Daniel and Emily’s romantic entanglement is a good writing teaching tool for illustrating how love is not always a binary.

Revenge starts season one with Emily pursuing Daniel Grayson so she can get revenge on his parents (Victoria and Conrad Grayson, and other elite Hamptons people) because they framed her father (David Clarke) for terrorism. Daniel therefore grants Emily access to Victoria and Conrad. However, the relationship isn’t black and white. Emily is the one who pushes her and Daniel to sleep together for the first time without hesitation. She also stands by Daniel during his murder trial-even though that postpones her revenge mission by making it take a back seat. She also accepts Daniel’s proposal despite how he’s the enemy’s son (a fake relationship is one thing, but an engagement complicates things).

The ambiguity festers in Season 2. Daniel and Emily are initially broken up. But she gives him advice on how to deal with his mother in addition to telling him how he can still be a good person and not be like his parents when they dance at Victoria and Conrad’s second wedding. Emily even tells Aiden that Daniel isn’t a joke after Aiden mocks Daniel (when Aiden and Emily have wine after Victoria and Conrad’s wedding). Emily admits Daniel is a casualty in her revenge. Doubt is clearly present because Emily has no reason to defend Daniel in that instance since Daniel isn’t there. Emily also fantasizes about Daniel when she’s really with Aiden while still trying to court Daniel for a second time. Emily even breaks up with Aiden just to court Daniel again, and flashes a nervous smile while saying, “please” when Daniel mentions he’s thankful for a second chance. Emily ultimately allows herself to become engaged to Daniel for a second time. Furthermore, she prioritizes talking to Daniel over Aiden when she is frustrated with Aiden at one point.

Season 3 doesn’t contain much ambiguity apart from Emily putting her relationship with Aiden even more on the back burner because she needs to see her engagement to Daniel through. Emily’s revenge is contingent on framing Victoria for her murder on her wedding night. The Emily and Daniel situation is more complex than her simply using him. Putting Aiden on the back burner is inconsiderate if her feelings for Aiden are 100 percent genuine. As a result, Emily will never be able to have an honest relationship with anyone while she pursues her revenge.

Season 4 is the payoff Revenge fans deserve. Daniel learns Emily is really Amanda Clarke. Daniel isn’t mad at how Emily treated him now that he knows she schemed because of being David Clarke’s daughter; not a shallow socialite. Daniel even looks at his laptop again at a photo of him and Emily like he does in Season 2 right before he likes her again. Emily admits there was a time when she and Daniel could have had a real relationship (in front of Daniel). Victoria also reveals she didn’t tell Daniel the truth after she learned Emily’s real identity because she was afraid he would side with Emily. Daniel even asks Emily about how she can’t say that she wasn’t in the moment with him when he proposed. Emily also pats Daniel on the shoulder in a subsequent episode when they talk. Additionally, Emily later says, “I’m not in the mood to do whatever it is we’ve been doing” to Daniel in Season 4 Episode 9. That’s yet another moment showing how there’s a spark between Daniel and Emily. But then Daniel dies in Season 4 Episode 10 when he takes a bullet for Emily. Emily holds Daniel in her arms while sighing before admitting it wasn’t all a lie with him.

Bingo. A direct admission on Emily’s part. Emily even admits she knew marrying him was wrong, yet she did it anyway in Episode 4x11 in addition to thinking back about a fun memory with Daniel and being furious when Victoria won’t let her go to the funeral. Emily wouldn’t have been furious if she felt nothing for Daniel. Emily also admits how too much blood has been shed (including Daniel’s) and is furious again when confronting Victoria about how she accidently set Daniel’s death in motion by meddling. Emily also subsequently reveals how she never wanted any of this (his death) to happen to Daniel.

Emily and Daniel should have been endgame because she always disrespected Aiden by not prioritizing him in addition to how she had ZERO chemistry with Jack.

Anyway, thank you for following my analysis. The point is, Emily and Daniel’s relationship is a powerful learning tool. Their dynamic informs my own writing by highlighting ambiguity. Ambiguity is necessary because life isn’t always black and white (side note: the Revenge Wiki page dedicated to Emily and Daniel’s relationship even concedes how it is unknown if she is in a relationship with Daniel out of genuine affection, just for her revenge, or if the truth is somewhere in the middle). Ambiguity makes Revenge richer because it would be so easy if Emily felt nothing towards Daniel or if they didn’t get closure in Season 4 with their interactions). But Revenge doesn’t take the easy way out. Writers can learn from Revenge even if they aren’t writing about love triangles/squares, or revenge schemes. Ambiguity is real because people often have contradictory emotions. For example, it’s possible to both hate and love someone at the same time. Ambiguity also creates clarity despite how the idea might seem nonsensical. For example, it is the ambiguity in Revenge that gives the show clarity because the confusion between Daniel and Emily exists in actual spoken words as opposed to subtext.

And to all my fellow writers out there, don’t be afraid to add ambiguity to your writing. I know I will.