Monday, November 18, 2013

Hook Me!

First lines are so important!

There are so many great examples of great first lines - one of my favourites is It was a pleasure to burn from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Love its simplicity and how much it tells of the story without being complex or bogging me down.

Styles change and currently it seems popular first lines are fairly short. The main character is often involved. There's usually something intriguing or unique to pull you in. Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book begins There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. No main character but it is pure Awesome! My MG & YA readers gobble it up!

One of my favourite all time books is Anne of Green Gables. It was written in 1908 and the styles were definitely different. The first line is over 100 words long, doesn't mention the main character (I don't think Anne shows up until Chapter 2) and includes 3 semi-colons. Most agents and readers today would pass it right by!

I'm getting better at writing those first lines. Like many other writers, I revise that first line and scene many times before I'm satisfied. And then I do it some more.

How about you, do you have any favourite first lines? Do you find them easy to write?

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about first lines in a query - how do you hook that agent??? I hope you'll pop over and join the discussion!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Romantic Tension in Whiskey & Gumdrops

It's here!!!!

I'm SO excited - my crit buddy Jean Oram is releasing the 2nd book in her Blueberry Springs romance series today! It's called Whiskey & Gumdrops and it's a companion book to her first release Champagne & Lemon Drops (a fantastic FREE read!).

Here's Jean herself to talk about Developing Romantic Tension in Whiskey and Gumdrops

I decided while writing my latest book, Whiskey and Gumdrops {LINK}, that I needed some significant romantic tension between the hero and heroine. But how could I do that when they don't even 'get together' in the book in an x-rated way? How could I give them a few kisses, but not let them get together? How could I keep them battling each other but not let the heroine give in until the end of the book? (Oh damn, that was a spoiler, wasn't it? Oh, let's face it. It's a romance! You know they're going to get together!)

First of all, I had to give them history. They'd dated in the past but had been 'just friends' for eons.

Then I had to give them different wants. Mandy wanted to remain friends and Frankie wanted them to get together.

But I had to give Mandy a good reason why she thought she shouldn't get together with Frankie. Give her some legit fears that had nothing to do with him, but everything to do with herself. You don't want the issues to be about him so much because it is easy to muddy the waters and water down your conflict. (Plus make the reader think she should move on to someone else and you don't want that!) So, she can blame him, but it has to be obvious to the reader that it is about her--not his flaws.

Then the fun part--letting her get over those fears! For Whiskey and Gumdrops, I tied it into Mandy's growth arc and the plot. So, in order to get what she wants--to be someone in the small town of Blueberry Springs--she has to figure out her fears and overcome them. In overcoming them, she is able to open her eyes to the man who has been waiting in front of her for years.

And I needed something to instigate it all. So, in goes one marrying ex-boyfriend. Instant ka-pow to her gut, forcing her to see that she needs to make a change and setting the story in motion.

Now… about that tension. I made these two friends (Mandy and Frankie) argue here and there. But when they were arguing, they were also really arguing about something else. About Mandy's fears. About Frankie's wants. Here's a little sneak peek:

“I won’t take that kind of risk with your money, Frankie.”
“What? I’m not good enough?” He thrust his shoulders forward. “You have to do everything on your own?”
“Look.” Her hands clenched into tight bundles by her side. “I’m not willing to ruin our friendship. I’ll happily be a waitress forever if it means keeping you as a friend. I’d rather do anything than hurt you.”
“Too late on that one,” he muttered.
Mandy’s eyelids flicked closed and she fought for control. “Frankie…”
“Why won’t you accept my help, Mandy? Why won’t you accept me?”
“Because—” she opened her eyes and gripped his face, staring him in the eye, needing him to understand “—you’re the one thing I can’t afford to lose.”

As you can see in the above bit we've got Mandy saying she won't take his money in order to pursue her dream and Frankie taking it as a personal rejection of his overtures. She wants a friendship. He wants more. They are at odds which creates tension. Especially if you add in bits like so where the character struggles internally:
Was it just her or was he brushing against her intentionally as he moused around her website?
Stop it! Just stop it, brain! He’s off limits! Just because you’re excited about the restaurant, don’t go projecting it onto him and his heavenly body.
She turned to face Frankie, pushing her chair away when his proximity threw her off again. His lips were much too close to hers if she wanted to avoid grabbing him and shoving herself into his lap. Her mouth was hungry for more of him than was right to want from a friend.
“He, um…they...” Damn. Look away from his lips. Be strong. He’s waiting for you to make the next move and you will not make it! Do you understand? And while you're at it, breathe, dammit. 

Can you see the tension? If you have those elements--fears (or a character's fatal flaw) working against what they want and the character's at odds with each other in terms of wants, you've got a great starting point for creating romantic tension.
You can get your copy of Whiskey and Gumdrops and enjoy the full version of Mandy and Frankies' romantic tension for only $2.99! Amazon  Smashwords  

You can find Jean here:
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Thanks Jean - I'm still struggling with adding tension of all kinds in my stories, so I appreciate the tips!

How about you - do you find it easy to add tension to your stories?