Monday, November 15, 2010

How to Create Satisfying Endings or Avoiding the Paper Tiger

How to Create Satisfying Endings or Avoiding the Paper Tiger
By Alison Chambers
The Secret Sentinel Now Available from The Wild Rose Press
Go on the Treasure Hunt of a Lifetime!
5 Stars and a Top Pick Night Owl Reviews
4 Stars The Romance Studio
Watch for The Montezuma Secret Coming Soon!

Ever notice when a movie ends abruptly without a satisfactory ending, the audience groans or elicits sounds of surprise, as though they’re unhappy? Books are that way too. Have you ever finished a book and been so disappointed with the way the story ended that you slammed it shut in disgust or worse yet, threw it against the wall or into the trash?

What causes such disappointment in readers?

1. Characters act irrationally, i.e., out of character. A weak character suddenly becomes strong or vice-versa, without any explanation concerning why he or she is suddenly changing and turning into Superman or Superwoman.
Solution: Characters should have proper motivation. If a character is about to do battle with snakes in the ending and hates snakes, foreshadow that fear by mentioning it in the beginning of the book so readers know what to expect and it makes sense. If characters change, explain why they are changing throughout the book.
2. Things are tied up by coincidences, i.e. deus ex machina: “A plot development that didn’t previously exist and has no logical explanation behind it; a coincidence that is too unlikely to be believed.” The phrase comes from the Greek where the god suddenly appeared through a trap door in the stage to solve the writer’s plot problem.
Solution: If it seems too unlikely a solution, it probably is. Don’t get your characters into a situation you cannot logically get them out of. If they’re in a cave hunting treasure, don’t let them accidentally find a weapon that will allow them to escape. You don’t want readers to say: “What a lucky break!” or “I don’t buy that!”
3. Loose ends are not tied up, leaving questions in the reader’s mind. Readers are scratching their heads, asking themselves whatever happened to this or that character or subplot line.
Solution: Carefully review each scene and character to make sure everything is explained in the last few pages.
4. Paper Tigers
You think the characters are dealing with a terrible villain or problem. They are facing insurmountable odds. You can’t wait to uncover the solution in the last chapter. When you learn the problem is not as great or as dangerous as you’d feared, that’s called a paper tiger and that’s when you want to throw the book against the wall. You say to yourself: “What a let-down!” The story is forever diminished in your eyes, you feel as though you have been tricked, and you vow never to read a book by that author again.
Solution: Make sure your problem or your villain is truly dangerous, the situation is life-threatening and the stakes are high so readers are not disappointed.

And remember, romances always have a happy ending. When you bring your characters back together in the end to live happily ever after, you should have a good reason in mind. They shouldn’t reunite just for the heck of it. Again, good character motivation and logical reasoning is the key.

Let your readers close their books with a smile, satisfied they have just finished a great ride and hopefully, they will remember your name and want to read more!
You owe it to them and to yourself!

Does Romance Slow Down the Action?

Does Romance Slow Down the Action—Adventure, Danger and Romance—Maintaining A Balance
By Alison Chambers, author of The Secret Sentinel
5 Stars and a Top Pick Night Owl Reviews
Available Now from the Wild Rose Press

Writing critics often maintain that love scenes tend to slow down the action, deaden the suspense and bring the plot to a screeching halt. I disagree. Since the romance is so closely interwoven with the suspense, one offsets and complements the other. If neither story is dull, both will work well together. But it is a delicate balancing act. You are essentially telling two stories—one built on top of the other. Keep them both lively, keep the reader guessing and in love with the two principal characters. Make sure something is happening at all times and not bogged down with excessive backstory, information dumps and useless conversation.
And since even the best writing instructors suggest that the reader take a breather after a particularly gripping and suspenseful moment, what better way to do that than with a romantic scene? However, many readers of romantic suspense (and there are countless millions) contend that this type of ‘action’ is very bit as exciting as the suspense that preceded it. Often this type of scene prolongs the suspense. The readers are not only stewing about the danger the characters just faced and what will happen next, they are also wondering about the romance just beginning to ignite.
Here are a few tips for keeping the reader turning the pages to keep the adventure, danger and romance blazing hot and working:
End as many chapters as possible with a cliffhanger.
Make sure the romance as well as the suspense continue to build, always keeping the outcome in doubt.
Make the backgrounds exciting and ever-changing—the desert, the jungle, a cave, an abandoned mansion, a raging storm—the more dangerous the setting, the hotter the romance. Let the emotions explode!
Make sure the romance and the suspense are both integral to the plot, never thrown into the pot, just to make it sizzle.
When you do have a romantic scene, tease the reader, adding a little bit at a time—the classic ‘will they or won’t they?’ Remember, the romance should be shrouded in mystery too.
Keep your eye on each main character’s goal. Desire should be strong and each chapter should make the goal less attainable, not more.
The main characters should be strong and ever changing for the better as the book progresses, though this doesn’t always happen in a straight line.
Set the romantic climax against a background of danger, smack-dab in the middle of the ever-deepening puzzle, then separate the lovers afterward to create the two ultimate black moments in the reader’s mind:
How will they ever survive? (answering the suspense question)
How will they ever get back together? (answering the romantic question)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mastering the Muse at Midnight

Mastering the Muse at Midnight

Why do so many good ideas come to you to just as you're about to go to sleep or when you can't sleep? Maybe because your mind has finally begun to dlear itself of the fog that's built up during the day? At any rate, it's important not to ignore those ideas. In fact, it's vital you don't. Thinking you'll remember that great new character name in the morning or the solution to that plot point that's been baffling you just doesn't work. Like your dreams, these precious nuggets of inspiration are gone like a will-o'-the-wisp in the blink of an eye. That's why it's so important never to let any good ideas go, even if it means losing a little sleep over it. You'll thank yourself for it in the morning. Keep a pen and pad or a tape recorder near your bedside to record any moments of brilliance that come to you. For example, in "The Secret Sentinel" now available from The Wild Rose Press, I wanted the main character, Savannah Rutledge, to work in a museum and have access to a treasure map and search for the treasure. But the motivation seemed weak. It bugged me for days. How could I make this more interesting, but also more true to Savannah's character? Why would a rather shy person suddenly be daring enough to go off on a cross-country treasure hunt with a mysterious stranger? What would make her do that? Then, suddenly, when I couldn't sleep one night, it came to me. What if (the two best words for a writer's imagination) she stole the treasure map, not from the museum, but from her father, who always warned her to leave it alone? And what if, as a result of this hasty action of hers, he was killed? Here was the solution--to atone for her father's death, Savannah realizes she must seek out the treasure and find her father's murderer, no matter what dangers she would face. Here I had my motivation and my theme--atonement. When I woke up the next morning, not only did I feel refreshed, but I felt I had a lot better story than I had the day before. So don't ignore the muse at midnight. It's waiting for you! P.S., I originally wrote this at 12:30 a.m.