OCTOBER
THRILLER ROMANCE


10-21 Sarah Raplee – Author of “Blindsight” Psychic Agents Series, Book One

Saturday, March 17, 2012

GUEST: Paranormal Author Minette Meador- Tools forCreating a Paranormal Romance

An abbreviated approach to writing paranormal romance
NOTE: At the end of this article is a link to: An
11 PAGE LIST OF BODY CUES BY EMOTIO, A REFERENCE GUIDE TO THE HERO’S JOURNEY
, AND AN ARTICLE ON HOW YOU USE WORDS. Minnette :o)


 I.        THE ROMANTIC ARC – There is a story ARC in everything you write; whether it’s a thriller, mystery, or even a children’s book. I use a mix of the Heroes’ Journey (1) and Aristotle's tragic fall from grace for most of my books and especially for a paranormal.

a.  THE NORMAL LIFE – My depiction of the “normal life” that prefaces the story ARC of a paranormal isn’t dull. As a matter of fact, I try to portray the life of my lead characters as dramatically as possible. In Ghost of a Chance the story starts out with Keenan ogling the woman of his dreams just to be interrupted by a screaming apparition, which, for him, is also his normal life. I try to blend in the barriers right from the beginning to create mystery. In a romance ARC I think it’s important to build the “normal” romantic life from the beginning too: i.e. he sees ghosts so how can he ever hope to have a normal relationship; she has sworn off men and will never date again; she finds him annoyingly attractive, until he opens his mouth, that is; he can’t stand bossy women and this one is the worst… if only he didn’t like her so much. It makes that fateful step through the Looking Glass or crossing that first threshold an even harder step. The character has already been through a lot when I open my stories. I try to stay away from backstory as much as possible in the beginning pages. I want to portray that the normal life for this exceptional character will only become more intriguing.

b.     THE OPEN DOOR – The second part of the ARC for me is the beginning of the journey, the stepping through that forbidden door, or the change in circumstances that hurls the character into unknown territory. In a romance ARC, this could be anything out of the ordinary for my characters. In The Belle Stalker, the path opens when Belle finds her lover murdered in her apartment and her homicide detective ex-husband back in her life. In A Ghost of a Chance the road changes when Keenan is seduced by a powerful spirit that changes his life forever. Every story has this dramatic change of life circumstances and I try to make them powerful enough to turn the characters onto different paths way beyond their comfort zones.

c.   THE FALL FROM GRACE – some people don’t use this step in the story, but I love it. Human beings are flawed, awkward, crazy, argumentative, docile, and have many imperfections that make them ultimately fascinating. Even a hero has bouts of nerves, kind people sometime hiss with the best of them, smart people go suddenly stupid in the most dire of situations, and evil people can even show compassion. I build in a fall from grace for my characters; in the paranormal ARC this might mean something like turning into a coward at the threshold of disaster to save your own skin; walking away from responsibility when others are counting on you. The lower they go the more glorious the black moment and the resolution.

d.   MAKE IS WORSER – I have a wonderful editor, who would tell me to make it worser, i.e. make it bad, then go one further and make it worse… then make it worser. That piece of advice has always helped me. I torture my poor characters mercilessly. It makes for good reading every time.

e.    THE BLACK MOMENT – Donald Maase teaches this about the black moment:

                      i.      Work out the one thing your character would never do, then make him/her do it.
                      ii.     Work out the one thing your character would never sacrifice, then make him/her sacrifice it.
                     iii.     Work out your character’s greatest fear then make him/her face that.

f.    THE RESURRECTION – This is the shining moment of the ARC, the place where he executes the daring rescue despite his fears, the resounding revelation that they do love each other, or the all-encompassing realization that what you wanted all along was right in front of you. This works for the paranormal ARC as it does for any genre.

g.   THE JOURNEY HOME – This is the part that wraps up the story and takes the character “home,” wherever that might be.

            II.  GOALS, MOTIVATIONS, AND CONFLICTS – A great book on GMC is Goal, Motivation, & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction by Debra Dixon. This is an amazing book about building substance into your heroes, heroines, and bad guys to make them more three dimensional. I do GMC for every major character in my book and even for secondary ones if it’s needed. I also do an extensive character survey sheet for each one to tell me all about them. In a nutshell:

a.   What: The ideal scene – What does the character want more than anything else? Note: It is NOT to fall in love. Romance is usually the LAST thing a character wants and it messes up everything every time. What is your protagonist’s goal? What is your antagonist’s goal?

b.   Why: What is his motivation?  Why does he want this goal? Because… The motivation is what drives characters and sets up the foundation for the novel. It also what keeps it moving forward. Think of a motivation your character has.

c.   Why not? Who or what stands in our way?
                      i.      Definition of conflict*:
1.     Conflict is a struggle against someone or something in which the outcome is in doubt.
2.     Conflict is bad things happening to good people.
3.     Conflict is bad things happening to bad people.
4.     Conflict is friction, tension, opposition… and danger.
5.     Conflict is two dogs and one bone.
*Goals, Motivation & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction by Debra Dixon

d.    THE WIZARD OF OZ:
                    i.      WHO – DOROTHY
                    ii.      WHAT/GOAL – TO GET BACK TO KANSAS
                    iii.      WHY/MOTIVATION – BECAUSE HER AUNTIE EM IS SICK
                    iv.      WHY NOT/CONFLICT – THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST   WHO WANTS THE RUBY SLIPPERS
        III.    LAYERING IN THE ROMANCE
I’m a big fan of writing the story down as quickly as possible and then layering in the “details”: Descriptions, pacing, backstory, dialogue, emotions, reactions, timelines, and loose ends/plot problems. Here is what I do with three of these elements:

a.   The backstory – I try to work in as little back story as I can in the beginning of the book and reserve it for the “quiet” times. I try to build it into dialogue first and then in reflections. This for me is one of the hardest things to do because you don’t want to just do a “data dump” to your readers. It pulls them out of the story and usually causes page skipping. I’ve seen it myself in books by some of the best authors in the world. The backstory needs to come out naturally, a bit at a time, leaving a mystery after each bite to move the reader forward in the story. I try very hard never to give them all the story until the very end.

b.   Dialogue – This should be a natural result of relationship building. Sometimes just throwing two people together where they have to stay that way will generate dialogue. I try to make my dialogue short, sweet, and pithy wherever I can, however, I also have my characters tell their own stories as well. It’s usually more interesting coming from them than it is from me. I’m notorious for the “story within a story” using flashbacks that are usually funny and hopefully always interesting. Romance dialogue is used to learn about each other; think of a time when you went on a date. What was your conversation like? Have the characters ask questions, get into a tiff where something comes out that shouldn’t have, come up with a solution to a problem based on past experience that the other person didn’t know about. You can weave this all into your story to bulk it up. 

c.   The quiet moments - If you have no quiet times you are going to exhaust your reader – everyone needs a breather, including your characters. It is during these quiet moments that we learn all the good, bad, and ugly things about our characters, heroes and villains. As a musician I learned a lot about silence and its importance to music. It is the pauses as much as the crescendos that define the emotion of music. It’s the same with writing; the quiet and even silent times in the story builds a foundation for the tension and movement and make them more real. Just as life breathes in and out, so does a story. Even the most thrilling of suspense novels have their quiet times. The trick is learning to balance the two. 

 
            IV.  LAST NOTES:
a.   If you want to write well, read well.
b.   Study and practice your craft. No one lives in a vacuum. Learn from as many other writers as you can.
c.   Romance can be as subtle as a stolen kiss and as grand as an elaborate marriage. Let your characters be frightened, unsure, clumsy, and doubtful. In matters of love, we’re all like that no matter how we act on the outside. The only other occupation we know less about is being a parent. That is true for your characters as well.
d.   Even the most macho man in the world can be brought down by the flash of a lovely eye.
e.   Even the most steadfast liberated woman can melt into the arms of a lover who truly cherishes her.
f.    Romance can add warmth and passion to any story, even the dourest ones. We often cling to love when all else fails. And it is usually love that sees us through the worst life can throw at us.

WHERE TO FIND THE ENTIRE ARTICLE WITH HANDOUTS INCLUDING AN 11 PAGE LIST OF BODY CUES BY EMOTION, A REFERENCE GUIDE TO THE HERO’S JOURNEY, AND AN ARTICLE ON HOW YOU USE WORDS:
Creating Fiction: Tools, Tricks, and Tips
Includes body cues by emotion, The Hero's Journey, and 
It’s Not What You Say; It’s How You Say It
 
 © 2012 Minette Meador ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Visit Minette at
and  her blog, World Weaver

6 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

First off, thank you for guesting here at RTG, Minette!

Your article is chock-full of information and tools for writers interested in the paranormal romance genre. Thank you for sharing this detailed information.

What is your next book going to be about? Will it be a stand-alone book or a sequel?

Minnette Meador said...

Thanks! I was delighted to find a venue for this article where I could share some of these wonderful tools with everyone. I'm working on the next book in the Ghost series which is scheduled to release next fall. In fact, I'm studying Dante's nine circles of hell right now... writing always takes you to such amazing places. Thanks again for inviting me! Minnette :o)

Judith Ashley said...

All I can say, Minette is "WOW!!"
What a treasure-trove you've shared with us at Romancing The Genres.

I love IV. Last Notes: f. How true!

Sarah Raplee said...

Yes, writing does take us to interesting places! LOL

Looking forward to your next book!

Minnette Meador said...

Thanks, Judith - I love to share these things when I get them. Yes, "f" is very true... I've lived it many times in my life.

Thanks, Sarah... me too - now all I have to do is get it written! LOL

Christy Carlyle said...

Hi Minette,
I'm a bit late in adding a comment, but I just had to chime in and say thank you for posting this. It's immediately helpful to me as a writer and I've already printed it off and am using it to create some outline worksheets for my current WIP.

You've provided a fantastic resource here and explained it with perfect clarity.

Thank you!