Monday, April 23, 2012

That song resonates

Have you heard a song recently that you just knew would hit the charts running? My daughter played a song for me about a month or more ago, Gotye's Somebody That I used to Know.  

At the time, I think they were known in their country but not yet International stars. Well, that song is now #1 on the charts. It's a great song and the video is equally exciting.

So - are books the same way? I mean, an author can have a ton of good books but usually, there will be one that stands out, that surpasses all others in the way readers receive it.

That's what I'm going for. I think that's what most authors are going for, to have book after book reach a level of success that basically says; wow! You've arrived.

An author can do everything right in terms of craft and still have a story that's ho-hum. Sometimes an author can have the most amazing story but somehow miss the mark with craft. Which sells more books? Dunno. But - I think you raise your chances of a great novel if you do pay attention to all the craft elements. I think it's important to revisit those sometimes so here's my checklist. Feel free to add to it.

  1. Active vs passive
  2. POV
  3. Fully developed characters who have history, ancestors, background, religion, etc
  4. Internal and external conflict for both main characters
  5. An antagonist that has redeemable qualities
  6. Chapters that end and begin with hooks.
  7. Pacing
  8. HEA (since I write romance)
  9. A powerful black moment
  10. Goals, motivation and conflict
  11. A great story
So now - I want each of my stories to resonate, to ring a chord with all my readers. It's a great wish, I think.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Onward to Alabama

I'm happy to report that my characters have left Indianola and are now in Citronelle, Alabama. I'm at 63,000 words and I'm hoping to tie up all lose ends by 80,000. Of course, now I have more research ahead of me and I'm discovering there's not as much info as I would like but I've managed to get a pretty good vision in mind for how the town was laid out. I went to every site on the web I could find.

While the majority of my story takes place in Indianola, the hero is from Beaver Meadows (also known as Beaver Mills) , now a ghost town in Alabama, but at one time Beaver Meadows was a thriving community. They supplied confederate uniforms from there. Wow, lots of history.

Of course, I'm also learning that at the time of my story, there was a lot of political upheavel in the state. The election in November of that month (about the time of my story) was rather brutal. Various factions prevented republicans from voting so the democrats would win. Not sure how I plan to weave that into the story, but ... it is a fact that I can't ignore.

I do hope to add the Surrender Oak to the story somehow. It no longer exists, having been distroyed in a 1902 hurricane, but it's a very important part of history. Speaking of trees, check out the bend on these trees. We found these in Fulton, TX along the coast and I can only assume it's due to the constant wind.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Don't forget your geography when researching

On route to our spring break vacation, hubby made an innocent comment that really got me to thinking. He said, "You know, there's only one natural lake in Texas."

How many of us who write historical romance rely on maps to help us picture the setting? I do. I try hard to look for historical maps and there are a ton out there, but often, those maps don't give me the details I'm looking for. On the other hand, I write a lot of historical western romances, most of which are set in Texas. Being a Texas resident, I assume the topography won't have changed much in 100 - 200 years. And too, being fiction, readers generally assume this as well so if you change the land to reflect what it really looked like back then, readers will sometimes argue with you. Needless, I never gave much thought to researching geography in addition to researching the history. Luckily, I don't think I've made any grave errors in the work I've done so far with regards to the evolving land, but you can rest assured I'll be including geography from now on.

As for the one natural lake in Texas, that would be Caddo Lake. An earthquake and a log jam helped create the 25,000 acre body of water. Not only is it the only natural lake in Texas, but it's the only natural lake in the south. What does this mean to authors creating settings for their historical fictions? Be sure to look at the history of the lake or river you're including in your manuscript. Due to flooding from the Brazos River, state legistlature mandated dams in the 1930s and 40s. These dams created lakes. If you're writing a historical western set along the Brazos River, make sure your characters don't encounter any lakes prior to this time.

Weather plays a part in the changing topography as well. As you know we took a trip to Indianola so I could better visualize my setting. Because of the two hurricanes (the one in 1875 and the one in 1886), the coastline if different than what my characters would have enjoyed. For one, there's less land.