Month: March 2018

Avoiding Stage Directions

Avoiding Stage Directions

In novels, “stage directions” are sections where the author begins listing a character’s visible actions without giving the thoughts or feelings associated with them. As a result, the reader is bombarded with useless information, unable to discern which actions are meaningful.

Scene and Sequel: Making them work together

Scene and Sequel: Making them work together

“Scene and sequel” doesn’t have to be mysterious writer talk. This simple formula will help you create the lean exciting plotlines readers crave. By mastering this technique, you can cut out all the dead weight and unlock your story’s true potential.

A Twist of Wyrd Author Interview

A Twist of Wyrd Author Interview

Author Interview with P.J. Friel

P.J. Friel, author and victim of The Manuscript Shredder, is releasing her debut Paranormal Romance, A Twist of Wyrd, today. This book is a sexy romp filled with supernatural races we don’t get to see as often. Kudos to P.J. for expanding the PNR world. In this interview, P.J. discusses her favorite characters and her experience being “shredded.”

What drew you to Norse Mythology?

The movie Conan the Barbarian, the original one starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It came out when I was thirteen and I got my first glimpse of a Valkyrie when Valeria (in the form of a Valkyrie) saved Conan from certain death. I’ve loved armored, sword-wielding women ever since, so it was a no-brainer to start with Norse Mythology when I was looking for a belief system on which to base my series. FYI: readers won’t meet the Valkyries in A Twist of Wyrd, but they’re coming in future books. Brace yourselves!

In case you’re curious, here’s the scene from Conan I referenced. 

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Come on, ML! How am I supposed to choose between my babies? I love them all equally…for the most part. But, okay fine. I MIGHT have a special place in my heart for Jack, the bartender at the Dance Stage. He was an unexpected and hilarious surprise to me—walking onto the page and giving Trygg crap from the get-go—and I’m looking forward to seeing where he pops up in future books.

Are any characters based on yourself?

As writers, we inject a bit of ourselves into all of our characters, I think. Our loves, fears, hopes, fantasies, and experiences all play out across the page in ways big and small. But none of the characters in A Twist of Wyrd are one hundred percent me. As much as I’d like to claim some of the cool powers Bryn and Trygg possess, I was born a Midgardian. Hmm. On second thought, maybe Dezi is my avatar…

If Bryn was a real person would she be your best friend or your worst enemy?  Why?

Bryn would absolutely be my bestie. We’d meet at traffic court and bond over speeding tickets and our mutual love of cars, coffee, and hot berserkers. Dezi’s pokey driving would make both of us equally twitchy.

If you could date Trygg, would it be a wild fling or would you consider taking him home to mama?

I would put a ring on that man…or a ball and chain. Whatever it takes. Like that song by Live says…forever may not be long enough with Trygg.

What was the most difficult part of the writing/publishing process?

Letting go. The urge to write and rewrite the book until it was “perfect” was hard to suppress. That kind of thinking is a trap, though. The perfect manuscript is a unicorn. Trying to produce perfection is paralyzing.

If you could tell your younger writing-self something, what would it be?

Stop looking for the “right way” to write a book. Years of trying different methods and systems have shown me that there’s no one right way. Just trust the characters and tell the story.

How many unfinished/abandoned novels do you have stashed away?

side-eyes a mountain of paper in the corner of my office Next question?

In working with M.L. Keller (The Manuscript Shredder), was there any point you really hated her?

I could never hate someone who was trying to help me. Now, that’s not to say that we didn’t have our differences of opinions, but that’s the best part of working with critique partners and editors and beta readers. Everyone comes at stories from a different angle, offers different insights, excels at different things. Writing your novel inside a bubble is the absolute WORST thing you can do. So, fellow writers, send ML your manuscripts ASAP. The lady has fantastic suggestions.

You had an entire team of people behind you during the creation of this book. Anyone specific you would like to give a shout-out to?

chuckles As my editor Rita says, my acknowledgments already read like an Oscar speech, so I’m going to use this space to give a shout-out to fellow scribbler Jaime Bunnell. I just beta read her first novel and I know someday I’m going to be saying, “I knew her when…” Check out her short story in Medium Chill – Issue 1 (Volume 1). 

Check out A Twist of Wyrd

A Twist of Wyrd

They say a person’s wyrd – their destiny – is carved into the branches of Yggdrasil long before they are born.

Three hundred years after Odin’s gates to Earth malfunctioned, Outlanders left behind have integrated into society so thoroughly that few humans are even aware of their existence.

Straddling the divide is Bryn Ullman, a PI with a unique skill that’s in demand by Akron PD and a phobia that even her martial arts training can’t defeat. Her shadowy heritage means that she is always looking over her shoulder, and has no patience, and no place in her life, for Trygg Mackenzie and the confusing things he makes her feel…and want.

Trygg, head of security for the Devourer mob, is a berserker in hiding. If the Allfather finds him, eternal servitude will be the least of his worries. But for Bryn, he’s willing to take the risk if it keeps her safe and gains him redemption for his past.

A murder investigation throws them together, but with mob secrets and unknown factions at work, will giving in to their passion be their undoing or their salvation?

On the path of fate and destiny, it’ll take A Twist of Wyrd to save them both.

This book is available here (Affiliate link)

Find P.J. Friel at:

Amazon Author page

If you found this article useful, please share it with other writers on social media. Thanks!

Have something to add? Leave a comment. I love hearing from readers.

Free Cricut Planner Stickers: April

Free Cricut Planner Stickers: April

The April Planner Stickers are here These stickers are optimized for Cricut cutting machines. Just print and cut on shipping labels or Cricut sticker paper. (click here for the full directions) (Just getting started, click here) April 1 I love the trappings of spring. Adorable […]

Using Character Motivations in Plot Chains-authortoolbox

Using Character Motivations in Plot Chains-authortoolbox

People may not always behave in a logical manner, but when you are planning out your stories, your characters should. Creating characters without any internal logic will produce an inconsistent, illogical mess. Fortunately, there is a simple trick for fixing this problem

Creating the Perfect Love Interest

Creating the Perfect Love Interest

How to Turn your Love Interest into a Living Character

The love interest is an integral part of contemporary plot structure. But too often that character is little more than a pretty face designed to be the main character’s dream girl. Today’s love interest needs to be more than just a skirt waiting to be rescued. Make sure your love interest is a person who matters.

Steps to Creating a Meaningful Love Interest

Your love interest must be a fully realized character

If you haven’t already, make a character sheet for your love interest. For now, skip over the physical description and think about him as a person. What does he want? Yes, your love interest needs to have his own wants. He is just more than arm candy. He needs to have his own life. How does he fit into the narrative? Is he a protagonist force, or an antagonistic force?

In The Lego Batman Movie, Barbara Gordon’s role was antagonistic. She represented the rule of law, whereas Batman assumed a vigilante role. She worked with her team, Batman was a loner. She also had no interest in Batman romantically, whereas Batman became obsessed with her. If you removed the romantic aspect, Barbara still had a role to play in the plot. This is what makes her a fully formed character.

Your love interest shouldn’t be perfectwriting the perfect love

No matter what you see in Hollywood, your love interest should not just be a piece of tail in leather pants. Give him a real personality that includes a flaw. Real people have flaws. If your love interest is too perfect, the relationship will feel contrived. Readers will sense that this is a person created as a cuddle doll for your main character. Rather than feeling like a real person, your love interest will be nothing more than a personal fantasy. Your love interest needs to be more than just “hot.” If your character only ever describes him by his physical characteristics, then she isn’t really falling in love.

If your love interest is male, watch out for the “alpha-hole” problem. This is more prevalent in romance novels where the male character is basically a self-centered jerk, but for some reason, the behavior is excusable because he’s really good in bed. If your main character really is interested in this type of guy, then you need to address whatever character flaw attracts her to him and make that part of her inner journey.

Your love interest should affect the plot

This does not mean just getting kidnapped. The modern love interest needs to be more than the girl your hero rescues. Make sure you have your main character and the love interest interacting outside the romantic subplot. Give your love interest a function from the secondary character list: antagonist, side-kick, complicating factor, or teacher. Think through how this role will affect the budding romance. This will ensure the romantic subplot doesn’t feel like an afterthought.

Your romantic subplot should be fully formed

Make a quick synopsis of their romance. This will prevent you from falling into the “instant love’ trap. Instant love happens when two characters don’t have enough time to develop a relationship before falling in love. Consider your own relationships. How many interactions did you typically have with a person before a first date? How many dates did you go on before you made a commitment? If your character becomes obsessed on the first date, this could be a symptom of a serious psychological problem. While this might add an interesting dynamic to your character, make sure this is a direction you really want to go. If you want your characters to make a real love connection, you will need to make sure your romantic subplot is fully formed.

Beats for a romantic subplot

While a romance novel will have more plot points, for a romantic subplot your should have at least four: the meeting, the turning point, the crisis, the resolution. These can happen during other scenes, but you should be able to identify them in your story.

The meeting is nothing more than the moment your characters first meet. If your characters already know each other, this will be the first moment your main character begins to think about him in a romantic capacity.

The turning point is the moment the love interest becomes aware of the main character’s interest. This will change the dynamic between the two characters. Either the love interest will be receptive to the attention, or she will reject it. Whichever you choose, this will establish the nature of the relationship until the next plot point

The dark moment is the event that challenges the status quo. If the relationship is amicable, then this will be the major conflict coming to fruition. In romance novels, this conflict is usually based on a character’s flaw or fear. If the relationship is antagonistic, this will be the moment that changes something for the love interest. She will begin to see the hero in another light.

The final point is the resolution. Here, whatever problem arose in the dark moment will be overcome. This does not necessarily mean that the couple will live happily ever after. It means the conflict between the parties has ended. The guy doesn’t always have to get the girl. Having the couple split but being better for the experience is also acceptable. Likewise, the “love interest” doesn’t even need to be a romantic role. This function could also be served by two sworn enemies learning to trust one another. A Romulan and a Klingon overcoming personal prejudices could function as a love interest. The purpose of the love interest subplot is to show personal growth in the main character.

Getting Down and Dirty

Unless you are writing for a specific romance line (Harlequin Blaze, etc.) then the level of on-page sex you wish to include in your story is up to you. There is nothing that says you must have a sex scene in your story. If you wish to include one, the level of description is a personal choice. Some writers favor innuendo while others include every graphic detail. There is no wrong answer. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of writing a sexual encounter, end the scene by implying the next step and leave the details to the reader’s imagination. Then, pick up the story the next morning. If you wish to include a sex scene, go for it.

Not every story needs a love interest, but if you have one, make sure you take the time to make yours a living, breathing person.

If you found this article useful, please share it with other writers on social media. Thanks!

Have something to add? Leave a comment. I love hearing from readers.

Celebrating a win-IWSG

Celebrating a win-IWSG

How I Celebrate a Win This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group: a monthly blog hop therapy group for writers. The awesome co-hosts for the March 7 posting of the IWSG are Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen […]

The First 50 Pages: Recommended

The First 50 Pages: Recommended

Jeff Gerke’s The First 50 Pages is a writing how-to intended to point out every way you are ruining your manuscript, and then guide you through ways to fix those problems

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