Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Theory on Thursday with Liz Fielding

One of my favourite category romance books of ALL TIME (yes, it's THAT good) is Liz Fielding's The Secret Life of Lady Gabriella (In fact, I'm going to reread it really soon). Since reading that book, I do my utmost to keep up to date with what Liz puts out and I'm never disappointed. So, I was VERY excited to hear that Liz had put out a romance writing craft book and even MORE excited when she agreed to share some with my Theory on Thursday readers. So, without further ado (and no more fan girl moments) here it is...

Begin your story at a moment of crisis, a point in time when your character’s life is about to change for ever.

 Mollie Blake’s Writing Workshop Notes from Secret Wedding by Liz Fielding
Mollie Blake is a woman who knows what’s she’s talking about. Well, obviously, I created her back in 2000 for my novella,The Secret Wedding and she’s come with me on the adventure of writing my Little Book of Writing Romance.

This little book is a primer, an entry level aid for the writer who has a story to tell, but is struggling to get it out of her head and onto paper. To quote the theme song for the movie of Erich Segal’s bestselling book Love Story, “How do you begin…?”

I know how that feels, I’ve been there and this book is the distillation of the things I’ve learned over twenty years as a published author.

It’s the book I wish I’d had when I was starting out.

My purpose has been to explain, in the simplest terms, and using examples from my own work, how to make the transition from the story in your head to words on paper. How to write a compelling opening — I have deconstructed an opening scene — deepen conflict, write honest emotion, hopefully with a touch of humour to leaven the mix. How to write crisp dialogue, develop the romance, add a little sizzle.

The primary purpose of a romance novel is to elicit a positive emotional experience for the reader. Make her smile, make her cry, make her sigh with pleasure. To put it in a nut shell, to give her a good time.

To achieve that, you must give her characters she will care about, with whom she will be happy to share hours of her precious time, characters who, no matter what their faults may be — and perfection is so dull — are likeable.

To write their story you will have to know your characters intimately. For this, you need to do more than fill out a character worksheet with all their physical characteristics, their birth sign, their place in the family hierarchy, the names of their siblings.

Of course you have to know what colour eyes and hair your hero has, how tall he is, how old he is — ditto your heroine — before you begin. Making a note of these details and pinning it up so that you can check them when you’re in full flow a hundred pages into your manuscript is a sensible precaution. (You may think you couldn’t possibly forget these vital statistics but you will.)

These are, however, no more than the basics.

To come alive on the page, your hero and heroine must be more than two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs that you move around the stage. You should not be asking yourself “what can I make them do next”. If your characters are blood-and-bones, heart-and-soul real, you will know what they would do, just as you instinctively know what someone close to you would do in any given circumstance.

You may hear authors talking about characters who “take over” the story. That is not because the author is not in control of her characters, but because she has created three-dimensional, living, breathing people, men and women she knows so well that her writing brain is flying ahead of her fingers on the keyboard.

To truly know your characters you must understand not just what they look like, where they went to school, what they do for a living but see them living in their own world, having a life before you write Chapter One.

Download my book and I’ll show you how I do that :)

Liz Fielding is the author of more than sixty romances and has been nominated seven times for the Romance Writers’ of America RITA® award, winning twice with The Best Man & the Bridesmaid and The Marriage Miracle. She has also been nominated three times for the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association “Romance Prize”, winning with A Family of His Own.

She has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine

A full list of her books is available at: Liz Fielding's Website

Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance is available as an eBook download from Amazon.

I've got this book on my Kindle and I cannot WAIT to get stuck in :) Has anyone else read it yet? I'd love to hear your thoughts?!


Sherry Gloag said...

Liz, your book sounds just like the kind of book I could have done with with I first started out, too :-)
As a 'pantser' writer i don't always have every detail to hand at the start you suggest here, but my characters soon let me know just what I need from them before I am very far into the story.
Thanks for sharing.

Madeline Ash said...

The Secret Life of Lady Gabriella is one of my favourites too! It's sitting on my bookshelf, cover cracked and pages worn. Made me laugh, made me sigh. Liz, your book sounds fantastic. As an aspiring author, it's probably just what I need!


Maria from 'gaelikaa's diary' said...

The Little Book is brilliant - I am working my way through it and thoroughly enjoying it. Very useful and interesting.

Now I'm getting all interested in The Secret Life of Lady Gabriella. I'm curious to read this one now!

Maria from 'gaelikaa's diary' said...

OMG Rachel, don't mean to give offence but what horrible captchas! I had to try 3 times to get my first comment to take. Not one but two words, imagine! Upside down and in light and shade and every which way! Don't know why I'm coming back again for more!

Rachael Johns said...

Hi Sherry - sounds like you have great characters. Mine are not being chatty at the moment and it's driving me batty!

Hey Madeline - I haven't met anyone that's read Gabriella and didn't fall in love with it. Let me know how you go with Liz's Little Book!

Oh dear Maria- I'm so sorry that you had those issues. But I think it just might be blogger tonight. I just commented on a Blogger site and had the same horrid, long words! Thanks for stopping by :)

Coleen Kwan said...

Great advice on character development. Those character worksheets barely scratch the surface!

And yes, I hate blogger's captchas. Impossible to read, so hopefully they'll change soon.

Maria from 'gaelikaa's diary' said...

Rachael - I'm feeling so bad about that comment I left earlier that I had to come back and say sorry. I just had a similar comment to the one I left on your blog from a very nice reader of mine who was experiencing blogger issues too. I am so sorry!

Your blog is lovely.

Rachael Johns said...

Oh Maria - don't stress! I'm just SO glad you found my blog :)