Because I write in two genres—traditional mystery and paranormal romance—I’ve been reading a LOT of genre fiction over the last few years and I see some scary trends.
One of them is what I call verbalization: Taking perfectly good nouns and turning them into not so good verbs. So many of these come from the jargon that various careers develop.
Two of the ones that make my jaw ache are exit and task.
“He exited…” No, he “left”, he “went out” he “walked away.” An exit is a freeway ramp…unless it’s a stage direction.
“She tasked me with…” No, “She gave me a task,” “I performed my task” “She told me (or asked me) to do…”
I know that English is a constantly evolving language, but let’s not slip into the trap of using these buzzwords. There are more than a million words in English today…don’t forget to use those good old Anglo-Saxon and Norman French words that gave birth to English as such a vibrant language.
And please, study up on verb tenses. The past tense of “sink” is not “sunk.” It’s “sank.” As in “She sank to her knees in grief.”
One popular writer will use this and it’s as though the dam bursts…inaccurate words escaping everywhere!
The other frightening trend is lack of basic research.
I read a book by a NYTimes best seller (romantic suspense) and the author talked about the “1859 Gold Rush.” The author supposedly lived in Northern California. How could s/he not know it was 1849?
I will not read any more books by this author since s/he was too lazy to look up one crucial fact.
Most recently, I read another romantic suspense where the author had one character in the epilogue say “well, the company is community property.”
The entire tension and plot of the book hinged on an inheritance of a company from a grandfather. This was sole and separate property and would not become community property simply because of a marriage.
I write fiction, but I care enough about my readers to make sure basic information is correct and accurate, to use as many action verbs as I can, to not write jargon because it’s fast and easy. I’m asking my readers to come into my made-up worlds and devote a few hours to my stories—I owe it to them not to use false facts.
Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home. During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series.
SNAP: All That Jazz, Book Eight of The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, was awarded second place by the Paranormal Romance Guild’s reviewers for best paranormal vampire book of 2014. The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles also won for best series in 2014. The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles include SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story, DANUBE: A Tale of Murder, SNAP: Love for Blood, SNAP: Happily Ever After?, SNAP: White Night and SNAP: All That Jazz. SNAP: I, Vampire, Book Nine in the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles is scheduled for publication early 2015.
She also writes the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries, Edited for Death and Labeled for Death. A third book, Delta for Death, is coming in 2015.
Crystallizing Your Book Idea . . . for Paranormal or Any Genre
By Debbie Herbert
I love paranormal romance because the possibility of magic tingles my creative drive and curiosity. The speculation that there might be something more to reality than can be perceived through our senses provides a natural “what if” environment writers need to create stories.
Plus – I’ve never outgrown my love of fairytales and mythology!
Not only do I write paranormal romance, my subject matter isn’t of the popular vampire or werewolf variety. I chose to write about mermaids. I’d completed three other novels (as yet still unpublished) before switching to mermaids and landing multiple contracts with Harlequin Nocturne for a series.
It all started with a dream. I was swimming in a deep body of water when I noticed a man dumping something from the side of a boat. Curious, I swam over. The man noticed me and his expression was so evil that it frightened me and I woke up. Like a typical writer, I started asking those ‘what if” questions: what if he were a killer? what if he was dumping a dead body? what if I were a mermaid and he caught me?
And from that one dream, I created a world in which a clan of mermaids secretly lived deep in an Alabama bayou.
Okay, great ideas are had by all writers. How do you begin the whole unwieldy process of stringing together thousands of words into an interesting, coherent story?
We all have our own process. I’m sharing mine today in the hopes it may spur you to try something different that might make it all a little easier or clearer.
My starting point is answering these three questions:
1. What is the HOOK or PREMISE? What makes your book unique? What’s it about? Just write one sentence – the shorter the better.
2. What is the GOOD VERSUS EVIL in my world? I think for paranormal writers, this is important. Are your supernatural beings seeking power or dominance over humans or other creatures? For mystery writers, it may be an evil killer versus potential victims that provides this conflict.
3. What are the STAKES? The stakes are huge in paranormal worlds – it is often no less than world upheaval or human subjugation to supernatural beings.
If I can grasp these, I can go on to develop character and romance ARCS and external and internal conflicts. The questions form my logline and blurb. This is how I start every book. It’s how my brain works. Here are some examples from my books:
1. CHARMS – How can a teenage witch help an immortal on the run from another enemy immortal? Note: In Immortal legends there is already a strong, built-in good versus evil theme. The hook was combining the worlds of witchcraft and immortals. Stakes: Control of immortals and humans by an evil warlock clan.
2. CHANGELING –What happens to a child kidnapped by fairies and raised by them? Good versus Evil is between two warring fairy worlds. Hook is the reverse fairy tale. Stakes – if bad fairies win upcoming battle with good fairies, humans will suffer from bad fairies.
3. FAMILIAR MAGIC – How can a magical cat help an outcast middle grade girl? The evil are the bullies. The Hook is that the book is written from a cat POV. Stakes: character and animal’s happiness and survival in MG school world.
4. SIREN’S SECRET – Hook: What would happen if a mermaid saw a serial killer dumping a body at sea? Good versus Evil – serial killer versus cops. Stakes: Killer could expose mermaid world and endanger their species.
5. SIREN’S TREASURE – What would happen if a mermaid was captured by modern-day pirates? Hook – treasure hunt. Good versus evil – kidnappers versus law enforcement. Stakes: Missing H-bomb captured by American enemies. Stakes: World peace.
6. SIREN’S CALL – What would happen if a siren met a man not affected by her magic? Hook – hidden world of Okwa Nahallo – (Choctaw legend of mermaids in the bayou) and Indian lore. Good versus Evil: Female stalker versus cops. Stakes: Main character’s life and happiness of hero – prevention of future murders.
Once you’ve answered these questions you can go about the nitty gritty details of plotting your book. I’m pretty low tech. I get a posterboard and divide it into 20 sections which represent each chapter. I fill in the turning points and any scenes that have come to mind. I don’t worry about filling every square, I just fill in what I have and GO.
How do you begin your novels? I’d love to hear your process as well!
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Debbie Herbert writes paranormal romance novels reflecting her belief that love, like magic, casts its own spell of enchantment. She’s always been fascinated by magic, romance and gothic stories.
Married and living in Alabama, she roots for the Crimson Tide football team. Unlike the mermaid characters in Siren’s Secret, and Siren’s Treasure, she loves cats and has two spoiled feline companions. When not working on her upcoming books, Debbie enjoys recumbent bicycling with her husband as well as spending time with her two adult sons.
A past Maggie finalist in both Young Adult & Paranormal Romance, she’s a member of the Georgia Romance Writers of America. Debbie has a degree in English (Berry College, GA) and a master’s in Library Studies (University of Alabama).
Connect with Debbie on social media or learn more about her books.
http://goo.gl/cdgxFT – buy link for Siren’s Secret
http://goo.gl/ymsQdL – buy link for Siren’s Treasure
Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Debbie-Herbert-Author/151793451695632 Debbie Herbert Author