Shannon Stacey

A Smattering of Writing Advice

Based upon the small pile of “DNF” books in front of my filing cabinet (story details changed to a point):

1) We all know the key to holding a reader’s interest is to ask questions. In romances, the primary question is “How will these two people overcome these seemingly overwhelming obstacles in order to live happily ever after?” with tension carried through with story questions on a scene/chapter level: Is it his baby? Why did she hide it from him? When will he find out? How will he react?

But here’s the thing—you have to give the readers some answers. Those smaller story questions are meant to sustain tension for smaller blocks of time, with each answer leading to another question with higher stakes. Okay, he found out, but now he’s going to try to fight for custody. Will he win? If you ask too many of the big questions in the front end and then don’t give any answers throughout Act 2, you’re not wratcheting up the tension and your reader will get bored.

2) A properly-raised, demure 19th century lady is not going to say “Lick my p—y” during her first ever sexual encounter, even if he is a handsome cowboy who saved her from an evil rancher. She’s just not. Either have some respect for your characters or write in a subgenre where anything goes—contemporary, futuristic, whatever.

3) Shapeshifter writers—what the hell happens to their clothes? I know it’s a tiny detail, but it’s consistently my number one yank me out of the story issue with them. Does he shift into a wolf and then neatly fold his clothes? Does he have some kind of canine fannypack he carries them around in? Does he Fed-Ex them to his next scene location?

This issue held me up rather badly during the writing of Kiss Me Deadly. If you’ve read it, you know poor Khail was stuck being naked for the entire novella. But it was also a cabin romance, so it was okay. Not so much in the big city.

I’m not going to do the entire stack, but those are the three that irked me the most. Maybe next week I’ll do a post on playing fair regarding a POV character’s secrets. But for now, Sven is breathing his foul, ill-smelling, demonic breath down the back of my neck and I must go and try to appease him.

4 comments to “A Smattering of Writing Advice”

  1. Michelle
      · November 1st, 2007 at 2:43 pm · Link

    I completely agree with #2 – I read a book like that and I was pulled out of the story immediately. I was thinking :wtf: And I laugh about #3 because I’ve always wondered where their clothes go. :doh:

  2. Bev Stephans
      · November 1st, 2007 at 5:19 pm · Link

    I agree with you on 1,2 & 3. I have so many books that I have literally thrown across the room because I was so disgusted with them. I recently read a romance by an Australian author. Her descriptions of the flora and fauna of Australia were wonderful, but the hero was such a jerk that nothing could redeem him

    #4. Don’t make your hero/heroine such unlikeable people that you lose your readers.

  3. Ann
      · November 1st, 2007 at 9:16 pm · Link

    I have my shifters take off their clothes before they shift, and if they think about it they go back and pick them up. :nod: I just figured that either the animal would get trapped in them and panic, or the process of shifting would rip the clothes. But that could just be me.

  4. Shannon
      · November 5th, 2007 at 10:55 pm · Link

    Well, it’s okay if they get ripped up, as long as the guy isn’t magically wearing the same outfit when he…unshifts? Reshifts? :eyebrow:

    And nothing makes me put down a book faster than description of vegetation. Seriously.

    But as for unlikeable characters, that’s something I’m always battling. I’ve been told a couple of my guys border on unlikeable. And one of the heroines, too. :tomato:

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