Thinking the Plot is the Easy Part? Think Again…

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I love to write. We all know that.  But anyone can love to write and not everyone does it well. I’m humble enough to say that I’m no bestseller. I could be, no doubt about that… It is still a work in progress. But I’m not alone in my quest, swimming in the sea of literature millions deep and just as many wide.

The plot is essentially the foundation on which your story is built upon. I’m sure there will be those who argue with me. But even transparent characters can be made strong by a great plot. And there is no setting, no matter how fantastical, that can withstand a Swiss cheese plot. It must have a rhythm to it…a build up, a climax, and a resolution or ending. That is the one thing that really doesn’t differ from any fiction book or manuscript out there.

There are ratios out there for the recipe of a good book. There are some that say that only formally educated, with a degree, writers are worth a darn. I disagree with all those rules. The only one I do agree with is the rhythm. Anyone who tells you that you can’t write without a degree is wrong.

So focusing on the plot is so important. But think about yours…Is it twisted or predictable? If it’s predictable, are there elements to distract the reader? Is it slow moving? Is it boring? What elements have you included to make it more interesting? Characters and setting do not count. Get that all out of your head right now. If you think about a birthday cake, the plot should be the actual cake, the setting should be the frosting all over it, and the characters are all the pretty decorations on the frosting.

wedding cake

Generally, the plot starts with an idea. Just one idea. The people you see may not be named yet or have hair color or eye color, but you see them living out this idea and it builds. Things happen, conflict usually ensues, and it comes to an end with loose ties neatly tied up in a pretty little package.

I used to read historical fiction and for years, I would crack a book and want to get lost in this parallel world to my reality. Not trying to slam true, historical fiction, but they are all essentially the same. There is a girl, girl meets boy, girl refuses boy until the very end of the book where they run off into the sunset together and live happily ever after. I stopped reading books because they were all the same…down to the kinds of racy covers they graced the shelves with. I grew bored.

Do you want this to happen to you? I didn’t think so.

What’s the solution to this problem? BE ORIGINAL! You don’t have to be so far out there that people can’t relate to you, but for crying out loud, own the story! Do something different!

Here is my recipe for Noble Courage:

Peasant girl meets boy (love at first sight)->Peasant girl is sold to a ruthless lord and is taken away from where her love at first sight boy is->Ruthless lord’s patience is tested to the limits->Love at first sight boy searches for the peasant girl->Peasant girl develops feelings for the ruthless lord->ruthless lord develops feelings for the peasant girl->Greedy king comes for a visit->Greedy king thinks he can outsmart the ruthless lord and the peasant girl->Peasant girl outsmarts the greedy king->Love at first sight boy outsmarts them all->Ruthless lord must band together with the greedy king to save the peasant girl->There is no happily ever after->Peasant girl, ruthless lord, greedy king, and love at first sight boy find the ways to put their lives back together->Set up the book for the rest of the series.

WHEW! See how different my story is over others?

Now think of your story and compare it to others in a similar genre. Do you copy their formula or have  you stood out on your own?

What about twists and turns? I think they are pretty important. Even my recipe above would be a little boring without the psychotic antagonist, the beatings, the kidnapping, the paternal revelation, the secret wedding, the war, the dungeons, the death, the traitors, and the post traumatic stress of all of the above. Twist it up until your readers feel like they are losing their minds! Make them really think about what is about to happen and be floored when they are wrong! The unpredictability is what makes it all interesting. It makes a reader want to keep reading when they turn that page or end that chapter.

I’m not going to tell you to leave sex out of a story or to force the hero to win or even to allow your heroine to only have sex with one person through the life of the book. That is up to you. But be wary of your target audience and write appropriately. I have sex scenes in my books and the older teenage girls love them, but mine are not a YA category either.

I remember reading “Flowers in the Attic” when I was first in high school. There was sexual content in that book…along with the rest of the series. I wasn’t the only teen who liked V.C. Andrews either. My word of advice: No matter what you write, make it tasteful and make it matter. Don’t riddle your book with scenes that could be very offensive to parts of your audience. Keep it balanced nicely.

You know, even for as many people love my books, there are those who fan themselves and slam the book shut claiming it is too sexual in nature. Well, if this was a common complaint, I could understand them. But when my pie is 90% readers who think it was tastefully done and 10% those who think it was too adult, I will place my bets with the vast majority. If it was the other way around, I might omit a scene or two.

Okay. Enough about sex.

So I am just trying to say: There are no rules in fiction, but bad fiction should never go out there. Your story should always move forward at a pace that relates well to your book.

I’m not a big outline person at all. I hate them, actually. But I have made them to keep track of events and the age of characters. But to merely jot down your own recipe to your plot will help you to know how to fill in the blanks to get from beginning to end. If you find that your book is very “cookie cutter”, change it. Please, for the love of books, change it! There’s enough bland books out there to bore you into oblivion. DON’T fall into that category!

I hope I told you something you might not have thought about. It is sad to me that I stopped reading because of a lack of originality. But I also find it sad that my work is discredited as an “indie” author, so it must suck. I beg to differ. I challenge you to read my books and guess where the story is going to go. No, I DARE you to! Right now, all of my books are available on the Kindle and book one is going through an intensive overhaul to be re-published. I love to hear if I shock your socks off! I will warn you, there are few who guess how it will all end. Muahaha!

Are you up for the challenge…ahem…dare?!?

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Hear Ye, Hear Ye! AWARDS TIME!

This has been a great week! Thank you to all who have interacted with me in comments, reblogging, and liking my work! Some posts take a HUGE amount of time and others don’t. But I’m all about giving back and extending my hand of friendship to those around me. The fact that you read my work and talk back to me about it means the world to me! Thank you!

So I want to give out some kudos to those who have been amazing this week. Now I want to do this each week, so you can rise through the ranks the more you visit and comment! I know, I know…I can’t hand out cool presents each week, but there are times I will do a random give-away for those who participate on a regular basis. I’m unpredictable that way.

Take a moment to take a peek at these awesome bloggers! Follow them, talk to them, love them!

Without further ado…Here are my awards for this week!

Royal Subjects: Award for following my blog!

photo attribution: guttenberg.org

photo attribution: guttenberg.org

 

Knights of the Crown: Award for comments on my posts!

Photo Attribution: Unknown

Photo Attribution: Unknown

 

Allies of the Kingdom: Award for reblogging my posts!

photo attribution: wikipedia.org

photo attribution: wikipedia.org

 

King’s Herald: Award for liking my posts!

Photo Attribution: Midsommer Actors via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Attribution: Midsommer Actors via Flickr Creative Commons

 

Thank you sooo much for your love and support! I couldn’t keep going without you!

If you feel so inclined to read my books, you can find them all HERE! Just know that I appreciate you reading!

Each Day is a New Beginning…

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Easter is a very special day for me on many levels.  This last year has held many milestones in my life and it is easy to feel bogged down and overwhelmed with life. As you withdraw from the things you love, it only makes you more sad and detached.

There comes a time for most people when you take time to reflect on how things are, how things have been, and where you want to go. But getting to this point can be slow and painful. This was me. A year full of great joy and equally great sorrow has left me feeling hollow and spent. I had given up on several goals and dreams, and I let others dictate the path I was walking.

Today, that all ends.

This is a day of reflection, at long last. It’s a day where I choose to grow and find my own way in the world. I refuse to allow other people to control the rudder on the ship of my life. I am the captain. I always was, but I let my crew influence how I performed instead of taking charge.

I have discovered what I am best at and what I love…what I am passionate about. This is the year to shine!

So many people feel that New Year’s is about making goals and resolutions. But such a special day as Easter Sunday brings my life into proportion and fills me with a new energy. I don’t strive to be famous or wealthy. I just want to make a difference in someone’s life. Don’t get me wrong, a bestselling novel would be amazing. But I’m content to know that my words and my actions have helped one person in my journey through my life.

So here’s to new beginnings! Here’s to putting together a different strategy for steering my life in the direction I wish to go. I hope you will join me in that journey.

I want to thank a few people for their support, whether they know they were influential or not, I love them all!

My husband is right up there at the top. But those who aren’t close to me physically are Seumas Gallacher, Jeriann Watkins, Cynthia Hepner, Arthur Browne, and several others who graced me with their own thoughts, posts, and books. Take a moment to visit these amazing friends of mine and perhaps they will grace your life as well!

If you feel so inclined, make a quick visit to my Amazon page and my website. I changed my site a little bit and would love observations and suggestions in making it even better! Feel free to comment and let me know what you think!

The Art of You Part 11

Life is adapting to where you are placed.

Life is adapting to where you are placed.

 

 

 

 

The mail came that afternoon and coincidentally there was a letter from Jack Harrington’s offices in Hollywood. Ignoring the other bills that came that day demanding payment, I ripped his open and unfolded the paper. There was my photo card for my camera along with his scrawling handwriting that simply said: “I thought you might like this back. Thinking of you, Jack.”

There was no revelation of missing me. Just the card. I plugged it into my computer and they were all there. That anger came back and I thought I might pitch them to the media. I thought I might sell my story to the news. I thought I would write him a good thanks-but-no-thanks letter in response. And then I flipped to the photo taken on the couch and I realized I missed him a lot but I was growing to hate him at the same time.

My fury spun out of control and I cleaned my house. I made plans for what I wanted to do in restoring it. I would spend every last cent he gave me just so he couldn’t have it back.

When the boys came home, we went shopping and bought clothes. We bought new furniture. We went out to dinner. I spent money on food at the grocery store like I had never spent before. We had so much fun together and then spent the next several weeks painting the house and doing remodeling projects from off the internet. That was our Christmas, buying the things we never could before and I had a glimpse into Jack’s life. Acquiring all those things, but not having anyone to come home to. Oh wait! He had some beautiful blonde on his arm now. I growled in frustration and hoped she would spend all of his money in careless, frivolous ways until he was broke and too old to be the sexy hero in the movies any longer.

Several more months passed and summer approached. Daniel graduated from high school and I bought him a new car to take to college. He was accepted at a school in Utah so I wanted him to have some reliable transportation. Okay, I wanted to spend more of that money that I had earned with my life. I wanted to erase Jack from my life. And as hard as I tried, he wouldn’t just leave.

So I decided to just make him visible to me the way I wanted to see him. I took the photo of him on the couch and removed the color from it. Then, I printed it out and put it out on my pretty new dresser. I suppose I felt a little bit better.

With the weather turning for the better, I hired some guys to work on the house and spruce it up some. I was nearing the end of my bucket. I knew I would have enough to pay the bills through the end of the year so I decided to use the summer to take photos that I could sell once again.

I started going to the gym a few miles away and in two months, I was back into a size 10. Feeling better about myself, I started getting out. Daniel and I bought him some things for his apartment and began to prepare to say goodbye to him as well.

When I made it into a size 8, I celebrated with a new wardrobe. It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I could be content. I wasn’t as small as I had been, but I was showing some definition at long last. My waist was slimmer and my legs were strong, but I still fought the flab around my belly.

I started to go back to my hairdresser and had him bring back my Hollywood hair, short and sassy.

After one year, I put makeup back on my face.

“I’m not so ugly,” I reasoned to the mirror.

It had taken me a long time, but I did it. I was myself again.

We made it a point to stay busy and in truth, I hardly thought about those men in my life that I mourned. They grew to be ghosts of my memories.

The Art of You Part 10

The battle rages on.

The battle rages on.

 

 

Two days after Jack had left, I decided I had better get some photos ready for printing and mounting. I put the card in my computer and uploaded the ones I had. I was excited to see some of the photos I knew would be amazing. I gulped in panic when only six photos popped up and they were all of the carpet in the hotel room, like someone didn’t know how to use the thing. But the last one was a picture of a note.

“Don’t be mad. I’m sorry.

But I hope a few dollars in the bank will help out. ~Jack”

My ears were pounding with my pulse. I found it hard to gulp at the air. He had taken my pictures. While I had been sleeping, he stole my property. The anger I felt at the thought that he had messed with my livelihood did anger me more than his gracious rejection. I decided it was a good thing he had left or I would have told him what I really thought. Oh, who was I kidding? I wouldn’t have said anything more than I already had to him.

Curiously, I opened the internet browser and looked up my online banking. My hand flew to my mouth and I stifled a cry. I had three figures sitting in my at one time, overdrawn bank account. There was $100,000 sitting there. He told me everything was taken care of, that I didn’t need to worry. I believed him and I had felt safe with him.

Angry that he stole my pictures, I decided I wouldn’t use his money unless I absolutely had to. But I began to spiral into a depression, not unlike the one I’d had a few years earlier. It was a natural response to the lot I had been dealt in life.

But that depression continued and I sat on that couch just watching television and eating ice cream for months. Pathetic, I know. But I could barely get myself up to go to the bathroom.

Daniel turned 18 on me and that was hard because he was my baby. He was doing well in school and worked at a local pizza joint, applying for colleges to major in theater. But he was wise beyond his years and talked to me about how I had been acting.

“I miss my mom,” he said at last. “I don’t like this person who sits here and cries all day long. This isn’t the mom that raised me.”

How could I explain?

“I’m sorry, Daniel. I never planned for this to happen, I don’t like it either,” I said with obvious tears in my eyes.

“I know,” he said pulling me into an embrace. “But you need to get out. You need to take a shower. I think he’s around and not happy that you are just throwing your life away. I can’t seem to bring myself to move out on my own and leave you here like this.”

I cried, okay? I bawled like a little baby in my son’s arms. He helped me to the bathroom and started my shower water, laying my towel out on the counter beside my bathrobe. Then, he left me alone.

Stripping off my clothes, I didn’t even recognize myself. Where I was once a size 5, I was now in a size 14. That fun little rockabilly girl had flown the coop and left behind and old fat woman.

The shower felt so good and I just stood there a while feeling each stream of water hit my skin. I really had wasted so much of my life and now my baby was a man ready to leave the nest in search his own dreams.

Daniel cooked dinner that night and we all sat together at the table for the first time in several months. His fish was just the best. We made small talk with each other and it was then that they asked to hear the whole story. So I told them.

Neither one had much to say. It wasn’t their heart that had been broken or their pride that had been shattered. But I told them I would never trust another man as long as I lived. They just smiled.

“Well not from the couch, you won’t,” Daniel said shoving fish in his mouth.

I had to give him that one. I wasn’t doing anything from the couch.

Sleeping in my own bed that night made me feel strange. It was a combination of missing my husband being there and those nights sleeping at Shore Lodge with Jack on the couch. I didn’t quite know what to feel. But I uttered a prayer and fell into a deep and restful sleep for the first time since I had been back home.

I woke to snowflakes outside my window. It was late and the boys were gone to school so the house was quiet. I contemplated just staying in bed and remembered the conversation with my son the night before. It was time to get back to normal.

“Ruby, you have to do something with yourself. This isn’t you!” I scolded myself.

I slid out of bed and threw on my robe to make me a smoothie instead of having my usual bowl of sugared cereal. It was the first step.

I flipped on the television and changed the channel until it fell on the news. There was Jack, walking out of some fancy building with some young model hanging on his arm dripping in diamonds. He was all smiles, a little older but still handsome as ever. The headline at the bottom of the screen said this woman was his fiancé. I snorted out loud and shut off the television.

I felt steam build within me and a fury like none other fueled my soul.

The Art of You Part 9

Sometimes life is like a thistle...So beautiful, but can inflict so much pain.

Sometimes life is like a thistle…So beautiful, but can inflict so much pain.

 

 

The next morning, I rose with a heavy heart but I was excited to see my sons. It truly felt like it had been months when it had barely been a week. Carefully, I packed up my things after I had showered and done up my face.

Jack peeked in on me every so often. He spoke little and I worried that I had really hurt his feelings. But I had nothing to lose, so why not say something? He was free to live his life as I was, but he chose to be that figure for the world. I chose to be no one special, just a mom and one who captured life on film.

I picked up my bag from off the bed and sighed looking around the room. Then I slung my camera bag over my shoulder and headed out to pack the car.

“Give those to me,” Jack ordered holding out his hands to take my bags from me.

I threw him a look of true independence. “I’m okay, really.” And I continued out the door.

“Ruby…” he called in his you-are-in-so-much-trouble voice.

I turned back to him and rolled my eyes, handing over the bags. He smiled rather victoriously and took them out to the car for me. Why did he have to be so perfect? I felt my chin tremble and cleared my throat, determined not to ruin my fabulous makeup.

He came bounding back inside to make one last sweep for things we might have missed. All I could do was stare, to watch his body move so fluidly, the way he bent and the way he would peek around the furnishings. Then he looked up and we just stared at each other for what felt like minutes.

“What?” he asked with a grin.

My eyes finally blinked. “Nothing,” I said and left the room.

It was a warm day in the mountains that day. It felt strange to sit in the passenger’s seat of my own car. Jack slid in with his knees to his chest and he laughed.

“Short people,” he said and then adjusted the seat back for his long legs.

Davis pulled up behind us and Jack started the engine. A lively song from years and years ago blared out of the speakers from the doo wop station and Jack’s hands stilled on the wheel. He looked over at me thoroughly amused.

“I should have expected it,” Jack said. At that moment, he looked like your everyday guy. Then, he shoved his very expensive, very shiny sunglasses on his face and he looked like a movie star again.

I just sighed when I wanted to smile at his playfulness.

The drive down the mountain went pretty easy as most of the traffic was coming up instead of down. Jack seemed to enjoy his time behind the wheel and it made me wonder how long it had been since he had driven himself anywhere.

“It feels strange driving on this side of the road!” he exclaimed as we rounded a corner in the road.

“I couldn’t imagine it any other way!” I laughed.

“Thank you for an amazing week, Ruby. I know how you must feel and I’m sorry if I had ever given you the wrong idea. I hope I didn’t offend you in any way,” he said turning the radio down so I could barely hear it.

Well, that was it. There would be no confessions of possible love budding but there would be goodbyes.

“You didn’t offend me, Jack. It’s easy to be happy in a fantasy world. When reality comes back in the picture, the real world never quite seems the same. The fantasy was good while it lasted and those memories will stay with me forever. That has to be good enough,” I said softly.

“I don’t think you would be ready for a relationship even if the right guy was in front of you,” Jack blurted out and I turned my face toward him in the fashion of someone possessed.

“Why in the world would you say that?” I asked incredulously. I seriously couldn’t believe he just said that when it was none of his concern.

He glanced at me quickly as his hands worked the wheel of the car. “Oh come on, Ruby. You haven’t let go of him yet. How can you move on with someone else? You are still living in the past. You came up here for closure and you visited every site the two of you had ever been to, am I right?”

Numbly, I nodded. He was correct.

“One photograph of yourself reminds you of things you had done for him, right?”

I nodded again.

“You are not free. You live within your cocoon because you are too afraid to step out and live life for yourself because you feel guilty. I highly doubt your husband wanted that for you, I really do,” he said firmly. “To latch onto someone new right now, would be to continue living the life the two of you had shared. So if, let’s say, you and I saw each other for a time. Where would we go for fun?”

I stared until I realized he wanted an answer. Him and I? How could I possibly answer that?

I stammered a bit. “Well, I suppose I would take you to SilverCity in the late spring and all through the summer. It is my favorite place,” I answered.

“And did you go there with him?” Jack asked.

I sucked in my breath and let it out slowly. “I never knew about that place until he took me there.”

“See? Everything you do is because you are still so attached to him. A new relationship can’t work for you until you can let go and be here in the present with someone new.”

“But that isn’t really fair. He was a part of my life for thirteen years. We did everything together. I would have to move away from here to not ever see anything that reminded me of him again,” I fired back.

“It isn’t that everything reminds you of him, it is the look you get. It is the battle inside you. I saw it many times this last week. You start to make progress and live in the here and now, but then you seem to find that guilt again and you clam up like you are doing something wrong. He should always be a part of your memory, but he doesn’t need to be a part of every memory if you move on,” he said and I heard his voice crack a little bit.

There I was, being scolded by a man who had lost his wife just hours before. How could he be so cold and calloused? I took him to be a much more romantic man than that. Had he spent the week moving on without his wife on purpose, or was it that he didn’t want to end up like me?

“I suppose I started moving on because I have come to care more for you than anyone else in these last three years,” I confessed and I watched his shoulders sink.

“I’m sorry, Ruby,” he apologized and slapped his hand on my knee a couple of times.

My arms folded protectively against my chest and I glowered at him. Even baring my soul to him didn’t matter. Dark emotions began brewing during that drive home, emotions of anger and frustration.

We made it to the house and I cringed as we pulled into the driveway. I climbed out of the car and my boys stepped out onto the porch to wave. The older of the two came to grab my bags and I thanked him, giving him a quick hug.

“Jack, this is my son, Daniel and Jordan is over there,” I said pointing and puffed up proud to introduce my kids to a movie star they loved as much as I did…okay, well maybe not quite as much as I did, but they stared at him with stars in their eyes when they shook his hand. I could hear him laugh at their enthusiasm.

I asked my boys to go on inside and I turned to Jack.

“Well, this is goodbye then,” I smiled.

He didn’t say anything, but pulled me in for a tight hug. He took my face between his hands and placed a kiss on my forehead. “Thank you again, Ruby.”

And then, he got in his fancy black car and Davis drove away with everyone waving at me through the windows.