audience, Author, Drama, Fiction, Indie Author, writing

Reel Them Back In

Von was just minding her own business, going to the break room at our job when she was accosted by one of our readers. She’d just finished reading our third book and demanded to know what would happen next. She begged and begged, promising to buy our next book, she just had to have the answer. Like we always do, Von told her she would have to wait until the next book is out.

We’ve been bribed, extorted and threatened by readers/coworkers who after reading the ending of one book, wants to know how the cliffhanger is going to be resolved in the next. I think it’s one thing as authors we’ve gotten right. Every one of our books end with bait to get the reader to buy the next one.

If you’re an author with one off books with unconnected stories it won’t work. But if you’re planning a series you may want to give your readers extra incentive to come back. A cliffhanger doesn’t have to be the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks. It could be as simple as will they or won’t they get together, which of the characters is hiding a pregnancy, or what’s in the briefcase the villain has been carrying around.

Whatever you decide, don’t be shocked if your readers get confrontational and want to know what happens next.

 

 

 

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Chicklit, Drama, Fiction, Romance, women, writing

I Hate Rom-Com’s

I hate romantic comedies. Other than a select few most of them are predictable.

The couple meets in some cute way, most times with the desperate and single woman doing something to look like a complete idiot. Maybe she knocks over an entire table of food at a restaurant and he helps her clean up the mess. Or she gets her dress caught in the door of a cab and has to run along the side of it until the hero swoops in and saves the day.
After the cute meet the couple starts to date and all the woman’s flaws and insecurities come to the surface while most times the hero remains as clever and attractive as ever. Everything is fine until some conflict either internal or external threatens to break them up for good. One of the two has an epiphany and realizes they can’t live without their soul mate and by the end of the story everything is neatly tied in a pretty little pink bow and the happy couple lives happily ever after.

No wonder audiences have been staying away from romantic comedies in droves. Who wants to watch a story that’s that predictable? As a reader, it’s a tired formula I’ve seen repeated over and over again in a number of romance novels and it’s the reason I don’t read those types of books anymore.

As a writer, especially with a series, making things unpredictable is something you have to consider, especially when your story has romantic elements. Though the reader may say they want the heroine and her love interest to be happily married with kids, don’t believe them.

I can testify that I’ve thought the same thing with the TV series Castle. As soon as Detective Beckett and Richard Castle got together I was done. That was last season and I haven’t watched it since. After watching two characters who have been pining for each other for years finally get together, it’s boring now that we have what we wanted.
What keeps your reader interested is the tension between the couple. Move their relationship forward slowly. If you put them together as a couple, tear them apart soon after and have them find their way back to each other all over again. Introduce that best friend who’s been yearning after the hero since they were kids. Maybe one of them has an unforgiveable secret? What if her jealous best friend is a liar and spreads a nasty lie that breaks them apart. Unbeknownst to the hero, maybe his lady love has been replaced with her crazed, long thought dead twin sister. The longer you can keep your couple from that happily ever after the more the reader is pulled in. Make them wait!

Just because you’re following the romance formula doesn’t mean you have to play it by the book.

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audience, Author, biracial, Chicklit, Drama, Fiction, Indie Author, writing

Build Your Mythology

Readers, myself included don’t like cookie cutter, cardboard cutouts as characters.  If a character is boring or not dysfunctional enough, I’m putting the book down.

As a writer I learned that the more layers a character has, the better your audience receives the character. That character’s bio doesn’t have to be explained in detail in the book, but it may be something you want to keep in the back of you head as you’re writing.

What’s their favorite food? What are their hobbies? What was their relationship with their parents? Do they have tattoos? Did they serve in the military? What type of movies do they like? Who’s their best friend? Where did they grow up? Do they have money? If so how much?

The answers to all those questions and everything else you can dream up for your character will influence every challenge they have to face, just like what you faced in the past affects who you are today.

For example, our main character in The Body Hunters, Danielle Labouleaux or Danny as she prefers to be called is biracial and grew up in New Orleans where she had a somewhat antagonistic relationship with her parents in her teens and early twenties. She was bullied as a child, not only for being biracial and also for a zipper scar that bisects her chest from heart surgery when she was six. She has a penchant for hot rods, especially her candy apple red Camaro, named Lucille. She loves to cook, which she learned from her Grandmere and she hangs on to friends for dear life because they were few and far between during her childhood. She also has a thing for buff, tattooed bad boys, who are really diamonds in the rough.

This is how we started our main characters and as Danielle’s story progressed, we added layers and layers of back story, fleshing her out as a character. Before long we knew what she’d say and how she’d react in any given situation.

The same technique can be used for the universe your characters exist in. It’s your universe, you make it up and mold it any way you want to.

Is it post apocalyptic? If so how did it get that way? Who’s the President? Is this the future? What happened twenty years ago?

The more believable your story and character are, the more invested your readers become in your story.

 

 

 

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audience, Author, biracial, black women, Chicklit, diversity, Drama, Fiction, ghosts, Indie Author, Paranormal, Romance, starting anew, supernatural, Uncategorized, women, writing

Starting from Scratch

For nearly a year and a half we have been living in the skin of our characters, Danielle Labouleaux and Aiden Stone, stars of The Body Hunters series. We know these characters and their supporting cast so well, we know how they would react in certain situations and can even complete their sentences. Right now the third book in the series is with our editor Reggie and we’re in the midst of writing the fourth book. After we release the fourth book, tentatively titled The Lazarus Effect, we’re taking a break from Danny and Aiden and starting another series. That’s where the problem lies.

One thing we’ve taken note of from our readers is that even though they love the mystery and paranormal aspects of our series, they love the drama between our characters even more. Therefore, we decided to delve into something that was strictly drama in a real world setting. We can promise that there will be plenty of twists and character conflict. The dilemma lies in creating characters who are not just Xerox copies of the cast from our first series. We’re not going to cut any corners and we’re not taking the easy way out.

Our new protagonist is a biracial young woman and that’s where her similarity to Danny Labouleaux ends. We’re purposely making her an edgier character who would do things to accomplish her goals that Danny would shudder to even consider. It takes a little work to take your brain out of one character and transplant it into another, especially when you’ve been in their mindset for so long. We’ve had a long time to develop Danny and figure out what makes her tick, now it’s time to devote that same love and attention to another protagonist. While Danny and company feel like home, these new characters and scenarios have us in uncharted territory where we are free to start over from scratch.  It may be a daunting task, but it helps us grow as writers.

Now we’re not leaving The Body Hunters permanently, there’s still a lot more stories to tell, as well as a prequel, and the movie script that’s currently in the works. One day I’d love to see Danny and Aiden on the big screen. We’re just taking a little time outside our comfort zone to develop something else and challenge ourselves. If it’s not a challenge is it even worth doing?

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Author, biracial, Chicklit, diversity, Fiction, Indie Author, Multicultural, Paranormal, women

Constructing Danielle Labouleaux

When we started writing The Body Hunters we wanted to create a believable heroine and one you could easily imagine as your best friend.  Out the window went the whiny damsel in distress archetype, who can’t think without a male present or the weak female being dominated and controlled by the male ‘hero’.  Our girl is strong, confident, and smart.  She can ask for help, but she can definitely handle things on her own if need be.

When we conjured her up within the depths of our imaginations, we kept in mind those butt kicking females from movies and literature.  Danielle or Danny has a gift, the ability to communicate with the dead, which she uses to help people who’ve been wronged. She’s independent, feisty, and doesn’t dumb herself down to fit in with the crowd or current trends.  She’s also got somewhat of a rebellious streak and likes to do her own thing regardless of what anyone has to say on the matter.

Along with those good traits, Danny is deeply flawed and she doesn’t always make the best decisions. The girl has issues to say the least and she’s far from perfect.  She’s scarred both on the outside and on the inside, like a lot of real people. She’s biracial, white and Haitian-Creole, which couldn’t have been easy growing up in New Orleans and it’s something that we’ll touch on in the third book of our series.

As our series has progressed, we started to pull back the layers to reveal why she behaves the way she does.  I don’t see her dysfunctional qualities as imperfections, but something that makes this character all the more human and believable.  She’s a fun character to write, so hopefully you’ll enjoy her as much as we do.

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Author, Chicklit, Drama, fans, Fiction, Indie Author, Murder, Paranormal, Romance

Stop Reading Girly Books!

My co-author Von’s brother, a grizzled ex-Detroit detective recently completed The Body Hunters Paradise Denied and gave his critique. Being a sixty something year old male with decades of police experience he had issues with the mystery aspect of the story and an issue with the way the romance between the main characters, Danielle and Aiden played out. He especially took issue with the pet names. Von called me one evening after work and told me what he had to say.

Being used to getting good feedback from our mostly female fanbase I went through the three stages of emotion after a critique. First I wanted to fix the problem. Maybe we did something wrong. Oh my God, I’ve gotta go back and fix the problem. How many copies are out there? How long will it take me to do another rewrite and submit it to Amazon?

The next stage was me being defensive. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about! How dare he tell us about our book! We read and reread our book dozens of times and it was perfect!

The last stage was anger. Who does he think he is? What makes him an expert? What’s he doing reading girly books in the first place? You want a real police book go read a John Sandford novel and get outta my face!

I went to bed with his critique on my mind and it kept me up for a little while. The next day, I gave his opinion some more thought and picked it apart. Okay, for the next novel we’ll pay more attention to the police aspect. Writing a book about two psychics who solve mysteries, we make every effort to follow the law and police protocol; Von was a paralegal in a former life and she’s the expert on such matters. If she doesn’t know the answer than that’s what research is for. Since the book takes place in the real world, we’re as close to the law as can be, but in the interest of the story we may bend a few rules, but its all plausible.

Now as far as the romance, I can’t help him and he’s outta luck. If you don’t like Danielle being called ‘Nani’ and Danielle calling Aiden ‘Big Daddy’ then you need to be reading something else. Though its a paranormal mystery series, their relationship is the heart and soul of our books and that’s what the readers love. Each book’s mystery is what brings them together for them to have their relationship drama.

As if for vindication, that very same week, a couple of our readers told us how much they loved our sucker punch ending. The mystery, which kept them guessing until the very end was another reason their eyes were glued to the pages. We have another reader, who is half way through who keeps pestering us with questions and her hypothesis about how things are going to end and of course she’s very wrong. To sum it up, our intended audience loves it, and is begging for more. While I appreciate Von’s brother who has supported us with both novels, his opinion isn’t the end all be all of our publishing career. As long as the people we write the book for enjoy it, I’m just fine with that. In the publishing business you can’t cater to everyone. Besides, he shouldn’t be reading girly books anyway.

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