Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How Hollywood Helps Me Write

My guest today is Australian Romance Writer, Paula Roe. Many times, as writers, we play with the idea of using certain actors and their traits, for our main characters in our books. Other times we pattern the looks of our characters after certain Actors. Paula talks about how movies can help us with plot and character development.

I love, love, love movies. Many centuries ago, I used to catch every single new release at the cinema but now, with a child and a writing career (and not to mention the mucho $$$ of tickets!) my major business now goes to iTunes and the local Video Ezy. So it was a Rare Thing Indeed when, one Saturday, I had my version of “the Movie Marathon”. In the morning, my son wanted to watch ET. A few hours later, we saw Ice Age 3 at the cinema.
Later that night, we watched our newly bought Bolt DVD. And much, much later, I downloaded and watched Sweet Home Alabama.

Movies are all about story telling, just like books. My favorite ones are all about character and plot, challenges and risk taking. About characters making choices and achieving (or not) their burning desires, learning and discovering new insights. Apart from an overload of movies and a chocolate high (a must when sitting that long!) I ended up with a few interesting facts that day which I’d like to share with you:

· It’s all about character

A great story will throw you into the lives of its characters. In ET, we see a single mom struggling with her family, a young boy who wants to believe in something special and his connection with an extra-terrestrial. It’s a classic ‘boy and his dog’ story... but the dog is an alien. In Ice Age 3, it was all about Sid the sloth finding his place in the world – finding oneself. In Bolt, it was the engaging story of a dog trying to find the one person he loves and a place he belongs. And in Sweet Home Alabama, Melanie needed to find her place in the world. You see the theme here? The major characters were all searching for or wanting something.

So, Revelation 1 - a character with no burning desire to want something is boring.

· Character choice moves the plot

Something has to be happening, not just to the characters, but also from the choices they make. What would have happened if Elliott had decided to turn ET over to the authorities when he found him? If Sid hadn’t taken the T-Rex eggs because he wanted to have a family of his own? If Bolt chose to give up the journey to find his owner after he discovered he was just an ordinary dog, not a crime-fighting superhero? And if Melanie had given up trying to get her husband’s signature on the divorce papers?

Revelation 2 – a character must make choices to move the story forward - and even when they don’t make one, that’s still a choice.

· Challenges and obstacles

A plot doesn’t have to have the ripper tension and breakneck action of Speed to keep you engaged. But it does need an escalation of the story, which means throwing challenges in front of your character to see what they will do. Just when you think they’re getting somewhere or on the verge of their goal... BOOM! A spanner’s in the works. In ET, after we find out ET’s alien friends are returning for him, ET ups and dies. Oh, yeah (I still cry at that scene!) In Sweet Home Alabama, Melanie thinks she’s going to get that signature on the divorce papers once, twice, three times at least. But every time something happens to delay it. And by the time she DOES get it, she knows it’s not what she wants. In Bolt, not only does Bolt have to physically travel across the US to return to his owner, but he also encounters internal issues, like trust and loyalty. In Ice Age 3, there’s a rampaging T-rex, a very-pregnant Ellie and a hostile new world to deal with.

Revelation 3 – The more crap the characters have to overcome, the more they deserve their prize.

At a risk of waffling on too much, I’ll throw it open to comments. Is there a particular movie that was helpful to your writing? One that you think encapsulates great
Share with us and you could win a copy of Robert Kernen’s Building Better Plots (Writers Digest).
Paula Roe lives in Australia. When she’s not watching movies (or reading!) Paula is writing. Her current release is The Magnate’s Baby Promise (Silhouette Desire), out now. Last year’s Boardrooms & A Billionaire Heir are short listed for Romance Writers of Australia’s prestigious Romantic Book of the Year award in the “Short Sexy” category.

Visit her at: for more writing advice and info about her book

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Wandering Writer

To catch a wild gentleman,
a woman must be
bold, brave, and very brazen

My guest today is Historical Romance author Tessa Dare. Her bold debut is a trilogy released July, August, and September.

As with all writers juggling their passion of writing with and busy home life; for Tessa, finding quiet time to meet her deadlines isn’t an easy thing to do. If you can’t write at home in your own office what do you do?

Tessa tells us how she handles the juggling act of author, wife, and mother:

I have a very small house. I have two very young children. I have a very big dog, and a very talkative husband.

For me, writing at home is nearly impossible.

People are always asking me, “Gee, how do you find time to write with two young kids in the house?” And my answer is always, “Uh…I don’t.” Even if they’re not home, I never get much writing done in my house. There’s always some household task to distract me—like that ever-growing laundry heap that seems to be a sock away from gaining sentience and taking over the world. In order to write, I have to leave the housework behind and the darelings at preschool or with my wonderful husband—and then go far, far away.

Or at least, to the nearest place with comfortable tables and coffee. Starbucks, Paneras, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Borders, Corner Bakery, McDonalds…all my books have been cobbled together during visits to these establishments. It’s a wonder I don’t gain twenty pounds with each manuscript! I’m a painfully slow writer. A good writing day for me looks like this: 3 hours at a cafĂ©, 1 large coffee, something indulgent and chocolate, and 1200-1500 words to show for myself at the end.

When I get behind on a manuscript and really need to focus, I wander even farther afield. I use Priceline to get a bargain rate on a nice hotel, and I leave the kids with Mr. Dare for the weekend so I can write, write, write in solitude. My two accommodation musts? An in-room coffeemaker and no free Wi-Fi.

It’s funny how I can look at my books now and remember where and when I wrote the key scenes. “Awww, I remember writing this scene while I ate that awesome caramel-chocolate bar in the lobby of the community center.”

What lengths will I go to next? My critique partner, the soon-to-debut Courtney Milan (www.courtneymilan), once spent a week in Costa Rica in order to work on a manuscript. I’ve got a book due on October 1st, and a tropical getaway is sounding pretty good right now….

How about you?

Are you able to concentrate on writing (or studying, or other work) at home? If so, please tell me how. Really, I beg you. Please.

Tessa Dare is a part-time librarian, full-time mommy and swing-shift writer living in Southern California.

Tessa lived a rather nomadic childhood in the Midwest. As a girl, she discovered that no matter how many times she moved, two kinds of friends traveled with her: the friends in books, and the friends in her head. She still converses with both sets daily.

Tessa writes fresh and flirty historical romance, a blog, and the stray magazine article. To the chagrin of her family, Tessa does not write grocery lists, Christmas cards, or timely checks to utility companies. She shares a tiny bungalow with her husband, their two children, a dog, and many dust bunnies.

Tessa enjoys a good book, a good laugh, and a good long walk in the woods, a good movie, a good meal, a glass of good wine, and the company of good people.

Tessa's Website:

Coming August 25, 2009:

Desperate to escape a loveless marriage and society’s constraints, pampered heiress Sophia Hathaway jilts her groom, packs up her paints and sketchbook, and assumes a new identity, posing as a governess to secure passage on the Aphrodite. She wants a life of her own: unsheltered, unconventional, uninhibited. But it’s one thing to sketch all her wildest, most wanton fantasies, and quite another to face the dangerously handsome libertine who would steal both her virtue and her gold.

To any well-bred lady, Benedict “Gray” Grayson is trouble in snug-fitting boots. A conscienceless scoundrel who sails the seas for pleasure and profit, Gray lives for conquest—until Sophia’s perception and artistry stir his heart. Suddenly, he’ll brave sharks, fire, storm, and sea just to keep her at his side. She’s beautiful, refined, and ripe for seduction. Could this counterfeit governess be a rogue’s redemption? Or will the runaway heiress’s secrets destroy their only chance at love.