Creating A Sense of Intimacy–Or Not

Sometimes the tiny revisions help more than you think.

I was revising a cozy scene, and I removed several instances of the man’s name and replaced it with “he” or “him”. I don’t know when I first started doing this, but I have found that a scene is more intimate if you refrain from using names. As long as there are only two people, you only need use each name once, at the beginning of the scene.

Think about it–in real life, how often do you actually say the name of your spouse, sibling, or good friend? Maybe to get their attention, but while in conversation? And you don’t think of them by their names, either. You are beyond names.

I really noticed this kind of thing when I did some contest judging a few months ago. Several intimate scenes were ruined when the hero and heroine said or thought the other’s name too often.

And the opposite holds true as well. To create a sense of estrangement, use names. As soon as you bring in a third person, you have to use names, anyway.

Here’s the intimate scene, between brother and sister:

Adele watched as he stared at her. She refrained from shaking her head. Mike had a way of walking about in a haze of his own making. She reached over, clasped his hand and pulled him onto the couch next to her.

“Talk to me,” she said.

He didn’t say anything. She thought about leaving him alone, but he was always pretty good about letting her know when he needed his space. He wanted her there. She waited.

At length, he tried to speak, but only ended up clearing his throat awkwardly. She rose, went into the kitchen and brought back a glass of water. She handed it to him, and sat down again as he drank.

“First off, I gotta tell you that there’s a few things you don’t know. Things that happened between Mrs. Watkins and me.”

She frowned in outrage. “What! She’s your employee! She—”

“For God’s sake—that’s not it, either. Christ! What must you think of me?”

“Well, look at the way you made it sound!”

“Well hold on and just listen for a moment.”

She subsided.

And between a nosy boss and his subordinate:

Briggs escorted Peterson in twenty minutes later. He looked nervous. “Good evening, sir,” Peterson said.

“Good evening, Peterson.” Haley said as he lit a cigarette. He didn’t offer one. Briggs took his post by the door. Peterson looked at him nervously. Haley said, “Your first name is Bradley, right?”

“Uh, yeah. Brad is fine.”

“Of course it is. So how goes things with Eliza?”

“Um, just fine. Sir.”

“Do you like her?”

“Sure. What’s not to like?”

“I can think of many things.”

“Huh?” he gulped. “Sir?”

“You seem to have a problem with that, don’t you?”

“With what?”

“With basic courtesy. Calling your superior ‘sir’ for instance.”

Peterson looked pained. “I’m sorry about that, sir. I’m still getting used to it.”

“Were your parents deadbeats?”

“Well … yes sir. Pretty much.”

Any intimacy was gone anyway because Briggs was present, but I did use names a little more often than strictly necessary.

This is just one of the tiny changes I keep in mind as I revise. What did you think? Did I succeed in creating a sense of intimacy, and a sense of estrangement?

A Needed Break

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I didn’t post last week because I took a staycation and took care of some health issues. Other than a brief trip to visit my mother for 2 nights, I hardly budged outside of my house. I did some serious R&R, as we called it in the military. I played low-stress games like Freecell and Solitaire until I was winning almost every game. I loaded music on my computer and synced them up with my iDevices. I only wrote about a thousand words. I browsed lots of news sites (you may not realize it, but I am quite a news junkie).

I also got my blood pressure managed. Additional dietary choices are now open to me, so I will once again eliminate dairy from my diet. I went the entire month of January without milk, and my intestinal issues and rib pain went away. Unfortunately, my blood pressure also went up because my breakfast without milk has a lot more sodium than plain cereal with milk. Now that I can eliminate dairy again, I am hoping this rib pain will go away again. It kept me up last night for about an hour.

So it was a good week. I don’t want it to end, quite frankly, but that’s why they call it vacation. My husband wants me to schedule another week already. July is looking good.

I decided not to move my website. I am currently using a premium WordPress account, and after reflecting that I have spent zero time worrying about my website over the last year, I decided to stay put. The managed WordPress accounts are too expensive and don’t get me anything that I don’t have here, plus I have been accumulating a few handfuls of WordPress followers (hey guys!) I don’t want to cut them off by moving.

I may, however, redo my theme, and maybe procure a premium theme … if I can find one that is worth the cash.

Financial Tip!

This is my first financial tip ever. But we got our first American Express card and it is really helping our finances. We put all our charges on the AmEx card and pay it off at the end of the month. Nothing else is going on our regular credit card, allowing us to pay it off faster. Plus we are getting lots of AmEx points.

An important note about AmEx cards–they are designed to pay off at the end of the month. So be careful to only use it for planned expenses, like grocery, gas, and small credit card purchases. You do NOT want to be in a position where you are unable to pay off the card at the end of the month. AmEx is designed to be a charge card, not a credit card, and there is a distinct difference.

It is going to totally be worth the 200 dollars to renew at the end of the year.

Writing Update

Chicory, Anne Elizabeth and I were having quite a discussion on epic fantasy and warrior woman tropes in the Back From Hiatus post. They got me to reveal some of the ideas I have been playing with (ahem–paladin story–cough), and we have just been having a good ole time. While my first priority has got to be finishing East of Yesterday, I am finding it difficult to resist working on my paladin story!

Anne Elizabeth recommended I try reading David Weber’s War God series, and I probably will, but it seems to be kind of a spoof of a paladin story. Has anyone ever read any good paladin stories, other than the quintessential Deed of Paksenarrion?

Doings, Writings and Readings

Christmas seemed to speed by in a great, big rush this year. I didn’t have any vacation time left by the time Christmas rolled around, which — sigh — seems to be typical for me despite the fact that I have accumulated three weeks of vacation a year. And now that I have a full slate of vacation days once again, my husband has been summoned for jury duty, which means that I have to take at least one day off for that.

Sigh.

And I have been contemplating my plans for 2014. This year, I hope to finish East of Yesterday, lose 10 more pounds, and give up sweets for Lent so I can try to get off this sugar kick I have been stuck on. My goals for work include moving into more of a leadership position (not necessarily resource management) and get published in the field of Business Analysis (articles only–I have no BA books in mind).

My accomplishments for the last year were more modest, but I did publish another book (although I have not mentioned it much), kept off the 13 pounds that I lost the year before, and reduced my stress.

What I’m Reading


I just finished reading The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler, and it was pretty excellent. It is about a girl named Lia who lives at an Abbey called Muirwood, which is a place where learners learn how to read and how to work a force called the Medium, a quasi-religious form of magic. However, Lia is a wretched, or one who has been abandoned, and as such, she is forbidden to learn even though she has great natural ability. Naturally, she wants to learn more than anything else in the world.

Her quiet life at the Abbey is interrupted when a knight drops off an injured squire and tells her that he will return for him in 3 days–all Lia has to do in the meantime is keep the squire hidden from the powerful Sheriff who is after him.

The book did leave a few unanswered questions, especially regarding the knight, but there are two books to go in the series, so hopefully they will provide some answers. I found the first book gripping and engaging, and I’ll get the next book in the next month or so. All the books in the series are available. The cover image links to the book at Amazon.

What I’m Writing

I am up to 81,000 words with East of Yesterday, which definitely means I am rounding home plate. To celebrate 80,000 words, I sat down and wrote my query. I often find it helpful to write a query at some point before I finish writing the novel. It helps me identify any weaknesses in my premise. The same goes for the synopsis, which I did in graphical form a couple of months ago, but which I have yet to do in prose.

The query isn’t quite ready to share, but it did help me fill in a plot hole that I had left open to write at some point. The problem is, it rendered a pivotal scene in Part One as somewhat nonsensical. And so now I have a plot quandary–do I keep that formerly-pivotal scene, or do I trash it? Fortunately I have my graphical outline to consult to see how much I really need it, and I also can use my procedure on removing and replacing a scene (for which I am creating an infographic) if I decide it has to go.

~*~

What about you? Got any resolutions or accomplishments you’d like to share? Read anything good lately?

My Writing Process — in Six Steps!

I have written six novel-length works and am working on the seventh. Over the years I have developed a writing process that works for me. I may have written on this before at my defunct writing blog, but most of that is out the window, because I let myself change some things for East of Yesterday, and it breaks some of the “never do this” writing rules you always hear about.

Warm-Up – Check Out Social Networks

I count this as part of my writing process because it is kind of a warm-up and because promoting your existing work should be part of your writing “work”. Sales of The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf have not been stellar, but I do work to keep my name out there, even if I don’t exactly trumpet “buy my book!” from the rooftops. (Seriously, if you enjoyed The Sevenfold Spell or The Magic Mirror, I could use some word-of-mouth, be it a review on online sites, or just telling your family and friends.)

So the first thing I do is start up my email, Twitter, Facebook and lately, Google Plus, and participate in some conversations. I also open Goodreads to see if anyone added either book to their shelves. I generally do not check out my page rank at Amazon.

After 15 or 20 minutes, I shut down all browsers. All my email comes via my browsers, so that is de facto shut down as well.

Fire Up Applications

This varies by book. For East of Yesterday, I open the following:

  • Manuscript in Microsoft Word
  • Plot diagram in Visio
  • Gazetteer in TiddlyWiki
  • Discard file in Microsoft Word

And as needed, I open my calendar of 1922 in Microsoft Excel (calendar courtesy of dateandtime.org).

Edit Last Scene Written

Yes, I edit as I write. I know that the writing advice is to just write it, but honestly, I did that with The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf and when it came time to developmental edits, it was a nightmare. My editor told me that it was not a nightmare, and that my manuscript was actually in pretty good shape, but for my schedule, it was difficult. So now I polish as I go along. I also question every scene that makes me uncomfortable, or that I have difficulty with, because it was those scenes that I ended up editing the most heavily during the dev edits.

The result is a first draft that is in a better state of polish than any other book I have written. My discards file is less than 10,000 words. Much of that consists of scenes that I have since added back into the story (and changed, leaving the original in the discards file). In fact, the novel is in such a good state that when a friend asked to read some additional chapters beyond the opening, I felt confident enough to send her the entire 100+ page section that makes up Part One.

Write the Next Scenes

The way I write is also unorthodox. I’ll write a scene are part of a scene up to a certain milestone. Then, I’ll go back and reread what I just wrote, and edit it. I constantly edit as I write, like a sculptor, continually smoothing and polishing.

When I write first drafts, I concentrate on moving the plot forward. I leave off all non-essential descriptions and transitions. These are the things that I fill in during later drafts and editing sessions.

If I write something that affects a previous scene, I go back and fix it immediately, or at least leave a note. I don’t leave as many notes as I used to, because too often I have come upon the note later and wondered what the heck I had in mind. So now I fix immediately, unless the change is sweeping.

Just-In-Time Research

As I write, I occasionally come across some tidbit that I need to research. Yesterday, I needed an early car. So I did some quick research and decided that a Model T Ford would suit my needs. I learned enough about the Model T to write the scene, such as the type of engine it had, its top speed, whether there was a back seat (I needed one), and whether it could be a convertible (I needed one). I also learned that its nickname was the Tin Lizzie, which I worked in as well. I’ll probably research it again to add more details later.

Other times, I’ll do more in-depth research that will affect my story, such as photographic research, where I just page through outdoor and indoor photographs, looking for things that were common in early times, that might affect my story in ways I didn’t expect.

Finishing for the Day

I have no particular routine for when I finish up. Oftentimes I will be interrupted and will never get back to it, and I’ll save and shut down right before bed. This happens more often than not, which is why I need to reread my previous scene to determine where I was.

I am doing so much that’s different for this novel (plotting, letting out my inner editor), and its really working out well this time.

So sometimes, you just gotta break the rules.

My Writing Nook … Finally

I now have a writing nook. Check it out:

My Writing Nook

For a long time, the place I wrote was in the marginof the family room. It was considerably distraction-prone by the TV and by life going on in general. And all this time we had this beautiful bay window, which basically served as a mancave.

After reading an article in this month’s RWA magazine about having a writing space, I decided–before I even finished reading the article–that I had to ask my husband for the bay window. He, being the terrific guy he is, promptly cleared out for me. There is still the gun footlocker by the little wooden chair, but I am taking up the whole bay window, so this is enough, I think.

And so I have the recliner, a small table for my lamp and my powerstrip, a small, elegant 1 drawer table (with a drawer that is just large enough for an office tray), an ottoman for the guest chair (and for my computer when I am not using it), and the guest chair.

When I sat down tonight, I felt so refined and posh that I put in a Schubert quintet to listen to as I write. Something I never was able to do in the living room.

Ahh … and now, I think I shall write.

A Plotting Breakthrough!

I’ve always been more of a panster than a plotter. I just thought I was stuck with that mode in my brain. And it has caused me quite a bit of grief–I have thousands and thousands of words worth of broken plots, stories that went nowhere, and plot twists that have spun into convoluted knots.

I should have known that visual plotting would be my breakthrough.

I decided to try to sort out all the time-traveling in my story by laying the whole thing out in a Visio diagram. I am a business analyst, so flowcharts come quite naturally to me.

Check it out. Click to enbiggen.

PlotWebsThis is only a portion of a Visio that is now four pages wide. Four portrait-style pages, because I need the vertical length. Each swimline–the vertical boxes–represents a decade. The bubbles are laid out in chronological order, as they would occur in real time. The lines going every which-way represents four groups of time-travelers as they criss-cross the decades (and each other).

With this plotting style, I have come up with two of the three plotlines that I need to finish up for this book, and I am working on finishing up the third.

Now I just need to quit drawing lines and resume writing some words. 60,000 words down, 40,000 words to go!