Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Writing Craft

Story Essentials – Continued

Recapping as we work our way down the editor’s wish list, so far we have an opening hook and an appealing, human heroine. Next, we need a hero to fall in love with. He must be human, appealing and honorable.

Crafting an acceptable hero is a task I find challenging. I have a definite weakness for those bad boy alpha males. You know the kind. A man who so easily crosses into asshole territory. Once he drops out of the hero class, it’s darn hard to sell him as a hero, no matter how much reforming him appeals to me.

Funny about those alpha males, call him undead and he can chew up the scenery gnashing his fangs. Send him back to an earlier time and his primal instincts are suddenly acceptable and, interestingly, not incompatible with honor.

Grumbling, changes nothing I need to find the right balance between plausible real life guy and heroic. With that goal in mind, let’s look at our six already read hero introductions.

All Rowena noticed was that the man was there, tied down on the bed, with no more than a large bath sheet draped over his bare loins. Tied down? Nay, she noticed now the iron cuffs at his wrists, which lay above his head. And two chains came out from under the bath sheet at the end of the bed to curve down under it. Chained Down! He had to be chained down? And he was asleep, or senseless.

The author doesn’t bother physical description of the man. Rightly, she concentrates on the horror and the injustice of the situation.

She couldn’t get him off her mind.

Heaven knew she’d tried, but every time she closed her eyes, she could see Rorke’s face when he’d first walked through her door. Meeting him, she’s expected to feel uncomfortable, but he was the awkward one, standing there looking so tense, so rigid, so battered. Her heart had gone out to him.

Again, no words are wasted on his sculpted chin or mighty shoulders. Instead the author goes right for the emotional jugular showing us a still proud, but beaten man.

Lily’s arm tingled where he touched her. Raw, barely leashed power rolled off him in waves, almost as tangible as the scent of his aftershave. It swamped her, stole her breath.

A few words, and instantly the reader labels the barely met man hero.

Beside her, Simon chuckled, a sensual sound that rippled through her senses. She’d missed it.

“Of course they have the same drill. But I bet you researched the security process, didn’t you, Marian?”

She couldn’t help smiling at him calling her Marian, like the librarian in The Music Man. Simon teased without cruelty or humiliation. Simon’s kidding never hurt.

Nice first line, the audio input felt fresh. The author lost me at Marian (not the heroine’s name) the librarian in The Music Man isn’t a character I know. Already I’m feeling left out of private joke. Then she finishes her brief introduction of her hero with a redundant line.

The poor author has just tripped over one of my pet peeves, repetition. The reader either is comprehending your words or she’s not – repeating them isn’t going to help.

He stood in the doorway, but all she could see was his silhouette. He was so large. His shoulders nearly filled the space, his head just a few inches from the top. There was something in his hand. A mug. Her coffee mug. “I’m not going to hurt you.” He spoke softly. Barely above a whisper.

The heroine may still be terrified, but I believe him. Enter the hero, bigger than life and twice as strong.

The first time she’d seen him had been a week ago, he’d been standing beneath a tree in Ann Morrison park. She’d jogged past him and might not have noticed him at all if it hadn’t been for the cloud of cigarette smoke surrounding his head. She probably would have never given him another thought if she hadn’t seen him the next day at Albertson’s buying a frozen pot pie. That time she noticed the way his muscular thighs filled out his hacked-off sweatpants, and the way his hair curled up like small cs around the edge of his baseball cap. His eyes were dark, and the intense way he’s watched her had sent an alarming shiver of pleasure up her spine.

Aside from the slightly dated cigarette smoke, the introduction draws a compelling picture of a hero. The imagery is scapel sharp bringing the hero into focus.


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