Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Two Simple Ways to Keep Writing During Crisis



Is it just me or does the world feel like it’s burning? A tad dramatic, I admit, but honestly, the current world is not the one we’re accustomed to. For example, this blog post was supposed to be about the Cape WritingRetreat, but you already know that’s been cancelled because of the Coronavirus. That’s been happening a lot. Even simple tasks we thought were reliable like going to work or to the store have been thrown into disarray. With our every routine disrupted, you might be finding it a little hard to write. At least, that’s been the case for me. So I thought I’d share how I’ve been getting words down.

One: Be Consistent
While word goals no longer have meaning to me, being consistent has taken its place. For me, it means showing up at my desk and writing. Some days that means a few hundred words; others, a few thousand. I can’t predict this. It depends entirely on my mental health, which is surprisingly unreliable during a global pandemic. But what I can predict is showing up and writing, regardless of how much I do. That, of course, can come in whatever form you need it to come in. Scribbling down ideas regularly? Obsessively planning? Working on a project that excites you rather than what you’re ‘supposed’ to do? Just do it as consistently as you can manage.


Two: Be Kind to Yourself
This one is a major one. You’re not going to get anything done, writing or otherwise, if you aren’t kind to yourself. Usually, I’m a pretty productive person. But during this time, I’ve been struggling with even the most routine tasks. It’s wonderful if you’re still able to be productive right now, but if you’re like me, you’re going to need some self-compassion. Now is not the time to beat yourself up for not reaching whichever goals you’ve set for yourself previously. If you showed up and tried to write, that’s enough. If you’ve thought about writing, worked out a plot point, planned how you’ll be moving forward when you can write, that’s enough.

While these tips aren’t going to change your life in any way, they’re two simple ways of shifting your mindset so you can write.


But if you can’t – that’s okay, too. You are the number one priority right now. Take care of yourself; writing will be there when you’re ready.

You can find Therese Beharrie on Twitter or Facebook!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

How to Increase Suspense in Romantic Thrillers

One of my favourite romantic suspense stories is Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks.  Katie plots a life-saving escape from a violent and abusive husband and builds a new life for herself in a seaside town in North Carolina.

While Katie is trying not to fall in love with a kind and handsome storekeeper in North Carolina, the wicked husband is slowly but surely hunting her down.The reader is compelled by the fragile love story unfolding, as well as fear of what will happen if the husband finds Katie.

Merriam Webster defines a thriller as a “work of fiction or drama designed to hold the interest by the use of a high degree of intrigue, adventure, or suspense.”  Suspense is defined as the “pleasant excitement as to a decision or outcome.”

So when we write love stories that include a thriller element, we suspend some of the facts from our readers knowledge, in order to fuel excitement about the outcome. We insert a mystery, an adventure or a dash of intrigue into the story by leaving clues that raise questions in the reader’s mind, over and above the will they won’t they of the romance.

 1.     A Hook

If suspense can be described as anxious uncertainty about what will happen, then in a romantic suspense novel, we need a hook that will grab the reader’s attention early to raise questions about what will happen next.  The hook should be uncomfortable enough to it give our reader some anxiety.

Drew Graham -Unsplash




















In the first chapter of Safe Haven, we find Katie waiting tables in a casual family restaurant in North Carolina, surrounded by dating couples and nice, friendly people. But in that safe environment we learn she can’t sleep, her hands shake, and she refuses a date because of a bad past experience.  She thinks back to when, for just a moment she was happy, like the dating couples.

And we’re hooked. We like Katie, but we’re worried about her.  Why do her hands shake and why can’t she sleep? Is her trauma over?  What will happen next?


2.      Plot Twists

Colton Sturgeon - Unsplash

As we go along, we insert plot twists or more surprising information that must either shock our readers or be unexpected. This keeps the momentum of the initial question going.  

In Safe Haven we are surprised to learn that Katie’s ex is a policeman, someone who should keep others safe.  Instead he is abusive, we know he is trained to kill and are terrified when he uses his police connections and resources to hunt Katie down.

It is preferable in romantic suspense to find the balance between the thriller twists and the love story.  Rather keep the suspense plot simple and have one good plot twist, surrounded by the ebb and flow of the romance. If you end up with multiple not-so-shocking plot twists, the thriller side could descend into melodrama.

 3.      Setting

Joe Beck - Unsplash




















A chilling setting is another way we can increase the suspense in a story.   Think about the setting of a dark and stormy night. It is a well-known trope for a reason. Storms and darkness create the kind of mood that feeds suspense. There are many other settings that create a mood in which suspense will flourish: old castles, windswept beaches, quiet parking garages, forests, desolate mausoleums.


4.     Character Vulnerability

When it comes to your characters, think of the worst thing you can do to them, and then make it worse.  This will give your readers the anxiety you need for them to feel the suspense.

Caleb Jones - Unsplash




















Expose vulnerabilities in a character so the character becomes real and worth worrying about. For example, in Safe Haven, the handsome storekeeper is also a struggling single Dad. He tries so hard and we love him for it. We really don’t want the evil husband to come and take revenge on the storekeeper and especially not his children. They are part of the storekeeper’s vulnerability and make the reader root for him. We keep reading to make sure the children are going to be fine.  The character of the storekeeper grows as he has to deal with the fact that the threat to his children’s safety comes from the jealous ex of the woman he loves.


 5.      Time limits

Another way to increase  suspense is by setting a time limit. Give your characters a limited time frame to accomplish something.  In Safe Haven, Katie has to get the storekeeper’s children out of the house before her ex-husband burns it down.  You can imagine the suspense is pretty intense.



Brooke Cagle - Unsplash



Romantic Suspense author, Sandra Brown has the following extra tips on writing romantic suspense on The Novel Suspects 

The four elements of romance that I incorporate into every book:
1. The hero and heroine must share time and space.
2. They are co-dependent, needing each other in order to survive a common threat or to overcome a shared enemy. Neither is happy about requiring the other. They’re reluctant allies.
3. Nevertheless, they desire each other. Badly.
4. They’re forbidden to each other. Something built into the plot makes it impossible for them to submit to their desire. If he’s a fireman, she needs to be an arsonist.
The Suspense
I plant a question in the reader’s mind early on. If not in the first sentence, then certainly by the end of the prologue and first chapter. I continue to plant questions and if I do it correctly, the reader isn’t even aware of the questions. But I withhold the answers for as long as possible. The first question asked is the last question answered. That “aha” is the reason for the story. It’s what makes the point of telling it.”


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

What is External and Internal Conflict?


You know that feeling when you’re reading a book and it’s perfectly enjoyable, but you can’t help but think something’s missing? Maybe this has happened in your own writing. You’re making your way through your book and you realise it doesn’t read like some of your favourite romance novels. The answer to this often lies in the conflict. Not sure what I mean? Keep reading then!

There are two types of conflict: external and internal.

External conflict is what tends to bring your characters together. Maybe the hero’s father passes away and leaves a will that dictates he must marry before he can inherit. He asks his best friend to marry him until the inheritance is his; thereafter, they can live their lives separately again (haha). Or maybe the heroine has a one-night stand, realises she’s pregnant and has to tell the man she slept with.
Basically, the external conflict is anything your characters face that comes from outside themselves.
External conflict can be linked to well-loved romance tropes, too. In my earlier examples, you can see marriages of convenience; friends-to-lovers; a surprise pregnancy; or perhaps even a secret baby.

Internal conflict, on the other hand, is what keeps your characters apart.

Internal conflict is more complicated than external conflict. It’s the emotional issues your characters have that keep them from simply being with one another. Perhaps our hero feels abandoned after his father’s death, and can’t bring himself to love someone again, lest he be hurt. Or maybe our heroine has dated a controlling man before and is terrified of it happening again. When she falls pregnant, and the hero asks her to marry him, she thinks he’s trying to control her, and she can’t accept it. Usually where your internal conflict is concerned, your characters start in one place – the place of hurt or fear – and end in another.

The journey the characters go on in the romance should dictate where that end place is.

In the above examples: the heroine shows the hero that love is worth taking the chance of being hurt for. Or the hero proves that he doesn’t want to control the heroine; only love her. The stronger the internal conflict, the more satisfying the romance. So while the external conflict is important, it’s really the internal conflict that’s king. At least in romance.

The point?

Conflict of both kinds need to appear in your romance novel. While most readers might not know what it is in so many words, they’ll definitely miss it if you don’t have it!
You can find Therese Beharrie on Twitter or Facebook!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Being part of it: the online writing community

Source

You have friends in every corner of the world; people as diverse as the places in which they live. You all have one thing in common: a love of writing.

Look up #WritingCommunity on Twitter and you’ll see the big picture: writers, writers everywhere! All talking about their writing, or prevaricating about writing or shouting about their books or even sometimes ‘shamelessly promoting someone else’.

It’s a big pond to play in.

But scale it down. Find a quieter corner.

What I want to share with you is my experience of belonging to a community; of gathering a group of online writing friends around you and of sharing encouragement and support.

I hang out in a small corner of the blogosphere via the wordpress platform. If you want to know about the technicalities, there’s plenty of ‘how to’ info out there on the interweb.

Way back in 2012 I set up my blogsite, purely as somewhere to store the short stories I’d written. Then, two years ago, when I started working from home doing social media stuff for a handful of clients and concentrating seriously on writing novels, as a bit of light relief, I began posting flash fiction pieces on the site.

I was pretty amazed that people took the time to read and comment… and say nice things. Suddenly I began to have a following.

And so I reciprocated. I read other people’s posts on the wordpress reader and commented on them. Before long, we had become a little community. We often write to prompt posted by someone else: a photo or a random word. We all come back and share. It’s become a virtual writing group.

Not everyone in our group aspires to be a published writer. Some do, some already are. Some just write for fun (well, I guess we all do that). Some post more frequently than others. People dip in and dip out like in any group. But there’s a hard core of folk who are always there, those I could sit down and share a coffee and a chat with, the ones I call my ‘virtual’ friends.

Within a year, I’d acquired many, many more contacts. The blog is linked to Twitter and LinkedIn, Facebook and, more recently, to Instagram. It provides me with a springboard to launch my work, and I’m selling an increasing number of my books as a result. However for me, it’s the participation and support of my virtual writing group that’s most important.

Writers are such nice people, aren’t they?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Essence of Attraction - Part Three

In my first two posts, I outlined six important elements that create attraction between a hero and heroine in a romance novel, namely mystery, desireconfidence, unpredictability, challenge and social status.

Another crucial element when it comes to creating attraction between a couple is likeability. Now I’m not saying that the hero and heroine will necessarily like one another all the time. In most romance novels, sparks are usually flying, and it is fair to say that the hero and heroine don’t always see eye to eye on matters. But in a good romance novel, the hero and heroine will often find themselves liking each other – even if it is against their will.

Leading on from this is the idea of humour as an import aspect of attraction. In a heated discussion between the hero and heroine, what often diffuses the scene, and also adds to the likeability factor between the two characters is humour. Nothing is more likely to create a buzz between your two main characters than some humorous exchanges.

Humour and intelligence are often linked, and when two characters connect, it is because they have an appreciation for each other’s mind or way of thinking. This is a very important element of attraction because if two characters cannot connect on an intellectual level, then they’re doomed as a romantic couple… just think of Mr and Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice for a telling example of a couple who were mismatched intellectually. If the heroine never catches the hero’s jokes, or she finds him an inferior intellectually, any attraction between the two will fizzle out after a while, and die.


Mr and Mrs Bennet from the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice

Now I’ll come to the final element of attraction. As it is the most obvious element, I’ve left till last. And it is... physical attraction! The hero and heroine must find each other physically attractive otherwise the relationship will never get off the ground, let alone approach anywhere near an altar.

Do you have any other aspects of attraction you’d like to add to my list? If so, please leave a comment.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Essence of Attraction – Part Two

In my previous post, I outlined three important elements that create attraction between a hero and heroine in a romance novel, namely mysterydesire and confidence.

Another important aspect for creating attraction between a man and a woman is unpredictability. At the beginning of a relationship the hero shouldn’t be able to predict the heroine’s behaviour, and vice versa. This generates romantic tension in a relationship, which creates an interesting dynamic between the hero and heroine. Of course, as the romance progresses the main characters will become more familiar with each other, in that they’ll start to know each other better, but this shouldn’t make them predictable.

What adds to the attraction between a man and a woman is some sort of challenge. The hero should find the heroine challenging in some way. Even if you’ve created a meek and mild heroine, something in her demeanour should challenge the hero. For instance, the hero might find it exciting to see if he can discover whether passion lurks beneath the quiet surface of the heroine; or he might try and find out why she behaves in a particular manner with certain people while behaving quite differently around him…

The heroine should also find the hero challenging – either to her ideas about love and life in general, or something in his personality should intrigue her to get to know him better.

Social status is another important aspect of attraction. This doesn’t mean that the hero must be a powerful, wealthy character, but he should be able to command some sort of respect from the people around him. It boils down to a natural authority the hero should command, to be well… a hero! A similar thing applies to a heroine – she should have aspects of her character that other people admire because think about it – if no one in the book likes and respects her, why would a reader bother to spend time with her between the covers of a book?

In my next post, I’ll continue to elaborate on this theme.



Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Essence of Attraction – Part One

When you write a romance novel, the attraction between the hero and heroine needs to crackle off the pages in order to drive the story forward. So how do you set about creating this sort of chemistry?

An important aspect of attraction is mystery… the hero and the heroine need to spend time wondering about each other. A good way to create mystery in a novel is to have short, sparkling scenes of dialogue between the hero and heroine, interspersed with scenes where the main characters reflect about their interactions with the other person. The more they wonder about each other and try and figure each other out, the more they will become attracted to each other.

Another important aspect of attraction is desire… in order to keep the desire building between the hero and heroine, you should create obstacles between them that need to be overcome. This applies particularly to the hero of a novel, because the more he has to work for the heroine, the more he will appreciate her. Heroes in romance novels are often Alpha Males, who have the world (and most women) at their feet. That’s why it’s so important for men of this ilk to work hard for the heroine because heroes who have it all need to be shaken out of their complacency if they’re ever to fall properly in love.

The third important aspect of attraction is confidence… even if you’ve created a shy, retiring female character she needs to have some element of confidence in herself if she is ever to be a believable romantic heroine. If a heroine has no self-belief, it will be hard for the reader to believe in her and her love for the hero – it’ll appear to be a wishy-washy kind of thing without form or substance. The hero also needs to portray confidence in a romantic relationship so that the heroine (and the reader!) will fall in love with him. Just as a man leads a woman when they are dancing, in the same way, a man’s confidence will either sweep a woman off her feet if it is present or cause her (and the romance) to stumble if it is not.

In my next post, I will elaborate on other important elements of attraction, which are vital for a romance to be believable.