Knowing When to Quit, Part One

(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / tomasfoto

 I was an art major in college, and one of my painting professors once told our class, “Every painter needs to have someone standing behind him to shoot him when he’s done. Otherwise, he’ll overwork the painting and turn it into mud.”

It’s extremely difficult for us as artists to see our work objectively enough to know when it’s finished. And once we realize we’ve overworked something, it may be too late to salvage it. Fortunately, when it comes to writing, there are warning signs that we can look for. One would be redundancy. I’ll use my Marina Martindale contemporary romance novel, The Deception, to illustrate my point.

I was near the end of the story. I’d resolved the main conflict. I was tying up remaining the loose ends, and then I discovered that I’d left a huge opening for the antagonist to go after the protagonist a second time. This left me with two options. One was to write a sequel. Tempting thought, as I loved my cast of characters. However, in this instance, the conflict would have been virtually the same as before, making sequel redundant. In other words, it would have been a boring, “been there, done that,” story. So, rather than waste my time, and my reader’s time, with a bad sequel, I wrote a definitive ending. I killed off the antagonist, ending the feud once and for all. 

Does your story feel like it’s getting stale? If so, go back and look at your conflict. If it keeps repeating itself, or if the results of your character’s choices are always the same, it may be that your story has become too redundant.


Gayle Martin

Just Add Two Tablespoons of Fate

Cover Design by Good Oak Press, LLC

My very first book was a historic cookbook called Anna’s Kitchen. I produced  it entirely on my own. I did my own writing and editing. I did my own proofreading. I did my own typesetting and cover design. (Okay, I had an advantage there. I was a professional graphic designer before I became an author.) I’ll admit that in hindsight, it was an incredible learning experience as I soon realized just how much hard work goes into producing a book. I also learned why teamwork is so necessary.

Lessons learned the hard way

Being a newbie, I used my spell checker as my editor and proofreader. At the time I honestly believed it was all I needed. Later on, realized I had made big mistake. It’s how I learned, the hard way, why every author must have an editor.

Before my book went to print I went over my manuscript many times. Everything looked fine, at least to me. However, once the book was printed, I found all kinds of errors. Murphy’s Law really is a thing. All those errors were well hidden, until the book was printed. Then they jumped off the page as it to shout, “Ha ha! You missed us! You missed us!”

As fate would have it

One of my friends came across something in a gravy recipe he found particularly amusing. It said, Add two tablespoons of fate. He laughed and laughed. Then he asked me if it meant that we were supposed to pray over the gravy as it was being prepared. Now mind you, it’s not a bad idea. I pray over the little everyday things much more than the big things. In this case, however, it was a typo the spell checker had missed. The word, fate, was spelled correctly, but what it should have read was, add two tablespoons of fat. 

This is why every author needs an editor and a proofreader. We simply cannot be objective when it comes to critiquing our own work. Perhaps someday someone will invent an AI book editor, but even then, a machine cannot make a judgement call like a real person can.

Suffice to say that you need a couple tablespoons of fat if you’re making gravy. However, when it comes to writing and publishing a book, you may need to add two tablespoons of fate, along with a good editor and proofreader. Just saying.

Gayle Martin

 

Fan Fiction vs Copyrights

Graphic by Gayle Martin

I recall an interesting chat I once had with a fellow author at a writer’s convention. He was telling me about another writer he knew who apparently got into serious trouble with Paramount. This other writer had allegedly written a very adult oriented Star Trek story, and Paramount had apparently taken issue with the way he’d used their characters.

As I recall, Star Trek conventions got started so the fans, or Trekkies, as they were called at the time, could share their fan stories. However, it was a different time. Fanfiction authors wrote with pen and paper and kept their stories in their notebooks. Self publishing didn’t exist. There was no Internet, no blogs, no Kindle. I know. It’s hard to imagine.

Times have indeed changed. Today a fan writer can write his or her own Star Trek story and publish it in their blog or post it on a fan forum. Their motive may be sincere. However, their devotion to their favorite TV show could, potentially, put them in legal hot water. I’m not an attorney, nor am I giving legal advice. That said, it’s common knowledge that the rights to any artistic creation, including works of fiction, belong to the person or persons who created it.

I write my own unique stories with my own characters. However, if I were to include a character someone else created, for whatever reason, I would get their permission first. It’s only common courtesy. It would also be an opportunity to reach out and connect with another author. Most importantly, it would save me the worry of getting a nasty letter from someone’s attorney.

For more information on copyright law, or if you have questions or concerns about something you may be writing, or may have published, please consult with a copyright attorney.

Gayle Martin

Soap Opera Plotlines

 
© Can Stock Photo / ginosphoto

Once upon a time, my friends and I were soap opera junkies. We loved our soaps. I taped my favorite soap everyday for years. How times have changed. I don’t watch soaps anymore, and neither do any of my friends. We stopped watching them years ago. I don’t think it’s our age. My grandmothers were watching their favorite soaps when they were well into their eighties. I think it has to do with the fact that today’s soap operas are so poorly written.

Soap operas used to be about love and romance. Then one day the producers decided they wanted younger, more hip audiences. As a result, the writers began writing outrageous story lines. Demonic possessions. Frozen cities. Characters buried alive. UFOs. Good plot lines for shows like The X Files, but certainly not what we wanted to see on Days of Our Lives.

Those of us who write romantic fiction know basic plot structure revolves around conflict. Two characters meet and fall in love, but there are obstacles to overcome before they can live happily ever after. For many years, soap operas relied on classic plot lines which consistently worked and kept viewers watching.

The Romantic Triangle

Boy meets girl. They fall in madly love. However, another girl is in love with the same boy, and she refuses go quietly into the night. So she plots and schemes, relentlessly, to break them up, thus becoming, The Girl We Love to Hate.

Extramarital Affairs and Illegitimate Children

The occasional side effect of the romantic triangle. Soap opera writers kept audiences riveted for months, sometimes years, wondering when an unsuspecting husband, or ex husband, would finally discover that his son or daughter actually wasn’t his son or daughter. 

Long Lost Half Siblings

Boy meets girl. It’s love at first sight, but one of their mothers is dead set against their relationship. She does everything in her power to break them up, and before long the truth comes out. Years ago, Mom had an affair with the father of her child’s love interest, and they’re half brother and sister. Fortunately, this always comes out before the romance is consummated.

Sometimes the writers will create a plot twist. The other mother will come forward later on and say no, so and so wasn’t her child’s father after all. Therefore, they were never half siblings. However, this only happens after the would-be lovers have moved on to other relationships. The fun never stops.

The Big Frame-Up

From time to time a villain has to be killed off, so why not frame a favorite character for a crime they didn’t commit? Of course, they would eventually be found innocent, but not until they’d gone on trial, been convicted and ended up in prison. This plot line can be easily adapted to 21st century technology by having the real killer tamper with the DNA test results.

Catastrophic diseases or injuries

Hodgkin’s Disease. Brain tumors. Comas. High risk pregnancies. All were common soap opera maladies. Tripping over a waste basket could cause a miscarriage, and how many times did a favorite character go blind or deaf? Luckily, in Soap Opera Land, everyone recovers, only to be struck down with another malady a few years later. However, soap opera characters are all immune to one disease. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Amnesia

A rare medical condition in the real world. At one time, however, it was quite common on soaps. Having a favorite character lose his or her memory and wander off somewhere, with everyone else thinking they were dead, made for great soap opera watching.

Returning from the dead

A favorite character is involved in a plane crash. Or they lose control of their car and it crashes over a cliff and into the sea. The character is then missing and presumed dead, but the body is never found. Thus the character leaves the show, only to return later, oftentimes with another actor assuming the role.

This plot line has many possibilities. The character may be recovering from the aforementioned amnesia. (Although their memories will eventually return.) The other scenario is the character escaping after being held captive somewhere. Regardless of the circumstances, no one ever makes it home until after their spouse or lover has moved on and found someone else.

So there you have it. Any romance writer worth his or her salt knows such stories of star-crossed lovers have worked since Romeo and Juliet, and they work just as well today. I use variations of them in my Marina Martindale romance novels, and my readers tell me they can’t put my books down.

Gayle Martin

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