Our guest blogger today is Edie Ramer, who has just advanced to the next round of American Title V. It's a big deal! The winner will win a publishing contract with Dorchester! I'm rooting for Edie, and I hope you'll vote for her too! Just send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org with DEAD PEOPLE in the subject line.
Thanks so much to Spy for having me again. When she invited me, I replied, “You're always so honest in your blogs. Maybe I'll write something about being open in our books.” One reason I love Spy’s blogs is she isn’t afraid to show her passion and her vulnerability. It’s like a puppy showing her belly.
I mean that in a good way. A great way! You want to pet that puppy, love that puppy, cuddle that puppy. You say how cute it is.
But in real puppy time (not Spy time), the next time you see that puppy, it’s older. It’s a dog. It’s still cute, but it’s lost that puppy openness and affection. When it sees you, it doesn’t immediately roll over and show you its belly. You pet it, pay it attention, let it see you’re friendly and won’t hurt it. Then it might roll over and show its belly.
ost of us are like the older dog. I know I am. So are my characters. I don’t write about puppies. Even my younger characters show up in my books damaged. They’ve built up defenses that protect them from more hurt. They don’t open themselves up to others right away. They don’t show their bellies.
But by the end of the book, they scrape off their defenses and they show their vulnerable bellies.
At the library last week, I picked up a book that sounded interesting. Though the author was new to me, the back jacket flap said she was one of the most popular writers in the UK. The story was told in my favorite POV, third person past tense. The premise was great, the pacing great, the characters great. I read the book in two days. But when I reached the end and closed the book, I felt... dissatisfied, disappointed. Like I’d dined out and the meal was okay, but the cook didn’t put the extra work or special ingredients in it to make it special.
I knew why I felt that way. It wasn’t the three-page info dump in the beginning (though everything in those three pages could easily have been dribbled in throughout the next few chapters with no loss). And it wasn’t because the compelling and quirky secondary characters drifted out of the story, one by one, as the heroine sorted them out. No, it was the shallow POV that left me feeling flat. I guessed what the POV character felt, but the author never showed her feeling anything. Even after the behind-closed-doors sex scenes. I didn’t mind that the author didn’t show the sex scenes – sometimes that’s refreshing. But after the sex, when the bedroom doors opened again, it would have been nice to know what the protagonist felt about it.
Perhaps the author’s worst mistake, in my opinion, was that I didn’t see the protagonist suffer. I didn’t root for her. When she had her HEA, I didn’t care. She hadn’t earned it.
I’ve seen Spy suffer. I see that she misses Glenn when he’s gone. I see how much she cares about her young students. I see how she suffered over the horrible root canals. And I’m rooting for her. I want her to be with Glenn every day. I want her young students to be musical stars. I want her teeth and gums to stop hurting. (Spy interjects a thank you! and a blush. :-)
I want her to have an HEA.
I’m not surprised pseudonym is in demand. (I wish!) I bet Spy’s characters show their bellies. I bet we see their pain. If they have defenses, I’m certain they scrape them off. I’m certain her characters don’t watch the story unfold from the shallow end. They dive straight into the deep end.
In my blogs I’m not as open as Spy. I don’t show my vulnerability the way she does. I’m not made that way. But in my books, I show my characters’ vulnerabilities. I show their hurts, their passions and their triumphs. I show their feelings.
It took me a long time to get the emotion right in my books. Karin Tabke, my former CP, used to constantly tell me, “What do they feel?” I think DEAD PEOPLE, my American Title V book, was the first in which I got their feelings down. Now in my critiques to my CPs, I’m the one who asks the question, “What do they feel?”
What about you? Do you show the bellies of your characters? Their suffering? Do you tiptoe in the shallow end of the water or dive straight into the deep end?
Thanks for a great blog, Edie!