Sunday, December 21, 2008

Guest Blog: Edie Calls Spy a Puppy.

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 votes@romantictimes.com with DEAD PEOPLE in the subject line.

imageThanks 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. 

image

M

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.

image I never saw the protagonist’s belly.  Never really knew her.  I knew the interesting secondary characters more deeply than I knew the POV character. 

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. 

image 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!

You can visit her website here, her personal blog here, (she also blogs at Magical Musings!) and the American Title V contest here. Please vote!

37 bonus scribbles:

LaDonna 12/21/2008 11:18:00 PM  

Hey, Edie! Terrific blog, I just loved it! Like you, I show my character's bellies, big time. But, I don't show mine as much. I definitely show what I can.

I agree about Spy's blog too. Spy, you have just the right balance here, and I'm always rooting for you! You're a special gal, and so honored to have "met" you!

Barbara Martin 12/22/2008 12:49:00 AM  

Edie, very nice and informative post with cute photos to supplement.

I do show my characters' emotions and vulnerabilities after the reader has a chance to watch them move through their first steps in the story.

spyscribbler 12/22/2008 01:11:00 AM  

Edie, I love your post! Thank you for guesting. :-)

I can pinpoint the exact story where I opened up. It's riddled with mistakes, stuff that should have been cut, and it's really a mess, but I got a number of warm notes on it. It really encouraged me to be more open.

I confess, it's easier for pseudonym to be honest because she is a pseudonym. When I told my local chapter my pseudonym's name, I couldn't write for two months. No kidding!

Edie 12/22/2008 08:17:00 AM  

LaD, I knew you showed your characters bellies. We're Twinkie twins here too.

Edie 12/22/2008 08:32:00 AM  

Barbara, thanks! I give hints of my character's vulnerabilities from the beginning, but I don't dump them all at once on the reader either. You're right that in the beginning, the important thing is to hook the reader. The reader can't see our cute puppy face to fall in love with us at first glance. All they see is our words.

Spy chose the photos and put them up. I love them!

Edie 12/22/2008 08:39:00 AM  

Spy, I love your blog! Thank you again for asking me to guest. :)

When I told my local chapter my pseudonym's name, I couldn't write for two months.

Spy, I believe you. I'm guessing it's because you're so open. I'm always aware that I'm writing under my real name. I wonder if that makes a difference. (I'm getting a book idea. Thanks!)

Denys√© 12/22/2008 09:42:00 AM  

Hi, Edie. Very nice post, and very insightful topic. I have been one of those people who watches life from behind a glass wall, always observing, never letting myself be drawn in and made "real" in that I've extended the trust you talk about. This year, I met someone who is ALL the other way, who has been pushing me out from behind my defenses from the night I met him. He tells me to stop hiding my light, to say what I need to say, that people will listen... and those that don't aren't worth worrying about.... he is the polar opposite to me in trust and openness. We're learning a lot from each other.

Characters I was always able to speak through, and so there was never a real "cut off" sense for me, but yes, it's easier to make ficitonal people vulnerable than it is to expose our real selves.

There's a balance for everyone in this, and it's nice that we have the avenues to express it and find it, through words and the empathy of our readers.

Lovely blog, and well done!!
Hugs,
Denysé

Arkansas Cyndi 12/22/2008 09:55:00 AM  

Excellent blog, Edie. Love the pics too! Interesting concept, showing your character's belly. Never thought of it that way. Hmmmm.

Good food for thought.

Tamara Hughes 12/22/2008 09:56:00 AM  

Hi Edie! I too try to show my characters' bellies to the reader, and my critique partners are quick to point out when they're not. Sometimes it's so easy to know what the character is feeling inside your head, and forget to put that on paper for everyone else. Some days we just live in our own little world. Deep point of view has always been my favorite read too. After a while you just about feel like you are the heroine/hero. It's magic.

Good luck in the ATV, Edie. If only we could all win.

Marie-Claude Bourque 12/22/2008 10:11:00 AM  

Great post Eddie. You are so right. If you don't know how the character feel, you don't connect to them (Yellow and Pink in Margie's edit LOL).
My problem is I show too much and I'm called melodramatic LOL

Liz L. 12/22/2008 10:13:00 AM  

Thought-provoking blog, Edie. Since I write a lot of fast-paced drama, I sometimes forget to show how my charaters feel about things. I know you can't tell the readers Jenny was feeling a little nostalgic as shots are being fired her way, but still, there is a way. Thanks for making me think hard about it.

And Merry Christma to everyone.

Edie 12/22/2008 10:15:00 AM  

Denyse, your guy sounds fabulous. I'm teaching myself what yours is teaching you. We're both open to it, and that's what makes it work.

Melanie Avila 12/22/2008 10:18:00 AM  

Great post Edie! I love the comparison of our characters to puppies. I don't have a problem getting into my characters' feelings because I look at it that it's not me, it's someone I've made up.

In my current wip I've included a couple views I have of my church and I did hesitate before writing them, but that's been the only time I started to censor myself for fear of what others might think. In the end I wrote it was I wanted.

Edie 12/22/2008 10:20:00 AM  

Thanks, Cyndi! Little kids show their bellies too. Actually, I'm glad most adults I know don't do that anymore. lol

Edie 12/22/2008 10:24:00 AM  

Tami, it's great to have CPs who can catch emotion. And I'm hoping Marie-Claude's dream -- that Dorchester wants to buy the books of all 8 of us -- turns out to be prophetic. :)

Edie 12/22/2008 10:27:00 AM  

M-C, I'm lucky to have CPs who hold me back when I do too much emotion. And lately, I've been catching myself.
Sometimes I think writing is more dangerous than tightrope walking.

Edie 12/22/2008 12:12:00 PM  

Liz, in the pages I read of yours, you did a great job with emotion! And that's something you can add in during the revisions.

Edie 12/22/2008 12:16:00 PM  

Melanie, I'd hesitate using a church I'd been to too, unless it was very sympathetic. Or the minister knew and was okay with it.

I used friends as characters, but they knew about it and it was a sympathetic portrayal. I haven't used anyone I didn't like. Not consciously anyway.

Robin 12/22/2008 12:34:00 PM  

Edie, great thought provoking post! I have no problem opening up about my foibles and silliness, but I'm much more shy about the things I feel good about! It feels sort of like bragging. So my nonfiction tends to have a lot of self derogatory humor.

As for my fiction, I'm working on something, and I'm going to try to let my MC let down her hair - both vulnerabilities and strengths. I hope I can do it!

Spy, I love you blog, and your guest bloggers!

Melanie Avila 12/22/2008 01:02:00 PM  

Edie, it was a really minor thing, nothing they would (or should) get upset over. But even that gave me pause.

Liz Kreger 12/22/2008 02:36:00 PM  

Terrific blog, Edie. Thought provoking. I think I'm pretty good at expressing feelings but I don't like torturing my main characters. Not a huge fan of overly damaged people ... so as a result, I don't like to write them. I like everyday people put into unusual situations where they rise to the occasion.

Edie 12/22/2008 04:49:00 PM  

Robin, my heroine in DEAD PEOPLE is snarky. Self-defensive sarcasm can work, especially when the reader sees she shows it when she feels vulnerable.

I love Spy's blog, too!

Edie 12/22/2008 04:51:00 PM  

Melanie, I worry about things like that too, but I'd trust your gut.

Edie 12/22/2008 04:54:00 PM  

Liz, we differ there. Actually Michelle's h/h aren't damaged either. In my wip, my heroine isn't damaged. But she does have an interesting backstory ...

Karin Tabke 12/22/2008 05:10:00 PM  

Edie those words haunt me! sigh. love the blog. here's the thing, just when i think i have my characters' emotions nailed i read a great book that really shows emotion. example i read my friend Sylvia Day's PASSION FOR THE GAME yesterday. Talk about emotional! wowee, i can take lessons from her and still not get it right like syl did.

lainey bancroft 12/22/2008 08:04:00 PM  

Oh, Edie! What can I say? You showed us YOUR belly. Tee Hee. You showed us that even though you are here to promote the contest, your heart is really every bit as much into promoting friendship (Spy/Natasha) and the writing community in general.

Bang up job!

Edie 12/22/2008 08:07:00 PM  

Karin, did you know you were going to have such an effect on my writing? I wrote Passion for the Game down, and will get it. Thanks for the recommendation!

Edie 12/22/2008 08:12:00 PM  

Lainey, what a great thing to say! Thank you. It's true, too. I'm not just promoting. I care about Spy. I don't know anyone who would follow her blog and not care about her.

spyscribbler 12/22/2008 08:19:00 PM  

Oh, Edie! Thank you. :-)

Zoe Winters 12/23/2008 12:43:00 AM  

This is a kickass post, Edie! And I hope Spy gets her HEA too! :D

Edie 12/23/2008 09:09:00 AM  

Thanks, Zoe! Spy's got a lot of love coming at her.

Cynthia Eden 12/23/2008 09:50:00 AM  

What a terrific blog! I loved the comparison to a puppy. Showing your belly--what a great way to think of character reveals.

Laurel Bradley 12/23/2008 09:58:00 AM  

Great blog, Edie! I'm with you, I think showing the emotions is one of the hardest things to do, but it is also one of the most important. I'm cheering you onto victory in American Title V. I'm voting too.

Merry Christmas!
Laurel

Edie 12/23/2008 10:47:00 AM  

Cynthia, thanks! Spy was my inspiration.

Edie 12/23/2008 10:50:00 AM  

Laurel, thanks for stopping by! And for your vote. :) I read somewhere that we choose our entertainment because we want to feel. So a great story alone won't do it. It's like a meal without spices. You can eat it, but it's not as delicious as it could be.

Mary Marvella 12/23/2008 02:35:00 PM  

You really dug deep for this blog. So many people who talk about writing barely scratch the surface.

My CPs and I had a discussion about facing our fears to let us find our characters' fears and soft spots.

Edie 12/23/2008 03:07:00 PM  

Mary, this is a deep subject. I love the term "soft spots." We all have them, even our antagonists. Identifying our characters' fears and soft spots before we start writing is much better than "What's his favorite color" information.

I'm such a pantser, but I should do that.