Friday, June 21, 2013

Character Arc

I've recently completed an intense content edit for my novel coming out in July called "Cosmetic Heart." I signed the contract for this novel about six months ago. I'd lost the feel of the book after all that time and was pleased to have a thorough go-through with an editor. I have to admit that, at first, I struggled with her edits because they were so different from my previous editor's style and outlook. Once I got into them, I saw where she was coming from and now feel that my book is so much better. I'm so thankful for editors. What would I do without them?

Now back to character arc. The characters in this novel don't start off perfect. They start off with serious character flaws which pitch them against their happily-ever-afters. During the story, they change and become the people they were meant to become. The romance leads them forward and develops their characters. I think a romance isn't complete without a character arc. Not only do the hero and heroine find love, they find a way to view the world differently. They change and become better people. Love and the need for love changes them or so it should.

How do you create a believable character arc that makes the reader sympathise with your characters? That's a hard one. In the beginning, your character must believe a lie. In Wedding Gown Girl, Kienna believed that true love didn't exist, especially for her. She was afraid to give her heart to Blake because her ex-husband had lied to her about his true feelings for her. In the movie Nottinghill, the heroine Anna (Julia Roberts) believed that it was too risky to love with the world looking on. She'd messed up before and didn't think she could sustain love again with an audience. In most romance novels, there is some pain in the hero or heroine's past that is making them believe a lie. In Sleepless in Seattle, the hero is afraid to love again because he lost the love of his life before. What if he loses his love again? Yes, he may but he will miss out on happiness in the here and now if he doesn't jump in and take the risk. Finally, his son helps him discover this.

The character can't discover the truth too soon. They can begin to get inklings of it along the way but firstly, the lie must get stronger and bigger, like the cookie monster. It must consume them so that they give up or almost give up on the one they love. So, the process of a romance novel isn't just the falling in love, but also the falling out of pain or lies.

There must be a black moment. I struggle with always finding the exact blackest moment as in some novels, I have several black moments. Those are the moments when the lie is exposed. Straight after the black moment is the crucial moment when your character has to choose to face their pain and fear and rise above it or to take the safer route and deny their heart and love. Once they choose the courageous path, their character has changed and they've made the character arc.

One of my favourite authors, Katie Fford, does lovely character arcs. They're subtle, but her characters don't only find love but learn something vital along the way about life and themselves.

Ways in which characters can learn the truth about the lies they believe:
  1. True love shows them something different about life or themselves.
  2. Secondary characters, like family members who know so much about them, show them things about themselves.
  3. Circumstances and conflict can bring that lie out to the surface like heating silver.
  4. When they are faced with losing the love of their life, the lie loses its power.
In Cosmetic Heart, my heroine, Lisa, believes a big fat lie. She believes that being strong and independent is safer and better for her than opening up her heart to love. She's put layers over her heart like make-up over skin. She starts off in the story as a make-up artist. You will have to read my book to find out how she discovers it's a lie.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Book Review - Melancholic Delight

Today, I am reviewing Melancholic Delight by Tista Ray. I was given a copy of this book in exchange for writing a review. The writer of this book is only eighteen years old!

Melancholic Delight is a refreshing, unique novel about a young Indian woman's coming of age story. Sri falls in love with Jishu hard. Could that love she buries in her heart for him become any stronger? As you read, you wonder if it's possible, but it is. This is a story of a high school student's final years as she struggles to find a way to express her love for a boy in her class.

I was unsure of the book when I first starting reading. The language is different and the way of narration isn't your standard romance novel of third person point of view. It's very intimate and I soon became swept into the depths of Sri's feelings for Jishu, her frustration because of her shyness to show him, and her struggles with rejection and fickle behaviour from her love and the persecution of her insensitive classmates. Then I realised the wisdom and maturity of the writer's insight. She captures young, teenage first love like a master - the confusion, insecurity, intense emotion often changing from day to day, and the dynamics of teenage relationships and friendships.

The beauty in the story is not in the Happy-Ever-After. It's not that type of story, but in the growth of Sri as she becomes the adult she was meant to become. Although Jishu's final rejection is painful, Sri has changed as a person. The most touching line in the book is her mother's words to her: "I can see he had taught you a lot. Not just to talk freely and think gently but also to love sincerely." You're left with the almost certain feeling that Sri will find true love one day with a man who understands her shyness to express her feelings, a man who makes her feel comfortable enough to show them to him. She reminds me a lot of what I was like as a teenager and young adult.

The writer of this book is a teenager herself. The depth of point of view and analysis of teenage love goes beyond her years. She has a deep, literary almost poetic style. I love the way she gives a feel of her culture without going into any long descriptions but by merely taking the reader right into the mind of the person. Excellent deep point of view writing skills which many more mature writers struggle to grasp.

The reason I didn't give this book five stars is because I believe it should have been edited more thoroughly. There were grammatical problems and word choice errors that could cause confusion to the reader. At times I didn't understand what was being expressed.

Tista Ray is kindly donating 50% of the proceeds of her book to an orphanage. You can purchase a copy at the following link: Melancholic Delight. You can find her on the world wide web at: Tista Ray

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I'm fascinated with dragonflies. They're whimsical little creatures that make a body of water sparkle and look beautiful. In Dragonfly Moments, the dragonfly features a few times and holds a special symbolism for my heroine, Tessa. Now, of course I can't tell you what. You need to read the book to find out.

Dragonflies come from the order Odonata which is a Greek word for "tooth." It was thought they had teeth but instead they have super-strong mandibles to crush their prey. The creature has 5,000 species (including the damselfly.) They are brilliant flyers and engineers have studied their flight pattern to design a flying robot. If they couldn't fly, they wouldn't eat because they eat in flight. Mozzies are their favourite meal. I think I'd like to hire a bunch of them for summer nights. They are also master migrators and one species can migrate about 11,000 miles across the Indian Ocean. And contrary to popular opinion, they live for more than one day. They can possibly live to a whole year, but normally a few weeks.

I've been considering getting a tattoo. I'm actually a very conservative person and for many years used to dress like an Amish, covering my skin ridiculously. I loosened up over the years, thankfully. But a tattoo? Since I've hit forty, I wanted to do something daring and outrageous. Unfortunately, I haven't taken the plunge, purely because I'm petrified that years later I won't like the picture I chose. I wonder if I'll ever do it. There was a point when I searched for pictures for a tattoo to put on my ankle. The dragonfly appealed to me. Partly because of my book and also because it looks cute. When I searched for pics of dragonflies, I stumbled upon some fascinating symbolism of the little creature. The symbolism is almost endless, but here are few lovely thoughts:

  1. In Japan, the dragonfly symbolises power and victory. The Samurai warriors use the symbol to represent strength. The strength of its wings to keep it in the air is powerful for such a small creature.
  2. In Native America, it symbolises freedom, happiness and purity because it dwells happily on land and water. Freedom because it breaks free from its larva stage after most of its life and then is able to fly all over.
  3. The Chinese see the dragonfly as a symbol of prosperity, good luck and harmony.
  4. In modern times, its seen as a symbol of living life to the full as the dragonfly only has a small portion of its life after it breaks free to fly and catch prey. It also speaks of the subconscious, like the reflection on water, the depth of the water speaking of going deeper and using your subconscious to learn more. (Wow, quite deep and mysterious.)
According to some legends, dragonflies were believed to possess supernatural power and be spiritual messengers. They were bearers of light, and in Ireland, they were considered the horses that fairies rode. Mmmh, now that sounds like an interesting thought for a fantasy story. The Lakota tribe in Japan used to invoke them to help defeat their enemies as they represented the spirit of illusion.

I think this all comes from the fact that the insect's wings refract light and many colours can be seen in them.

What feeling does the dragonfly invoke in you? Sometimes I think its sinister, other times beautiful and graceful but always mysterious.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I've been unofficially tagged by Romy Sommer, author of Waking Up in Vegas for the next big thing blog hop.

1) What is the working title of your book?
Cosmetic Heart

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?Now that’s a hard one. The novel was my Nano novel from last year so the ideas were thought of quickly based on the trope of “fake engagement.”

3) What genre does your book come under?
It’s a sweet contemporary romance, although not as sweet as my others.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Whew, this was a challenge. It’s so hard to find a face that fits the character you have in your head, but Heath Ledger does it the best in this pic:

Katie Holmes would make a cute Lisa with her hair lightened a bit:

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When Lisa’s boss asked her to pose as his fiancée, she doesn’t bank on falling for him and his family, but can Dan’s love reach past the layers and secrets she’s put over her heart?

6) Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
This book will come out with Astraea Press in July.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A month! It was my Nanowrimo novel. Of course, it needed lots of editing after that and is in the editing phase at the moment with the publishers.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?I don’t know of a book but a fairly similar movie is “While you were Sleeping” where “Sandra Bullock” poses as a man’s fiancée who’s just come out of a coma and has amnesia. A cute movie although the ending is radically different to mine.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?I’ve always been interested in journalism, hence my main characters are a magazine writer and editor. I liked the fake engagement premise especially because of the movie, “While you were Sleeping,” with Sandra Bullock. Part of the book was inspired by an experience I had while writing it – the spider bite part.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There are plenty of lies, secrets, and betrayal. The setting of the first part of the book is unusual – in a rustic town in the Northern Cape called De Aar. There are also snippets of Lisa’s magazine articles interspersed throughout the book.

I'm not going to officially tag anyone, but put your blog link in the comments block if you have a book soon to be released and want to let the blogosphere know.