Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Book & Movies Relationship Tropes – Bad Boy & Sweet Girl

June 9, 2022
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As we all know the definition of a trope in literary terms is a plot device or character attribute that is used so commonly in a genre that it is commonplace or conventional. I’ve recently been intrigued by the bad boy-good girl trope of romance books and movies, especially trilogies. It may have something to do with a draft manuscript I have on the back burner, which has a bad girl – good boy (you know me I like to switch things up!) It is interesting to see this specific relationship scenario played out, and the complexities of the plots. (Some better and more believable than others!)

I have researched three such movie trilogies/series and have found the basic characters and their flaws and/or strengths to be the very similar in each. Obviously, the plots and character lives are different, but the basic character structures are easily identifiable.

  1. The Kissing Booth
  2. Twilight
  3. Fifty Shades

Each one has a damaged, aloof, unattainable male character and also an innocent, charming, loving female character. The love aspect of the relationships are played out with various obstacles, misunderstandings and heart break scenarios. The characters go through intense, fractured and profound changes. The females become stronger and more capable of ‘controlling’ and understanding their love interest, while the male character’s go through a realization process that this specific woman can, in fact, love them for who they are.

So, why go to these lengths, you may ask? Well, there is that draft manuscript languishing in the pile, but also I am working on a trilogy and it is the character development, I am most interested in. Readers want to ‘see’ a character develop and change, overcome obstacles and have some sort of resolution. With trilogies, or indeed, any series, this is the ‘draw’ for a reader. How will the character overcome, manage and ultimately succeed?

With Christian and Anastasia in Fifty Shades – he is emotionally and physically damaged from childhood trauma and he ‘copes’ with punishing his mother look-a-likes in the playroom. Ana shows him there is another way to love and forgive.

With Elle and Noah in The Kissing Booth she breaks the rule of having a relationship with her best friend, Lee’s brother. It is a forbidden love full of secrets, guilt and at times an unattainable relationship. Elle risks her life long friendship with Lee to pursue Noah. The trilogy follows the characters through high school to college.

With Edward and Bella, again there is the unattainable relationship, this time between a vampire and a human. This is the ultimate taboo. Bella is convinced she is destined to be a vampire, but Edward will do anything to protect her from such an existence. The third player is Jacob, a werewolf, which adds to the complexity of the relationship as he is also in love with Bella. The two male character’s have a instinctive, historical hatred for each other, but both will do anything to protect Bella.

As you can see the similarities are obvious with each story with conflicts between the two main characters and their connection to each other, no matter the obstacles.

Can you name another series with this bad boy – good girl scenario?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Character Creation: Ten Questions To Ask

February 24, 2022
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When creating a story the main element is the characters within the narrative. To ensure we, and our readers, can visualize and become empathic with these protagonists and antagonists, we need to take into account their personalities and backstory. We can begin by asking questions to enable us to create a fully formed character.

  1. What is this character’s name?

Names are a vital first impression for your reader. It can denote an age, location or era. Research names for your story that will fit time and place. You may also chose a name that has a significant meaning.

2. How old are they?

You can state a character’s age, or allude to it with their reactions, preferences or actions.

3. What do they look like?

You can give subtle clues to your character’s looks through careful descriptions rather than listing their physical features. For example, the steamed up mirror gradually revealed her wet long black hair. He easily picked the box off the top shelf.

4. Who are they?

Utilize a character’s occupation, a prominent personality trait, or interaction to give your reader a glimpse at them.

5. Where are they?

Ensure the location of your scenes is ‘visible’ to your reader. A dark room, a summer day in the park or a sandy beach. Place your character within these locations and have them interact with their surroundings.

6. What era/season/day do they inhabit?

With historical fiction, or date/era sensitive stories this is important so your readers are orientated to where your characters live.

7. Who are your characters interacting with?

Name other characters within a scene, this is usually accomplished through dialogue, or interaction.

8. How do they relate to the other character(s)?

Create scenes that help your reader understand the relationships between your character’s. For example, Tom laid his hand on Cheryl’s shoulder as she typed up the letter. She shrugged her distaste at her boss’s physical touch. Tom positioned himself on one side of her desk and grinned.

9. What is your character accomplishing in each scene?

Each scene should relay what your character is trying to accomplish, with whom and how. Give your readers enough information, but also ask questions on what happens next.

10. Keep your character’s plight foremost.

Keep your reader engaged with curiosity, emotional investment, or sympathy for your character, this will keep them present in the story.

Remember to be true to your story but also your readers expectations within the specific genre.

Do you have certain questions you ask your characters? Care to share?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – The Dreaded Editing Process

December 2, 2021
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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Editing encompasses several elements in order to achieve a well-polished manuscript for submission. Editing includes among other things, continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, revisions to scenes etc. the list is long and sometimes overwhelming.

Where should you start?

Instead of plunging directly back into a first draft, let it sit for a while. Start another project, take a rest, whatever you need to tear yourself away from the world and the characters you created. Ideally, leave it for three to six months, depending on any deadlines you have, of course. This will allow you to ‘see; it with fresh eyes.

When you go back to re-read there will be new insights. Rather than overwhelming yourself with trying to ‘correct’ all the editing elements mentioned above, concentrate on one item at a time.

Limit each read through to a specific task.

When you have completed these tasks let either trusted friends, or members of your local writing group read it. Take note of their suggestions and correct any errors they may find. Remember, no matter how many times you or your beta readers go through a manuscript, there will always be a word missed, mis-spelt or a continuity slip up. Once this is done it is time to consider handing over the manuscript to a professional. A professional editor is a good investment, if you can afford one. A badly edited book reflects on you the author and no-one else.

Here are a couple of tricks that can help you edit more effectively:

  1. Read the book from back to front page by page. This stops your brain putting in words that are not there.
  2. Read it out aloud to yourself or an understanding friend. A missed word is very obvious with this technique.

When editing there may be sentences or even whole paragraphs that you know need to be revised or even omitted from the manuscript to help with the flow of the story line or scene.  Deleting these can be hard. There are different opinions on what to do with these revisions but I think they should be saved in a separate document until you are absolutely sure you do want to delete them and even then you may keep them as a record of how the scene developed. A writer’s jetsam so to speak. These ejected words from our narratives may dwell in our hard drives or document folders for months, sometimes years. They may even be useful if at some point in the future you decide to use them in a sequel!  

Without correcting and improving, our creations will not be polished and worthy of reading and that is the one thing we all want – our work to be read and enjoyed.

What is your editing process like?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – A Special TV Interview with BLive Media

November 30, 2021
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I was delighted to be interviewed on Writers Corner Live TV Show on Sunday. It was an early start 7 am so if you missed it (you were probably sleeping!) here it is. https://www.facebook.com/WritersCornerLive/videos/445917263722961

I talked about Life in Slake Patch and it’s long history from initial draft through multiple revisions to it’s final publishing date and the redesign of the front cover. We discussed my writing journey and how I create my stories.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comment section here. I’m always happy to connect and chat.

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Surviving and Thriving in NaNoWriMo

November 25, 2021
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As we enter the last week of NaNoWriMo, I thought I would share my experience of the challenge and share some tips.

National Novel Writing month is a crazy experience, whether it is your first attempt or one of many. We all tend to become rather manic as we write to our daily goal of 1667 words (or more if possible). I remember my first NaNoWriMo was back in 2009. At the time my writing experience was minimal, and my longest piece of writing was maybe three paragraphs long, substantially less than fifty thousand words.

The panic I felt at the mind-blowing word count and the deadline date made me completely obsessed. I would race home from work to write, threw the easiest meals together for my family and ignored household chores, for the most part. This was my focus. Now, after twelve years of the challenge, I have become more relaxed knowing I am capable of writing at least 1667 words in an evening. My average daily word count fluctuates between 1700 and 1900 words this year. That is not to say I do not experience some anxiety; I just know how to handle the challenge better now. As with everything – practice makes perfect, or in this case ‘bum in seat’ makes an achievable word count.

Here are a few tips I found worked for me:

  1. Cultivate your story idea before NaNo starts. It may be a character, a location or even a whole scene that propels you into the story.
  2. Jot down notes for plot, character names & personalities, anything that you see being included in your narrative.
  3. Find a time and a quiet place to write that works for you and your family. Designate a time, if that helps.
  4. Don’t make excuses – write first then watch TV or scroll social media.
  5. Use unexpected spare/free time to write, even if it’s only a paragraph. Every word counts.
  6. Try writing bursts – time yourself to write a certain number of words in an allocated amount of time.
  7. Aim to write over the daily word count of 1667 this helps you stay ahead. So, any unforeseen circumstances are not so drastic to your end goal.
  8. Let the words flow – leave editing and revision for later.
  9. Use the word count tracker on the website, it helps you stay on goal.
  10. Mark or highlight a sentence if fact checking is required. This stops you going down internet rabbit holes.
  11. Believe in yourself, your story and your success.
  12. Celebrate the smaller victories – hitting a sprint goal, writing a smashing paragraph, learning a new word.
  13. Make sure you rest, exercise and eat.
  14. Enjoy the process of immersing yourself into creating a world of your imagination.
  15. Even if you don’t achieve 50,000 words you have managed to write a fair amount – that is success. Remember this challenge is only the beginning of your narrative’s journey. The editing and revisions come later.
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