25 March 2017: There’s a case of pop in the boot.

Here’s the tenth installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

10: There’s a case of pop in the boot.

If you’re from eastern Long Island, like I am, you say things a certain way.  We call it soda.  Up in Buffalo where I went to school, they called it pop. Keep this in mind if you’re writing for characters that are from a different region of the country than you are.

I recently read a book that took place in the Carolinas, but the protagonist kept saying things like she was going to take the lift up to the third floor or put her groceries in the boot of her car.  It was obvious the author was from the UK, yet she didn’t take care to edit out words that folks in the Carolina’s wouldn’t use.

If your writing dialogue for charters that are from anywhere other than where you grew up, be sure to research regional dialects for things like:

Would your characters say …

  • Sneakers or trainers
  • Ball cap or Baseball hat
  • Pop, soda or coke

If they lived in Boston, everything there is described as “wicked,” however, as a New Yorker myself, I’d be more likely to describe things as cool, never wicked.

To be honest, I cheat a little.  All my novels have heroines from my small, hometown of Wading River, NY. Being from this town, I’m apt to be accurate in how my heroines talk.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind. You have no idea how much you’ll brighten my day by leaving me a comment!

22 March 2017: Remember whose reading.

Here’s the ninth installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

9: Remember whose reading

Consider your reader. Who makes up you key demographic? If you want people to read more of your books, don’t throw a lot of bad language or overly fancy words at them.

A romance novel I recently read had a male protagonist who was a MMA Cage fighter.  Yum! However, he dropped the F bomb on almost every page of that book. OK, maybe that’s just how he talks, maybe it’s even realistic for the sort of man he was, but it’s certainly not something I want to read on every page of the book. There comes a point where reality and your reader’s sensibilities need to find a compromise. Had the author used half the F words I’d still have gotten the same sense of the character and would have felt more comfortable reading the book. If you think I’m overreacting, a search for the F word in this book  showed 179 uses of the f word.  The book has 240 pages.

If your demographic is primarily a female readership, the F word may not be something you want to use so liberally.

If your readership is sort of middle of the road education wise, meaning high school through college, consider how many words you’ll use that a reader will have to look up in a dictionary.  A novel I just finished contained ALL of the following words:

  • Hirsute
  • Desultory
  • Anodyne
  • Atavistic
  • Exultant
  • Surfeit
  • Portentous
  • Vociferously

I graduated college and even I had to look a bunch of these up. I’m all for writing in such a way that stretches your reader’s minds, but this is a bit too much.  After a while I was beginning to feel like a real idiot.  I’ll also mention that this book was written in first person and the person narrating it only had an associate degree from college. For this level of vocabulary, I’d have preferred it if she’d had a master’s degree in English.

The lesson here is to remember that while it’s important to keep the tone of language appropriate for your characters, it’s also important to remember who will be reading your work.  Will excessive foul language turn them off of your work? Will burning up the pages of your thesaurus annoy them so much they decide to skip your next book? There is a middle ground, you just have to find it.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind. You have no idea how much you’ll brighten my day by leaving me a comment!

19 March 2017: Look Who’s Talking?!?!

Here’s the eighth installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

8: Look who’s talking !?!?!

If you’re writing in first person and have multiple narrators, make this OBVIOUS! I just read a book that had two narrators.  The names of the narrators are the chapter names as well.

Chapter 1 is titled “Grace” which I had no idea was the name of the character. In the 10 pages that make up chapter one, the author never mentions her name, and let’s face it, “Grace” could have meant something was full of grace, which in this case is what I unconsciously assumed. Plus, I never pay too much attention to chapter titles.  Sorry, but I don’t.

Chapter 2 was titled “Sam.”  I’ll be honest; this 4 page chapter confused me.  I wondered why the unnamed narrator was suddenly stalking some unknown person for fun, but hey, the writing was really good and I figured it would go somewhere eventually. From the back of the book I vaguely remembered that the female protagonist was killing a series of men.  I think I was assuming the first fellow to bite it was going to be Sam.

Chapter 3 was titled “Grace” which again, I didn’t really think about.

It’s not till Chapter 4, “Sam,” that I started to realize something was truly amiss, and going back, realized there were two narrators. Talk about a light bulb moment.

The lesson here is to firmly establish your main narrator (by name) before you hand the story off to a second narrator. Remember to make that transition somewhat obvious to even a knucklehead like myself.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind. You have no idea how much you’ll brighten my day by leaving me a comment!

17 Mar 2017: The Reading Challenge Continues …

So as I mentioned last month, I set myself the challenge of reading 100 books in 2017. How am I doing so far? Right now I’m reading book 17.  Yes, I’m a little behind, but I’m sure I’ll come across some good and short books soon to make up the short fall.  Here are the books I’ve read since I last posted and the full reviews of them.  I do reviews on twitter as I finish each book, so if you’d like to follow my progress, follow me on twitter at @JenniferGNovels

Book 7: MEG: Nightstalkers by Steve Alten

4 stars

I’ll start by saying MEG is short of megladon, as is megladon sharks, sort of dinosaur sharks. I thought I’d take a break from my romance extravaganza to try something a little different. Nightstalkers is I think the 6th book in the MEG series and is an adventure story about scary prehistoric marine life roaming our oceans. Not my normal fare but a good read none the less.  It being late in the series I did have a little catching up, but I give Mr. Alten high marks for making the 6th book in a series also a very good stand alone novel.  Having written a 5 book series myself, I know that’s a really hard feat to accomplish. That’s not to say there weren’t a few issues.  Holy Guacamole, Batman, there were a lot of characters in this book!  You need a program to keep track of them all, and that’s my suggestion.  I’ve read books that have had one or two sentence bios of the main characters at the beginning of a book. I’d have been super happy to have had one of those for this book, especially for some of the dead characters eaten in previous books.

Most novels I read don’t have illustrations.  This one did. It had maps, which were very helpful as the ships were sailing all over: from Alaska, to Australia, to Antarctica.  There were also a few illustrations of the creatures.  Yeah … I could have used a couple more of those.  There’s only so much you can describe of a fanciful sea creature before what I’m picturing in my head looks nothing like what the author intended. It ain’t just sharks, we’re talking prehistoric whales and alligators too.

I will admit, the story lost me a bit when time travel got involved.  Quite frankly that little side story flopped for me. All they say is that’s how the one guy knew what was going to happen, that he’d gone back in time a few months and was reliving them. The book never says how that happened and why it didn’t happen again so I’d have written it out of the novel if I were the author.  Thankfully, that bit only lasted a few pages, any more and I’d have stopped reading.

Book 8: Undisputed by A.S. Teague

5 stars

This is a great read.  I finished it in two days, not that it was all that long.  It was unpredictable, funny and boy, did I cry! Yes, it’s a tear jerker, but in a good way.  It paced well and had a fabulous ending.  Honestly, my only complaint was that the male protagonist dropped the F bomb a few too many times for my taste.  Yes, it was probably in keeping with his character, but still, it’s not in keeping with me as a reader.  I highly recommend this book.  So much so that I’ve already started book 2 in the series.

Book 9: Unraveled by A.S. Teague

4 stars

Yes, the sequel dropped by a star. The protagonists in this story were very good, but not as compelling as in the first book. Plus a few things sort of annoyed me with this book. Rebecca, the female lead in this book was a side character in book one.  It was said that the male protagonist in book one was a little scared of her because she beat him up as a child.  He still seemed intimidated by her which seemed odd to me since she mostly drank wine, shopped and did her nails in book one.  Low and behold… in book two we find out that she used to me a cage fighter along with the male lead in Book one!  Well, had I known that in book one, that would have made a lot more sense.  In this book, Rebecca has two friends that are party girls, always going to clubs.  It isn’t until the end of the book that you find out the friends used to be cage fighters as well.  I think these were my main complaints about these books, that vital bits of info were neglected and tossed in a little too late for my taste.

Book 10: Nice by Jen Sacks

4 stars

This is a very funny book in a satire sort of way. Basically it’s a love story between a professional killer and your joe average woman who ends up killing her dates when she doesn’t have the heart to tell them she’s just not that into them, thus hurting their feelings. The story itself is a five-star story that I highly recommend. There were a couple of issues that kept it from that five-star overall rating. First would be the use of words you have to look up in the dictionary, like vituperously, somnambulistic and ablutions. I’m all for writing stories that make the reader stretch their mind, but come on. Who did she think was going to read this book?

The other issue I had was one that made me rethink how I write my own books. This book has two narrators.  The name of the chapter is the name of the character who narrates it.  This is what I do in my novels as well.  Problem with this book is that the first chapter is titled “Grace” and no where in the chapter do you find out that the name of the narrator to associate the chapter title as the name of the person talking. I honestly paid no attention to the chapter title, I rarely do. So when chapter two was titled “Sam,” I was wondering why the narrator was suddenly doing strange things.  Chapter two switched back to “Grace,” but I hadn’t realized we’d ever switched away from her.  I didn’t figure all this out until chapter four switched back to “Sam.”

Book 11: Moment in Time by Lisa Mondello

3 stars

This was a really short read, but still a good story.  Had Miss Mondello added an epilogue, I probably would have given in 4 stars.  As it is, the story ends awkwardly, leaving me to wonder if they live happily ever after … or happy for now??? To me, romance is all about the ending.  I get that this was a shorter novella that she put out for free to attract readers, but she does herself a disservice with this ending.  I’ve read other books of hers that were better.

Book 12: Billionaire Unknown by J.S. Scott

3 stars

I’ll start by saying I’m a big fan of this series, but the first 6 or 7 books in the series were definitely the best. Once they started branching out to the family in Colorado, I think the series started to lose me.  I was really confused when I started reading this book.  I thought I’d read it before.  So much so that I was just about to put it down when I realized that the author had put out a Christmas short story that was the beginning of this book.  Once I figured that out, the story was good.  Nothing special. Maybe I’m being a bit unfair seeing as the first books in the series were all 5 star wonders.

Books 13-14-15: The Maybe Series

Maybe Yes / Maybe Never / Maybe Always

3 stars

Since I bought this as a boxed set, I’ll review it as one book, not the three books it touts itself to be. If I was to review them individually, they’d all get 2 stars each. To be honest, book 1 was pretty good, but left you with a cliffhanger. Book 2 was a complete departure from the love story of book 1.  I’m not even sure if I’d classify Books 2 or 3 as romance.  They’re more action, suspense that romance. Personally I’m always disappointed when a writer has to bring in a Mexican Drug Cartel to spice things up.  To write that Kinsley could join a drug and smuggling cartel with any believability strains any sense of realism. I know most romance novels are escapist literature, but please … I think the author wrote herself into a corner in this story.  I get the distinct feeling that she was writing without an outline and once she’d gotten Kinsley involved with the cartel, had no idea how to resolve the story.  Most of Book 2 and 3 was her incessant interior monologue wondering if they believed her or not. For some reason she seemed to think the FBI had jurisdiction in Cancun Mexico and Paris France, because the author had them storming the Cartels facilities in both places. Not terribly realistic.

Book 16: The Education of Sebastian by Jane Harvey Berrick

4 stars

This one gets 4 stars by the skin of its teeth. Honestly, if I wasn’t on a three star streak, it would probably get 3. What’s holding it back? WORDS!  This book has wonderful characters and a good story line, but it is plagued with way too much extra prose. I found myself skipping pages upon pages of just too much detail and unnecessary information. It really is a shame as an edited version of this book would rate a good five stars. Basically the gist of this story is that Caroline, a 30-year-old military wife in a bad marriage, falls for Sebastian, the 17-year-old son of another military family. Yep, they’re breaking the law. The whole book builds up to the last couple of pages when the author answers the question, will they get caught or not. I thought the last pages were a bit of a let down as it just leads you into book 2, that is if you want to find out that happens to them. Yep, sucker that I am, I’m reading the sequel right now (but only because it was free with kindle unlimited!) From the way book two is shaping up, I’d say if both books were combined and edited, they’d make a great single novel. Still, if you don’t mind skipping pages, The Education of Sebastian is a really good read.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind. You have no idea how much you’ll brighten my day by leaving me a comment!

14 Mar 2017: The five page “How do you do?”

Here’s the seventh installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

7: The five page “How do you do?”

A huge pet peeve of mine is piles of interior monologue in the middle of a conversation between two characters, especially if that interior monologue has nothing to do with the scene at hand.

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If your characters are exchanging dialog, don’t be rude to them and have one of the characters in the conversation go off on a tangent of a long interior monologue about something or another.  I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about:

He looked my way and smiled.  “How do you do?” he asked as he extended he hand my way.  Taking it I felt his firm grip and the veins that corded the back of his hand. His hand was strong and held the promise of things to come.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I replied even though I knew it was a boring thing to say.

Ignoring my lame reply, he smiled. “How about dinner tonight at the restaurant downstairs?”

Dinner? Was he serious? Surely he had some pin-up model on speed dial he’d rather spend time with than me. No, that was my low self-esteem talking.  Damn Brian and how long I’d stayed in that relationship with him! Five years.  Five years of my life wasted on a man who didn’t appreciate anything about me except the way I made grilled cheese sandwiches.  The key was using three different kinds of cheeses, none of which was american cheese. In hindsight, the first sign of trouble was when he refused to go with me to my grandfather’s funeral. I was distraught at the loss. Instead of coming with me to the funeral home, Brian said he had an important squash game he couldn’t reschedule.  Grandpa Joe was like a father to me.  I missed him everyday. Just yesterday I passed the park on my morning walk and saw an old man and a little girl flying kites. I cried silent tears on my way home remembering doing that with Grandpa. With him gone, I had no family left. Besides that squash is a stupid sport.  Who even plays squash anymore since the 80’s. 

“That sounds nice.”

When authors do this, I’m so lost I always have to turn back a few pages to find out what question she was asked that she’s now, five pages later, answering. Sadly, by doing this the author has lost her pacing in the scene and now needs to start over to reestablish it.  I’m sure even Grandpa Joe would say he deserves more of a relevant insertion into the story than this.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

12 Mar 2017: A Rose may not be a Rose after all.

Here’s the sixth installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

6: A rose may not be a rose

Romance is intrinsically different for every person. Because of this variety in human nature, it’s important to take the time to discover what romance means to your characters, as it might not be what would be romantic to you.

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Lizard Romance?

This individualization is what can give your characters depth and ultimately more interesting than stock characters out of a Cracker Jack box. If, like myself, you have written a number of romance stories, it’s important to distinguish your couples as individuals and not the same cookie cutter couple that you drop into a new situation in each book. Readers will quickly bore with this.

Your main characters should be as unique as your story. 

If indeed your female protagonist is truly a different person than your last book, than what is romantic to her will be different as well. Where one woman will find a man doing the dishes romantic, another may find flowers or walks in the rain romantic.

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  • Fast cars or carriage rides?
  • A hand written poem or karaoke solo?
  • For me, a truly romantic gesture would be for a man to read all my books.
  • A friend of mine said one of the most romantic things a man could do for her was to love her dog a well as her.

amathus_elite_suites_romance_1

Discovering what romance means to your protagonists is key to a good story. In the end, if you write characters that your reader care about, your reader will appreciate the romance of the book if it’s romance that makes sense for the characters you created.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

10 Mar 2017: Where the $)*@#$ am I?

Here’s the fifth installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

5: Where the $)*@#$ am I?

Never be generic. Tell your reader in the first few pages where the characters are.

  • Are they in New York City?
  • Miami, Florida?
  • Austin, Texas?
  • Big Timber, Montana?

Each of these places are very different and those regional influences will affect how your characters interact with their environment. I recently read a book that seemed to purposefully avoid telling me where the story was set. All I can tell you was that I got the impression it was a city (as opposed to a small town) and that the main character said that, when a child, they used to go to the beach on weekends. Humm… not giving me much to go on.  Where they in Oregon or Georgia? Should I be picturing southern accents or New England ones? I can only imagine that the author of this book didn’t want the setting to interfere with the story.  Why? Did she not realize that the most amazing books every written are very identifiable with the places they are set?

Imagine Gone with the Wind without Atlanta.

Imagine Twilight without Forks.

Imagine Sherlock Holmes without London

Readers need something to go on.  As we read a book, we’re forming pictures in our mind, sort of like assembling the words on the page into a movie that shows in our head.  We hear the voices of the characters, we see what they see. But we all need a starting point from which to embark on the journey the book is to take us on.

2015-11-17-1447775691-8026445-accents_1Instead of ignoring the setting of your story, let it become a part of the story, let your readers walk it’s streets with the characters.  If they’re like me, the like to form a mental picture of the places your characters go, so paint a picture of a real place. Now, that doesn’t mean they can’t be set in a fictional town, it’s just that your fictional town should be set in a real life region of the country that your readers can identify with.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

8 Mar 2017: Momentum Killers – The Death of a story

Here’s the fourth installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

4: Backstory dumps

I suppose this is probably a generic story problem, but it certainly is one that plagues the romance genre. A good story drops you right into the action.  It provides the bare essentials of information for you to understand the action and hit the ground running. It does NOT spend the first couple of chapters taking you from birth, trough childhood and adolescence and then to present day where your protagonists have their meet-cute.

postcard

This backstory dump will kill whatever momentum the author is trying to build. The best way to introduce necessary backstory (and I stress the word necessary) is through the occasional dialog drop, a casual conversation that mentions something that happened in the past.  Let the characters current circumstances draw proper conclusions about the events that led to their current situation.

Don’t start a story with pages upon pages backstory about your characters.

Besides the fact that you’re asking me to be interested in something that is just backstory (not the actual story,) you’re wasting valuable real estate.  Those first few pages have to hook your reader, don’t waste it with things that are not your main story.  Drop you reader in the middle of a scene and make them hungry to know how they ended up there.  Tease them with bits and pieces of backstory, like bread crumbs that lead them to the last pages of the book.

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I recently read an excellent book that does a wonderful job of dropping the reader in the middle of the action. I wish I could copy and paste those first couple of pages here for you, but since I can’t, I highly suggest you check this book out if you’re looking for a good example.  It’s Haunted Souls by Kathryn Knight.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

6 Mar 2017: If they thought it once, they thought it a thousand times.

Here’s the third installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

3: Unnecessary thoughts and feelings.

In a story where most conflicts are emotional, it’s easy to fall into the trap of repeating the same internal dialog over and over again.

“I was so confused. Did he really like me or was I just fooling myself that he could ever love a woman like myself?”

Believe it or not … Readers have good memories.  If she thinks that once, she doesn’t need to repeat it over and over again every time they meet.

Because in a story that is a pure romance all your story conflicts are emotionally based, you can easily fall into the trap of over thinking and analyzing your characters thoughts and feelings. Let their actions speak louder than words.

life-lemons-and-vodka-actions-speak-louder-than-words-20Don’t tell me a hundred times that she’ll die if he ever leaves her.  Once is enough. After that, let him leave and show me what happens to her.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

actions-speak-louder

In this case, tell me, don’t show me. Click on Leave a Comment.

4 Mar 2017: Never Underestimate Likability

Here’s the second installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

#2: Never Underestimate Likability.

Not all characters have to be likable. Not everyone in this world is likable. Although the protagonists in a love story should have flaws, like all humans do, they should also have more redeemable qualities than flaws.

caution-tape

I recently read a book where I kept thinking, why is she interested in him? He’s a total jerk and an unrepentant man-whore to boot! She can do so much better than him! When the finally got together at the end of the book, I really could have cared less. Did I read any more of the books in that series? No, they all sounded pretty much the same, with “heroes” that were not good people at all, certainly not anyone I’d ever want to fantasize about.

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The real problem was, he was just as much of a jerk on the last page of the book as he was on the first. There was no progression of character, no redemption, no understanding of why he was the way he was. Remember that your readers have to find something likable in your protagonists in order for them in invest themselves in them.

  • What keeps someone turning the pages of book is caring.
  • They care if the protagonist finds love or doesn’t.
  • They care what trap or mystery they may be walking into.

If you want to have a character that’s a jerk when the couple first meets, that’s fine, but give them a journey that reveals why they are the way they are, and continue that evolution of character until the final pages of the book. Every event that happens to us in our lives changes the person we were when we woke up that morning. How does this fact of life change who you characters are when you finally type “The End?”

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.