Jennifer Geoghan

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

22 Jan 2017: There’s nothing like hitting the “Publish” button.

There’s no greater feeling than hitting the “publish” button to put a finished book up for sale online.  Having finally completed my newest project, I had the pleasure of doing so just that this week.

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The Family History Quick Start Guide is now up for sale on Amazon for the amazing price of only $4.99!!

Check it out at: https://goo.gl/eSSZwa

Its creation was a true labor of love. I’ve been somewhat obsessed with my family history since I had to do a middle school social studies project on my family tree. Thirty some on years later, I’m an expert on the subject.  It was suggested to me about a year ago that writers, even novelists, should write a how to book.  Never having written nonfiction before, I wanted to give it a go. What I produced is an easy to read, funny and extremely helpful guide for those just beginning to untangle the story of their family history.

Check it out!

-Jennifer

7 July 2016: A book lover’s paradise … The American Library Assoc Convention

I have to say …. Sometimes I just get lucky.  Because of my job here in Orlando I was able to get a free ticket to the expo floor of the American Library Association convention held here in Orlando the weekend before last.

The American Library Association Convention - Orlando, FL

The American Library Association Convention – Orlando, FL

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but a friend of mine who is a librarian over on the west coast said I was going to get a LOT of free books.

He wasn’t kidding.  Here’s my new To Be Read Pile:

to bea read

The show floor at the convention center had a variety of different exhibitors selling everything from shelving, chairs and electronic card catalog systems to publishers trying to entice librarians to stock their books. Hence the free book giveaways.  Here’s how I saw them displayed and just had to take a picture.

Book Stack

No, I’m not a librarian but I am an avid reader and an author so I have to admit, I was in a little bit of heaven.  Not only did I get some great books to read (and review here on my blog) but I also gained some interesting insights on how publishers promote the books they sell.  I also met several authors that were there doing book signings.

By far and away the coolest pavilion on the show floor belonged to the Library of Congress.  I had the pleasure of listening to a talk they gave on the genealogy resources that the LOC offers.  Here’s where I do a shameless plug for my other blog, the one about my genealogy exploits: www.wellsgenealogy.wordpress.com

Here are some pictures I took of their “booth.”  Was a little hard to photograph as it was quite large.

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The best thing I took away from the LOC’s genealogy talk was a great resource they have called Chronicling America, an online resource for you to search (for free) a large amount of historical newspapers that they have scanned. Check it out at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

So back to the books …

This week I’ve been reading and listening to two books I got at the show.  I’ve been reading Kristen Proby’s “Close to You,” and listening to the audio book of “Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined” by Stephanie Meyer.

Close to You by Kristen Proby

Close to You by Kristen Proby

I’ve read a few of Kristen Proby’s books and have enjoyed her writing style.  It’s simple but the characters are engaging enough to draw you into the stories she writes. “Close to You” is the second book in the series, the sequel to “Listen to Me.” Being the way that I am, I bought the ebook of “Listen to Me” to read it first.  I just can’t read the second book in a series before reading the first one. I like the series so far.  It’s about five female best friends who run a restaurant in Portland.

“Listen to Me” had two buggaboos that had me lost for a bit.  First of all the book takes place in Portland.  Now, I’m from the east coast.  When you say Portland and give no other explanation as to geography, I’m assuming Portland, Maine.  It was about a third of the way thru the book that they mentioned Seattle and I realized I’d been picturing Maine in my head and should have been picturing Oregon.  The other thing is she drops you right in the middle of five women.  Maybe I’m just slow but the other four that weren’t the main characters of that book were hard to keep straight. I think it would have been better to reduce it to four.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book, both books, but sometimes there are just too many characters to keep track of.  I think my only other suggestion is that the covers of both books look like the same couple to me.  I asked my friend if she thought they were the same couple and she said she didn’t think so but she couldn’t be positive.

Judge for yourself ....

Judge for yourself ….

“Life and Death” is a retelling of “Twilight” but this time Stephanie Meyer changes up the story and instead of Bella and Edward, you have Bo and Edyth.  Yes, this time Bo (the boy) is a human and Edyth (the girl) is the vampire.  I’m about two-thirds of the way through the audio book so far and am really loving it.  There’s just enough difference from Twilight that L&D is almost a totally different story …. But not??  You have to read it for yourself to know what I mean and I highly suggest it for those who are Twilight lovers.  Life and Death

Both “Close to Me” and “Life and Death” bring up an interesting concern for women writers and that’s how to write first person narrative from a man’s point of view when you’re a woman.  Men and women think differently and I know from writing my own novels that when you switch points of view from the female character to the male character you have to write completely differently.  By this I mean how I would describe something and how my brother would describe the same thing would be completely different for some things and the same for others.

Case in point.  At one point in “Life and Death” Bo describes Edyth as wearing a bone colored scarf and a dove leather jacket.  Really?  What 17-year-old boy says bone instead of white and dove instead of gray?  He later says of himself that he’s besotted with Edyth.  Again, no 17-year-old boy who’s infatuated with a girl is going to say he’s besotted with her … unless he’s straight out of a Jane Austen novel.  I’m really enjoying the story of “Life and Death” but in no way believe that it’s really being narrated by Bo, a straight 17-year-old boy in the year 2015.  He watches Edyth obsessively for quite a while but makes no mention of any of her girly parts except her … hair and eyes?  Not only that but before he moved to Forks, Bo was best friends with his mother.  I’m just saying that if he’d  say she was hot or that he wanted to run his hands over some reproductive part of her body I’d be more inclined to believe he wasn’t batting for the other team. He can bat for whoever he wants to but he is supposed to be falling in love with a female vampire.

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In “Close to You” Kristen Proby switches the narrative between Cami and Landon every couple of chapters and I have to say she does a great job of differentiating their voices.  Landon sounds very masculine and Cami very feminine.  Having done this in many of my novels I can tell you it’s not an easy feat and I give Kristin high marks for her ability to write from a male POV.  There’s a subtlety that you need to understand in order to write a first person narrative in the opposite sex.  Kristin gets that.  I’m not so sure Stephanie Meyer does.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story. I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.