Those of us who have been writing for any length of time have been warned of the folly of including too much backstory at the opening of the story…and indeed this is good advice. But in this particular Yellow Highlighter Class my suggestions regarding backstory were mostly advising participants to include more backstory or more detail to explain the character’s current situation. What’s with this? It seems totally at odds with the “Thou Shalt Not Backstory Dump” that we’ve all been taught and internalized…. So…let’s take a step back and talk about backstory and see if we can make some sense of it.
Rather than being focused around a given topic (like emotion, plotting, sexual tension, and so on) the classes are focused on giving feedback on actual works in progress that participants post. The feedback isn’t specific to just one area, like emotion, sexual tension or plot points. Instead, the markup highlights weaknesses of many types and offers suggestions for strengthening problem areas. A single markup may address a point of view problem–the need for a beat of silence to break up a line of dialogue–suggestions to strengthen emotional and sexual tension–suggestions to strengthen character motivation–an order problem–miscellaneous verb tense issues–and sentence structuring changes to make the sentence stronger or the flow smoother.
One of the things that came up in the class was the concern that if we used metaphors and associations with color, texture, movement, resonance, temperature, shape, smell, solidity, and sound to describe emotional experience we’d introduce purple prose into our writing. Since this seems to be a common concern which comes up in many of the classes I teach on emotion, and since just the fear of introducing purple prose might be holding some people back and keeping them from writing strong, emotional experiences for their characters, I thought I’d address that concern here.
In classes, participants post a 700 word excerpt each day of class and receive a thorough markup of the excerpt each day that class meets. The markups that are given provide the same kind of feedback that I provide to authors that I am editing for publishers prior to publication. In fact, you may see authors who are editing their manuscripts for publication in the class as there are usually authors working on edits for Black Velvet Seductions in the classes.
I just finished teaching Intensifying Emotion in the Romance Novel for OIRWA and have just started teaching Developing a Vocabulary for Writing Emotion so I thought I’d share a bit about using empathy to create emotional reactions in characters and in readers for those that weren’t able to take the class.
It being time to register for the January 2017 Yellow Highlighter Class and the fact that I spent time last week organizing my teaching schedule for OIRW for 2017 points up how quickly this year is passing, how soon Christmas will be here, and how quickly January of 2017 will be here.
It also provides for a sense of looking back and thinking about previous Yellow Highlighter Classes and what people who’ve taken them have had to say about them. I think rather than summarizing what people currently taking the classes and what past students have said about them, I’ll post some of my students’ words of praise for the classes.
Romance novels are at their most central about the human need for physical and emotional intimacy. In romance novels the tension in the story derives from the characters’ needs for emotional connection and intimate physical connection and the characters’ inabilities to meet these two deeply important needs at the same time.
One way of looking at and working with plot is to look at the plot as more of an organizational binder for the story rather than as a simple chart of events or a string of turning points within the story.
I have created a new Twitter account for the express purpose of promoting books. At this point this is mostly something I am doing for current and former students, authors published by Black Velvet Seductions, and other friends who’ve written books or short stories they want to promote. The types of promotions I will be tweeting through the new Twitter account are very specific.
When we write it is easy to become lost between the characters and what we need the character to do to move the plot forward. This can mean that we have the character jump to illogical conclusions or actions. Many class participants value my ability to see and suggest alternatives for these types of illogical actions.
When I think about writing I think of it as being a lot like juggling. When we are constructing a story we have many elements to juggle. There are the bits that form who our characters are…there are character goals some of which change throughout the story and some of which stay the same…there are the ways that the characters themselves change and grow and the ways that they stay the same…there are all the plot points that define the relationship journey…there is romantic tension, emotional tension and sexual tension which all have to be balanced. There are several kinds of conflict that need to be understood, linked, and used to fuel the conflict and the romantic, emotional, and sexual tension.
Yellow Highlighter Classes are a unique type of class. Unlike other classes that focus on a specific topic with lessons and homework, these classes are all markup. There are no lessons, other than those that are part of the written feedback given as part of the markups themselves.
I am teaching a workshop on developing emotional and sexual tension in the romance novel this month at OIRWA. I posted a slightly longer and more in depth version of this post in the workshop on Thursday. One of the comments on the lesson was that it provided a good description of the turning points in a romance novel–and that it provided just enough of a sense of structure that the pantser could use it as a guide while retaining the fluidity of pantsing. That made me think that some of those who read this blog might find it useful also. So…here it is in a slightly altered form for the blog.