Second Saturdays, Tall Shoes, and Villains…Oh My!

February 13, 2012

I look forward to “second Saturdays” so much I can’t tell you. Well, I guess I can, because I do every month. The second Saturday of the month is the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America’s monthly meeting. You probably knew this because I keep telling you… I count on this day for renewal, inspiration and a good boost of motivation. Really, really if you write fiction…any fiction…and you’re not a member, you need to join RWA. I can’t say that enough.

The meetings are always filled with romance. Of course most of the writers who attend write some form of romance, but February is the month for Romance, so the OCC board really pumped it up.

“Ask An Author” started at nine a.m. Saturday our host was author Anna Randol whose debut novel, a historical romance, A Secret in Her Kiss, was recently released. I would say this is my favorite part of the meeting…but then I’d say that about every part, so I’ll just say I love this part of the meeting. What an incredible opportunity to ask published authors questions about craft, the submission process, publicity…anything you want!

While a group of us sat at a round banquet table, interrogating Anna, the OCC board was busy quietly transforming the non-descript meeting room. At the end of the hour, I looked up and realized that the tables were covered with pink table clothes, red runners, and centerpieces filled with hearts, and pink and red wrapped chocolates. There were stacks of books on every table, favors for those who attended. Chocolate and romance for Valentine’s! Woo hoo!

Author Carol Snow was the morning speaker. I totally related to Carol. She is bubbly, energetic and short, like me. In fact I think she’s shorter than me. (Sorry, Carol. I can’t help it.) In fact in the pages of notes that I scribbled during her presentation, I wrote the following quote, “I’m wearing my tall shoes too.”

Haha…this makes me happy…you don’t have to be tall to be a writer. This is good, because I’m five feet two, not exactly tall enough to be a fashion model. (Have I ever mentioned the fact that I have two brothers who are six feet tall, and on my father’s side many aunts (he has nine sisters) and female cousins who are fashion model height? In fact one of my aunts was a model in the sixties, clearly not my calling.)

So anyway my calling is to write, which doesn’t require height…just ask Carol Snow. Her topic Saturday was “Giving Your Characters a Strong Sense of Place.”

Why does it matter where you set your story? A mystery can happen in a barn in Ohio or on the streets of London. A paranormal can happen, well anywhere you want. Love can happen in romantic Paris or in Scottsdale, Arizona…the setting of Carol’s novel, Getting Warmer.

Anyway, it matters. As Carol said, you have to pick a time and place where your characters live, and that time and place should do a few things:

  • It should reveal something about your characters.
  • It should help the plot.
  • It may give your characters personality traits common to the area…or not, which may make certain characters stand out.

After lunch, some socializing, book signing, and giving away some beautiful gift baskets donated by authors for the Valentine raffle…really, I love these meetings….It was time for the afternoon workshop.

Historical/Paranormal author Jennifer Ashley presented a workshop on “Building Characters that Live, Breathe and Last.” Although I think Jennifer might be taller than me, I still enjoyed her presentation. She gave so much great advice that my pen never stopped moving.

She gave creative advice about making your characters multi-dimensional, peeling back layers to find the character’s motivation, and knowing your character’s quirks…yes QUIRKS, even your characters can have them!

She talked about heroes and villains, and one of my favorite things she said….and there were many…was “Your villain doesn’t think he’s evil. He thinks he’s justified and right.” Ah, what an important key to writing good villains.

So as usual I left the meeting energized and inspired with a few new books for my bookshelf, and I think I resolved an issue in my manuscript. Oh yeah, and although I thought it might be true, I’m quite sure now that you don’t have to be tall to write!

So, I’m sitting here in my bare feet (no tall shoes today) ready to look at setting, character traits, quirks, and a little pleased with my villain…if I do say so myself. Time to write…love to hear what you’re working on today!

Oh and I hope your Valentine’s Day is filled with romance!

Tari

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