Interview Transcripts

Lori Soard:  Keeping Your Reader Reading


Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Hello, all!

 

Welcome to our Professional Connection live interview.

 

I want to apologize for sending you all an announcement listing the date as 11/31...but in my defense

 

I am staring at the calendar on the wall right above my monitor with a November 31 on it!

 

AND a Dec 1 on the next page, both on Thursday. I should have recited that old jingle...thirty days hath...

 

That's what I get for trusting the printed word...or number in this case!

 

Our guest tonight...and a wonderful guest as you'll soon find out... is Lori Soard.

 

Lori Soard has a Ph.D. in Journalism and Creative Writing, but she's hardly the stuffy, professor type. Her romantic comedies have received rave reviews from Romantic Times Magazine and Midwest Fiction Reviews. Lori's latest book is a romantic suspense called The Elixir. She also writes nonfiction and children's books. When she isn't writing or working on Long Ridge lessons, Lori runs a promotional website for authors called SoardPro.com. Through the site, she has also started a radio show and become an International radio personality through the amazing capabilities of Internet Broadcast Radio

 

She's also a LR instructor for some of you lucky folks. :-)

 

So Lori, welcome! I’m so glad to have you back. We had a great time, last time...oh so long ago.

Lori Soard

Hi, everyone! I'm really happy to be here tonight. I have prepared some material for you but please feel free to ask questions at any point.

 

And yes, we always have a good time :)

 

Tonight, we're going to talk about

 

"Keeping Your Readers Reading"

 

Or basically, keeping them interested and turning pages in your article, story, or book

 

Keeping your readers turning the pages of your story, article or book can be a great challenge these days.

 

I truly believe that writers of yesteryear had it easier, although of course they were still very skillful writers.

 

Today’s reader is so busy. Since I’m a woman, I’ll use your average woman as an example.

 

Today’s woman often works outside the home as well as keeping up the house.

 

If she finds thirty minutes of free time, you aren’t just competing with other material that can be read,

 

you are also competing with television, Internet, telephone, radio, and a million other things she could be doing.

 

This is why it is so important to hook your reader from the first sentence and then keep her hooked throughout your piece.

 

HOOKING YOUR READER

 

This basically means hooking your reader into reading your work or pulling her into the piece.

 

There are many techniques for accomplishing this feat.

 

You can use an interesting piece of dialogue, an interesting situation, or character.

 

However, the thing you must keep in mind is that you should start in the heart of the action.

 

You want to throw the reader full force, into the gist of the story.

 

I copyedit books on the side for extra income and one thing I see over and over is that writers want to tell the back story of the character or the background of what led up to the situation before they get into the actual story.

 

I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve asked to cut the first chapter or two of their books. If you're one of my students, we've probably already talked about opening hooks. This is so important to good storytelling that I try to drum it into my poor students' heads.

 

The background is something that can be woven in later. I tell my students to think of background as a spicy seasoning.

 

Use too much at once and you ruin the dish—or in this case the story.

 

Instead, you should sprinkle in a bit between dialogue, and action. Test it out. See how it tastes. Needs more spice?

 

Then add a little more background later. When you write, you are basically a chef, who is cooking up a tale.

 

When talking to my writing friends, I often talk about the story I'm "cooking" in my brain before I ever begin to write. There are a lot of similarities between the two

 

I want to give you some examples of opening lines I think are fabulous. You may be able to come up with more, but this will give you a start.

 

Then, I'll see if you have any questions on hooks before we move on

 

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.—Ann Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups

 

My mother was a virgin, trust me…--Kate Atkinson, Emotionally Weird

 

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.—Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

 

All children, except one, grow up.—J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

 

What about using description to pull the reader into the scene? John Updike is good at this…

 

Black is a shade of brown. So is white, if you look. On Copacabana, the most democratic, drowded, and dangerous of Rio de Janeiro's beaches, all colors merge into one joyous, sun-tanned flesh-color, coating the sand with a second, living skin.—John Updike, Brazil

 

What about using dialogue?

 

The two women were alone in the London flat. "The point is," said Anna, as her friend came back from the telephone on the landing, "the point is, that as far as I can see, everything's cracking up."—Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

 

Notice how in Doris Lessing’s opening, we get the setting (a London flat) but it is short and sweet and we get right into the heart of the story.

 

If you want more description, you’ll come back and add that between the rest of the women’s dialogue

 

Anna might set her drink on the cast iron table to her right. Tuck her feet onto the horrid, tattered couch. But you don’t get it all at once.

 

Here’s one from my latest book, The Elixir:

 

Deep shadows lurked in unseen corners of the parking garage. An icy chill brushed past Benjamin Monroe's ankles, reminding him he'd forgotten to buy new socks. The ones he wore were threadbare and no protection against the coming winter.

 

I use an eerie setting for my hook.

 

Here is a link to an opening line game that I think you’ll enjoy:

 

http://www.readingwoman.com/openlin.html 

 

Okay, questions about hooks?

janecj333

Five of your examples use the passive form of 'to be', though they are stunning, nevertheless.

Lori Soard

It is good to avoid "to be" verbs whenever possible, but sometimes they do work in a sentence. I find that I use it a lot myself in my natural writing and form but...

 

if I go back in the edits, I can cut a large number of them, which makes for stronger writing.

 

So, yes, try to cut those "to be" verbs whenever possible and use strong, active verbs.

tory

Any suggestions for how much background to give in opening paragraphs? If we have something dire happen to MC, people don't know them or necessarily care about them. How to strike the balance.

Lori Soard

Tory, excellent question. The answer isn't as clearcut as I'd like. It is really going to depend upon the story. If you are writing a suspense novel

 

you probably need a faster pace and will want to concentrate less on the background or at least too much background at once.

 

If you're writing a slower paced historical or perhaps a romance, then you might have a bit more flexibility to weave in additional description or background.

 

If you find yourself writing more than a paragraph or two of background, then you probably need to break it up a bit or just do a flashback scene.

 

I know as a reader

 

I tend to skip over too much background or description. When your reader starts to do this

 

he or she risks missing important pieces of information, so that is what you're trying to avoid. You also don't want to lose the reader's interest in this way.

 

If you are in doubt

 

I'd ask a friend who is another writer or an avid reader to read it over. Ask them to specifically let you know if you have too much background or not enough or just right.

gwanny

I came it on the line about adding backstory a bit here and there...I love Barbara Kingsolvers "The Bean Trees", a wonderful example of using backstory in the first 2 chapters...I love it and don't think it's a bad idea at all...why do you feel so strongly against it?

Lori Soard

I haven't read Ms. Kingsolver. It sounds like an interesting book. I am not against backstory per say. I'm against adding so much background that you are basically telling the reader instead of allowing her to live in the moment. Also keep in mind

 

that published writers or those who have an audience already

 

can sometimes experiment with things that newer writers would not be able to get published.

 

I want you all to sell your work and make a living from your writing. That may mean changing the way you do things so that you are writing

 

what the market demands right now. Later, you can experiment when you find an editor who loves your writing and is willing to let you take risks

 

I had one editor like that and he was wonderful. I got to try some things I normally wouldn't, which helped me grow as a writer.

 

Every story is different. So, if you feel strongly that your story demands two pages of backstory, you should trust your own instincts. Just be aware of why you're breaking the more standard rules and willing to edit if an editor requests it.

gwanny

I understand your point...but it was her first book, 10 years ago...now taught in creative writing classes in Universities all over the world.

tory

I am so glad to hear you say that about new writers vs. experienced. We keep hearing at conferences don't do this and this yet see it in print. Gets confusing.

Lori Soard

Gwanny, good for her. Sounds like a more literary style of book perhaps, which won't follow these genre rules at all. I'm more geared toward the genre markets, since this is where you'll make money at this time. There's nothing wrong with literary writing and it can be a great place to break in. I didn't run across her book in any of my studies, but creative writing courses are all different.

 

Tory, it is confusing. I know of one very successful author--Nora Roberts--who breaks POV rules all the time.

 

She head-hops. But, keep in mind that she has published many many novels and can break some of the rules.

 

She also has so much experience as a writer

 

that she knows how to head-hop without confusing the reader. I still can't do that and I've been writing professionally for years. Plus, I'm a POV purist...

 

it would drive me crazy to head hop :)

janecj333

I think I recognize that narrative heavy with adjective after adjective weighs itself down, slowing pace. That must be of crucial importance in the hook, to ferret them out.

Lori Soard

Jane, excellent point. One thing I always do before I send out any work is to read it out loud as a final edit...

 

You'll be surprised what you "hear" that you don't catch when you're just reading it on a screen. You'll hear those heavy adjectives or "to be" verbs clearly when you read them.

 

I use

 

a nifty little program called TEXT ALOUD that can be downloaded online.

 

I think it runs about 25.00

 

It reads my books to me

 

And I can focus on listening and editing.

janecj333

That 'living in the moment' is exactly what we discussed in forum the other day, and I'm trying to identify writing that gives immediacy...what to eliminate.

Lori Soard

Jane, great topic. Basically, you have to be able to put yourself inside that character's skin.

 

You are moving her throughout a short period of her life typically. Most books cover a few days or a few weeks. Some do cover years, but you'll find that is much rarer in genre fiction.

 

One thing I used to do when I first started writing

 

was to pull my family members into the living room and make them act out a scene for me.

 

They loved it--not really! LOL.

 

But, when they are acting it out

 

you quickly see any holes in your writing. For example, let's say

 

I have Jack and Jill in an argument.

 

Jack is yelling at Jill but I haven't written any action for him. He is just standing in the center of the room

 

Jill is moving around. Crossing her arms. Tapping her foot. I am SHOWING the reader her anger and frustration.

 

It will quickly become clear to me that I need to add some more action for Jack as well.

 

When

 

you have your family or friends (or yourself) act out the scene, tell them they cannot do anything that isn't

 

written. No ad libbing or adding movement that isn't there. It works until you get a feel for

Lori

pacing.

lorib

Wow ...I need that program, I always read what I 'Think' I wrote!

Lori Soard

LOL Lori. Me too!

senicynt

Hi Lori, What solutions/aids do you have to help historical writers avoid 21st century artifacts?

Lori Soard

I see that a lot in historicals I've read, Senicynt. I would suggest that you not only edit carefully yourself

 

but that you pull in others to help you. Again, choose some avid readers or other writers and ask them to specifically look for 21st Century items in your 19th (or whatever) century writing.

 

Your publisher should also edit for these.

 

Hopefully, between friends, critique partners, your instructor at Longridge and the copy editor, all will be caught.

 

Editing is the only solution I know of :)

 

Let's talk about

 

after the opening.

janecj333

It's language that is the scariest artifact, darn it

Lori Soard

LOL Very true. That should be "catchable" in the edits too, though. I find that printing things out

 

and really going over them slowly helps tremendously. I don't write a lot of historical, but I've found that aspect very challenging.

 

Okay.

 

So, now, you have an idea of what you might like to do for an opening hook, let’s talk about how you can keep your reader reading after that initial opening.

 

Obviously, it doesn’t help to hook them and then bore them to pieces. One thing I notice a lot from beginning writers is that they want to add in all the little details of a piece.

 

Readers often don’t need as much detail as they put in there. Readers can fill in some things for themselves. Description is good.

 

Set the scene, but everyday events, such as brushing your teeth, really aren’t necessary to describe. Here is an example of what I consider poor writing:

 

Today, for the first time in twenty years, Mary Jane would see the Nazis who’d ruled her grammar school with iron fists. She got up from the tan leather sofa and padded into the bathroom.

 

Taking her toothbrush down from the holder, she placed the paste on it, ran it under water and began to brush her teeth in slow, round strokes. After she’d created a good foam, she spit it into the sink, rinsed out the mess and headed to her bedroom to finish packing for the reunion. Her blue and tan suitcase lay open on the four poster, antique bed that sat in the center of the room. She pulled out several blouses and slacks, folded them, and put them into the suitcase. Pants on the right, blouses on the left…

 

Okay, I’m not going to keep going and going with that. Hopefully you see how very boring that scene is for a reader.

anittress

Should details be spread out?

Lori Soard

I really don’t care what method Mary Jane uses to brush her teeth or how she packs her suitcase. I want the internal life of the character. I want to know what she is thinking and feeling. Of course you have to get her from point A to point B, but you can do it in a way that will keep your reader interested. Let’s rewrite Mary Jane’s scene:

 

The opening line was okay. I’m going to keep that.

 

Today, for the first time in twenty years, Mary Jane would see the Nazis who’d ruled her grammar school with iron fists. “I must be insane to even consider going back to that school.”

 

She pulled her Siamese cat closer and settled Priscilla under her chin. I’m an adult. I don’t need to subject myself to their torture and I certainly don’t need their approval any longer. Nevertheless, she would go because if she were really honest with herself there was a part of her that did need their approval, even though she was now thirty-four-years-old. She set her cat back on the tan, leather couch and finished packing the blue and brown suitcase that lay open on her four-poster bed.

 

Do you see how the everyday actions are condensed so that the reader gets more of what is going on in her head and her heart? This will help your reader connect better with your character and if they car about what happens to your character, you’ve won half the battle. Also, we all know what it takes to pack a suitcase. We really don’t need the nitty gritty details.

 

We'll talk about "hangers" in a minute. Any other questions?

 

Oh, did I miss Annittress's question?

 

Sorry about that and hello!!!

 

Yes, it is best to spread out details if you can. Again, use your judgement about what works for your story, but if you can do a nice mix of a paragraph of narrative, some dialogue, some background mixed with the dialogue. Example...

 

"I don't want to go to this reunion." Mary Jane could still hear the cruel taunts of the other children. "Richard terrorized me."

 

You get the background that the children picked on her. And within the dialogue that Richard taunted her.

 

Does that help?

anittress

yes

Lori Soard

Great. Any other questions before we move on?

janecj333

I kind of liked the 'pants on the right, blouses on the left'. Can't certain details like this do double duty, showing a fastidious nature that will figure later in the story?

Lori Soard

Hi, Jane. Sure. I kind of liked that part too :) But showing her getting her toothbrush down and putting on the toothpaste and running it under water is all too much together. You can keep your favorite details for flavor.

 

But don't keep things that don't add to the story. You're right that you could show that she is perhaps very organized with the way she packs her suitcase.

 

However...

 

You won't want to show her pack every single item.

 

Unless of course...

 

That item is important to something else in the story. Perhaps a gun? LOL/

 

Okay...let's chat about HANGERS

 

What I call hangers (I'm not sure anyone else calls them that) are something you’ll see more in books, but you might also see one in a particularly long short story.

 

Let’s say that you are writing the scene where Mary Jane comes face-to-face with her old school mates. The reader has waited for this moment.

 

We’ve done a few flashbacks of the horrible way they tormented her. The reader cares about Mary Jane, because we know how she’s dreading this reunion, yet she’s hopefully that these people have changed, become adults.

 

So, we are in the scene where she arrives at the reunion. Something like this:

 

Mary Jane stood in the doorway of the old gym. Not much had changed in twenty years. The tacky green and gold banners still hung over the stage that sat at the far end of the basketball court and the walls were still an ugly, dirty white. The smell of bullies and sadness filled her nostrils and she gasped.

cosmos

Wow! You're a terrific teacher, like Mary. I hope you come more often.

Lori Soard

All those years ago, Richard had loved to stand just to the front left of the tiny kitchenette at the front of the gym. From there, he could jump out and torment those on his bully radar—he’d always tormented her. She wondered…would he still be just to the left as she entered the gymnasium. Would he still torment her? She took two steps and looked to her left.

 

Thanks so much, Cosmos. Watch it or I'll get a big head and not be able to get out of the chat room door

 

Okay…I’m stopping here. This is going to be the end of my scene. The reader is wondering at this point…Is Richard there? Will he torment her or has he grown up?

 

Be sure to stop this scene at a point where your reader wonders what will happen next or wants a question of some sort answered. Or you can end with your character in peril.

 

You would think the next scene would answer this, wouldn’t you? But I’m going to delay that a bit.

 

You don't want to do this too often or your reader might get frustrated...

 

But using this technique a couple of times in a story can work really well

 

I know the reader wants to know but I also know that we’ve been building to this moment with the flashbacks and Mary Jane’s internal life. If I give the reader her answer, then I risk her setting the story down to go do something else. So, instead, I’m going to do a flashback to a school dance in that same gym when Mary Jane was fourteen.

 

It’s probably going to tie in to Richard and how he loved to wait just inside the entrance and basically attack people as they came in, or certain people, but it still won’t give the reader the answer s/he wants.

 

Also, it ups the tension a bit, because I’m going to make him absolutely horrid to our heroine. He’s a beast. He’s mean. He torments her, embarrasses her, and makes her want to run from the gym crying.

 

I may even have her do that, and then flash back to present and have her think: Well, I won’t run away crying this time. You see, twenty years have passed, and while the little girl who wanted her friends to like her still lives inside Mary Jane, she’s changed.

anittress

Could you have a hanger midpoint and tell what happens as a closer?

Lori Soard

She’s found that what truly matters is not that everyone accepts you but that the right people accept you and love you just the way you are.

 

Anittress, it would depend on the length of the story...

 

If it is a short story, you could probably get by with that.

 

In a book, you wouldn't want to delay it that long. Your reader will just turn to the last page of your book to find out what happened. We've all done that haven't we? LOL

 

In a book...

 

I would only do one scene and then go back to the scene the reader really wants.

 

The reader is going to keep reading because she still wants to know what is going to happen when Mary Jane comes in contact with Richard the bully after twenty years.

 

But only up to a point.

tory

So you don't recommend ending every chapter mid-scene with a hanger?

Lori Soard

Tory, it's okay to end the chapter that way, but...

 

(actually good to end a chapter that way) but...

 

I wouldn't delay the gratification in every situation.

 

For example...

 

You wouldn't want to write about Mary Jane walking in the gym door and seeing Richard. Then flash to the past. Then put her in the gym and have Richard ask her to dance, and then go to a secondary character, and then have her dance with Richard and they get in an argument, then flashback

 

That is a little too much. Instead...

 

You would end the scene with the "hanger" but you would continue the next chapter in chronological order.

 

Just mix it up so your reader doesn't get bored.

senicynt

When writing character descriptions, what should we avoid? Cliches?

Lori Soard

You know, I have so many people tell me to avoid cliches, but they can sometimes be done really cleverly as long as you are aware of why you are using that cliche. If you take the time to really get to know your characters

 

then they will be unique and have unique qualities. Some things about them might be typical, so that other cliches (for example, I'm a soccer mom) can relate to that character, but...

 

the character will seem realistic if she has real fears, and internal goals and motivations. But that's another topic altoghter :)

anittress

What should be included in character descriptions?

Lori Soard

Good question, Annitress. I can tell you how I create my characters, but I have to say that we are all very different in the methods that

 

work for us as writers, so you'll have to try what I suggest, try what others

 

suggest and find the mix that works the best for Annittress. Here is what I do...

 

Most of my stories start with either a title or a character. If the character springs to mind, I spend some time doing character charts...

 

If you want a copy of my character chart I use, you can email me at lori_soard@yahoo.com and I'll be happy to send you a copy of it.

 

It details everything from how the character looks to what his/her fears and dreams are...

 

It is important to have the eye color on a sheet. I've seen a lot of books where the hero starts with blue eyes and halfway through the book has green eyes. A printed sheet will help you avoid this error.

 

Then...

 

I meet with one of my writer friends and they grill me on the character. They can ask me any question, no matter how personal...

 

I do the same for them.

 

It is great fun and you learn a lot about your character...

 

I spend about two weeks, creating a background, other characters in this character's life, and timelines...

 

I spend my free time daydreaming about this character.

 

I ask myself...

 

what would Mary Jane do in this situation?

 

Yes, I'm a little insane, but I think all writers are LOL...

 

If you truly know your character...

 

you may not ever use even 1/10th of the info you have on him/her...

 

but it will show up in your writing. The reader will sense that this is a believable, realistic character.

senicynt

What characterization 'pet peeves' do editors have?

Lori Soard

Good question, Senicynt. I'd say it's different for different editors. I know that they really don't like it when your character are what they call "two dimensional." It took me a long time

 

to figure out what editors meant when I got this comment back. I felt that I knew my characters okay...

 

I finally realized...

 

it has to do with the character motivations and goals. You really have to know what your character wants...how s/he plans to get there...

 

and what drives your character...

 

For example, I might give Mary Jane a background where her father never wanted to be around her...

 

then he left them...

 

Then she faced rejection from the boy at school...

 

So her motivations are for acceptance...she may not realize that...

 

But as a writer, I do, and I need to make the reader realize it. The reader will then feel that she is in...

 

on a secret that even Mary Jane doesn't yet know.

senicynt

I have to laugh at one overdone description - 'The wings of his brows' - What the heck does that mean?

Lori Soard

LOL I once wrote a scene that I thought was absolutely beautiful, senicynt. It was in the first draft...

 

of my book PICKING UP COWBOYS--a romance novel--the heroine was driving in a snow storm

 

And I wanted to get across that it was sunset and how absolutely beautiful it is in

 

Durango, CO when the sun sets...

 

So I had this beautiful description of the pinks and purples and something about fingers stretching across the sky and touching the mountains...

 

Well, I then sent the book to Fern Michaels, who has mentored me some, and is also a dear friend.

 

And she phoned me and said...

 

Look, Lori, this is a great description. It is absolutely beautiful. But, why in the world would she stop and look at the sunset when she can barely keep her tires on the road?

 

The answer is that she wouldn't, we wouldn't...

 

So, I had to take it out.

 

You'll write a lot of things in your first draft that you'll have to remove later

 

It's often painful to do those edits

 

I wish I could say they get easier...

 

the more you write. But they don't. Writing is hard work, but I'm sure all of you have already figured that out :)

acook

Is the extensive character background for short stories too?

Lori Soard

For a short story, I wouldn't do an extensive of a background probably. I tend to do the character sheet only and skip the timelines and the 2 weeks of daydreaming...

 

I would go ahead and have a friend grill you and interview you so you get to know the character well.

 

Oops! Typo above. That should have been "As extensive of a background"

anittress

So basically its like inventing an imaginary friend? Or perhaps an alter-ego?

Lori Soard

Exactly, Annittress. That's a good way to put it. A lot of writers will tell you that their characters are not based on them. However, my experience is that each and every character I've written has a bit of me in her...

 

Sometimes it is that dark little side of me that I don't let out but that rages in my closet at home about this or that injustice--

 

that might be my villain character.

 

Sometimes it is who I'd be in a perfect world...

 

Sometimes it is one small part of me...but there is a bit of me in each and every character I've ever written. You might find it's the same for you or you might be different...

 

one thing I have discovered over the years is that writers and writing styles...

 

are as individual as each snowflake. We're all different and all special in our own way. THis is what...

 

makes your writing unique and what will ultimately draw readers to you...

 

not everyone will like your writing, no matter how talented and skilled you are...

 

Some reviewers will love your book, story or article...

 

some will loathe it (those hurt, btw)

lapart

How do you keep from putting two different ideas in one book when the ideas are different plots?

Lori Soard

Can you give me an example of what you mean, Lapart?

 

Let me quickly explain how to do a subplot, maybe that will help and then we'll see if the ideas mesh...

 

A subplot is when you have another little story going on within the story you are writing.

 

You shouldn't have this often in a short story...

 

there just isn't room for it.

 

But, in longer fiction, you will see it often...

 

For example, in THE LIPSTICK DIARIES, I tell the tale of three friends...

 

I had to choose a main character for the reader to relate to...

 

I chose Kate...

 

Kate is on a quest to keep her baby sister (lots of backstory about why she's so protective, but all sprinkled in :)) from making the biggest mistake of her life and marrying a loser...

 

Her two best friends go with her to their small hometown to help...

 

That's the main story...

 

it's about love and redemption...

 

The sub plot involves Rebecca and Sarah, the two friends...

 

One is dealing with a love gone bad and in fear for her very life ...

 

The other is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and a man she thinks has deserted her...

 

Although they are separate stories, the THEME is the same...

 

love and redemption.

gloria

Let's say I'm writing about my adoption search in my book I'm working on and a subplot story of one of the incidents with one of the contacts, would that be a subplot or flashback?

Lori Soard

That sould be a subplot, unless it happened in the past and you only have one scene. A subplot is something that is generally ongoing throughout the book, though. Let's use Mary Jane again--she's getting a workout tonight :)

 

Mary Jane is dealing with facing her childhood tormentors. That's the main story.

 

But, going to the reunion with Mary Jane is her cousin, who was the most popular girl in school.

 

Let's call her Jennifer.

 

Jennifer has her own set of issues to deal with separate of Mary Jane, yet you can clearly see how the two can help one another.

 

Jennifer can help Mary Jane be accepted. Mary Jane can help Jennifer learn to include all people.

 

So, I might have...

 

Three scenes with Mary Jane...she's my main character...

 

Then a scene with Jennifer and what she's dealing with.

 

Then maybe a scene with them both in Mary Jane's POV.

 

Then more with Mary Jane. Another with Jennifer. And so on.

 

2/3rds of the story should focus on your main character in general. There are a few exceptions, but they don't occur often.

janecj333

I get the feeling that inner motivation is far more important to establish than just that a mc wants to meet her old friends and give the Nazis a kick in the shins...if acceptance is one intrinsic motivator, can you tell us some others?

Lori Soard

Sure. We could give Mary Jane just about any motivation we want and completely change the focus of the story.

anniet

Life is stressful...won't writing and leaving readers hanging stress them out?

Lori Soard

Maybe Mary Jane became a nun--she has a nice Catholic girl name after all. But she's struggled with forgiveness. She wants to grow closer to God and she feels she can't until she goes back to these childhood tormentors...

 

and says, I forgive you...

 

That definitely changes how she will react to any current comments and to these people.

 

Or...

 

We could make her a psycho...

 

Maybe she's gone off the deep end...

 

One too many people have pushed her around and she has a list. Her motive is revenge.

 

Now we change it to a horror story, because her motive is to kill anyone who ever made her feel bad. In doing so, she believes she will feel better again (she's crazy, remember).

 

Or...

 

Maybe she wants to buy an old farm house that used to belong to her family...

 

it is important to her because she has two sons and she wants to pass down her great-grandfather's farm to them.

 

Only, the person who now owns that land is Richard, her childhood bully...

 

So, she goes to the reunion to try to convince him to sell her the land. Her motive is different. Her reactions will be different.

 

Annie...

 

I'm actually glad you asked that because I was just getting ready to talk some on that topic...

 

It is also good to give the readers a break from some of the tension. If you’re writing a highly emotional story, your reader may feel like she is on a roller coaster that never stops going down.

 

You need to also reward your character, unless they are a truly unlikeable villain and even then the reader should relate somewhat to him/her. Let’s say that we’ve journeyed with Mary Jane into her past. We’ve seen her torment, her emotional turmoil over dealing with seeing these people again.

 

We’re rooting for her. You need to reward this character. How? Instead of Richard being mean, have him nab her as she comes in the door and tell her how he always had a secret crush on her, but he was young and a stupid kid and showed it by picking on her. Or reward her by having someone else put him in his place or even by having her do so. This is fiction, you can do anything!

 

These same principles work just as well with nonfiction, however. You need to keep your reader interested. Keep him or her reading.

 

Now, when I found out I’d be discussing this topic, I polled some writer friends of mine for ideas on how to keep readers reading and I came up with some really interesting ideas. Here are a few:

 

I think you're going to really enjoy these...

 

Brenna Lions said, “As always, hook them fast...not ten pages of setup but BOOM...right in. Hook them fast and hold on tight to the noose. Yeah...I write a little horror.”

 

Adrianna Dane said, “The first word that comes to mind for me in both reading and writing is"depth." Digging deep inside the characters to bring out their thoughts and motivations.

 

Emotion, passion, and relationship are important. I read everything, but reading for pure pleasure, liking buying a decadant

 

chocolate, I usually will pick up romance, or straight horror. If nothing else, I am a contradiction

 

I want to be engaged in the evolving relationship--I don't want a lot of description of the surroundings, what they are wearing--a carefully worded

 

paragraph goes a lot further with me than pages and pages of description,

 

unless, of course, the town, or wherever is an intregal part of the plot

 

(like a haunted house in a ghost story or maybe a lake where an important

 

event took place--but make it come alive, don't just simply describe it in

 

minute detail). I like character-driven stories. I like to read them and I

 

like to write them. Action and emotion to keep the story moving. Action

 

doesn't mean confrontation all the time between the H/H, but something must

 

be happening and I usually like to see some conflict--internal or external--that adds an element of intensity to the scenes, to the

 

relationship, to drive the story forward. It can be an undercurrent that

 

threads through the length of the story as events unfold, but we always know it's there and that it impacts the relationship and we can't wait to find out how it gets resolved in the end.

Mary Rosenblum

This is our Professional Connection live interview with Lori Soard, writer and LR instructor. Feel free to ask any questions you like! Click on your "Ask a Question" icon/button. (Or the "word bubble" icon, RIGHT NEXT TO THE RED QUESTION MARK.) Or type /ask in front of your question in the regular send bar.

Lori Soard

A well-told story shouldn't feel like chiseling through solid rock to get to the gold vein (the climax of the story) for the reader--it should be more like revealing the brilliance at the core of a flower--each fragrant petal

cosmos

I want to know more about the "amazing capabilities" of Internet Broadcast Radio. Do you teach writing on these broadcasts? What kind of a set up do you have in your home to give you this capability? Do you have special equipment?

Lori Soard

opens slowly but beautifully to reveal the jewel within. Storytelling is aseduction for the reader drawing them deeper into the story--into the lives of the characters, no matter the genre.”

 

Hi, Cosmos. I have some software I've purchased to help me to the broadcasts, but I initially started on a station. I just felt that an entire station would give me a lot more flexibility...

 

I am planning some online chats with various authors. I have the promotional website soardpro.com and many of my authors who promote with me there will be in the radio interviews...

 

I also have other experts lined up. It's great fun. I sort of had my arm twisted into doing the initial radio show by a friend of mine..

 

but found that I absolutely love it. But, I really like to talk and rarely run out of things to say LOL

 

Here is another bit of advice from my friend Sally Painter...

 

“My first is obvious, but worthy mentioning - keep writing books. Surprise - the unexpected. Who wants to read a book that you are going

 

yadayadayada. Predictable books are very boring and mostly an eye exercise.

 

When plotting the obvious comes first for me, I stop and detour - asking but what if this happened instead. Or, what would really be a surprise?

 

The other keys are also obvious - style, voice and good writing, but being a good story teller is a crucial point. If the book is not told well, no amount of good writing techniques, surprises, etc. will gel it into a good book.

 

And if it doesn't flow it won't be an enjoyable read - Has to flow with its own rhythmn, unstilted.

 

Character driven makes the best of stories even when plots might not be as strong as we would like.

 

Magic - It is all about the magic of creating a good book. It is as individual as creativity _expression is from one person to another.”

 

Were there any other questions?

 

I have lots of little tidbits like this from some very talented authors, but want to make sure I've gotten all the questions.

 

I'll just share the rest of them if we run out of steam and need something more to flesh out the chat :)

lapart

Should some of your characters be predictable?

Lori Soard

You could for example have a secondary character who talks in cliches. I've seen that done very well and humorously.

 

You also don't want...

 

your characters to react out of character...

 

Let's take Mary Jane.

 

She seems like a reasonable person doesn't she?

 

Let's say she flies to Chicago for her reunion and when she goes to the snack bar to get a sandwich...

 

She finds out they are out of pickles.

 

"Out of pickles?" she yells. "I hate this airport and I hate this stupid town." She bangs her hands down on the counter, gives the cashier a dirty look and storms out of the deli.

 

Obviously, this is not predictable, but also not the way that Mary Jane would typically react. Your reader won't respect Mary Jane for taking her frustrations out on the poor worker either...

 

By unpredictable, I think Sally meant that when your character...

 

is faced with a situation or a problem that she must solve...

 

don't always have her choose the first thing that comes to mind.

 

Let's say Richard approaches Mary Jane, and says, "Hey, turd face. Glad you made it."

 

Her initial reaction might be...

 

"I see you've grown up."

 

But you don't want to write the first thing that comes to mind.

 

You want to come up with something fresh...

 

witty...

 

unique.

 

It still needs to be in character though...

 

If she's quiet, she isn't going to jump up on the stage and recite a poem about what an immature jerk Richard is.

senicynt

Which publishers do you recommend for modern fantasy - light hearted - not the Dungeons & Dragons kind of gothic stuff.

Lori Soard

Books-- a lot of publishers are now publishing fantasy, because it is a growing market.

 

Kensington has some lines. If you are having trouble breaking into New York, don't be shy about considering some of the smaller presses out there for your first book. I went with a very small press for my first book, a little larger small press for the second and third and finally hit NY with my fourth. I'm still working my way up to the really big publishers, though :)...

 

Small presses, I'd try Amber Quill (amberquill.com), Whiskey Creek--ebook only (whiskeycreek.com), and Imajinn (not sure what their website is).

 

There are many many others...

 

FOr short stories, you might want to try things like FUTURES Magazine (I think their site is www.futuresmag.com)

 

There are many out there. If you look in the markets guide that Long Ridge sends you after you complete the first thrid of the course...

 

THE BEST OF THE MAGAZINE MARKETS

 

there is a section in the back that shows markets that are open to new writers...

 

These are the best place to start.

 

Get some published works under your belt and then you can more successfully query the better paying markets.

 

Another good friend of mine and Diva of Romance, Catherine Snodgrass, wanted to share this with you, “I've asked myself this same question many times -- What keeps readers reading? Naturally, I can't answer for all readers, just myself. :) Everyone is different and everyone's tastes are different. For myself

 

it's the cadence of the words. They must flow into a seamless story. Tell me a story. Make me feel it. Make me believe it. Let me know

 

what this person is thinking, feeling, doing. Yes, I want to know all about them, but don't tell me all at once. It's rather like sitting around the floor at a slumber party listening with rapt attention.

 

The storyteller crooks their finger and says in hushed tones, "Come here. I want to tell you a story." And you are compel to sit there and listen to every word.

 

I think some authors can over-use description. One NYT author spent a full page describing this cross necklace down to the last

Mary Rosenblum

Well, Lori, since we're drawing nigh to the end of our hour, why don't you tell people what you have coming out soon? And what's on the shelf that we can find?

 

Give yourself some attention here, too. :-)

 

detail...for absolutely no reason. If an author is going to spend that much time on an item, there should be a reason behind her doing so, i.e., it's going to be used later on in the story.

 

I think some authors get too carried away with using very large words. I'm not a stupid woman. I'm well read. But if I have to go scrambling for a dictionary, I'm not going to enjoy the story.”

 

Oh, sure. Be happy to, Mary.

 

Currently available and easy to find are my latest book THE ELIXIR. You can find it at Amazon.com B&N online, and amberquill.com It's a suspense novel about a scientist who finds a fountain of youth serum and is murdered...only there's a bit more to it than that--consipiracies that go to the very heart of our country's government.

 

THE LIPSTICK DIARIES is still available. I know it's at the online retailers. Not sure if it is still widely available in stores, but they can order it. It's about three friends on a quest to save one's sister. It's lighthearted, romantic comedy.

 

And BECOME A ROMANCE WRITER, which is nonfiction on how to write romances is available at fabjob.com

 

Details on all at www.lorisoard.com

 

Next year, I have several anthologies coming out

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, the nonfiction sounds excellent, Lori. :-)

 

Who is publishing the anthologies?

Lori Soard

BEWITCHED BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED will be out in the spring. It has some fabulous authors in it: Pauline B. Jones, Terry Campbell, and myself.

 

I have a sci fi and two paranormals in it.

 

Sierra Raconteur, a small press.

 

I have other shorts in various anthologies out through...

 

Midnight Showcase, which is a fairly new publisher.

 

And I have a nonfiction coming out (not sure when yet) about...

 

14 day menu plan

 

I am self-publishing that one.

 

And will sell it through my website.

cosmos

How do you know if you're a romance writer?

Lori Soard

Nonfiction sells much better than fiction when you sell it yourself :)

 

You know you're a romance writer if

 

everything you write turns into a romance novel...

 

You know you're a romance writer if...

 

Your husband says let's go to McDonald's and you hear, "My love, I have waited for ages to partake of this food with you. My hunger will never be quenched."

 

You know you're a romance writer if...

 

Your bookcases are overflowing with red-covered paperbacks and Nora Roberts is a name used in every conversation you have.

 

I'm being a little silly of cousre. If you enjoy reading romances...

 

And you are working on romances...

 

then it is a very lucrative market. Romances (all genres) currently hold about 52% of the mass market sales out there...

 

That means more publishers.

 

Mysteries also do very well.

 

That's not to say you can't get published in other genres

 

I don't mean that at all, as I'm published in several.

 

It just means that there is more room for new authors, I think.

 

If you are interested in romance...

 

you might want to join worldromancewriters.com

 

It's a free group for romance writers.

Mary Rosenblum

Is that part of RWA?

 

Oh...free...so it is not.

Lori Soard

No. RWA is pretty expensive for unpublished writers.

 

I think it's around 100.00 a year now.

 

I know many professionals belong though

 

I did for a while and even served on their board...but we won't go there LOL

 

They offer a lot of value with their workshops at their conference.

 

Those are great for new writers.

 

However, after a certain point, it's hard to continue growth with them because your needs have been met

 

I should say unless you are published with one of their approved publishers...then you have promotional opps with them.

 

Approved would be Harlequin, Bantam, Zebra, the really big pubs in NY

Mary Rosenblum

Lori, we're about at the end of our time. WAnt to give our audience...

 

a couple of parting words of advice?

Lori Soard

Sure. If there is one thing I could give you to take with you and hold close to your heart it is that...

 

the main ingredient to getting published is persevering. Stick with it. I received more rejections than I had time to count when I first started...

 

I still get rejections.

 

But the authors who stick with it...

 

keep writing...

 

keep sending things out...

 

are the ones who beat the odds. Publishing is a numbers game

 

To play it successfully...

 

you have to make the numbers work in your favor.

cosmos

Thank you sooo much for coming!

Lori Soard

Thanks so much for allowing me to join you this evening. I had a great time.

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, Lori, thank you!

 

This was a marvelous lecture

Lori Soard

If anyone has additional questions, feel free to email me.

 

lori_soard@yahoo.com

Mary Rosenblum

I'm sure that it will help students and novice writers a lot.

 

Thank you for coming, all!

Lori Soard

Thank you, Mary. It was so nice to have everything organized and moderated. :)

Mary Rosenblum

And thank YOU Lori.

 

 

lapart

Thanks Good night

senicynt

Thanks for coming Lori. It's nice to see another Long Ridge instructor online! :-) It was fun.

Mary Rosenblum

Thanks for coming, Lori, thank you all!

 

Have a good weekend !

 

Good night, Lori!

Lori Soard

G'night everyone!!!!

Mary Rosenblum

Night, all!

 

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