Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a2+b2+c2= z

I was never very good with mathematics, but in writing the above makes perfect sense to me.

It's a formula. Very simply put down on paper. Somewhat complex in the calculations involved.

Formula writing always gets hit on, because to be blunt, it has been abused in the past. We all remember the wonderful stories that started with a spark, but then by the sixth or seventh book from the author, we knew exactly what was going to happen when. Nothing ever changed. The characters were the same. The setting might be in a exotic locale, but the author always focused on the same elements. They couldn't pull a new plot out of thin air if their life, or more importantly, their characters lives depended on it.

Eventually, the formula became stale.

Still, a formula can keep an author on track. It's how you use it that makes the difference. The formula, broken down to its most basic form, is like looking at a mish-mashed pile of building blocks. Each building block represents a chapter (or if you are as intricate as I am, a scene). You start with one and place another on top of it and the next on top of it until you have a teetering tower that is your story.

The way a formulated story can help any author is it always keeps the writer on track. You know how you'll open, you can see where your crises and plot twists will come in, you have a defined ending. All those building blocks I've used, swaying with every breath I take, still holds when I reach 'the end'.

It also keeps my logic moving because the story progresses orderly and the character's logic cements my blocks together.

A basic formula might look like this:

1.Introduce heroine, then hero with plot
2.Coming together. This is the big chapter for me, because I must set my characters on the plot's path.
3.Get the plot moving – add in a chapter in which the characters are thrust together and must learn to deal with each other. This may be a sex scene, but not necessarily.
4.Characterization is key in this block. The plot is planted so now my characters are set on the path.
5.Crisis is on the horizon.
7.Aftermath to the Crisis. Normally a sex scene does come in here for me.
8.HEA and look toward the future.

You can also see the formula I just laid out also coincides with the number of chapters I have in my story. It is, in effect, the backbone I will follow for my tale. This would be for a novella length story. The same thing can be done for a longer story. A writer would just have more building blocks, more internal conflict, external conflict, plot twists and spins and, yes, a black moment.

Just because an author chooses to use a formula shouldn't mean they always write the same story. I don't. I may stack my blocks the same way, but I always change my plot, individualize my characters and almost always change my setting (there are times when I recycle a certain setting, but that is most often in a sequel).

Your turn. Do you think formula writing is lazy? Would this method help you? What part of it would help you? Hurt you?

Until next week, cheers and happy writing,


Monday, March 30, 2009

With Love, From Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

April... The month of the April's Fool. Ah, the pranks one can play, the silliness, the laughter, the utter nonsense of it all. Yet, some can argue there is sense in this madness. Can you prove this right? All I know is that when I was at school, teachers would end up with a very silly paper fish stuck to their backs, or they would have very white butts because they sat down on the chair where we had smeared all the chalk from the blackboard (I know, the good ol' days... sigh).

So, back to the topic at hand: What do we have in store for you this month?

Well, we are trying to make sense.

That doesn't make sense to you? Fear not, it will shortly! For, you see, this month, our topic at the Royal Blush Authors' blog is - drum roll and djembe beats -


Yes, we will bring the topic of sense to the whole business of writing a novel and in the same go appeal to your sensibility as writer.

Many fail to realise how logic is at the very base of writing. If the story doesn't make sense, well, you don't have much of a story, do you?

Logic in the setting, in the characterisation, in the plot arc, in the narrative progression; even logic in naming your characters.

All of these are the very foundation of your story and of the craft of writing.

Catch us this month as we bring you more about how to place logic in your work. Every week, T.J. and Aasiyah/Nolwynn will cover an aspect of logic - the first with a technical and theoretical basis for the topic, the second with practical application and explanations of the concept.

Our regular RBA contributors - Sandra Marshall, Angela Guillaume, and Diana Castilleja - will also be piping their input in, and this will surely be funny and worth checking out. Unfortunately, Chiron O'Keefe won't be able to add her quip this month.

This week, Sandra will tell us what she has grasped about logic in the action-reaction realm.

Anyone familar with Pinkie and The Brain? *wink* We'll strive for such a tone throughout the month, so buckle up for a wild ride!

This April, we at RBA are interconnecting all the synapses of our cerebral cortex, hypothalamus and right and left brain hemispheres.

This April, we're on the quest:

Searching for the logic that actually makes sense...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A means to an end

Some of our recent previous posts have focused on heroine archetypes - how they are presented and also how they can become stereotypes if one is not careful. Our examples focused mostly on Desperate Housewives.
We should've told you that there is one big difference between writing and television - the means is not at all the same.

How so? Television is a visual and audio means, while writing, and ultimately reading, engages all the senses and the imagination as well.

Consequently, television is a passive means, while reading, while not active in the real sense of the word, makes use of all your neurons to grasp the 'picture' in your mind.

This creates a different slant when penning characters in a novel. As most readers who would engage with a heroine are women, these women will need to feel a kinship with your heroine, literally become the heroine in their mind.

Just imagine a woman entering a very male-dominated bar. How would this be shown in on TV, and in a book?

TV would literally 'show' you the setting. You'll see the smoke hanging in the air; you'll hear the 'tac-pac' sound of billiard balls being hit; you'll also hear the ribald laughter and see the men throwing their heads back to chortle or to guzzle down a pitcher of beer.

Now you're in a book, and you need to convey this scene. How will you do it? Of course, you can say smoke hung in the air like a stale and oppressing canopy, making it hard to breathe without the toxic fumes scorching your trachea. You'll hear the sudden and disturbing clang of the billiard balls, the sound sending an explosion in your eardrums and the reverberations echoing all the way down to your empty stomach. The laughter of the men as they grope the waitresses and holler sends a shiver down your spine, revulsion making goosebumps rise on your forearms while all the hairs on your body stand on end. What on earth are you doing here? You'll notice the condensation running down the pitchers of beer, reminding you that you walked all the way from the farm to here, the other side of town, and suddenly you realize there's a fire burning your throat and your mouth feels like cotton because you're in desperate need of some thirst-quenching liquid. Even on the threshold, the cloying heat of sweaty bodies in a confined room assaults you like a rush of stifling fire wrapping an uncomfortable bubble on your skin and making the fabric of your cotton sundress stick to your body.

Which scene puts you more in the shoes of the heroine? Both are giving you the same situation, but through different means.

In the TV version, you know the heroine is at the bar because you see her there. But do you know why she is here? How she got here? Unless the previous scene showed her walking there under the bright sun on deserted roads will you know she is tired and thirsty. TV will need to spell it all out for you, while in the book, simply being in the character's head can convey all this and much more.

TV is a passive means, while reading engages all your senses and your imagination. You bring up the picture when reading; it is your own interpretation.

Because of this fact, stereotypes and pushing archetypes to the limits does not really work when you are penning down a heroine.

Bridget Jones in the book and Bridget Jones in the novel are one and the same, but she isn't portrayed the same way in both movies. The over-the-top Bridget who sings 'All By Myself' with a bottle of wine in her hand in the movie is not exactly the same Bridget Jones at the start of the book when she is writing in her diary and says: 'Resolution number one: obviously, will lose twenty pounds. Number two: will find nice sensible boyfriend and not continue to form romantic attachments to alcoholics, workaholics, peeping-toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits or perverts.'

Another good example would be Susan Mayer from Desperate Housewives. Susan accumulates gaffe after gaffe in the show. Which works fine for her character, and which makes us laugh. But do you think that if you had been reading of a heroine who falls into mishaps every other second in incredible and unbelievable-at-first-glance situations, you would've cheered her on so much? Wouldn't you have said, 'Get a life', or, 'Grow up', or, 'Get out of here! She cannot be that much of a klutz!'

In a nutshell, what works on TV doesn't exactly work the same way in writing. The suspension of disbelief brought on by TV implies that you gloss over aspects of logic and understanding that you simply cannot ignore when your brain is consciously and fully engaged in a reading experience.

As always, all comments welcome!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural romantic fiction, with a twist
With stories set amidst the rainbow nation of Mauritius, a multicultural island in the Southern Indian Ocean, author Aasiyah Qamar brings you tales of today's young women battling life on all fronts and finding love where they least expect it. Indo-Mauritian culture wants to stifle them in traditions, customs and antiquated morals while the world is opening its arms of modernity and globalisation. Where do these women belong? And more importantly, with whom? Find out more about her first release, The Other Side, here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Which Desperate Housewife Are You?

What do the movies Bridget Jones' Diary and When Harry Met Sally have in common?

Both feature heroines based on one of the Eight Female Archetypes. In this case, The Spunky Kid.

Carl Jung referred to archetypes as a "preconscious psychic disposition". Basically, this suggests that on an unconscious level we recognize these character types, and this recognition resonates within to a great degree. We are drawn to these characters and feel a kinship with them.

Tami Cowden wrote a book geared to writers, focusing on how these images generating from our collective unconscious continually occur in our myths, legends and stories, transcending time and space.

For readers and writers alike, tuning into these archetypes lends richness to our lives, helps us to get in touch with our own personality inclinations and provides a thoroughly entertaining escape through books, television and movies. For the most part, we rarely realize why it is certain characters stand out or quickly become our favorites. Utilizing archetypes is one canny method for engaging a reader or cultivating an audience of fans.

In an ongoing television show, a single archetype can quickly turn to stereotype. We lose interest because the character no longer seems real. One way to avoid this is to add layers. Think of it as a spice. One may not be enough but too many and you overwhelm your dish! Most 'layered archetypes' stick with blending two or at the most three vibrant personalities. Usually one archetype will dominate with the other providing an inner core. Like a yummy cake with a delicious filling.

Even our two movie heroines blend archetypes.

Sally's Spunky Kid is strongly supported by The Librarian, while Bridget Jones is not just Spunky, she's a classic Free Spirit. Want to know more?

Let's sneak a peek at two popular television shows and their female characters! I'm utilizing T.J.'s descriptions from her own post The Harrowing Heroine.

In Grey's Anatomy, we see some nicely layered archetypes, sure to appeal to our collective unconscious! *grin*

Miranda Bailey is a nice blend of The Boss (the "Take Charge" woman: outspoken and persuasive, confident and competitive) and The Crusader (a woman on a mission: tenacious, headstrong, courageous). She never holds back, refuses to back down, and goes head to head with the Chief of Medicine. Yet her fervent desire to create a clinic reveals her own 'woman on a mission' inner side.

Kristina Yang is a classic Librarian (conscientious, orderly, bright; she leads with her brain, not her looks) yet she's driven by her inner core, The Boss. Not only does she dare to speak her mind to anyone, she's driven to be number one in her field. Intellectual and competitive.

Isobel "Izzie" Stevens blends three archetypes. Most noticeable is The Free Spirit (genuine and fun-loving, impulsive, an "original"). However it's her inner Crusader that drives her to rally her interns to save a deer. She also displays a strong Nurturer (altruistic to a fault; calm, optimistic, a listener, pleasant, takes care of everyone) who cooks cupcakes and makes breakfast. Note that her altruism led to her funding the free clinic, dream project of fellow Crusader, Miranda Bailey.

Meredith Grey started off simply as The Waif ("damsel in distress": child-like innocence, naive and docile, she endures). However, this is not a strong enough archetype to carry a show! Slowly we began to see another side emerge. The Nurturer archetype is revealed in her compassion (even for a serial killer!) and her need to collect 'strays' in the form of roommates.

Lexie Grey, now known as "Little Grey" is our Spunky Kid (spirited and loyal, reliable and supportive, more of a "tomboy"). No matter how the storm clouds rage, this ray of sunshine also sees a bright side. No wonder McSteamy couldn’t resist!

Callie Torres is less defined in that she has reflected different archetypes throughout the show's run! When married to George she definitely 'endured' although it was clear to all that Callie is much too strong to be a Waif. For now the creators are leaning towards a Free Spirit with a strong streak of Spunky Kid.

On the show, Desperate Housewives the characters practically leap off the screen!

In Bree Van de Kamp we have a classic Boss. Is there anyone more outspoken, confident, persuasive or competitive? When someone needs to take charge, either at a formal brunch or at her good friend's pizza parlor, Bree is a human bulldozer ready to roll over any and all objections. Bree has a touch of The Librarian too—orderly and conscientious. Her cups are numbered and her keys are labeled. Organization is her middle name. Another layer that pops up at times is The Crusader. She is fierce in defense of her family and will fight to the death to keep them safe.

Lynette Scavo has a strong core of The Crusader as well. She's tenacious, headstrong and courageous when she's 'on a mission' which is just about every week! Her arguments were powerful but when her husband begged for her to help him fulfill his dream—opening a pizza parlor—she threw herself into it with a passion. When hard times forced them to sell, persuading her husband to accept the inevitable became her new mission. Lynette also has a strong Nurturer in her nature. She strives to take care of everyone, often putting her own needs in peril. She'll pop ADD drugs to be the perfect mother or go broke paying lawyer fees for her son. Always ready to listen to her friends and provide comfort, this Nurturer is always available.

Susan Mayer is the ultimate "Damsel in Distress" and so represents The Waif. The show's creators even added a nice touch making her an author of children's books. Right from the beginning, in a hilarious episode where a naked Susan falls in a bush while getting locked out of her home, she needed to be rescued. Her inner core though adds some sunshine to the mix, as Susan can be quite the Spunky Kid.

Edie Britt portrays an archetype that fits right into Wisteria Lane: The Seductress (the "I Will Survive" woman: mysterious and manipulative, distrusting and cynical). Not only did she seduce Mike (Susan's boyfriend) she also landed Carlos, Gabby's estranged husband! They keep the shades drawn on her mysterious background but it's clear she's seen enough hard times to be out for herself. Although friendly with the others, the Seductress tends to keep female companions at arm's length. Trust involves a certain amount of vulnerability and Edie is tough as nails and determined to stay that way!

Gabrielle Solis has shades of The Seductress (she did seduce her underage gardener and plant a whopper kiss on Lynette's hubby!) yet she's not quite as hardened as Edie. There's a touch of both The Boss (don't even THINK of competing in the fashion world) and a hint of The Free Spirit (she does what she pleases and is as impulsive as they come). It's not easy to blend these archetypes, which makes Gabby harder to define, yet like Callie in Grey's Anatomy, this character goes through a range of archetypes as her character grows.

Now here's your 'Just For Fun' quiz. Which Desperate Housewife are you? *wink*

Which archetype do you most relate to? Which one do you enjoy in books, movies or television? The Spunky Kid remains one of my favorites and I personally relate to the Free Spirit. How about you? I welcome your comments!


Chiron O'Keefe

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Can I get a little symbolism with your character?

This month you've been introduced to the archetypes, the does and don'ts of heroines, those heroine archetypes we've said 'so long' to and the ones who are up and comers.

But the one thing I really didn't go over between heroes and heroines was symbolism.

It's not uncommon for me to spend a great amount of time building my characters. The same goes for my worlds, but that's a whole other month *wink*.

As we've discussed in the past is symbolism adds a different layer to your story, and when we attach symbols to a character, those symbols lend credence to the characterization.

What sort of symbols can be associated to a character? All sorts.

The easiest place to start with is the name. Do you know the meaning of your character's names? Do they mean anything if you use that name within the context of the story?

There are a ton of sites out there that can tell you the meaning of baby names. The trick is to attach the name to the story. This is all based on plot, (I know. I know. That is yet another month). Just think this is my plot and this is my storyline and this name works really well with both.

Symbolism in personal items. Probably the one I see the most, though most authors do this without understanding it. When we paint with words we use descriptive words to show color and textures. The thing is to think, if the name means this and the characterization is that, can I attach the two through personal items. Of course you can. A siren character should dress the part. An alpha hero should have items around him that reinforce his attitude.

Symbolism in habits. I'm not talking the twirling of hair or the popping of gum, though those can be significant attributes added to a character. What I'm talking about here is character symbols that relate to the back story. Since habits aren't formed within the length of a story, they should bounce back to the impact moment or be created as a result of the impact moment.

An example would be, a character who was a convict or tied up in some way at the impact moment. This character might tighten up. The one I use the most is the character adjusts his watch or a heroine might play with her bracelet. I attached the symbolism to the impact moment with a habit. But, the habit needs to mean something. Thus you also have to establish a connection to an emotion. The hero adjusts his watch on his wrist when he's feeling frustrated with the heroine or at work.

Symbols are rarely in your face. They are depth adding instruments that lend a new layer to your story.

So, you tell me, do you think symbolism is as important as I do? Is it an old art that should be left behind for the modern ideology of plain writing?

Until next time, cheers and happy writing,


Monday, March 23, 2009

With Love, From Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

Our trip on Venus is coming to a close this week. But, not to mean that the intriguing topic of heroines is closed. Far from it!

Catch us this week as the 2 regular contributors - T.J. and Aasiyah/Nolwynn - round up their takes on the quest for the perfect heroine. What do these women have on their mind?

And, on Wednesday, we welcome another Royal Blush Author who's making her debut with us at the blog - Chiron O'Keefe. Don't miss this post - Chiron is asking you Which Desperate Housewife you happen to be? If you're tickled, tune in on Wednesday!

Friday will see another episode of the life and love of Prudence Tempest. In the arms of Malcolm, Prudence sees her fantasy shattering when her flatmate Stacey catches them in the act. What will she do? And more inportantly, how will Malcolm handle it all?

This March, we at RBA have been delving deep into our hearts and soul.

This March, we have taken you on the inner quest:

Searching for the perfect heroine...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The road long travelled

What are we supposed to adhere to when writing heroines?


What do most writers actually abide by when penning heroines?


What's the difference, you may ask?

An archetype is a generalized description of a certain 'type' of person. Like the Librarian, who is an introvert but who hides herself behind the quiet exterior - she may in fact be a warm and nurturing person behind the facade of the cool professional. She also leads with her brain, is rational and thinks things through, not given to impulse and passion.

A stereotype is a generalized notion that is ascribed to a certain category of persons. Take a real librarian - the stereotype has her as a mouse-like creature with a tight bun and thick glasses and prim and proper clothes who whips her hair loose, rips her blouse off to reveal a Wonderbra when she is overwhelmed by passion and thus she jumps poor unsuspecting men when her inner vixen is unleashed.

Which one of those descriptions sounds more plausible to you?

I would say the first. The Librarian archetype does not apply specifically to a library professional, and it is a description that fits a certain portrayal of the quiet, brainy heroine who hides her real self behind a facade.

A stereotype is most of the time a 'false' notion. Librarians don't usually jump the bones of every guy who comes their way, do they? Other stereotypes that completely miss the point are, for example:

All blondes are brainless bimbos.
All mechanics are beer guzzling and women obsessed testosterone-driven machines.
All writers are creatures who live inside a cave and rarely come out to see the light.

Do these sound true to you? Okay, if they do, are they true?

So why is it that writers still go with stereotypes when creating their characters, and more precisely, their heroines?

Another thing that arises when one goes with stereotypes and other such notions is the concept of polarization.

Polarization is taking a character description to an extreme. For example, look at the women in Desperate Housewives. Brought down to the bare bones, this is what it dwindles to (though the show did help redeem them through other traits. But back to the core issue - how they are stereotyped, expecially at the start when the characters are exposed to the viewing audience)

Bree gives the polar end of the manic housewife - always needing to be perfect.
Susan is the polar extreme of the ditzy, clumsy and goofy woman - can someone really string goof after goof like she does?
Lynette is the polar extreme of the harried mom - she doesn't know what to attend to and where to give her energy.
Eddie is the polar extreme of the seductress who seduces anything in pants.

This was actually how the show was described prior to its release, and shortly after it was aired too, before the audience came to grasp the different facets layering the plot and characterisation.

While the initial descriptions helped work this cast in the story, do they sound realist? Not exactly, right? Real women can have such characteristics, but in real life the extreme is not dramatized as in the TV series.

So next time you want to create a 'novel' character, take a minute to pause and ponder. If you are taking a stereotype to work with, find out to what point the stereotype can be true. Saying that all White folks are racists, while a stereotype, is far-fetched and terribly untrue, so much so that you as a writer will lose all credibility if you use this ploy.

If you're going for a polar extreme, then too, ask yourself if that extreme could exist in real life. While your suburban neighbour can happen to be a Bree Van de Kamp clone, how many other housewives do you think will fit the bill?

When faced with stereotypes and polar extremes, take them and tamper them down to a realistic degree. Then twist and turn this facet into a unique premise that works for your story, your character, and you as a writer.

Your readers and your critics will only thank you for that!

As always, all comments welcome!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural romantic fiction, with a twist

With stories set amidst the rainbow nation of Mauritius, a multicultural island in the Southern Indian Ocean, author Aasiyah Qamar brings you tales of today's young women battling life on all fronts and finding love where they least expect it. Indo-Mauritian culture wants to stifle them in traditions, customs and antiquated morals while the world is opening its arms of modernity and globalisation. Where do these women belong? And more importantly, with whom? Find out more about her first release, The Other Side, here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Heroines, and their dopplegangers

It has come to my attention that the weaker of my characters is, in fact, my heroines.

Okay, so I make it sound like a huge news bulletin. In truth, I knew this. It's not all that uncommon to have a particular gender in one book or another be the stronger persona to write. Mine is typically the male, but every now and then, the woman roars.

Long and loud.

But how do you keep a heroine from falling flat when you know she's not the strength-giving character of the book? How do you make her realistic, not overdone or underwhelming? It takes a little blood, sweat and tears.

Blood = What is it about this heroine that makes her real? What sets her apart and makes her a real force to reckon with in the book? Is it her ability to overcome, to adapt, to lead? With my characters the heroine is usually spunky and determined, but it's hidden, kind of like the insides of the Hershey's Kiss. They are strong women in their own right, but like women are made, they have their soft spots. And usually it's because of the guy in the story that they learn to accept that it's okay to own that soft spot and be proud of it.

Sweat = Do your heroines work to overcome their fears? Do they battle tooth and nail for their beliefs? Then you have a strong character. Make them passionate in whatever they are doing, give them the ability to reason. The more a heroine reacts to the world around her in various ways, the more a reader will connect with her, see something of herself in that heroine.

Tears = This is where some heroines I think have begun to fall short. We're cutting back the emotion to make them too "modern" if you will, or by-passing it to get to whatever the publisher has deemed priority for that book to be published. Women are women. Nurturers, yes, but leaders and strategists. Don't downplay feminine humanity or they will fall flat.

Yes, all of the above can be overblown and overdone, the same as an alpha male can be, prompting us to burn the whole thing between the cover flaps.

Think of all the women we see on TV now. Most are savvy, smart to brilliant (depending on the show), independent, but still feminine in their own right to care, express, and nurture through their personas. Now think of the classic shows or movies. What are the resemblances in the basis of the heroine characters between then and now? Quite a few if you consider them.

Heroines are very varied, indepth and incredible characters to any book plot. Realism makes a page turner, even in a world of make-believe.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'll toss my computer!

I'll do it. I swear I will. Well, I won't at the cost of my computer, but I can honestly tell you, that there are more partially read stories on my hard drive than I can count. Normally, my biggest issue relates directly to characterization.

On the top of my list is -- do the characters make sense?

Sounds like an idiotic question, but a lot of writers today are forgetting a high quality character is directly related to set-up. It is directly related to 'logic'. Can they think their way through the story? Do they actually think? Is the internal dialog interesting, intriguing, or is it just filler?

Let's take a deeper look at logic.

From the very beginning, the characters are the stars of your story. You introduce them, hopefully with flair, and start them on a logical path, which is your plot or in the very least relates to your plot, and are off on journey to the end of the story.

Here's one of the biggest problems that creeps in. A writer has to know their characters. They can't be logical if an author doesn't get in their heads and relate this information to the reader. I see more authors who are just spitting out cookie-cutter characters because they buy into the old adage, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. I apply myself to the other side of the coin, 'variety is the spice of life'.

The second problem comes from what sends most e-publishers into a major apoplexy. I want their backstory. Not three chapters of it, but enough to understand what on earth is going on with them. Give me more than the tidbit. A reader wants a firm understanding in a few paragraphs so they can wrap their brain around who these characters are.

Get out of cliché. Big, big, big deal here. I heard from one agent friend the other day who said, so much of the same, so little time. Get some realism into your archetypes and give it credence rather than this, 'oh, I read this in a NYT bestseller, so I'll write it'. No. No. No. Work your characters so they are individuals. Readers want characters they can fall in love with and root for. Give them real reasons to do what they do rather than try to fit them into the plot.

Watch your emotional thrust. Emotions can't be a skipping stone across a pond. They have to ascend and descend logically. It's a process that takes time, but whenever you edit a chapter highlight the emotions so you can clearly see the thrust. Be very careful that a character, and I see it more on the heroine's side, isn't bipolar where they are one minute happy, the next sad, and less than a breath later, they're furious. Unless this is portrayed correctly and in context to the scene, this will confuse the reader.

I'm sure I'll think of a couple more, but these are the biggest ones I've seen lately.

Tell me, what turns you off when it comes to characters?

Until next time – cheers and happy writing,


Monday, March 16, 2009

With Love, From Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that women don't need to ask for directions. They can read maps and they also grasp spatial display easily.

Which then means that there is no way a woman can get lost... Right?

Not so sure, especially on Venus and in the region of WriterLand.

Why is it that most of the writers that write about women (romance, chick-lit, women's fiction) rarely pen down heroines that are depicted with realism and actually resemble live women?

Is the fictional heroine supposed to be a likeness of the real woman, or is she supposed to be an 'unreachable' figure, a paragon few can aspire to get close to?

Check us out this week as members of the Royal Blush Authors posse bring you their take on the question.

Catch T.J. on Tuesday - watch her deal some insight into the inner workings of a 'true' heroine.

Get Diana's take on the matter on Wednesday. What does she have to say?

On Thursday, Aasiyah/Nolwynn brings one of her (and many others'!) peeves about penning the heroine - the extreme polarization writers feel compelled to abide to.

This March, we at are RBA are delving deep into our hearts and soul.

This March, we're taking you on the inner quest:

Searching for the perfect heroine...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ongoing Free Read

The gall of the man! Who did he think he was, questioning me as if he were the wronged husband who came home to find his wife with another man?

“Chambers, that’s none of your goddamn business. Prudence is free to do as she pleases.”

Malcolm’s icy tone brooked no argument. Yet, I heard the implicit support he offered me with his words. Taking a deep breath, stepping away from the cloying proximity of Des, my gaze when to him as my arms crossed in front of my chest.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“What’s he doing at your place, Prue?”

I felt Malcolm take a step forward but my hand reached out and touched his forearm, the gesture silently asking him to stay put.

This was my battle, and wage it I would. “Malcolm and I are working, Des.”

He snorted, and my hand clasped tighter on Malcolm’s wrist.

“Is there a reason why you’re here?” was my prompt.

“You’re not hurt?” Des asked.

I could feel my forehead scrunch into a frown. What was he getting at? “I beg your pardon?”

“Why would she be hurt, Chambers? If you’re implying she’s not safe with me—”

“Of course she’s not safe, what with that crazy wife of yours assaulting her earlier today,” Des cut through.

Oh my God. How did he know that? My puzzlement must’ve been obvious because he then added,

“It’s the talk of the town. How she was hauled to the police station and how another woman is responsible for her outburst.”

Horror grabbed me and I took a step back, only to bump against Malcolm’s broad chest. To my utter shame, my frame sagged against his and his arms came up to wrap around me, keeping me snugly upright braced to his warm body.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” Des exclaimed.

I looked up into Malcolm’s face. His features were taut with repressed tension.

“Chambers, if I were you, I’d leave right now.”

Des stiffened his spine and stood his ground. Malcolm’s body went rigid too, and I knew I had to play the referee before things got ugly.

“Des, I’m fine. It would be better if you left.”

“But Prue—”

“Please go.” My voice was barely above a whisper.

He threw a glance at Malcolm, before his gaze landed on me again. I turned my head to evade the condemnation in his dark irises.

Without another word, he turned on his heels and left. I breathed a sigh of relief and suddenly realized where I was.

In the arms of my dream man, his hot body pressed against the length of my back.

I wanted to revel in the feeling, especially given the fact that he hadn’t yet released me. Actually, it was almost as if his arms were accommodating me even more, tightening to bring me more in contact with his frame.

My eyes closed of their own accord at the same time a small puff of air left me.

I felt him lower his head, and his breath was now warm as it tickled my ear. Any second now, his lips would graze my cheek, and I knew the feeling would make sparks sizzle through my whole being.

With baited breath, I waited. The seconds took on a life of their own, stretching into an eternity.

Say my name.


But it wasn’t Malcolm’s husky whisper that I heard. No. It was a very strident and disbelieving, feminine shriek.

My eyes flew open, to stare at the shell-shocked face of Stacey, my flat mate.

“What are you doing?” she asked. “And with Malcolm Gainsborough, of all people?”

To be continued in a fortnight…

Thursday, March 12, 2009

From Princess to Real-Life Heroine

As women, the first heroines we are introduced to are the princesses of the fairy tales. Who hasn't sighed in bliss and contentment when the kiss of the prince wakes Snow White, or when the glass slipper fit Cinderella's foot perfectly?

We got our first notion of Happily Ever After in such occasions, as well as a glimpse at what a hero should be like - a prince (do you realise they're all called Prince Charming, as if there's one single bloke for all those girls?) or a knight in shining armor who comes riding on a big white horse and sweeps the damsel in his arms and takes her to Far, Far Away where they live happily and have many children.

The damsel - that's what I am trying to get to (you should know me by now - I ramble. Big time!)

Heroines were built off the template of the fairytales damsels and the princesses.

But, is she applicable in our times? Just think back to the movie Enchanted - the princess, Gisele, is pushed by the wicked stepmother into the reality of today's New York, where for the first time she meets a flesh and blood man who isn't a gentleman, and who even curses, and where she calls upon all the animals in the city to come help her clean his apartment, by singing from the terrace! She also sings at every given opportunity.

The realm of fairytales, right? Exactly! A fairytale princess cannot exist in the world as we know it. She cannot simply meet the prince and accept his wedding proposal 2.5 seconds later, get married the next morning and live happily ever after while giving birth to many children throughout the scope of her reproductive life. Where's the realism here?

Nonexistent. And that's a big mistake where penning heroines is concerned - the lack of realism. T.J. touched upon this in her post on Tuesday.

Now, if you are writing a fairytale, this princess would work for you, but we have to face the fact that most of us write about real women who are facing real situations albeit in a fictitious setting. But fiction has to be as close as possible to reality. Even in a realm such as fantasy, where your world is wholly fabricated, there needs to be a semblance of logic that grounds your characters.

This logic is what you need when you pen a heroine. Why is it more important for the heroine? Because she is very much the strongest pillar you need in the foundation and construction of your romance story. There is no romance without a heroine, and most romance, while featuring a good deal of the hero, is based on the love story that touches the life of the woman.

I'll slither a side post here about heroines. On the blog Pop Culture Divas, there is a list of the strongest movie heroines of the past decade. I'm sure all of you must've seen those movies, or at least, have heard of them. Catch a glimpse of the wide variety in women and personas that grace the collective mind where strong heroines are concerned.

Take a glimpse at these heroines, and look very hard at the thread of logic in your heroine's behavior. This is ultimately what will help you create a superb character that leaps off the page and who will stay in the minds of your readers for a long time to come.
As always, your comments are more than welcome!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural romantic fiction, with a twist

With stories set amidst the rainbow nation of Mauritius, a multicultural island in the Southern Indian Ocean, author Aasiyah Qamar brings you tales of today's young women battling life on all fronts and finding love where they least expect it. Indo-Mauritian culture wants to stifle them in traditions, customs and antiquated morals while the world is opening its arms of modernity and globalisation. Where do these women belong? And more importantly, with whom? Find out more about her first release, The Other Side, here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Your heroine did - WHAT?

Some of the biggest problems shooting up to dash aspiring author's dreams right now is the characterization of their heroines.

Let's look at romance heroines through the decades.

The teens to the 60s - other than the underground porn, heroines were pretty much marked as a productive member of the community. If anybody has ever read the first Harlequin stories, you know what I mean. She was almost a damsel in distress needing a level-headed hero to rescue her. Personally, I thought the stories should have come with a free cookbook.

The early 70s - heroines were getting bolder, sassier. The whole concept of flower child enticed romance readers. Though these were shadow aspects of the heroines, they gave the heroine a level of mystery. Also, heroines got a real sense of humor during this time period. They were, and I hate to say this so literally, a personality.

The middle/late 70s - Women's Rights! The hot party scene and the concept of openly sexual really started to impact characters. Even though most of the New York Publishers kept this heat under wraps, it was the entirety of the people, places and scandals that took the heroine into the late and to the beginning of the 80s. By the late 70s we also began to see the Corporate Woman make her entrance.

The 80s - this time period was marked by Women Can Do Anything, Everything, and All Things In Between. The 80s really was a time driven by corporate intrigue and a stronger heroine. She could be bitchy, want to climb the corporate ladder and even have sex out of wedlock (I know, you are all gasping - lol). HQN really pushed the heavy handed heroine until the reader threw their hands up in frustration and said, 'move on'.

The 90s - The hybrid emerged. The grundge mistress. The paranormal aspects. Super Hero-esque femme fatales finally made it to between the pages of stories. Though the Corporate set still hung around, the heroine was calmed down. By the late 90s, the heroine in distress was making a comeback. See a cycle starting here? Also by the late 90s the e-publishing market was in its infancy which would be a catalyst to the 2000s.

The 2000s - With the emergence of e-publishing, New York kept themselves above the fray playing out on the net and carried a fine line-up of heroines -- all heroine archetypes. Though they did ditch, finally, the bitchy heroine who was too super hero-esque to be believable. E-publishing has become the home of the heroines who are either dated in New York's opinion or stories rejected.

Welcome to the mish-mash of the heroine. Since the early days, she's been put through her paces and she's got to be exhausted. Well, who can blame her? Part of the problem with heroines is they've lost the 'real' quality which makes a person interesting. You have publishers who have said - make her a sex kitten. She needs to drop her panties where ever and when ever. Others have said, no more cliche 'rape victim', 'desperate housewife', 'wall flowers', 'Too dumb to survive Valley Girls'.

Any of the last examples I've given you can kill a story. It's like writing a worn out plot. These stories have been covered so many times, they are droll. It's why you see more hybrid stories with a mixture of plots and archetypes coming into view. Blending breathes new life into the old and tired plot. Reality helps a worn out character.

Next time you sit down with a character, strive for a little bit of realism. If she'd say, 'shut up', then give her permission to do so. With all the archetypes beaten to death, it's the only thing you have left in your arsenal.

What do you think? Is realism lacking in romance? If you had a magic wand, what aspect of the common heroines would you erase?

Cheers, and until next time - happy writing,


Monday, March 9, 2009

With Love, from Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

We're still taking a stroll down the avenues of Venus, trying to check out what heroines can tell us.

What does the modern-day heroine have to say for herself? And what does the Royal Blush Authors posse have to say about this woman?

Catch us again this week as we follow upon the topic we started last week.

On Tuesday, T.J. will give us a view of heroines in the past decades, when romance really emerged.

On Thursday, Aasiyah/Nolwynn will tell us a bit more about clocking in a 'real' heroine.

And on Friday, don't miss 'the' heroine of RBA - Prudence Tempest. Sandwiched in a power struggle between her sticky colleague Des and the man of her dreams, the handsome Malcolm, what will happen to our dear Prue this week?

Women writing about women...

This March, we at are RBA are delving deep into our hearts and soul.

This March, we're taking you on the inner quest:

Searching for the perfect heroine...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A walk through time


They have existed for always it seems. From the myths and lore transmitted through word of mouth across generations, to the tales penned by authors with a quill and ink, and later through the medium of film as the visual strutted side by side with the written word.

Heroes have existed, as have heroines. Women and girls have gone through all these walks of life, recounting to us their struggles, their tales of romance and chivalrous men who wooed them and made them queens. Women have struggled through the confines society imposed on them, to emerge the victor, despite the fact that the struggle is far from won even today.

Yet, has this woman been the same throughout time? Has she changed, evolved, matured, or even, regressed?

What better way to capture this evolution than through stories and their heroines? Every age's tales reflects upon its womenfolk and brings her to light as the persona she encompassed in that era. Even today, when we pen a tale from a time we have not personally witnessed, we depict this heroine as she would have been in that set-up.

Let's take a more in depth look.

Stories rarely go beyond the year 1000. At the time of Crusades, in a world of knights and ladies and commoners, women are portrayed here as needing a man by their side, as nurturers, as wilting flowers. Mind you, there is strength in this woman, but she doesn't flaunt it. Virginity, especially among the higher realms of society, is a virtue, though liaisons and dalliances happened oftentimes after the lady was married and bedded by her husband on her wedding night.
Examples of such heroines (even from times before the first millenium): Queen Gorgo, wife of King Leonidas in 300; Princess Sybilla in Kingdom of Heaven; Evolet in 10,000 B.C.

You then move to the middle ages. The likes of Shakespeare abound here, with the young ingenue as the heroine. It has to be recalled that women were married and mothers here at the age of 12. Political alliances, marriages to merge big families, human lust and desire characterise the personalisation of romace in this age.
Examples of such heroines: Juliet from Romeo and Juliet; Queen Elizabeth 1 from Elizabeth; Viola de Lesseps in Shakespeare in Love.

Then comes the 1800s, the age of romanticism and society stories. The Civil War, the Napoleonic reign, the Regency - all fall into this period, though the Regency is more stringent on matters on proper society manners and conventions. The heroine in this time aspires towards a 'good' marriage, otherwise it's a life of drudgery as old maid, governess, or lady in waiting. There seems to be very little to motivate this heroine, but it's a wrong assumption. Rebellion is often characterised here. The heroine aspires for more, though she very rarely manages to break through the confines of the age. Again, virginity is highly valued. Women who have sex outside of marriage are viewed as 'fallen creatures', and the only action between the sheets happens after marriage. Even liaisons are shunned even more in this era.
A little observation to be made here - the period of 'libertinage' on the Old Continent around the turn of the century. Think Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos.
Examples of heroines: Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice; most Jane Austen heroines.

The rest of the century brings us the 'regular' historical heroine. Mostly set in England or America and the war between North and South, we have polarized heroines in this age. These women abide by the society rules, nurturers to a fault, or they throw it all by the window. Think Scarlett O'Hara v/s Melanie Wilkes.

Another contender in this bracket of time is the settlement of the American West stories, or Westerns as we know it. The rugged lands of the New World provide a harsh and often brutal backdrop against which heroines must live in the shadow of the men, the law-abiders or the outlaws. Women in this set-up are depicted as courageous, gritty, and not afraid. Still the nurturer, some break the mold. Think Calamity Jane, Ellen "The Lady" in The Quick and The Dead.

At the turn of the twentieth century, you have a heroine who is breaking the cocoon and trying to emerge as the free butterfly. Social conventions are being pushed aside and she is thinking about herself and her own happiness. A preclude to the women's liberation movement, in a way. Still bound by the corset though, but times are about to change as the Big War is lurking and women get their first shot at handling everything while the men are away fighting.
Examples: 1812 brought us Rose DeWitt Buckater in Titanic.

Despite all the evolution women meet in between 1913 to 1935, there aren't many stories to showcase this. Of course, fashion hasd changed. The corset has been ditched, hem lines are much shorter, undergarments are pretty much a thing of the past. The mindset has also evolved, more liberated. Rarely do we come across a heroine from that age though. It seems as if time just jumped to WWII and that's when you see more of this 'new' woman.
She has a job. She doesn't need to rely on marriage as her only avenue. She can choose her mate relatively without hindrance. She can decide to be an old maid and that's not an issue.
Examples of such heroines: Nurse Lt. Evelyn Johnson in Pearl Harbor; Kay Lake and Madeleine Linscott from The Black Dahlia.

From this point onwards, the heroine takes new avatars at every decade.

The 1950s brought a time of repression, in a way. Men are back from the war and women are expected to go back to domestic life. It often happens that women cede their places readily, but such is not the case always. There is a battle here between home life and the life of the working woman who takes her own decisions.
Examples: Cathy Whitaker in Far from Heaven; the posse of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood.

For all the 1960s brought the hippie movement forward, there aren't many hippie heroines. It is mostly the secondary characters who get saddled with this trend. The era probably brings to mind the sultry image of Marilyn Monroe. Family is still a driving force in this age, though there is much a shift in focus as to what the woman wants from her man.
Examples: Margaret "Maggie the Cat" Pollit in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.

The seventies returned us to the classic wilting flower and the damsel in distress. The rise of Harlequin romances and Mills & Boon stories accounts for much of that.

The eighties, however, and the nineties too, sketch a curve away from the wilting rose and brings more power-hungry women. A career is not a thing that's scorned any longer, and men are meant to be enjoyed like candy. What a change in the mindset! From books to movies to the soap operas, the women take their destiny in hand and they are not afraid to show who and what they are.
Examples: Kristel Carrington & Alexis Carrington-Colby in Dynasty; Katharine Parker in Working Girl.

Another explosion here happens in the genres where women were not exactly present until then. Think sci-fi and paranormal. You can't have a wallflower there, and that's how strong heroines come to the forefront and take charge.
Examples: Ellen Ripley in Alien; Sarah Connor in the Terminator series.

From this springboard then come the heroines as we know them today. Wide and varied, strong in body or in mind and heart, funny and poignant - they have all evolved from the women who have led us through time and eras.

As always, I would love to have your comments.

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural romantic fiction, with a twist

With stories set amidst the rainbow nation of Mauritius, a multicultural island in the Southern Indian Ocean, author Aasiyah Qamar brings you tales of today's young women battling life on all fronts and finding love where they least expect it. Indo-Mauritian culture wants to stifle them in traditions, customs and antiquated morals while the world is opening its arms of modernity and globalisation. Where do these women belong? And more importantly, with whom?Find out more about her first release, The Other Side, here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In Search of the Perfect Heroine

This is tough, I have no idea what men look for in a heroine, but then they don’t read romances so who cares. Well, we must care because she has to be attractive to our hero. We need to know what men look for in their ladies.

I told a lie in my very first paragraph. Can you guess what it is? Men don’t read a romance is an outrageous lie. On one of my loops, several readers said they and their husbands often read a romantic adventure together. I bet you are just dying to know why. Well, guess what, they are learning new techniques for making love. They want the sex between them and their spouses to be more satisfying, more interesting to their respective partners.

Okay, I’ve digressed a bit. My personal opinion of the ideal female protagonist is that she may be us. Of course, I’m not saying I’m perfect (just close to it—grin), but neither is our character. We can make her the way we would like to look or act, but she still has to have ordinary flaws like all women have.

There are physical attributes that most guys look for in a woman when they are on the prowl. Almost all males pant over boobs, the ass and legs, but in the end those features won’t hold their interest forever. No, your heroine better have a personality, be intelligent and strong. No man wants a stick character, a dummy or someone who can’t take care of themselves when he’s not there.

A man wants to take care of his woman, (yeah, the caveman) but not to the extent, she is reliant on him all the time. Gentlemen, you wish for a partner that you can lean on when the need arises. This means the perfect heroine needs to know when to be strong and when not to be.

Appearance is only important as far as description of the female protagonist is necessary in my story, and also, because everyone wants to read about a hot looking female. The old saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is true between a man and a woman. What one man or woman finds lovely or handsome may not be another person’s idea of either.

A heroine may be made up of a composite of many people or maybe just someone you might like to meet in your dreams. Take the best from all women and make her your idol.

I hope you enjoyed my silliness. Until next time.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Harrowing Heroine

These are pretty simple, though blending is important in heroine archetypes. I haven't met a reader yet who doesn't like a fully fleshed out heroine.
Beyond Cinderella: The Eight Female Archetypes (more info at Romance Central workshops)
The Boss - The "Take Charge" woman: outspoken and persuasive, confident and competitive
The Seductress - "I Will Survive" woman: mysterious and manipulative, distrusting and cynical
The Spunky Kid - Spirited and loyal, reliable and supportive, more of a "tomboy"
The Free Spirit - Genuine and fun-loving, impulsive, an "original"
The Waif - Classic "damsel in distress": Child-like innocence, naive and docile, she endures
The Librarian - Conscientious, orderly, bright; she leads with her brain, not her looks
The Crusader - A woman on a mission: tenacious, headstrong, courageous
The Nurturer - Altruistic to a fault; calm, optimisic, a listener, pleasant, takes care of everyone
Since these are pretty basic, I'm going to give you a few archetypes that have lost their popularity.

The Witch of a Bitch – we saw a lot of these from HQN in the 80s and then they were reinvented in the 90s as the female superhero in paranormals. These characters were too hard to digest.

The ingĂ©nue – these poor characters got slaughtered when editors realized these were very young characters. Juliet, from Romeo and Juliet, was this archetype. Unfortunately, if you are writing historical stories, you are going to run into the limited life span and the need to procreate in adolescent years.

The Intellectually Challenged – Oh Chick Lit really hurt this archetype, mainly because it went to such an extreme it became a question of, 'how could anybody love this girl?'. I can't blame only Chick Lit, but they went too Sex in the City, Legally Blonde and shopaholic, not have a care in the world 'cause I have daddy's money. The one thing they missed was that they came out in the visual media. Visuals helped the Alicia Silverstones, Reese Witherspoons appear in a better light.

So, what do you prefer for your heroine? Give her the spunkiness of the Spunky Kid or the maternal loving of the Nurturer.

Cheers and until next time – happy writing,


Monday, March 2, 2009

With Love, From Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

They say men are from Mars (no wonder they're such a mystery!) and women are from Venus.

I don't know about you, but Venus brings to my mind thoughts of warmth, love, caring, and beauty. That pretty much sums up women, wouldn't you say? And all this makes women heroines.

Heroines... What would our dear heroes be without the special woman to make their hearts beat faster and who arouses their protective instinct as well as the fire in the blood?

But, is this all a heroine is about?

This will be our topic for the third month of this year. Throughout the following weeks, we'll all bring you our views and takes on this very delicate matter - Who is the modern-day heroine and what is she made of?

As usual, we'll have our regular contributors - T.J. Killian, Aasiyah/Nolwynn, Sandra Marshall, Angela Guillaume, Diana Castilleja - and this month, we bring you someone else from the Royal Blush Authors posse - Chiron O'Keefe! Chiron will be posting on the last week of March.

In the days to come, here's what we'll be treating you to:

Catch T.J. on Tuesday as she tells you what the archetypes for heroines are. Yes, there are archetypes for heroines too, just like for shaping your ultimate hero.

On Wednesday, Sandy will once again bring us her offbeat take on the topic of heroines. Believe me, this is one humorous romp you don't want to miss!

Thursday, Aasiyah/Nolwynn will take you on a trip down memory lane as she recounts a bit about heroines through time - how they evolved, and yet how they remained the same at the core.

Women writing about women...

This March, we at are RBA are delving deep into our hearts and soul.

This March, we're taking you on the inner quest:

Searching for the perfect heroine...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush