With the changing face of publishing it seems books are going through fewer and fewer edits these days. Print publishing houses are cutting back on staff to save costs from submission to publication. Some digital publishing houses are pushing books through to keep up with the high demand of their readers. And authors are now going the self-publishing route and may not have the financial resources to send a book through several sets of edits.
So what does this mean for a reader? That more and more books are making it to publication with errors. No one is immune. From the USA Bestseller to the self-pubbed author, more and more books we pick up have at least one error. And let me just tell you from an author’s perspective … it’s not at all because we don’t care. Unfortunately, even several pairs of eyes on the same manuscript can miss an error.
As a writer all I have is my words. Words to bring the reader into the setting. Words to convey danger or passion. Words to make the reader fall in love with the characters even as they fall in love with each other. It’s not like a movie where a well orchestrated soundtrack strokes the viewer’s emotions, carrying them … biting their nails into the epic battle … or sighing with satisfaction into the first kiss.
Each word and phrase should create a visceral reaction in the reader. A reader whose emotions are involved in your story is a reader who continues to turn the page. No needy pet, ringing phone or burning dinner will pull a readers who’s emersed in your story from finishing the chapter. Hell, if you’ve done it really well … finishing the book. (Oh, come on, it’s happened to all of us. Raise your hand if you stayed up all night just to finish a book … yeah, I see you out there.)
As authors we have all kinds of tools in our writing kits to create our story and bring our characters to life. Dialogue, both spoken and internal is an immediate way to portray a character. The words they choose and how they’re spoken take a two dimensional character and give them depth. Are the words strong and bold or nervous and tentative? Are they quick to respond or thoughtful and use few words? We must think about all of that. A CIA agent might see the sun setting and think only of the convenience of night’s arrival and how that will help them hide their actions. An artist type would take time to notice the colors, how they mix with the clouds and take a moment to enjoy the scene.
What the characters are saying and what they’re thinking is important. But you can add another layer by including how your characters act and what their body language communicates. Especially if what they’re saying isn’t really how they’re feeling. Let’s look at some body parts and actions and the emotions it conveys.
A smile quirked to the left = lying
Tight-lipped smile = keeping a secret
Licking lips = nervousness or attraction
Biting lip = shyness, insecurity
Trembling lip = sadness
Long, hard stare = anger
Furrowed brows = confusion
Slow blinks = hiding, avoiding scrutiny
Rubbing finger over eyelids = working to deceive
Wide eyes = surprise
ARMS AND HANDS
Clenched fist = anger
White knuckles = strong negative emotion (nerves, anger)
Steepled fingers = confidence
LEGS AND FEET
Dragging toes = reluctant
Tightly crossed legs = in a woman it’s protection
Crossed ankles = won’t compromise in an argument
Shifting weight from foot to foot = lying
Everything your characters do, every thought you share with the readers creates memorable characters. From the dating dance to the first kiss to the ultimate night of passion we offer our readers cues to the emotions of our characters. Skip the body details and you miss the opportunity to make your characters jump off the page and into the hearts of your readers.
So are there any body language moves I’ve missed that you really enjoy in a story? Any that are overused? And tell me some of your most memorable characters and why you just can’t get them out of your head and heart.
Like many authors, I’m an avid reader, albeit a slow one. Mostly because I don’t allow myself the pleasure of reading until I’m settled in to bed for the night and I then read until my face falls into the pages. Sometimes an hour, but more often, about fifteen minutes. *g*
95% of what I read is romance, though I do try to mix up the genres. I’ve been on a real paranormal romance kick so I went and picked up several contemporary romances. And you know what … I could barely get through them.
Now don’t misunderstand me, the writing was stellar and the characters had great chemistry (in and out of the bedroom), but the problem for me is that nothing happened. Nothing blew up. No terrorist tried to end the world. No dragon flew in to breath fire on the town. Nothing. Nadda. Zip. Zilch. Just two people falling in love. And quite frankly, I was bored. I skimmed whole chapters and (something an author hates to hear) skipped pages at a time. I think because I kept hoping something interesting would happen to grab my attention. In both cases I got to the end and happily shut the book and tucked it into my “give away” pile.
I do like television, but I don’t sit and watch very much of it. (Mostly because Mr. Nina is a channel surfer, flipping stations at random intervals and driving me insane And I refuse to go in the other room and run another television.) I do go to the movies and though I like an action flick now and again, I’m more the romantic comedy, sweet family entertainment kind of gal. And I mention this because I don’t have to have things moving quickly to keep me focused. I’m of that generation with a pretty good attention span which is why I found this whole phenomenon interesting.
I do think my taste runs more toward the mystery/suspense end of the romance spectrum. But I’ve read my fair share of traditional romance stories in the past and really enjoyed them. I’ll even read an historical and completely fall into the story. But contemporary? Meh. It doesn’t seem to sugar my cookies anymore.
What about you? Have your reading tastes changed? Am I the only one who’s thinking traditional romances don’t have the appeal they used to have?
“Oh, screw you, Burkett.” Reese Colton threw his cards down as the man across the table collected the two paper IOU’s along with a pile of money. Testosterone and laughter filled the fire station kitchen. “You all suck!” Reese said before draining the drink at his elbow.
Every once in awhile I’ve picked up a book where the author wrote in third person present tense (current action):
“Oh, screw you, Burkett.” Reese Colton throws his cards down as the man across the table collects the two paper IOU’s along with a pile of money. Testosterone and laughter fills the fire station kitchen. “You all suck!” Reese says before draining the drink at his elbow.
I’ve actually read a book like this. It was odd at the beginning, but then I got into the story and barely noticed the present tense.
But now, more and more books are being written in first person. One point of view. The whole story told by the main character — usually female. Lots of young adult stories like Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series is written this way as well as EL James’s “50 Shades” series. I even picked up a mystery recently that was in first person.
Some writers do this better than others. Of course it seems to matter less if the story pulls me in and I become totally engrossed. I don’t even notice that it’s a single narrator. But other times …
Yeeeah, there are a lot of books, especially romances, where I miss that other perspective. I love being in the hero’s head … not just the heroine’s interpretation of his actions … but the actual jesus-she-smells-good-and-that-dress-hugs-her-luscious-curves-in-all-the-right-places kind of thought process. Why do I like that? I think because it makes me fall in love with the hero even as he’s falling in love with the heroine. I want to know he’s so hot for her he can’t get her all the way upstairs to the bedroom before he presses her against the kitchen wall and shows her just how much she means to him.
And you know, it’s not always the hero. I love suspense stories. When an author writes well from the villan’s perspective, it helps me as a reader understand why s/he believes they are totally justified in kidnapping and torturing all the clarinet players in their high school marching band from thirty years ago. (No, that’s not a book, but it sure could make a very disturbed villan. LOL!)
But with everything that the masses say is trending — television, phone apps and twitter, it looks like more and more books are being written in first person and readers are not only buying them … they’re buying them in HUGE quantities. It makes me wonder if some of my favorite authors are going to go in that direction.
What do you think? Is this a passing fad or are first person stories going to become the norm for our reading pleasure?
I love to talk. I don’t mean just the usual dialogue that happens between friends and neighbors or a phone conversation with my sister. Nope, I’m talking industrial sized, get the earplugs out, run for the nearest exit, Nina’s opening her mouth kind of chatter.
Seriously. Mr. Nina once bet me that I couldn’t carry on a one-sided conversation for the duration of a three hour car trip—once. The poor man’s ears were bleeding by the time we arrived and I was still going strong. LOL! I have no trouble finding things to talk about.
Marketing on blogs, twitter and facebook are not a problem for me. It releases some of those pent up words. But I digress. This post isn’t really about social media and marketing, it’s about how much I love to share.
So it’s no wonder when I finish reading a really good book, I’ve been known to send the author a note to tell her how much I enjoyed the story. But then I’m quick to give compliments as well. All of us hear so few good things in the course of our day, I like to be that little piece of happiness (and it goes back to my need to chat with everyone) that brightens someone’s day. But I’m an anomaly I’m sure.
It seems like so few readers are willing to write a review for a book they love, let alone pen a quick note or email to their favorite author.
And I wondered why. Is it a new trend created by a generation that would rather text a brief message 40 times a day before sitting down to write a newsy letter? Has it always been this way? I’m curious, have you ever written to an author? Have you thought about it and didn’t for one reason or another? Let me know. I’m curious like that. Because trust me authors love to hear from readers.
I really don’t know what’s wrong with me. But I’ve got nothing for you today. I actually wrote a whole long post about a series I finished recently. But it was really negative and in talking about the books it wasn’t going to teach anything or create a discussion worth having, so I stuck it in the archives until I can figure out what to do with it.
But it did get me thinking about reading and why people read. And what types of books they choose when they’re looking to satisfy whatever need reading brings to them. For me, reading is entertainment. I don’t like reading self-help books. I rarely read non-fiction unless I’m trying to do research and even then … not so much. I usually just skim pertinent information. I want a story to transport me to another place and time where I can forget about the bills that need to be paid or the laundry that needs to be folded.
My family actually started chatting about books at the holiday dinner table last weekend. One family member mentioned they only like to read books that leave them thinking, have some kind of moral message or some lesson to teach. When a couple of us mentioned a book we’d read and enjoyed, neither one of us could come up with a moral lesson. But then, I can’t say that’s why I read. For me it’s just getting lost in the fantasy of the story. But it was really interesting talking about how and why each of us reads.
On the writing front I’m working really hard to stay focused on a rewrite of a story I wrote yeeeeears ago, but was never published. The problem is I have several projects that have been waiting in the wings and I’m finding it hard not to be a little ADHD and work on them all at the same time. With my life in the chaos it’s currently in, I know opening more than one manuscript in a day would mean I’d never get anything done. Hopefully this story will be out to an editor by the beginning of June.
I’m also doing some beta-reading for a friend. I’m so excited for him as he’s been away from his writing for a long time and he’s such a talented writer. I can’t wait for this book to get out into the world.
And last but certainly not least … I spent last weekend with my grandson. He’s growing so fast! I hate having him so far away, but I’m pleased I got some time to spend with him. I hope you’re having a wonderful week.
Okay, don’t laugh. I know I’m an erotic romance author. I know my characters have a whole LOT of sex, but when you pick up an erotic romance book the first word sort of cues you in as to how often the characters will be “doing it”. But what if you’re not reading an erotic romance? What if you’ve picked up the latest contemporary romantic suspense? Then how do you feel about it?
I’ve noticed in the last few books I’ve read that the hero and heroine, once they allowed themselves to do the horizontal mamba once … they just kept going at it. In between fighting the villain and discovering the mystery of who was trying to kill the heroine, they kept falling into bed. I actually found myself flipping pages to get back to the story. I just didn’t think the sex scenes added to the story. And these weren’t just a little kissing and grabbing and then fading to black, it was the whole shabang.
But ya know … hollywood is doing the same thing. There seems to be so much more titillation on television and in the movies. The actors must just have their body doubles on-call for every movie. Nakedness and sex seem to be expected in every blockbuster. So I’m just wondering if authors are writing the story as they feel it needs to be written or are publishers asking for more sensuality? Have readers come to expect more sex in their romances? Short of reading YA or Inspirational, should readers be ready for the sexier scenes in their romance stories?
How do you feel about it? As a writer are you happy about this apparent trend? As a reader how are you reacting to stories with more loving? Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like this.
What makes you read a book? I don’t mean, why read books at all. But why that book? Did the cover originally intrigue you? Did you pick it up because it’s your favorite author? There are any number of reasons we choose one book title over another.
Before I go on and in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m going to admit I read books differently now that I’m an author. I used to pick up a book and travel along the plot blissfully unaware of all the rules and tricks writers use to move the story forward–to pull the reader into the next chapter if you will. And though I haven’t lost the joy in reading, it’s now part of my “job”. I read now to learn. A very different way of enjoying a book.
It’s hard for me these days to find a real page turner. But the last book I read, Susan Collins’ The Hunger Games not only has kept me up at night, but rolled around in my thoughts making me wonder about the characters even when I wasn’t reading.
And it got me thinking about what makes a book a real page turner.
In the case of The Hunger Games not only was the setting intriguing, being some post-apocalyptic United States with an overbearing government, but the characters, young adults just working to survive the harsh realities of their lives, made me care what happened to them. For those of you who don’t know the premise, the government wants to remind its citizens of a failed revolt and so they send 24 teens into a large arena once a year and have them fight to death, rewarding the victor with both individual riches and food and rewards for their sector…a very interesting premise.
Now, mind you, this is a young adult novel, which means the author had to carefully select how the protagonists of her book would survive and yet not come across as murderers and therefore unsympathetic in the reader’s eyes. May I just say, she pulled it off brilliantly!! I couldn’t read fast enough to find out how the competition would be eliminated especially after the young lady became allies with some of the competitors. And those she did have to kill had become horrible villains for the reader and therefore, deserved to die. Susan Collins’ skill in manipulating my emotions was admirable. By the time the hero and heroine emerge victorious (I don’t think I’m giving anything away since these are romances of sorts) I was thrilled, relieved and wrung out from worrying about their well-being.
These days it takes a lot to keep my attention. I’m finding fewer and fewer books make me want to read them. It may be because I’ve been caught in a genre loop. I’ve been reading a lot of paranormal and fantasy type stories. I’m not sure. The current book I’m reading, Lori Foster’s When you Dare, a contemporary undercover operations story, definitely has me intrigued. She’s holding onto a secret that propels me forward and makes me want to know who is after the heroine and what their motivation would be to kill her (at least I think that’s what they want in the end). The suspense is definitely propelling me deeper into the story. (Of course the budding romance isn’t hurting my enjoyment of the story either. *g*)
But that’s just me and what keeps me up at night reading. What about you? What pulls you into a story and makes you burn dinner or stay up into the weeeee hours of the night? If you have any reading recommendations I’d love to hear them!
I’ve always enjoyed the culmination of the romance with the sweet and tender (or very hot) sex scene. But I’ve noticed, as no doubt you have as well, that these scenes in main stream books have become *ah hem* very detailed.
It’s not that it surprises me. What’s been allowed on the big screen without an “X” rating being slapped onto a movie has changed exponentially since I was a kid. I really don’t remember specific titles, but I recently watched a movie and remember thinking that I was glad I wasn’t watching with my children or *gulp* my mother-in-law. It was less the yards of flesh and more the actions, explicit actions, that when watched with Mr. Nina were hot, but I was definitely surprised by how much they got away with. And now that’s translated to the small screen. Less with naked bodies and more with language.
So it’s not really surprising that romance books are following suit. It used to be the hero and heroine would have that one sex scene described in euphemisms. Now it seems like authors are being asked to put the sex in often and graphically. Like … really detailed.
Now here’s the interesting thing. In movies, woman can be shown naked. Everything. Breasts, butt, genitalia. For a long time. Men on the other hand can be shown in all their naked frontal glory for less than a second. And absolutely NO hint of arousal, otherwise the movie loses its “R” rating.
But books seem to go in the opposite direction. All the graphic euphemisms for men’s genitalia are found within the sex scenes. But the women? Nothing. They’re “entered” or “filled”. They have “most sensitive spots” and “tender flesh”. Because this isn’t erotic romance, it’s main stream. I’m currently editing a short novella that I “thought” was an erotic romance. But I think if I just change some of the intimate wording that my story will fall into the realm of just romance. Sexy romance, but not erotica.
But I wonder. how far can an author push the love scenes before a reader decides they’re reading erotica? At what point does it push the line from just sexy to over the top? Has the line become so blurred that even readers aren’t sure what they’re reading? Are there words/acts that you just don’t want to see? Because this whole thing is certainly confusing me and I’d love to hear what you think.
There are very few things that pull me out of a story when I read. I’m terrible at history so inaccurate facts like corn in the wrong century … don’t bother me. A dutchess that can’t own land … psshaw, I wouldn’t know it couldn’t happen.
I was horrible at English (I know … don’t laugh.) so if the theme of a story isn’t strong and the symbolism doesn’t work … it’s all lost on me.
Very little makes me walk away from a story. I can put up with a whole heck of a lot in the technical aspects of writing if the story has pulled me in.
Since I’ve learned the “rules” of writing, I am a little particular about too many point of view shifts within the same scene. You know when the hero is thinking one thing and all of sudden the heroine is thinking something else? Technically that’s head-hopping and it’s generally frowned upon. (Unless of course your a NYT Bestseller then editors seem to be less picky about this point.) It does bother me. But if the story is really good, I’ll roll with it.
But the one thing I hear writers complain about the most is roaming body parts. I have to admit, I don’t see it. It doesn’t bother me. Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, it often happens with hands and feet …
She threw her hand up between them.
His feet raced across the room.
But could also include …
He tossed his head.
Her jaw fell to the floor.
But the body parts I manage to magically move all the time … EYES!
Her eyes roamed his torso.
His eyes raked her face.
Their eyes flew across the room.
Okay, okay, I know I’m not supposed to do these things. You can’t throw a hand and feet can’t race. Heads can’t be tossed and jaws don’t fall all by themselves. And eyes, well eyes never come out of their sockets to roam, rake or fly. I know this. You know this. But sometimes when gazes are locked and two characters are staring at each other, how much description can you do without saying their eyes are doing something?
I’ve even heard one person laughing because the line read “She laid her head in his lap.” and the reader couldn’t get the image out her mind of the heroine removing her head and placing it in the hero’s lap. Really? I wouldn’t go there. It wouldn’t even cause a blip on my reading radar. I lay my head in Mr. Nina’s lap all the time when we’re snuggling.
The phenomenon of wandering body parts just isn’t something that would bother me in a story. I’m not saying it’s okay, so much as I’m saying it’s just not a big deal for me as a reader. But I know it’s a hot button for many readers.
So do wandering body parts bother you? Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like that. And while we’re at it, anything else drive you absolutely nuts as a reader?