This week author Irene Vartanoff joins us with her tip. Irene is a U.S. writer of women's stories, including superheroine adventure, contemporary romance, and women's fiction.
Irene’s Tip on Writing
What if you've finally managed to write a scene and it's off somehow? What to do? It's a nice scene, it's dramatic, your characters leap off the page, but there's something wrong.
First, ask yourself if the scene is necessary to the story. Necessary could mean several things: It reveals an important plot point. It introduces an important character. It shows an important development in the major relationship. Or it keeps the pot boiling as the relationship or situation develops.
Second, if the scene is necessary, ask yourself if it is being told by the right character. Whose opinion or reaction is crucial in this scene? Then ask if the scene is instigated by the right character. Is it something that flows from how you have defined that character? Or is it out of character?
I came up against this issue when I was trying to keep the pot boiling in my sweet contemporary ranch romance, Captive of the Cattle Baron. Baron and Addie have many scenes in which their emotions rise and their desire for each other rises, too. But it's a sweet contemporary, so there are strong plot reasons they can't fall into each other's arms immediately. This creates frustration, and frustration creates snappish, even caddish behavior.
When I first wrote this kitchen scene, I did it as instigated by Baron. A very good writer acting as a beta reader told me that made him into an abuser. I agreed. It was taking him down the wrong road, since he's the abductor and Addie is the captive. He already has power over her, so being a pig about the clothes she's wearing is really piling on. Criticizing a woman's clothing is in the repertoire of classic abusers, and I didn't want Baron to come off that way. But I needed to keep the tension high between him and Addie. Addie did her share in the scene as originally written, taking offense and pushing them into a spat.
So what did I do? I wrote a short scene from Baron's point of view, showing how frustrated he was with his life and thus paving the way for him to be in an irritable mood. Then I changed the kitchen scene and made it from Addie's point of view, showing Baron arriving obviously grumpy. All he does in the revised version of this scene is frown at Addie's skimpy outfit and then reply to her question. He doesn't accuse her of showing low morals by showing a lot of skin on a hot day. He mostly frowns and responds. Why does he frown? As the scene now reads, it's because she's another frustration in his life.
As for Addie, I decided that she would instigate the scene and it would be all about sexual frustration. She reacts to his mere glance. She takes offense at Baron's frown and blows up at him because she wants him and she can't have him as long as she's his captive.
I like the scene a lot better now that Addie is the one who escalates the drama. See what you think in this excerpt that shows the scene build up and then the spat.
Excerpt From “Captive of the Cattle Baron”
Baron was in his office, looking at geology jobs online, when he heard Miss Betty’s first call that lunch was on the table. He rubbed his face. His morning had started off great, kissing Addie. The rest of today, not so much.
Arguing with the ranch hands over details of the roundup wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life. The conference in Jackson Hole had given him leads for new geology projects with interesting employers, but he couldn’t take any of them, dammit. He had to stay here and run the ranch.
Run the ranch. Not him. The ranch hands ran the oiled machine his father had created. The ranch didn’t need Baron, but he was stuck here anyway, until J.D. got better, or until their parents decided to move back or sell up. Whenever that happened. J.D. had returned from the war a year ago. The outlook for his recovery and return to civilian life still wasn’t good.
Meanwhile, the days of Baron’s own life went by, and at age twenty-nine, the work he’d spent years training to do, geology, not ranching, was forbidden to him. Family duty was nothing but frustration.
“Boy, you eatin’ lunch, or what?” Miss Betty called again.
Addie sat down at the table, and a few seconds later Baron arrived, his mind clearly somewhere not pleasant. After a casual glance at Addie, his gaze sharpened. His eyes examined her clothes. He frowned.
Suddenly conscious of how much skin the cami and shorts revealed, she asked, “Is there something wrong with my clothes? You’re giving me the stink eye.”
“Not much clothing in evidence,” he said, scowling.
“Last night I got the distinct impression you liked that,” she replied.
“What?” Miss Betty shrieked.
“All I did was kiss her,” Baron told his housekeeper.
“Excuse me, but there was a lot of touching going on, too, Mister-Holier-Than-Thou. There’d have been more if I hadn’t escaped.”
Baron’s face flushed red. “You responded. Don’t deny it. I could have had you if I’d pressed.”
“How dare you?” Addie cringed mentally at the show they were putting on in front of Miss Betty, but couldn’t stop. "This isn’t about my clothes. It’s about you being frustrated because I keep saying no.”
“Set yourself down and concentrate on lunch,” Miss Betty advised.
Addie took an angry turn around the room. “I’ve lost my appetite,” she replied. “Excuse me.”
(Captive of the Cattle Baron is in Kindle Unlimited and available in paperback at): U.S. Amazon http://amzn.to/1IkrG5y
You can find Irene at:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Irene-Vartanoff/773154459467433
Thanks Irene, for dropping by and sharing that great marketing tip.
Don’t forget to check back next week for another author’s tip or tweak.