Linnea Sinclair

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  • in reply to: A Tale of TWO OPENINGS : Finders Keepers/Linnea Sinclair #43044
    Linnea Sinclair

    The original feels more contemplative and she’s a spectator to a firefight, but she doesn’t actually have a bone in the fight (yet). And this line “she no longer felt the Yscko were a threat, at least, not to her, not here” immediately reduces the conflict and tension. A lot of setting, but it is not impinging on her character the way it did above and thus showing her character as she deals with equipment malfunctions.

    Yes, it is more contemplative because I was playing it safe. I was moving the camera in slowly. I’d also not read Dwight V Swain yet–nor any other “how to” tome on crafting commercial genre fiction. What you have in the original opening is untrained prose by an avid avid reader with a journalism degree. 🙂

    And congratulations on your son’s engagement if I read that correctly. If they just got engaged after being quarantined together, that’s true love 🙂

    Hah! Yes, Thomas and Kristy got engaged after a year of dating. We are thrilled. We’ve not met her yet (10 hours distance plus COVID) but our/Rob’s daughter, Jaime, (Thomas and Jaime are my stepchildren but I’ve been stepmom since 1980 so…) and her hubs met Kristy and they approve 1000%. 🙂

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    Linnea Sinclair

    When I analyzed using some of the lessons we’ve learned, I felt the first lacked a sense of urgency. There’s a lot of sitting and she doesn’t seem to feel particularly worried or threatened. This contrasts to the second version, where the alarm is blaring, she’s bumping into things and knocking them to the floor. She’s sweaty. She’s got equipment malfunction, etc. I would say it hits pretty squarely on Fear of Extinction. There’s also more specifics in the second one: the ship’s console, bad/broken equipment, we know it’s a freighter, etc. Thanks for sharing. You don’t often get to see the progression of an author’s work.

    Commenting on the latter sentence, it’s probably because we tend to delete files when they’re no longer needed. Or we rewrite over the working file, so original versions are lost. I don’t have the complete original MS for FINDERS KEEPERS. I’m not even sure why I have the partial first chapter of the original and it’s not in my book file.

    The first definitely lacks urgency. It was that camera slowly panning in over the field of waving daisies syndrome. There are times we writers think cinematically but that doesn’t always work for print. We don’t have rolling opening credits to keep the viewer/reader focused. And we don’t have popcorn… 😉

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: HOOK ‘EM: LESSON SIX #43026
    Linnea Sinclair

    Trilby’s character and inner thoughts are much better expressed and revealed n the second version….I can really feel the fear and  at the end the triumph. I did not get that as much in the first version.

    Yep. And it took several rewrites to get there. So, don’t give up if the opening scenes or chapter isn’t perfect. It probably won’t be first draft. By the time I rewrote the opening scenes, I’d already written more than half of the book, if not more. So I was deeper into the character, deeper into her personal issues and deeper into the external threats in the whole story.

    When you’re in first draft Just Keep Moving.

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    Linnea Sinclair

    The details in #1 help us see the setting and she interacts with it as she climbs. The smoke and the flames are details that bring the crash to life, but I’m not as connected to emotion as I am with #2, but I found the scene and character credible.

    Bingo. We need that connection in the first chapter and especially in the opening pages. In #1, she’s kind of just recording everything (or I am, of course). In #2, she’s engaging with the scene.

    #2 has more rooting interests and primal emotions—fear, worry, survival. The alarm immediately creates fear.

    Yes, ma’am. We’ve gone from what’s going on OUTSIDE to what’s going on INSIDE. We still have visuals, setting, but we work to pair visuals with sensations.

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    Linnea Sinclair

    In the original opening, the two main things I noticed were quite a bit of backstory world building and not much action directly impacting the main character. She’s watching, observing, only moving stealthily toward the crash to pilfer valuables at the very end of the opening.

    Yes, she is, and that’s the way a lot of us (me, too) start our first few pages because we’re warming up our engines. We may see the opening scenes clearly, or somewhat through a glass darkly. But UNTIL we put words down in front of us, the scenes continue to shift.

    I wanted you all to see this. START SOMEWHERE, even if it feels wrong. Even if you need to just get the character on stage and let her tell you (me) the backstory and the sensations.

    But don’t stay there. Keep revising while moving forward. You might not have the right first chapter until you’re in chapter ten. If that’s when the lightbulb goes off, go revise!


    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Brenda Davis Homework Thread #43003
    Linnea Sinclair

    Contemporary Romance Revision 2 Wednesday To cover her cringe, Charlene said, “Your blunt cut bob is the exact gray as the images. Very stylish.” Madison’s brow quirked over her skeletal forehead. “We’re not here to exchange pleasantries. Look closely at the pictures.” Charlene curled her bitten-to-the-quick nails into her palms. She didn’t want to guess what would happen next. Whatever, it involved change. She hated change. Why couldn’t things just stay—same old, same old—safe? Elbows digging into her sides, she waited, and thought about the gloves. With the 60-degree Spring temperatures, it finally happened, they migrated to the clearance shelf, and after trying them on all winter, she’d snapped them up. Smooth as creamed butter, they slid over her chapped hands, enticing her to stop, to linger and to touch them even though she had catheter bags to change, and patients to check on. The gloves belonged to someone brave, someone who didn’t dread moving out of the family bungalow–a world traveler maybe. Madison’s blunt cut bob was the exact grey of the security footage printouts she spread across the desk—pictures of Charlene fingering the gloves.

    You’re a good writer, a really good wordsmith, Brenda. But we’re having some minor issues here. 1. White Room Syndrome 2. Rapidly Changing Lanes without Turn Signal Syndrome

    I can’t SEE anything in the present moment here, other than someone’s haircut and forehead. Then we’re in backstory with the gloves. Your use of sensory images is lovely. But… I’m lost. (I’m not fully because I’ve read your other versions, but if I’d not, I’d really be lost, kind of ping-ponging around in that white room.)

    A flush creeping under his freckles, Eugene tugged at the tie he’d never bothered with before the merger.

    “This isn’t about the gloves.” Madison launched another volley of security stills across the desktop–stills of Charlene entering or exiting bathrooms.

    Okay, now we have another person, but no clue who he is or why he’s there. And we finally have an object–a desk–so we can assume we’re in an office, but can’t be sure.

    Apology in the drooping of his jowls, Eugene held open the office door and motioned for her to exit.

    We finally know where we are, only to LEAVE the place.

    Sweetie, again, you have a wonderful command of words. And I KNOW you’re seeing the scene. You’re just not letting the reader see it.

    What I suggest–because there are various reasons for this happening and I don’t know which one it is–is that you finish the first chapter or even the first three. Just get everything out on paper as you have here, mostly dialogue, which is fine. THEN go back in and layer in SETTING. It’s perfectly FINE to do it that way.

    And edit the backstory into the narrative… a little here and there… so that it’s not an info dump up front (the gloves). I know the gloves are key. But  you can TEASE about that. You don’t have to do the naked streaker thing right there on page one. 🙂 In fact, I wouldn’t even have her THINK about the gloves UNTIL she sees the security photos. THEN–let us feel her shock and dismay and DON’T EXPLAIN THE WHOLE THING THEN AND THERE. Let the reader gasp and wonder a bit. Tease. Let the reader feel her confusion and, yes, her longing for something so fine, but then let’s pull her back into her current (awful!) situation of being fired. Tease tease tease. Because it seems to me that other than being a partial impetus for her firing (spending time in the gift shop) that have no direct impact on the plot. A pair of gloves, no matter how lovely, are a pair of mass-produced gloves and not something unique that she can ONLY get at the gift shop right there and no where else. (IE: They’re not ones owned by her late grandmother that have the only existing map to the treasure embroidered onto the thumb…). They’re symbolic but they’re not a goal/GMC issue.

    Unless you embroider that treasure map on the thumb, then we have a whole ‘nuther story unfolding… 😉



    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Cynthia Young Homework Thread #43002
    Linnea Sinclair

    I haven’t posted anything because I went down a few rabbit holes. I realized I had gaps in my research as far as photography in the Victorian era. I also realized that I have a lot of research in folders on my computer and while they are sorted by topic, I haven’t done any work to put the research together in a way that I can use it easily. I always figured that I could do keyword searches (but that doesn’t work so well if one doesn’t remember what the term is) and trying to remember where something is when you have 36+ files on a single topic, some of which are books, is challenging. So I need to take a step back and figure out how to manage the hundreds of files I have accumulated.

    Hahaha! Uh, yeah. Sing me a song I don’t know the tune to. 😉 Research creates authenticity in the story. It also creates SOS: Shiny Object Syndrome for writers… ooh, look at THAT interesting fact… [mind now goes 1000 miles a minute with a new plot twist or–gak!–new story!]

    I think the fact that your MC IS a photog in an era where there were very few photogs let alone female photogs… it’s kind of like being one of the first female USAF jet pilots (go ask Susan Grant) or the first female astronaut. I think the reader would rather know how rare she is and they’d definitely want to feel her expertise or else we have a characterization gap of WHY is SHE doing THAT?

    You really want the reader to be standing in her high button boots (or whatever they wore back then) and feeling her passion for photography and also feeling how much that makes her Not Fit In.

    My two cents…

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Pepper North Homework Thread #43001
    Linnea Sinclair

    Not to fret, Pepper! You (or any of you) can always find me on Facebook. I love answering craft questions from my former students. Even if you’d done every jot and tittle of stuff here, you know some questions might spark three weeks down the road. So, see, you can reach me on my FB author page (it might take me a day to get back to you, FYI, as I don’t live on social media…). 🙂

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Rebecca Rector Homework Thread #43000
    Linnea Sinclair

    But Linnea, shouldn’t I add details about noises and smells and how his bare feet feel against the rough sidewalk? Or am I overthinking it? Hmm, maybe I already know the answer–add them if they mean something to the character or plot? Add the noise if it changes so he can overhear the uniforms, add the smell from the donut shop if that’s what makes his stomach rumble, add how his feet feel if someone steps on them and that’s why he makes a noise that attracts the notice of the uniforms? Yes? Maybe?

    You have this: The boom of a booster K4 lifting off from the spaceport shook the whole street. Door armor fused protectively over the shops until pebbles and debris stopped pinging against the buildings.

    Which I very much like. But, yes, once you get the opening chapter done, you can go back in and fluff in those small details. I don’t know how much in MG that’s called for. I know in adult fiction, yes. Daylight or night? Rain or summer heat? We don’t need oodles, we need slight mentions worked in naturally. The pebbles under his feet, the aroma of food… yes. But don’t dump it all in the first 100 words. It has to fit.

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Joanna Kush Homework Thread #42989
    Linnea Sinclair

    Wow!  Thank you for taking the time to take it piece by piece.  Yes, I’d love whatever you have about tenses, definitely a weakness.  I appreciate you showing me all of the opportunities for detail.

    One of the problems with teaching adults about grammar is that most books are written for children. Grammar Girl, however, writes for everyone:

    She’s been around for awhile, so you can find her books in places like Thriftbooks, where it won’t cost you bunches to buy.

    GRAMMARLY is an online grammar checker. The only problem I have with that is some people rely on that rather than LEARNING. If you want to be a published author (and have your work well-respected) you need to learn proper grammar. Ugly fact, but true:

    This blog:  goes over all the verb tenses in the English language. MOST you WILL NEVER USE in crafting commercial genre fiction, so don’t let your eyes bug out of your head when you view this. 🙂  The “Perfect” tenses are things you’ll probably never use. Read over the examples, know that they exist, but concentrate on the others.

    Another good chart:

    I happen to work well with charts. They’re easy reference, clear, simple.

    Lastly, a great book that I recommend in almost every class: SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Browne & King. Get the paperback, it has cartoons. 🙂 But the book assumes you are somewhat familiar with basic English grammar. FYI.

    Hope this helps!

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Joanna Kush Homework Thread #42958
    Linnea Sinclair

    Her flight finally lurched to stop.  She was still damp from the torrential downpour she got caught in trying to get to the airport.  The last thing she wanted to do was get in an Uber and head in the opposite direction of home, in yet another storm.  She was tempted to change her destination but the rain had started and there was no overhang.  Oh my god.

    Wet and riding in the back of the compact sedan Taryn wiped her wet hair off her face.  Her beautiful leather pumps that had seemed like not such a terrible idea were for all intents, ruined.  As the sheets of rain started dumping on the little car as it made its way over the Coronado bridge, the flip flops she  kept in her suitcase didn’t seem like a great alternative either.  Roxie better be damned glad to see her, and make her forget the haggard day she had.  When the car pulled up to a tiny corner bar, it looked tired like any other neighborhood bar, definitely not tony or beachy.  She got out on the street side to avoid the huge puddle at the curb, then jumped the puddle in the ruined heels and throwing her suitcase with the leap.  This pedicure is long since trashed.

    Hi Joanna,

    I love the premise, the set-up, the use of weather and setting to ramp up tension in this opening. What works less successfully are craft and grammar issues. Overall problem one: You start in past tense. You switch in the middle to present tense. You can do that in experimental fiction (maybe, and only with great skill) but not in commercial genre fiction.

    This –> Her flight finally lurched to stop.  She was still damp  <– is written in past tense. Lurched, was…

    This –>he approaches, ….She says nothing….He pauses a moment, <– is present tense.

    Past tense would be… he approached, she said, he paused.

    If you’re unclear on past versus present (and all the other messy tense stuff), let me know and I’ll post some links to terrific and helpful articles.

    If you’re unsure of whether to USE past or present, that’s a tougher question to answer. It depends on genre, style, character voice, your voice, and skill.

    There are also clarity issues throughout the piece which is, as I said, full of good stuff simply awaiting a clean-up so this fun story can shine. Clarity issues can happen in many ways. Most often they happen (and I speak from decades of writing them!) during rewrites, when parts of sentences are merged. They also happen when you’re trying to get too much into one sentence (and I again speak from decades of doing exactly that). In our MINDS, we know what we want to say, we can SEE the action or the scene clearly. However, our danged fingers don’t always cooperate. 🙂 Let’s take this line by line:

    Her flight finally lurched to stop.

    <– This is fine. And I love lurched, because we all get shoved forward a bit when the jet finally connects to the rampway, don’t we? Sometimes it’s a gentle nudge, sometimes it’s a WHAM. The problem is, other than that lovely and universal experience, we’re in a white room. Corporate jet, commercial airline, red-eye, time of day? We don’t know. Is she aisle seat or window, back of plane or first class, has it been a long flight or just a puddle-jumper? We don’t know. We don’t need an answer to all those things, but we need something to anchor us.

    Her flight finally lurched to stop. The rustle and clatter of the other passengers around her was punctuated by the ubiquitous click-click of seatbelts unsnapping. Taryn did her good aisle-seat duty and joined the un-snappers, the rose quickly before the family of five, including the screaming baby, could block her exit. Not that she didn’t sympathize. The downpour in Chicago had soaked her to the skin. Her jeans and long-sleeved hoodie were still clammy and even uncomfortably moist in areas. Yep, this must be what three hours in a wet-diaper felt like…

    Okay, totally riffing here above, but at least we get some kind of visual, some kind of time and place for her and the story. I also used setting–and unnamed generic people/baby around the MC are part of the setting–to bring in her wet-clothing issue (which, yes, the reader needs to know because of the bar scene later, so this is how we set it up.)

    My only problem with my own on-the-fly (pardon the pun: fly/jet) is that in three hours, her clothes would have dried. So you need to inform the reader that this was a short flight. She also, BTW, in wet clothing would have been chilled to the bone because of the usual internal temp of planes.

    Because there was no visual in the opening, no time/place, I had to go  back and re-read to get a sense of where she was because the whole Uber thing comes up so quickly and it’s paired with “changed her destination.” Is she… still on the plane? Is she at the airport counter booking another flight? Is she asking the Uber driver to take her home? Where was the no overhang located? It’s all very white room, all in her recounting (and not even in personal thoughts except for the Oh my God.

    Craft note: There’s a difference between god and God. God in our culture is a specific name that refers to Yahweh, Adonai Eloheim, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic deity. The lower case ‘god’ is a generic term, ie: Mortimer considered himself the football god of Smalltown High.

    …but the rain had started and there was no overhang.  Oh my god.

    Wet and riding in the back of the compact sedan Taryn wiped her wet hair off her face.  Her beautiful leather pumps that had seemed like not such a terrible idea were for all intents, ruined.  As the sheets of rain started dumping on the little car as it made its way over the Coronado bridge, the flip flops she  kept in her suitcase didn’t seem like a great alternative either.

    But… wait a minute. It’s already raining where there was no overhang. Now the rain is starting while on the bridge. Was the overhang at the departing airport?

    And her shoes are wet and she’s thinking about changing into her flip flops. Is her suitcase next to her or in the trunk? If it’s in the trunk, how can she change her shoes while in the Uber?

    When the car pulled up to a tiny corner bar, it looked tired like any other neighborhood bar, definitely not tony or beachy.

    Grammar and clarity: As written, “it” refers to the car. The car is the subject of the sentence.  IE: When the car pulled into the parking lot, it hit a pothole and lurched sideways. When the car pulled into the parking lot, it was out of gas.

    Better: The car pulled up to the tiny corner bar.  The red-roofed building looked like a typical tired neighborhood bar, definitely not tony or beachy.

    Best (don’t TELL us it’s tired-looking, SHOW us)

    The car bounced through the rutted parking lot towards the bar–a one-story white brick building with a green neon sign over the door that seemed to say Joe’s Tavern, except several letters were dark, so it read Jo ‘s Tav  n.

    … Or however you see it, because we don’t. There is no such thing as a typical neighborhood bar that evokes the identical image to all readers. Even if there were (things like Coca-Cola bottles or a hen’s egg are such things), we’re in Taryn’s head so we need to experience those things through HER mind and past experiences.

    Now, here’s the other issue. If we were to add setting to everything so far in those first few paragraphs, the opening would to likely too long with unimportant description and issues. This is where we need to decide WHERE the story starts. Does it start at the departing airport, on the plane, at the arrival airport, at the baggage claim of the arrival airport, when she gets into the Uber and it’s raining, while she’s in the Uber crossing the bridge in the rain, or as the Uber pulls up to the bar?

    That’s something you need to decide. And it’s not easy. Most writers have two or more versions of a opening because, yeppers, we’re really not sure if we’re at the baggage claim or in an Uber pulling up to a bar.

    She thanked the driver, and rolled into the front door.  It was not well lit, but there were large tv screens illuminating the place and it was loud.

    As written, “the front door” = It was not well lit. Plus, the verb “she rolled” seems odd. It usually implies, well, rolling. I don’t think she did a tuck and drop and roll. Do you mean she…charged through the front door, roller-bag in tow? If she rolled INTO the front door, she collided with it. Ouch. 🙂

     Her eyes moved quickly to take it all in.  Lots of men, young, military types, a few women working there, and maybe a girlfriend or wanna-be girlfriend here or there but not much else.  Their eyes said hello from across the room.  He was older than the rest and had a clean face and bright clear eyes.  Their stare lingers until he puts his drink down, says something to the woman behind the bar that seems maybe a bit more than familiar, and walks toward her.

    Her GAZE not eyes. Eyes are bodily organs, like livers and spleens. Unless you mean her eyeballs literally were moving rapidly back and forth, but that’s kind of physically disorienting.

    Clarity: Lots of men, young, military types, a few women working there, and maybe a girlfriend or wanna-be girlfriend here or there but not much else.  Their eyes said hello from across the room.

    As written, //Their eyes// refers to the men, women and girlfriends. Do you mean that the military men, the working women, and the girlfriends were all eyeing one another?

     He was older than the rest and had a clean face and bright clear eyes.  Their stare lingers until he puts his drink down, says something to the woman behind the bar that seems maybe a bit more than familiar, and walks toward her.

    He was… is past tense. Their stare lingers … is present tense. It’s unclear who “their stare” is. I’m assuming it’s Taryn and this “older” guy but that’s not what you wrote.

    And that’s the whole problem. I think I know what you’re envisioning. That’s not what you’re writing or sharing with your reader, or letting your reader experience. As I said in the beginning, I totally love this set-up: she’s tired, bedraggled, cold and wet (one of the WORST feelings!) and out of her element, and suddenly here’s this… GUY. Something just–well, if not CLICKS, then INTRIGUES her, and it’s unexpected. I totally love this set-up. Now you just need to craft it in a manner worthy to your awesome story and characters.

    Sure, you can try it in first person–given all the sensory stuff going on, it would be fun. But be sure you have a solid grasp of grammar or first person can get equally as confusing.

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    • This reply was modified 4 months ago by Linnea Sinclair. Reason: finger farts and I know I missed some--did I mention I hate hubby's keyboard?
    in reply to: Lesson 6 #42947
    Linnea Sinclair

    Also, I’ve been to book conventions and miniatures conventions, so these may be a different set-up than a booth, but there you have a table and no back table so people have to eat lunch on lap or on little side tables that they’ve brought or the plastic boxes that they’ve stored their wares in that now can serve as a table on the side. If they have a back table, do they have to clear it to make space? Are they storing additional games there? Because the front table is used to show how to play the game?

    Good point. As I mentioned in the lesson, you not only have to get setting (and the Gulf of Mexico) in the correct location, you also have to remember that everyone’s experience with anything physical is somewhat UNIQUE. So what I love and see and smell and sense about walking the beach in St Pete Beach is similar but NOT exactly the same as what someone else loves (and sees and smells). In spite of the old ad slogan, everyone does NOT like Sara Lee’s.

    Here’s how Dwight Swain puts it (copied from my World Weaving class):

    The Most Important Thing About Your Story World

    according to Dwight V Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer

    a. Your reader has never been there.

    b. It’s a sensory world.

    c. It’s a subjective world

    Look at (a). Your reader has never been there. No, she hasn’t. I don’t care if she’s your twin sister, she doesn’t experience LIFE (and all of life’s components) in an identical manner that you do.

    So it’s really tricky when you use setting, especially in an opener (and remember what I said about meeting the genre’s checklist: moat, check; dragon, check…). You have to give those details someone familiar with cons would resonate to, and yet also give those details to let the newbie see it clearly.

    Again, I go back to  my method of Compare and Contrast. IE: This wasn’t the biggest con she’d ever been to, but it was (the busiest, the noisiest, the quietest, whatever)… then give a specific. This kind of stuff gets the reader who knows gaming cons (and that’s my assumption since it wasn’t overly clear to me, either) nodding in agreement, and yet also gives someone who’s never been to a gaming con something to visualize, to anchor to.

    This same kind of information could be done in dialogue between Cecelia and Amber. Maybe this con reminds Amber of one they did together three years ago. Maybe this con reminds Amber of one Cecelia didn’t attend. Specific emerge naturally from that. It’s NOT an “As you know, Bob” where one character tells already known facts to another (info dump). It’s natural and YET informative.


    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    • This reply was modified 4 months ago by Linnea Sinclair. Reason: html shhhhtuff
    in reply to: Student: Kathy Strobos Homework Thread #42946
    Linnea Sinclair

    Internal Conflict: She’s not sure she’s over him and she’s definitely still hurt and confused by his rejection. I was hoping it sounded a bit like false denial.

    That’s what I thought. So that’s not what you’re writing. You’re writing to The Public (her public) with her weak and falsely brave “eleven” (hardy-har-har). BUT she’s not talking her internal dialogue TO the public. She’s talking to the reader aka herself. Herself knows This Sucks. Herself knows This Hurts. Herself is not going to tell Herself, Oh out of one to ten, it’s a mere eleven. Herself is going to tell herself it’s an eleven-freakin’-HUNDRED. (Or however you want to structure that howl of pain.)

    Listen. What’s going to suck the reader in more? The rather mild denial of, oh I can handle this? Or the scream of internal pain and the public shame of sitting there with THE NEW LOVE AKA HER REPLACEMENT, the clench of teeth, the fake laugh… all the while she’s freakin’ dying inside?

    The reader is not going to keep reading if she’s assured ahead of time that All Is Well, and this is just a minor inconvenience.

    The reader knows there’s heartbreak + rage  + shame BOILING OVER inside, and the reader is going to gleefully come along for the ride into the brunch waiting to see just how long it is before she cracks and the FIRE SHE CAN’T STOP flickers to life, right across those blueberry pancakes…

    (We all love a train wreck and can’t look away… human nature.)

    Now, this doesn’t mean she has to get in a floor-rolling cat fight with the new girlfriend, right in the restaurant. It CAN mean she does a few really stupid things she can’t back off from. Like get way too cuddly with Rory. Or maybe do a long face-suck with Rory. (Do you remember the scene in the original Star Wars where Princess Leia wants to prove to Han she is NOT interested in Him, the scruffy nerf herder, and she grabs Luke [not know he’s her brother, ewww icky] and KISSES HIM big time, right then and there?)

    Remember, whatever she’s planning for the brunch scene… is NOT going to go according to plan. If she doesn’t grab Rory, then maybe she suddenly brags about HER new boyfriend, the one with the Maserati and the private jet… something she can’t later undo.

    Whatever, the brunch cannot be a scene of just minorly dented feelings and well-controlled emotions that come out in only a few nervous ticks and a shrill laugh.

    You. Must. Start. That Fire. Soon.

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Kathy Strobos Homework Thread #42941
    Linnea Sinclair

    On any top ten list of best Sunday plans, today’s brunch with my former crush and his new girlfriend would rank number eleven. But I couldn’t say no. We’re still friends. And I’m over him. There’s absolutely no risk I will say “I love you, Jamie” ever again.

    Could we push it farther down than eleven? That doesn’t seem dire enough, other than the “we’re still friends” thing.

    would rank number eleven… hundred.


    would rank number eleven… times three. No, times five.

    Is she doing the brunch thing to 1. prove to him (and herself) she’s over him? 2. prove to others she’s over him? 3. wants to prove to new girlfriend she’s way cooler? I get the feeling her “public” rationale is We’re Still Friends. [insert rude razzing noise] What’s her under the Internal Conflict conveyor belt truth?


    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Kendra Frost Homework Thread #42939
    Linnea Sinclair

    It has the soul of an unwashed jock strap, I’m not allowed to paint, and there were invisible animals breaking in before I even finished unpacking.



    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Kendra Frost Homework Thread #42937
    Linnea Sinclair

    I read somewhere that common advice tells you that to access those inner character feelings, you should pretend to have coffee with your character (to get to know them), but that really, you don’t want to ask yourself what your character would say to you (the author), you want to ask yourself what the character would say to themselves.

    Annnd you also want to ask yourself what your character is FEELING while you’re asking her those icky questions. And what she might answer to obfuscate. Play the outer spoken with the inner dialogue.


    External dialogue: Oh, no, I’m fine. Really.

    Internal: WAHHHHHHHHHH! SOB!

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Vicki Briner Homework Thread #42936
    Linnea Sinclair

    You have great ideas, and this helps with the exchange at the end of this POV scene, which I wasn’t crazy about.

    Thank you, and that’s also what good crit partners are for. I work with you kids the same way I work with Stacey Kade, and she with me. We toss ideas back and forth, sometimes the nuttier the better.

    It’s simply (and sadly) easier to see someone else’s work that your own. I know I KNOW my work too well, my characters too well, I’m just too close to the scene. That’s why putting your pages DOWN for two weeks also helps a lot. Work on something else. Then go back and read. Guarantee you’ll have some ah-hahs…

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Kathy Strobos Homework Thread #42935
    Linnea Sinclair

    And I read Finders Keepers yesterday (couldn’t put it down) and I LOVED it! So funny too. Laughed out loud at several points (the line about the species of asshole on legs). And also an excellent lesson in ramping up conflict, making stakes higher, no way out.

    Well, thank you! Feel free to ask any questions about the crafting of the book. I only hope–since it was written twenty years ago–that I can still remember the answer. 😉

    Fans who’ve met me at book cons (especially those who’ve sat next to my barstool…) often comment, “You sound just like Trilby.”

    Duh. 😉

    On conflict: I love no way out. It’s hard, really hard to write, yes. Eventually you get used to it and actually start enjoying conflict and “character torture.” Then one goes on to teach writing and subject said inmates… oops, students to real torture. Bwah-hah-hah! Now you know my secret…

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Kendra Frost Homework Thread #42930
    Linnea Sinclair

    (I agree with some of the comments that I’d like to see how the MC feels about that big, imposing building. In Skyrim, one of the NPC’s remarks on how the big, stone, Imperial walls used to lend a feeling of safety, with the implication that now they definitely don’t, and I always loved that detail of how his perspective changed over time.)

    This is a lovely point. In a way, it’s part of mirroring something found in the opening with some flip of that later. That’s why I harp on (and all the writing pundits harp on) “anything you describe in detail, the reader will remember.” You have to work (to write) to that fact. Need them to remember the decrepit condition of the entry keypad or the sounds the car engine makes when going uphill? Then describe it and have the MC focus on it. But DON’T give heavy attention to the keypad if it’s just setting/description so you can show off your command of the language. Because then the reader will get the to final page and go, WTF? What about that decrepit keypad?


    I’d say if the boots are a needed detail that early in the story, show us what they look like. Rough and beat up? Probably a real rider. Clean and neat, probably not. Bejeweled and bright pink? Definitely a clubber or dancing shoes.

    I’ve always wanted pink cowboy boots… and an eyelet lace skirt made out of old tablecloths or such. I was in Columbus OH at art/junk-tiques fair a few years back and one gal was decked out so, and I loved the look. Of course, she was twenty-something. , I’m sixty-mumble mumble…

    Yes, we judge people (and characters) by what they wear. It’s useful characterization tool (BTW I’d totally forgotten I’m teaching my characterization class next month–yikes!). If you’re going to describe clothing, don’t waste the words. (Genre-specific, of course. Every Regency or Victorian romance oozes clothing descriptions.)

    The “missing” details are mostly about the MC. Yes it’s in third person, but we don’t get thoughts, reactions, or much of the MC’s opinion. That makes it kind of hard to relate until the scene with her father, and even then it seems kind of distant, like we’re viewing from the outside instead of riding along.

    Good call. (And Lordy, I hate my husband’s keyboard! Aargh!) Gut reactions/internal thoughts are a good way to lead the reader into the character. We all have them and, because we do, we know how unfiltered and automatic they are, and how TRUE they often are.

    I especially love this line: “she jabbed the button like a hungry pileated woodpecker in search of a tree ant.” Great visual, and it also shows her irritation with being “late”

    Nice voice. Definitely.


    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: HiDee Ekstrom Homework Thread #42929
    Linnea Sinclair

    Something that might mitigate that is if she recognized him sooner. Going after a stranger in the dark may not make sense, but approaching someone you know to find out why the hell they’re in your yard after years of absence would. That might take some of the tension out, though…

    Yes, it could, and while I understand the desire to have the “Oh crap it’s him!” moment happen right up front, you actually INCREASE tension by playing to real life and delaying the identification. I have that in two of my books (off the top of my head–there may be more instances). One is the opening chapter of GABRIEL’S GHOST (and my agent did a blog on my opening in her PUBRANTS), and the other is in REBELS AND LOVERS but deeper in the story.

    General FYI all: after a multitude of BSODs (blue screens of death) my laptop (which is less than two years old!) has been at the computer doctor’s since yesterday afternoon. So pardon typos–I’m working on hub’s old laptop and everything about it is different than mine, including the ‘response’ feel of the keyboard. Finger farts shall likely abound in my answers…


    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: HiDee Ekstrom Homework Thread #42917
    Linnea Sinclair

    You asked me to poke you about how to professionally structure my fugitive investigator in my story. While I’m working on the homework for Lesson Six, I wanted to put this back out there for you!

    I used to teach an entire month-long class in private investigation for writers… 😉 BUT, that being said, and since this isn’t that class, let me state a few overall things on the specifics and authenticity of writing any career for your character.

    Every career/position/hobby comes with certain parameters. Airline pilots must know how to fly planes and read charts and deal with emergencies…. tree-trimmers must know how to operate saws and climb trees and know something about the right and wrong way to trim limbs… parents of a baby must know how to change diapers. My point is: there are certain GIVENS and most of us inherently are aware of them. So, in fiction, you write using those known GIVENS as much as possible to give realism to your character and the “world” even though, yes, it’s fiction.

    But there are times when those givens don’t work with what’s needed in the plot or for characterization. This happens a lot more in SFF type stuff, but it can happen in contemporary or cross-genres.

    The example I use in the PI class is that most states in the US require any applicant for a PI license (in those states that require licenses; a few don’t) to be a minimum of 21 years old, have a clean criminal record (yes, I was cleared by the FBI), and to either have previous law enforcement or military law enforcement background OR (as in the case of FL), investigative reporting or Human Resources/Hiring experience for a large company AND two years of college classwork in investigations.

    But what if you wanted to write a novel with a PI heroine but you wanted her to be 18 years old and her only job was as a waitress in a bowling alley? (This could be a fun kind of cozy mystery. I also remember reading  series where the private detective was a nun who was helping out her father or uncle who’d operated an agency…) Anyway, you could either set the story in one of the few states that had no requirements for a PI license, OR you could–at some point in the story–make mention that the state of NJ had just altered it’s requirements, deleting the law enforcement requirement (which Jersey has) and opened it to anyone over the age of 18.

    The better way IMHO though is to find out the requirements of whatever job you MC has in the story, based on the story’s location, and then redesign the MC’s backstory–much of which may NOT be in the story–to fit. This gives authenticity to the story because eventual someone will read your story who has BEEN that occupation, and they’ll helicopter your book if you play fast and loose with the facts.

    Anyone who’s read Susan Grant’s SF books know she writes a lot of jet fighter scenes (her stories are mostly set on this planet). She can do that because 1) she’s a former USAF jet pilot and 2) she currently flies 777s for United Airlines. She has “street cred.”

    HiDee, what I think you need to do is figure out what actions and decision your hero needs to make in your plot, and then, with some research and based on your family’s own experience, decide if your MC is going to be genuinely with the US Marshall’s fugitive division, or if he’s in the private detective/recovery profession.  But don’t have a foot in both camps because you’re going to have a lot of inconsistencies and, yes, some ex-LEO is going to leave an unkind review about your lack of facts on Amazon…

    Other than that, if you want to run some ideas by me after this class ends, you can contact me by email and maybe I can help you narrow down what you need to know. 🙂

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Kendra Frost Homework Thread #42909
    Linnea Sinclair

    I agree with Ellen. Each rewrite is just that much tighter, that much cleaner. The two key elements are the ferret and the sky (the first IS there and shouldn’t be, the second ISN’T there, and should be. Did you catch that symmetry?)

    Watch word/phrase repetition:

    At least my room smelled better than Linda’s. She’d shoved all her clothes, clean and dirty, into the same trash bags. I’d at least washed mine before bagging them, even if I hadn’t bothered folding. She’d stopped cleaning when I started middle school, telling me “make yourself useful at least.” Ew, and I have to ride in her car in the morning.

    Overall, the development of an intriguing opener and situation…

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Ellen Gilman Homework Thread #42908
    Linnea Sinclair

    I  definitely have a tendency to  fall into this trap.   I don’t like reading books where there is too much setting (I tend to skip through it) so I have fallen into the trap of not having setting play an important part in my own writing.

    I agree… if setting is just so much “wallpaper.” That’s why I (see my other post just now) try to USE setting as “character/conflict” as well.

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: ADVICE FROM MY AGENT: 9 OPENINGS TO AVOID #42907
    Linnea Sinclair

    One of my big issues is White Room Syndrome but your recent comments about making setting be something important to the MC or to the plot, as well as watching for changes, is a big ah-hah for me.

    I very much believe in setting as character/conflict. We have the choice to create whatever setting we want–this is fiction. Just riffing here…

    1. If  you open with your MC and [whoever] having a discussion in a coffee shop, you have the choice to make the coffee shop itself contribute to the tension in the opening. If the characters’ conversation is something they don’t want overhead, you can make the tables close together, have the waitress linger too long… Or have it be completely empty and the guy behind the counter can (possibly) hear every word. Have the WRONG person walk it at the WRONG time.

    2. If your story opens in a business/office setting (and Ellen is now playing with this) there’s a BIG difference between having the opening salvo in the employee’s office as opposed to the boss’s office. Brenda put her MC in the HR office, which right then and there ups the tension. Remember the opening with Thomas Pitt being called out of HIS office into the queen’s presence? We don’t see that last part, but he’s clearly not in control of the situation in his own office when the queen’s messenger now enters–that shifts the entire emotional subtext and dynamic. (Anne Perry is a SUPERB writer, so if you like historical books, study her use of craft.)

    3. If you open outside in the wild (even if it’s on a NYC street), use temperature, season, time of day, crowds (or lack of crowds), weather, flora and fauna…

    4. I love writing scenes where my MC (in conflict) can’t easily escape the conflict. Obviously, in my genre, that means a starship or space station. But you can just as easily use an elevator, a corporate jet, a subway car, a taxi, a ski lift… I like putting my MCs in positions where running away from the problem isn’t an option. If your MC is in the middle of having her hair frosted/colored and it in the stylist’s chair, draped in one of those huge smocks, and suddenly the LAST PERSON SHE WANTS TO SEE is seated in the chair next to her… it’s not that she can’t run out of the salon, but it’s socially unacceptable to do so (unless the salon is on fire or something…). So you can also trap your MC in an obligatory and emotionally uncomfortable space…

    Just some evil thoughts on my part…

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Ellen Gilman Homework Thread #42889
    Linnea Sinclair

    You’re really learning to revamp, revise and rewrite, Ellen! Tail wags!

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Vicki Briner Homework Thread #42882
    Linnea Sinclair

    You make a good point about the USAF stuff. I think it makes sense to include it to give context to his qualifications and why he’s there. It should be easy enough to work back in.

    Rather than dump or backstory it, have it be part of a verbal challenge.

    Her: “Why should I trust you?”

    Him: shrug. “Six years flying F-16s for the US Air Force?”

    Craft it better than that, though. As long as that comes up in the first few pages, you can tickle with a MENTION of the F-16s on pages one or two, then include the full disclosure (relatively speaking) when she challenges him later.

    Plus I also see her having some smart comeback about F-16s aren’t charter jets, something about not trying to target people on the ground, or “We’re delivering cargo not bombs…” (or whatever–hubs and I just finished watching a documentary on F-16s – 18s on the history channel so some of this is fairly fresh in my mind).

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Ellen Gilman Homework Thread #42880
    Linnea Sinclair

    A good scene with lots of impact! I don’t know–at this point–if it belongs in the opening but it surely might. I think you probably have to write more of the book–at least the first three chapters. Then go back and revisit. It’s perfectly legit to do so.

    It’s a strong scene. If nothing else, you’ve done a bit of dabbling in her misbelief system, her internal conflict (it seems as if she’d been caught between mom and dad during the divorce and/or the tumultuous years before the divorce). Which is GOOD. Her emotional backstory–while not necessarily needing to be seen right away–WILL color her encounters.

    Craft note. As written below, it’s DAISY speaking, not dad. It’s Daisy asking why she groomed her FATHER for that position…

    She forced herself not to squirm and show weakness. A show of confidence was absolutely imperative. “Would you like to explain to me why after grooming you for five years you’re considering turning down lead lawyer for the B P group?”

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    in reply to: Student: Kendra Frost Homework Thread #42866
    Linnea Sinclair

    Linnea I REALLY wanna describe the apartment now… It’s important in terms of history/character how Larissa compares all the places they’ve lived, but I don’t know if it’s immediately needed, and it’s just a boring, generic, white-walled apartment, so its only interest is where it contrasts with the cooler houses Liss remembers. I do have a spot it could go, though, so I’ll reign in my enthusiasm until I get there. ((I’m glad I just started the editing on the first half of this. Just in time for the workshop, too!))

    You note properly–CONTRASTS. In opening scenes, you need to focus more on moving things forward rather than just description. Use the setting, as I said, as part of what moves things forward. Or highlights pending issues.  Since this current “home” isn’t up to par (in her mind) with the others, there could be ways to use that to ramp up tension.

    The opening scene is in Larissa’s (Lissa’s) POV–and she’s thirty-four, and this is MG/YA? Not my wheelhouse, admittedly. I get that she’s “alien” to some extent. I don’t know how teen readers, though, will respond to the eventual revelation that the MC they’re aligned their hearts and minds with isn’t who and what they thought in terms of AGE.  It could either work out totally brilliantly or totally flop, IMHO. I mean, the first romance writer who thought, hmm, let me make the romantic hero a dead person who sucks blood… probably got some deep pushback. Now, it’s a staple.

    So, I leave that as is for now.

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    • This reply was modified 4 months ago by Linnea Sinclair. Reason: finger fart as hubby is running a golf instruction video behind me as I type and it's slightly annoying... something about backswing... oy
    in reply to: Student: Vicki Briner Homework Thread #42864
    Linnea Sinclair

    REWRITE #2: *I decided I kind of hated the new beginning, so I decided to try a combo of the two. Everything after Drip. Drip. Drip. Is pretty much the same. Title: Lethal Lies Author: Vicki Briner Genre: Romantic Suspense

    Haha! Welcome to my world.

    Is the first draft finished? If not, then just work from your best-for-now opening and keep chugging along. It seems as if you know WHERE you want to open (and that’s a big PLUS!)–in the FBO lounge, just at the point he meets his co-pilot. Small note–you don’t mention his USAF career, so his F-16 experience doesn’t jive with the FBI stuff. Now, whether you need ALL of that in detail upfront is unlikely. But in order for the F-16 to make sense, we need to know he wasn’t a mechanic for General Dynamics/Lockheed in Texas, but rather–if that’s your choice, and he COULD have been a mechanic or test pilot–in the USAF. The point is less, I think HOW he came to learn to fly, and more that he IS rated and experienced.  We also don’t want a huge backstory dump here. So, for now, if you’re still crafting the story, just get an opening you feel comfortable with. As the story unfolds, things will HAPPEN (trust me). Some of those things may impact your opening. The ENDING may impact your opening.

    The beginning of my GABRIEL’S GHOST

    Only fools boast they have no fears. I thought of that as I pulled the blade of my dagger from the Takan guard’s throat, my hand shaking, my heart pounding in my ears, my skin cold from more than just the chill in the air….

    And the book’s final paragraph:

    All that I am, is yours, ky’sara-mine.

    Ky’sara. And to me, he is ky’sal. An almost unbreakable link. All that I am, is his. All that he is, is mine. A selfish, hedonistic desire to have in a time that was sure to get more troubled, more dangerous, more desperate. A time when jukors are born, and Takas are dying. A time to fear.

    Only fools boast they have no fears.

    No. Only fools underestimate the power of love.

    That’s called “mirroring.” Did I know, when I wrote the first chapter, I was going to mirror it in the ending? Hell, no. I was lucky to be half coherent as I slogged through the first chapter. But as I wrote the story, my writerly self (buoyed by worthy amounts of gin and tonics, two limes, please) began to feel a … theme? Song? Pattern?

    Should you have a similar experience, it may cause you to mirror the beginning and the ending.

    Or not. Mirroring is not required. My point is, be aware you’re likely still re-writing. Don’t get stuck on that page. Give it your best, keep writing forward.

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

    • This reply was modified 4 months ago by Linnea Sinclair. Reason: finger fart
    in reply to: Student: Ellen Gilman Homework Thread #42851
    Linnea Sinclair

    I agree about benefitting from feedback, Ellen. To tighten v3 even further, you could eliminate some dialogue tags in the beginning. Ana

    Bingo, Ana, well done.

    I always find it’s easier to edit someone else’s work rather than my own, don’t you all? My brain/eyes either put in things that aren’t there (and should be) or gloss over things I’ve done incorrectly. Arrgh. 🙂

    //Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//

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