When I was eighteen years old I started to highlight my hair. I started slow, adding a few blond strands here and there. But it wasn’t enough. I added more. And before I knew it my dark brown locks were a golden blond, the exact shade I always wanted.
My hair grew fast, and the dark roots were always popping out. I hated it. So at the first sign of them I would schedule a hair appointment. My colorist, Melissa, was eager to assist me. Well, initially that is. As month’s turned to years (ten years) she was hesitant to keep coloring my hair with the frequency I desired.
“Hilary, if you keep this up you will be bald by the time you are thirty,” she warned. But I didn’t listen. I just kept appearing every three weeks, like clockwork.
But then one day something changed. I ran my fingers through my hair and it felt dead, like straw. It just so happened that I had a hair appointment that day. But instead of covering my roots with more highlights I did what I previously thought unthinkable. I went back to my roots, and dyed my hair back to dark brown.
I was nervous when Melissa removed the towel from my head. As I stared into the mirror I didn’t recognize the face that I saw. Who was this person, I wondered? Surely not me. I am a blond not a brunette!
The confusion lasted for quite a while. For month’s every time I looked in the mirror I did a double take. It took a while for the image I saw to match the image I felt.
This same feeling of disbelief has happened again. It took about two years for me to write and publish my book, Dangled Carat. The entire time I wrote it I didn’t think of myself as an author.
When I received the proof copy of my book in the mail last August I cried. As I held it in my hands it felt so surreal, truly a dream come true. But I still didn’t think of myself as an author.
When I logged onto Amazon last September and saw my book on the site and my name next to it, I squealed with delight. I was so excited. But still, I didn’t think of myself as an author.
Now, about nine month’s later my brain is catching up. Finally I am able to feel what I have been seeing. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I have started writing another book. Maybe I just needed time for reality to sink in. I honestly don’t know. All I do know is that I accomplished my life long dream. I am an author.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you read a plot twist you yell “OMG!” (or text it to your best friend), but sometimes when you read a plot twist you just wind up scratching your head and thinking WTF? I know I have, and the question for me, as a writer, is how do I write the first kind of plot twist and avoid the second?
What makes the difference between the two? Why are some plot twists mind- blowingly awesome and other mind- blowingly idiotic?
After thinking about all the plot twists I’ve read (or watched on television), I’ve come to the conclusion that the shock factor is a major part of plot twist success or failure. It’s one thing to write a plot twist and think it will shock your readers, but what if it doesn’t? Worse, what if it shocks your readers so much that they just don’t get it…ever?
What happens when you read a good plot twist? You’re shocked…at first. But then a few seconds later, you think, “It all makes sense now!” My favorite plot twists go something like this: I read the story, and everything makes sense. Then the plot twist happens. Then everything that came before the plot twist makes a whole new, much cooler kind of sense.
Here’s how the bad plot twists go: I read the story, and it may or may not make sense. Then the plot twist happens, and I’m surprised. Ten minutes later, I’m still surprised, because this plot twist makes no sense with the rest of the story. After I finish the story, I still don’t get it, and now I’m really annoyed.
So how does a writer avoid scenario two? There are two elements: Know your characters and know what’s already happened in your book. It’s that simple.
But how do you make a character do something shocking while still making sense? What do your readers know about the character? Could some of those traits be masking a secret? Could there be alternative explanations for the character’s previous actions, preferably ones that make sense even more than the obvious explanations – once you’ve heard the rest of the story? I like to ask myself questions about the characters. What is her greatest fear? What secret would he never want anyone to know? Why would someone act like this?
Here’s an example of how to pull off a great Plot Twist: Have you ever seen the movie The Sixth Sense? If not, you’re about to get a spoiler. (But let’s be honest, if you haven’t seen a movie that’s been out for more than a decade, you’re probably not that interested.) So from the beginning, we have Bruce Willis talking to a kid who claims to see dead people. He tells Bruce Willis stuff about the dead people, and amazingly, he turns out to be right. This makes sense, in a ghost-story-movie sort of way.
But then you get to the end, and you find out that Bruce Willis is one of the dead people. This is a surprise, because the whole time he’s been acting like he’s still alive, talking to the kid, running around town, assuming people will pay attention to him. But wait, were they ignoring him after all? Did anyone directly answer any of his questions, or could they have been talking to each other all along? Oh, yes, that scene still made sense if they couldn’t see or hear Bruce Willis. In fact, every second of every scene in that movie still made sense after you found out Willis was playing a ghost.
And once you think about it, of course it makes sense that Bruce Willis’ character is dead. The kid said at the very beginning that he saw dead people! So even though the story made sense with our original assumptions, it actually makes more sense now that we’ve seen the plot twist.
Besides making sense, it’s important to make sure your plot twists actually are surprising. One thing that annoys me, as a reader, is when I can see the ending or big plot twist coming from another universe. We’ve all read these badly-concealed secrets: The character who protests too much, the one whose actions are always described as “mysterious”, the one who triumphantly declares that nothing bad can happen for such-and-such reason. Yes, we see where all those things are going.
How do you avoid making that plot-twist-wrong-turn? Sometimes what’s obvious to your readers won’t be obvious to you, so the best plan is to ask a few beta readers if they were surprised (assuming they don’t mention surprise one way or the other). If several people say, “I saw that one coming,” your plot-twist might need a little work.
What do you think? As a reader, what are some of your favorite plot twists? What are some plot twists that didn’t work for you?
“Write about what you know” is often the advice given to aspiring authors and I think a lot of the time, which is true.
As I live in Scotland, I set my contemp romance, “Rock My World” in a fictitious Scottish town, complete with rolling landscapes, leafy walkways – and some secrets it harbours amongst its tree-lined avenues….
My two main male characters, Stevie Vee, my charismatic and ghostly rock singer and the sexy but arrogant journalist Matt Jardine, are both Scottish too but are rather different.
Stevie comes from a working class background but has always dreamt of singing stardom. Matt is from the famous Jardine newspaper empire and although he loves the attention his name brings-
(or at least to start with), it has its hindrances too.
I know some might say I’m biased (and I probably am!) but Scotland really is awash with awe-inspiring scenery; stunning architecture and majestic landscapes. It really is so breath-taking and often triggers emotions and feelings which demand to be put to paper!
It is no surprise that many writers have spoken of how inspirational they have found Scotland to be.
Edinburgh has classical buildings and the craggy, friendly face of the Castle.
Glasgow is dramatic and vibrant, boasting The Burrell Collection and its famous stream of shops and buzzing restaurants.
Wherever you roam in Scotland, you will come across scenery and nature that will stay with you forever. Towns nestling on emerald coloured hillsides; cities welcoming you and villages dotted far and wide.
I knew as I started to pull together ideas for “Rock My World”, where it had to be set.
So if you want to get more creative and inspired with your writing, try and fit in a visit to Scotland if you can.
I’m sure it will have the same effect on you as it does on me and many other writers!
Ruby Cameron is an ambitious reporter for a local paper where she is fed scraps of news, and lives with a man whose “idea of living dangerously is to leave the heating on when we pop out to the shops”. But after catching her squeaky clean boyfriend in flagrante delicto she ups sticks and moves into her own small home, only to discover the ghostly presence of a cheeky rock star who becomes her confidant as the dynamics of her small town, and her feelings about her dashing new boss, begin to throw up more questions than she can answer. Will Ruby discover who she really is, and perhaps more importantly, who she wants to be?
I trained as a journalist but writing romance has always been a dream of mine. When I’ve not got my head in a book or drafting one, I write verses and captions for greetings card companies. Writing at home seems to be incredibly difficult for me – I usually require coffee, music and noise.
“Rock My World” is my first contemporary romance novel . I have just finished writing my second novel and am polishing that at the moment whilst beginning to do some research for my third. These are also contemporary romances with a good dose of humour (hopefully!). I’m married, have two sons and live in Scotland.
Bad Boys often feature as heroes in romance and chick lit novels, but with an important caveat… by the end of the book, the love of a good woman inevitably changes them into Goodish Guys. However, I must admit that I wonder about this… Do men really change simply because they fall in love? And if a man does put aside his “bad ways”, isn’t it usually because he sees something beneficial in changing his lifestyle (ie. wanting to start a family), rather than changing simply to please a woman?
I personally like to create male characters that actually have good character to start off with. That’s not to say that the hero’s ideals might not have become tarnished somewhere along the way, and it’s always romantic to write about how the love of a good woman can enable a man who has a hardened attitude towards the world to once again see the positive, gentler, more noble aspects of life; but I’m a lot more sceptical about the idea of a Bad Boy becoming angelic simply because he falls in love. If leopards really do change their spots, they’d simply change into black panthers… and there’s nothing tame about that!
In my novel The Blog Affair, my heroine, Emma, writes a blog outlining why women are attracted this type of man, which I have attached below:
…A PLACE FOR YOU TO POINT OUT YOUR VIEW
There’s a reason bad boys are called bad boys. It’s because they’re bad. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “bad” as “of poor quality or a low standard; unwelcome and unpleasant.” Yet, for some strange and utterly bizarre reason, a lot of women, including myself, find bad boys attractive.
Perhaps it’s not necessarily the unwelcome and unpleasant aspects of bad boys women find attractive. Rather, it’s the other characteristics that accompany the bad qualities that blind us to the fact bad boys are essentially not good for us at all.
There’s no denying bad boys are challenging. They’re also unpredictable, exciting, exhilarating, intriguing, and definitely not boring—all very attractive personal qualities when it comes to dating.
However, bad boys are also selfish, inconsiderate, egotistical, and downright horrid.
In spite of all this, they’re a bad habit that’s very difficult to give up.
The general advice dished out for breaking a bad habit is you need to stop doing it for two weeks, and then the habit is broken. Unfortunately, when it comes to bad boys—the only advice that works is you mustn’t start doing them in the first place, because it’ll take much longer than two weeks to get over them.
I was unfortunate enough to get involved with a bad boy, and yes, he broke my heart. But, in spite of this, bad boys are the most honest serial datists you’re likely to encounter, and you’ll find no matter how much they might hurt you, deep down, in a dark shady corner of your heart, you will, more than likely, maintain a soft spot for them.
Why? Because they never try to be anything they’re not. They’re unapologetically bad, and it’s only the stupid females they attract who believe somehow they will end up changing those boys. Bad boys never actually indicate they will change. And that is why, out of all the serial datists, bad boys are the least sinister.
It is the women who are attracted to them who have the real problem.
I’ve come to realise this after a long, painful exploration of my own motives for falling for a bad boy.
You see, I was stupid enough to believe the fallacy I was The One who would change my own particular bad boy; that he would choose me over all the other girls, and I would heal his dark, wounded, tortured soul.
This fallacy is irresistible, as it appeals to the essence of a woman’s femininity. It also appeals to our egos, and our competitive natures. “If he chooses me over all the other girls, what does this say about my power to attract a man?” is the hidden motivation that spurs us on.
So although bad boys only care about themselves, the women they end up attracting also, in a way, only care about themselves. They care about being the queen bee amongst all the other bees who tried unsuccessfully to attract this unavailable drone. They want to be the one who succeeds, where their sister bees failed. And so we come back to bees again. But in this case, the queen bee is the one who ends up dying.
Posted by Penelope on Monday, August 18 at 07:01 p.m.
Twenty-something, white, South African Emma Bradshaw has a pattern of falling for unsuitable men and starts a blog about these so-called “serial datists”. Her search for new beginnings takes her to Cape Town, where she gets a job working for sexy author, Nick Reynolds. Romance with her boss is a no-no, but slowly, Nick works his way around her defenses. Trust him, or not, especially with her awful track record with men?
When an anonymous male reader of the blog challenges her on her ideas about the male species, Emma realises she must confront her past and find her true self before she can move forward…and love can blossom again in her future.
Alissa Baxter was born in South Africa, and grew up with her nose in a book on a poultry and cattle farm. After school and university, where she majored in Political Science and French, she published her first novel, The Dashing Debutante. Alissa travelled to London, England, and did an odd assortment of jobs while researching her second novel, Lord Fenmore’s Wager, which she wrote after she moved back to South Africa and settled in Durban. Alissa then relocated to Cape Town where she wrote her third novel, Send and Receive, before moving to Johannesburg, where she currently lives with her husband and two sons.
Hi everyone, I am currently not accepting any more books to review at this time. My TBR list is pretty long. If you’d like to do a guest post or author interview instead, feel free to contact me through the contact form.
February 20th, 2014 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
How long did it take you to write It’s got to be perfect: the memoirs of a modern day matchmaker. How did you come up with the idea for it?
A- This is my debut novel. Before writing it, I had spent six years working as a matchmaker in London. The day I sold my business, I vowed to document all that I had learned. I wasn’t sure what format that would take but I began writing. I wrote three drafts and then discarded them all. The fourth draft was beginning to take the shape of a half-decent novel so I edited it (about twenty times) and then finally I was happy with it. I think the title ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect’ was a self-fulfilling prophecy!
Q- Tell me a little bit about where you’re from. Do you still live there now?
A- I’m a London girl, born and bred. Aside from four years at University, I haven’t strayed from my home city. I love it. I love the buzz, the people, the buildings, the food. Despite my constant frustration with the weather, I doubt I’ll ever leave…
Q- What advice can you give to other self-published authors?
A- Never give up. It took me three years and many, many rewrites to produce my first novel. And I still have a long way to go. Write from your heart and before you put finger to keypad, make sure you have something meaningful to say.
Q- What is your all-time favorite book?
A- It has to be Bridget Jones’ Diary. It is the funniest book I have ever read. Helen Fielding did such an amazing job of capturing the zeitgeist (and female neurosis) of the time.
Q- If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose? Why?
A- I love London. It’s vibrant, multicultural and full of fascinating people. However, despite my earlier conviction that I would never leave, I have to admit that I spend many a day gazing out through drizzle-splattered window panes, dreaming of a life in Provence. I imagine wearing white linen and writing a stream of bestsellers from under an old oak tree. When I wasn’t working, I’d most likely swan around village markets or sip Rose wine on a sun-dappled terrace.
Q- If you were to pick a character in a book that is most like you, who would it be?
A- Well, it would have to be Ellie the protagonist from my own novel, It’s Got to Be Perfect.’ Even though she is a fictional character, I think as an author it’s hard to differentiate yourself emotionally from your characters. In fact, I think there is a piece of me in each of my characters.
Q- What are you currently working on now?
A- When I get any free time, between wrangling twin toddlers and a disobedient dog, I’m working on the sequel of ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect.’ Even though, I’ve already devoted an entire novel to the topic, I still feel as though I’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to exploring modern-day romantic love. And besides, I have tonnes more fodder from my matchmaking days!
Check out Haley’s GoodReads page for more information about her work- https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7074684.Haley_Hill and her personal web-site http://matchmakermusings.com/book/
February 4th, 2014 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed