Guest Blogger: Keena Kincaid
The winner of Keena's book is: PJ von Detweiler. Congrats, PJ! Send me your contact info and I'll pass it along to Keena. Thanks to everyone who participated.
Playing God is a heady, addictive experience. As paranormal authors, we get to build our own worlds. We make the rules, and if our characters misbehave we can simply delete, delete, delete. And though world building is most often associated with paranormal and science fiction writers, every writer in every genre becomes a supreme being when she sits down to tell a story.
But we’re not omnipotent. If we want to woo and keep readers, we need to play by the rules — and not just the rules for good storytelling. We need to live by the rules of our worlds so the characters act and react logically within the covers of the book. Few things annoy a reader more or faster than an author who breaks those rules.
I understand the temptation. Sometimes you’ve written yourself into a corner, and the only option that presents itself is to break the rules, but the challenge is to make the story work within the rules of that world to make a better story and leave your readers satisfied.
For example, in my historical paranormal series about Druids one of the “rules” is magic come at a cost. Sometimes the cost is relatively mild, a headache. Other times the price is steeper, such as knowing someone you love is going to die and being unable to stop it. Although I write paranormals, the need for rules within your universe is always the same. To be effective and believable, the rules must:
Identify the world’s boundaries. For instance, if you are writing a contemporary romance set in a small, rural community the townspeople have unspoken rules that are well understood and apply powerful social pressure toward conformity. Conflicts arise when these rules are broken.
Separate the heroes from the villains. Heroes don’t always follow the rules, but they always have a good reason for breaking them. Villains break them because they can (or think they can). Readers need to know what the rules are before our heroes break them.
Rules make our characters more interesting and identifiable. The average reader has rules in her life, even if it’s only a “no dessert except on Sunday” restriction. She understands how important and frustrating it can be to follow the rules. Similar to this is the rule that your characters remain “in character.” In other words, if the heroine has trouble keeping secrets, she’s not going to remain mum on the hero’s real reason for being in town even if her silence is required. Either don’t tell her or make the blabbing part of the story.
Rules make us better writers. We may be gods in our own worlds, but it’s much more satisfying to write a resolution from within the rules even if the process drives us to drink. The benefits of following rules are many, but the most notable is a better story.
In my book ANAM CARA the rules of my world, along with my characters’ personalities, put me in a corner from which I could see no way out. My HEA was in serious jeopardy and even my CP was at a loss for suggestions. Nothing I thought of worked . . . it either broke the rules or would be untrue to my characters. After weeks of angst, I happened upon a solution that worked on all levels. It abided by the rules, was true to my characters and had a happy ending. My readers think so, too. They were as baffled as me as to how Bran and Liza would end up happily together, and were surprised, but satisfied by the resolution.
So, what rules have you established in your world? And have you ever been tempted to break one?
About ANAM CARA:
Branwyn ap Owen knows it’s appointed for men “once to die, then the judgment” but his hell is to live again and again until he rights an ancient wrong. Unlike other such souls caught on a karmic wheel, he remembers the past, and he always remembers her.
Liza knows nothing of the vow trapping her in Bran’s judgment, yet when he walks into her inn, she knows he could destroy the life she has carefully built over the years if she lets him get too close. Trouble is, Bran can’t take a hint, no matter how blunt she is.
Determined to repair the damage of his first betrayal, Bran uses the knowledge of a thousand years to woo Liza. Yet just as he begins to regain her heart, a fresh betrayal threatens their last hope for love.
ANAM CARA Excerpt:
Bran frowned at the bite in her voice. “I do no’ ken yer anger with me, Liza. No’ even the Scots are this combative. Do I remind ye of yer husband or a lover who ill-used ye?”
“I have had no lover but him.”
“Perhaps that ‘tis the problem. Ye want what ye can no’ have.”
She made a sound between disgust and laughter. “Oh, I am quite certain I can have it if I but ask.”
“Aye, ye could.”
She stared at the river.
Her name on his tongue pulled her agitation into a sharp-pointed need. She ached.
“I can no’ offer ye the morrow. Even if I ne’er leave Carlisle, this moment is all that is mine to give.”
She made the mistake of looking at him. He claimed her attention, kept it. Heat sparked between them. Nervousness swarmed like excited bees in her stomach. Wulfric had never made her tingle with expectation, and Aelric for all his sweetness never caused her body to knot like a Celtic brooch. Bran did both just by breathing.
Keena Kincaid is author of ANAM CARA and ART OF LOVE from The Wild Rose Press. Her second book in the Druids of Duncarnoch series, TIES THAT BIND, will be released in late 2009. You can learn more about Keena at http://www.keenakincaid.com, as well as MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter.
Keena will give away a copy of her book to one commenter. The winner will be selected and posted here Tuesday evening.