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Pandora's Tacklebox: The Worst Romance Novel Ever Written In 26 Days

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PANDORA’S TACKLEBOX

 

The Worst Romance Novel Ever Written In 26 Days

 

 

 

 

 

Megan Morgan

Copyright © 2017 by Megan Morgan

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews, educational materials, and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law including fair use. For permission requests, contact the author at [email protected]

 

Printed in the United States of America

First Printing, 2017

Cover art Copyright © 2017 by Megan Morgan

PREFACE

 

This book was originally a collection of blog posts that made up my theme for the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, which lasts 26 days and covers each letter of the alphabet. At the request of some of my readers who got a real kick out of it, I made my posts into this handy-dandy “educational” e-book.

 

THE WORST ROMANCE NOVEL EVER WRITTEN IN 26 DAYS.

 

My hoped-for goal, gentle readers and writers, is to teach you how not to write a book. Each letter will explore a different component of creative writing and the worst way you could possibly implement it. From awful dialog to awkward foreshadowing, cartoonish villains and even more cartoonish heroes, useless details, too many details, plot that goes nowhere, and metaphor-laced drivel, there will be something to offend even the most seasoned writer/agent/editor/beta reader/long-suffering friend of an author who thinks they’ve seen it all. Take notes, learn, discuss, and most importantly—laugh.

 

I hope you’ll learn some writing lessons, at the very least. Ones that may never leave you, for all the wrong reasons.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please don’t misunderstand my intentions, I did not create this book to make fun of romance authors. I myself am a romance author! The ‘bad writing’ lessons focus on technical aspects of writing and poke fun at mishaps that could show up in any genre, not just romance. I simply wrote in romance novel format because that’s what I write.

Though this book is free, support the author by checking out my other published works!

 

Megan Morgan’s Website:

http://www.meganmorganauthor.com/

 

Megan Morgan’s blog, where this magic originally took place:

http://www.meganmorganauthor.com/blog/

Annd…Action!

 

Hawk MacHardcastle stood on the creaking wooden pier which stretched out into the toilet bowl-freshener blue waters of Lake Latrine. His biceps bulged and glistened in the golden July sun. His mane of fiery red hair flowed and rippled on the summer breeze. His burly beard bristled like a proud sea urchin. His massive hands were clenched into fists as he focused his steel-gray gaze on the creature before him.

 

Hovering in mid-air, having just launched itself from the depths of the lake, a hammerhead shark levitated before him. Its razor-sharp teeth gnashed in burgeoning rage as its fins flapped out a death march. The shark swished its mighty tail and beckoned Hawk to his doom. But Hawk was not doomed—for his punch was mightier than the strike of Thor’s hammer, and he smashed down the uppity shark with one blow. It fell back into the lake with a massive splash, creating a wave like a tsunami on a Japanese beach. An agonized roar followed it to its watery grave.

 

Hawk drew heaving breaths, his gigantic chest expanding and deflating like a well-oiled bagpipe.

 

“I came here to find peace,” he rumbled out, and turned his face away. A single tear rolled town his manly cheek. “But peace will never find me.”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Writers are often told to start their story with ‘action.’ This is to draw the reader in, set the tone of the story, and make someone want to read more (including whatever agent/editor you submitted it to). However, overdoing it to start things off with a kick can have the opposite effect of creating interest—making your story seem really absurd instead.

 

Rather than having your main character punch a levitating shark, start the story in a place where something important to your protagonist is at stake—or has just been lost. In other words, create ‘action’ that will become the reason for pushing the story forward and trying to resolve the situation your protagonist finds themselves in. Give the reader tension and conflict. This doesn’t have to be loud and boisterous, or even particularly ‘action-y,’ as long as the opening resonates emotionally. Making the reader ask “how will this get fixed?” as a hook is much better than a literal right hook.

Backstory

 

After vanquishing the shark, Hawk retrieved his trusty titanium fishing rod, his tackle box full of exotic lures and steel hooks, and his favorite camping chair with the cup holders in each arm to hold two 40-ounce cans of the finest craft beer, and got down to what he’d really come to Lake Latrine to experience, the great love of his existence—fishing.

 

Hawk sat down and began baiting his hook, and reflected on his existence and what had brought him to this point, alone on the shores of a lake deep in the majestic New Jersey wilderness. Born in the bathroom of a nightclub because his wealthy mother had so much plastic surgery she didn’t know she was pregnant, his life seemed to be destined for the icy toilet waters of life. His father, the lord of a Highland castle, was out west at the time procuring a fine steed for his collection of bucking broncos. Hawk would grow up in a life of privilege, bagpipes, and rodeos, but very little love from his aloof and self-involved parents.

 

He grew up attending the finest schools, wearing designer clothes, with only purebred dogs as pets, and only invited to the birthday parties of wealthy kids. His one joy was learning the cowboy way from his father and hearing the stories of his ancestral Scottish home. After graduating at the top of his class at Harvard, he started his own company: MacHardcastle Feminine Products, which would catapult him to the top of Forbes’ list of the most wealthy CEOs in America. When his mother died from drinking Botox, he buried her in a solid gold casket. His father disappeared into the vast deserts of New Mexico.

 

Wealth and fame was hard on Hawk, and he soon came to find drinking Dom Perignon from a supermodel’s bra and having his bedroom wallpapered with hundred dollar bills left him empty and forlorn. A week ago, he made a decision—he drained his bank accounts and would spend the rest of his life at his parents’ luxury cabin on the shores of Lake Latrine, fishing his life away. From now on, it was nothing but trout, cold beers, and chigger bites for him.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

It’s all well and good to know everything there is to know about your characters, at least the main ones. Write out their life stories in a notebook if you must and construct every intimate detail, down to the names of their childhood pets, so you can write them better and make them seem like real people. But for goodness’ sake, don’t pour all that information over your reader’s head, and certainly not all at once. That’s called info dumping.

 

Readers should learn the details of a character’s life as they’re needed and as they pertain to the story. These should also be gently delivered spoonful by spoonful, not via dumptruck. After all, when you meet someone in real life, do you instantly know everything about them? No. As your relationship grows, you get to know them better, bit by bit. And there are some things you may never know about that person, because it’s not important to your relationship with them, or it’s trivial, or they simply don’t want you to know. Your characters should be the same.

Characterization

 

Hawk was just about to cast his line out, when a faint ripple in the water caught his ultra-keen attention. His parents had named him Hawk, after all, because of his nearly inhuman eyesight that was evident even at birth. He caught the little details other people missed in everyday life. That’s why he’d created MacHardcastle Feminine Products—he could tell by the way women walked when they were on their periods, and he wanted to offer them a product that disguised their unsightly time of the month.

 

“Is that damn shark back?” Hawk stood, clutching his rod. “Maybe he wants some more of these mighty fists.”

 

Instead, something else rose from the water, inch by inch—first, a shimmering head of golden wet hair, like gilded seaweed. Next, the face of a goddess, with crystalline blue eyes and red Cupid’s-bow lips. After that, a svelte pale torso that seemed to be carved from alabaster, graced with two huge, bare, buoyant breasts. Hawk was mesmerized—never in his life had he seen firmer, rounder, more succulent, delicious, tempting…eyes. For a moment he thought it was a skinny dipper, and then a great blue and green fish tail flopped in the water behind her.

 

She giggled, the sound of it like music on the warm breeze. “Hello, stranger.” Her voice rang like a clear bell at dawn. “I’m Dropsy Velvet, the Latrine mermaid. I can be your catch of the day, if you like.”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Have you ever met a perfect human being in real life? I mean, one that is physically, mentally, morally perfect, who saves orphans from burning buildings while composing magnificent operas and lifting weights while eating only healthy, organic food? And this person is also funny, brilliant, charming, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner? No? Would you even want to know someone like that? Flawless people don’t exist in real life and they shouldn’t exist in fiction either, because they have the same effect—they make you groan and roll your eyes.

 

Characters shouldn’t be perfect. It’s their flaws that help us connect with them, that make them real people—their struggles, the things they’ve overcome, the blessings they’ve done without but made their way in life anyway. Think of your best friend, your mother, your own child—do you love them for the things they can do, or the things they’ve done despite the obstacles they face? Courage and growth is much more interesting than just being crowned with greatness. The characters we connect with are the ones we identify with and admire for their struggles, just like people in reality. Life is hard and it sucks. No one is majestic and flawless, not even your favorite celebrities—that’s just makeup and stage lighting.

 

When two perfect people meet in a book it’s not a story, it’s author wish-fulfillment.

Dialog

 

“You’re a mermaid?” Hawk asked.

 

“Yes,” she said. She lifted her great shimmering tail out of the water and slapped it back down, splashing him.

 

“I’m not just drunk?” he asked. He looked at the two bottles in his chair’s cupholders. Usually, it took a full keg just to give him a buzz, because his body was so ripped and full of testosterone.

 

“No,” she said.

 

“I didn’t know there were mermaids in the Latrine,” he said.

 

“Just one mermaid.” She sighed.

 

“How did you get in there?” he asked.

 

“I was cursed…cursed by an evil witch to spend my days in this form,” she said.

 

“A witch?” He gasped. “There’s witches around here too?” Everything he knew about Latrine was a lie, apparently.

 

“There used to be one around here,” she said. “They now say she hides in the forest.”

 

“Is she a hippy?” he asked. “How does she survive in the forest?”

 

“Her magic is ancient and powerful,” she said. “I fear one day she will emerge and take me as her captive, forever.”

 

He narrowed his eyes and puffed out his chest. “Not on my watch,” he said.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Good dialog is a beautiful thing. It can break up chunks of text that would otherwise make a reader’s eyes glaze over. It can move the story forward. It can tell you a lot about the characters, their emotions, and their motivations. When each character has a distinct and effortless voice, dialog is juicy and interesting, like overhearing gossip.

 

What can ruin dialog? As seen above, too many speech tags. ‘He said’ and ‘she said’ or ‘he/she asked, sighed, yelped, screamed, or ejaculated’ makes dialog choppy and awkward. If characters are distinct enough, there’s spots where you don’t even need speech tags, because the reader will know who is speaking. Also, combining actions with speech is a much more effective way of indicating who is speaking and the prose flows better. For example, instead of writing: “I never met a real-life mermaid,” Hawk said. “I must be dreaming.” A better example is: “I never met a real-life mermaid.” Hawk gazed at her in wonder, unable to tear his eyes away from her succulent dorsal fin. “I must be dreaming.” This not only makes the dialog smoother, but tells you something about the characters, as well. Like how a mermaid with a dorsal fin sounds much cooler than a regular old mermaid.

 

Make your dialog sound like people having a conversation, not like robots beeping back and forth.

Exposition

 

“I don’t understand how a mermaid can exist.” Hawk squatted on the pier to get a better look at her. “Seems to defy all scientific logic.” Hawk was a man of reason. He’d never been one for fairy tales—those were for children and women who still thought a knight on a white horse would rescue them. His experience in the rodeo with white horses was they were dirty and bit extra hard.

 

“I know it seems silly to a smart man like you.” She swam up beside the pier and flopped her tail on it. “But it’s actually quite simple. The musculature of my tail propels the human part of my anatomy through the water. My tail begins at the L5 vertebra, and rather than having a human pelvis, I have the vertebral spine of a fish that tapers down into a caudal fin. My human flesh turns into scales below the waist, but I also have a layer of sebaceous fat to keep me warm under the water—it doesn’t change the appearance of my gorgeous human torso though, because that would be gross.”

 

Hawk rubbed his beard, his thoughtful eyes narrowed in consideration. “How do you breathe underwater though? Do you have gills or human lungs?”

 

“Both!” she chirped. “I have gills on my neck and under my ribs, but when I’m out of water you can’t see them, because again, that would make me really unattractive and freakish.” She slithered her tail off the pier and glided across the water on her back, her breasts glowing like crystal orbs in the sunlight. “We can’t have that, can we?”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

This is aimed in particular at sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal writers, or anyone who writes fiction that’s not entirely based in our world. If you’re going to create your own universe and mythology, of course it must be explained to the readers, but do so creatively and delicately. Exposition is another form of info dumping and if you do it wrong, no matter how clever your made-up world is, it’s going to be distracting. Explain things when they need to be explained, and without butting in, so it’s part of the narrative and doesn’t turn a story into a textbook. Heavy-handed detail dumps jar the reader out of the story.

 

You should know every detail of how your fantastical universe works, but you should start writing the story as if your reader already knows it as well. Tell a story, first and foremost. When explanation is needed, that’s when it should be inserted. This doesn’t need to be done by characters describing their anatomy to each other. Sometimes it’s okay for the author to explain something in the right place and then keep going. Build a world brick by brick, not by dropping a load of them on your reader.

Foreshadowing

 

Hawk sat down in his chair and considered the mermaid swimming around the pier, her tail drifting lazily in the water like an eel sliding through an oil slick, her breasts bobbing on the surface like two gentle snow-kissed hills in the Highlands of his ancestors. He’d come here to escape the world, the madness of life, and especially women, but here it all was again—a different kind of madness, and a different kind of woman, though she made his loins sizzle just as much as any woman with long lovely legs.

 

“Look.” Dropsy suddenly stopped swimming and pointed toward the shore. “That old woman over there.”

 

Hawk looked around. A tottering old woman walked the shoreway, stumping along with her cane. Her hair was silver and she had a long hooked nose covered in warts. As she ambled by she made the sign of the Evil Eye at them. Hawk didn’t find it strange, because women often did that sort of thing to him.

 

Dropsy shivered. “She gives me the creeps. I see her every day walking next to the lake, muttering to herself. I wonder who she is and what she’s doing here?” She didn’t remember the face of the witch who cursed her, but for some reason she thought of her curse every time she saw the old woman.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Foreshadowing is a great technique—it’s realistic too, as a lot of the events that happen in real life are foreshadowed by something else, whether good or bad. However, foreshadowing shouldn’t be screamed in the reader’s face, but rather casually whispered in their ear so they forget about it until the right moment. Have you ever read a book and something happened that made you gasp and recall a detail earlier in the story? The “THAT’S what it meant!” moment? This is what you should aim for—surprise and delight your readers, don’t make them feel like they’re careening down an inevitable path.

 

This doesn’t mean foreshadowing should never be obvious. Sometimes it’s fun to make the reader want to cover their eyes because they can see what’s coming even if the character can’t. This must be done with finesse though, and utilized for tension and build-up instead of beating the reader over the head with it. Foreshadowing should seem quietly ominous, not a horrific roller coaster ride toward a brick wall.

Genre

 

“Do you ever come out of the water?” Hawk asked. “I mean, since you have gills and lungs, can you live in both the sea and on land?” He thought about a dream he had once, about a giant fish from the planet Zebulon, flying through space. The fish told Hawk it could live in both space and within an atmosphere, as well as in the ocean and in the heart of a volcano.

 

“Yes, sometimes I come out to sun myself.” She wiggled up to the pier and gazed at the giant, handsome man before her. He oozed charisma and manliness. He reminded her of a mysterious fisherman she’d once helped solve a murder. After much sleuthing and deducing, they’d discovered the butler did it in the conservatory with a candlestick.

 

“Well, maybe I could use some company.” Hawk’s gaze grew distant as he stared out over the water, thinking of all the love he’d lost in his life. Was he willing to risk it all, once again, for a beautiful mermaid with double Ds? “I came here to be alone, but…being alone is hard.”

 

“Yes, it is.” She sighed. “Somedays, the only people I have to talk to are the unicorns that live in the forest. And sometimes the wood elves.”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

When you write a book, if you ever hope to publish it, you need to establish your genre. This doesn’t mean you can’t cross genres, or experiment, but being able to clearly establish what genre your story falls under is important, even if for only one category. Agents and publishers will want to know what genre it falls into (and you need to know whom to query) and online retailers require you to list books by genre. This also ultimately makes it easier for readers of that genre to find you.

 

If your book is a huge mess of genres and you can’t pick at least one to label it with (though it may be multiple genres) you’re going to have a hard time selling it. The surrealism/speculative market isn’t very big (that’s not to say people can’t and don’t write brilliant books in that vein). It’s also important to understand the elements of specific genres—if you write a murder mystery that just happens to have someone hallucinating a unicorn, that doesn’t also make it a fantasy. Figure out what you’re writing before you start, or at least while you’re writing your first draft.

Hyperbole

 

Dropsy swam to the shore and flopped on the sand with the force of an asteroid slamming into the earth. A thousand diamonds of sunlight glittered on her skin. She was as beautiful as Cleopatra, Aphrodite, Mona Lisa, and Christina Hendricks all mixed into one woman. Hawk’s heart—and loins—stirred, a jet engine roaring to life inside his rib cage and in his pants.

 

He walked over and sat down on the sand next to her, admiring her beautiful scaled tail, like the tail of a great white shark ravaging the deep and eating entire schools of fish in one gulp—the way she was consuming his heart right now.

 

“Why are you lonely, Hawk?” she asked. “Why did you come here? Tell me who you really are. Are you a god? A titan?”

 

Hawk laughed, his voice vibrating the air and causing ripples on the lake, since it was so deep and magnificent. “I am no god.” He gazed sadly at her. “Just a simple man, who became tangled in a complicated web.”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Hyperbole is over-exaggeration, blowing things up to gigantic proportions like an atom bomb being tested in the desert, and it’s most effectively used for comedy—so using it for something that’s not supposed to be funny has to be done carefully. As a general rule, if you’re writing something serious you should try to avoid it. There are much more effective ways to create intensity, drama, and impact—using dialog, character reactions, and even understatement. These are much less invasive (and absurd) tactics.

 

Hyperbole is also most effective when it’s subtle, ironically. It can be used to make characters into caricatures, so again, it’s better suited for comedy. By all means, if you’re a comedic writer you should learn how to use it, and use it well. Not to toot my own horn, but…have you noticed this entire book has been hyperbole?

Idioms

 

“Tell me what’s wrong.” Dropsy thought Hawk was the best thing since sliced bread but she knew you couldn’t judge a book by its cover. “Why are you sad? Why did you come here to be alone?”

 

Hawk sighed. He felt he could spill the beans to her, let the cat out of the bag, instead of beating around the bush. “I’m not satisfied with my life. Being a billionaire Highlander cowboy who sells feminine products was not the life I had planned for myself. I need…some meaning.”

 

Dropsy couldn’t imagine a life like that. She didn’t want to bite off more than she could chew, but she hoped he would stay, for a man like him only came along once in a blue moon. “Maybe you’ll find it here,” she said. “It’s only been my wish to have the curse lifted and escape this place, but—maybe if I had something to stay here for, it wouldn’t be so bad.”

 

Hawk smiled. Maybe they could help each other find meaning in their situations. After all, they couldn’t spend their lives crying over spilt milk.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Idioms are sayings and phrases we all know well, which convey a sentiment in a short and clever way. Should they be used in writing? That depends. If you use it in the prose itself, probably not—any good editor is going to make you pluck idioms out of your writing, for they’re trite and distracting. Your characters can say them of course, because that’s how people talk. But again, they should be used sparingly. It’s much better to write succinctly and just say what you mean.

 

Of course, if you’re writing comedy, as I discussed in the previous chapter,, idioms might work for you. A certain turn of phrase at the right time can be hilarious—but you don’t want people cracking up at your dramatic murder mystery.

Jargon

 

The sun was setting and Hawk wanted to get some fishing in before nightfall. He returned to the pier after a nice long stretch in the sun with Dropsy, during which they talked about their lives, hopes, dreams, fears, and that one time Hawk got his head stuck in a staircase railing because his cousin bet him ten bucks he wouldn’t do it. Dropsy seemed to understand that kids did stupid things sometimes, even though he was twenty-five when it happened, and he loved her for it.

 

Dropsy swam around the pier as Hawk prepared himself for a hardcore fishing session. He only needed a light action rod in these gentle waters, and he attached a chugger and bell sinker to it, slapped a bit of attractant on his hook along with a fat dilly, and checked his phone to find out the creel limit.

 

He back casted the line gracefully into the gleaming eutrophic waters. Maybe he’d catch a pike or a parr, a striped bass or a sun trout. He could catch just about anything with the vast and sophisticated array of bait and lures he used—artificial, bobbers, cowbells, crankbait, curly tails, deer-hair bugs, loose-action plugs, shads, stick bait, tail-spinners, weedless, and of course, good old fashioned worms. His tackle box was a box of wonders.

 

“We’ll eat good tonight,” he told Dropsy. “I’m going to cook you up the best fish fry you’ve ever had.” It was the least he could do for her. After all, she’d saved his drowning spirit.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Jargon consists of specific names, details, slang, and expressions used by professions, groups, and hobbyists to describe the tricks of their trade. Of course you want to learn all about what your characters are into, including the words and phrases they use—or maybe you already know. However, you can’t assume all your readers will know the jargon surrounding a character’s field or passion, especially if it’s obscure. If you just rattle off jargon, you’re either going to have confused readers or ones who are frustrated and have to Google what the hell you’re talking about every page or so.

 

There’s plenty of ways to work jargon into a story if it’s wholly necessary: you can simply explain it when it comes up, or have the character explain it to someone else, or you can use layman’s terms when appropriate. Plenty of crime and lawyer-based fiction, as well as medical fiction, manages to engage readers who aren’t detectives and lawyers and doctors, because the authors keep things simple and explain terminology when necessary. Also, like everything else in fiction, it’s never a great idea to dump a whole bunch of unusual information at once. If you’re creative enough, you might teach readers something new.

 

I did, for example, learn a great deal about fishing while researching this letter.

Kinesics

 

That evening, Hawk dug a pit on the beach and built a fire. He then fried up the fish he’d caught. The scent of charred seafood filled the air, an odor that reminded him of his childhood days on the rodeo circuit with his father. There was nothing like a big old fish fry beneath the painted desert sky after a hard day of taming bucking broncos.

 

Dropsy stretched out on the sand. She twitched her tail and gritted her teeth as she watched Hawk slough the scales off with a big bowie knife and dig the fish’s guts out. She winced as he threw the skinned fish on the fire and they sizzled. She wrinkled her nose and her eyes watered as the scent of frying fish filled the air. Poor girl, she had to be starving. She probably lived off plankton and seaweed at the bottom of the lake.

 

Hawk stretched out on the sand next to her as the fish cooked and raised his eyebrows at her in his best come-hither look. He laid on his side, propped on one elbow, and struck his best model pose. That always got the ladies frisky for him.

 

“Wait a second.” Something dawned on him. “Does eating fish make you a cannibal?”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Kinesics is the interpretation of body language, facial expressions, and nonverbal cues people exude in everyday encounters with each other. These indicators can be as important in writing as they are in real life—they can say a lot about your character and about what they’re going through and what their emotional and mental state is. Using descriptions of body language and facial expressions is a way to accomplish that popular writing adage: show, don’t tell. You can show a lot about what’s going on in someone’s head using just a few words.

 

If your other characters don’t pick up on these cues, that can say a lot about them, as well. Just make sure it’s believable, because most people instinctively pick up on nonverbal indicators whether they realize it or not. It’s just how we’re wired. It’s part of what makes us human. Of course, if your main character is a self-absorbed nitwit who cooks a mermaid fish for dinner, it shows us exactly the kind of person he is when he doesn’t interpret her cringing correctly.

Local Color

 

Once Hawk realized what a fool he was—cooking up Dropsy’s brothers and sisters and expecting her to eat them—he went to the cabin and got her something more palatable. He made her a roast beef sandwich and a hearty stew of potatoes and carrots, another throwback to his manly childhood on the bull circuit. She seemed much happier with this and they cozied up on the sand, eating and chatting, her with her stew and him with his grilled fish.

 

As they ate, a group of young people strolled by. They appeared to be of Italian descent, with putrid orange spray tans, gigantic gelled hair, and swathed in Gucci and Prada. They were chattering loudly when they noticed the two of them on the sand and stopped.

 

“Oh my God, like.” One of the girls pulled her designer sunglasses down her nose—though it was dark out now. “There’s this creepy old woman who’s been following us around. Like, stay safe you guys.”

 

“Yah.” One of the men flexed his oiled biceps and tugged his visor down over his broad brow. “Like, I might have to beat her up. I totally will. By the way, is that a mermaid, or am I totally drunk? I know I’m drunk, but like, is that a mermaid?”

 

Hawk smiled. “It is, indeed.” He loved the people of New Jersey.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Local color, also called regionalism, is important in a lot of books. Readers even seek out certain authors and types of books based on their love of a certain region. Where the story takes place can be as important as the characters and the plot. Sometimes it’s not just a backdrop but a vital piece of the story itself—you couldn’t just pick the story up and put it somewhere else, or it wouldn’t be the same.

 

That being said, if you write about a specific region, city, town, or any other place, if you don’t actually live there you need to do your research and get the local color correct. Don’t rely on stereotypes and things you see on TV. If it’s someplace you’ve actually visited, even better. But if you haven’t, that doesn’t mean you can’t write about it, and do so faithfully. The internet is a wonderful place for information, and also for reaching out to people who live in that area. Until I started writing this lampoon I actually had no idea New Jersey has a ton of beautiful state parks and lakes…I had only ever seen Jersey Shore nonsense and heard how trashy it was.

Metaphor

 

That night Hawk slept on the beach, near the water, both to be closer to his new mermaid friend and to watch out for the creepy old woman. He was like an ancient Roman centurion, ever on guard. Next to him lay a shotgun, three knives, a sword, a pistol, a mace, and six throwing stars, a true arsenal of the gods. No witches, demons, monsters, or tax collectors would pass by him that night.

 

Dropsy slept in the water, floating on her back like a ship passing in the night, one with huge breasts like great succulent watermelons bobbing across the surface. Her hair spread around her in the water like creepy seaweed.

 

Hawk kept one eye open, literally, as he had learned how to sleep like that when his family visited his ancestral Highland home as a child—a place where brigands and thieves stole about like hungry jackals in the night. He would be ready for anything that crept up on them, like a well-trained dog on the hunt.

 

He was half lost in dreams about riding Dropsy through the waves like a dolphin, when his senses were tickled, as if with a feather, by the sound of soft footsteps approaching on the sand.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Metaphor is a literary device in which something is likened to something else, usually something universally recognized and understood, to give it impact. Unfortunately, ill-used metaphor has the opposite effect: instead of making a strong, distinctive comparison, it comes across as cheesy and trite. There are much better ways to convey the gravity of a situation without using metaphor. Sometimes, stating things outright is much more powerful in its simplicity. Showing how an action, words, or a character affects people and things around them is direct and has better results. Metaphors have their place, but they shouldn’t be used as a crutch.

 

Also, if you have a good editor, they’re probably going to pluck metaphors out of your writing and tell you to do better. We don’t always need to be reminded of a comparison to understand how a concept, person, or event takes shape—if it’s written well enough, the reader will unconsciously make those comparisons on their own. That makes for more powerful writing than what you get when you lean on metaphor and cliché.

Names

 

Hawk abruptly sat up. The wrinkled, haggish old woman they’d seen walking along the lakeshore stood before him, next to the dwindling fire. Her wrinkled old hands were curled into fists and her black eyes glittered with malevolence. The warts on her hooked nose glistened in the firelight.

 

“Who are you?” Hawk demanded. He grabbed up his sword, pistol, three throwing stars, and an axe. “What do you want?”

 

The old woman cackled. “I am Broomhilda Glinda McHag. I know you are protecting the mermaid Dropsy Velvet. She is mine, silly man. You will never possess her. On the day I drain this lake, she will be sucked down with the rest of the fishes!” Her cackle grew loud and maniacal.

 

Hawk threw his axe at her, but she vanished in a puff of green smoke. He wished he was having a nightmare, but he was wide awake.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Naming your characters can be difficult. Some character names come easily, while others you need to scour baby name blogs and click name generators until your eyes glaze over to figure them out. Names should be dependant on a few things: the time period during which the story is set, appropriateness to the characters themselves, and how they blend with the rest of the elements of the story. Some authors name characters to indicate what and who they are, deriving their names from things that relate to or symbolize their background. A very prominent example of this is the Harry Potter novels. However, this must be done creatively and as unobtrusively as possible, because it can spill over into parody.

 

In case you’re unaware, both ‘dropsy’ and ‘velvet’ are bacterial infections in aquarium fish. Hawk MacHardcastle is a parody of romance hero names. ‘Broomhilda,’ ‘Glinda,’ and ‘hag’ are all heavy-handed references to witches. Latrine, while actually being a rather pretty word…well, I’m sure you know what a latrine is. As I’ve pointed out several times during this exercise, if you’re writing comedy, by all means be ridiculous and make up ridiculous names. But even comedy requires subtlety, or else you’ll be trying too hard and it won’t be funny at all. On that note, if I’m not making you laugh, I apologize. I’m not actually a comedy writer.

Onomatopoeia

 

With a whoosh, Hawk jumped up from the sand, his muscles straining and beard unfurling with a pop. He growled and looked up and down the dark stretch of sand. The old woman had vanished completely, with a poof. He splashed into the water, his feet squelching in the lake bed.

 

Dropsy was still sleeping soundly, but he scooped her up with a slosh. She opened her eyes and gasped. Her breasts boinged in front of her, her eyelashes fluttering.

 

“Hawk?” She clung to his muscular chest. “What’s happening? What are you doing?”

 

“I must keep you safe,” he snarled. “There are evil things afoot.” And with that he swished out of the water and tromped toward his cabin with her.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Onomatopoeia are words that describe the sound something makes—words like ding, bang, plop, zap, and sizzle. These are useful in prose to convey sensory details, but they should be used sparingly. Why? Because you’re writing a novel, not a comic book (unless you are writing a comic book, then by all means). Overuse can seem weird and have a comical effect instead of what you’re going for. It’s more effective to not even mention sounds—there are lots of things, when described, we instantly hear in our head without being told. If I said someone jumped in the water, you’d hear and see the splash in your mind without being told.

 

Onomatopoeia is often italicized in prose, which draws even more attention to it, making overuse distracting. A lot of editors don’t want tons of italicization in your manuscript because it breaks up the rhythm and makes readers ‘hear’ the words differently. For example, do you ‘hear’ a difference when I write like this and WHEN I WRITE LIKE THIS? Best to keep distracting words, sounds, and changes in rhythm to a minimum. Keep the prose flowing smoothly. How’s that for a zinger?

Purple Prose

 

Hawk put Dropsy in the bathtub for safekeeping. No mean old ladies would get her there. The sight of her floating in the water of his spacious tub with its massaging jets made his loins quiver. She gazed up at him with limpid blue eyes, her ruby lips parted in supplication. He couldn’t resist. He knelt next to the tub and kissed her.

 

She quivered like a flower beaded with dew at the first touch of morning light. She tasted like heaven, like all the goodness and peace and tranquility he’d missed out on in life. He scooped her up into his arms, the entire length of her supple, trembling form, half glorious woman, half sensual fish. She wrapped her tail around him like silken bonds he never wanted to escape from.

 

He stopped kissing her and drew back, to gaze into her eyes. “You are the answer to all my prayers.” His manhood surged like a knight on the battlefield, about to vanquish the enemy.

 

“And you mine.” She touched his face, her fingertips like a delicate breeze. “Oh, Hawk MacHardcastle, take me.”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

‘Purple prose,’ defined as the overuse of flowery, metaphorical (and ridiculous) language, especially in moments of passion, is usually the domain of romance writers, but it can pop up in all sorts of writing. In defense of romance writers—if you aren’t one and don’t already know this—purple prose is the relic of a bygone era. Most romance writers do not use purple prose these days and it is in fact actively discouraged by editors and agents. The stereotypical, pulpy romance novel overflowing with throbbing manhoods and heaving bosoms is in the past and in fact was probably never as prevalent as it’s made out to be.

 

This sort of overblown, lurid language tends to pop up in other genres too, especially with writers who don’t typically write sex scenes. It’s my opinion that these writers are uncomfortable writing sex scenes so they try to make them sound artsy and pretentious (see the [+ famous laughable attempt that Morrissey made in his novel List of the Lost+].) There’s even [+ an award dedicated to awful sex scenes+]. Here’s my advice on purple prose—don’t do it, ever. If you’re uncomfortable writing sex, don’t write it. And if you write about sex, just write about sex, without using the words ‘loins,’ ‘heaving,’ or ‘dewy flower.’

 

And you’ll be relieved to know, I will not write Hawk and Dropsy’s sex scene. We’ll fade to black here (I know, you’re all dying to know how you do it with a mermaid).

Quandary

 

The next morning, Hawk made breakfast while Dropsy lay in the hot tub outside on the deck. He gazed out the window at her, smiling like a fool. Last night had been magical, breathtaking, everything he needed. He had already forgotten the rigors of running a business, about bucking broncos and Highland clan wars. For the first time in his life he was simply Hawk. And he liked the man, as much as everyone else did.

 

When he strolled out on the deck with a tray of the finest breakfast foods—toast, eggs, bacon, oatmeal, two pounds of Canadian bacon, more eggs, a pot of coffee, six cubes of sugar, a jug of milk, fruit, home fries, crepes, pancakes, waffles, a jar of syrup, and yet more eggs—he caught a wiff of something, something peculiar. The smell of fish boiling.

 

In horror, he dropped the entire tray of food and ran to the hot tub. He scooped Dropsy out of the churning water. She was flushed, her eyelids fluttering, her tail sizzling.

 

“Hawk,” she said weakly. “I fear I cannot live in your world. Take me back to the lake.”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

A quandary is a necessary plot device—your characters find themselves faced with a challenge, or something that’s blocking what they want to achieve. In most stories you will have to make your characters struggle to get what they want. If everything is perfect and goes like it’s supposed to, it probably won’t be much of a story and you can write it all in one chapter. A quandary presents a problem that must be solved and the story is created in how your characters solve that problem. In romance, this often plays out in the form of the hero and heroine falling in love, but then something tears them apart or doesn’t allow them to be together. The suspense for the reader is in wondering how they will make it work, how their love will overcome.

 

Quandaries should be realistic though, not overwrought and dramatic to the point of becoming ridiculous. Throwing absurd roadblocks in the way of your character’s progress isn’t a good idea. Problems should arise organically—like they do in real life—or be born from the situation itself and the powers that are working against your characters. In other words, there’s lots of reasons a man and a mermaid might not be able to be together, you don’t also have to cook her in a hot tub. Fish soup, anyone?

Red Herring

 

Hawk carried Dropsy to the lake and gently placed her in the water. She seemed delirious and he worried for her, so he went into the lake as well and held her, so she wouldn’t drown. “Oh, my beautiful darling.” He stroked her hair. “I’m so sorry. I should have known better. I should have remembered what happens when you boil a fish.”

 

Just then, a motorboat buzzed by. An old man sat in it and he peered at them with an evil glint in his beady eyes. The wake from his boat washed over them and Hawk bristled. Was this man in league with the old lady? Was he spying on them for her?

 

“You’re all gonna die!” the old man hollered as he sped away.

 

“Don’t worry,” Dropsy said weakly, “that’s just Crazy Pete. He sails around the lake telling people they’re gonna die.”

 

But, was that the truth? Or was she delirious with heat stroke? Was the man really harmless?

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

A ‘red herring’ is a literary device the author uses to create misdirection and make the reader believe one thing, in the hopes that when they reach the conclusion the reveal will be a surprise. This gets used a lot in mystery and detective novels, as well as suspense. It’s meant to distract the reader and lead them down the wrong path, to have them suspecting the wrong person only to find out the true villain is someone else. It can be a good thing, because a lot of readers like to have that awesome moment of realization, to slap their forehead and say “how didn’t I see that?”

 

However, this device must be used correctly. Being too heavy-handed about it ruins the effect. Also, while you’re leading the reader to believe one thing, the truth must also be encoded between the lines. You can’t lead someone to believe one person is the murderer while the real murderer is a janitor who only had one mention in the first chapter and was never seen again. The ‘big’ clues seem to point to the innocent person, but there must be little clues about the real murderer, too. So this is a literary device you should only use if you can pull it off with finesse and have your readers saying “wow!” at the end and not “hey wait a minute, that doesn’t make sense.”

 

Crazy Pete never killed anyone. He’s just telling the truth—we ARE all gonna die.

Show vs. Tell

 

Hawk spent hours in the water with Dropsy, trying to nurse her back from her heatstroke. The day was long and difficult. He was worried and distracted, kicking himself for his mistake. Dropsy didn’t have a good day either, her symptoms were terrible. She suffered horribly.

 

Thankfully, when night fell she seemed to be doing better. She swam around and her tail turned back to the correct color. She was happy. Hawk was happy.

 

“I’ll never do something so stupid again, darling,” Hawk said. “I’m going to have to learn how to love a mermaid, and remember that you are bound by your limitations, like a three-legged dog.”

 

“I forgive you, Hawk.” Dropsy was serene. “I know you only want me to be with you, and I shall be. We’ll find a way to make this work between us. We must, for now that you’ve taken my innocence, I love you. I’ll risk all the hot tubs in the world for you.”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Show, don’t tell, is an adage writers hear all the time. A story should be like watching a TV show—you see things happening, you experience the events along with the characters. Telling is simply stating things and not really unraveling a story. You should paint a picture, not give a recounting. Hawk was distraught all day, so I should show him being distraught through his actions and words. Dropsy was delirious with heatstroke, so I should show you what she was going through, rather than just saying it. Showing has much more emotional resonance than merely stating something happened.

 

Showing helps you connect with your characters as an author, too. If you’re writing about their experiences in detail, both happy and sad, wonderful and terrible, you’ll start to feel for them like they’re real people—and that can only make your writing better. Make your readers connect the same way, by letting them share in your character’s suffering and joy. You can’t do that by just saying things happened. Really show us how, why, and when they happened, in excruciating detail.

Tension

 

Hawk gathered Dropsy up and was about to carry her back to the cabin, when the wicked old lady appeared on the beach. She cackled. Hawk gasped and dropped Dropsy on the sand, and grabbed his trusty bowie knife from his hip. He had to protect his precious love. He couldn’t allow her to be hurt.

 

Dropsy shrieked at the sight of the old woman. She lay at Hawk’s feet, wet and covered in sand now like a battered chicken fritter waiting to be deep fried. “You!” Dropsy cried. “I know you were the one who turned me into a mermaid all those years ago. Having my brain boiled brought all the memories to the surface. I was a young girl, living on the banks of this lake with my settler family. We came here to build a home and live in peace.”

 

The old woman smiled a wide, fang-filled smile. “Yes, my dear. And now, for my ultimate revenge. I’m tired of all the rich vacationers who come to this lake every summer and stink things up with their Burberry cologne and ruin the scenery by lying in their lawn chairs reading their iPads. I’m going to open a portal to Hell beneath the lake and suck it down, and you along with it, you hussy.”

 

Dropsy screamed in despair. “Hawk, stop her!”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Much like starting with too much action at the beginning of the story, creating tension doesn’t require vampire witches, screaming, and sucking lakes into the dark abyss. Overdoing it doesn’t create tension but the opposite, making things absurd. Like a lot of other writing elements, tension has to be handled with subtlety. A glance across a room or an overheard conversation can create tension. Your character knowing a secret, noticing a warning, things slowly going from bad to worse—all these things create tension without beating your reader over the head with it.

 

Tension should build slowly, and through the entirety of the story, until it’s like a balloon that’s been filled with so much air it’s about to pop. If you fill the balloon too fast it will pop ahead of schedule. Tension-building applies to any story, whether it’s a heart-pounding mystery/suspense or chick lit. Every story has something at stake, or at least, one would hope. How we get to the point where the game is either won or lost involves tension. Make your reader hold their breath, but in such a way they don’t even realize they’re doing it until the balloon bursts.

Understatement

 

The old woman—a witch, Hawk was now certain of it—took out her magic wand and lifted Dropsy from the sand so she levitated in mid-air. Dropsy shrieked and wriggled.

 

“Put her down!” Hawk tried to grab her, like a balloon that had escaped from a child’s hand at a fair in southern Minnesota in the middle of July, but he couldn’t reach her. “What are you doing, you evil old woman?”

 

The witch waved her wand and Dropsy flew out over the lake and splashed down in the water. Hawk ran in after her. He grabbed her and they swam back to the shore, but when Hawk tried to pull her out, Dropsy wouldn’t budge. He gasped, realizing what the witch had done. Dropsy was now bound to the lake and couldn’t get out. He tugged and tugged, but she was stuck like a basketball in a sewer drain.

 

The witch cackled. “At sunset, I will drain this lake.” She then vanished.

 

“What a bitch,” Hawk muttered. He sighed. This was not what he signed up for when he started dating a mermaid.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Understatement is a method of communicating the importance of a plot point without using overwrought drama. Think of the dark moment of your story, the moment when things are the most dire and awfulness is happening all around—it’s easy to overexpress this moment, because it’s so bad. Adequately describing the gravity of the situation is difficult, and over-handling it can lessen its effectiveness. This is where understatement comes in. You can show the horror of something by not directly stating it.

 

If a character falls into a coma, it’s much more believable if their family members cling to each other, numb and weeping, wrapped in a sort of quiet, helpless pain. Having them scream, tear their hair out, and fling themselves down the elevator shaft in the hospital crosses the line into absurdity. Sometimes the most subtle expressions are the most meaningful. Alternately, using understatement when dramatics would be more effective can also ruin things. If your mermaid girlfriend just got trapped in a lake that’s about to be sucked down into Hell, perhaps some screaming would be in order, instead of just being sort of put-out about it.

Villains

 

Hawk prepared himself for the fight that would ensue at sundown. He would not let his beloved be sucked down the drain to Hell. He outfitted himself with every weapon he owned, including his specially-designed cleats with iron spikes for evil stomping, and returned to the water where Dropsy floated listlessly as she stared at the sinking sun.

 

“Tell me all about this witch,” Hawk commanded. “So I might know best how to stop her.”

 

Dropsy heaved a sigh. “I remember it all now. I was a young woman. My family had just built a cabin on the lakeshore. I was out gathering firewood. She appeared before me in a pillar of flame. She said she was a minion of Hell and she loved punishing humans. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time—she was in a bad mood because Satan had just given her a poor quarterly performance review for not tormenting enough humans. And so, she cast me into the lake, where I grew a tail and gills, and I would never see my family again.” She sniffed. “My father accidentally caught me while fishing once, but he was drunk and thought he was hallucinating.”

 

Hawk gazed at the setting sun. His broad jaw twitched and icy eyes glittered with malevolence. “You will have your vengeance, my darling. The only one going to Hell is that witch. Hasta la vista, baby.”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Villains are the second most important characters in your story, after your protagonists. Villains are often the reason for the story, the reason your protagonist even has anything interesting to do. If you want to write villains that are one dimensional, cartoonish, and merely evil for the sake of evil, there’s venues for that: comic books, comedy, children’s books—but if you’re writing something a bit more meaty, you’re going to have to flesh out your villains, and in some cases even make us care about them…sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

 

The best villains are the ones who have reasons for being evil, and especially understandable reasons. If your villain is a human being, something probably made them go bad. Maybe they were abused, mistreated, deprived—maybe they’re struggling against something powerful themselves, or reaching for something most humans can empathize with wanting. Maybe they’re psychologically disturbed. They probably didn’t just emerge from Hell filled with pure evil. One of my favorite villains is Voldemort from the Harry Potter series, because he started out seeming cartoonish, but in later books we discover he was a sociopathic human who grew up in difficult circumstances…which is realistic, and all the more chilling for it. The best villains, the ones that really scare us, are the ones we can actually imagine being real.

Winding Up the Climax

 

As the sun sank below the horizon, Hawk stood on the shore with a sword in one hand and a machine gun in the other. Dropsy bobbed in the lake, anxious and distraught. When the last sliver of sunlight slid below the edge of the world, the evil witch appeared on the sand in a pillar of flame. Hawk’s muscles rippled with anticipation. He had devised a plan the witch would never see coming.

 

The witch howled with laughter. “Puny human, you cannot defeat me with your silly weapons. I am Satan’s minion, and tonight I will impress him and finally get a raise. He doesn’t think I’m causing enough trouble up here so I’m going to send him this lake to fill his evil bathtub. And it will have a pretty bath toy in it.” She smiled cruelly at Dropsy.

 

Dropsy wept. “I don’t want to be Satan’s bath toy!”

 

“You won’t be.” Hawk dropped his weapons on the sand. “I may not be able to defeat you with human weapons you evil old hag, but there’s something you don’t know about me.” With that, he whipped out a vial of holy water. “I used to be a vampire hunter, too.”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

Winding up the climax is oftentimes a lengthy process. The ultimate showdown could be building for chapters, or the entire book, really. The important thing is that the tension is slowly cranked up until it becomes almost unbearable for your reader, until surely something must happen, and whatever happens will decide the fate of all characters involved. The villain will be defeated, someone will die, things will be changed forever. These stones must be laid out on the path which leads the reader to the inevitable confrontation.

 

Hopefully, you’ve planted the seeds earlier that will need to bloom in the climax. Using a deus ex machina—your hero suddenly just happens to be a vampire hunter who has holy water on him—will make readers angry. They want to see a satisfying conclusion, not for fate to swoop in and take care of everyone’s problems. That’s a letdown. A good way to avoid this is to figure out before you start writing how things will be resolved—even if only vaguely—and write toward that. Drop clues along the way. You’ll have far less readers calling for your head.

X-PLOSION

 

The witch screamed, her eyes huge when she saw the bottle of holy water—her one weakness. Satan’s minions could not endure the holy wrath of Heaven’s nectar. “No!” she shrieked. “No, I will not fail again. I will drain this lake!” She threw her arms in the air. The water in the lake began to churn and swirl, as though someone had pulled the plug…the Hell plug.

 

Hawk ripped the cork out of the bottle with his teeth and threw the contents on the witch. “The only thing going down the drain is you, witchy bitch!” He smiled at his own cleverness. He would have to remember that line and write it in his memoirs, which he would someday publish and would surely become bestsellers.

 

The witch’s screams grew louder. She clawed at her face as it began to sizzle like bacon…Hell bacon. She withered and collapsed on the sand. “No!” she cried. “What a world, what a world!”

 

The witch then vanished in a puff of black smoke. The waters of the lake were still. The night was silent, until Dropsy cried out. “Hawk, you saved me!”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

I apologize, I’m cheating with this letter. But there’s not a whole lot of usable words that start with X.

 

The climax of a story should, even if it’s not happy, put a lot of conflict to rest and things should change. Things that might change are elements in the universe of your story, or a character—emotionally, mentally, even physically. The point is, after the climax, things don’t look the same. Something major has happened, a shift has taken place. If you’re writing a series, each book may have its own climax that sets things up for the next book. But make sure it all makes sense, and that you’re not just making pointless moves to wrap things up. As I’ve said several times, plant the bombs for the inevitable explosion long before you trigger them.

 

Also, don’t borrow details from literary classics like The Wizard of Oz, or people are going to notice.

 

I feel like I should apologize for this entire project, but I hope you’re all happy that Dropsy didn’t get sucked down the drain to Hell.

You Did It!

 

Hawk strode proudly into the water and scooped up his darling mermaid. He laid a big wet kiss on her and held her close. “I told you I would be your hero, baby. Now we can spend our life together. I’ll build you a fish tank and even put a plastic castle in it for you. You’ll be my little Princess of the Sea.”

 

But just then, something magical happened. A brilliant flash of light blinded them. As their vision returned, they gasped to see something amazing and unexpected.

 

“I’m human again!” Dropsy kicked her brand new long, lovely, sleek, somehow perfectly waxed legs, where her tail had once been. “The witch’s curse is broken. Oh Hawk, I love you.” She threw her arms around his neck.

 

Hawk spun her around. “This will make sex less awkward.”

 

They had a picnic on the beach, made love, watched some Netflix, and for the first time in ages, Dropsy slept in a human bed. In the morning, they had breakfast and coffee, and he took her shopping—she bought the highest pair of stilettos she could find, and Hawk approved.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

You did it! You wrote a story. You built tension, created conflict, fleshed out your characters and gave them obstacles and motivations, dropped clues where the plot was heading, brought the hero up against the villain, and the big explosion happened. In the aftermath, you should wrap everything up with a nice tidy bow—and don’t be too long about it. Once the main conflict is resolved, anything beyond should consist of putting ducks in a row and tying up any loose ends. If you drag the story on for too long after the climax, it’s going to be just that…a drag. No one cares if your characters watched Netflix after defeating a Hell Witch.

 

The aftermath of the climactic moment—where hopefully, everything changed—is a place to either revel in victory and take a happy, cleansing breath, or weep and mourn what has been lost and survey the damage. Not every book has a happy ending of course, but it still must be a satisfying ending, which means it makes sense and something was resolved, even if not to everyone’s advantage. After the turning point things quiet down and start wrapping up. Make sure that’s what you do, and don’t dump more story in the reader’s lap than what they want at this point.

 

Give your characters legs and let them run into the sunset.

Zip It Up

 

EPILOGUETWO YEARS LATER

 

Dropsy stood on the golden sand next to the lake and admired the sunset, while rubbing her belly—hugely pregnant with her third child. Nearby, her beautiful son and daughter—Curdle and Rottweiler—played on the beach building a sandcastle. Their laughter was music to her ears. She couldn’t imagine a more perfect life. Hawk had cashed in all the stock from his feminine hygiene products company, sold off his remaining bucking broncos, and turned their cabin into a mansion. He bought her two Maseratis and built a second house just for the gorgeous wardrobe of designer clothes he’d bought her. Yes, she adored the simple, easy life of living rough in the wilderness with him, sustained only by their love and Swiss bank account.

 

Hawk stepped up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “What are you daydreaming about, my little Sea Princess?” He kept the same cute nickname for her. It reminded her that the dreadful past was over.

 

“Oh…just thinking about the babies.” She continued rubbing her tummy.

 

“Babies?” He looked over her shoulder at her. “There’s more than one? You’re having twins?” His voice went high-pitched. “Oh my God, we’re going to have to build a new wing on the house!” He grabbed her belly. “I love you, darling. Darlings.”

 

Dropsy giggled, joy bubbling out of her, the way water had once bubbled through her gills. “I couldn’t have asked for a happier ending.”

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

 

I don’t know. She’s somehow had three pregnancies in two years and her kids are also old enough to build sandcastles, so…maybe she still has mermaid magic and it got passed to her kids so they grow hyper fast? You decide!

Thank you for reading! I hope you learned something about writing, or at least had a laugh! Please check out my published works if you’d like to get a gander at my REAL writing!

 

Megan Morgan’s Website:

http://www.meganmorganauthor.com/

 

Megan Morgan’s blog, where this magic originally took place:

http://www.meganmorganauthor.com/blog/

 

 

THANK YOU!

 


Pandora's Tacklebox: The Worst Romance Novel Ever Written In 26 Days

Let me teach you how NOT to write a book... Billionaire Highlander cowboy Hawk MacHardcastle is tired of living the jetset life of champagne, bucking broncos, kilts, fast cars, and burning bundles of cash for warmth. Desperate to find meaning in his life, he retires to his family’s isolated cabin in the wilds of New Jersey, on the shores of majestic Lake Latrine. There, Hawk plans on self-reflection and pursuing the great love of his life—fishing. However, Hawk’s self-imposed loneliness comes to an end when he makes a most unusual companion and fishing buddy. Dropsy Velvet was once a young woman living on the shores of Lake Latrine with her settler family. However, a curse turned her into a mermaid and now she lives, sad and alone, in the depths of the lake. She hasn’t had human contact for close to fifty years, thanks to everyone either being terrified of her or thinking they’re drunk when they see her—but Hawk may be the connection to the world she’s been craving. Charmed by her innocent face, sparkling wit, and huge bare breasts, Hawk decides to help her find a way to lift the curse, as she will lift his: the curse of ennui and affluenza. But time is running out, for something sinister wants to flush Latrine away forever... ------- This book was originally a collection of blog posts that made up my theme for the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, which lasts 26 days and covers each letter of the alphabet. My hoped-for goal, gentle readers and writers, is to teach you how not to write a book. From awful dialog to awkward foreshadowing, cartoonish villains and even more cartoonish heroes, useless details, too many details, plot that goes nowhere, and metaphor-laced drivel, there will be something to offend even the most seasoned writer/agent/editor/beta reader/long-suffering friend of an author who thinks they’ve seen it all. Take notes, learn, discuss, and most importantly--laugh.

  • Author: Megan Morgan
  • Published: 2017-03-24 23:05:14
  • Words: 10930
Pandora's Tacklebox: The Worst Romance Novel Ever Written In 26 Days Pandora's Tacklebox: The Worst Romance Novel Ever Written In 26 Days