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The Art of Drama

I have a confession to make. A few of my favorite shows have broadcast their season finales, and I’m not too sure how I feel about them. I understand drama and conflict–throw the hero/heroine into a hornet’s nest and watch them react. Got it. Make their life miserable just when they thought they had it all figured out. Wonderful. Perfect.

Only this season on Revenge, they killed off one of my favorite characters, the guy Emily was dating and should have been able to spend the rest of her life with once she exacted her revenge on the Grayson family. She achieved her victory but lost her man in the process. OUCH. I’m not happy. Yes, it’s the perfect circle of revenge–Victoria loses her man, Emily loses hers–but I don’t like it. I’m a happy-ever-after kinda gal. Granted, I probably shouldn’t be watching this show for HEA gratification, but I can’t help it. I enjoy watching the drama for tips on my own writing. But killing my good guy? What’s the matter with writers? Have they no heart?

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My daughter has expressed similar outrage over Veronica Roth’s (I think it was her) killing of a main/popular character in one of her books. The author explained she did so for the express purpose of making readers FEEL the pain of death so as not to desensitize them (as so many are in today’s society), but still. I love her thinking, but don’t we read books for escape? For fantasy and fun and drama?

The Good Wife is another show that left me dangling with unease. Alicia and her law partner, Cary, are at odds over his betrayal. Their old senior partner, Diane, wants on board, and the Governor’s office wants Alicia as their new prosecutor. Great to have Diane on board–right after she turned down the same prosecutor job offer–but how is this going to work with Alicia and Cary at odds? I’m not having warm fuzzies. The betrayal is great for drama, but where’s the pleasure in having Diane on board with the new firm?

Sheesh. Maybe prime time dramas aren’t for me. Maybe I’m a lifetime specials kinda gal. I don’t know. I just find myself caught between a writer’s brain and a reader’s enjoyment. UGH.

Ever been here?


Finding your passion

photoFive years ago, when my daughter Isabella was not quite ten, she decided she wanted to give musical theater a try.

Appropriate, I remember thinking, for the worlds largest drama queen.

But after preaching to my kids that I don’t care what their passion is as long as they find it, I couldn’t say no. When Isabella came to me with hers, I had to put up or shut up, as they say. So I did a little research, found a local group about to hold tryouts, and signed her up. Two weeks and a couple hundred dollars later, it was a done deal. Isabella had snagged a part in MZ Stageworks‘ rendition of Aladdin.

That first musical, she was cast in the chorus. In the next chorus, too, as well as the next one and the next one. Still, even without lines or solos, she was determined to keep trying. Even though she watched new kids come in and get better parts. Even though she looked like she felt, especially in the beginning, incredibly uncomfortable and nervous up there on the stage. She simply refused to quit.

Much of her determination, I have to say, is because of the fabulous MZ staff. Miss Merrideth and her colleagues are so incredibly loving and encouraging, they turn what is so often a competitive and catty profession into a positive experience for these kids.

But my daughter is also a Swaak, which means when she sinks her teeth into something, you might want to back up. If you get in her way, things for you could get dicey.

This past December, though, Isabella surprised me. It wasn’t that she got a big part, or that she walked onto that stage and owned it. For me, the surprise came as soon as she opened her mouth and belted out her first line. The girl can sing. The girl can sing. Who knew? Apparently, not her mother.

But this mother has never been more proud.

Distractions…or…My Typical Morning…


I hear that sound too much lately, mostly in my own head.  The sound of time sliding by one tick at a time, while anxiety and too many shinies take precedence.

It’s early morning…early early morning.  I have 45 minutes before I have to get ready for work, so I want to be productive and start the day with some wordage.  I pull up my current manuscript in progress, and stare at the last sentence.  Yanno…that same one I stared at the night before.  It didn’t change.  Gremlins didn’t park themselves all cozy on my couch, pull the blanket up that the old lady dog pulled down, and work magic on my story overnight.  They also, by the way, did not clean the bathroom, wipe down the kitchen, or run a load of laundry, but I think they might have had a frat party in my daughter’s room.  Damn lazy gremlins.

So anyway, that sentence is still there, and the cursor is blinking at me, waiting for brilliant inspiration.  Inspiration that clearly hasn’t awakened yet, so I take a swallow of coffee and click over to Twitter for a minute.  Just a minute.  Just to see what the other coffee-swilling-half-awake people are doing.  I see that my agent was up at 3:30 in the morning, spouting brilliance and retweeting important information.  I marvel that anyone thinks that clearly at that time of–um–day.  Oh, and there’s a friend of mine who debuted a few months before me, linking to her perfectly organized blog and those of fifty of her closest friends, before she sits down to write all day and knock out ten books this year.  Okay, maybe that’s a bit over the top.  But she’s awesome and my hero, seriously.  I want to be her. So I click over to her website and check out her latest updates, notice a great idea that I want to incorporate on my site.  Actually, I saw this same idea done on another author’s site the other day, so I go there as well.  Yep, there it is.  I like how she’s done it a little better, so I make a note of it, and then go to my own website. 

My first reaction is the familiar one of disgust, as there are so many things I need to update.  It’s Wednesday and I didn’t get a chance to pre-write and post anything the night before, because I was taking my daughter to get the oil changed in her car and then stopping to get greasy fried chicken for dinner to comfort myself over the speeding ticket I got on the way home from work…but that’s yesterday’s drama, so I get back to my website.  I check the clock, and grimace that twenty minutes have passed, and I really don’t have time to deal with the updates right now.  I’ll do that tonight, when I get home, after I’ve cooked something–which is a good question–what am I cooking tonight?  My daughter has an appointment, and–   Anyway.  I’ll write the post when I get to work, and post it from my phone.  Yeah–there will be time for that.

So I click back over to the manuscript.  There is a good scene going, so why can’t I see what’s next?  Why am I stuck with these two people talking at a table, it should be funny, it should flow.  Why aren’t they working with me?  Maybe I’ll go back and read a little.  Or work on the first pass pages from my November release, that my publisher sent me.  No, that’s a long-term duty, and I only have–I look at the clock on the side table–fifteen more minutes.

I click back over to Twitter, and see someone’s link to their Facebook page, which I click on, knowing in the back of my mind I shouldn’t.  It’s another author friend, talking about getting ready for RWA National Conference, which is in a week, and I’m going too.  I read about her preparation, and think about my own scarce wardrobe and what I’m bringing for my signing table, and wonder if it is enough.  I wonder if I should hook up with other authors and do something fun for the Literacy Signing.  I wonder if I should do a newsletter drawing.  I wonder if my crazy local airport will keep from screwing up my luggage.  I think about the promo items in my closet and wonder how I’m going to get all that packed in with my clothes so it isn’t a nightmare at the airport.  I make a mental note to add some things to my ever growing RWA list of things to do, and then remember that I really wanted to have a certain word count done on this manuscript before having breakfast with my editor at the conference next Friday. 

Deep sigh.  I click back over to my manuscript.  I type in a sentence, then backspace it away.  I type in a different sentence, and hit Save.  Because I’ve looked at the clock again, and I have three minutes left. 

Time to get ready for the day job.  I’ll go pour another cup of coffee.  It will be better tonight.  After whatever I cook and laundry and pulling out those promo items.  The words will be there tonight.

Like watching a train wreck…

Ever have one of those days when you look back and think… “Nope, that wasn’t the plan…”  ??

Yeah, well, yesterday was one of those for me.   And why this is going to be short, today.  But it got me thinking…as much as I hate that in real life, it’s what I look for in books.  I mean, who wants to read something where everything goes easy and all is hunky dory?  How boring, right?

We want conflict…we want drama…we want everything to fall apart and for the characters to lose hope temporarily, so that there is somewhere for them to go.  Personally, it’s hard for me to give my characters conflict, because I want them to be happy, but I know I have to throw boulders at them for them to grow.

So what are some of your favorite story conflicts in books you’ve read?  Share some of your favorite scenes!

One of mine is an oldie.  In IF TOMORROW COMES by Sidney Sheldon (1985) the mc is framed and in one morning an ordinary happy newly engaged woman, is sent to prison and ends up learning a life of grifting and thievery to fight back against the people who framed her.


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