Notes from a Drama Queen


Sunday, January 15, 2012

This is the third in a series of Three Goddess Chats, brought to you by Krissie (aka Anne Stuart and Kristina Douglas), Lucy (Lucy March aka Lani Diane Rich), and Jenny (Jenny Crusie), who meet in a chat-room called ThreeGoddesses to talk about everything. Lucy and Jenny tend to write heroine-centered books (heroine as protagonist) like Lucy’s newest book, A Little Night Magic, in stores on January 31, while Krissie tends to go for hero-centered books, as in new series about fallen angels, The Fallen (Raziel, Demon, and Warrior, out in April 2012). So once again we got together in our Three Goddesses chat room to talk about what we know about heroines, heroes, and protagonists in general. First up: Heroines.

Jenny: What do you think is essential in a heroine?

Krissie: Hmmm. Heroines need to have an inner strength. Can't be a dishrag. They need a certain bravery in facing life without being foolhardy or TSTL.

Jenny: Mine have to have a good sense of humor. They may be doing everything wrong, but they know how to cope with the world with humor. That's really important to me because I think it's a sign of emotional health.

Krissie: For my heroines, I need a certain amount of vulnerability as well. Some people think I go overboard with that, but it mirrors my own, and it's what I identify with. I think if you're vulnerable then being brave is even more of a risk.

Lani: For me, the heroine needs to be someone I want to spend time with. Usually, that means smart, funny, and with some variety of flaws or weaknesses that make her interesting. Depends on the story what those might be. I think all protagonists need vulnerability.

Jenny: So smart, vulnerable, fun to be with, good sense of humor? I think you're right on the vulnerability. That's what makes us attach to them, I think.

Krissie: And brave. Not just brave enough to face the villains, but brave enough to face the hero.

Lani: And brave enough to face herself. It's fun to give the heroine something to arc from, so that when she transforms, we're rooting for her.

Jenny: Pro-active. Not waiting to be rescued.

Lani: I like an active heroine; someone who's willing to go after what she wants, instead of being reactive and passive.

Krissie: Oh, yes. She's got to be able to rescue herself or at least work with the hero to rescue her.

Jenny: Flawed so she can grow, then.

Lani: Right; characters interest me in general via their flaws.

Krissie: Flaws are interesting. I may respond to their yearnings. What they secretly long for and think they can't have.

Jenny: I think there has to be a kind of charm to their personalities, too. Something larger than life.

Krissie: Yes, charm is good. But charm is an interesting trait. My current hero is charming, which is very dangerous. Charm can be deceptive. I'm charming, but deeply flawed.

Jenny: Maybe charm isn't what I mean. She has to be interesting. Not just because of what's happening to her but because of how she reacts and handles it.

Krissie: Yes, interesting. She has to have something that people respond to.

Lani: I love an awkward heroine; one who hasn't quite grown into herself yet. The core is there, but she needs to grow into it. I'm a sucker for growth, for a transformation story. I love those.

Jenny: Absolutely. That character arc is key.

Krissie: And warmth, maybe. I think people tend to respond to smart, brave, vulnerable people.

Jenny: Who make mistakes.

Krissie: Amen.

Jenny: I think she has to have gotten herself into the mess she's in. No getting hit by a plot bus.

Lani: I think a certain level of kindness is necessary. Maybe not kindness, but fairness; she can be a bitch, but not to people who don't deserve it.

Jenny: Yes. She has to be mentally healthy, which means no bullying, no making fun of people, etc.

Krissie: Mistakes are interesting. They're really interesting and necessary, but if they're too major I can't read a book. If the heroine has screwed things up so badly it can make me a little crazy.

Jenny: Right. Not learning is not attractive. I watched Morning Glory again last night. She screws up her relationship three times, but each time she goes back and says, "I screwed this up." And it's never the same mistake.

Lani: I think mistakes are great, but you have to understand why they do it, and yes - that they're not making the same mistake over and over again. A fumbling heroine can be fun and charming.

Krissie: Anyway, heroines who keep misunderstanding and making the same stupid mistakes drive me crazy. I like a heroine who betrays the hero at some point, and vice versa.

Jenny: I don't think I can do the betrayal thing. Betraying somebody you love is a huge red flag for me.

Krissie: Well, by betrayal I mean thinking the worst of the hero. Rejecting him instead of waiting to hear his side of the story. You'd write that, wouldn't you? Your heroines get righteously pissed and just turn off. That's a kind of betrayal to me.

Jenny: Isn't that a Big Misunderstanding?

Lani: In an early part of a story, as part of an arc, if it demonstrates her inability to trust, I see it less as a betrayal and more as a mistake, which is part of the arc.

Jenny: I don't know.

Lani: I think cold betrayal is a kind of tough sell.

Jenny: I do understand not telling the hero everything in the beginning. He's a stranger. Especially if he's given her reason not to trust him.

Lani: It's part of being the person she used to be, instead of the better, stronger person she's going to become.

Krissie: My favorite betrayal is in Nine Coaches Waiting. The heroine is hiding out with the endangered kid, and she hears the hero (son of the bad guy) calling for her and she doesn't say anything. If it was just her she would have gone to him, but she couldn't risk the kid. And the hero accepts that. The readers accept it.

Jenny: I accepted that. I think trust is part of the relationship arc, but she's not being snitty, she's protecting somebody.

Lani: I think stuff like that is forgivable early in the story, before she's learned what she needs to learn. I think betrayal is a strong word for it; she just doesn't trust him yet, and she makes a choice.

Jenny: Yeah, it's not like she said, "He's in the attic."

Lani: Betrayal is when you have someone's trust, and you break that trust. Tough to write in a heroine.

Jenny: Absolutely.

Krissie: In romantic suspense, you quite often think the hero is one of the bad guys. And a frequent Dark Moment is when she goes with the real bad guy, not trusting the hero and even given the real bad guy important information. Happens a lot in romantic suspense. Might even be a key element.

Jenny: Yes. You're right, Krissie. The Gothic is about being surrounded by men you can't trust, the whole patriarchy thing. And there's a strong Gothic element to everything you do.

Lani: Although in the third act, going with the bad guy instead of the hero... that might be betrayal. :)

Krissie: No, I'm talking 3/4 through the book and being manipulated into believing the hero is the bad guy out to kill her. And instead she'll tell the bad cop or bad spy where the hero is, thinking she's saving the world even though it breaks her heart.

Lani: I think in certain contexts, that can absolutely work. But it bugs me, I have to admit. At a certain point, I want them working together.

Krissie: Well, you know, I'm basically a gothic writer.

Lani: But you write such wonderful conflict in your romances, Krissie, and I've seen you do that and make it work.

Jenny: I think if she doesn't trust the hero 3/4 in, the relationship isn't working. (Duh.) By the halfway point in my stuff, I need them working together so that the reader sees that the relationship will last. Plus it makes the bond stronger.

Krissie: Whereas for me if they're working together well then the story is pretty much over. I write really tormented relationships.

Lani: Well, when Buffy stakes Angel at the end of Season 2, it breaks her heart, but it's what she has to do. That kind of choice is heartbreaking for her as well as him, and can be incredibly powerful.

Jenny: Yes, but Buffy isn't making a mistake. She has to do that. It's not that she doesn't trust Angel when he comes back, she does. It's a sacrifice, not a betrayal.

Krissie: Okay, I write betrayal, you guys don't. But I write harder-edged books. Most of my heroes are killers. None of your heroes are.

Jenny: Shane was a killer. Vince in Lavender's Blue was once a sniper.

Krissie: Oh, of course. But you know, they were sort of Bob's characters. I was thinking of your books in particular. But you're right.

Krissie: And yes on the Buffy scene. That's perfect.

Jenny: It's really not about the hero being a killer. It's about the heroine making the mistake. If she knows he's a killer and that makes her not trust him completely, that's not a betrayal or a mistake, that's being smart.

Lani: Well, with Buffy, it's not betrayal; she's forced to choose between her love and The Right Thing. That can be very powerful. Depends on how you define betrayal.

Krissie: But wouldn't Angel have considered it a betrayal until he finds out why she did it?

Jenny: That's not the point. The point is, did she betray him? And she didn't. So the reader doesn't think, "You, bitch!" She thinks, "Jesus, what a terrible choice, but you had to do it, Buffy." It's not about what the hero thinks. It's about what the reader thinks.

Krissie: Maybe I mean something that could look like betrayal to the hero. There needs to be a dark moment, a point where you think the hero and heroine can never get together.

Lani: Yes, I think so. It's making your heroine choose between two things she really wants, and that was incredibly powerful. And it is betrayal, actually; I take back what I said before. It's just justified. It's not petty betrayal. I think if the person I loved killed me, I 'd see it as betrayal, even if it was to save the world.

Jenny: If the reader thinks it's a sacrifice, she'll mourn with the heroine. If she thinks it's a betrayal, she'll cut the heroine loose. I did that with Cordelia. What she did was just too much a betrayal of Angel.

Lani: No, but betrayal is breaking the trust someone has in you. Angel trusted Buffy completely. And had no idea what the hell was going on. So, yes, I think there's a way to write betrayal that doesn't make someone a bad guy, especially if it hurts her as much as it hurts him.

Jenny: I still don't see it as betrayal.

Krissie: That's okay, let's move on.

Lani: I think it gets into semantics at a certain point; what we see as betrayal or not. If betrayal is always a bad thing.

Jenny Pasted from the dictionary:

betray |biˈtrā| verb [ trans. ] be disloyal to : his friends were shocked when he betrayed them. • be disloyal to (one's country, organization, or ideology) by acting in the interests of an enemy : he could betray his country for the sake of communism. • treacherously inform an enemy of the existence or location of (a person or organization) : this group was betrayed by an informer. • treacherously reveal (secrets or information) : many of those employed by diplomats betrayed secrets and sold classified documents. • figurative reveal the presence of; be evidence of : she drew a deep breath that betrayed her indignation.

See? Not betrayal.

Lani: To be disloyal. It's disloyal to kill the man you love, even if you're doing it for a good reason. Betrayal. It's just betrayal with a really good reason.

Jenny: No, it's not disloyal if what you're doing is what he'd do, too. And you know Angel would sacrifice himself to save the world. But basically, our ideas of “betrayal” aren’t the same. For Krissie, a heroine who doesn't trust the hero is betraying him, right? And for me, a heroine who doesn't trust the hero is probably being smart.

Krissie: If it's after a point where she trusted him, yes. In the beginning of course she doesn't trust him.

Lani: If he's given her a good reason not to trust him, that's his fault.

Jenny: And given that Krissie's heroes are all killers, it is not dumb not to trust them.

Krissie: Hold on -- I'm gonna find my handout about heroines.

Jenny: Especially if he's started the book trying to kill her.

Krissie: So true. If you think the man you love is gonna kill you, it makes sense to take off. Which mine often do.

Lani: This is true. I think it's something that works better in the types of books that Krissie writes, whereas for me, my heroines trust my heroes pretty early on. I like the working-together dynamic, that's fun for me.

Jenny: So it really comes down to, does the reader think she's right to still not trust, or is she rolling her eyes and saying, "oh, COME ON." And I think a guy who's tried to kill you doesn't get a lot of trust for a good space of time.

Lani: Well, he definitely has to earn that trust. But in that case, I wouldn't define it as betrayal.

Jenny: It's really the opposite of the Too Dumb To Live heroine who goes off with the serial killer. It's the Too Smart To Love heroine. And since we want our heroines to love, the question is really, at what point should she be trusting him? And that's gonna depend on the heroine, the hero, and the story.

Absolutely on the Too Smart to Love. My Heroine Handout:


Jenny: That's interesting. That's all heroine as defined by hero which makes sense since you write hero-centered books.

Krissie: Yup. Well, in the handout I started with the hero and this mirrored it.

Jenny: Mine would be something like, What does she want? What does she need? What is she afraid of? That kind of thing.

Krissie: And that's crucial, excellent stuff. Necessary.

Jenny: Because the "Is she an antagonist" in my stories would be an automatic "no" because she's the protagonist. But in your stories, the hero is the protagonist, so that's a damn good question.

Lani: Mine start with who she is. What are her strengths? What are her weaknesses? What really matters to her? Where is she vulnerable?

Krissie: I was talking about Dark Contemporaries, which for me are very much hero-centered most of the time.

Jenny: Your dark contemporaries are. Twilight isn't.

Krissie: Yes, it is.

Jenny: The thing is, my heroines show up in my head and that's where I start. So a lot of this stuff comes with the package. Although usually not "What does she want?"

Lani: We haven't talked about the heroine’s looks, which I think is a big thing in romantic fiction.

Jenny: I try not to describe my characters.

Lani: I tend not to; beauty isn't usually a thing, but in a lot of romantic fiction, her physical appearance is really important. It's sometimes trite to say how breathtakingly beautiful she is; I love me an awkward heroine.

Jenny: I'm not sure physical appearance is important.

Krissie: I've written the occasional beautiful heroine where the actually beauty was a flaw and a curse.

Lani: Right now, part of my current heroine's thing is that she's breathtakingly beautiful, but she doesn't value it at all, although it's the first thing other people see in her. She wears shit-kickers and men's jeans and baggy shirts. Beautiful doesn't get the rent paid.

Jenny: I think the heroine is a placeholder for a lot of readers, so I'm leery of too much description.

Krissie: I agree. And most of it is from her POV so we shouldn't hear a lot of description.

Jenny: I think if there's something in her description that affects people around her, then yeah, you have to mention it. Like Paul Newman's eyes.

Krissie: It is fun to write a classically beautiful heroine. It's really a loaded situation.

Lani: I don't describe any more than necessary, but I find that readers like to have some bit of anchoring in who the character is, physically.

Krissie: I like having one clear physical trait. I read a Judith Krantz book once, and it was interesting. It was as if she wrote her characters in heavy crayon rather than a pen -- but they were very clear and vivid. Have you ever written a very beautiful heroine, Crusie? The kind men fall all over? I'm forgetting but I think you have.

Jenny: My first two, because I was still getting the hang of it. But I had the second one in her thirties and conscious she was aging. And when I write Nadine, I'm stuck with beautiful because she was gorgeous at fifteen. So I will then.

Lani: That's what happened with Stacy. She was Liv's best friend, and Liv was really conscious of her own physical awkwardness, so Stacy became a foil. Now I'm dealing with that from Stacy's POV, and it's interesting. I think that how they deal with the physical hand they were dealt tells you a lot about who they are as people, and becomes another branch of characterization.

Jenny: I'm more likely to say a heroine wears odd clothes, like Stacy, or has out of control hair, something that's reflective of character rather than biology. I'm also more likely to write a heroine who has something that drives the hero crazy. Some bounce to her step or whatever. I liked that about Andie, that North heard "Layla" whenever she walked by him.

Krissie: Did he hear the slow version or the fast version of Layla?

Jenny: He heard the fast version when he met her when they were young, but when she came back, he heard the slow.

Krissie: Ah. Lust. Yes, I love that. If something unexpected about the heroine gets him incredibly hot and bothered when he doesn't want to be.

Jenny: I love that "Oh, hell, not you" from a very rational, competent hero who just can't resist her. And it's not because she's beautiful or possibly even sexy. It's because it's her.

Krissie: Well, yeah. He can't fall in love with her nose or her hair or whatever. It's what she does with it.

Lani: The classic beauty that's just beautiful because it's the fantasy isn't that interesting to me.

Jenny: So getting that heroine on the page so the reader says, "Hell, yes, it's her, you dumbass" is really important. It makes it so much more powerful that she's not his type or whatever but there she is. And you have to get that on the page, so the reader sees it, too.

Krissie: Damn, me, too (The Oh-hell-not-you). That's one thing (among many) that I loved in Love Actually. When Hugh Grant sees the plump (ha!) secretary

Jenny: I love that, too. She's so wrong for him and yet, there she is.

Lani: Yes, she's a size six. That's Hollywood for fat girl. Oy.

Jenny: But the thing is, you can see it, too. She's just so there and you think, "Of course he's crazy about her." You have to get that on the page so the reader sees it, too. So let's get down to examples. Give me a heroine and tell me how you built her. Krissie?

Krissie: Martha. She showed up in the previous book as the Seer, the visionary, whose visions are never quite right.

Jenny: Love that. Talk about a flaw.

Krissie:I almost changed her name because Martha sounded middle aged and plump.

Jenny: Oh, I like names that work against type. I think Martha is great.

Lani: Me, too. I love unexpected names.

Krissie: But I started with her being a widow. I had to listen to the rules of the world I built. And I made her come from an abusive childhood with a prostitute mother. Where she took care of everyone.

Jenny: (typing at the same time) Plus the name "Martha" carries baggage with it, the one who takes care of everybody else. Oh. There you go.

Krissie: And now she's in Sheol and safe and she doesn't want to leave. She wants to stay safe and untouched, and then this utterly charming bad boy shows up

Jenny: Oh, I love this stuff, forced out of a safe world.

Krissie: And yes, I wrote her as a contrast to the hero, who drives the story and who's name is the title (Rebel).

Lani: Ooooh, nice. Martha and Rebel. That alone says a lot.

Jenny: Right. Normally I'd say, "Wait a minute, negative goal," but she's not the protagonist. Who’s the heroine in Warrior?

Krissie: The Roman Goddess of war. I didn't want to call her Bellona because that sounded like Bologna so I called her Victoria Bellona and people called her Tory.

Jenny: My Bologna has a second name, it's Victoria. Sorry. Go on. Names are really, really important.

Krissie: It's about Michael, the archangel in charge of battle. And he's told he has to go find the Roman Goddess of War and marry her and drink her blood or they'll be killed by the Armies of Heaven. Just your usual Marriage of Convenience.

Jenny: I hate a standard plot like that, you know what's going to happen (g).

Krissie: Tory doesn't even know who she is. Which makes it interesting. But she's also basically a prisoner in a tower, and he flies her out of there so she's willing to adjust (a bit).

Jenny: Lady of Shalott. You have a ton of references here.

Lani: LOL, really. That's wonderful, how he breaks her world wide open.

Krissie: Though it takes her a while to let him drink her blood. But then, that's part of the whole arc in a vampire book.

Jenny: Well, that makes sense. It would take me awhile to let somebody drink my blood, too. Like, FOREVER.

Krissie: When to do you let them drink from you? And when do you return the favor? It's interesting.

Lani: Again, there's that trust thing. It takes a lot to trust a man who wants to drink your blood.

Jenny: This is why I'm still single. Let alone wants you to drink his. There's a limit to the fluids I'll swap.

Lani: Stick to your guns, Crusie.

Krissie: And the blood is of course a life essence. To give that, to take it into your body, is very powerful. Much more powerful than semen.

Lani: Well, yes. Although semen is pretty powerful too.

Jenny: Makes babies.

Krissie: Yes. And the swallowing part can get to be a major level of trust in a sexual arc. I use that sparingly.

Jenny: Good conflict.

Krissie: You betcha. Conflict is vital. Without conflict there's no book. In my books, it's usually the hero who's in trouble and breaks into the heroine's relatively safe but untouched life. As in untouched by the power of sex and men and love. They can come from hellish backgrounds, and usually do. Parental betrayal R Us.

Lani: The virginal heroine. That's a big thing for you, Krissie, and you do it so well.

Jenny: Intersting use of the word "hellish" in this context. Seriously. It really makes sense that these books are hero-centered; the heroes are the ones with the problems.

Krissie: Not always, of course. But more often than not, particuarly in my paranormals and contemporaries. Historicals are a bit different. Women can get into a lot more trouble in a historical. In fact, thinking back, all my heroines are in trouble in the historical. The hero, of course, makes the trouble worse before he makes it better.

Jenny: Don't they always? "I was doing just fine and then came you."

Krissie: Lots of fun.

Lani: What's the big draw of the virginal heroine for you?

Jenny: The virginal heroine gives you a massive plot arc.

Lani: Krissie, are you saying you're less likely to write a virginal heroine in a historical? Interesting; I would think it would be the other way around.

Krissie: No, I'm more likely. In the Rohan books one of the four was a virgin, though.

Lani: Oh, that makes sense. I got confused. :)

Krissie: Again, a lot of that comes from the rotten background that even my historical heroines have.

Jenny: So, Lucy, tell us about Liv from A Little Night Magic.

Lani: Liv was a fun character to write, because she's smart and funny but insecure and a little awkward.

Jenny: She's all of that on the first page, too. I loved her right away. And I'm a hard sell.

Lani: She's a bit overweight, and on her own; her father was never around, and her mother died a few years back. Her entire world is this small town, Nodaway Falls. So I immediately put that in danger, gave her magical powers she couldn't figure out, and made it her job to save the town.

Jenny: I love that. That she has to save her community.

Krissie: (Typing at the same time) I love that. GMTA

Jenny: And that they look to her. That's such powerful characterization, that other people depend on her.

Krissie: Oh, my yes.

Lani: I love writing small towns, and the communities that form there. The microcosm of that was Liv's three best friends, which were basically her family.

Jenny: Peach, Stacy Easter, and . . . Millie?

Lani: Yep. And when Millie gets into trouble with the magic, it ratchets everything up another notch, because Millie's so important to her.

Krissie: Not meaning to interrupt, but that's another way I write differently from you guys. My heroines seldom have a posse. They're on their own. We could talk about that later.

Jenny: That's a good point.

Lani: That's really interesting; my heroines are almost always based in community.

Jenny: Yours move from solitude to a pair bond, Krissie. Lani's start with a community and their arc is growing in strength to protect it. Liv does anyway.

Lani: Sometimes they're alone at the beginning, but they move toward community, not away. Or drawing strength from the community to do what they need to do.

Jenny: Although Liv gains a whole new supernatural community, so there's that.

Lani: In my books, the people they need are either there already or show up pretty fast. Yeah, with Liv it's a big change, from being a drab waffle-house waitress, to being the magic goddess who has to save the world.

Krissie: Yes, mine pretty much have to be alone because they're almost always woman in jeopardy.

Jenny: Mine usually start either isolated or supporting people who are dragging her down.

Krissie: Yes, they do, don't they. I love that.

Jenny: But Liv in ALNM has to start with community because that's her MacGuffin. No community, no motivation. I think it might be more than that, though. I can't imagine Liv not drawing people to her.

Lani: For Liv, that's the thing. She's about to give up her community because she can't get out of her rut, but then when it is in danger, she knows it's the most important thing to her, and that motivates her to challenge herself and win the fight. Liv's a people person, definitely.

Jenny: It isn't that she chooses to join a community, it's that who she is means a community will form around her. I think. It isn't in her character to be alone.

Krissie: That's a lovely idea. A community forming around the heroine. though not if everyone's dependent on her. They aren't, are they?

Lani: Liv's community is definitely a support. They need her to lead the charge, but they charge right along with her, which is what I love about them. She's not big on confidence, though, and she is a bit awkward, which I like. It's part of her vulnerability.

Jenny: I like her vulnerability. It never goes over into TDTL. She's in way over her head, which is another thing I like about heroines. This is not stuff they can handle as they are at the beginning. Liv's a great example of that.

Lani: I like heroines that are challenged.

Krissie: I love audio books.

Jenny: I like Sharpies. Sorry. Just wanted to contribute.

Krissie: Sharpies? the pen or smart women?

Jenny: Both.

I like the new ultra-fine sharpies. So nice.

Lani: So, what about you, Jenny? Liz is a great character. How'd she form?

Jenny: Wait, what about Stacy?

Krissie: Harpies are interesting too, as supporting characters.

Lani: Oh, the ultra-fine Sharpies are awesome. All sharpies are awesome.

Jenny: I'm sorry I mentioned the Sharpies. So Stacy.

Lani: So, Liz. :)

Jenny: I adore Stacy Easter. She's a great heroine.

Lani: Yes, she is. With a great name. Stacy Easter.

Krissie: Are you feeling vulnerable about Stacy? It's okay if you don't want to talk about her. I love what I've read, though.

Lani: I'm feeling vulnerable about the book in general. I'm sure it's the crappest thing I've ever written. Which is how I feel about every book at this stage, so... it's probably okay. :)

Jenny: Yeah, that's normal. It's a fabulous book, though, the stuff I've read.

Lani: Okay. So. LIZ.

Jenny: LIZ. From Lavender's Blue. Liz is tricky because she has a four-book arc.

Lani: Which I love, but yeah - that's got to be tough.

Jenny: She was fairly easy to get a voice for because it's first person, so she's using my voice.

Lani: Also - mysteries, which is an interesting new sandbox for you. Which is wonderful.

Jenny: Yeah, except I keep losing the body in the sand.

Lani: Will we get One in Vermillion? Because I really need that book, just for the title.

Krissie: Oh, god, I love that!

Jenny: Not until I've written Lavender's Blue, Rest in Pink, Peaches and Screams, and Yellow Brick Road Kill. I have a feeling that'll be it for Liz.

Krissie: Have you written first person before? It really makes a difference.

Jenny: In short stories. I gave Liz my voice because I can't do first person for long stretches in any other voice, and I gave her my home town and my antipathy for it and then I stranded her there.

Lani: Well, how is Liz working out for you as a heroine? The first-person switch is interesting. Does that change the way you approach your heroine? I love her in the hometown, the reluctant prodigal daughter.

Jenny: First person is hell for sex scenes, and it definitely changes my approach to my heroine. I'm in her head all the time, so it makes the story a lot more immediate.

Krissie: But you can't have any scenes in the hero's POV. That's limiting. Challenging.

Jenny: I like just the heroine’s POV. I'm not very good at male POV which was why Bob was so great to write with. Using just the heroine's POV focuses the book. The basis for the opening is the old "Give your heroine her worst nightmare" bit. She's trapped in Burney, and it's as though fifteen years haven't passed, everybody's still expecting her to fix things for them. And her family is still insane.

Lani: A crazy family is always fun.

Jenny: She has a bunch of unresolved baggage because she left town/ran away three weeks before she graduated from high school and there are some people who are still upset about that. Plus she never really addressed the reasons she was running away.

Lani: That's wonderful; she needs to come home to grow up and face it all.

Krissie: Does she arc into accepting her home town? You haven't.

Jenny: Yes, across the four books, she accepts the home town.

Krissie: Bad insane or cute insane like Faking It?

Jenny: Both. Her mother has a bear collection. 700 of them. So there's that. And her aunt still thinks she's the anti-Christ, so there's that. And her cousin/best friend and she still haven't talked about what happened that made her leave town, so there's that. And the love of her life is marrying the wrong woman, so there's that. So a variety of insane.

Krissie: That's a lot of trouble.

Jenny: That's the first book. Part of it. She has more trouble than that.

Lani: Is Cash the love of her life? Does she still carry a torch?

Jenny: She still carries a reluctant torch. So does he.

Krissie: Ew. really?

Jenny: That arcs over the four books, too.

Lani: It's what shows you your heroine; give her as much trouble as possible and see how she handles it.

Krissie: Oh, absolutely. And keep throwing things at her. Cash sounds so gross.

Jenny: It's okay, she's got Vince the cop. The only sane person in town.

Lani: Vince is definitely a stabilizer.

Jenny: The key is to make sure that everything that happens, happens because Liz does something.

Krissie: Yup, that's major.

Lani: Keeping her active rather than reactive in an insane world.

Jenny: Right. She can't just get hit by the plot bus. The harder she pushes, the harder the antagonist pushes back. And tries to kill her.

Krissie: I really don't write women-centered books, do I?

Lani: No, you don't. But you are loved world-wide for your heroes, so I think it's working for you.

Jenny: Nope, you don't, Krissie. I think it's because you like the Gothic stuff so much, and Gothic heroines are so often victims.

Krissie: Yes, but I like challenges. Maybe I'll write a woman-centered book. But I can't with the angels since there are no women angels, which pisses off the women in the book. They're not victims, but someone's trying to victimize them. If they're victims then they're weak and need to be rescued. I need them to rescue themselves. Or willingly walk the plank if they think the hero will kill them

Jenny: I like the "I'm sick of this shit, so get out of my way" heroines who get hit with something and turn around and take out a village. I may have some issues.

Lani: Hey, better to work out your issues in fiction than actually taking out a whole city block.

Krissie: Hey, that's why we write. My therapist said that once. I took my childhood coping mechanism, telling myself stories, and turned it into a career. Where I can work out things (like parental betrayal).

Lani: Like crazy mothers. For me.

Jenny: Liz isn't angry like Agnes. (God, I loved writing Agnes.) She's angry but she's very controlled. So when she finally goes up in flames in the last act, it's cathartic. I hope.

Lani: It will be. What I've read has been amazing.

Jenny: Krissie, I agree absolutely on rescuing themselves. Although oddly enough, Liz needs help at the end.

Lani: Well, that's good. She's a loner in the beginning, so moving her from loner to community is a good thing.

Jenny: I think I'm okay with that, though, because she rescues everybody else in the damn book, so the fact that she accepts help and lets somebody else save her at the end is part of character growth. I think.

Krissie: I think the heroine has to need help. The point is, she needs to connect with someone. Accepting help is major.

Jenny: She still leaves town at the end, though. She's made her peace and made a lot of discoveries but she still leaves.

Lani: Until they draw her back.

Jenny: It takes her four books to really join the community.

Lani: I love that over the series. It's going to be amazing.

Krissie: Will the second book come out right on the heels of the first? Because readers need to know that she hasn't turned her back on that world and the hero. If there's a wait between them then you need the first chapter of the second book.

Jenny: She says she'll be back in August because that's when the fair is and the little girl she's bonded to asks her to come back for that. But she actually comes back in June because she misses Vince.

Krissie: Oh, that should cover it.

Lani: Which will be a lovely start for the next book.

Krissie: Though a teaser chapter wouldn't hurt. Or just some way to know that the story is going to continue and that it's not Liz's adventures in the wide world.

Jenny It's in the last scene that she's coming back. And yeah, the first chapter of the next book, too. The problem is that it takes me ages to write a book. So bringing them out close together probably isn't possible unless SMP holds onto the book for a couple of years.

Lani: Well, once you've got the major world-building done, which is where you are, they might come a little faster.

Jenny: Of course in the first chapter of Rest in Pink, she goes back to Vince and finds him in bed with somebody else. Which is fair because they had no understanding and she didn't tell him she was coming.

Lani: I love that.

Krissie: Well, as long as they know more is coming. It seems to me, though, that if you know your characters that well, then the next books will come faster. You're not starting from scratch. You have your internal and external conflicts already set up. You don't have to create them.

Jenny: From your mouth to God's ear, Krissie. It's been interesting looking at the repeating motifs in Liz's character throughout the four books. In the first one, she basically lives in her car and whatever hotels and motels she finds along the way. But in the second one, she's been stuck with an RV, and it's a first step in settling down. I love using physical things to characterize a heroine. She gets a dog, too. Veronica.

Krissie: LOL. Had to give her a rough one, eh?

Lani: Veronica! I'm so glad Veronica gets a book. She's such a fun dog, too.

Jenny: Veronica is neurotic as hell. Which is good for Liz.

Krissie: Yeah, but she's got a lot of attitude. She's not a cuddle bunny like Milton or Lyle.

Jenny: Well, neither is Liz. Veronica has personality.

Krissie: Indeed. I love her.

Jenny: They're good together. Same with the little girl, Peri. Not a cute, cuddly kid. Child of an alcoholic. Father's dead. She's Liz's doppelganger, so I can do a lot of stuff there.

Lani: It's going to be a fabulous series.

Jenny: God knows I've put in enough time structuring the damn thing.

Lani: Peri's awesome. The whole cast is really great. I love Liz's push-pull with them. Yeah, but it's going to pay off. That's why your books are so good; you put so much into them to make them work. And mysteries are so tough.

Jenny: Heroines are so essential for you and me. But for Krissie, it's the hero. So let's talk about heroes. Nice segue, huh?

Lani Very nice.

To be continued tomorrow. . .

Lucy March’s A Little Night Magic will be out from St. Martin’s Press on January 31, 2012.

Kristina Douglas's Raziel and Demon are out now;Warrior will be out in April 2012.

Jenny Crusie’s You Again and Lavender’s Blue will be out from St. Martin’s Press a year after she finishes them; when is anybody’s guess.

Supernatural Chat with Crusie and Rich

Sunday, January 08, 2012

This is the second in a series of Three Goddess Chats, brought to you by Krissie (aka Anne Stuart and Kristina Douglas), Lucy (Lucy March aka Lani Diane Rich), and Jenny (Jenny Crusie), who meet in a chat-room called ThreeGoddesses to talk about everything. Krissie has been writing supernatural romances for a long time, and now as Kristina Douglas she’s started a new series about fallen angels, The Fallen (Raziel, Demon, and Warrior, out in April 2012). Jenny came to the supernatural late with The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes (written with Krissie and Eileen Dreyer) and Dogs and Goddesses (written with Krissie and Lucy) and Wild Ride (written with Bob Mayer). Lucy’s newest book is also a supernatural romance: A Little Night Magic, in stores on January 31. This time, we got together in our Three Goddesses chat room to talk about what we’ve learned writing the things that go bump in the night. The chat has been heavily edited to cut out excursions into TV criticism, moaning about the business, and a short argument we had about French Kiss, but otherwise, this is what we said:

[Lucy and Jenny got to the chat first, so we started without Krissie]
Jenny:. So, Lucy March, what made you decide to write supernatural in A Little Night Magic?

Lucy: I wanted to stretch out, work in that fantasy space. I felt like I was treading the same water writing what I was writing. I wanted to write a first person series, with Liv as the protagonist, do some long form storytelling, but that's not what the publisher wanted. So, I caved, because they said, “We’ll pay you,” and at heart, I’m a whore. Eventually, I want to do a long form first person series, though.

Jenny: I like what's happening with your series, though. I LOVE Stacy Easter. [Note to readers: Stacy is a supporting character in A Little Night Magic which is Liv’s book, but she gets her own story in the book Lucy’s writing now.]

Lucy: Stacy's great. I don't have the hero down so well, but Stacy's very fun. It all comes down to character, no matter what you're writing, though. Magic, werewolves, vampires, ghosts. In the end, it's the same dance. Character, character, character.

Jenny: I agree. But still, the supernatural is vastly different from the ordinary world, which I really like. I felt like I should put a post-it on the computer that said, "Swing Wide" because I was getting trapped in my own inch of Ohio ivory. The supernatural conflict seems so much juicier to me right now.

Lucy: Well, the conflict is in that elevated space. You get to work with metaphor and heightened circumstances, and it's really fun.

Jenny: It's hard to get good juicy conflict in modern romance story-telling. You can do it, but you have to work at it. Ghosts, that's good conflict. Demons were good, too. I miss the demons.

Lucy: There's lots of great stuff to be found in the paranormal. You get into metaphor and mythology, and it's rich psychologically.

Jenny: Great metaphors, but they have to work as character, too, as you said. So what's the hardest thing about writing the supernatural for you?

Lucy: I think figuring out the rules. I'm not sure I did a great job of explaining that in A Little Night Magic because I hate explaining things. So, for a writer who hates explaining, I think it can be a challenge.

Jenny: I don't think you should explain. I think you show the reader the world and let her figure it out. Otherwise it's there's-gonna-be-a-quiz exposition. I think it's like talking to kids about sex. They really don't want to know everything, they just want to know enough to get them through whatever made the question arise. Explaining the whole mythology is just tedious for a reader.

Lucy: Yes, which I hate. But it's a tough line to ride. You want to give the reader a solid base to stand on, but I HATE those scenes where they sit and 'splain.

[Krissie enters the chat room]


Lucy: KRISSIE! Yay!

Kristina: Jesus!

Jenny: No, just Jenny and Lucy.

Lucy: But we're close.

Kristina: lemme catch up. Keep tlaking

Jenny: No problem, I'm good at tlaking. Sometimes I tlak for hours.

Lucy: It's good for the soul.

Jenny: Which reminds me, I got you both vibrators for Christmas.

Lucy: LOL! What a segue!

Jenny: For your necks. Neck strain from typing. Really. I don't think they'd work other places.

Lucy:. Heh heh heh...

Jenny: Seriously. Where were we? Right, the supernatural.

Lucy: Yes, the explaining of the supernatural.

Jenny: So I'm against explaining. It's one of the reasons I like a protagonist who doesn't know what's going on. Because she's going to ask the questions the readers have.

Lucy: Yeah, but then you still have those hell scenes where she sits down and someone tells her what's going on. I did my best to make it a part of the story, but I found it challenging.

Jenny: Yes, but nobody wanted to tell Andie in Maybe This Time anything, she had to dig for it. Conflict scenes.

Lucy: What do you think is the hardest part of writing supernatural?

Jenny: Oh, I'm with you: working out the rules. I had a reviewer on Amazon bitch at me for making up my own ghost rules. Evidently there's a set of ghost rules already in place. Which is odd because I researched that and that's where I got my rules.

Kristina: I think that is the hardest part of writing paranormal. 'Splaining the rules without info dump.

Jenny: May told Andie things, but she only gave her part of the rules. Alice gave her some, but Alice was 8. I think. Andie had to dig and discover for herself. Oh, wait, I did do some explanation: there was that scene where Dennis told Andie the six kinds of ghosts. But I think that was an interaction not infodump because Andie was arguing with him. I figure if there's a different inexperienced protagonist in each book, the reader can learn along with her.

Lucy: I didn't feel like there were hell scenes in MTT. You did a good job with that. You can make the explanation part of the story, but you have to work at that. I tried in A Little Night Magic, but I didn't want to bog things down, and I may have erred on the side of "let 'em figure it out for themselves."

Kristina: It's even worse in a series. Because you have to do it every fucking time for people who haven't read earlier books, and you have to keep in mind what you said in the earlier books -- the rules you make. For instance, in WARRIOR, which comes out in April, my hero lies to the heroine. He’s the Archangel Michael, but I get to make up my own rules, and he lies to her. Unfortunately I set up in an earlier book that the Fallen Angels who make up the world can’t easily lie. Can you imagine writing an entire book with an honest hero? Fortunately I skimmed back and I didn’t come right out and say they can’t lie. One of the earlier heroes says he can’t, but of course he was lying.

Jenny: Krissie, was that the hardest part about writing the supernatural for you? I know you've done supernatural before.

Lucy:You've written everything, baby.

Kristina: Remembering world building. (I had ghosts in Night of the Phantom and time travel and selkies in series romances). It's the rules.

Jenny: Rules?

Kristina: Not tough designing the world, tough remembering. Making things consistent. You know, can you go out in sunlight, whose blood can you drink, where do the wings go, etc.

Jenny: That's one of my fears with the Liz series (not supernatural): what if I get to the fourth book and something I said in the first book boxes me in?

Kristina: You can't make one rule and then break it later on because the plot calls for it. You get trapped. I tried to write a bible but lost it in my office.

Lucy: People do wikis; little cross-referencing wikipedias that keep everything straight. I haven't figured out how to do that, but with a series, it seems like a good idea. A story bible.

Kristina: Yup, that's what I need.

Jenny: Ooooh, good, something else I can do instead of writing. I'm there.

Kristina: How do they organize it?

Lucy: You know how in Wikipedia, if one article mentions something else that's in Wikipedia, it links? It's like that. I don't know; I've tried a couple of times but never been able to wrap my mind around it.

Jenny: So we need a wiki for the fairy tale book we’re going to do together. Cool.

Lucy: Yes, that would be great. I think Alastair understands them; maybe he can explain to us.

Jenny: I'm only going to do three ghost books, so I don't need a wiki. I think. Maybe This Time, You Again, and Haunting Alice. But I could use a wiki for the Liz books.

Kristina: What I love about writing supernatural is that you can write anything you damned please. The sky's the limit. You're always tapping into fairytales, even if it's not as obvious as Grimm, etc.

Jenny: That scares me. I like limits. That's why I liked using Henry James's ghosts. I like riffing off of what's gone before.

Lucy: I love the richness of it; the layers that the paranormal gives you.

Kristina: And it sort of brings you back to literal campfires from the beginning of man all the way to Girl Scouts and telling stories.

Jenny: Which is what all storytelling is, really.

Kristina: I love limits, because you can go wild within those limits. It's why I write genre. Cracks me up that someone on Amazon said "no, that's not what real ghosts do."

Jenny: Everybody's a critic. And I researched it I read half a dozen books and had dinner with Katherine Ramsland. I'd have had dinner with Katherine anyway, I like her, but we talked ghosts the whole time. She's the Court TV ghost expert. She's on television. Jeez.

Lucy: Well, yeah, but it's GHOSTS. No one knows how ghosts work. They're ghosts. Not microwaves.

Jenny: I don't know how microwaves work.

Kristina: I don't want to know how microwaves work.

Lucy:. Yes, but SOMEONE does. And if you wrote how microwaves worked and were wrong, someone could call you on it.

Jenny: I'm good with microwaves being part of the supernatural. Explains that damn demon potato that almost burned the house down.

Lucy: There's no scientific consensus on ghosts, and it's fiction, so no one can tell you you're wrong, unless they're crazy, in which case... whatever.

Kristina: Here's a question. Why do you think people are so into paranormal/supernatural right now? There's a real hunger for it.

Lucy:I think it's because paranormal accesses a part of human psychology that you can't get into as easily in a realistic setting. Plus, super-powerful sex gods who want YOU. That, too.

Kristina: But why do readers want it now?

Jenny: I called this twenty years ago. It's the same reaction to an age of science and reason that happened at the end of the nineteenth. Romanticism as a reaction to the Enlightenment. Paranormal as a reaction to the computer age.

Lucy: I can see that, definitely.

Jenny: I was an academic then. I thought like that. But it's true: literature goes in cycles.

Lucy: The more scientific we get in our approach to the world, the more we crave something that speaks to the ethereal.

Jenny: Yep. When all the mysteries are solved we look for new mysteries.

Kristina: I think you've got a point. But I think it's something more visceral as well. I think it's a reaction to how overwhelming life is. How big. A lot of which comes from the internet, etc.

Jenny: The thing that goes bump in the night? Yeah. I think the thing that goes bump is always there. Horror fiction is always there. It's the popularity that shifts.

Lucy: But that balance makes sense. When the worldview gets too focused in one area, our ideals in fiction reach for the opposite.

Jenny: That and we want epic heroes.

Kristina: And life is hard. And not fair. If life is hard and not fair then changing the rules i.e. supernatural stuff gives us hope.

Lucy: Something to believe in.

Jenny: What we really need is intelligent congress-people, but what we want in our fiction is Indiana Jones facing down the Nazis and capturing the Ark. Plus there really are some things out there that we can’t explain.

Lucy: Well, fiction in all its forms, paranormal or not, has that element of restoring justice to the world.

Kristina: Intelligent congress-people is speculative fiction.

Jenny: Depends on the fiction, but the kind of fiction I like does that. I just meant that what we really need does not make for great storytelling, it’s what we want that has the juice.

Lucy: Real life is frustrating. The bad guys win and the good guys lose; fiction fixes that for us. Paranormal fiction fixes that in a big way.

Jenny: Although I lie: The West Wing was excellent. My point was that larger-than-life villains—Spike, the Mayor, Voldemort--make for larger-than-life heroes. One of the reasons I loved doing The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes was Xan. She chewed the scenery, but she could do that because she was larger than the scenery.

Kristina: Yup.

Lucy: I think the appeal of paranormal is cyclical, like the appeal of every genre, but I also think there's something bigger underneath. I think we feel the pull that the readers feel; the need to tell those big stories as well as read them. In the end, we're readers, too, and we tell the stories we want to read, but can't find.

Jenny: Right, we didn't decide to write the supernatural because it was popular, we did it because we were drawn to it. Or somebody else drew us to it. We all came to it in different ways for different reasons.

Kristina: Yup.

Jenny: I started when Krissie and Eileen and I did The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes. It wasn’t a natural for me. I actually had to go back and put in the supernatural stuff. I had to keep telling myself, "She's a witch. She's going to do things differently." Same with the goddesses when we did Dogs and Goddesses. I could never remember what Shar's power was. Actually, I don't remember now. Oh, finishing things because she was the Mesopotamian Atropos. That was a fun power. Wish I had it.

Kristina: I think I started waaay back just throwing in stuff because the book called for it. Not centering the book around the supernatural, but bringing some in.

Jenny: What was your first supernatural book?

Kristina: I think Night of the Phantom. The hero's father was a ghost. At least, I think it was his father.

Lucy: I started by working magical realism into the books; the kinds of things that, in the end, the reader could choose to believe was psychic or magical or fate, but another reader seeing things a different way could see it as coincidence, and still the story would work in both worlds. Then I just decided to cross into real paranormal.

Jenny: Oh, I love magical realism. I tried to put it into Bet Me, but Jen had me take most of it out. She was right; I went too far and it unbalanced the book. But it was fun.

Lucy: Well, you had that lovely sense of Fate in Bet Me. I thought it was magical. Magical realism is really fun, but it's hard to ride that line.

Jenny: Fate was the antagonist in Bet Me. That was fun.

Kristina: I love magical realism as well. I actually read 100 Years of Solitude when it came out, loong ago. Probably had an influence.

Jenny: Like Water for Chocolate had a big influence on Bet Me. Especially the middle drafts. So writing the supernatural felt natural for both of you?

Kristina: I only write what feels natural. I'm a very instinctive writer.

Lucy: It was a natural move for me. I've always been fascinated with the spiritual/magical side of life. I think there are lots of things out there we can't quite explain, and I find that really interesting.

Jenny: The first three times I wrote the supernatural, it didn't feel natural but I was either collaborating or copying Henry James so I didn't have any choice. Which was good.

Lucy: I love the role of belief in magic.

Jenny: I love the role of belief, period.

Kristina: yup

Jenny: That whole if-you-build-it-they-will-come thing. Jump and the net will be there.

Lucy: Absolutely.

Jenny: That's so important in romance. You can't be safe, you just have to fling yourself into it.

Kristina: Absolutely. Which is why writers who play it safe make me crazy.

Jenny: None of my heroines ever want to fling themselves anywhere.

Kristina: No, of course, they don't. If they did there wouldn't be tension.

Jenny: Well, they're all such control freaks. Playing it safe in fiction is the worst thing you can do.

Kristina: It's a mortal sin.

Jenny: So here's a question about writing the supernatural: You have to let people know up front that the book is supernatural even if the protagonist doesn't know it. That's tough. I ended up having North tell Andie that the last nanny said the house was haunted. That was at least a hint, even if the reader thinks the last nanny was an idiot.

Kristina: Sunshine was interesting that way. You get the first chapter before you realize this is an alternative universe.

Jenny: You Again is the same way. Rose invites a medium to stay and she arrives in the first scene, but the ghost doesn’t show up for awhile. I'm hoping that's going to be enough of a clue. Of course, when anybody's who's read MTT sees Isolde and Alice, that's going to be a tip-off, but I can't assume that's all readers. So how did you guys do it?

Kristina: In general I think I tend to have an ordinary woman suddenly noticing extraordinary circumstances. Sort of a play on the Hitchcock thing, of an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances. My heroines are just living their own lives when they realize that person was a ghost. Or that she's dead.

Jenny: I love that. "Oh, my god, I'm dead." That's a hook. It has to be in the first scene, right?

Kristina: Depends on how central the magic is. If it's just a touch of magic then it doesn't have to show up right away. I like hints and then suddenly, oh, my god, vampires are real kind of thing.

Lucy: I think you need to set up the promise of the book in the first scene; it's tough to suddenly pull someone into an alternate universe without even a clue. In A Little Night Magic, Davina tells Liv in the first scene: "You're magic." Liv doesn't believe it, but it's right there, and you know something's up.

Jenny: I agree. The reader has to know right off that bat that there's something hinky going on.

Kristina: Plus, the title. That's kind of a hint

Jenny: You could read "A Little Night Magic" as sexual. And I'm amazed that you didn't, Krissie.

Lucy: LOL, I hadn't really thought of it as sexual. I was just playing off A Little Night Music. ;)

Jenny: So I'm the slut in the trio now?

Kristina: Yeah, I was thinking of A Little Night Music, too. You slut.

Lucy: Well, I didn't want to say anything, but you're the one buying everyone vibrators for Christmas...

Kristina: I wrote a book where the heroine is terrified that the hero is a vampire. He's not, but she spends most of the book trying to catch him. Then he bites her. Great book.

Jenny: Instead of "And then he kissed me," it's "And then he bit me."

Kristina: Yup. It's a hoot. Or course then she gets royally porked.

Jenny: Porked?

Lucy: LOL, royally porked. Which book, Krissie?

Kristina: The Demon Count. I think that and its sequel will be out as an book in late February.

Lucy: I'm assuming you mean fucked?

Kristina: Yeah, don't you know the word porked?

Lucy: I don't think I've heard it used in that context before, but I figured it out.

Jenny: I got that part, it was the usage that threw me. Royally porked. I saw the King Pig from Angry Birds. I need some brain bleach.

Lucy: Some things can't be unseen.

Kristina: You know, I never could envision the beast with two backs.

Jenny: I'm sure I can find a picture somewhere. It's actually two people . . .

Kristina: Yeah, but one back is usually on the mattress. Unless they're sitting astride. But that's not common

Lucy: Or against the wall.

Jenny: Or up against the wall.

Kristina: Ah, yes. Or on the kitchen counter.

Jenny: We're supposed to be talking about the supernatural.

Kristina: I went through a big phase of kitchen counters.

Lucy: Unless they're in a pool...

Jenny: The Supernatural. Jesus.

Kristina: Pools. Yum

Jenny: THE SUPERNATURAL. It's like herding ducks.


Jenny: Let’s regroup. We've talked about why we write supernatural, and the importance of tipping the reader off, and world building, right? Anything else about THE SUPERNATURAL?

Kristina: I'm loving my angels.. My brain is full of tangles of stories.

Jenny: My brain is full of people making smartass remarks to each other.

Kristina: With masses of sexual tension while they make smart ass remarks.

Jenny: Not so much since menopause. Now all they want to do is crafts.

Kristina: Plays are nothing but people talking to each other, basically. and plays that are comedies are people making smart ass comments. Nothing wrong with that.

Jenny: No, there has to be more. There has to be Stuff under it all.

Kristina: Shakespeare is people making smart ass comments (in some of them).

Lucy:. Dialogue is action. As long as they want something and they're using dialogue to try to get it, you're good.

Kristina: Of course. And you have stuff under it. Don't you think Shakespeare does?

Jenny: Shakespeare always has Stuff. Which brings me back to THE SUPERNATURAL. It's not enough just to have things that go bump in the night, there has to be Stuff underneath. Right?

Kristina: Yes. It has to speak to a basic human need/fear/something.

Lucy: Shakespeare wrote supernatural. How's that for keeping it on topic, Crusie? I'm here for you.

Jenny: You're fabulous, Lani. Good girl.

Kristina: Teacher's pet

Jenny: I love you, too, Krissie.

Kristina: sniff.

Lucy: Of course. Everyone loves Krissie.

Jenny: I think the way the characters react to the supernatural has to reveal something about who they are, too. And what they believe. Once you start messing around with reality, you'd better have a belief system in place.

Kristina: Beneath the supernatural it has to answer questions like life after death or why things are scary and how love is bigger than death.

Jenny: Right. You can't just say, "You know what's cool? Vampires," and run with that. I thought the Buffy and Angel series did that part well. These myths and legends have powers because they've been around so long. Attention must be paid to that.

Kristina: You betcha. Part of the great conscious/unconscious Joseph Campbell shit. They play out over and over again.

Lucy: Well, the myths and legends speak to something much deeper in human nature, and human psychology. You're tapping into something real and very powerful when you use those myths in the writing.

Jenny: I mean, vampires drink blood. That's not a socially acceptable thing to do. So they can go against their natures and hit the local Red Cross and drink from bottles, but it's not who they are. You can't slap a band aid on the vampire myth and say, "And now they're nice people.” It emasculates the myth. Neuters the myth? Although the vampire myth is pretty male.

Lucy: That's the whole point of writing vampires, to access that deeper mythology, and draw on that power for your story. So if you neuter the vampire--unless you're doing a Spike-style story about how it doesn't make him less dangerous in the end anyway--you take away the value of telling that story to begin with.

Kristina: Vampires take the life essence of the one they love. They suck it down, draining them, and the mythology is what do they give back? How does it make a bond and not a predator? Of course, I like predators.

Jenny: And mimes.

Kristina: Bitch. He was the villain, you know.

Jenny: Oh, I thought he was the hero. Never mind, carry on.

Lucy: Even Krissie can't make a hero out of a mime. The myth exists to talk about vampires metaphorically, not realistically. If you take away the danger, you take away the resonance.

Kristina: I explained a few years ago that I wrote emotional vampires. That my killer heroes were a kind of vampire.

Jenny:Absolutely on the emotional vampires. Metaphorical vampires. But if you're going to write the real thing, there's gonna be blood.

Kristina: It's like the glittery hoo-ha. Having the perfect blood. Did either of you see or read Twilight?

Jenny: I think I'm too old for Twilight.

Kristina: The whole point was it was "her" blood. He smelled it and couldn't resist. It was the perfect blood for him.

Jenny: Pheromones. Or however you spell that.

Kristina: I like stalker vampires.

Jenny: The stalker isn't romantic. Although John Cusack with that boombox was technically stalking. I like my vampires smart-mouthed and laid back. Which is why I don't write vampires. Whatever else you're gonna say about vampires, they're intense.

Kristina: When you say stalker, it throws everything into a nasty mode. I like predatory. Coming after you. Hot and gorgeous. Yum.

Jenny: Predatory isn't nasty?

Kristina: It is, but not if you tap into the myth part of it. Like the rape fantasy. You play around with it. Maybe because there's a real fear and if you turn it into a fantasy it takes the fear away? I don't know. I just know I like a lot of politically incorrect fantasies. It's part of a basic myth that works for me.

Jenny: Oh, right, the rape metaphor, being overwhelmed, ravished, so it's not your fault or responsibility. By George Clooney.

Kristina: Or Brad Pitt. Or Spike. Spike is predatory. Deliciously so. That kind of predatory.

Jenny: Yeah, he is. But he's also stalking the Slayer, not Willow.

Lucy: Well, stalking is in the eye of the beholder. In Twilight, she loved him, so it wasn't stalking to her - it was him being protective. Actually, stalking is in the eye of the stalked, I mean.

Kristina: Yup. Stalking definitely is in the eye of the stalked. If there's an icky feeling it won't work. And yes, stalking the Slayer, not Willow.

Jenny: I did that in Crazy For You. The hero and the bad guy did essentially the same thing; the difference was that she wanted the hero. That's another problem with the supernatural: it upsets the balance of power. You have to make a heroine who's really strong and smart because she's up against things who have powers she doesn't.

Kristina: She has to find her own powers. Create her own powers. To fight these larger than life powers.

Jenny: I mean, it makes for great antagonists, but your heroine can't just go all limp and be swept away. She has to fight as an equal, even if it takes her awhile to get there. She has to be Buffy-esque.

Kristina: Yes.

Lucy: She has to have power, it may not be the same power, but she has to be able to stand up to what she's around.

Jenny: I agree. I also may be babbling at this point. Is there anything else about the supernatural you guys wanted to talk about?

Kristina: Nope. I think I'll go back to sleep.

Jenny: LOL. Lani?

Lucy: I'm good. And Krissie needs sleep.

Kristina: Love you guys. Nighty-night!

Lucy:. Love you, too! Night!

Jenny: Thank you all for playing and good night!

Coming up in January in Three Goddess Chats: Brainstorming with Collage and Soundtracks, Heroes and Heroines, Writing First Chapters, and analyzing Book Covers.

Lucy March’s A Little Night Magic will be out from St. Martin’s Press on January 31, 2012.

Kristina Douglas's Raziel and Demon are out now;Warrior will be out in April 2012.

Jenny Crusie’s You Again and Lavender’s Blue will be out from St. Martin’s Press a year after she finishes them; when is anybody’s guess.


Monday, January 02, 2012

It's time for a change. I'm 63 years old and fat fat fat (I hate that word). I feel bad. My back hurts, my knees hurt, my stomach hurts. I want to live forever. I want to be as glorious as I can possibly be (though I'm not sure the world is ready for that). So I need to get healthy.

I was driving to the grocery store (where else?) and I came up with a plan. Came back home, emailed Crusie and she was with me, and then Lani agreed to come in and heckle us. It's time to reinvent our already magnificent lives. We're drowning in clutter, in responsibilities that aren't really responsibilities. We're drowning in guilt and bad food and no exercise and hating where we live. It's time to shed the thick skin we've built up around ourselves and reinvent our own fabulosity (I know that's not a word but I like it).

And I decided journalling was the way to do it, and journalling in public would keep me honest. And Crusie said "oh, boy, a website I can play with" and we were off. I'm going to post daily - my weight, my progress, the things I can shed, the way I view myself, etc., and see where I am at the end of the year.

Jenny will post on a weekly basis, but we've declared it a guilt-free zone so she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to. And Lani will appear every now and then to harass us, because we need harassing.

So stop on by. Have a glass of ice cold water (I'm trying to give up on Diet Coke). Weigh in (literally and figuratively). And we'll so how the year progresses.

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