Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting Naked!!


Today’s tour stop – you get to laugh at my writing mistakes! Come snark at my naked confessions to Hart at Confessions of a Watery Tart. Meanwhile, Hart will entertain you here! (I won’t be naked, but I make no promises regarding Hart.)

(Thanks again to those who commented at yesterday’s post at John Ottinger III's Grasping for the Wind!)

Take it away, Hart!

Lessons from TV for Writing

So first off, I want to congratulate Alex on KICKING BUTT with this book release thing! He's done an amazing job of being everywhere which HAS to be paying off. Alex—You're the DUDE! (And you only have to take that like the Big Labowski if that pleases you).

And NEXT, for your reading pleasure and/or mockery content... How Television Series Can Inform Our Writing Plan

The BIG PICTURE

Movies all have a large underlying plot or they lose us, yes? And it seems a no-brainer that a book would need the same. But when you start planning a SERIES, it is a little more like a television series... let's take a good one that BOTH has episodes that are self contained AND themes that continue week to week. A show like Castle is easiest to talk about, or maybe, because this is Alex's blog, and I still get to picture Nathan Fillion, we will talk Firefly...


Each episode introduces a new conflict that is URGENT. It needs to be resolved or... the evil guys will catch them, or Serenity will float off into a war zone with no way to breathe, or... you get the picture... URGENT. And that emergency is resolved through the cleverness and cooperation of the crew within the one hour epidsode, while still leaving loose ends... like say some sexual tension with a certain ESCORT! The characters are appealing enough that we come back every week, and those of us who DO have a better idea of some BROADER plot that does NOT get resolved within each hour... we know WHY the bad guys are the bad guys... we have a CLUE as to where the story has been and where it might ultimately go (to Nathan standing naked on a random planet! Or maybe that was just the ultimate moment for yours truly).

I really prefer shows that DO have those points of continuity over shows that it doesn't matter from episode to episode...

Why Does that Matter to Me?

IT'S A CONSPIRACY!!! Think emotions here, and how we tap into them... The deep feeling of EVIL and FEAR actually takes a while to develop. If the show (or BOOK) is to show us, instead of TELLING us how horrible some force is, then the moments of proof need to be sprinkled... I mean SURE, you can dive in and start with a bang... and get away—YAY! But the insidious evil that keeps coming back, ever worse... supported by something larger... How scary is THAT by comparison?! To realize you thought you'd won, but he was really just a minion compared to the force behind him?! Twin Peaks has some good examples here... you have the monster that is Shelly's husband in the immediate forefront... resolved relatively quickly... but the hints about the one-armed man.... those were dropped slowly... and while Shelly's husband was awful and scare... he doesn't pack NEARLY the fearful punch as that 'one hint a week' build...

RELATIONSHIPS!!! And I don't only mean romantic... Oh, sure... I love sexual tension (and BOTH Nathan's series have plenty of that... with PROMISE but the line is almost never crossed (I keep tweeting him that I'll scratch that itch, but he doesn't answer me *cough*) But also other kinds of relationships... I love complicated frenemy-type relationships... rivals or people who should be opposed, but grudgingly help each other now and then. There are a TON of these in the series Veronica Mars... My favorite relationship in the series is actually the once between Veronica and Weevil—he is a gangster... but she helps him, and then manages to have a 'friend in low places' when she needs one.

Veronica Mars, in fact, also does a great job getting at my NEXT important point...

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!!! How boring is a hero who never learns from his mistakes? (or worse, never MAKES ANY?) Life (and drama, both visual and literary) has some hard lessons... and any character who can't grow and CHANGE from those lessons is going to lose our interest eventually unless it's a sitcom.

Okay... so I didn't go into great detail on how we draw on that for books, but I guess my point is that in a book series, each should definitely be able to stand alone... you don't want a reader to pick up a random one of your books and not be able to follow... but how much more interesting is a series if there is some logical flow underneath? Isn't it nice to reward long-term readers with a little something extra?



Hart Johnson writes mostly suspense and is in process of cleaning up to query. She has two alter egos: Alyse Carlson has a Cozy Mystery contract with Berkeley Prime Crime, and The Watery Tart is trying to achieve Naked World Domination. All of them make appearances at
Confessions of a Watery Tart and would love to see you at the party.

66 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

That's what I love about series, too! The feeling that I've gotten to know the characters a little deeper than just a one-book stand. :) And I get to watch them grow, too. Thanks for the post, Hart. Thanks for hosting, Alex!

Nf1andprek-whisper said...

So... I am having mortgage payment issues.. so have not been around to visit.. but I want to congrats you on your book.. I intent on reading it....I will then post about it.. I am going to amazon to check it out.. I can't buy it yet.. till this money thing get's fixed..but I wanted to stop by to say Congrats.. You are a great writer.. I can just feel it.. and a loyal follower... I can't say the same for me.. LOL

Ted Cross said...

I sure wish Firefly had gone on longer. I loved it!

Enid Wilson said...

Give me excuse to watch more TV, instead of writing.

My Darcy Mutates

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks again, Hart!

I'm sorry, Wasabi! You visit when you can and if you get my book, I'll really appreciate it.

Cruella Collett said...

I realize I need to watch the rest of Firefly (and not just for the naked planet potential.. Did I get that right?). I agree that the best series are those that manage to keep the suspense in a larger plot while solving several episodic plots to keep us occupied as we go along - great post :)

Will Burke said...

Great points, especially about complicated relationships! the friends-in-low-places reminded about the X-Files Smoking Man.

Hart Johnson said...

Elizabeth-I was sort of a slow sell on series books, but I've come around! (If there is that growth and arc anyway)

NF1-sorry about the trouble!

Ted-Me too! It was a great show, though I actually never saw ANY until it was done (caught it on Hulu)

Enid-teehee-- I have side by side computers and do both at once sometimes...

Alex-thanks so much for hosting me!

Mari--the planet isn't naked, just Nathan, but it was definitely a satisfying moment...

Will-Oh, good comparison! I loved the X-files!

Jessica Bell said...

I *heart* hart :o)

Teresa aka JW said...

Hart, what a beautiful picture of you. Yes, relationships in life and writing are so to be watched and studied.

aspiring_x said...

i just finished watching veronica mars a few days ago, and you are right about the development of her relationship with weevil- but also with mack, or max, or even logan or duncan- the relationships keep changing, evolving. and the big arc that sustains over each season, sometimes with overlap into the next season- and then the finale of the third season which hinted that all of those overarching plots could have been intertwined... brilliant. even the character of veronica herself is a brilliant study. she changes so much from the first episode to the last, while still keeping that core essense that is WHO she is.
great points ms. hart! now to skip over to the interview...

M.J. Nicholls said...

Chararcter development is a phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of millions. So many people learn nothing from experiences, to have them learn is to make them less human. Or not. Depends.

Great post! (Am I in the wrong place?)

Matthew Rush said...

This is a good point, and well said. I take it CassaStar will be becoming a series?

DEZMOND said...

you sure did fool me with the tittle of the post!

Lisa said...

Congratulations to Alex on his release! If the story is good, I'll read through a series. I like seeing characters placed in changing situations and since I tend to get attached to them, I love it when their stories continue.

The flip side is that I'm such a gad about, I can't see myself ever writing a series. Once I'm finished with a story, I'm ready to move on.

Laura Eno said...

Good points about series...
I'm just now watching Firefly for the first time and enjoying it!

Hart Johnson said...

Jessica- I heart you back!

Teresa-thank you! My daughter took it. I wanted some flowery pics to help promote the gardening cozy, so this was take 1.

aspiring_x--TOTALLY with you--I love how Veronica grows... that the hardening edge is realistic, given the things she discovers--and that even the rotten characters evolve (Logan especially, but even Dick!)

Mark-you don't fool me with your nay-saying. I know you're evolving.

Matthew-I know Alex has a next one in the works, not sure how many he has in mind, but more than the one, at least.

DEZMOND-Alex is just being complicit in the Naked World Domination plans!

Lisa-I once said never... But I've changed my mind (and written a trilogy)--if the write umbrella hits, you may, too.

Laura-enjoy it! I really love the series. Good mix of characters and relationships (though at the core, I really WOULD watch Nathan Fillion in anything--I've been a fan since he was Joey on One Life to Live)

Helen Ginger said...

I think that's why series are so popular. Bit by bit you learn more and more about the characters, then you come to think of them as friends. If I like those friends and think of them as "real," then I'll keep buying the next episode in their lives.

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

well, now i want to watch firefly. right now.

J.L. Stratton said...

I admit it, at first, the title is what drew me to this post. I knew that a title post of "Let's get Naked" coming from Alex's site had to be good.

Then I read the post and was enlightened. Great post Hart.

Thank you Alex for hosting the Watery Tart, and Hart, I'm your newest follower. Love your stuff!

Mason Canyon said...

Great post Hart. I enjoy the emotional conflict too. When two opposites help each other you begin to wonder what's 'really' underneath their dislike for each other. You want to know more so you keep going back (book after book, or episode after episode). BTW, if Nathan answers your tweet and you need help, just let me know. LOL

Mason

Thoughts in Progress

Old Kitty said...

OH Ms Tart! You are just beyond naked!! :-)

Wise words for anyone writing a series - especially about having each story stand alone so no reader gets lost! Take care
x

Jules said...

Good points. Wished I'd have watched this Firefly but I only saw one show. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Stephen Tremp said...

Regarding character development, I place a emphasis on character arc. Protagonists need to have shortcomings in the beginning of the story that may affect their decision making process in a negative way. As the story progresses, they learn, grow, and overcome their shortcomings if they are ti be victorious in the end.

Hart Johnson said...

Helen-I think that's true!

Sarah-HULU!

JL-THANK YOU! Love to have new followers!

Mason *giggles* Oh, if Nathan answers my tweet, EVERYBODY will know! tehee

Jenny-that is the tricky part--to dive in and give the essential info so the REPEAT reader isn't annoyed by it, but the new reader gets it.

Jules-you can still find it! I watched it all online.

Stephen-I totally agree, though I ALSO think the story has more longevity if they pick up some demons or take a misguided path for a while.

Tara said...

I'm just getting into the second of my trilogy, and I am making the stand-alone factor priority!

Copyboy said...

I so agree about character development. That's never been so evident on Wedon's other opus – Buffy. Yes, I watched and loved it. I'll stop by the tour.

Krista said...

Wow, great post, Hart! Love the energy!
And Alex, I gave you an award on my blog. Come see! Congrats on the new book!!!!

Georgina Dollface said...

My husband reads quite a few serial novels and from time to time, I'll pick one up and read it. I like that I can read it and enjoy it as a stand alone piece. My husband often tells me about the main character's back history too, which I find fascinating. It adds to my enjoyment of the book, but at the same time it is not necessary. You are right about the idea of rewarding the loyal reader with long-term character development, I think that's why he enjoys certain serials more than others. - G

Hart Johnson said...

Tara-It's a tricky business, isn't it? Walking that line so you stand alone, but don't bore those who've read the others.

Copyboy--Buffy is a FABULOUS other example! I loved the progression of ALL those characters--especially the season with the HUGE change for Angel and the ripple effect everywhere.

Krista-thank you! I am a bit too much for some people, but and least I'm not boring.

Georgina-Great to have someone else to SUPPLY the back story so you know whether it is worth it to dive in or not!

Colene Murphy said...

I really might need to watch this Firefly everyones raving about all the time! The move was good...Does that count? great post!

LTM said...

what a nice surprise! Wonderful as always--and I confess, I use TV to spark my creative juices...

ew. ;p <3

Charles Gramlich said...

One thing that is certainly common between successful TV shows and successful book series is the need for us to like and care about the characters.

Hart Johnson said...

Colene-definitely watch it! I think the movie is basically the first episode, though I might be making that up (I do that)

Leigh-what-you're shocked I get around? I think that Veronica/Weevil thing is the only TV thing I've very intentionally thought-I need to make use of that, but structurally there is a lot.

Charles-DEFINITELY. If we care, we keep coming back! (even to soap operas for 30 years and much of that writing HAS to be choppy because it is dependent on contracts and stuff, but we CARE!)

Ellie said...

It's no good posting comparisons with TV and writing days before NaNo starts. I'll be finding excuses to watch my favourites instead of completing my daily 1666 words! LOL.

Thanks, Hart. Very informative.

Karen Peterson said...

I always worry about TV shows that seem to lay all the cards on the table too fast. They almost never last because there is nothing left to offer.

And yes, books are the same way. It's really a perfect comparison.

Clarissa Draper said...

It's no wonder publishers ask if your book is stand alone or in a series. I prefer reading series because I become more invested in the characters. It's just the way I am.

CD

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Matthew, that means I'd have to think of more stuff!!

Dezz - got you, didn't I?

JL, Hart could still get naked on us - you never know!

Krista - thank you! I'll hop over in a minute.

Colone, you must join the Firefly ranks at once!!

Thanks everyone for visiting!

Hart Johnson said...

Sorry Ellie! Watch marathons for the next 6 days then unplug the cable so you can't!

Karen-it's true, or the next season has to seem totally from left field. On the other hand I hate it when we are left hanging because a show was canceled with so much unexplored.

Alex-I'm already naked!

BryStearns said...

Brilliant! Firefly is a great example of how to do a series, and you spelled it out perfectly. But now you've made me nostalgic and now I miss Firefly again. And I had just moved it to the back of my mind. DAMN YOU FOX!

Jennee said...

I just started watching Firefly and watched the Naked Nathan episode last night. It really is a great show and I wish it would have lasted more than one season! Great post!

RaShelle said...

Hart - In any great series, there is the immediate wrap up at the end of the hour (in tv), but still the continuation of an underlying story from week to week. Great post!!

Hart Johnson said...

Bry-say it again with my: DAMN YOU FOX!!! (thank you!)

Jennee-that was just fabulous, wasn't it? I love Enara just standing there unphased...

RaShelle--exactly! Thanks!

Arlee Bird said...

I tend to avoid any series unless I've started from the beginning. It's important to allow individual works to stand on their own or for the reader/viewer to have enough information to catch on to what's happening quickly.

That's something I used to like about the old TV show "The Fugitive". There was the show's brief opening that very quickly laid out the premise of the show as a part of the credits, but each week's episodes stood alone as individual dramas. A viewer could jump into any episode and immediately understand what was going on.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Holly Ruggiero said...

Ah yes, good points and good shows.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Everybody at once - DAMN YOU FOX! Don't we all feel better? Well, not as good as if they actually developed a brain and brough Firefly back.

The Golden Eagle said...

Good points! These are great examples of how to do a series.

Talli Roland said...

I've never tried writing a series, but if I ever do then I'll think back to these great tips! :) Thanks, Hart!

Monti said...

I love the idea of a series and am thinking of creating one that begins with Secrets by the Sea (already out) and goes on with a new book. The idea for a book with the series tie-in came to me last night. Your post re-inforces my thinking. As you mention, we certainly see lots of series when we watch TV!

Monti
http://marymontaguesikes.blogspot.com

lila said...

it all sounds so crazy!!! Tv!! what else?
should come with a warning on it!
:)
lila

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm all for more TV viewing...

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Hart, I made sure when writing each of my books they could stand alone. If nothing else, because I'm notorious for picking up the third book in a series and feeling totally lost!! Hate it when that happens.

Hart Johnson said...

Lee-that is why I largely watch on DVD from the library--The first one is usually hardest to get, but once I get it, I can watch straight through for the most part. 24 does that recap you're mentioning... It definitely helps.

Thanks, Holly!

Yes Awesome Alex the Blogging Ninja: DAMN YOU FOX! Oh, did I already say that? Can't say it too many times, I think.

Thank you, Golden Eagle and Talli!

Monti- HA! It was meant to be! Write it!

Lila-you mean your mom never told you it would make you blind? Oh, not that kind of warning?

L.Diane-I've done that--I hate being lost!

Crammarc said...

looks promising

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Oh, and I like The Dude as well.
Awesome Alex the Blogging Ninja Dude!
Damn my title is getting long...

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Great points, Hart. I’ve picked up books that I didn’t realize were part of a series. Those that were written well enough to stand alone, would draw me in and have me heading back to the bookstore for more.

Kelley said...

That was a captivating post! I never thought about how difficult it would really be to write a series. I learned so much while being entertained. Thanks for this post!

Ellen aka Ella said...

Fun Post; Hart great tips! Now, I have the thoughts of a Naked Army~

Melissa said...

This post was captivating and wonderful and I loved all the points brought up. So true!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks, ladies - Hart is pretty smart that way!

ali said...

Great, great advice Hart! Thanks for sharing it with us ~ it was cool to "meet" you!

Hart Johnson said...

Crammarc-Thank you!

Alex, you need an acronym: AAtBND--I'll call you 'AAt Bendy' for short *snort*

Jane-it's true, if you love them, they can totally pull you in. I read several of Iain Pears Art theft mysteries that way.

Kelley-in some ways harder, in some ways easier--and totally depends on the reader whether they like it.

Ellie-YAY for naked armies! *snicker*

Melissa-thanks so much!

Ah, Alex, I'm blushing!

Ali-thank you!

Alex, I just want to thank you again--I think this is the most comments I've ever had on anything, and I feel honored for you to have shared your readers with me!

Hannah Kincade said...

While I love all your examples, I'm a little upset now. All I want to do is watch those shows because they're some of my faves. :P

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hart blushing???

Palin, I know, she got me with Serenity!

Kal said...

I love me some Firefly. I always avoided it because I heard that once you get involved in this show it breaks your heart. It certainly did that to me. 13 episodes and a movie? How can we live knowing that's all there is? I know there are comic books too but it's not the same (and this from a guy who loves his comic books).

Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom) said...

Good point on the immediacy of conflict in these shows and the need to reveal a deeper conflict across the overall series. Great post :D