Month: August 2019

Love that Beat

Thanks to my friend A.M. Stuart, I have discovered Gwen Hayes and her little book, Romancing the Beat, story structure for romance novels. It’s a little book, but it supports my long-held belief that romance authors must write at least two stories in every book. One, the plot or action story, two, the romance. It’s always nice when someone else confirms your own opinion. ūüôā

Hayes approach to the love story follows a simple pattern:

  • set-up,
  • falling in love,
  • retreating from love,
  • fighting for love.

The beauty of this little checklist is that it can be applied during –the dreaming part of the writing, (when the author is just noodling around with ideas)

–when writing an outline,(for those plotters among us)

–during the writing of the story,

–or after the story is finished and the writer is in editing mode.

As someone whose first draft is always a discovery draft, being able to apply “the rules” after the fact is a great benefit.

If you use Scrivener, there is a template available on Hayes’ website with romancing the beat loaded onto Scrivener.

There are scads of “how-to write” books on the market. I’ve read many of them and recommended them on this blog, but Romancing the Beat, hits a high note for me. I’m happy to recommend it.

Hits: 12

The Forgotten Sense

“Use the five senses,” is familiar advice to all writers. Just as news reporters use the 5 W’s — who, what, where, when, and why to check their stories, fiction writers can use sight, sound, smell, taste and touch to enhance the emotional impact of their tales.

 

Nothing triggers memory like a smell. I have two four-month old kittens. They were born in the country and at only eight weeks of age they related to smell. We had transported them 2500 miles, from the prairies to the coast, but when the scent of new-mown hay wafted through an open window, they stopped playing and sat up as tall as they could, their little noses twitching mightily as they inhaled the aroma of home.

Psychiatrists will tell you that smell can trigger forgotten memories, and stir the emotions. The perfume industry is built on that premise. A simple fragrance won’t make people spend hundreds of dollars on an ounce of liquid, but the emotions that fragrance elicits, will pry open the¬† purse.

Because scent has such a powerful effect on the emotions, good writers use that correlation not only to describe a scene but illuminate characters and draw the reader into an emotional  connection with the protagonist of the story.

Out on my bicycle I gloried in the number of summer smells I encountered on my ride–lavender, roses, ripe blackberries, fecund soil, dusty hay,¬† a horse barn . . . I inhaled them all with a smile to my face and joy to my heart. ¬†I should be a natural when it comes to using scents in my novels. Sadly, while I enjoy the fragrance of my garden, I’m not good at incorporating the fifth sense into my writing.

In my wip I reference the smell of clean mountain air — a lost opportunity. Clean mountain air is generic. If I said, “clean mountain air filled her lungs, driving out the stench of the immigrant ship, erasing the odor of poverty and desperation” I’d have done a better job of placing the reader in the story and giving her a reason to root for the heroine.

There are many literary works devoted to smell, but I thought I’d investigate the romance genre for tips on how to include the forgotten sense in my writing.

“His face and eyelids were swollen and he was beginning to stink like rotten meat.” The Silver Lining by Maggie Osborne. Maggie Osborne is a favourite of mine, even though she is no longer writing. Notice the words here– “stink” “rotten–deeply evocative. She could have said “smelled bad,” and the impact would have been lost.

“When I pull loose wrap off the top of the bottle and¬† stick my nose in, it is agreeably, deeply sour.” How to Bake a Perfect Life, by Barbara Samuel. I knew I’d find examples of cooking smells in Barbara Samuel’s work. What I like about this example is the paradox of “agreeable” and “sour.” Most of us consider sour an unpleasant odor, not an agreeable one. However, it you are making sourdough starter, the concept changes.

“The scent of fresh blood on an undercurrent of primeval decay choked Elodie Rousseau, nearly bringing her to her knees.” Choosing Bravery by Jacqui Nelson.¬† Jacqui writes historical westerns. Aromas can conjure up the old west in a few words. The “scent of fresh blood” is a generic phrase, but “primeval decay” and “choked” lift this sentence from ordinary to memorable.

I’m now off to scour my work-in-progress for missed opportunities to use the power of scent in my story.

How about you? Any favourite “smelly” writing examples you’d like to share?

 

 

 

Hits: 14

The Barn

“Go to the barn. Get the stink off you.”

This contradictory decree was usually issued by a harassed parent when children were underfoot, quarrelsome, cranky and complained of being bored. In other words, when they were stinky. The condition usually occurred when intemperate weather confined said stinky children to the house.

The barn gave mothers respite and the children a magical place to work off their orneriness.  There were calves to brush, hay forts to build, ladders to climb and beams to walk along. Often there was a nest of kittens to find, or a barn owl perched high in the rafters.

The barn was so integral a part of my childhood it wasn’t until later years that I realized the term meant different things to different people.¬† There are English barns, Dutch barns, round barns, low barns and stone barns, among others.

Bank Barn

When I think of “barn” I picture the bank barn. This is a barn built into a side hill, so that haywagons can drive into the upper or mow section and the livestock is housed on the ground level. In areas with hard winters, these barns have steep roofs to shed snow and provide huge spaces for hay storage.

 

In my book, The Man for Her, I envisioned an English barn at Pine Creek Farm.

This barn is not as large as the barn of my childhood and is all on one floor. The hinged wagon doors allowed Lottie to drive her wagons directly onto the threshing floor. There was no lower level, but livestock was housed on one side of the main aisle while hay and grain were stored on the other. This barn still has a high roof to accommodate the hay mow. That’s why Sean had to climb a ladder up toward the roof, despite his fear of heights.

Round Barn

This is an example of a round or polygonal barn.

These were first built by Shakers in the 1800’s but were not plentiful. They underwent a revival in the 1880’s as farmers sought more efficiencies. The idea was that the circle created more useable space with fewer materials. A central silo was added in later editions to allow gravity to move feed from the top floor to the cattle floor. In theory, the round barn was a great idea, but in practical terms there were drawbacks. It’s biggest shortcoming was the inability to expand. If the barn were built to accommodate twenty milking cows, it could not be expanded to accommodate thirty. As the farmer increased his herd, he had to built another barn.

The barn in this picture has been converted into a craft shop, saving it from the wrecker’s ball.

The interior of a wood frame barn is as beautiful as a cathedral, with soaring timbers, squared off to create sturdy beams. Smaller logs create the rafters and vertical siding allows ventilation between the boards.

 

Sadly, these iconic wooden structures are disappearing from Canada’s rural landscape. Some are merely abandoned as farms cease production. Others are replaced by modern, steel barns as agriculture moves forward with the times.

Modern Barns

Efficient feeding, cleaning and milking parlours make this modern barn state-of-the-art in today’s agribusiness. Via computer the farmer can set a feed schedule for each cow, monitor her milk output and control her milking timetable. Open sides allow light and air to enter the stable, and the use of tractors to clean the barn floor.

Only by embracing such modern inventions can the farmer meet the demand for more food produced at lower cost that twenty-first century consumers expect.

It combines the latest in science and animal husbandry.

I’m not sure it will help kids “get the stink off.”

To read more about the history of the barn in Canada, I suggest this link. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/barns

Do you have a favourite barn memory? Did you ever jump in loose hay? Please share your story.

Hits: 28

© 2019 Alice Valdal

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑