Alice’s Restaurant

March 18, 2007

Quiet Days

Filed under: Day to Day Life, What Are You Reading? — aliceaudrey @ 9:06 am

It’s a quiet day today.  Hardly anyone has come by my blog, and not many are likely to.  On days like this I feel a wild urge to do something crazy and say something I shouldn’t.  It’s like being the hair cutting heroine from Susan Elizabeth Phillips book This Heart of Mine.

Down, Alice.  Down!


March 17, 2007

Submissions for Round Three Due Monday Morning

Filed under: FanLit — aliceaudrey @ 4:11 pm

Can you tell what I’m doing?


March 15, 2007

Central Conflict

Filed under: Writing Technique — aliceaudrey @ 8:22 am

Yesterday I said “It’s the way a character reveals him or her self through the struggle with the central conflict that keeps us turning pages.”  The first time I heard that sentence it simply went in one ear and out the other.  But it kept coming back over and over again.  Apparently there is something to it.

So let’s look at it. 

Conflict is important because it generates questions which can be used as hooks.  When you have a central conflict not only do you naturally generate all kinds of hooks, those hooks line up in a pattern which provides the reader with a sense of something greater and more significant going on.

With a collection of conflicts rather than a central conflict the story feels episodic or disorganized.  It’s possible to chose a pair of central conflicts which interact with each other and end up with something brilliant, but don’t count on it.

The right kind of central conflict can make it easier to build the book toward the climax, thus not only providing a structure, but the providing the kind of structure readers enjoy most.

So what’s the right kind of conflict?

Something that is not easily solved.  If it’s simply a misunderstanding between hero and heroine then they end up looking stupid for not talking it out quick enough.  If the antagonist is easily dealt with then the hero and heroine look indecisive for not dealing with him or her.

Something not impossible to solve.  If the conflict comes from the nature of the hero and heroine such that changing either of them to accommodate the other would make them less noble, less kind, or otherwise less worthy then it’s impossible to believe they will or should stay together at the end.

Ideally the central conflict will allow you to delve into deeper, more meaningful aspects of human nature.  If it involves archetypes then the resulting book is a lot more likely to be a keeper.


March 14, 2007

Alice’s Take on GMC, Part I

Filed under: Writing Technique — aliceaudrey @ 8:46 am

GMC stands for Goal, Motivation and Conflict.  To get the real scoop on GMC you need to refer to Debra Dixon.  She literally wrote the book on Goals, Motivation, And Conflict and does lectures on it for Romance Writer’s of America both in the RWA Chapters and at National.

The point of the book and lectures is that every effective character comes equipped with at least one set of goals which are motivated by the character’s beliefs and that the goals are thwarted by something, thus generating conflict.  She goes on to discuss internal and external goals and how to set up a chart showing how the goals, motivation, and conflict work together to make a GMC matrix.  (Note:  I think she used the word matrix for it.  It’s been a while since I read the book and I can’t find my copy.  If she doesn’t say “matrix” to mean the way the parts of GMC come together then tough because I’m going to.)

First, like most tools for working with the structure of fiction, focusing on GMC while working on the rough draft can mess you up.  I have found it useful in plotting before writing and extremely useful in both revision and critique, and am now so comfortable with the concepts that I can even think about them while producing dialogue and action narrative.  But trying to keep goals and motives and conflicts in mind while putting the words on paper before you are really comfortable with GMC can give you writer’s block.  So if this is new to you, don’t worry about it while you are actually writing.

Second, Debra may say that every character needs his or her own GMC, even the waiter delivering an order.  Personally, I haven’t the time.  I definitely recommend having a clear GMC matrix for the protagonists, and maybe for some of the more prominent secondary characters, but face it, some characters are little more than furniture.  Let them fulfill their roll and don’t worry about it.

Now lets talk a little about why you want to worry about GMC at all.  I know a number of people who fight the idea of putting conflict in their work, or dislike working with a character who has goals, or who aren’t comfortable with motivation.  You want a good combination of GMC because a really good GMC matrix gives your work what is kindly referred to as “good suction.”  In other words, the story sucks the reader in, then draws them helplessly through the entire story until the very end when they should “That was great!  Let’s do it again!”  You want that, right?

It’s the way a character reveals him or her self through the struggle with the central conflict that keeps us turning pages.  Finding a goal and motivation that apply to the central conflict act like the strings on a marionette – when drawn tight the jumble of parts turns into something approaching human.

March 11, 2007

Childless Romance

Filed under: What Are You Reading?, Writing Craft — aliceaudrey @ 9:48 am

Romance is all about pair bonding.  Seriously, the entire genre is built around the stage in the life of a man and a woman when they overcome what ever might be preventing them from finding a mate, and forming an attachment to one another.  The attachment is presumed to be permanent, or the story is considered inferior from a genre perspective.

From an evolutionary perspective pair bonding is all about reproduction.  So far as the species is concerned the whole point of all that sexual activity is the continuation of the genetic material of the male and female involved, and the relationship is designed by nature to nurture the children that result.  Presumably individuals with strong families are more likely to live long enough to pass on their genetic material.

So when I pick up a Romance novel I have an eye on the hows and whys of the formation of a strong family unit which will include a man, a woman, and eventually at least one child.  Yet I have no problem with the ending of Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie.  It’s not because I am a fan of zero population growth either.

When I pick up a Romance I’m not approaching it with the intellectuality of someone reading a how-to manual.  I’m looking for the feelings involved in the pair bonding experience.  Finding someone who would help make beautiful babies is certainly part of it, but the creation of a condition of love and support is much more important.  Ms Crusie achieves it in spades, particularly in Bet Me.

I have read other books in which a condition of love and support is created yet the lack of future children strikes a wrong note.  I think in the case of Bet Me it has to do with the theme of self acceptance which runs so strong throughout the book.  Also, the resolution shows how this couple can have fulfilling lives without children through their association with the secondary characters.

I’m only scratching the surface on this issue, but if I start to take it any further it’ll be several pages before I let you go.  So I’ll call it quits here for now and take it up again on a later date.


March 10, 2007

Out To Lunch

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 5:39 pm

I’m in my writing cave today.  With any luck I will force myself past a really stupid blockage and be sociable gain later today.


March 7, 2007

And the Winner Is…

Filed under: FanLit — aliceaudrey @ 11:48 pm


Not only did Cindy take first place in the second round of FanLit Forever’s Challenge Three, she also placed both of her other two entries in the top five.

Take a bow Cindy.  A most impressive accomplishement


Kid Quote

Filed under: Day to Day Life — aliceaudrey @ 10:40 am

Talk about kids being cute, by son came into my office and gave me a great big hug the other day.  He does this a lot so I probably shouldn’t have raised an eyebrow, but something about the words he muttered caught my attention.  So I asked him what that was all about.  His answer?

“You’re the only one who squishes to my liking.”

Awwwww.  No comments about what makes me squishy, all right?


March 6, 2007

What You Get When You Ask One Too Many Times

Filed under: From the Mail Bag — aliceaudrey @ 12:57 am

This never actually happened to me, but boy it sure could have. 


 *Have you ever asked your child a question too many times? My three-year-old son had a lot of problems with potty training and I was on him constantly. One day we stopped at Taco Bell for a quick lunch in between errands. It was very busy, with a full dining room. While enjoying my taco, I smelled something funny, so of course I checked my seven-month-old daughter, and she was clean. Then I realized that Danny had not asked to go potty in a while, so I asked him if he needed to go, and he said, “No.” I kept thinking, “Oh Lord, that child has had an accident, and I don’t have any clothes with me.” Then I said, “Danny, are you SURE you didn’t have an accident?” “No,” he replied. I just KNEW that he must have had an accident, because the smell was getting worse. Soooooo, I asked one more time, “Danny, did you have an accident?” This time he jumped up, yanked down his pants, bent over and spread his cheeks and yelled.
“SEE MOM, IT’S JUST FARTS!!” While 30 people nearly choked to death on their tacos laughing, he calmly pulled up his pants and sat down. An older couple made me feel better by thanking me for the best laugh they’d ever had! 

March 4, 2007

FanLit Forever Voting Closes Today

Filed under: FanLit — aliceaudrey @ 10:51 am

Challenge 3 Round 2 ranking polls close today at noon.  It is still possible to make comments after the polls close, but you must ge your votes in now.

Mama Alice.

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