GMC, Wonder Woman, and Unlocking Your NaNoWriMo Story

Melina KantorWow, okay. So NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins exactly a week from today. Have you figured out your plot? Eh, don't worry, neither have I. Besides, as they say, "no plot, no problem." Right? NaNo is the time to write with "literary abandon," forget the rules, and just write. Right? Well. . .

The Problem

Personally, I can't do that. I can not handle not knowing what I'm going to write, and even though I've been successfully NaNo'ing since 2007, I have yet to learn how to let loose and "just write." And if try to do so without any mental preparation and just one idea to cling to, the struggle gets very real. But I've got a trick. (It's likely review for many of you, so feel free to chime in and expand on this awfully simplistic overview.)

The Trick

The trick is simple. Put all your thoughts and ideas about your novel aside. Write them down if you must, and then get them out of your head. And then, focus on three things:
  • Goal
  • Motivation
  • Conflict
Otherwise known as GMC. Figuring out your protagonist's GMC is like having a key that unlocks your story. Because your protagonist is working towards something, you'll find that she isn't wandering around aimlessly and spending a lot of time in deep thought. Because of her goal, your story will propel itself forward. Which means you'll reduce the amount of time spent in front of your computer spinning your wheels and suffering. Let's discuss. (We'll use Wonder Woman / Diana as an example because it's a movie familiar to many and her GMC is crystal clear.) Goal
  • What does your character want?
Diana's goal is to leave Themyscira, go out into the world, and kill Ares, the God of War. Motivation: 
  • Why does your protagonist want what she wants?
Diana wants to put an end to the suffering war brings, which makes sense because her culture and upbringing have taught her to value peace. Not to mention that she believes her island is in danger and she wants to protect her home and the people she loves. High stakes, no? Conflict:  Why can't your character have what she wants? At first, Diana's mother is against the idea of her daughter fighting Ares. Then she has to deal with Steve, her antagonist, who has a conflicting goal. And then she has to pass through a war zone to get to Ares. And poof! Right there, Diana's GMC has given us a basic but pretty solid story.

A Bit of Vocabulary

It's much easier to figure out your character's GMC if you truly understand the following terms and how they relate to each other: Protagonist: A character who has a goal and wants something (a McGuffin). Antagonist: A character who wants to stop your protagonist from reaching his or her goal thus creating conflict, but isn't necessarily a "bad guy." (A grown-up who stops a toddler from running into the street after a ball isn't being mean or bad, but is preventing the toddler from reaching the ball. Diana's mother and Steve are antagonists, but aren't necessarily bad.) Villain: Well, you know... But just to clarify. . . please note that your antagonist and villain can be the same character. But if they're not, like in the case of Wonder Woman, don't forget that your antagonist is really the one who has the biggest impact when it comes to moving your story forward. If you want to get really creative, your protagonist can be your villain, like Dr. Horrible. McGuffin: What your protagonist wants (her goal). It can be a bag of pretzels or it can be world peace. It doesn't matter, as long as she truly wants something, and for a good reason (motivation).

Get to Work

Here's a chart I give my elementary school students. No, you don't have to color (though it would probably thrill your muses). I hope it'll help you over the next week and through November and beyond. If you start your noveling process by figuring out GMC, the details and specifics of your story will work themselves out along the way. I promise. [One more tip: Give your protagonist a taste of what she wants and take it away. Or give her what she wants and make her hate it.] For more info on GMC, listen to this fantastic episode of How Story Works.

* Who are the protagonists, antagonists, and villains in your favorite stories? Why?*

Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels.  In July of 2012, she moved from New York to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. Melina likes the color pink, baking, daffodils, teaching girls to code, running her small business, learning to use power tools, practicing self-defense, Krav Maga and karate, and breaking cinder blocks with her fist. She has been freakishly dedicated to and enthusiastic about NaNoWriMo for over ten years, and enjoys acting as a Co Municipal Liaison for Jerusalem.  You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.

Family

Samanthya Wyatt~ By Samanthya Wyatt Our stories cover a wide range of time periods, but the one thing profoundly rooted in each is family—whether it is a large family or no family members at all. The heart of our stories come from deep emotion concerning family ties. This can be the loss of a family member, a substance abusive mother or father, even caring for a sibling. Some sort of tragedy or desertion of a family member shapes the characters in our books. A family is defined as a social unit consisting of parents and the children they raise. On parent, two parents, uncles or aunts, a family member somehow has instilled family values pertaining to the character's structure, function, roles, beliefs, attitudes, and ideals. They can be good or bad, we decide. We choose one for our characters and create a world for them to live in. We don’t always show the details and never early in the book. But we need a foundation for shaping our characters. Whether Medieval, Victorian, Regency, Civil War or current day, readers become involved with our character’s family background. Maybe an incident from a century ago is an important fact. Whether tragic or happy, family life is critical. The deeper we go, the more we create a world for our family-pier-man-woman-39691-largecharacters. As with any good story, research, plotting, and planning is a major part of writing a book. All of these are an important part of creating our character. Readers love a hero or heroine who has some sort of tragedy, struggle or sacrifice. Hints weaved throughout the chapters, the more elusive they are given, entices the reader. The reader becomes involved and needs to know the mystery. The more challenging the problem, the more traumatic the incident, draws the reader deeper into our story, creating emotional ties with the characters. My latest book is all about family. Not only did I become involved in this heart-wrenching saga, but my readers claimed they needed a box of tissues. As authors, something touches each of us, drives us, pushes us to write that story. I’ve found that developing a character with strong family ties hooks the reader and involves them deeper in any book. Author of sizzling romance, Samanthya Wyatt currently has books published in contemporary and historical romance. She married a military man, traveled and made her home across the US and abroad, and now lives in the Shenandoah Valley. She loves the beach, her favorite color is blue, has a weakness for vanilla ice cream, and a book is a constant companion.  

Setting the Scene… Which Suddenly CHANGES

jeff salter~ By Jeff Salter Sometimes when we’re writing and have a particular scene going, we realize that all kinds of things could happen AFTER that initial scene set-up.

~

            The following actually occurred, in early July, four years ago. Sometimes you see things that make you wish you hadn’t. My wife and I were eating supper at a local spot we like. Seated next to the windows, we couldn’t help but notice two guys approaching from a newly-parked vehicle.
            “His barn door is open,” I said... with the casual observation skills of an experienced writer. “Why’d you tell me? Now I’m gonna have to look,” she replied. And she did. “He made it easy to spot since he’s wearing red skivvies,” I added. I’d begun to think his display was purposeful. “You’d think his buddy would’ve told him,” my wife mused out loud. I, on the other hand, wondered if the buddy had deliberately withheld that info. “He’ll probably come sit right next to us,” she warned me. You’d have thought she was viewing a horrific traffic collision in progress. “Well, it won’t show so much if he’s sitting down,” I replied.
But my wife was not to be calmed. So she hurried me through my last few bites and we departed... in time to see the furtive glances of the service crew behind the counter taking the orders of the new arrivals.

~

Okay, that’s the scene as it actually played out. But what if my real-life anecdote had been only the introduction to a much larger scene? If this were your story, given this introductory scene, where might you take it? What if the guy walks up and introduces himself like this, “I couldn’t help noticing you watched me coming in. Do I know you?” What would you say? What would his buddy be doing at this point?

~

As we authors are composing scenes, let’s not be too quick to end them prematurely. Sometimes the characters can take us in a totally different direction. Jeff Salter, who has written 12 novels and five novellas, already has 13 fiction titles released with three royalty publishers. His most recent is “The Duchess of Earl” released in mid-July by Clean Reads. Two more titles are due out this year and he has several works in progress.  

Storytelling

Susan-Meier~ By Susan Meier Note: This post originally appeared here Anybody can write a book. All you've got to do is think up a plot, give your characters some arcs, divide it into scenes and get it into your computer, and eventually onto paper. But how many people do you know who really know how to tell a story? In my younger days, I had a friend who was a joke teller. It didn't matter where we were, fifteen minutes into any party or wedding or even funeral, my friend would have a crowd around her. Laughter would spill out into the room and her crowd would grow. Because her jokes were good? Some were. But, really, her jokes were good because she made them good. She knew set up. She knew how to deliver a punch line. In thirty seconds, she could draw you in and then hit you with something that would cause you to belly laugh. red-love-heart-typography-largeThat's storytelling. I talk about this a lot...especially after I judge contest entries...published or unpublished...because I think a lot of us "get it" that we have to be craftspeople, but few of us realize that, somewhere along the way, our process has to involve that magical part of us that knows how to lift the mundane into the sublime. Is there something about your story, the way you tell your story, or your characters that lifts all those words on the page from the expected? Is there magic in your story? Is there magic in your story? Have you every really tried to write beautifully? To create characters so real you expect them to show up for Christmas Eve supper? If you've only ever crafted, if you've never let yourself look for the magic...give yourself that gift. Don't just be a writer. Be a storyteller. Happy Reading! Susan Meier is the author of over 60 books for Harlequin and Silhouette, Entangled Indulgence, Red Hot Bliss and Bliss and one of Guideposts’ Grace Chapel Inn series books, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. In 2013 she lived one of her career-long dreams. Her book, THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHER was a finalist for RWA’s highest honor, the Rita. The same year NANNY FOR THE MILLIONAIRE’S TWINS was a National Reader’s Choice finalist and won the Book Buyer’s Best Award.Susan is married with three children and is one of eleven children, which is why love and family are always part of her stories.

Does A Happily Ever After Require Wedding Bells? [REPOST]

kristinamatthews~ By Kristina Mathews With another celebrity marriage down the tubes, I can’t help but wonder if marriage is even necessary—in books and in real life. I know there are many couples who are perfectly happy just living together. Many couples have an unintentional pregnancy and don’t even consider marriage before the baby comes, sometimes not even after. And some couples decide to start a family together without the intention to ever marry. Until recently, some couples weren’t allowed to marry at all. And then there are the people who marry several times. Without getting too preachy, I’ll share my own experience and those of my characters. I graduated from college in December 1992 and my wedding was scheduled for May 1993. We were moving from our college town of Reno to my fiancé’s hometown in Northern California, We had a rental lined up but it was on a working apple and pear orchard. My fiancé wasn’t comfortable with me living there alone with workers around irrigating, spraying, pruning, or picking so he suggested that I live with his parents until the wedding and then I’d move in with him. At first I thought it was kind of silly, we would only be living together for five months. But his parents are pretty conservative so I went along with the idea thinking we’d eventually end up moving in together. In the end, I spent only one night with him on the ranch before the wedding. It was the night the puppy we’d adopted was killed by a logging truck. I’m glad we didn’t live together before our wedding. Mostly because it means I can tell my sons’ fiancées that we have this family tradition and if they want to marry my son…   Actually, I’m glad I did it because I got to know my in-laws very well. I got to see what my husband’s idea of marriage was based on his parents’ relationship. Plus, it was good practice for the numerous family vacations we’ve taken over the past 22 years. So for me, marriage has been a big part of my happily ever after. But what about my characters? Do they require a wedding in order to complete their HEA? In the old days a romance required boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy marries girl. Does that still hold up today? In the first four books of my More Than A Game series only one doesn’t technically contain a proposal. I won’t tell you which one, I don’t want to spoil it. But even without the down-on-his-knees, ring-in-hand proposal, it is very clear to the characters that they will be getting married down the road. I only have one actual wedding on the page. Again, you’ll have to find out on your own which one. And my current WIP examines my heroine’s strong aversion to marriage and all the traditional trappings she sees that go with it. I do feel that marriage gives a certain closure that just becoming a couple doesn’t offer. I mean, as romantic as it was for Sheldon to make Amy his emergency contact at work doesn’t quite satisfy her need for a commitment. And while dragging out the relationship is crucial to keeping a romance alive on a sitcom, it doesn’t quite cut it in real life. As a reader, I want the fairy tale ending. Even if it’s just a promise of a future wedding. It offers that hope that this couple will make it. It’s the same hope I feel when I attend a real-life wedding. That love always wins. Kristina Mathews doesn't remember a time when she didn't have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn't until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing. While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she's remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books. Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.

On Story – A Chapter Recap

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"Great stories happen to those who can tell them."  ~ Ira Glass

Happy Friday, everyone! We're genre writers, which means that the number one thing our readers expect when they pick up one of our books is a great story. Yes, writing exciting settings and using beautiful language is more than the icing on the cake. But a good romance is all about the story. Here is what some of our chapter members have to say on the topic. Leave a comment and give us your thoughts!

Three-Act Structure Made Easy ☺

~ By Susan Meier Hi, I’m Susan Meier, author of over sixty books. I teach online workshops and also at RWA chapter conferences. At one point, I did a Monday Morning blog on the art and craft of writing. This is a blog from that series. What is three-act structure? Simply put, three-act structure is the [...]

Does A Happily Ever After Require Wedding Bells?

~ By Kristina Matthews With another celebrity marriage down the tubes, I can’t help but wonder if marriage is even necessary—in books and in real life. I know there are many couples who are perfectly happy just living together. Many couples have an unintentional pregnancy and don’t even consider marriage before the baby comes, sometimes [...]
~ By Sloane B. Collins What helps me “discover” my story? Do I make playlists? Collages? The answer to those questions is YES, all of the above.  I struggled for years to finish stories without growing bored from plotting every bit of the books.  Until a couple of years ago I decided to let go [...]

Tell Me a Story

~ By Addison James “Tell me a story.” My Vice President said after we spent an hour with a member of the Board of Directors, scrutinizing nearly every digit in a ten page slide deck. Those digits were the result of a very large spreadsheet which I had created which showed  our results for last [...]

Three-Act Structure Made Easy ☺

Susan-Meier~ By Susan Meier Hi, I’m Susan Meier, author of over sixty books. I teach online workshops and also at RWA chapter conferences. At one point, I did a Monday Morning blog on the art and craft of writing. This is a blog from that series. What is three-act structure? Simply put, three-act structure is the beginning, middle and end of your story. (BTW, don't get too complicated with how you think about things and they'll be a lot easier to understand!) But the three acts aren't even. The first act is like a setup that ends with a decision or an action that turns the story on its ear, and usually gets it going in another direction. It's approximately one-tenth of the story. In a category romance, about thirty pages. In a bigger book, about forty. (YIKES) But it can be longer or shorter. There are no structure police. :) You will not go to jail if your setup takes longer or doesn't take as long. i.e. In HEAD OVER HEELS FOR THE BOSS, my September Entangled Bliss release, the heroine discovers her family business has been sold to the guy she’s had a crush on forever. She fears working with/for him because she knows she’ll embarrass herself, trip over her own feet, drool on him. LOL But after talking with her friends and spending a morning or two working with him, she realizes what she really wants is to take a shot at getting him to notice her/fall for her, too. So we end chapter two on a turning point...She decides to take a shot with him. Act two is all about the results of the decision/turning point at the end of act one. In HEAD OVER HEELS FOR THE BOSS it's what happens when the hero and heroine work together. But in act two we also have the story's midpoint...That's another turning point. In a lot of romances, the hero and heroine sleep together at the midpoint and that changes how they feel about each other and also changes their circumstance. In some really sweet romances, that turning point can be the first kiss. ☺ From there it's a sort of tumble to the black moment which is usually the end of act two. Which means act three, like act one, is short. Misery without each other. Decisions. (Should I go back to my old job, my old life, my mom's basement? Or maybe should I leave this two-bit town and find my real destiny?) Followed by a point where the hero or heroine realizes (because of something that happens) that they made the wrong decision in dumping the hero/heroine...and then a happy ending. Some people dress up act 3 with a Hollywood ending. A great/grand gesture made by the party in the wrong to win back the party in the right. (I did that in HEAD OVER HEELS FOR THE BOSS.) Other publishers like a more emotional ending. I done you wrong, but I am back, please don't shoot me...Love me. (I do that for Harlequin Romance.) Suspense authors have a whole different thing going on in act three. They have to solve the suspense problem (sometimes by killing the villain or rescuing somebody the villain took hostage); they have to fix the romance; and they have to debrief. But that's three-act structure in a nutshell. Why was/is that so hard? It isn't. Not if you use it. LOL But if you don't know about it, or if you let your characters run away with your story...Yikes. You can have a mess on your hands. Does structure ruin the free flow of your story? Read what I wrote above. I didn't give you the iron hand of the law that would make your characters puppets. Structure is just like a spine or a framework. Or maybe a tour guide. It doesn't boss you around. It just shows you the way to keep your story tight and on track. Some people, Michael Hague, for instance, will give you a little bit more of a guide or a fence. I love his stuff! He's at storymastery.com. Get his plot template. You will love it. The trick to this is realizing that you don't have to hit exact pages with things like turning points or act endings. You just have to be in the ballpark. :) But trust me...in the end...you will be glad because you will have a clear, readable story. Happy Writing… Susan Meier is the author of over 60 books for Harlequin and Silhouette, Entangled Indulgence, Red Hot Bliss and Bliss and one of Guideposts' Grace Chapel Inn series books, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. In 2013 she lived one of her career-long dreams. Her book, THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHER was a finalist for RWA’s highest honor, the Rita. The same year NANNY FOR THE MILLIONAIRE’S TWINS was a National Reader’s Choice finalist and won the Book Buyer’s Best Award. Susan is married with three children and is one of eleven children, which is why love and family are always part of her stories.

Tell Me A Story [REPOST]

addisonj_hat~ By Addison James “Tell me a story.” My Vice President said after we spent an hour with a member of the Board of Directors, scrutinizing nearly every digit in a ten page slide deck. Those digits were the result of a very large spreadsheet which I had created which showed  our results for last fiscal year, business entity by business entity, and how we expected to perform next year. The numbers had our expectations for our numerous product lines, the ones that we expected to grow and the ones that were our cash cows. Also, the expectations of industries, of demographics, and of regional macro environments were in those numbers. And I had to put them in a package that the Vice Presidents, the C-Suite executives, and the Board of Directors, could understand. My name is Addison James and I tell stories. My author profile on GoodReads and Amazon mentions my women’s fiction and contemporary romantic comedy writing. However the storytelling that pays my mortgage does not have an ISBN. I work in high tech. I work with numbers. I work at a company where the majority of employees are software engineers who create products that gamers love.  My job is working with data from finance and surveys, and creating spreadsheets that describe our financial performance and creating incentives for our employees. I create spreadsheets. And I tell stories. Like fiction writing, the business story needs to be engaging. It needs to pull in the listener so that they care about the outcome. It needs to have a personal perspective. It needs to appeal to emotions. How to do that with business writing? Business school students are familiar with a famous business school’s case study method. The case usually begins with a protagonist, usually an executive at a famous company, pondering a dilemma. The company is at a crossroads. A decision must be made. Do they branch out into home delivery? Should the product line stretch into lip gloss? Should operations be moved to China? What about labor laws in the Netherlands? Can the company afford to invest in a new technology at the cost of declining profits in the short term? Storytelling isn’t just in the realm of writers. Storytelling is a part of life. It’s a form of communicating from Homerian epics to small tales of wonder. It can be the 140 characters on Twitter or a Facebook update. It can be the Great American Novel or the narration to a vacation slideshow on an iPhone. It can be the company proxy. It can be a 30 second commercial with a little boy who thinks he’s Darth Vadar. It can be a movie. It can be PowerPoint. It doesn’t have to be a book. The best commercials, the best case studies, the best Tweets all share a common thread. They all tell a story. And so will my slide deck.
Addison James spent her childhood with her nose in a book, ignoring the natural beauty of her native Vermont.
She went to the right schools, got the right jobs, and spent her early adult years being responsible and stable. A few years ago, her long repressed urge to write emerged and she has been feeding it ever since.

Does A Happily Ever After Require Wedding Bells?

kristinamatthews~ By Kristina Mathews With another celebrity marriage down the tubes, I can’t help but wonder if marriage is even necessary—in books and in real life. I know there are many couples who are perfectly happy just living together. Many couples have an unintentional pregnancy and don’t even consider marriage before the baby comes, sometimes not even after. And some couples decide to start a family together without the intention to ever marry. Until recently, some couples weren’t allowed to marry at all. And then there are the people who marry several times. Without getting too preachy, I’ll share my own experience and those of my characters. I graduated from college in December 1992 and my wedding was scheduled for May 1993. We were moving from our college town of Reno to my fiancé’s hometown in Northern California, We had a rental lined up but it was on a working apple and pear orchard. My fiancé wasn’t comfortable with me living there alone with workers around irrigating, spraying, pruning, or picking so he suggested that I live with his parents until the wedding and then I’d move in with him. At first I thought it was kind of silly, we would only be living together for five months. But his parents are pretty conservative so I went along with the idea thinking we’d eventually end up moving in together. In the end, I spent only one night with him on the ranch before the wedding. It was the night the puppy we’d adopted was killed by a logging truck. I’m glad we didn’t live together before our wedding. Mostly because it means I can tell my sons’ fiancées that we have this family tradition and if they want to marry my son…   Actually, I’m glad I did it because I got to know my in-laws very well. I got to see what my husband’s idea of marriage was based on his parents’ relationship. Plus, it was good practice for the numerous family vacations we’ve taken over the past 22 years. So for me, marriage has been a big part of my happily ever after. But what about my characters? Do they require a wedding in order to complete their HEA? In the old days a romance required boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy marries girl. Does that still hold up today? In the first four books of my More Than A Game series only one doesn’t technically contain a proposal. I won’t tell you which one, I don’t want to spoil it. But even without the down-on-his-knees, ring-in-hand proposal, it is very clear to the characters that they will be getting married down the road. I only have one actual wedding on the page. Again, you’ll have to find out on your own which one. And my current WIP examines my heroine’s strong aversion to marriage and all the traditional trappings she sees that go with it. I do feel that marriage gives a certain closure that just becoming a couple doesn’t offer. I mean, as romantic as it was for Sheldon to make Amy his emergency contact at work doesn’t quite satisfy her need for a commitment. And while dragging out the relationship is crucial to keeping a romance alive on a sitcom, it doesn’t quite cut it in real life. As a reader, I want the fairy tale ending. Even if it’s just a promise of a future wedding. It offers that hope that this couple will make it. It’s the same hope I feel when I attend a real-life wedding. That love always wins. Kristina Mathews doesn't remember a time when she didn't have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn't until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing. While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she's remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books. Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.

What helps me “discover” my story? Do I make playlists? Collages?

AusU8jJO~ By Sloane B. Collins What helps me "discover" my story? Do I make playlists? Collages? The answer to those questions is YES, all of the above.  I struggled for years to finish stories without growing bored from plotting every bit of the books.  Until a couple of years ago I decided to let go and just write. I started out with a posterboard of pictures that reminded me of a holiday romance I was writing.  I’d pull it out when it was time to write, but eventually I needed more pictures and it was just too bulky, and too difficult to haul around if I wrote outside the house. I had seen in a Michael’s advertisement a Smash Journal, so I purchased one to use next time I needed it.  Boy, did it ever come in handy.  My debut novel takes place in the Alsace region of France, and since I’ve not had the opportunity to go to France yet, I had to make do with what I could.  Friends had told me about Pinterest several years ago, and I had pinned a few crafts and moved on.  Then I realized it was a treasure trove of pictures to inspire and immerse me in my story. So I started a board with pictures of the Alsace region and characters.  Then I realized I had pinned so many pictures that I couldn’t find what I wanted.  So I broke it down into a board for the hero and heroine, one for the main setting, one for the hero’s house, one for the heroine’s dream bakery, etc.  You can see them here if you’d like.  https://www.pinterest.com/sloanebcollins/  (Now I have tons of boards for every story, and boards for the prequel, 2nd and 3rd books coming up.) france1For “Love Redesigned”, I used that Smash Journal and broke it down into tabbed areas, somewhat like the Pinterest boards, with a section for my hero and heroine and their goals, motivations, conflict, backstory, and where I want them to go in the story.  I’ve been a scrapbooker for twenty years, so I used all my scrapping stuff to make a beautiful journal, and it helped me get to know my story, the characters, setting, etc. Plus it fueled my creative side! france2As I wrote the story, I played French music over and over again, until I felt I was sitting at a sidewalk café in Paris.   I played the soundtracks from “Something’s Gotta Give” and the remake of “Sabrina” and the French songs are perfect for this series: C’est si Bon by Eartha Kitt; Samba de Mon Coeur Qui Bat by Coralie Clément; Que Reste – T’il de Nos Amour by Charles Trenet; Assedic by Los Escrocs; Je Cherche un Homme by Eartha Kitt; La Vie en Rose by Louis Armstrong; Growing up in Paris by John Williams, Moonlight by Sting. france3So all of these things helped immerse me in the story, and really get to know the characters, envision the setting, and feel as if I was there as the story was happening.  In fact, a few pictures inspired whole scenes.  As I was searching for a wedding dress, I came across a picture of two flower girls, and all of a sudden they were new characters in the book.  That was very exciting! Sloane B. Collins is an award-winning author of Contemporary Romance. Although she is a fifth-generation Texan, she dreams of moving to the French countryside someday. Right now, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband of over twenty-six years, and their four rambunctious cats. Since Sloane and her husband love to travel, she’s determined to write a novel set in just about every place they visit. Social media links: https://www.facebook.com/sloaneburkecollins Twitter: @sloanebcollins Website: http://sloanebcollins.wordpress.com/