Ask a male author about your male character traits or thoughts.

Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Susan Burns is our guest poster today

Today’s guest is our own RWASD member and author, Susan Burns. She writes under the pen name of S.B.K. Burns. She’ll tell us how she came up with her romantic heroes, but leads off with a replay of a behind the scenes pitch from hell:

Confessions of a Fifty Shades Junky by Susan Burns
[Please don’t forget to comment or at least thank our guest. At the bottom I'll insert a video of Dexter suggested by Susan: Inside the kill room. - Bob]

“I have this really neat story,” I say, as a prelude to my pitch.

“Yes, but what motivates your hero? What category does he fall into? What are his hopes and dreams? What does he stand to lose?” et cetera . . . et cetera

For a pantser like me, who only needs to get an idea of my entity’s attitude and voice—letting my characters speak through me when I write—this interview seems worse than death.

I panic. My palms sweat. Was this editor asking me all sorts of analytical things about a character that sprung into my mind fully formed? I thought all I had to do was to complete my novel and wrap it up in a satisfying way.

You might ask me what is so wrong with answering those questions? Don’t we have to know our characters, plot them out in great detail, before we write about them? Even if we don’t plot out our stories?

My answer is no. With two advanced degrees in engineering, I was the only woman working with men for too many years to contemplate. The heroes that spoke to me were already educated in that arena. [Oh I like Susan, says an ex-engineer. Finally somebody understands me. - Bob]

Some women authors, the plotters, analyze what a man should be, think, feel, and how he should love. I let mine react to the heroine and life, revealing themselves as they go along.

And, as with my friends, I try not to impose expectations on my characters. If I have something planned for them, I know they will surprise me. I hope they will surprise me. 

So pay attention, you editors and agents. Please don’t force me to get analytical about something I love. I’m done being the geeky analytical scientist. I’ve spent a lifetime doing that. That’s your job now.

So here are my confessions about E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.  Yes, I have read all three books—three times.  And I think after the movie moguls decided to quit Charlie Hunnam as Christian Grey for pointy-nosed Jamie, I lost interest in the movement.

Here’s what drove me onward into, what some of you might call insanity, reading all three books obsessively.  It was the hero. I’ve only been obsessed with one other hero, watching his Netflix TV episodes nonstop. He's Dexter, the serial killer we all love and cherish, because . . .

What makes someone, me in particular, love this guy? The same reason I loved and couldn’t get enough of Christian Grey.  And no, for you out there who think it’s because Christian is a bad boy. He isn’t. He’s just tormented.

The editor for my sci-fi romance series, coming out soon (Legends of The Goldens), said I needed to give more angst to the hero in my second book, just like I did with the first. And that’s what it’s all about—the suffering.

Our heroes, though it doesn’t seem very romantic at first, need to be FLAWED, and by my obsession, I’ve got to say—very flawed.

Dexter, as a toddler covered in blood, watched his mother chain-sawed to death.

Christian, as a toddler, watched his mother murdered and then cried alone beside her dead body. Both heroes were taken into, some might say, healthy, well-adjusted families. [Fascinating insights & comparisons of the two men. – Bob]

How, we wonder, can a human being cope with such early trauma?  And that’s the hook for me. How a child faced with such insanity can pull himself up to become that romantic hero at the end of his character arc.

He’s the innocent who fights the brutality of a dysfunctional world he’s been thrust into. How could we not root for such a character, hoping he’ll emerge sane with the ability to truly love another person, and, of course, himself.

In the first four books I wrote, my heroes were wrapped up in their looks and their superhuman powers. So into themselves, they thought all they had to do was look good and women would fall at their feet. This was a good place to start, but Saffron, the hero of Forbidden Playground, the first book in my Goldens Series, has a problem far worse than self-absorption. He’s grown up with the heroine, she’s his best friend, and she abandons him. Too late, he realizes, what all romance readers hope for, that he discovers he cannot exist without the heroine.  So, right now, to please both my readers and my editor, I need to dig deep to find the pain in the heroes of my second and third novels in the series. To escape those painful beginnings, the hero must have the courage to remake himself—to die to himself, only to emerge victorious.

Yes, on the surface Christian and Dexter appear to be bad boys. They both are  “mild-mannered reporters” by day and monsters by night—kind of a Jekyll and Hyde (my, am I analyzing my heroes? And I said I didn’t want to do that. But only for you, dear reader.)

One thing the heroine wants in a hero is HONESTY. The honesty comes in, not with the hero telling everyone of his plight, but by his own recognition of who he is and what limitations are set for him (this can be seen in third person, deep POV, where the hero narrates his own story through internal dialogue and discrete thoughts).

“I F**k hard,” Christian says to Anastasia, his heroine, almost upon their first meeting. But he gives her the FREEDOM to decide if she can deal with his monster. She gets tied up (forgive the pun) with the psychology of this stunted man-boy she so very much wants to love.

The men in my stories basically want the sex part, but I weave in the psychological part as well. The sexual intimacy means—as the man fills the woman, she fulfills the man. He now belongs someplace, to someone. The emotional VOID, he’s been fighting against, gets filled. And the power of this change in my hero is so very much greater, depending on how severe his childhood trauma.

Inspired by Dexter and Christian, the hero in my WIP, Flat Spin, is an emotionally challenged test pilot. He’s all analytical, loves to take risks. But is he up to the task of risking it all on a lethally dangerous alien who could put him to sleep, forever, with just the blink of her eyes?

To bring me, and my potential readers, to obsession, the hero needs—a traumatic childhood experience (FLAWED), a conscious knowledge of his maladjusted plight (HONESTY), be disciplined enough to give the heroine FREEDOM of choice, and, at some point, a willingness to lose himself, to fill his emotional VOID, to attain the ability to accept and love, first himself, then others.

Dexter: Inside the kill room:

OMG, I've never seen this show. I'd be banished to a different TV (and room) if I watched this. For Susan fans follow her links below:
The Forbidden Playground Comic Teaser:
Amazon ebooks by S.B.K. Burns:

Monday, November 18, 2013

What drives men? November 18, 2013

What drives men?

Before I answer this question from the male POV, consider another question.

What drives women?

What . . . do I hear rumblings? You can’t put us in a box, Bob. Well the same thing goes for guys. And writing romance is all the better for it.

In most romances I have read the guy is either romantic or comes around to appreciate romance. I’ve always found the ‘coming around’ arc hard to believe because a boy’s teenage years are all about mapping out their hopes and dreams, their lives. For a boy or man to not do this type of thinking would be thoughtless or worse non-romantic. The non-romantics may look at life in a more pragmatic way. They might decide what is right or wrong based on the situation and how it benefits them. If they marry, it will be for many reasons, but not likely love. Because to them love doesn’t exist, just survival. They’ll often divorce, once the marriage no longer benefits them. Ego-centric thinking is so monochromatic. Those who engage in it miss so much of what life has to offer.

Yes a man could have an epithany, an enlightenment. I’m just suggesting that something doesn’t come from nihilism. This writing blunder (a man who never considers love or that love exists) is easily fixed with backstory, especially in his teenage years.

Yes, you can have your heroes be driven by success or competition, even when it comes to competing for women (which shows passion). And many men are driven to compete, to excel. But aren’t women like this too?

So write your success driven hero with a heart, with dimension, with an inner drive to find that someone special someday. Perhaps he had put if off for various reasons until a special woman causes him to rearrange his priorities.

Jerry Maguire, 1996 is a fair representation of a driven man who has some backstory and backbone. Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger are driven by a deeper meaning in living their lives. They rsik it all. This drives the movie and makes the plot and their romance work.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A new critique group, November, 12, 2013

Announcing a new critique group:

One advantage to joining this group might be that your male characters will become more real, (if not already).

I belong to a general writing critique group which meets every Friday for 3 hours. They’re great but I feel the need for a romance critique group to sharpen a very specialized genre.

Since RWASD members and others who follow this blog are spread out geographically, I picture a small online critique group. Maybe a total of four members. There is a possibility of meeting in person, perhaps on special occasions. I live in La Costa and can host. Our jobs would be to critique one scene a week and send it back by the end of the week at the latest and then start over.

Any romance genre is okay by me. I'm sitting on four contemporary novels right now: some rom coms, some paranormal (actually unexplained phenomena would be more precise). I have written a young adult about Robin and Marian (novella) and multi-protagonist love and adventure story set 100,000 years ago (not strickly a romance).

Those who sign up should email me at not the Blog's email. Let me know if you want your name shared on this blog or not and a little about yourself and what you are doing. I’ll choose the three who will join me.

We’ll need a name for the group. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

RW Richard (Bob)

I videod my critique group. I picture the new group as three gals and me.

Thanks to a long forgotten but great movie, Twelve Angry Men, 1954-1957, TV, stage, movie.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Compare mystery and romance writing rules? Nov. 3, 2013

Just how different is romance writing when compared to mystery writing?

Phyllis Humphrey, of our chapter (RWASD),  has graciously consented to allow me to use her blog post about mystery writing rules so I can compare them to rules for writing romance.

Phyllis wrote: 

The twelve great rules for mystery writing are as relevant today as they were five years ago when Hallie Ephron wrote an article about them. For a slimmed-down version, go to

Bob's comments about romance writing are italicized.

#1. Coincidence or an Act of God. Coincidences happen in real life, but the rules are more stringent in fiction. If your sleuth is in a bathroom stall and overhears two strangers plotting a murder, Rewrite!

ROMANCE: If your hero or heroine overhear someone else solving the impasse between them, Rewrite!

* #2. Concealed Clues. Mystery readers want to solve the crime along with your detective, so if your sleuth knows a fact you haven’t revealed to the reader, Rewrite!

ROMANCE:  If your hero or heroine is withholding their true feelings or contemplated actions from the reader, not each other, Rewrite!

* #3. Plot-Herding Characters. Don’t let your characters do things normal people wouldn’t do just because your plot requires that. If your character, all alone and unarmed, goes into a scary place to confront the villain, you’d better give him a darned good reason, or else... Rewrite!

ROMANCE:  If your hero or heroine both inexplicably head for the same place, let’s say the top of the Empire State Building, Rewrite! Coincidences in romantic comedies which are written to snag laughs and fit the plot are the exception.

* #4. False starts. Readers need a mystery, or something exciting, to keep reading, so if you give them an immediate information dump, or a “flash forward” instead, Rewrite!

ROMANCE: Many romances are guilty of (especially in the heroine’s internal POV) rehashing every possible problem and then doing it again and again. Or the heroine overanalyzes the future giving away every possible scenario. Unless your heroine is a detective, enough is enough, sprinkle in some external plot and let them react to that, Rewrite!

* #5. Narration in dialog form. Sure, there are things you want the reader to know, but if your dialogue is stuffed with “reader feeders,” Rewrite!

ROMANCE: “Do you remember the time you did this and that?” “Yeah, it was yesterday. And you did this and on top of that, you did more.” No matter how far or close in the past this is unaffectionately known as the information dump. Rewrite!

* #6. False finish. These days readers expect the sleuth to have a final confrontation with the enemy, or at least a credible, though unexpected, solution. If you’ve picked the least-suspected person to be the villain and it’s not believable, or the sleuth spends pages explaining to the gathering how he put all the clues together, or if good luck, or divine intervention or a sudden rescue party solves the problem... Right. Rewrite!

ROMANCE: Divine intervention is no way to solve problems of the heart unless you writing a story about miracles. The hero and heroine need to understand why they can’t live without each other. And please don’t tell me all they have is chemistry. Rewrite!

* #7. Too many viewpoints. There’s a reason so many whodunits are written in first person. Readers have no problem following one person and trying to solve the crime when, or before, he does. Your story may require two viewpoint characters, but if you write more than three, and especially if you switch viewpoints in the middle of a scene, Rewrite!

ROMANCE: 99% of romances have two main points of view, if you have only one POV, unless there’s an exceptional reason . . . Rewrite! If you are uncomfortable writing the male POV or stuck on some point, try asking a guy or email me, I’m a guy.

* #8. Sidekicks as Stereotypes. Please, no heart-of-gold ex-hookers, no eyeglass-wearing, clumsy computer nerds, no incompetent cops. Dream up an interesting original or else, Rewrite!

ROMANCE: The same goes for romance, but I’d add a twist and that’s all that’s necessary. For instance, the heart of gold hooker was a nun. Rewrite!

* #9. Zigzag Timeline. Don’t switch between time periods if it can be avoided. If you make the reader wonder if this is 2013 or 1990 too often, you’ll lose her. Rewrite!

ROMANCE: The worst thing in a romance is to wonder bending your arcs of love and hate to the point they resemble a bowl of spaghetti. No reader can decipher such drivel. Rewrite!

* #10. Fa, la, la, gathering clues. Remember the theme of all fiction is conflict. If your sleuth is brilliant, fearless and cunning at all times, if he always stumbles upon the necessary clues, if witnesses always tell him the truth, let’s face it, it’s boring.  Rewrite!

ROMANCE: Try not to make your hero or heroine perfect. HelenKay Dimon is fond of giving her main characters, flaws. You’ve heard of this technique, no doubt. Rewrite!

* #11. Overstaying your welcome. If your sleuth reveals a suspect to be the murderer, and then decides he’s not and chooses someone else, or the killer escapes and the last hundred pages are just a “007" chase scene, Rewrite!

ROMANCE: Don’t make the last 100 pages a, can I tell you one more thing that happened since they married or declared their happily-ever-after. A short epilogue can add charm; a long one can add weight. Rewrite!

* #12. The small stuff. Mystery readers are relentless about wanting things to be accurate, so make sure you have no glaring errors. That applies to punctuation and grammar too. Do it right, or Rewrite!

ROMANCE: Need I say anything more than, Rewrite!
Inexplicably a seemingly unrelated video appears below which mixes romance with mystery.
Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James in a clip from McMillan and Wife (Series run 1971 -77):