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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Story Seeds: Author Lily Harlem on Writing

Hello Fellow Writers!
Today we have quite a treat. Multi-published erotic romance author Lily Harlem, winner of the 2009 Love Honey Award for Erotic Fiction, is guest blogging today about her writing process.

Read on to learn:
1. How to start a story
2. How to hook your reader
3. How to pick your characters, location, and plot


Lily Harlem:

Where to start writing a book?

It’s a tricky question which I’m sure doesn’t have one correct answer whatever the word count you have in mind. I’m equally sure every author has different methods for coming up with plot, characters and the location of their story. Today I’ve been pondering on my own methods for writing erotic romances and I’d love to hear other people’s comments, strategies and opinions on what works best for them, what they enjoy reading and of course what they enjoy writing.

The first line is a good place to start. It has to be done, it’s pretty essential. One option is to throw the reader immediately into the story – The sleek, black car pulled alongside the lone girl, with the windows tinted and the stark glow of the headlamps it resembled a panther hunting its prey – or the first line could be a statement - Loneliness is gaping hole just waiting to be filled but like a key in a lock only the right person will fit. Another option is to dive straight in with dialogue – “You cow,” Sarah screamed down the stairs. ”How could you sleep with him when you know what he did to me?”

Opening line for me is one of the first things I dream up for a new novel, but not the absolute first. More often than not I begin with a stand-alone scene popping in and out of my head. Stephanie Meyer famously visualised Bella and her hot vampire Edward lying in the meadow then worked the story around this scene. The meadow was midway through Twilight and I really related to her method as it’s something I do a lot. (Unfortunately I haven’t got the multi-million dollar film deals to go with the ideas! Hey-hoo!)

For example in my Mattress Music series I kept thinking of a group of seriously sexy rock stars, talented hands, gritty lyrics and all yearning to fall in love with women who liked them for them and not just their fame and fortune. I enjoyed playing with ideas in my head, initially wondering how a scenario could come about where a girl was out with a multimillionaire rock-star but hadn’t recognised him. Another idea for a scene was the boy and girl next door, young lovers, who’d gone separate ways but then come back together with new histories and identities, him of course as a global superstar.

So to the actual characters—the girls in this trilogy were easy-ish to dream up. In Mattress Music Nina is in a pickle, living in a new apartment and trying to muffle the sound of her weekend hook-ups from her new flatmates – I’ll say no more! Jenny in Mirror Music is a well-respected doctor who loved lead singer Robbie Harding long before his face adorned posters and cd covers. Sylvia in Ménage à Music popped up in Mirror Music and just called to me to find happiness, she was so dreary and down in dumps. Let’s just say she does find happiness! Big time!

Ahh, the men, brooding and gorgeous, the stuff of fantasies. I let my imagination run wild here. Rock stars – tattoo’s, piercings, muscles from beating the drums, callouses from plucking guitar strings. I was in heaven dreaming these guys up. Phew!

Hand in hand with the characters and plot goes the location of the story. I picked London for all of the Mattress Music books. They say ‘write what you know’ and I lived in London for many years, the sights, the smells, the sounds and the way the inhabitants adjust to the seasons is indelibly printed on my mind. I adore this city, like actually, really LOVE it! Often I set stories in the USA where I have travelled a lot, this works well for me, though I couldn’t imagine setting a story in for example Russia where I have never been. Some people manage this very well, but its not for me.

So that’s how the seeds of my stories germinate pretty much every time, a few key scenes and the characters. Then the ideas grow and the little stalks rise above the surface of the mud which takes up back to the ‘first line’ point. For Mattress Music I chose the first line - Elton was killing me. – Short but sweet and to the point. Mirror Music starts with a lyric being blasted out at Wembley Stadium - Jenny, Oh Jenny, I’m still here, still waiting, still aching – sending the reader straight into the loud, hectic moment. In Ménage à Music I start with a statement - Six months was long enough to nurse a broken heart. – this then leads on to more details about the protagonist’s situation and in turn sets up the story.

It’s important to get the hook in early on, the nearer to the first line the better. My creative writing teacher always said you should never go more than 150 words without hooking the reader into the story.

When all of this - locale, characters, etc. - is in place then comes the good bit - thinking up the sex scenes. I love the first time a ‘crazy for one another couple’ gets it together after that volcanic build-up of sexual tension. It’s such a release, so explosive and it’s all so new, every sense is overwhelmed and because I often write in first person the reader is really there, really experiencing what it’s like to be having wild, delicious sex with a hot, hard - in this case – rock star – Phew!

Every story must have an outcome which is realistic and a way for the characters to move on in their world. Happy ever after is good, so is happy for now, and it goes without saying that all loose threads in the plot must be sewn up, otherwise you will leave your readers scratching their heads.

So that’s how I nurture my story seeds into books. A lot of time letting them burst to life in my imagination and then adding a pinch of real life experience, a dose of inspiration and a location which is a feast for the senses. It’s a very personal journey for an author, sometimes it floods you in weeks, other times it lurks around for years.

I would love to hear from anyone who shares my idiosyncrasies when it comes to writing, (or don’t as the case maybe) thoughts, comments and ideas are always very welcome! I’ll be hanging around to chat although probably in a different time zone!

Lily Harlem x

5 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for having me at The Writer's Challenge today :-)

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  2. Thanks for being here and for a great post, Lily!

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  3. Great post! I love reading about authors and how they craft their stories. Everyone is a little different from another. I love the thought of ideas as seeds! I have lots of seeds but still have trouble getting them to bloom fast enough. Or maybe I'm just impatient, LOL!

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  4. Very good post. For me it's usually the final scene that triggers a story. Then I begin to think how did they get there. The plot unfolds and then the characters emerge. Isn't it wonderful that there's no right way to write, just to write

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  5. Thanks for stopping by, Heather and Janet!

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