Complication Cards: a must-read guest by Ines Johnson, author of The Loyal Steed

Ines Johnson has become a regular on this blog. Whenever she has a new release (and this girl is prolific!) she sends such tantalizing guest posts, I’d make space for them even if my schedule was full–which is not (mental note to blog more 🙂 ).

This time Ines’ guest post is about digging deep into your characters to define their inner needs as opposed to their wants, and how to structure your story based on that. Really worth your time. But before you get there, here are the details on Ines’ latest release The Loyal Steed: A Pleasure Hound, a serialized erotic dystopian story. The first part was released on May 12.

The Loyal Steed: A Pleasure Hound novel

by Ines Johnson
Release date: May 12
Genres: Erotic romance, dystopian
Purchase Link: Part 1 | Part 2 (Pre-order) | Part 3 (Pre-order)

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Synopsis

Jaspir has been in love with Lady Merlyn since they were children, but she has always been out of his reach. Trained as a Pleasure Hound and now surviving by selling his body to rich women, his heart has always remained loyal to his true love.

Liam was promised to Merlyn in their youth, but he’s always known that he’s not the man in her heart. With their betrothal approaching, Liam seeks out Jaspir for help. Eager to ensure the happiness of the woman they both love, Jaspir agrees to train Liam in the pleasure arts.

What starts as rivals in an uneasy truce, soon turns carnal when Merlyn learns of their secret lessons. In a society where men are second class citizens, Merlyn is torn between the attentions of two men who would do anything to rule her heart.

GUEST POST

Complication Cards

THE HOLE CHARACTER

All characters have holes (notice it rhymes with goals). You open the first chapter and find a human being who believes they are lacking something crucial in their lives. Perhaps it’s the dream job, or the right social circle, or their mother’s approval, or maybe it’s love.

Rarely do you enter the world of a character who finds themselves whole. A part is usually missing. For the next tens of thousands of words you will embark upon a journey with that character to fill that void.

Characters fill these holes in one of two ways; with either a want or need.

Remember when you were young and you wanted the fancy pair of jeans? Think Brenda in 90210. Fresh from the Midwest, thrown into the dangerous waters of the Beverly Hills elite, and her working class parents couldn’t afford the patchwork, ripped jeans that cost the same as a car payment. But Brenda wanted those holey jeans so that she could fit in with Kelly and Donna. In Carol’s, her mother’s eyes, there was a need for a new pair of pants for Brenda to wear to school and that’s what Brenda got. Now if we watched that 20-year old episode we know what Brenda did to those new pair of jeans; she made holes in her jeans to fill her social void.

You might want a pair of Louis Vuitton, but in the end you need a pair of functioning heels to go with that cute dress.

A want is a false goal, a red herring that throws both the reader and the character off the true course that will fill the character’s hole. It takes some time and some bumps in the road before the character realizes their want is not likely what they need. The need perfectly fills the void the character has been experiencing.

Exercise

Take a look at your main character(s). What is it that they need in order to be whole again? Now consider if it would serve your story for your character to have a false goal that keeps them from seeing their true need for a good portion of the story?

THE OBSTACLE COURSE

Before a character can see their need, they have to yearn after a want, which takes them on a bumpy ride to nowhere.

This obstacle course consists of four physical and/or internal complications that force the hero or heroine to make decisions that produce dramatic action.

The four kinds of obstacles are:

The Antagonist (Bad Guy)

A specific antagonist lends clarity and power to the dramatic structure because his primary function is to oppose the protagonist. He doesn’t necessarily have to be evil, but he should personify the protagonist’s obstacles.

Example: Cinderella’s Wicked Step Mother

Physical Obstructions

Physical obstructions are just what they seem –material barriers standing in the way of the protagonist. These can be rivers, deserts, mountains, a dead-end street, or a car causing a crash –anything that presents a substantial obstacle for the protagonist.

Example: Arielle’s fin

Inner/Psychological Problems

Inner obstacles are intellectual, emotional, or psychological problems the protagonist must overcome before being able to achieve his goal. For example, dealing with fear, pride, jealousy, or the need to mature fall into this category.

Example: Fiona’s (from Shrek) appearance

Mystic Forces

Mystic forces enter most stories as accidents or chance but they can be expressed as moral choices or ethical codes, which present obstacles. They can also be personified as gods or supernatural forces, which the characters have to content with.

Example: Tiana’s (from The Frog Prince) magical transformation into a frog

Exercise

Which of these obstacles will your character face? Will they face more than one type of obstacle during the course of the story?

THE SCENE

You’ve discovered your character’s need, and potentially their want, which is a false goal. You’ve learned about the four types of obstacles that can obstruct your character on the way to achieving their goals and filling their need. Now, to build a heart-pounding story where you send your character through the toughest obstacle course you can imagine, you should map out a blueprint for the course.

Four Elements of a Story

  1. HERO/HEROINE

Primary character looking to fill the void in their life.

  1. WANT

A false goal that the hero/heroine initially believes is their path to wholeness.

  1. OBSTACLE

One of the four obstacles opposing the hero/heroine.

  1. NEED

The true goal of the hero/heroine which will satisfy their void.

OBSTACLE COURSE CARD

EXAMPLES

Antagonist example

In the Cinderella adaptation Ever After, Danielle (heroine) works tirelessly to gain acceptance (want) from her stepmother (antagonist) until she realizes her family of friends, including the Prince, love her unconditionally (need).

Physical example

In The Little Mermaid adaptation Splash, yes I went there!, Madison (heroine) leaves the sea to be with Allen (want) but when her legs get wet and her fins come back (obstacle) she’s forced to tell Allen the truth of her existence in the hopes that he’ll come and spend forever with her under the sea (need).

Inner/Psychological example

In the unconventional fairy tale Shrek, Princess Fiona (heroine) hopes to be rescued by a knight in shining armor (want) who will break her curse (obstacle) until she realizes that true love is “color” blind (need).

Mystic Forces example

In The Frog Prince, Tiana (heroine) dreams of opening a restaurant (want) but her dream takes a slight detour when she’s turned into a frog (obstacle) along with Prince Naveen and learns to seek and take help from others (need).

Exercise

Now its your turn. Fill out your own obstacle card for you story. If you want to take it a step farther, fill out a card for each scene!

About the Author

Ines writes books for strong women who suck at love. If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slayed by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love her books!

Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, Ines is a very bad Buddhist. She sits in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, she’s contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen her plots and character motivations.

Ines lives outside Washington, DC with her two little sidekicks who are growing up way too fast.

Connect with the Author

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Publisher

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Great post, Ines! Thank you so much for sharing, and best of luck with The Loyal Steed!

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Blurb Thursday #1 (What’s hot and what’s not)

A new blog category! As you probably know, I’ve been hosting for three book tour companies through my promo blog, MM Jaye presents. I get to read literally hundreds of blurbs each month, and some are strikingly good while others (in my opinion) don’t work too well.

So this is where I’ll present and talk about new blurbs, showcasing what’s hot (and what’s not) about them.

This week:

Wish for Me (The Djinn Order #1)

by A. Star

Publication Date: April 27, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Steampunk

Official Synopsis

When the snarky Glory St. Pierre discovers the gold mechanical vase in her deceased grandmother’s basement, she has no idea that she has uncovered a priceless treasure: a genie lamp. With a real genie inside. A very sexy genie with a not-so-sexy grudge against the entire human race.

Irving Amir hates being called a genie. He’s a Djinn, and he is none too happy to be in the service of Glory, who is as intolerable, and beautiful, as humans come. Now he owes her his gratitude for freeing him and three wishes. Damn his luck.

But an arrow through the shoulder alerts Irving to the fact that he is being hunted, and after a truce dinner with Glory ends with them both almost being killed, hating each other goes right out the window.

As feelings change and love starts to develop, they must dig through the secrets and lies to find the truth…a truth neither of them will ever see coming.

WARNING: Not suitable for ages 18 and under. A significant source of bad language, sexy times, and dirty jokes. If you suffer from a lack of a sense of humor, take with plenty of wine. If the symptom persists, see a doctor.

My take

First off, the cover is beautiful. Mysterious and inviting. The winding mechanisms brand it as a steampunk novel, and while the romance aspect is not obvious, the title helps. My only objection is with the author’s name. In thumbnail size, it’s barely discernible.

As for the blurb? I loved it! In fact, I’ve picked it up for reviewing (through Xpresso Book Tours). Let’s break this down:

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Blurb3

blurb4As for the Warning at the end, I found it ingenious. Witty, no-nonsense, it proves this will be a fun read.

If your interest is piqued, here is its purchase link: Amazon

You can also add it on Goodreads.

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What’s your take on this blurb? Does it do what it’s supposed to do?

GIF Friday: Beat It #5 (Kristen Stewart)

The winner of Beat It #4 with Matt Bomer is Karli Rush, author of dark, paranormal romance. The post on her upcoming release, Let Your Heart Drive, will be published on May 11.

You can’t know me well enough if you’re not aware of my ongoing Kristen Stewart fanship. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to her. It’s a wonder I didn’t start this meme with her, but this week is all about the Queen of brooding chic.

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Don’t you sometimes struggle to add the right body language description (beat) to amp up your dialog? One that conjures just the right image, is not cliché and sounds fresh?

Then this meme-type exercise is for you. Read on for a quick how-to.

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Kristen Stewart @Jean_Nelson (depositphotos.com)
  • Take a good look at the GIF below.
  • Using the scene set up I give you, describe the body language you see just as you’d do if you were writing out the scene yourself.
  • Post your “beat” until Wednesday as a comment here, blog it, post on Facebook, wherever.
  • If you don’t post here, leave a comment with a link to where you posted, so I can find you.

I will then update this page to include all offerings I gather with links to participants’ sites or social media.

No judging, no winners. My aim is to gather lots of different body language beats describing a visual action/reaction for my readers (and yours) to read and maybe learn. An added perk: each week, I’ll choose a random participant who will get FREE book promo on my promo blog mmjayepresents.com.

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GIF Friday #5 starring Kristen Stewart

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With a weird military salute her clingy friends leave. Finally. I’ve been nursing my empty coffee mug for half an hour.

She stayed behind. That must be a good sign, right?

I try to ignore the flutter in my heart. I have set myself up for rejection, and I’m not used to that. But she’s different. I might be the school’s baseball star, but she’s the one who serves mean curveballs.

That land right onto my stomach.

Wiping my hands on my jeans, I stand and go to her. “You’ve had over half an hour to think it over.” I sit on the chair next to her. “Eight o’ clock. Orchard Tri Cinemas. You and me. No friends this time. Are you in or out?”

(insert beat)

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So what it’ll be? Will she say ‘yes’ this time or not? End this story the way you want. Remember to add a workable link in your comment so that I can credit you properly.