STRIKING A BALANCE
Dear Author Enabler,
I have a great outline for a love story but need to structure it to move along with conflict and interest on each page. I broke it down by time and reveries into chapters but need a push to liven it up.
It’s a real-life love affair still in the works, and real life is becoming animated as it all proceeds. It seems to be writing itself, but when I step away to focus on moving it along, doing so stops the action.
Can you comment on emotional love stories and how to develop a flow for an engrossing story?
Hackensack, New Jersey
Different readers seek different rewards in fiction, which is why we see such great diversity in novels and short stories. Some people are frustrated if there isn’t immediate action on the first two pages of a book, while others are happy to read hundreds of pages of achingly beautiful, emotional setup or highly detailed character studies before anything substantive happens in terms of the plot.
It sounds like you, as the author, fall into the first category. You want more action. You seem to believe that you have a good love story but that there needs to be another engine besides the love interest to bring your novel to life, to make it a more compelling story—and therefore more salable.
I believe all fiction benefits from a good, strong plot, but there is no simple trick for creating one. Telling a good story is a skill, and every writer has to work at it. If you’re stuck, a writing group, a trusted confidante or a writer’s conference can help. Find someone you believe is a skilled writer and ask if he or she is willing to read your work and offer feedback. (You should offer to do the same in return.) Push yourself to develop the plot of your book, and then ask your trusted reader(s) to give you an honest critique. Keep at it until you’re satisfied with the results.
One other suggestion—go to your local bookstore or library and ask for some recommendations of love stories with interesting plots. Reading well-written examples of the kind of work you want to produce can offer inspiration for your own writing.
USING MOVIE QUOTES
Dear Author Enabler,
I want to write a short story about an actor who has passed away and wish to use some of his movie quotes. Can I freely do this? Or should I write around it and imply or paraphrase the quotes? It would seem more effective to use the direct lines that would honor this former actor.
Quoting dialogue from a movie in the way you describe probably falls into the category of “fair use.” In layman’s terms, fair use is an aspect of copyright law that provides common-sense guidelines for using other people’s copyrighted material in a limited way. There are no hard and fast rules defining fair use, though, resulting in many lawsuits. In the case of your short story, make sure you give proper credit to the source of your quotation; don’t use too much material; and don’t write anything that could possibly damage the reputation of the work you’re quoting. If you’re wondering what constitutes “too much” material, I would suggest that quoting a line or two is fine. If, on the other hand, you are quoting entire scenes, this raises the question of whether you are profiting from someone else’s work, which is not fair use. For more information about fair use, visit www.copyright.gov.
A LITTLE PLUG
I invite you to take a look at the interactive eBook Hard Listening: The Greatest Rock Band Ever (of Authors) Tells All, by Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Roy Blount Jr., Mitch Albom, James McBride, Ridley Pearson, Matt Groening, Greg Iles, Roger McGuinn and yours truly. It is available for all devices wherever eBooks are sold and is dedicated to the great Author Enabler, my late wife Kathi Kamen Goldmark.