Oh No, Here come the Homonyms: And other Writerly Tips
Writing paranormal and fantasy romance can be great fun! Nobody’s seen a vampire or a shape-shifter or a fae. Nobody has (yet) been successfully transported back to the Wild West or forward to new planets.
This is true fiction. Made-up creatures, made-up stories, made-up settings.
Oops! All this made-up stuff is still being told in plain English.
No matter how exciting, how dangerous, how romantic, how sexy, you can lose a reader in a couple of easy steps.
Errors of Fact – Granted, there aren’t always a lot of facts in paranormal or fantasy romance. But if you have facts, make sure they’re accurate. I recently read one best-selling romance author who referred to “the 1859 Gold Rush in California.”
And according to her bio, she lives in Northern California. Well no. It was 1849…you know like the San Francisco football team, the Forty-Niners? I’ll never read this author again, nor would I recommend her.
Most of the settings for my Kandesky Vampire Chronicles are in Europe. Some places I’ve been to and some I visit through Google. I’ve never to Kiev or Moscow or St. Petersburg. But, using Google, I look at city maps, research a bit of history and it takes just a few computer clicks. Before the internet age, research was a daunting task involving hours at a library and probably tired eyes from reading microfilm.
But now? Unsure of a fact? Google is your friend.
Overused words – The English language has more than one million words in it. That’s about 850,000 (or so) more words than any other language. Yet we probably don’t have more than 50,000 in average daily use. As you finish your book, pick a word you think you may use too often and run it through the “Find” function of Word. You don’t have to eliminate all redundancies, but this will alert you to the crutch words. I usually write with a Thesaurus open in a window.
And don’t be afraid of contractions, particularly in dialogue. Do you know anyone who says, “No, I do not think you will go. You could not have done that.” Contractions will come up with green squiggles in the Word version of English, but ignore them and shoot for dialogue that reflects the way we speak.
Homonyms – Here’s where spell check really falls down on the job.
“His interest was piqued when he peeked around the door and saw her nipples peaked.”
I don’t think any other language has these words that sound similar but have way different meanings. But since they’re all legitimate English words, spell check won’t tell you you’ve chose the wrong one.
In the current romance I’m reading, one of the characters “poured over the letter”. I had an urge to thrown my Kindle against the wall. Then I wondered, “poured” what? Water, syrup, red wine? Oh! Maybe the author meant she “PORED over the letter.
We write (and read) paranormal/fantasy romance because we love the escape it gives.
I recently heard Janet Evanovich speak. She’s funny…and she got her start in romance novels when terms like “turgid member” described anatomy. What resonated for me, though, was when she described the world of Stephanie Plum. It’s based on the actual world of Janet Evanovich and when she wakes up the morning she can hardly wait to get back to Stephanie’s world. She’s in love with the characters and the situations Stephanie finds herself in.
I understand that feeling, I’m the same way with Maxie and Jean-Louis, my lovers in the Chronicles, and I want my readers to fall in love with them, too. So I keep an eagle eye out for problems of fact, homonyms, and overuse of crutch words to keep my prose singing the siren songs of my vampires.
Blurb for SNAP: Happily Ever After?. Book Six of the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles
Loving Jean-Louis for eternity doesn’t mean that Maxie Gwenoch will let him turn her. Jean-Louis is a vampire, is gorgeous, is the second-in-command of the Kandesky Family of Hungarian vampires, and is her boss at SNAP, the multinational, multimedia celeb gossip empire where she is the VP for International Planning. She moves to Kiev to build a home with Jean-Louis and finds her future under a cloud from Leonid, a rival from the Huszar family, now living in a bolthole in the ruins of Chernobyl. Will Maxie find safety by giving up her days and joining Jean-Louis in the vampire nights?
Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home. During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series.
She writes the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries and the six-book Kandesky Vampire Chronicles paranormal romance series, and has just published her eighth book, SNAP: Happily Ever After? She’s working on the seventh book in the series, SNAP: White Nights, scheduled for publication in early 2014.