One Line

All it took was one line. Just one, and I was hooked forever.

It’s the dream all writers have, of finding the perfect one line that grabs the reader by the ear and tosses them into the story. We want our readers to be so irrevocably involved that there is no looking back, not even for a moment.

It may be a piece of world building that enthralls them, a plot twist that shocks them, or a character they adore. No matter which one it is, we win, the reader is reading our book.

The example that comes to my mind is in Synapse by Steven James. The first chapter of the book introduces the character Kestrel, who has recently had a still birth. An instant, heart tugging connection for anyone who has gone through something similar. However it was not that particular bit of her history that hooked me, nor was it her personality, thought I liked it.

It was one line. A line that described her wanting to have a baby before she was forty. She was desperate to have a baby, desperate enough to give birth to a baby that was no biologically her own. That desperation reached through the pages and echoed in my own heart. I understood that longing. And that was it. I would have followed that character through bad writing, terrible plot twists, and nail biting experiences. No matter where Kestrel was going, I was going to.

That is what I mean by a connection between story and reader, between character and reader. It is almost impossible to artificially create. There is no magic formula, sorry guys. If there was I would tie it in a bow and hand it to you with a smile.

All I can say is that I resonated with that character because I saw something in her that was in myself. That would not have happened if she was this unrealistic wooden puppet. That character was real, living and breathing within her own story, and I felt like I was friends with her.

That one line gave me courage to keep writing. To keep creating good characters that jump off the page. Someday, I want to give my readers the same experience. To find within my books a character they immediately connect with and are willing to follow to the ends of the earth.

Shaina Merrick

Why is this so Hard?

Hey hey hey! I am coming to you from the depths of Nano, so brace yourselves for an odd brain tangle post.

As you know, this year my goal is to finish my novel. I am doing my best to finish up what I started so long ago. As I am writing it though, I am realizing why this particular book has been so hard for me to finish.

I got the idea for Sunlight on the Peaks when I was in high school. So five hundred years ago. At first, all I had were a few scenes. All to do with a girl who had been hurt by a magician. The magic system in the book is one of the first things that I figured out.

Since then, I have written the first part of the book at least four times. At least. I think I wrote the first half twice for Nanowrimo. The poor book has been plotted within an inch of its life. I did everything I was supposed to when it came to world building and plotting and characterization, and still the book gave me, gives me, fits.

Unlike some of my other novels that just flowed from my pen. They were easy to write, this one is not.

Why? Why is it so hard to write?

Well. First off, I came up with the idea when I was still young and overly ambitious. This book has a lot of high fantasy vibes, and sounds similar to lots of other books out there. A prince who needs to take back his kingdom? Who hasn’t done that? At the time I was reading lots of high fantasy and this just came out of all of that.

It has a rather large cast, and a humongous plot. There are a bunch of side plots that keep slipping out of my grasp. (I hate writing romance…) At the time, I was convinced I could do it. After all, everyone else did in the fantasy genre. Big casts and complicated plots are the staples of fantasy. Right?

And now? I don’t tend to write in high fantasy any more. I am more fascinated with worlds similar to ours, but with something a bit off about it. Or non-magical fantasy, I enjoy writing that too. I am not fantastic at juggling large casts of characters, so I tend to keep it small, and nowadays I have one POV. No matter what.

So in writing this novel, I am writing completely outside of what I am comfortable with and almost above my skill level. (or completely above, I really don’t know)

I guess you could say I am a rambling introspective writer. I am all about going through the characters thoughts with them. The world is filtered through their eyes and experiences to get to the reader. I like thinking through things as I write, and often I am writing to make sense of the world around me.

Sunlight on the Peaks is not that kind of book. If I paused to discuss things, I would never get anywhere. I have given myself a little room to breath and think, otherwise I would go bonkers. But still, it isn’t like the last book I finished, where the whole thing was deeply inside the characters head and the whole thing was very introspective.

In the years between that first scene for Sunlight on the Peaks and now, I grew as a writer. I found out what I like to write, and what makes me want to tear my hair out. I like writing a little slower paced novels with small casts and simpler plots. (simple does not mean predictable folks.)

I think at first I was trying to write like everybody else, and I almost stopped writing because of it. I couldn’t think or write like the other authors I looked up to. I tried so hard, and ended up discarding story after story and writing myself into a deep hole of the comparison game.

Finally, I decided to write what I wanted to write, and I wouldn’t care about what anyone else thought about it.

Sunlight on the Peaks is a story very dear to my heart, but it is a hold over from the time where I thought I needed to write a certain way. When I write The End, I will be closing the door on that chapter of my life. And then I will be free to keep on trying new things.

Shaina Merrick