Monday, February 28, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: Headless Chicken Rant

Hey peeps

I'm pulling the blogging 'Joker' card today. Just look at the time - I'm 3 hours past my usual blogging time, and still running around like a headless chicken. Yes, it's one of these days... Don't ask. It's nothing 'terrible', but the world is conspiring against me today to suck all my time into a warp zone or something.

Catch you tomorrow, and thanks for understanding. Unfortunately, there's a very human woman behind this blog. Sadly, she isn't Superwoman...

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, February 25, 2011

Progress Friday

I have to confess... I didn't make it till March. Sigh. Yes, once again, I got bitten by the writing bug.

So we're back in business, peeps! Check out the WIP Progress meter - it's up and running again. I wrote Chapter 1 on this new story during the week. The minute I 'finished' with my research, the characters were screaming to get out and I had - I just had! - to let them out. :) Don't you love when that happens to you? Of course, it probably makes you even more of a neurotic basket case than you already are, but who's keeping tabs? (And no, the husband and kids don't count! They already know you're one brick short of a patio).

10% down - I dunno why, but I got a feeling. This story will (hopefully) write itself pretty well. I've put down a strong outline and it's mostly a road map to me now. No, I'm not working from a synop this time. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it, just not now. I'm in this sparkly little bubble when any writer starts a new story. I have a feeling I'll keep this light burning bright in the coming weeks, the time it'll take to finish this piece.

With the thought that I have my first uni assignment due in 2 weeks, I really have to get all my ducks lined up. And start studying too, come to think of it. If the characters will cooperate... :)

Cannot believe it's already Friday! Where's the time flying, people? Last Friday of February too, at that! Unbelievable. Now that means next week we're getting into March... sometime special... *wink* I'll keep you posted. Stay tuned.

What have you got planned this weekend? All I can think of is that my cupboards and pantry shelves are empty, and I need to go grocery shopping. This weekend. At the end of the month. When everyone else will be going shopping too. Can you predict a raging headache? Hope yours is better than mine (at least less dire!).

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Link Thursday: The Ex-Files...

...or what his dating past says about him

Writers - this is a perfect article for helping carve backstory! Every man we create in our books, be him hero or villain, has a past. There are women involved in that past - the dreaded exes. So backstory, backstory, backstory: give this a spin and you'll be carving a very nice and realistic facet of this man's past.

I stumbled upon this article a few weeks ago, on Glo. You can still find it online (in a snazzy slideshow with lots of pics. Some are priceless!) here. I'll repost the text bits. :)

The article is by Meagan McCrary and Julie Fishman, editors of The Little Black Blog of Big Red Flags.

Enjoy!

*****

The Ex-Files: What his dating past says about him

By Meagan McCrary and Julie Fishman, editors of The Little Black Blog of Big Red Flags

A man's relationship record can tell you what to expect from him when he enters into one with you. Whether he's broken hearts or had his broken, most guys come with some baggage from their former flames. Here's our take on what a man's past might tell you about him.

Serial Monogamist
This guy loves being loved — and isn’t afraid to commit. Yet jumping straight from one serious relationship into another may signal insecurity or a fear of being alone.

He's Cheated
While his past infidelity doesn’t mean he’ll cheat on you, have a conversation about why he strayed in a previous relationship. If he hasn’t addressed his reason for cheating and worked to change, there’s a good chance it’ll happen again.

He's Been Cheated On
A man who’s been dogged in the past will likely have trust issues. He may have trouble opening up to future girlfriends for fear of getting his heart broken again.

He's a Relationship Newbie
This love loner could be super picky or fear rejection. Apt to jump ship when the tides get rough, he may not understand that relationships are hard work.

He's a Known Player
Even if his debonair attitude seems to speak otherwise, a known player sees you as just another notch in his headboard. He’s liable to wine, dine and lay you … then leave you.

He Has a History of Dating Crazies
A man with endless stories about depressed or abusive exes either turns normal gals loony or likes loony girls because he enjoys the drama, needs to feel superior or thinks he can save them. He’ll probably either make mountains of your molehills — by constantly trying to rile you up — or drop you the second he gets bored.

He Was Off and On With His Last GF
A guy this wishy-washy doesn’t know what he wants. Incapable of making a decision and abiding by it, he isn’t the type to ever fully commit and will most likely jerk you around the emotional rollercoaster.

He Broke Off an Engagement
Calling off his wedding doesn’t necessarily make a man a bad guy. If the relationship wasn’t fulfilling, not getting married was probably the right thing to do. However, it wouldn't hurt to ask him why he proposed in the first place — the answer to that question should be quite revealing.

He's Divorced
While “divorced” is no longer a stigma, how and why a man’s marriage ended can shed light on his character. Before things between you get serious, inquire about his marital split … and make sure the divorce is final.

His Wife Left Him
A man who’s been ditched by his leading lady may still be bitter or heartbroken. Either way, his ego is definitely bruised. You’d have to know the details of why she chose to leave, but whatever the reason, this guy’s going to come with some baggage.

He Dates Younger
Whether they date younger women to feed their egos or they like to keep things light and fun, men who continuously choose girls half their age aren’t interested in dating an equal. He might only be interested in arm candy, have a fear of commitment, or have control issues.

He's Never Been Married
A 37-year-old man who’s never tied the knot might still be searching for the right girl to call his own; a 47-year-old man who’s never been married is probably a dedicated bachelor. Age is definitely a factor, but if a dude’s never been married nor been in a long-term relationship, don’t expect a proposal any time soon.

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Writing Wednesday: How Not To Suck at Synopsis-Stage - A Practical Application


Hello beautiful people!

I can't believe a week's gone by! Last Wednesday, on this same spot, I wrote a post about pointers on the dreaded suck-nopsis. I tried to demystify the idea of a synopsis, lay down its basics in a clear, non-author-threatening way.

I promised to follow with the practical application of all these pointers, and I also promised that I'd share what I found to be the perfect formula for writing a synop.

So let's get to it - a formula. Yes, it exists. I can't tell you exactly if I've read this somewhere and how it's morphed into my own method of working a synop. If anyone sees anything similar on the Web, credited to someone else, let me know and I'll acknowledge the creator. I've read so much writing advice over the years, and each has stuck with me in bits and pieces, morphing into something/ a method that is totally me.

Now, I need to point out something else. I write romance, and as such, my synopses are for romance books. I don't know how this formula and method I have devised will apply to other genres. Generally, with most fiction you can apply the gist of it. The pointers from last week are universal to all synops though.

Let's recap something - a synopsis is an outline of your story, that tells what it's about, who it's about, and what happens to get these 'who' to HEA (at least it is for a romance. To a big extent, dependent on HEA of HFN, same goes for women's fiction).
A synop doesn't need to be in the same blow-by-blow, showing manner as the book, it doesn't have superfluous detail, it tells of the how without delving too much in there. The gist of the story and its tone should be in there. It's in short, an abstract road map of your story from start to finish.

What do you have as components therefore?

  • A premise
  • Characters (in Romance, both the Heroine and Hero. Typically, this is GMC aka Goal, Motivation, Conflict for each protagonist at the start of the story)
  • Plot
  • Complications (including and especially, the Black Moment)
  • Resolution

That's the lineup of your formula for writing a synopsis! Nothing more complicated than that. You bring your story down to these aspects - flow it from one to another, make sure you cover the most important for every one of these elements, and you got it.

Let's try an example. I'll use the synopsis I wrote for my first book, The Other Side, written under the pen name of Aasiyah Qamar. You'll see how this formula is applied and how it all gels together.

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Synopsis – The Other Side

If marriage is the end of the road for a woman, what does she do when she gets divorced?
(This is my story premise. Right off the bat, you know what the story is about. It's the hook, the driving idea behind the whole story, the starting point as well. A lot of people use their story's tag line here. If you can bring down the idea of the story down in a line or two, do it and place it here.) 

Lara Reddy is twenty-eight years old when her ten-year marriage to Roy Reddy blows up. He wants a child; she wants a career.
Born and raised in England, her parents are of Mauritian origin.
A year after her divorce, the sight of her ex-husband and his pregnant new wife drives her to Mauritius, where she’s been offered the job of Managing Director of a conference centre.
(This is my heroine. You have who she is and her GMC here. See here that I don't delve into a character picturisation of her. I give the basics, especially the ones pertinent to the story and for moving the plot forward. There's no huge detail, like the fact that she can't boil an egg to save her life, that she's a chronic smoker and a control freak. All these are her characterization, but they contribute nothing to moving my plot forward. Synopsis is about plot/story. Not characterization)

Eric Marivaux is thirty-one years old. A successful and renowned paediatrician, he lives a quiet life in Mauritius. But happiness eludes him, as he misses the only woman he’s ever loved, and lost- Lara.
(The hero, who he is and his GMC. See again that all this, GMC, is what is pertinent to the story, the romance. A romance too has its focus more on the heroine, so consequently the hero is less emphasized beyond the basics necessary for the plot progression to make sense.)
(From here onward, I get into the plot, and how it develops. I start with the start - Lara's arrival on the island - the meeting with Eric mentioned here happens at Chapter 3, after many 'episodes of being made to feel like the cast-off divorcee and numerous head-thumping encounters with Lara's culture-stringent and neurotic mother. The 'proposal' to marry the man much older - Chapter 6. yet it is mentioned before the meeting with Eric, because it is pertinent to the plot as I am making it progress along. See the progression here - where backstory is needed for it all to make sense, I add it in.
The whole synop is plot progression presented in a way that makes sense for the person reading it.)
Upon her arrival on the island, as a divorcee, Lara is shunned by the local society. Her own mother tries to marry her off to a widower and father of two who is more than twenty years her senior.
Lara wants to flee, but she cannot, as she’s already accepted the job proposal. Resigned, she throws all she has into her career, until she meets Eric again.
Twelve years before, Lara and Eric had been high school sweethearts when she’d spent three years in Mauritius. When Eric leaves for medical studies in France, a misunderstanding leads her to believe he is engaged to an aristocrat there. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Lara accepts an arranged marriage in London.
(Above paragraph is backstory - implied but never shown in a scene in the book)

When they meet again, neither knows the other is single. Lara still feels the brunt of his abandon, and Eric doesn’t want to wreck her marriage.
Fate throws them together on numerous occasions (Chapters 3, 5, 7). Eric comes to learn she’s divorced, and he decides to go after her.
However, though Lara knows Eric is single, she doesn’t want to get hurt by entrusting her heart to a man again- especially one who’s already broken the same heart so many years before. She tries to evade him by every means, and convinces herself she’s better off without him. (Chapters 3, 5, 7, 8)
When a cousin of hers gets too insistent in his pursuit of her, Eric steps in and drives the other man away. (Chapter 7 - he pretends to be her boyfriend when she is laying the bloke off but the guy isn't taking the hint. See, I don't give this detail here, because it is understood what happens and how it happens in the above sentence) Lara is thankful to him, and she lets her guard down as the weariness of her complicated life engulfs her.
Eric sees the opportunity, and he steps in to woo her off her feet again, as he’s decided his happiness lies with Lara, and he’ll rest only when she’s his wife- nothing less.
Through Eric’s gentle persistence, Lara falls under the spell of his tender and caring ways all over again (Chapter 8, where he drives to her home to stay with her during a thunderstorm, because he recalls she was afraid of thunderstorms. Chapter 9, when he asks her out on a movie date. Chapter 10, when she agrees to have dinner at his house). Yet, a part of her is reluctant to give in, as there is one big obstacle between them- they are of different cultures and background. She’s of the Indian Diaspora; he’s of French descent, with an aristocrat mother.
(Plot complication/obstacle to the romance)

The lure of her heart wins her over, and Lara gives in to him. The kiss they exchange on their first ‘official’ date leads to full-blown loving when she spends an evening at his house in Cap-Malheureux.
(In between here are romantic encounters between them, meeting Lara's spoilt-brat little sister, the relationship between the sisters. All these details are fluff for plot progression though, and contribute to characterization)
A few months later, they are well settled as a couple. Lara revels in the peace and the comfort his presence brings her, and Eric knows happiness like never before with her by his side.
On a spontaneous urge, he asks her to marry him. Her reaction shocks him and drives him away, as she faints and tells him there’s no hope for them to exist in Mauritian society. He tells her she’s never trusted him if she thinks that way, and leaves. Desolate and lost, he cannot bring himself to reconcile with the idea that Lara doesn’t trust him. (Black moment)
With Eric gone, Lara knows hurt and pain like she never imagined existed. Yet, she’s convinced it wouldn’t have worked, since they had issues to deal with.
Her father prompts her in asking herself if she isn’t the only one with issues. Her best friend tells her to give their couple a chance. And when her nagging and usually categorical mother tells her to go for love instead of conventions, Lara sees all the barriers she’d erected for their love fall one by one. (All these happen over 6 chapters. I brought about 100+ pages down into 5 lines. Without giving you details, you know what has happened to bring about the change in Lara.)
The last barrier to fall is when Eric’s mother, the proud daughter of a French duke, seeks her out and tells her she wants the life back in Eric’s eyes. Without going as far as giving them her blessing, she asks Lara to give her son, and their love, a second chance. (2 chapters, 2 encounters here)
As Lara ponders over the implications of all these happenings, her ex-husband appears on her doorstep. Roy is lost in family life, and he comes to her for reassurance that he hasn’t made a mistake when he divorced her.
When Lara realises it all happened for the better, she and Roy talk, and a deep friendship settles between them. When he leaves, Roy tells her to go for her love, since she deserves to be happy.
It finally dawns on her that she’s always been in love with Eric. With torrential rain and a raging thunderstorm battling outside, Lara sets out for Eric’s house, and asks him to marry her when she falls in his arms.
Eric answers her with an embrace, sealing the proposal with a kiss.
(See how the plot progresses from establishment to complication to resolution? Everything is covered up till now, yet unless you read the book, you'll know what happens but not exactly how it happens in nitty-gritty.)

The story concludes on their first wedding anniversary. Lara announces to him that she’s pregnant, and happiness is tangible between them as they celebrate the news.
Eric is happy she’s finally with him, forever.
Lara is glad she’s dared to step across to the other side, where she’s found love and the happiness she’s always craved.
(Resolution - how it ends)
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There you are! I hope this has helped. Remember - a synopsis is composed of 5 broad elements:

Premise
Characters
Plot
Complications
Resolution

Any questions are more than welcome!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Sights and Sound from Mauritius

Hey everyone!

Today I'm gonna share with you a piece of music that hit the Mauritian charts a few years back. Originally a song devised and sung by a Gospel singer, it was adopted as a national hit and stayed a top chart winner for many consecutive weeks.

The song has a very progressive, electro sound to its music, and when it first came out (especially because you first hear English lyrics on it), everyone thought it was 'foreign' song. Nobody believed a Mauritian had come up with the sound and tune - but this became obvious when you later on hear the same English lyrics being now sung in the local language Creole on the track. The singer also came into the spotlight - his name is King and he's active in Gospel circles.

The song is titled Let Me Fly. I've always loved its sound - its one of my favourites. A friend of mine found the link and posted it on Facebook - I thought I'd share it with you all here. :)

Take a listen, and watch the clip too - there are some gorgeous images of Mauritian landscapes along the stills. It also portrays a very 'modern' Mauritius, not just the picture-perfect postcard but also with iconic buildings, waterfronts, and other landscapes which make up the island as we know it today.

Enjoy!



From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, February 21, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: Going, going, gone...

I'm celebrating some personal progress today! Now, sorry if I keep this short - we're in the midst of a massive thunderstorm and I should be turning down the Internet set-top box asap.

So yes, celebrating! Last year, in and around November and after, due to my health and a hospital stay, I sat on my butt and did nothing except eat and drink. Needless to tell you, I got fat. Not fat fat, know what I mean, but I wasn't my optimum lean physique either. Plus I had a spare tyre on the middle.

That's what got me into gear. We all know Indian girls have a natural, even genetic, propensity for having a bit of belly and love handles. That I can deal with (prefer it this way actually. I'd look like a coat-hanger without love handles). Not the spare tyre around my stomach.

I started to exercise - managed to keep a pretty steady routine, though most of the time it was hit and miss. Changed my eating habits and became a devotee of Chrononutrition - where you feed your body specific food at specific times of the day (it's not as restrictive as it sounds, really! I eat a huge breakfast and even take sweets/cake/dark chocolate at tea time!). Based on the Chrononutrition analysis (number of factors such as weight, measurements, height, diameter of wrist, eating habits, where the body seems to be storing more), it turned out I was eating too much carbs, esp at night.

I did just that one little change - less carbs, esp at night. In the whole picture of the Chrononutrition way of eating, in barely 2 months, I have... lost my spare tyre!

I now have a flat stomach!

Feels great to have achieved a goal... and I celebrated by having a doughnut. :) Oh well, I'm not on a diet, you know. *grins*

So that's my update for today! You guys celebrating anything?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, February 18, 2011

Progress Friday

Last Friday, I mentioned that my new journey would be starting soon. Well, guess I still don't know myself well enough (as opposed to my husband who seems to know my psyche much better than me, after, uh, 9 years together...). Guess what? The journey is starting soon... as soon as, 2 days ago!

I held up for a grand total of *drum roll!*... 4 days. So much for R&R. That's a good thing, you say? Yes, it is, except that a part of my brain is still wiped from that previous writing marathon and my hands still hurt. I'm a calcium supplement regimen every single day yet my fingers still cramp up on the keyboard. Now add to it a brain that just won't stop zinging my consciousness with story ideas, story tidbits, story insights -- Argghh! I'm going crazy here!

So here I am, just got off a writing wagon, jumping on another almost right away. I'm trying to keep myself in check though. I'd said I'd start to write again in March - I'm gonna try to make that. Well, the actual penning of words. Don't think I can keep still for that long, so in the coming week I'll be doing nit-picky, nitty-gritty research, rounding off the characters, outlining the events/episodes, planning the chapters as per the story arc - all that lovely work that enables me to simply sit down and write when then time comes for it.

I've been gobling up information between yesterday and today, hitting notes back and forth with the crit sisters who accompany me on every brainstorming sessions (hello ladies, you know who you are!! Imagine me doing a Kitty Galore 'heya' here! Lol). It's a wonder my brain isn't exploding.

But you know what? This feels good, this totally-overwhelmed-by-prospects mindset. :) I'll bask in it, thank you.

Weekend next up. The blokes here have already planned tomorrow to be table tennis day. I'm not joining in there coz sports and me makes three. :)

What have you got planned? Happy weekend anyhow!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Link Thursday: 23 Ways He Says 'I Love You'

Hey peeps

Monday was Valentine's Day. I stumbled upon this article in the wake of that date and it had me in stitches. But not only that - these are really ways men behave, think, and talk.

So next time your man says one of these, take it for granted it's 'love'. Next time you need your modern hero to say 'I Love You' without actually saying the words in a cheesy, ultra-feminine, flowery-verse-y moment, take a pick from these.

First though - have a good laugh! It's good to 'decode' the male brain. :)

The article appeared MSN Lifestyle Love & Relationships and I accessed it on February 13, 2011. I dunno who wrote it - it's a guy though, and the voice is to die for. :)

*****

23 Ways To Say "I Love You" For Valentine's Day

Saying "I love you" is a big deal. Here are 23 ways a guy is saying it, even if he's not saying those three exact words.

It can be difficult for a man to say those three words that mean so much to a woman, especially on Valentine's Day. In the past, I've done everything from mumbling those three words like my mouth was full of hard boiled eggs, to whispering it so quietly, mice were smitten. I've also blurted it out when I didn't mean it.

Those words are dangerous. And powerful. Simultaneously intoxicating and sobering. They are full of responsibility, promise and stars. Forgive men for taking them seriously. Because, for the most part, we do. Telling a woman "I Love You" can warp the space and time continuum. That's some major cosmic stuff right there.

I remember the first time I said it. She was my first great love. We were sitting with our legs crossed on my dorm bed, and we were facing each other. I looked her in the eyes and told her I thought I was in love with her. I asked her if she felt the same way. She said yes. My ears swelled with rushing blood. We giggled. And the kiss was better than our first. We were like two neutrons flung at each other inside a particle accelerator. It was a collision. There was an explosion. Then a lingering cloud of glittering, subatomic debris.

But before I got to that point where I was able to bravely announce what my boiling emotions demanded, there were multiple other ways that I told her how I felt. And that's true for a lot of men. Whether we're falling for you, or have already fallen, we sometimes try to find other ways to tell you "I love you" that aren't quite so direct.

Here are twenty-three suggestions for alternatives to the "L" word. If your man says any of these, just accept that he's dropped the L-O-V-E bomb.

1. You are the syrup on my waffles.

2. Um. So. Yeah. 100%.

3. I don't care if I have to wield a pitchfork with one hand, and a roaring chainsaw with the other, no zombies will ever eat your brains. Not while I live.

4. My pillows smell so much better when you've slept on them.

5. I read every single one of your tweets.

6. I wish you were key-chain sized. I'd put you in my pocket and take you everywhere.

7. Even if you forget who I am when we're old and fat, I'll still come to visit you and read your stuff, just like in that stupid movie that always makes you cry.

8. If you want to be with another guy, that's totally cool. I'll just spend the rest of my life sitting on a bar stool, nursing a beer and hoping the glow of the jukebox playing our song over and over masks my red, swollen eyes.

9. From the moment I met you, I've wanted you and that hasn't changed. Never will.

10. I have brought you meat, the roses of the caveman! Now, I will make FIRE!

11. I had this dream the other night. I was stumbling through a forest at night. It was dark and I couldn't see where I was going and in the distance I could hear wolves howling. Then the cloud cleared and the moon illuminated a path to a village. Only it wasn't a moon. It was your beautiful face, glowing silver against the night sky. What the heck do you think THAT means?

12. I am a grown man, but I have to be honest: you're my personal night light.

13. G'head. Take the last beer.

14. Here's a baseball bat. Just hide it under your bed while I'm away on business.

15. As a Vulcan, I recognize the significance of a quickened heartbeat, sweaty palms and heightened activity in my brain's pleasure centers when you are around. However, I do not fully comprehend why I feel compelled to kiss you nonstop. I find it … fascinating.

16. I am perfectly happy co-depending on you.

17. When I was a kid, there was this amusement park that had a ride that would spin you around really fast. It was so much fun. I'd ride that thing all day, and every time I'd get off it, I'd be laughing but thinking I was going to puke. All day long: laughing while on the verge of vomiting. That's how I feel right now.

18. Your face tastes like cake and dynamite. Dynacake!

19. I have a lifetime subscription to You Magazine, the magazine about you, for me. By the way, you look stunning on the cover, just like every month.

20. You had me at, "Who are you?"

21. I wrote you this poem: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art so hot."

22. I want to be your personal airbag.


23. I know.

*****

I'm trying to find a favourite among them all, but this is so darn hard! I hesitate between No. 3 and 20.

What about you?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Writing Wednesday: How Not To Suck At Synopsis-Stage!

Synopsis = sucknopsis = run for cover = pestering nuisance = How do I do this????

Find yourself in one of the above definitions? Me too, as well as countless other writers out there. I don't think there's anything we dread more than having to write a synopsis.

In a way, I envy my self-publishing friends. They never have to write a synopsis for theis mss. They write the book, edit, polish, and upload. Simple. No hassle of, you guessed it - the sucknopsis!

Yet, for all of the others who go by the agent and publisher route, a synopsis is a necessary evil. I'll admit I dread having to write one. It's not just the purpose - it's more like, how do you bring a so-so thousand long story down to a few pages?

That's where we could all do well to remember some pointers about the synopsis! It's not the trauma it represents in our minds. There are ways to do it, methods to get it right, tips and pointers to keep in mind.

It's true that I never write a synop for an ms unless I really need to (understand by that, at the query process!). But I bite the bullet, and remember the following, which have come to help me in good stead over the years.

What's a synopsis, basically? The freedictionary defines it as:

A brief outline or general view, as of a subject or written work; an abstract or a summary

Pretty simple, innit? How and why do we get it 'wrong'? How and where does this process morph into the writer's personal apocalypse?

The trick is - we need to de-mystify the synopsis. Plain and simple - bring it down to its basics. Here are some tips to do that:

  • A synopsis is an outline
What does outline mean? It means the parameters of something, the limits, the edges within which that something is evolving.
What's the outline of your book/story? Don't panic and start hyperventilating when you're asked this question. Think of the broad lines of your work, its parameters, and put this all down.
Example: let's attempt an outline of the movie Mamma Mia. Heroine Sophie is about to get married, and wants to know who her father is from the 3 men who were in her mother's life at the time of her conception. She invites the 3 men to the wedding, behind her mother's back. Chaos, mayhem, and unfinished romantic business ensue when all 3 land on this little Greek island and everyone has to come to terms with who and what they've been to each other, using hit songs from Abba as their cue and expressions.
There you have it - an outline. 5 lines. You build upon this to give the plot and the resolution and you have your synopsis.

  • A synopsis 'tells' your story
This is where you take a 180-degree departure from the written-in-stone line of 'show, don't tell!' You don't get flowery in a synop - you tell it like it is. This is who they are, this is what happens to them, this is how things get complicated, and this is how things are resolved. Full stop.
Example: In Cinderella (I'll use the Disney version), the movie/story shows you the Prince coming to their house as the final house to visit in the whole kingdom. The evil stepsisters try the shoe, one even manages to push her whole foot in, but the shoe doesn't resist. And when it's time for Cinderella to try it on, the Evil Stepmother grabs the shoe and slams it on the floor, shattering it to smithereens. Everyone is crestfallen, and then Cinderella says that it doesn't matter, because she has the other shoe, which she removes from her skirt pocket. The Prince makes her try it on; the shoe fits, they fall in each other's arms, they get married and live happily ever after.
In your story, you'd show all this - the glass smashing, the expressions on their faces, etc.
In a synopsis, this would give you something like - when Cinderella tries on the shoe, it fits, and the Prince finds his Princess. A whole scene is brought down into a few words that still convey the gist of what happens.

  • A synopsis is abstract in nature
See above example - the synopsis tells that the shoe fit and the Prince found his Princess. It doesn't go into the details. 'Telling' is a concept that has a notion of 'vague' to it. Keep it pared down to the essentials - that's what a synopsis is about.

  • A synopsis is a road map
It's how the characters/plot gets from A to B to C to reach conclusion/resolution at Z. It doesn't talk about the quaint little inn you find between M & N, or how the beauty of the countryside is breathtaking during the journey it takes to get from R to S.
A synopsis 'leaps' from A to B to C, etc. If there is something you have to mention happening between A and B, then that something is a point on your road map, and should've been labelled B instead.

  • A synopsis has its own structure
It doesn't follow the same rules of disclosure as the ms. Backstory, the necessary and relevant parts of it, is stated right up in a synopsis, not distilled throughout like in the ms. You don't keep suspense in a synop, like in an ms. The synopsis tells your story from A to B to C and so on - you lay it down as it happens.
Example: In Mamma Mia, we find out halfway through (around the Chiquitita part) what relationship Donna had with each of the 3 men. That gives suspense, a sense of hanging on the edge of our seats to figure out what it is all about.
Writing the synopsis though, at the paragraph where you mention Donna, you'll already mention how and why she was involved with all 3. You don't disclose this at the halfway mark.

  • A synopsis is not a blow-by-blow account
It's not about 'this happens, and that happens, and then this takes place because of...'. There should be cohesion, logic, a constant thread holding your story together in a synopsis. A synopsis skims the basics, the surface if you want, of the plot. It doesn't go deep into anything that doesn't contribute to the A to B to C journey.
Example: Cinderella again. The final shoe and proposal scene - it is brought down to a simple 'the shoe fit and the Prince knows he's found his Princess. They marry and live happily ever after.' Your synopsis tells it like it is - it doesn't chronicle every happening in the book/scene.

  • A synopsis lays it down without any fluff
Cinderella example again. There's nothing extravagant about the description of that last, crucial, scene of the resolution. It is completely pared down. It's how things happen, how you get through the conflict to the resolution, without getting into the details.

  • A synopsis is the bare bones' skeleton of your story.
Full stop. A to B to C through to Z.

If you keep these definitions/pointers in mind, you should be able to whittle down your story into a concise and coherent whole.

Is there a 'formula' for writing a synop? Actually, there might be, and I have found one that works very well with paring down my story yet without taking away any of the gist of my plot.

I'll share that with you next week, along with the example of one of my synops that won me publisher notice and approval. Same spot, same day - we'll take the synopsis apart and find out why it works and how this happens, all within the scope of the synopsis formula.

Join me then too, and if you have any questions or pointers to add to the discussion here, feel free to pop up in the comments.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Music Bites

Hey peeps

I'm in that in-between phase between stories, that time when you're on the lookout for a spark, for something, anything to hit home and make you go 'Aha!'. I usually turn to my music playlist in such moments - songs inspire me, spark off the little fire I need to set an idea aflame.

I thought I'd share 2 songs which are playing in repeat mode lately on my shuffle playlist.

The first is by Romanian singer Inna. Yeah, her music is nothing 'out of this world', it's pretty usual, generic, club-scene, dance music. But you know what? Just like junk food is great for the soul, junk music is great for the mind too. :) Inna sparked off a little tidbit I'd been looking for regarding a story I started last year and allowed to fall off because I couldn't get a good grip on it. The heroine, like Inna, is a dance tune singer.
This is the video for Sun Is Up.



The other song playing on and on, with me learning the lyrics by heart, is Whataya Want From Me by Adam Lambert. I listen to this song and just know this is the hero's theme in a story I've got planned for later on in 2011. The words were totally him, a perfect response to the conflict the heroine sets forth.



What music are you listening to at the moment?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, February 14, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: It's February 14...

And it's Valentine's Day! Let's celebrate romance... Okay, lol, for me, I'll probably sit down and watch the DVD of the eponymous movie, and... That's it. :) Believe it or not, my husband doesn't 'do' V-Day. Sigh, I know. Depressing. I really wished I'd get a rose, or anything else, on this day. But like many married people will tell you (or anyone in a relationship, come to think of it) - pick and choose your battles.

My man is the most un-romantic bloke to have ever existed. Not one romance bone in his body. Just my luck, eh? He did make an effort when we'd started dating. His proposal (the official one with the ring) actually came on a Valentine's Day, when he had taken me out to the restaurant. I got the flower and the gift (the ring, people!). The next year when Feb 14 came, we were already married and I was heavily pregnant! Not very conducive to romantic notions, I'll admit. I felt like a heavy cow.

9 years since then (the first V-Day), and I haven't seen a gift or a flower along the way.

But yeah, I picked and chose my battles - I have my man, 365/366 days a year. He might not give me flowers and gifts, but he is there in the little moments, every day. He isn't romantic, but he once told me that V-Day, the behaviour that comes with it, should be something that happens spontaneously every single day of the year, not just February 14.

You know what? I agree. :)

That doesn't mean you don't get to enjoy your big V-Day! Go out, have fun, eat lots of good food... and remember why you're in love. :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, February 11, 2011

Progress Friday

There's something about me people don't know - I'm my biggest berater. Okay, the word doesn't exist, but let's just explain it as - I'm the first person who will berate myself. Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes it's not. Sometimes I could've had a hand in changing the thing I'm angry about (like not writing, not doing exercise, that sort of thing). Sometimes I couldn't have done a thing (like when you find the truth about people and happenings). Yet, I'm the first one who will never let myself off the hook.

In 2011, I've decided things will change. I will no longer be a happy-go-lucky butterfly flitting from here to there with no purpose. Nope. I'll carve my own way and make things happen. What I can change, I will change. I'll have purpose, drive, determination...

...and January 31 happened, seeing me totally NOT making my first deadline of the year!

Talk of feeling like a failure. Berating oneself? I don't think you wanna hear how hard I was on my case. Yes, I had extraordinary circumstances, I had valid excuses, I had nothing to prove. Think I fell for that? No way! If I myself won't uphold my standards, cannot respect myself, how do I expect others to respect me?

So that's how, with 10 days' lateness, I have finished the WIP. Whoohoo! I would've gone 'Yay me!' but I don't deserve that. Yes, life happens, sh*t happens - we deal with it. Doesn't mean we wallow in self-pity though. A deadline is a deadline; a goal is a goal. You make it, whatever it takes!

With that thought in mind, I hit my weekend. :) Goal? Spend time with my family. My son and I have a movie date tomorrow (DVD. Sorry, but theatre tickets are not part of my budget!). Now I can give myself a break, because I made my destination. So far... My new journey begins again soon.

Join me?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Link Thursday: Hidden Secrets His Hug Reveals

Hey peeps

Back into my usual posting mode today. So Link Thursday it is... I guess you know now that I've completed the ms I was working on (more on that tomorrow!). I admit I hit a stumbling hump when I had to 'do' the emotion bits in this one, especially closer to the end, when the romance takes centre-stage.The thing is - when you write romance, you have to show the love, the emotions, the connection. It's easy in a movie, you literally show it. How do you do so in a book? How do you showcase this connection, make it come alive, vibrant, live off those pages?

You 'show', you don't tell. I know we've heard that all the time! Now believe me when I tell you the following article is very good at helping you 'show' this love. Why? Because it's about how a man hugs his woman. Tiny gestures, that show difference, emotions, feelings...

As always, I'm a goner for articles that take the way humans work and use them to help us understand one another. None less so where writing is concerned, because this type of articles gives us a very good basis to use for our characters.

So, without further ado... The article is from my article bible: MSN Lifestyle, Love & Relationships section. It is written by Molly Triffin.

*****

Hidden Secrets His Hug Reveals

The way your guy holds you close is tightly tied to his feelings for you. Use these tips to unlock the meaning behind his embrace.

By Molly Triffin

The Sneak Attack
He comes up behind you and puts his arms around your chest.

Even if he hasn't said the words yet, a guy who grabs you like this is in love. He's blanketing your body with his, your feet are intertwined, you're leaning into him. There's a real sense of oneness here. "By covering your back, he's conveying that he wants to shelter you," says body-language expert Patti Wood, author of Success Signals. "He's also flexing his masculinity — this displays his strength and dominance."

The one exception is if your man almost always hugs you from the back. "That might mean he craves a closer connection but thinks you're unavailable," says Christopher Blazina, Ph.D., author of The Secret Lives of Men. "He avoids hugging face-to-face because he's worried you're not into him."

The Rub
He gently strokes your back while holding you.

This affectionate gesture signifies that your guy cares deeply about you. "The back is a very vulnerable part of the body," Wood says. "You can't see your back, so being touched there can be startling." Softly rubbing you on such an exposed zone shows that he wants to nurture and protect you. But don't be surprised if his tender caresses soon turn into heavy petting. "Because rubbing has a sexual rhythm, this type of touch can turn him on," Blazina notes.

It's also possible that your man is upset and needs comforting (even if he doesn't verbally fess up to feeling sad). "Having one's back caressed is a soothing touch that people often instinctively crave when they're down," says Janine Driver, president of the Body Language Institute. "A man might rub your back because, unconsciously, that's what he's desiring." If you think he seems a bit off, give him plenty of TLC and ask him if everything's okay.

The Pat
He thumps your upper back during an embrace.

Okay, this hug is loaded. Let's start with the worst-case scenario: He's not into you. "This is how men hug their buddies; it's not romantic at all," Blazina says. "When a guy frequently embraces you like this, it means the relationship's not growing." For example, say your man or crush gives you this half-baked hug when you're out at a bar. He might be doing it to show other people that he is not fully committed to you and is still on the market. Should he dole out The Pat when you're alone, he is probably not feeling a spark any more or is mad at you.

Wait — don't freak out yet! According to Blazina, if The Pat only happens once in a while, rather than on a regular basis, it's not a red flag. And there are a few other reasons behind it: (1) If he thumps you when you're about to do something scary, such as give a wedding speech, that's a gesture of encouragement (like the way coaches pat players on the back). (2) If you're in public, it could simply mean he isn't into PDA and wants to keep things casual. (3) If your man is preoccupied — on his iPhone, watching TV — don't take it personally. His mind is temporarily elsewhere.

The Waist Wrap
He encircles your lower back with his hands and pulls you tightly toward him.

Hubba hubba! The dude wants you. "A pelvis-to-pelvis embrace shows he'd like to merge with you sexually," Wood says. The farther down your body his hands travel, the more fired up he is.

There's one last thing to take note of: Does he touch his head to yours? "Then he wants to merge his thoughts with yours as well," Wood adds. Translation: If it's a new relationship, you're more than a fling to him. If you've been together for a while, he's ready to get more emotionally and mentally intimate ... after you head to the bedroom, that is.

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Join me...

Hey beautiful people

Today was my date for blogging over at The Pop Culture Divas!

Come check out my post, about.... Words!

Here's the link.


From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Song Inspiration

Are you guys inspired by songs? Whenever I'm writing a story, there will be a song or two that will feature as my theme - the lyrics, more often than not, will have an echo of what the story is about.

The one I am currently working on doesn't have a huge playlist. Some of my works have had a full album dedicated to them, no less than 5-7 songs on their soundtrack. This one focuses a lot on characters, and it was hard finding songs that would put across everything that the hero and heroine were going through.

Until I stumbled upon What Would Happen If We Kissed and Halo. Suddenly, I had what I didn't know I'd been looking for. These were my goals - what would happen if they kissed? When would that happen? How do I take my heroine on this journey that will make her find her angel in the hero, in the light of his halo?

The first time I heard What Would Happen If We Kissed by Meredith Brooks, I knew there was a 'story' in there. Listen to those lyrics, watch the video! Can you describe sexual tension any better? It's a song that takes you, flips you over, and lays you back down in a crash, because of the power of its words, of its emotions! It became my story's love anthem, the pacing of their feelings, the culmination of their attraction.
Watch it, you won't be disappointed!




Then there's Halo. The lyrics to this seem to have been written for my heroine. She who has to trust, who doesn't know how to, falls in love with this man and has him bringing down all the walls she'd built. Powerful, powerful words, a heartfelt declaration, that embodied the destination point I needed my heroine to reach. Here's the video - listen to those words!



From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, February 07, 2011

Random Thoughts' Monday: The Stylish Blogger Award

Hey peeps!

Monday! I agree with Garfield - that day should be banned, wiped out, written off... and uh, Tuesday would be the new Monday then, innit?

So, gotta tell you I'm pumped up on cold meds, hency why I'm making even less sense than usual. Should keep this post short, right? O-kay...

Me and this little blue spot here have been awarded the Stylish Blogger Award by both Rebecca Royce and J Hali Steele - two awesome authors I proudly call my friends (so yes, they could've been biased... Oh well). Hop on to their places, check them out. I also have to tell you 7 things about me.

I keep wondering what I haven't already said on this blog. Let's try and see (and I'm sorry if it's TMI!):

1. I was a surprise baby. 15 years after my mum had my only brother and was told she couldn't have any more kids, bam! Here I was! She was 41, my dad was 48, my brother was 16. Made for a 'weird' family, I can tell ya!

2. My English has the accent of a posh British cow.

3. I'm impulsive. Here's an example - I walked into the UNISA (my distance education university) student fair without any idea what degree I'd do. The minute the nice lady asks me which branch I wanna go in, out of the blue I reply communications science. Have no idea where the certainty came from, and to this day I don't regret choosing that subject.

4. I hate fruit. Especially fresh. Even the smell of it makes me feel sick (hence why I steer clear of the produce section at the grocery store).You can maybe get me to eat canned peaches/fruit cocktail and dried apricots. I prefer getting my Vit C from a tablet, thank you.

5. I'm one of very few women for whom Johnny Depp does absolutely nothing.

6. I'm a very good seamstress. Even took Dress and Textiles for my O-levels.

7. I used to be overweight. Up until my teens, I was the chubby girl to whom nothing good happened. Yep, I even got bullied (won't judge people, but let's just say the girl who was the bully sorely needed to get a life...). Then in a twist of Fate, I lost close to 20 pounds over my O-Level exam season and ended my sixteenth year as a willowy thing (though I top off at 5"3).

There you are - TMI about me!

Off to award the Stylish Blogger Award to 10 people.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, February 04, 2011

Progress Friday

There are some weeks like that, when armed with your best intentions and a clear schedule, you end up getting nothing done.

Then there are weeks like the past one, where there are sick people in your house and basically, no peace because it's public holiday after public holiday and everyone's at home. Yet when you look at your progress, you see you've gotten a staggering amount done.

I have no idea how I did it. Maybe I do strive under pressure. Just like I can't study before there's only one week left to the exam, or just a few days left to submit an assignment - maybe writing too works the same way for me. Stress becomes a catalyst that pushes you to get the job done because it's the only sanity you'll get in all the madness.

Oh well, whatever it is, I'll take it. I'm moving along on my WIP, and I won't scorn that. Or try to analyse too much. Brain's already enough of mush atm.

Happy weekend, all!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Link Thursday: The 5 Guys Every Girl Should Date

Need to give your heroine some backstory so that when she meets the hero, she's knows he's The One?

Yes, lol - it's never as clear cut as that in a story (and if it is, you better take out that notebook and start developing your story more!).

Still, this is an interesting article over the kind of men every woman needs to have met once in her life, so she can become the discerning heroine every girl deserves to be!

I grabbed that article back in December 2010 on the iVillage site (for once, I even have the link). Read on and enjoy! Oh, and btw, that pic is my current Mr. Perfect *grins* (okay, here's one more...)



*****

The 5 Guys Every Girl Should Date
So, you want a boyfriend. You're sick of the singles scene and ready to move right past "Go" and settle down with someone who will carry you straight into your happily ever after. Well, hold it right there, Miss Antsy-Pants! Before you go tango into the sunset with Mr. Right, you've got to take a few spins around the dating dance floor with a few Mr. Right Nows. Dating different personality types is the most effective way to find out your likes, dislikes and deal breakers. In fact, spending time with the wrong guys — namely these five — can actually make you a better package when Mr. Fabulous comes along.

Mr. Nice Romantic Guy
He'll show up with flowers, leave cards around your apartment and quote Keats on a whim. Think old-fashioned courtship, where you're being wooed instead of sitting by the phone wondering if he'll call.

Celebrity Counterparts: Cary Grant, Johnny Depp as Don Juan DeMarco

What He'll Teach You: This affectionate man will show you a softer side of our male counterparts (what a relief to have someone fawn over you for a change!), all the while raising your expectations of how you wish to be treated. After realizing that there are guys out there who understand the importance of a random note or kiss in the moonlight, you'll be less likely to stay with someone who degrades or ignores you in the future.

The Catch: Most of the time these guys are in love with the idea of love. This means they will come on strong but lose momentum in the long haul as the reality of a relationship sets in (i.e., disagreements, uneventful days), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't date him and enjoy the experience! Just keep a level head while he floats around you.

Mr. Big Shot
He dresses sharp, talks slick and has the perfectly coiffed looks of a man straight out of a lad mag. One look at him in his tailored suit and you're toast — which is exactly why he wears it.

Celebrity Counterparts: Chris Noth as Mr. Big, any Bond

What He'll Teach You: From sending your nether regions to Brazil (Mr. Big Shot doesn't 'do' granny panties) to the proper way to age a Cabernet, you're in for a crash course in the finer way of life. Dinners will be four-star and the conversation will witty. You'll walk from this relationship more sophisticated and well-aware of your own inner vixen.

The Catch: As the 007 of romance, he's going in for the kill. He knows exactly what he's doing and the effect it's having on you — and every other girl around him. The odds of this guy slipping out of his suit and into a comfy relationship are low, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy the smooth ride around the town while it lasts.

Mr. Sexy Older Guy
He's old enough to have settled into his skin and has been involved with enough women to know that you require much more than dinner and a few martinis to get into the mood. Best of all, he never makes you late for dinner because he's playing Xbox.

Celebrity Counterparts: Sean Connery, Antonio Banderas

What He'll Teach You: He's got a lifetime of experience to share (in and out of the bedroom), which will likely keep you on your toes (and curling them, too!). Plus, he'll show you how to see life in a different way. No matter how long it lasts or how it ends, you'll walk away worldlier — and will never settle for a measly five minutes of foreplay again.

The Catch: Despite what Demi and Ashton might say, age is more than a number. If you are just starting to get comfortable in your skin and he's shed his several times, there is a good chance you'll have issues with long-term compatibility. Sure, he's hot now, but how will you feel in 10 years? Give one another a thrill, then move onto someone you both can relate to.

Mr. Man's Man
He carries your bags, will defend your honor and would rather swallow glass than shave his chest or take hot wax to his eyebrows.

Celebrity Counterparts: Frank Sinatra, Russell Crowe

What He'll teach You: This rough rogue will have you relishing in your femininity like no other. Why? There is something about raw masculinity that brings out the damsel in all of us. Dating this bruiser will show you how fun it can be when he shows you who the man is (think Rhett Butler when he scooped Scarlett up those stairs!). Dating him will do one of two things: make you squeal with delight or appreciate your ability and right to wear the pants sometimes. Regardless, be sure to play Scarlett at least once — trust us!

The Catch: You're dying to be wined and dined but he's already made plans to meet you down at the pub. This is the guy who gets inspired by Braveheart and cries only "out of frustration." He's also prone to affairs… with his favorite sports teams. Oh, and forget about asking him to hold your purse while you do anything — he wouldn't dare.

Mr. Fun Social Guy
Whether he's out with friends or meeting the family for brunch, one thing's for certain: He's going to be the life of the party.

Celebrity Counterparts: Will Farrell, Vince Vaughn

What He'll Teach You: There is something very attractive about a man who's always ready to have a good time. You'll laugh a lot and learn how to go with the flow and let things slide. These types are often quite spontaneous, which means you should be ready for anything from a quickie to a quick dash to Vegas.

The Catch: Most people are social because they like the company of others, but Fun Social Guys are social because they love to be the center of attention — and they love the excitement of something new. This poses an issue for long-term loves because A) who wants to be an audience member 24/7, and B) let's face it, relationships can get dull at times — what will he do then? Enjoy the roller-coaster ride, but don't be afraid to walk away to more stable ground.

*****

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Writing Wednesday: Blank

Hey peeps

Sorry I couldn't post my usual Wednesday writing advice yesterday. I had a sick kid at home, a FIL staying with us and whom I needed to reassure that he wasn't 'imposing', a sick MIL in the hospital, and I also burnt my arm when a blob of hot oil just plopped out of the pan and struck my inner arm.

In all this, I wonder how I didn't break down. My body is slugging along since on Sunday and Tuesday, we had to travel to the hospital to see my MIL. The one where she's at is located a 45 minutes drive away, and our roads are so not the long stretches where 45 minutes is a breeze. Consequently I'm tired out of my bones.

My apologies for not posting. I'll resume back later with the Link Thursday post.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Food, Glorious Food...

Hey peeps

I'm posting late today coz I just got home from a mad dash with the blokes out. They, of course, tried to make the best of this public holiday, and needless to say, I'm the one who got lugged around. Dead tired now so I'm keeping this quick today.

I thought I'd post the link and some videos of the stuff I've been cooking recently. Check out Dede Med's website - she's got amazing Mediterranean and Middle Eastern recipes up there, and there's even a video for every dish. she explain in a really easy to grasp way, so anyone who can pay more than 2 seconds' attention can attempt the food she prepares.

Here's the vids for her Pitta Bread recipe (comes out great. Tried and tested by me!) and for her Garlic Sauce (if you don't have a blender like hers, I made mine in those smoothie blenders and it came out fine).

Enjoy!





From Mauritius with love,

Zee
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