the Write Editor

DJ Mansker lives in southeast Arizona. By day, DJ puts her twenty plus years of experience in the trenches of social work to use in the protective services. By night, she is a closet novelist and wait staff to her cat Trinidad. As a member of several local and national writers organizations she continues to hone her writing skills as she works to complete her first novel.

Romancing the Stone Wall

“Bringing in the sheets, bringing in the sheets. We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheets.” Ha! I just crack me up. Ah, spring. When a young man’s fancy turns to . . . what? To something. Tennyson knows, I’ll have to ask him.

Uh, don’t mind my singing. I mean, Good morning ma’am. Welcome to my humble confession booth. It takes only one thin dollar to unburden your writing woes. Won’t you have a seat and let me help you along?

Oh, yes! Thanks so much. Where are you? Who am I talking to?

It’s just me, the booth. I’ve got some special talents, so to speak. So I speak. Ha! Oh, never mind. Just put your dollar in the plate there on the shelf and tell me how I can help you.

Well, it’s like this. I’m trying to write a romance novel, but I’m running into the proverbial brick walls, those really thick walls, the ones surrounding clichés.

Ah, yes. Of course, that is a difficult one.

I know. How can I build suspense and desire without hammering away at the same old phrases?

Good question. All that heaving, bursting, pounding, popping . . .

Exactly! Unacceptable. What do you suggest?

Hmm. I’ll have to think about that for a minute. Romance isn’t exactly my strong suit. Maybe we could look at it from a completely different perspective.

I’m listening. Watcha got in mind?

Maybe we should try turning on some other writing techniques, no pun intended. Let’s see what we’ve got. There’s setting, character, point of view, dialogue, metaphor, simile, and others, but I think we can get at the point with one of these.

How about metaphor. Can we play with that for a minute?

Okay, then, let me see. If a simile is like something, then a metaphor becomes something. If we use a metaphor, we can give it character, a point of view, develop it over the course of the story. Transfer some of the tension to it. Relieve the leading characters from such predetermined plights.

I think I like where you’re going, but I need some examples. Give me the “for instance.”

Let’s try a commonly used one: setting as a character. How about the desert? The desert is multifaceted. It’s dry, barren, lifeless on the surface, but to the inquisitive, is an entire living world. It supports a great deal of life that isn’t readily visible to the naked eye. Plus it evolves with time and the seasons.

There’s your hook for building suspense and desire. Connect your heroine to the desert. Let her arid surface support a life not visible at first glance. Allow Miss Sonora to hold something back for a while. She can feed only those close to her, those who know her. The cold dry winter with brief showers gives her something to store up for spring. Then summer comes, and the monsoons flood everything around. There’s lavish fruit and peril at once. There is overflowing abundance if you’re willing to wait for it, but you must be careful. The monsoon can bring full-bodied life to the desert, to Miss Sonora, but grave danger even to those closest to her. Many drown in the rush of the arroyos. Woo hoo! I’m gettin’ into this.

Me too. I’m right behind you. Let me see if I understand you. I’ll take a stab at this.

Jake watched Sonora from the hill. He’d given to calling the desert by her first name. He hoped one day to find a woman with the strength of his beloved Sonora Desert. To many she was a barren wasteland, unable, unwilling to love or sustain life. He knew better. He’d bide his time, hide and watch until spring. That’s when Sonora would bloom, bare her colorful fruit. Her vessels would overflow and he would be there to gather in her bounty, gather her in his arms.

Whoa! Hey! What’s with the lights?

Oh, uh . . . whew! I, uh, hmmm, I guess I was blushing. Well, I’d say you’re getting the hang of it. Now you need to flesh it out, so to speak. Oops, sorry, there I go again. Draw the reader through the seasons, through the changes in Jake and the desert. Introduce the woman Sonora and draw her through the seasons and changes as well. Make the reader wonder if it’s Sonora the woman or Sonora the desert. Keep the reader looking ahead with Jake. Let them experience the dangers and rewards together. Try not to give away too much too fast. Put a little mystery in your romance. Who says you can’t mix your genres?

Thank you so much. This is a good place to start. Now I need to get home and practice.

Glad to be of service. Stop by again sometime; let me know how it turns out.

Now, where was I? “Bringing in the . . .” No. No. It was Tennyson. That’s it. Tennyson. I need to brush up on my Tennyson.