About Suzan Lauder

Novelist. Traveler. Wannabe chef. Sustainability champion. Jane Austen fanatic. Cyclist. PEng MBA. Glass ceiling head injury survivor. http://amzn.to/1HT03Sf

Get the Cover You Deserve: LfmM by Suzan Lauder

Like many readers, I have multiple reasons why I might choose to buy a book: I love the author’s other work and/or someone I trust has given it a smashing review, and the price is right. But just as important is the way it looks: a stunning cover makes a big difference. I rarely bother with covers that are just “meh” or worse, even if the book is cheap or free! I already have over 100 books in my “unread” file on my Kindle and as many in mind to buy when those are read. No need to muddy that up with iffy ones.

It’s not easy for authors to decide on a cover, but most authors give at least a little thought to it. Let me make a suggestion: give it more than a little thought. The cover has strong potential as a make-it-or-break-it selling point for any book. It should be a teaser for what’s inside, a hint of the drama on offer, and a taste of the reading pleasure that’s possible with the purchase of this new book. It should be unique enough that readers don’t confuse it with another book, comment on Amazon that you took another author’s idea, or get a laugh at your expense.

Eugène Delacroix, Portrait of Léon Riesener as Mr. Darcy in LfR

I love this portrait of Léon Riesener painted by Eugène Delacroix in 1835. I think he’s the perfect Mr. Darcy at the point when he realizes Elizabeth Bennet isn’t going to accept his marriage proposal at Hunsford, and I would dearly love to use him in that capacity on a book cover. There are two problems: I don’t have a book that suits him as cover art, and he’s been “taken” in the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) covers, which is my sub-genre of Regency romance. Dear Léon was made into a phenomenal back cover Colonel Fitzwilliam by cover artist Janet Taylor for author Nicole Clarkston’s latest novel, These Dreams. By the way, I’ve bought several of Janet Taylor cover designed books for the covers alone. I’m lucky Nicole is also such a good author!

Letter from Ramsgate by Suzan Lauder, award-winning cover design by Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the image.

Meryton Press cover artist and administrator Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou has created quite a number of stunning covers for Jane Austen Fan Fiction novels, and she has a unique way of understanding how readers react to book covers: she and her husband go into book stores and look for covers that catch their eye. They make a bit of a game of it: point the book out to each other, then justify their choice. They then work together to critique it in comparison with other similar covers and figure out why it caught their eye. That way, details are analysed so Zorylee comes back with an arsenal of concepts to use in searching for the right images and fonts for each novel.

Author L.L. Diamond has a degree in studio art, which means she’s a trained graphic artist as well as a gifted watercolour painter. Her art history expertise means she can find cover art that’s not exactly from the era she writes in, but leans so much towards it that the reader is none the wiser. They also evoke the story within very well, and draw the reader towards purchase just for the pretty cover. This is an example where an author-designed cover is a good thing—when the author is well-qualified.

“Regency Woman 2” photo used in various formats on 23 Regency romance and JAFF covers.

These are merely three examples of good cover artists, and there are many more out there. Yet too many authors use cover artists that re-use materials from other authors’ covers, making the author lose the “unique” they thought they were paying for! The girl on the left is on no fewer than 23 covers, disguised a bit on some, but easy to pick out. However, if someone uses the same cover art as you did, the best you can do is say to yourself, “imitation is the best form of flattery.” Acknowledge it if mentioned, but take the high road.

Some cover artists have no background historical costuming or scenes. It’s too bad that they take money for their weak efforts. Giving short shrift to historical accuracy on a cover grates on the reader just like anachronistic scenes or non-period language inside can: how many times has it bugged you to see that same old spray-tanned, blow-dried 1990’s hair, modern tuxedo-wearing gentleman on multiple authors’ Regency romance covers? (There’s a dark haired and a blond version!) It drives me up the wall, and is a strong deterrent to purchase, even if I really like the author. How about Victorian-ish gowns or a man with long, flowing hair on a Regency romance? Blech. Yet some top authors use them all the time. I suppose they’ve justified themselves that their books still sell well. But how much better would they sell with a historically accurate cover?

Even worse, in my opinion, than the ill-qualified cover artist is the author who does it on their own using a photo that simply says nothing about the book—it could be on any novel, it’s so generic. Authors pay attention to adverbs and character studies, dropped caps and epilogues, yet those aspects don’t get new readers in a buying mood. Authors, you can only go so far in counting on people wanting to read the first book based on price and forgiving you enough to buy the next one if your cover is a dead bore. A matching dead bore is no compensation.

And layout is hard, even for a seasoned cover artist. Where should the title and author name go, how large for each image and font, which fonts to use, how to enhance them, etc., etc., are all difficult questions the cover artist must deal with. If that is the author who is an amateur, you can get by with rules of thumb only so far, then little layout glitches come out to bite you.

I even get sad when I see the covers where the scale doesn’t work on Amazon—clearly, the amateur cover designer had no clue. This even more important for fonts, though it’s common with tiny images, too. You have to be able to see and read the cover when it’s at a small scale.

Care must be taken using images. Make certain you know the source and pay for the rights when necessary with photos and even antique portraiture. Personally, I frown on a heavy reliance on computer graphic images in most genres unless well rendered and realistic in appearance. The cover shouldn’t imply that the story is a video game—unless it is. If you’re creating your own cover, you’d better be pretty good at Photoshop. Too often, it looks like there’s a cut-out doll pasted with mucilage onto the background scene, or the scene is out-of-scale or out-of-context. And don’t get me going on pasted-on fake hair!

Try to be well aware of most of the covers in the book’s sub-genre so you don’t make the mistake of copying them, however inadvertently. For example, too many Jane Austen Fan Fiction covers look like the original cover of Austenland when it should have been the only one, and we already discussed that girl on 20 covers. It may be a nice image, but if it’s someone else’s, move on.

There is such a thing as too much, and covers with a dozen images from various parts of the book run the risk of being disjointed and busy. Keep it to a few key messages for each of the front and back cover and then make them look the most unique as the author can afford.

What about the back cover? That’s a personal decision. Some are simple, just a text panel showcasing the blurb and some complementary graphics. Others are just as well-designed and detailed as the front cover. If the author will be doing signings, the back cover will help sell as well, so take care there.

A good cover artist will read your book first. If that’s not possible, the author should give them a detailed synopsis to work from. Authors can help their cover artist out by sending ideas in the form of descriptions, clip art, or a Pinterest page for their novel. Don’t expect the good cover artist to use exactly what you sent. Do give the cover artist detailed feedback and stand up for any changes you think need to be made, but expect that there are limitations to what the cover artist can do given certain media. For example, it’s hard to modify original art. Even with graphic design, there’s only so much that can be done. Work with the cover artist to get the best out of what limitations exist.

The lesson goes back to the original post in this series: authors should do their best to give the reader an experience with the greatest level of satisfaction within the author’s control. Covers add to that reading experience, so pay attention to cover design! Here are some ways to achieve your goals:

  • Look at other authors’ covers in your sub-genre to see which are the most striking.
  • Read reviews and blogs in your sub-genre to know which covers get the most positive comments.
  • Learn what it means to be historically accurate for your book.
  • Think about the content of your novel: does your cover tell enough of the story to intrigue a potential reader?
  • Ask friends who read in the genre to point out their favourite covers and analyze why they work.
  • Make sure your graphics and fonts are polished looking and visible at small scale.
  • Work with your cover artist asking questions and making suggestions for improvement until you’re satisfied it’s the best you can get for what you’re paying.

Don’t allow the cover to take a back seat to the quality of the novel. All that hard work deserves to be displayed in the best way on the Amazon seller’s page. Make your book memorable both inside and out, and it should pay off.

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

Second Disclaimer: If I’ve missed a few contractions, it’s not because I’m overly formal, it’s because I’ve been writing Regency romance lately and that sub-genre uses no contractions!

Save

Keep JAFF readers interested with originality: LfMM by Suzan Lauder

JAFF novels are like batches of cookies. A few years ago, someone took a beloved old recipe and created a tasty new version with their own slightly different spice mix. Others did something similar, and readers like me enjoyed the burst of unique flavour that came through each time a writer added their own spice, even if they sometimes weren’t top quality literature.

But when the cookies became popular, opportunists’ taste buds couldn’t discern the subtle aspects that came from rare ingredients and a complicated method. Instead, they came up with their own simplistic recipe using only the most basic ingredients.

These cookies have been rolled and flattened by different hands, yet they use the same bland formula. There are bite size and colossal versions, some with so many layers you can’t eat them in one bite. A few have substituted efficiency tools for old-fashioned mixing to the right texture. Too many have put a ton of sprinkles on, thinking sugar is surely as good as spice. But this alternative cookbook has one thing in common: after we’ve tasted these cookies, we find ourselves wanting something interesting for dessert.

I bow to authors who constantly try new recipes, and readers who enjoy the taste rather than scarfing them down just because someone put a plateful in front of them.

In my opinion, this proliferation has caused a weakening of the sub-genre of Regency romance that we call Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF). Of course, in order to avoid problems, it’s best to know how to recognize them. The following are over-used scenes or tropes that I’ve seen in many other novels, both older and newer and admit to either using or using something very similar. Now, many of these come from canon, but they can be overdone, and I am among those who has been caught.

Over-used situations I’ve used at one point or another:

  • Darcy at the mantle.
  • Darcy pacing the perimeter of the room.
  • Darcy fiddling with his signet ring.
  • Too much of Elizabeth as a “good walker.”

Similar weak points I’ve seen as a reader:

  • Elizabeth’s lip chewing.
  • Darcy looking out the window.

Over-used tropes I’ve used:

  • Elizabeth or Mr. Bennet teases Darcy for the insult and/or Darcy says he didn’t think she heard or knew she heard and says he changed his mind and apologizes, saying she’s the most handsome woman of his acquaintance.
  • Accidental meetings in a book store or the opera.

Over-used tropes can offer a bit of warmth and commonality to Jane Austen Fan Fiction, but some that are not consistent with Austen are used so often, readers confuse them with Austen’s work. Some items that are not in Austen’s work are:

  • Older sons and younger daughters for Mrs. Gardiner (in canon, it’s two girls aged 6 and 8 and two younger boys).
  • 50- to 60-something ages for the Bennet parents and the Gardiners (these would be Elizabeth’s grandparents’ ages).
  • Darcy walking down the gallery with a candelabra.
  • The Lake Scene.
  • The Look (one I like to refer to!)
  • Some of the above mentioned like window-gazing and ring-twiddling.
  • A consistently sparkling, perky, and positive Elizabeth (she sulks, runs away, avoids, doubts in canon).
  • A consistently reticent, scowling, and proud Darcy (he smiles 8 times and engages in light banter at Netherfield) or one who is overly gallant (he admits his awkwardness at Rosings).
  • Character names like Richard (Colonel Fitzwilliam), Fanny (Mrs. Bennet), Madeline (Mrs. Gardiner), Lord Matlock for Colonel Fitzwilliam’s father, or any given names for Mr. Bennet: all of this list are NOT canon. Mr. Gardiner is Edward in canon.

Henri-François Riesener (1767-1828) – Alix de Montmorency, Duchesse de Talleyrand

What can we do about this? As authors, when we use tropes, we must be aware of them and consciously make the decision rather than automatically follow fashion. Better yet, try something original rather than leaning on what other authors have done to death. As readers, be aware of what is canon and what is not and not chastise authors who, for example, choose a name other than Richard for Colonel Fitzwilliam or Fanny for Mrs. Bennet.

Story lines that have been done over and over CAN suffer, even though the new author’s intention is to make it fresh. You’re asking for comparisons to past versions, and additions to the premise may well have been better done in another story as well. In addition, readers may just get tired of the same premise over and over!

It’s always better to try a new premise than to rehash an old one. Two examples in my reading experience where there have been flops in newer versions are the forced marriage scenario and “compromise” scenario. Curious that in the Regency, the word compromise did not mean what authors think it does, and many authors apply Victorian standards to set up their Regency ruin of a single lady.

What examples have you read that have been over-done and suffered in the latest copies, even by very popular authors?

Another pet peeve is the conflict-free story. I don’t mind a sweet romance if it has a soupcon of dramatic tension to keep the reader’s interest, but I don’t see the point in a straightforward, no strings attached, problem-free romance that’s basically taken away all the barriers to the protagonists’ getting together and adds nothing more of interest than a happily-ever-after, leaving the reader unfulfilled. Some authors think by writing sex-free, they must write sexual tension-free and drama-free. It’s not the same thing. Austen’s books all had numerous subtle flavours to them, some dangerously salacious, and all had dramatic tension! Your readers can take it, and there’s a whole lot more readers out there who will latch onto your stories when they realize they will keep the reader on his or her toes—or those toes curled in excitement! Remember Lesson #1: As an author, your goal is to provide a reading experience with the greatest level of satisfaction that is within your control.

An interesting story Miss Ray By William Wood, 1806 Met Museum

Where to get fresh ideas? Lesson #15 was not just for the sex scene! Get inspiration from others for those difficult-to-write scenes, i.e., read. Re-read Pride and Prejudice, of course! Read the other Austen novels, the Juvenilia, and Austen’s letters. Read nonfiction in your era, such as Regency history, fact books, and history blogs for ideas that come out of real life characters, laws, or events. Read other romance and JAFF novels, including unpublished works, and look for the plot holes and what-ifs within them. (I know some authors avoid reading JAFF to avoid any influence in their writing, however, knowing the genre is critical to finding a niche and finding new ideas, e.g., discovering you did not invent that particular scenario!)

NEVER copy ideas. It may not be true plagiarism, but it’s equally as nasty to do so! Instead, get inspiration from comparable era books like Regency romance. Read novels in other genres. Look at what you like to read that’s popular in fiction outside of Regency romance and consider how it could apply—other readers like dragon stories, too. (Sorry, that one’s been done, more than once, too!)

Talk to your friends in JAFF and brainstorm—the craziest suggestion can spark the idea for your next novel and its very fresh, spicy, unique premise! Bon Appétit!

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

Save

Writing the Wedding Night: Suzan Lauder’s LfmM

Sexual tension tends to underscore the conflict in a romance novel. Part of the fantasy that many readers enjoy is the culmination of that sexual tension. However, many authors are squeamish about writing “Those Scenes.” Thankfully, a number of approaches are open to authors who want to include consummation in their romance novel.

The author can prepare by developing a vocabulary by doing some research, i.e., reading examples of steamier scenes. Historical romance writers such as Sarah MacLean, Miranda Neville, Tessa Dare, Amy George, or the older works of Abigail Reynolds have good examples. Modern writers will have an easier go of it. I don’t read many modern romances, but Catherine Gayle’s and Sylvia Day’s works have some good inspiration in them. When reading such scenes by authors you like, keep a list of words that work well for you as a reader.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from my Mistakes Lesson #15: Get inspiration from others for those difficult-to-write scenes.

 

Don’t utilize full phrases or sentences from others’ work, though, as you don’t want to violate copyright. I use a rule of thumb of fewer than five words.

Utilize language reminiscent of fire and heat. Use a thesaurus for “passion” and “desire” and similar words to develop a vocabulary for your scene. If you’re writing a period romance, use words that evoke that time period. Clothing details are important, and language that reflects the period is just as critical. Research slang words of the era, ensuring not to use them inappropriately.

Scenes that build up to the consummation are essential to your scene-setting. Begin with observation of the physical attributes or actions that the protagonists admire, coupled with descriptions of their personal physical reactions they try to hide from their future love interest. If you’re writing from a limited third person (close or deep) point of view, remember your point-of-view character can’t see their own physical response, e.g., a blush. Describe their reactions as if you’re in their head.

You don’t have to go into elaborate detail in every scene. Use step-by-step scene building with brief interludes of physical contact in earlier chapters as the attraction between the couple builds. That way, the reader won’t be startled by the time the author has reached the sex scene. The types of language and descriptions of body parts is the only difference.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from My Mistakes Lesson #17: Let your romantic encounters build. Pick and choose aspects of love making to prepare the reader for the culmination.

 

As the duration and intimacy of the prelude contact becomes longer, it becomes more important to imagine the choreography of the interaction broken down into steps, even if you don’t fully describe each step. Be aware of how the sexual tension is fulfilled yet lacking at each step. Ensure you’re describing not only physical reactions, but the thoughts of the point-of-view character for the scene—and it should be told only from one point of view! Head-hopping will ruin your flow.

The rate at which the physical encounters develop differ dramatically between a modern New Adult or contemporary romance novel and a period romance such as Victorian or Regency. Opportunities and societal norms will delay physical contact in the latter, and the writing will involve more sexual tension via dialogue, observation, and physical reactions. Consummation will often preclude relationship-building in the former, meaning more full sex scenes. Dramatic tension in modern scenarios will tend to be related to outside forces at least as much as the relationship itself.

In physical interaction scenes, take care not to make the action mechanical: “Tab A into Slot B.” I once got caught out in a modern romance with a car make-out scene where I mentioned she had one arm on the armrest and the other on the console as she leaned in for his kiss. Who cares where her elbows were? Readers want the lip action!

How much the author is personally affected while writing the scene, or objective and unaffected, depends on the individual. I find that considering step-by-step movements and struggling for the right sexy word does not make me, as the writer, feel all that steamy, even in a fairly descriptive scene. Others may need to plan ahead to relieve some energy.

A new author asked a group of others, “I’m a virgin, so how do I write a sex scene?” As with any aspect of writing, reading and Internet research becomes more important with lack of personal experience, but it’s not impossible for a person who has never had sexual contact to write an excellent sex scene any more than to write about speakeasies, car chases, or a ballroom lit with candelabras. Reading romance novels can help develop a sense of the aspects within the scene that any author is comfortable communicating. The author has the opportunity to choose the detail they wish to include, from a romantic inference to full-on erotic descriptions of the act.

An exercise that many have enjoyed is “The Kissing Challenge.” The object is to write a steamy scene that involves kissing but no consummation. It’s good practise of your mature scene vocabulary and coordinating of movement. My first “Kissing Challenge” scene became Chapter 21 of my first published novel, Alias Thomas Bennet, and the A Happy Assembly Playground story A Garden Encounter was a further opportunity for me to spread my wings in a non-consummated scene. Both are somewhat explicit, something that’s not necessary in order to create the sexy atmosphere you want as a writer. Sometimes less is more, and implications can be stronger than explicit language. Here are some examples of sex scenes that don’t include a great deal of detail:

The first sex scene from JustineR’s unpublished modern Pride and Prejudice comedy-romance Off Balance: “As in their professional lives, she was highly energetic and creative, while he was thorough, careful, and steady, a detail man. She was very goal-oriented, but he paid attention to process and to making certain all the important points were touched on methodically and completely. These complementary approaches made for excellent teamwork, and their joint efforts produced an impressive outcome all around.”

From Studio 54, my unpublished novel-length, mature, music-centric, late 70’s, P&P inspired romance in the Meryton Reading Room: “When their bodies joined, there was no hurry, just one prolonged, gliding movement until they became one being. They moved gradually together, their eyes focused on each other’s in a tender communion of souls. A barely perceptible acceleration brought them each to the inevitable pinnacle of satisfaction at precisely the same moment. All that was left was to hold each another reverently and feel the comfort of shared love and peaceful understanding.” There are more explicit scenes in the novel, but this one is the example I like to cite for those who prefer to avoid direct descriptions of sexual activity.

There’s a time and a place for both explicit and implied, though. Many romance readers look forward to the intimacy, expect it, and see it as the ultimate expression of the attraction between the couple—and the steamier the better for their future felicity. Other readers prefer not to read the details, however, take care here. Avoiding the topic altogether is tantamount to hiding the truth—it’s no better than telling a lie. Sex happens as part of a healthy young loving relationship, and it’s up to the author to find the essential balance to suit each specific book. For example, if you prefer your unmarried protagonists’ ending to be chaste for the most part, a sexy kiss can still do your story wonders.

Rachel Knowles’ Georgian romance, A Perfect Match, is an inspirational novel with the following: “Her body was responding to the kiss in anything but a sisterly way. If she had been standing, she would surely have fallen. That kiss told her more about the state of her heart than her head had ever done. She had thought herself above temptation. … Whatever his intention had been, that was no ‘brotherly’ kiss.”

I’m sure other authors have opinions to contribute, so please share in the comments! Even the most seasoned writers can be nervous writing these scenes, and I hope this article has eased up writers’ tension at least a little.

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

Save

Save

Another #Free #writingtips list! LfMM 100 non-#Regency Words to Avoid

Anachronisms pull the reader out of the story like no other writing issue can. My novels are predominantly set during the period of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1811-12) in the Regency period in England (1811-1820). Because of this, I try my best to ensure that I don’t use language that was coined at a later date. Some non-Regency words are subtle and not that important, but some can have a jarring effect on the reader. The last thing you want is that WTF moment because of language you could have easily avoided.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from My Mistakes Lesson 14: When writing in a specific period in history, use good judgement to choose language and scene setting used that suits that period and doesn’t include obvious anachronisms or incongruities with the period.

This article is focused upon language of the Regency period.

Over the years I’ve been writing, I’ve developed an extensive list of words that were not in use before 1813. My simple 6-page alphabetical listing has roughly 750 words, and a longer (65 page) document lists alternate choices for many of the more common words and phrases that are non-Regency. These were generated for the most part by beta readers and editors catching me in my writing. I am simply the person who recorded the incongruity.

I use the Online Etymology Dictionary and Johnson’s Dictionary of 1806, 1812, and 1836 (via Google Books) as references, as well as other Regency era Google books. The full Oxford English Dictionary is another excellent reference, but it’s too expensive for me.

This blog post contains a sample of the most common words that were not in use during the Regency, plus a few that were in use in a different sense during that time and some non-Regency non-British language words, since most Regency romances are set in England. For fun, I’ve broken the words down to headings that will be of interest to writers and readers alike. I’ve thrown in some okay Regency words that are interesting as well.

Most commonly noticed in non-Regency words in Regency novels, considering how contemporary they are:
Mesmerize (1862 for “sense of enthral”; prior it meant a specific type of hypnotism.)
Normalcy (1920 outside of mathematics.) Normal, abnormal are also non-Regency.
Guffaw (A Scottish word, not used in England before 1836, and then low classed.)
Livid (Before 1912 it was a colour.)

The modern words and expressions that jarred me out of the era when I read them in actual Regency romances:
“Get yourself together.”
“No worries.”
“…plead the fifth.” (set in England!)
“That was (a time period) he’d never get back.”
“…playing head games.”
“Where had that come from?”
“Going through the motions…”
“…brutally honest.”
“…let it slide.”
“Hissy fit.” (1983)
Morphed (1955)
Gobsmacked (1985)
Snit (1935)
Hello and okay, both American and not used in Britain until the 20th century.
Contractions used for higher-class and intelligent characters. They were slang then.

Most over-used words from Austen by JAFF writers (these are okay words for the Regency era):
Impertinent
Sardonic
Alacrity
Panegyric
Pedantic
Obsequious
Sensible for sensitive
Handsome for pretty. The former means sublime and the latter means natural beauty.
“Superior sisters” for the Bingley ladies.
“Breaking their fast” (Austen used the word breakfast.)

Note: I’ve been guilty of using some of these words too much, too!

Worst American non-Regency words and phrases (most are also not modern British English either):
Gotten
Outgoing
Upcoming
Reckon
“Right now” for “at present”
Store for a shop, including in compound words
Braid for plait
Corn for maize
Stage for stagecoach
Jeopardize
“Nice” to describe a person
“I guess”
“Visit with” for chat
Write or wrote instead of “write to” or “wrote to”

Some surprising and not-so-surprising words and phrases that were not used in the Regency, yet Regency romance authors love them:
Décolletage, décolleté, neckline
Debutante (for come-out)
Society, as in high society
Socialize
Compromise, as in trap into marriage
Bounder, poser
Cad (It meant cadet.)
Acerbic
Adore
Breathy
Sashay
Outerwear
Misfit
Fiancé, fiancée
Fingertips—use “fingers” instead.
Foyer
Delusional
Spar (for argument)
“Sheet music”
Sex or “Making love” for sexual relations
Bah!
“Chimed in”
“Old man” or “old chap”

Another error is Australia and Canada as countries. They were not yet countries, they were groups of separate colonies with different names. Thus Halifax, Nova Scotia was not in Canada, and Upper Canada and Lower Canada combined were called “the Canadas.”

The spellings realise, scrutinise, and organise are not Regency. Realize, scrutinize and organize are the correct Regency spellings, whereas today either spelling is acceptable for British English, and the latter are correct American spellings.

Hardest non-Regency words to find replacements for:
Snob
Burp. All synonyms are low-classed.
Assess/evaluate/“take stock of”/scan/scour (for looking at a person)
Contact/connect/interact/liaise
Pouty
Bored/boring as in nothing is interesting. Reword to use ennui, tiresome, or tedious.
Corridor, hallway, and passageway are American.

Okay Regency words and phrases that surprised me!
Electric, electrify in the figurative sense (1787 and 1752).
Heavy meaning serious.
Gift as a verb for giving something.
“Beat about the bush.”
“At sixes and sevens.”
Fall for autumn was acceptable and became an Americanism much later.

New words that may fit your story:
Histrionics (1820)
Millionaire (1821)
Catarrh (1828)
Bobbinet (1809)
Gawp (1825)

Words out of style in the Regency that came back into use in the 1830s:
Doff, don were considered archaic from the mid-1700s.

Words with a bigger meaning during the Regency period:
Terrific: think very, very terrible! A terrific headache is your worst migraine.
“Magnificent!” “Marvellous!” “Wonderful!” were grand exclamations, not just “That’s fine/good.”
Chuckle meant to guffaw until the 1820s, so I use it only where it works for both definitions so savvy readers won’t mind! Remember, guffaw is not proper in the Regency.

Words with a lesser meaning:
Disgusting: think holding your nose in the air or being slightly disappointed as opposed to vomiting in your mouth as a reaction to a disgusting person.

Words with many meanings now that had only a few of our modern uses in the Regency to the point where I try not to use them unless consciously in the one Regency-appropriate situation!
Checked
Headed, heading
Tension, strain, mood

Words whose meaning changed or definitions were added:
Attitude meant stance not a state of mind or antagonism.
Bony meant “strong, stout, full of bone,” lusty meant “stout, healthy, able of body,” and stout meant sturdy, but did not mean fat.
Snort and tic were literal and only described animals’ actions, and nothing related to a human reaction, commentary, or feeling.
Condescending and affable described a person of higher rank who made the effort to be nice to a person of lower rank, different than our modern usage.
Genteel to describe upper class people was only used by “ignorant” lower class people.
Sensual meant lewd or unchaste, a more negative connotation than the modern one.

General advice on how to deal with non-Regency words:

  • Note that there are probably well over 1000 words on most Regency editors’ lists that would surprise you as not being Regency, and thousands more very modern words and expressions (related to technology, science, medicine, social media, entertainment, space, psychology, politics, economics, etc.) that most attentive authors would know to skip.
  • Get used to paying attention to words when you self-edit. If a word is suspect as modern, look it up in the Online Etymology Dictionary.
  • Keep a list of your own most commonly used non-Regency words and do a search for them in your writing. Add Regency-appropriate synonyms to your list for future reference.
  • A good source for synonyms is the former Austen Thesaurus, now Write Like Jane Austen, but take care, as some modern definitions have been used in some of the synonyms listed.
  • Sometimes you’ll have to rephrase because you can’t find the exact synonym. Good writing techniques suggest avoiding too many prepositions, though.
  • It’s always the author’s choice. You may put a Victorian parasol with your Regency costume just like you may have your reasons to choose to use some words knowing they’re modern. Just beware that your readers are savvy, and too many hits of non-Regency words will take them out of the era, therefore become disengaged from your story. Essentially, one area of author lack of attention will ruin it for all your effort on the rest of the novel.

Limited time offer: For your copy of my alphabetized list of about 750 non-Regency words, leave your email (spelled out with spaces such as “username at gmail dot com”) in the comments before July 19, 2017.

All follows and comments become entries for the gift package draw at the end of this series, which will include a signed copy of my novella A Most Handsome Gentleman (fall 2017 release) as well as some handmade and signed Suzan Lauder Regency costuming gifts.

For simplicity’s sake, I hope the little list in this post proves a useful start for Regency writers!

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

~~~

The Centennial Belles in Regency Costume

Special end note: I’m in Port Alberni next weekend for a fun costuming event: the town of 25,000 is attempting the Guinness record for people dressed in Regency costume on Saturday, July 14, and I hope you’re there as part of the count, as we’re going to beat the 2009 record of 409 people! I’m joined by Austen Variations author Shannon Winslow and Regency romance novella author Helena Korin for a readings event and signings, as well as my sister and Mr. Suze. I’ve made some new costuming items, and my sister did brilliantly by following my Regency Costuming Cheat Sheet! I’ll share the results in a couple of Thrift Shop Regency Costuming Experiment posts!

Learning from my Mistakes: Theory of Relativity for Writers, or how to use Point of View

Over the last few years, Romance novels have undergone a profound change, where the point of view (POV) within the story is now almost always Third Person Limited, Close, or “Deep POV.” This is hard for some writers who are accustomed to writing in a voice called Omniscient Narrator (ON), which is much easier to tackle and is familiar, especially to older writers, since so much of what we have written during our lives has been impersonal, particularly professional writing.

The up-and-coming New Adult romance genre almost exclusively uses first person POV. This preference is a result of New Adult’s growth out of the Young Adult genre, which uses first person POV a great deal. It also focuses on Deep POV, where the reader is not just being told the story, but the reader’s head is almost inside the narrator’s head.

What does all this mean? Here is a summary of what I’ve learned, with some more of my Learning from My Mistakes rules and external links.

ON versus Third Person Limited

Think of the POV as a camera: if you are writing in ON, you are allowed to see and show everyone’s point of view. In this case, the camera is up high, almost an eagle’s view, showing the entire scene on behalf of all the characters in the story. It can focus on one or more characters, but there’s a catch—the voice is that of the narrator, and not that of the character. That is, the narrator tells the story, expressing the viewpoints of each character.

Head-hopping can add confusion as to whose point of view is being represented.

It’s advisable to limit the number of characters who are “speaking” and to show clearly when that character’s viewpoint is over. Otherwise, the story winds up having a condition known as “head-hopping” where the reader can become confused as to who is having these particular thoughts.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from my Mistakes Lesson 10: Avoid head-hopping like the plague!

 

Both ON and Third Person Limited are third person voices. The main difference is that in Third Person Limited, the story is told in the voice of the character and not a narrator. Using the camera analogy, the camera is sitting on the shoulder of one of the characters, and is almost in their head. This is as close to first person as third person gets. In fact, you can write Third Person, Limited POV in first person then change to the person’s name or a pronoun to achieve this POV for each of your characters. Further limiting the number of characters with a voice, this POV should have no more than four lead POVs, and Lesson 10 is imperative, not just a great idea.

One point of view per section or chapter, with clear markings when it changes.

Many Romance novels use only the voices of the hero and heroine, and change them by chapter. I recently read a novel by mature Regency romance author Tessa Dare where the character’s voice changed within a chapter; however, she used an extra line break to signal the reader to the change in POV speaker within a scene. I prefer changing only by scene and using a section break or scene separator, which is a graphic like a curlicue, to show this change within a chapter.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from my Mistakes Lesson 11: To avoid a choppy or head-hopping effect within a chapter, use an extra line break, a graphic section break, or a scene separator when changing point of view.

In the initial draft of Letter from Ramsgate, I’d used Deep POV with four characters and section breaks for all character POV changes, but had a longer section where I showed reactions of all the characters in the scene, including a minor character, and had it as one section. My anonymous beta editor suggested that I cut those who were not main POV characters and reword so the information could be told by a main POV character.

A good way to discover which POVs are important is to put in the section breaks as per Lesson 11 through one chapter that’s busy with characters. This will show the choppy head-hopping sections, encourage the author to change the story to reduce unnecessary POVs, and help set a direction as to what is the most important information to retain. It’s always possible to find a way to reveal a non-POV character’s motivation and character without “telling” it.

Deep POV

A further enrichment of Third Person Limited, the great advantage to Deep POV is the reader is so close to the character, they almost feel as if they are in the story, and a more profound effect results. I recall the first time I read this style. It was a novel by author Catherine Gayle with a hilarious and very realistic virginal sex scene from the female protagonist’s POV. It was such amazing writing, I wanted to write like her and wanted to know how to do so! I thought it was just Catherine Gayle’s personal style until I read Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View from a recommendation by MP author Karen M. Cox.

Deep Point of View is achieved with a character-driven story with tight characterization, a minimum of POV characters (usually two), a lack of filter words, a “show, don’t tell” style, and a certain amount of introspection, though care must be taken not to overdo this latter aspect.

What are filter words? Because the story is being told by the character and not the ON, there is no “He thought, knew, felt, saw, smelled, heard, wondered, pondered, etc.” The character just does these things without thinking. The author is challenged to show, not tell, these filter words, as in Lesson 9.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from My Mistakes Lesson 12: Change filter words of thought, feeling, and senses to make the POV deeper and enhance the reader experience.

 

This useful article by Jodie Renner covers many of the main points of Deep POV. Deep POV is not just for third person, but can also be used to enhance first person writing.

First Person

This is the “I” POV. Not much else to say, except you’re stuck with one character’s eyes through the entire story.

I thought I’d never use this until I started writing A Most Handsome Gentleman (my latest novella, in editing for publication by Meryton Press this fall) and it just came out of me that way. I had a lot of fun with it, and it worked well for a comedy!

Many famous books use this POV, but for some reason, a certain number of readers don’t much care for it. It can be difficult if the author wants to sneak in a second person’s POV, but it’s always possible to do excellent characterization and motivation of another protagonist through a first person narrator’s eyes, as is done routinely in Young Adult and New Adult writing these days.

As noted, deep POV can be used for first person—just eliminate those filter words as in Lesson 12 above.

Mixed POVs

One of my earliest A Happy Assembly stories Performing to Strangers mixed first person and ON, and separated them by scene. In the ON scenes, the POV was clearly the male protagonist, and the female protagonist was in the first person scenes. It was a moderate success, with a bit of reader confusion. That’s why many experts recommend against switching from one style to another in a story. Changes in POV style are not recommended and if done, section breaks are even more necessary than with the POV character changes.

A slight exception is Deep POV, where it’s permissible to break up the depth by brief ON scene setting every so often at the start of a scene. A scene in Letter from Ramsgate was about to be told by Georgiana, but first, I described the guests at Pemberley as they lazed on the lawns. I tried to make it seem like Georgiana’s POV until I read about this exception. It could easily have been her thoughts or a camera high in the sky, but the generalized tone broke up the heaviness that can come with being in one head at a time for long time periods. It was one short paragraph, then I zoomed tight for her POV.

I read a JAFF novel where the bulk of the story was in ON, then all of a sudden, the author had gone into the character’s thoughts, using an introspective type of style different than the bulk of the novel, and head-hopped while doing this, without enough cues as to who was doing the thinking. I was jarred and had to go back to re-read.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from My Mistakes Lesson 13: Be consistent with your POV selection.

 

How to Choose?

With several main POV types to use and four rules suggested by my experience in writing and reading, an author can be overwhelmed in deciding which is best for their story. Sometimes the easiest style is not the best for your readers, and you have to work for good communication. Sometimes you have to be consistent with the genre in which you are writing. For example, Third Person Limited, Deep POV, two speakers (male and female protagonist) is best in most romance novels, though hipper subgenres such as New Adult and Chick Lit utilize first person a great majority of the time. Sometimes, like in my experience with A Most Handsome Gentleman, the choice is easy.

There are tons of articles touting one POV over the other, and a lot of what you’ve read in this one may assist you. However, if you’re still unsure, check out this excellent article by Janice Hardy that explores the pitfalls of each POV.

Of course, there are exceptions to everything, and many famous authors have achieved success with exceptions. But when you think you can be the exception, ask yourself: are you truly as talented as that Pulitzer-Winning author? A reply of “yes” is rather bold. Don’t be caught as a diva by kidding yourself in your vanity! The rules are made for us “regular” authors who love to improve our craft and don’t ever sit on our laurels and say we’re the best.

Have fun picking your POV!

 

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

Save

Take a pause: LfmM on commas.

Remember back in school when they told you that if you read a sentence and there’s a natural pause, a comma is necessary? I followed that advice until I realized that half my commas were in the wrong places, so I had to learn to forget that advice. I don’t know about you, but I pause where commas are not appropriate and vice-versa.

The better habit is to learn to recognize when you need that comma by “the rules” and practise, practise, practise. The first and most common situation is the complex sentence.

Before I continue, I must clarify that I’m going to speak only to the simplest of cases.

To recognize a complex sentence, look for two complete sentences of equal importance with a joining word (conjunction) but different subjects. This is best done by looking for the new subject in the second part of the sentence then checking to make sure it has its own verb. In a complex sentence, each of the two sentences are properly referred to as an “independent clause.”

You also have to learn which conjunctions (joining words) deserve a comma. But, and, which, yet, for, or, and so are the most common ones. The Editor’s Blog’s article has many examples of where they are used and not used.

Because I read pauses before the conjunctions that don’t normally get a comma (they signal a dependent clause), I found it important to learn some of them as well. As, where, since, that, while, when, and because are the most common ones. This article from Grammar Monster has a listing that’s helpful as well as examples to help you understand more than my little explanation.

Watch carefully not to use the comma when the object end of the sentence has two complete sentences, though! In that case, they’re called “dependent clauses” because they sort of lean on the first part of the sentence rather than form a new one. Grammar Monster has a useful link with examples to help learn these situations.

If a chunk in the middle of the sentence can be pulled out and the sentence makes sense if you read it with the chunk missing, it’s probably what’s called a “parenthetical phrase.” Think like you could put it in parenthesis, except that parenthesis are rarely used in fiction. This phrase is usually separated out by two commas, but if it’s a total change in direction of thought, the em-dash is used.

If you re-name a noun in a sentence, the second one is called an appositive. My trick to knowing if the appositive deserves commas or not comes from the editing of Alias Thomas Bennet for publication. Meryton Press copy editor/proofreader/layout editor (yes, she’s all that and a cover artist too!), Ellen Pickels marked explanations on two sentences similar to the following:

Mr. Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam joined him in the call to Hunsford.

Lady Catherine was speaking to her daughter, Anne, on the settee.

My “trick” is to remember the “Mr. Darcy’s Cousins” examples. The simple explanation to the reason there is no comma for Colonel Fitzwilliam and commas for Anne deBourgh:

  • Mr. Darcy has more than one cousin, so Colonel Fitzwilliam doesn’t get commas.
  • Lady Catherine has only one daughter, so Anne gets commas.

The “proper” explanation relates to restrictive and non-restrictive appositives. Yeah, sounds scary! In the first italicized sentence, “Colonel Fitzwilliam” is a restrictive appositive. The appositive is necessary for the reader to know which of Mr. Darcy’s cousins is there. In the second sentence, if Anne was removed, the sentence would have the exact same meaning. This is called a non-restrictive appositive. It’s easier for me to remember many cousins and one daughter, though. Chicago Manual of Style has another way of explaining it that may help if I’ve mucked it up worse in your mind!

When a sentence appears to be complex with a parenthetical phrase (perhaps a prepositional phrase) that can be pulled out, it becomes confusing as to where the comma goes—before or after the “and?” That is, the “and” may appear like it should stay with the sentence, leading you to believe the comma goes after it. In some cases, that is correct. But when?

Gail Warner, my Meryton Press editor for my two novels and most recent novella, taught me a trick. “If you pull out the phrase, would you use the comma in front of the ‘and?’” So if the second sentence is part of the end of the first sentence (dependent clause) you wouldn’t use a comma if the phrase was missing. In that case, the comma goes after “and.” If you have a pair of independent clauses, there would be a comma before the “and.”

A comma is used before the closing quotation mark if a dialogue tag like “she said” is used, like the example on the left.

As in the picture below, a comma is necessary to break off a name when a person is addressed below.

Wow, we’ve learned a lot about commas today. Trouble is, there are about 100 other rules for them. Just another reason to have a good editor who knows the details!

Speaking of which, Gail Warner and I are working on my latest, A Most Handsome Gentleman. She’s removed dozens of commas that I put before the subordinating conjunction “as.” I need to practise more!

Yeah, I know. Preaching to the choir! Thanks for continuing to read, but how about those comments? There will be a draw for a prize at the end of the series!

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

Save

Save