Friday, October 28, 2011

Castle Lessons: Irresistible

Sherrinda and I were watching Castle together on Monday night. Me in Tennessee, she in Texas. The together part was via Twitter.

There is just something about a show about a writer doing his research on a level the rest of us writers could only dream of, coupled with mystery and a bit of romance, that makes it irresistable.

And that's the key, isn't it. A show, or for us novelists, our books, should be irresistable. SO much so that people want to tweet it, talk about it, come back next time (next chapter or next book) for more.

But what is irresistible to one reader could be drab and boring to others. I'm sure there are many that roll their eyes at Castle and turn the channel. (crazy people...)

At least to Sherrinda and I, some of their prime audience members, they have succeeded.

So who do WE write irresistable fiction?

Here's the thing: There is no magic formula!

No one can really predict for sure how well a book will do. That's why you hear stories of famous authors getting a billion and one rejections before some obscure agent takes them on and they go on to make millions when the book goes viral.

Even though no abracadabra exists, here are some elements (Castle-Style) that can help in your quest to put pizazz in your work in progress that will help keep readers glued to your book and giddy at the thought of your next new release.

Tight Tension - Tension is what keeps readers/watchers biting their nails and holding their breath. It's when Castle watches Kate's current boyfriend kiss her, or when a case seems to be spiraling out of control and every lead ends up in a dead end, and time is ticking before the killer strikes again. Gotta have some good tension!

Colossal Conflict - Regardless of you genre, you need a killer main conflict. A mamsy-pansy one will NOT do. I write contemporary romance... which many thing of as having tamer plots, but I still try to up the ante and put a little kick in my main conflict.

Subtle Subplots - Subplots swirl with their own sets of conflict that feed into the main conflict. Done right, they don't create unneeded rabbit trails but actually up the irresistible-factor and create depth. A good example is Castle's mother and daughter issues that are constantly going on. While they aren't vital to the main crime, make Castle realistic and ground him in reality. They help us know his background, his backstory, and make him a deeper character with roots.

Rugged Romance  - Some may disagree with me on this point. And really, it IS a bit of a preference (and in my genre, an obviously requirement.) But I have this saying that goes, "Romance makes every book a little bit better." While romance is a genre in itself, it is also able to be incorporated in all genres, even if it is just a hint. This doesn't have to be a main plot, but a little romantic tension is never a bad thing in a novel!

Murderous Mystery - Another genre of its own, I know. And Castle himself is a mystery writer, and crime shows and novels have an required mystery element. But all books can be enhanced by an element of keeping-your-reader/watcher-guessing. It's a comment complaint I hear among readers, is that they finish the first chapter and know exactly what's going to happen in the book. Keep a few cards in your back-pocket for later.

Discussion: Name an author (or more!) that you think writes irresistable fiction... and why!

I'll start:

The below is a list of my fav authors that I keep an eye out on their next new releases with eager anticipation. (this is not all inclusive... but just a few examples, as I have a LOT of favorite authors!)
  • Tamera Leigh (I've teased her that I MIGHT camp out at the bookstore the night before her release day wearing my TAMERA LEIGH FAN CLUB T-shirt--I don't really have one of those but wish I did!)
  • Deeanne Gist (Love on the Line is on my short-list to get next!) 
  • Jody Hedlund (WRITE FASTER, Jody... this once a year thing is killing me... although you homeschool 5 kids, so I understand...)
  • Jenny B Jones (Save the Date was one of my FAVORITE contemp romances of all time!) 


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I love me some CASTLE time!!!!!! That hour has become one of my favorite times, not only because of the awesomeness of the show, but because of the fun banter on twitter...and even FB. Good times, good times.

And Krista, I am with you. Romance makes every story better. It makes the world go round! (Or at least get populated!) ;)

Awesome post!

Sarah Forgrave said...

I agree 100% with your list, Krista! The two that came to mind were Tamera Leigh and Jenny Jones...I always know to prepare for an all-nighter when I start their books. :)

Pepper said...

Oh what a fun post!
Castle was super cool on Monday. I can NOT believe my husband went to bed RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of the show! How could he even do that?!?

Dee's new release was histerical and so much fun. She incorporated loads of romantic tension (as usual), but some good old fashioned mystery too. YAY!!!

I really like Tamera Leigh - and as far as romantic tension goes, Julie Lessman (of course).

Liz Curtis Higgs newest novel, Mine is the Night, has so much subtle romantic tension but deep emotional growth. Wow.

I like adventure too. Throw in a few literal cliff hangers, a train wreck, a ship sinking, subterranian passageways...and I'm hooked ;-)
But it would have to have romance too. oooo, what about getting stuck in a 500 year old tower with a guy you're attracted two but don't want to be attracted to? Oh wait...I've written that scene ;-) AND one of my favorites....sigh

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post, Krista. The reminder that there needs to be unexpected twists in my writing is good. As I read your post, I found myself wondering if I have any of that. Well, with NaNo coming up, I may have to figure it out as I go or add nuances later. :) Thanks for the fun post!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Yay - more Castle fans!! I LOVE that show. Great characters. And I love the single dad angst! So cute.

Love your list of authors. Tamera Leigh is a new one for me, so I'll have to check her out. I adore Tamera Alexander's historicals. Excellent stories.

And of course, my new fav, Julie Lessman! Here books are fantastic.

Great post!


Mary Vee Writer said...

Fab post as always...and totally agree with your reading list:) All all-nighters :)

Casey said...

What a great post, Krista! Love it!

Julie Lessman. She doesn't need much introduction either, but her books always have got something going on--written so well!

I've got to work on my subtle subplots better. All these layers! Oy.

Krista Phillips said...

Sherrinda... you are SUCH a faithful Castle watcher! If I've missed one... I can always count on checking Sherrinda's tweets!

Sarah... yes, they are all-nighters for sure!!!

Pepper... your husband is WEIRD! Maybe he got too scared?? A little chicken was he??? *grin* And great list!!

Jeanne... unexpected twists are SO much fun! YEAH for NANO next month! Good luck!!

Susan... Tamara writes VERY funny romance. Faking Grace was my all-time favorite one of hers, but there hasn't been a one that I didn't finish within the first 48 hours of starting it. (and that figure is ONLY because I have 4 kids...)

Mary... Thanks:-)

Casey... give those layers some love! They're important!! :-)

Keli Gwyn said...

My hubby and I don't watch much network TV. Instead we get shows on Netflix. Guess which one we just finished? The season ender of Castle. Wow! I don't know if I can wait a year to find out what happened.

Jody and Dee are on my fave author list. There are many others who keep the tension ramped up. A couple that come to mind are Candace Calvert and Sarah Sundin.

JoAnne Potter said...

I NEVER read romance novels...sorry, girls...but Castle is a must-watch for me, too, and for all the reasons you listed.

Saving this post for a reminder for my own stories.