Today, I have author Holly Bargo guesting at my blog. She’s here to talk about her latest release Hogtied, a MC contemporary romance. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
Who’s in control? By Holly Bargo
One wit once commented, “No plot survives contact with the characters.” I wish I could remember who said that, because every “pantser” knows the inalienable truth of those words. It’s one reason why we’re pantsers.
In the ongoing tug-of-war between pantsers and plotters, the “rope” is the issue of control. Plotters exercise firm control over their stories. They know what’s going to happen, who’s going to do it, how it happens, and when it will occur. Then the characters get involved and, suddenly, who does what and how and when alters, because the planned action doesn’t fit the character’s personality.
Pantsers like me typically begin with an idea, maybe even just a character. We plop that character into a situation and let her run or ignite the idea and let it burn. We have a general conclusion in mind—in romance, that’s the “Happily Ever After”—but we don’t necessarily have a plan on how our characters are going to get there. Such unpredictability is responsible for Vladislav’s brother popping into the story in Cassia and pretty much everything that happens in The Falcon of Imenotash.
Even when I set out with a plan in mind, the characters seize control of the story, often from the get-go. In The Mighty Finn, Finn wasn’t supposed to be the strong co-protagonist he insisted on being. In Triple Burn, Crow exerted his personality with such surprising strength that the other two heroes in the story had to rein him in constantly. That’s how Rowan, Daughter of the Twins Moons, The Barbary Lion, and Russian Lullaby became the first books in their respective series: other characters demanded their own stories. And got them.
A good portion of my work consists of freelance writing which, in many cases, includes ghostwriting stories for clients. One of my favorite project types is adapting screenplays to novels. The screenplay (or script) serves as a strong plot guideline and source of dialogue. Even so, the characters take on distinct personalities inside my imagination and they speak beyond the dialogue in the source material and they act in ways not indicated in the source material. Probably to a greater extent than experienced by the scriptwriter, those characters live in my mind. It’s an intimate relationship.
Characters exist in my mind as real personalities. Often, they’re more real to me than actual living persons. I think that’s because they exist so intimately within my mind. Regardless, such strong characters inform me as to what they want, usually to the effect that they guide the story rather than me directing them. Or, at least, that’s how it seems.
Fiction writing then becomes imbued with a sort of metaphysical or supernatural aspect. Am I hearing the voices of angels and demons? Ghosts and spirits? Or do I simply have a silly habit of overindulging my imagination?
I won’t answer those questions because they’re irrelevant. Neither those questions nor those answers mean squat. However, the effect of following the characters on the roller coaster ride that is fiction writing for a pantser is that what engages, delights, and surprises me should also engage, delight, and surprise the reader. If I, the author, didn’t see that coming, then how can you, the reader? Enjoy the plot twists, because I certainly do.
Plot twists notwithstanding and no matter how far-fetched the story, I can and do ground my characters with realistic elements. Grounding in realism is essential for suspending the reader’s disbelief. If the reader doesn’t trust me with the small details, she certainly won’t trust me to lead her on flights of fancy. Whether that’s knowing dogs shouldn’t eat grape or chocolate chip cookies or that some method of force is required to propel a bullet from the chamber down the gun’s barrel, my characters must be confined, restrained, or otherwise bound by certain existing realities. In Triple Burn, the heroes go into battle. One dies. That’s real. In Hogtied, a weekend of unprotected sex results in a pregnancy. That’s real. In The Eagle at Dawn, the heroine experiences excruciating monthly cramps like I used to endure. That’s really real. (By the way, menopause is a blessing! Except for the hot flashes.)
Allowing the characters to take the reins (reins, not reigns: we’re appropriating equestrian terminology here) and guide the story works for me. They know the destination and they determine how we get there. I’m more or less along for the ride, just like the reader. That means there’s nothing formulaic about my stories, even if I have to make sure that each story incorporates some of the mandatory tropes of the genre. The release of control, I believe, leads to greater creativity in storytelling and much better character development.
What’s not to like?
Author: Holly Bargo
Genre: Contemporary MC Romance
Cowgirl meets biker … what could go wrong?
Blurb: When a biker shoots her sister’s prize steer, champion roper Melanie goes after him. Unfortunately, she doesn’t think it through, and that hot temper puts her squarely in Hammer’s sights. Melanie’s ire only increases when Hammer defuses the dangerous situation by claiming her as his property. If the former Marine and now sergeant-at-arms of the Black Ice Revolution MC thinks she’s his for the taking, he’s sadly mistaken. She wants nothing to do with him, but he’s not about to let this sexy, feisty woman go.
Note: This romance contains some explicit scenes and a guaranteed HEA. May not be suitable for young readers.
“No need. You all stay off my property,” the old man said. “I’m inclined to shoot every last one of you.”
Hammer raised an eyebrow and his skepticism must have showed.
“Daddy was a sniper in the Gulf War,” Melanie explained with a saccharine smile. “And he taught Julie and me how to shoot, too. We can protect ourselves.”
Hammer met her cool confidence with another small smile. “The three of you can’t protect the whole
farm and your father knows it.”
He turned around and walked to his motorcycle, his strides slow and sure. He’d be damned if he showed uneasiness in front of the old man and two girls. He’d faced worse in the Middle East and the Central and South American cesspits where drug cartels, terrorists, and revolutionaries were indistinguishable from one another.
Melanie watched the man’s slow swagger and admitted silently to herself that he filled out his jeans very, very nicely. She liked the breadth of his shoulders and the bulge of hard muscle beneath his tee shirt. Stick a sword in his hand and she’d cast him as Aragorn in a Lord of the Rings remake.
“He’s hot,” Julie whispered, echoing her sister’s thoughts.
“He’s trouble,” their father muttered.
“What do we do, Daddy?” Melanie asked as the man started his motorcycle and rode away.
Holly Bargo never outgrew a love of fairy tales, legends, and myths. Or horses. However, one foot must remain firmly planted in the real world where Holly makes her living as a freelance writer and editor. She and her husband have two grown children and live on a southwest Ohio hobby farm with a menagerie indoor and outdoor animals.
Holly enjoys hearing from readers and other authors and may be contacted via the Hen House Publishing website: http://www.henhousepublishing.com.
When she’s not working on other people’s documents or reading, Holly finds time to transfer the voices in her head to paper … er … computer. If she doesn’t, there’s a definite possibility her mind will explode.
And for those who might wonder from where the pseudonym of Holly Bargo came, it’s quite simple really. Horses. Namely an elegant and temperamental Appaloosa mare who has long since crossed the Rainbow Bridge and is fondly remembered for guarding toddler children and crushing a brand-new pager.
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