Guest: Author Paula Martin

The one of the best things that has happened to me since becoming involved with this blog has been the friends I have made, not only with the other Foxes ,(past and present), and the Hound, but with so many others by way of the Hound and Foxes.

Today I have the privilege of having one of the new friends as a guest. Through the magic of the internet, my Facebook pal and friend of others here, author Paula Martin.

Author Paula Martin

Author Paula Martin

I will let her own biography speak for her:

Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons.
She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances.
Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places. She has traveled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.

This being our Free Week here at 4F,1H, I invited Paula to post on any subject and she chose to write an instructive essay on writing a romance novel that will keep a reader’s interest: the making of a real “page turner”.

I’m sure you will find this very interesting! Paula, in her own words~

What makes a page turner?

Comments and reviews about my romance novels quite often contain phrases like:’ Couldn’t put it down’ (or ‘unputdownable’ as one person said!) or ‘I was glued to it’ or ‘Once I started, I had to carry on until I finished it.’
Obviously, these are very satisfying remarks for an author, but they made me think what aspects of a novel make it a page turner. I asked the question on Facebook, and what follows is a summary of some of the points that were made (many of them several times!) together with some of my own thoughts.
The first requisite, of course, is that readers want to know what happens next. This means that the plot must be intriguing enough for them not to be able to guess the rest of the story by the time they get to Chapter 2. Of course, with a romance novel, they know the hero and heroine will get their happy ending, but the author must introduce enough unexpected twists and turns to keep readers in suspense and wondering how that is ever going to happen.
Another important aspect is to keep the story moving forward. Long descriptions of people and places might be suitable for literary fiction, but romance readers don’t want to read a whole page describing the scenery, or the layout of a house or exactly what the characters are wearing down to the last detail. A short paragraph with well-chosen words is enough to allow readers to use their own imaginations. Anything more can slow down the action – which brings me to another big turn-off i.e. irrelevant scenes where nothing actually happens.
There’s no need to describe the heroine’s shopping trip, or her day at work, or her cooking and gardening efforts, unless something happens during these events that advances the story. This may seem obvious, but I’ve read some stories that have contained scenes which seem to have no point or value. It’s worth remembering that every scene, indeed every page, should contain some kind of ‘action’. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something dramatic, but there should be a significant ‘something’ that relates to the plot or to the characters. This could anything from a major turning point in the story or the introduction of a new character to a subtle change of attitude or a character learning something about themselves or the other person or the situation they are in. This applies to conversations too. Skip all the ‘Hello, how are you?’ pleasantries and/or dialogue that rambles on with no real relevance to the rest of the story.
Cliff-hangers are a well-known device to keep readers turning the pages, especially at the end of a chapter. It’s been said that you should never end a chapter with a character turning off the light and going to sleep – because if your readers are reading in bed (which, of course, many people do) they will probably do the same! An author can drop hints during a chapter which make readers start asking questions e.g. Character A seems to have a hidden agenda, what is it? I used this in my latest novel, ‘Irish Inheritance’, which brought this comment from my beta reader, “I’m dying to know what …. (no spoilers!) is up to.” Ending a chapter with a crisis or problem for one character will make readers want to know what happens next, of course, and if the next chapter starts with another character’s point of view, they’ll read on to find out what happened to the first character.
There are also times when readers can be one step ahead of your characters. In this case, they will want to know what will happen when the characters find out about something they (the readers) already know. In ‘Irish Inheritance’, readers know from the back cover blurb that Jenna and Guy jointly inherit a house in Ireland. However, in Chapter 1, although my hero and heroine meet, neither of them realises the other is the joint inheritor. Hopefully, this will make people continue reading to discover where and when Jenna and Guy realise this – and what happens when they do.
My final point is the characters themselves. Romance readers want to empathise with the heroine and fall in love with the hero, and the author needs to ensure that readers get to know the characters well enough to care about them. This means that’ll be interested enough to turn the pages to find out what happens to them, and how they will reach their happy ending.

Thank you, Paula! I’m sure we’ll have a number of comments; I’ll start out with a few myself. But before we go any farther, let’s take a look at the new novel that she mentioned, “Irish Inheritance”.

Paula Martin's newest release"Irish Inheritance"

Paula Martin’s newest release”Irish Inheritance”

English actress Jenna Sutton and American artist Guy Sinclair first meet when they jointly inherit a house on the west coast of Ireland. Curious about their unknown benefactress and why they are considered ‘family’, they discover surprising links to the original owners of the house.
They soon unravel an intriguing tale of a 19th century love affair. At the same time, their mutual attraction grows, despite personal reasons for not wanting romantic involvements at this point in their lives.
A local property agent appears to have her own agenda concerning the house while other events pull Jenna and Guy back to separate lives in London and America. Friction builds over their decision about the house and its contents.
Will their Irish inheritance eventually drive them apart – or bring them together?

Available from Amazon USA http://amzn.to/1gioD1e ,Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1gHiWfA and Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/405113

Paula’s links:
Website: http://paulamartinromances.webs.com
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/KtlU6Y
Blog: http://paulamartinpotpourri.blogspot.com

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About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
This entry was posted in authors, Books, Friendship, Guest Blogs, Tonette Joyce, writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Guest: Author Paula Martin

  1. Paula Martin says:

    Thanks so much for having me as your guest today, Tonette. I’m looking forward to seeing what other ideas there are about page turners!

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  2. carolwarham says:

    Great post Paula. I’m going to have to go back through the masterpiece and check I’ve no shopping scenes etc! Good advice, thanks.

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    • I don’t think you have to cutout EVERY shopping trip,Carol! Sometimes such a scene really sets the character or her [his] situation in life.However,I think Paula means a scene where we KNOW the character’s taste and situation in life, but we read something like,”She tried on the blue flowered dress, but it reminded her of her aunt Tilly, so she opted for a mauve retro print, because it reminded her of her grandmother”. Also, unless it is truly part of an ongoing joke, constantly name-dropping brands or designers is BORING!
      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

      Like

    • Paula Martin says:

      Carol, if something happens during the shopping trip that’s integral to the plot, or tells us more about the character, then you don’t need to delete it! If she’s just going shopping because you needed a ‘filler’ then scrap it 🙂

      Like

  3. Thank you for coming in today, Paula and giving us such great tips!
    I think everyone knows by now that I never expected to write romance but one is in the works for me.
    I have it set in an exotic locale ,and although I am a “foodie” and have been told that I should go into describing the meals a bit more, I don’t feel that it has any bearing on the story at all. I have read many works,(usually not published or self-published), that dwelt on every outfit the heroine wore, whether it was interesting or not. To show a person’s wealth, attitude, lack of care or self-absorption is one thing, but to drone on about capris and flip-flops, sweatshirts and jeans, is another. There are two rules of thought on the idea, though. Many writers believe that it draws readers into the characters’ world, but I find that when there are too many descriptive details that have nothing to truly do with the plot, as something integral to the understanding a character or atmosphere, then I could not agree with you more.. (I rather huff and puff when, for instance, a character has a store and every time “we” walk into it, we have to read about five other items on the shelves!)
    I hope all of your friends drop in to comment, and come back to visit me, the other Foxes and everyone’s friend, Jeff Salter- the Hound.
    I will be out for a school field trip to the state capital, but I will be in later to answer comments and questions.

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    • Paula Martin says:

      Tonette, I agree with you about irrelevant detail that has nothing to do with the plot. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to omit any reference to what someone is wearing, but I think you need to keep it very brief, unless it has some particular significance.

      Like

  4. ana Morgan says:

    Paula’s list of good-no good craft skills is spot on. Readers want conflict-laced plots with heres and heroines who have to struggle for true love. Just like the rest of us do.

    Like

    • Paula Martin says:

      Hi Ana – I must admit I deliberately left out the word ‘conflict’ because some people think that means the hero and heroine have to be fighting all the time which can become tedious! Conflict in romance novels has a much wider meaning than arguing or even disagreeing. I prefer words like tension, uncertainty, or suspense.

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      • Great subtle differences, Paula.My sister recently complained that EVERY romantic comedy she has seen in the last couple of years starts with the two people hating each other in the beginning.That is tedious.

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      • Paula Martin says:

        Tonette, I don’t mind tension between the two main characters, but too many so-called romance novels have them hating each other and arguing etc all the way through until suddenly, in the last chapter, they decide they love each other. So unrealistic, in my opinion!

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      • I agree,if you are going fro real romance, Paula….opposites may attract but do they stay together?(I don’t mean one shy and one more out-spoken, I mean in values, etc.)

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      • Paula Martin says:

        Tonette, you’re right. Sometimes opposites may attract, but that doesn’t always lead to an easy relationship. Similar values as well as a similar approach to life, love, work, family, etc. seem more likely to keep a couple together. If they are too ‘opposite’ in all these things, either they’ll be in conflict or one will end up giving way to the other. I prefer the idea of an equal partnership.

        Like

    • Oh,Ana,if all of us DIDN’T have to struggle! LOL! Thank you for stopping to comment.

      Like

  5. Great advice Paula. I know I struggle to make sure that the scene I really want to put in is actually necessary. For me, it’s a constant balancing act. Good luck with the book!

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  6. Katherine says:

    Hi Paula,
    Loved your post. When I first started writing, I was one of those authors that gave excruciating detail about the room(s) my characters inhabited and what they were wearing. The best advice I ever received when it came to description was to “paint the scene in broad strokes” – enough so the characters are grounded in time and space but not so much as to make the reader’s eyes glaze over.

    Like

  7. Well Done, Paula. A teacher once told me, “Punctuate, don’t decorate.” The same applies to detail in a story–just enough to set the scene and stimulate the reader’s imagination.

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  8. Paula Martin says:

    Thanks, John! I hadn’t read your comment when I replied to Katherine above, but we’re actually saying exactly the same thing!

    Like

  9. Paula Martin says:

    Just as a footnote, I had another Amazon review today for Irish Inheritance, and the reviewer said she couldn’t put it down! So I must be doing something right, although I don’t claim to follow all the advice all the time that I’ve given above!

    Like

  10. jeff7salter says:

    Pleased to meet you, Paula.
    And I think most of your advice is right on target.
    I used to chafe, however, at the notion that a writer may not include a scene which does not “advance the plot.” These days I think I understand that view better, but still don’t totally agree.
    Sometimes (to me) such a scene is needed to show something about the character or how she/he feels — or, indeed WHY — without having to TELL the reader out right.
    But all the rest of it should be in a writing seminar.

    Like

    • Oh,I think we all agree, Jeff.If it tells about a character, leave it in, as knowing more about a character may be integral to the plot..As the saying goes, “Show, don’t tell”, and that is where such a scene might be essential.

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  11. Paula Martin says:

    Hi, Jeff. I totally agree about a scene that shows more about a character and how they feel.
    In a sense it does advance the plot because the reader learns more about the character, and can therefore understand their later actions and reactions. The main point I was trying to make was that every scene/conversation should contain something that is important in the story as a whole and/or something that tells you more about one or more character(s). Otherwise there is no point having the scene!

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  12. pjharjo says:

    Thank you for your words of wisdom concerning “page-turners,” Paula! 🙂

    Like

  13. Iris B says:

    Hi Paula and welcome to 4F1H!
    I really enjoyed your guest blog today and will add it to my little “bible” of how to write a good book. Thank you!
    And as a lover of everything Irish I have added your book to my TBR list straight away! Can’t wait to read it 🙂

    Like

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