Please welcome ELIZABETH BEMIS – this is her debut post for Romance University. Liz is a six time Golden Heart finalist and a 2012 Golden Heart winner. Scroll to the “question” at the end of the post to play a quick writing game in the comment field and possibly win a free ebook!
Early in my writing career, I went to numerous workshops on “voice”. Voice was explained to me as that undefinable “thing” that makes you know when you’ve picked up a book by your favorite author. When you pick up a book by Douglas Adams, you won’t confuse it for a novel by George RR Martin. If handed the opening to a Julia Quinn book, no one would think, “I’ll bet this is a book by Stephanie Laurens!” Those are very obvious, dichotomous examples. Douglas Adams is funny to the point of the absurd, and George RR Martin is dark. Julia Quinn is light-hearted drawing room meet-cutes with lots of banter, while Stephanie Laurens’s heroes are the epitome of brooding sexiness.
There’s an additional component to voice which doesn’t seem to be explored as often, and that is the voice of the characters who are experiencing a scene. Not just what they say, but what they think and how they perceive what’s going on around them.
I recently had the opportunity to be part of the FINDING CHRIS EVANS mini-series with Erin Nicholas, Lizzie Shane, Jennifer Bernard, Jennifer Chance and Erin McCarthy. The premise is this: A girl (Ellie) goes to a fortune teller (Elizabeth aka Esmerelda) who tells her, “You’ll meet and fall for a man named Chris Evans”. Of course, the fortune teller has a reason for being so specific. She’s trying to set up her nephew. Meanwhile, Ellie goes out to look for her Chris Evans and finds out, it’s a really common name. The fortune teller casts a spell of sorts, which causes Ellie to become the “Good Luck Chuck” for the non-nephew Chris Evanses (and each of them, upon meeting her, finds happily ever after with his heroine). I wrote the free prequel (in the POV of the Fortune Teller) and the final story where Ellie meets her match, and the rest of the authors wrote the stories of the other five Chris Evanses.
We agreed as a group that each of the authors would write her own “Chris Meets Ellie” scene however she wanted, and that I would take those scenes and use them as part of Ellie’s story. As a writer, it was a challenge to take those scenes written in someone else’s POV and voice and make them mine. Frankly, it was a challenge to take my Fortune Teller scene and make it Ellie’s even though I wrote both.
This is a brief example from the prequel and from first scene of Ellie’s book.
FROM THE FORTUNE TELLER’S POV
FINDING CHRIS EVANS: THE FORTUNE TELLER EDITION
Ellie placed her hands at the bottom of the crystal ball, and Elizabeth saw the swirling colors indicating the “fortune” was being forecast. “You will soon meet your true love,” she said. A vision of Chris as a small boy, his ready laugh, bright blue eyes, and tow-headed curls lighting up any room, formed in her own mind. “I see a tall man. A tragedy has taken away his easy laugh, but it’s still hiding in him—just waiting for the right person to help release it.”
She really felt deep in her semi-psychic bones that this was the woman meant for Chris. How could she make that happen?
Sometimes subtlety wasn’t worth the effort. “His name is Chris Evans.”
“Chris Evans,” Ellie murmured.
“Yesss…” Elizabeth pretended to gaze into the crystal ball, but was taken aback when the swirling colors coalesced into the figures of five men, each caught in a torrent whirling colored smoke and chaos as Ellie floated in front of each of them.
She blinked, jerking her gaze up…only to find Ellie staring at her.
“That is…weirdly specific,” the young woman said.
“It is, it is,” Elizabeth nodded, stifling a groan.
What have I done? She was definitely in the “messing with the universe” territory, but now the deed was done. She needed to do something to fix any trouble she’d just caused.
FROM ELLIE’S POV
FINDING CHRIS EVANS: THE EVER AFTER EDITION
The gypsy lifted a crystal ball from the right side of the table, and set it down in the middle.
“Place your hands at the base of the globe,” she directed.
Ellie placed her hands at the bottom of the crystal ball and looked down into it. Not much was happening. Just a little glow.
“You will soon meet your true love,” the woman said, her voice shifting to a lower tone. “I see a tall man. A tragedy has taken away his easy laugh, but it’s still hiding in him—just waiting for the right person to help release it. His name is…” She paused dramatically and Ellie leaned forward. “…Chris Evans.”
“Chris Evans?” Ellie murmured. She didn’t know anyone by that name, but it had to be a pretty common one, right? There could be a Chris Evans in Haralson. Why not?
Ellie looked down. There was a lot of chaos and pink smoke now happening inside the crystal ball. That was a seriously cool effect.
The fortune teller seemed to notice it too. “Yes…” She said as she met Ellie’s gaze.
“That is…weirdly specific,” Ellie said, trying not to sound doubtful.
“It is, it is.”
In both scenes, the same thing is happening. The same dialogue, more or less the same action. However, their motivations, what they think and the way they think about it are far different.
An amazing, full-length book example of this is Julia Quinn’s THE LOST DUKE OF WYNDHAM and MR CAVENDISH, I PRESUME. The two books take place during the same period of time, and have a number of scenes in common, but because they’re being told from a different POV, you as a reader learn significantly different things.
The Question As a fun exercise, I give you three lines of dialogue and two pieces of action. In the comments, use your voice to explain the dialogue and the action and write a short scenelet.
They both looked up at the wall. “Well this is a strange pickle you’ve gotten us in.”
“It’s not as bad as Dallas,” she replied.
He shook his head. “I’d forgotten about Dallas.”
My extremely unbiased four-year-old will select a random commenter in a week to receive one of my Sudden Falls books (in the ebook format of your choice).
Elizabeth Bemis is a six-time Golden Heart® Finalist and 2012 Winner. Her first book, Love & Oreos was named a“Must Read” book of 2015 by USA Today, who said,
“Elizabeth Bemis makes her sassy, sexy, confetti-worthy debut with Love & Oreos, the first book in her Sudden Falls contemporary series. Bemis’ voice is humorous and sly, her characters realistically complicated, her storytelling engaging and silky smooth… The heart, heat, snark and energy in Love & Oreos make Bemis’ inaugural release a bright and buoyant win.”
When she’s not writing romance, she operates Bemis Promotions, an advertising agency for authors, fights for control of her house with her sons and various fur-bearing creatures. When she’s not in front of her computer she can occasionally be found running with her dog, training for the Little Miami Triathlon and the Flying Pig (half) Marathon.
In a small town in northern Minnesota, Ellie Mittelstadt goes to a psychic where she receives this prediction: if she finds a man named Chris Evans, true love will follow…
Only one problem: Even in the tiny town of Haralson, Minnesota, there are six Chris Evanses! SIX!
- An EMT with emergency-level sex appeal…
- A reality TV star about to get the surprise of his life…
- A firefighter who’s smokin’ hot…
- A bad-boy royal on the run…
- A smoldering rock star ready to drop the mic…
- A doctor with a heart of gold…
What follows are six delightfully romantic tales that start with Ellie meeting each new Chris Evans. But while shedoesn’t find true love (yet!), her meeting sets off a chain of events that leads the Chris Evans in each story to fall in love with a heroine all his own. Then finally, in the sixth tale, Ellie’s psychic prediction comes true in a charmingly perfect and heartwarming way. Because true love never fails!
Now’s your chance to fall in love with Chris Evans, too–six different times!
- The winner of Monday’s giveaway is…
- The Practical and the Emotional – Creating a Believable World by Molly MacRae
- Writing Holiday Romance by Nancy Naigle
- Come for the Murder, Stay for the Romance by Kathi Daley
- Happy Anniversary! Romance University Celebrates Two Years!