Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Susan Sey | Setting the Scene

June 10, 2011

Susan SeyMONEY SHOTEverybody knows what their own flaws are.  Ask any woman for her biggest flaw and she’s not going to need a minute to think it over.  Short legs.  Small boobs.  No waist.  Yellow teeth.  Dimply thighs.  The list is endless, but more to the point, it’s prompt.  We spend a fortune trying to fix these things.  We are not unaware.

Writers are no different.  We throw our books out there with a kiss and a prayer but we’re fully aware of their fatal flaws.  We know what our weaknesses as writers are.  We know where our books fall short.  Believe me, we’d fix it if we could but since we can’t we just have to hope that whatever it is people like about our books is done well enough (this time) that they’ll forgive us our shortcomings.   And in each book, we try harder.

For me, it’s setting.  I’m dismal at setting.  My characters have fabulous conversations.  It’s snappy patter and witty dialogue at every turn.  Unfortunately, they have their conversations in space because I’ve neglected to give the reader even the barest sketch of a setting.  Which is totally my fault because I’m a dialogue junkie and when I read I tend to skip long chunks of prose to get back to the quotation marks.  It’s possible I miss a few key plot points reading this way, along with a whole lot of gorgeous writing.  But there it is.  I confess.  I skim the scenery.  And it shows in my writing.

In MONEY SHOT, I refused to allow this to happen.  (At least I tried to refuse.  You know how these things go.)  I set the story entirely on a fictional island in Lake Superior, a mash up of Isle Royale and Mackinac Island.  I gave the island a history and a future, I gave it a plot and a purpose.  It was better fleshed out that a great many characters I’ve written.

Then I made the story happen in the winter.  Every time my characters stepped outside, I had to remember that they were cold.  It was a huge challenge to me as a writer to layer this into the snappy patter.  And I worried that people who liked my first book would hate MONEY SHOT because it was different, and any audience I’d been lucky enough to build would feel alienated by the priority shift.

It’s a risk I took, though, because there’s no glory in being good at something that comes naturally.  There’s no honor in playing to your strengths.  If I’m going down, I’ll go down swinging.  Or at least on a very pretty fictional island.  Come visit.  I’d be happy to show you around.   We have hot Navy-SEALs-turned-park rangers, secretive secret service agents (of course), naked hippies and the occasional horny moose.   And banter.  I couldn’t do a book without banter.

So tell me, what floats your boat when it comes to style?  Are you a dialogue junkie like me?  Are you a setting fanatic?  Or does historical accuracy thrill your little Regency socks off?  (Did they wear socks in the Regency?  I’ll bet somebody out there knows.)  Don’t be shy–one lucky commenter will win a copy of MONEY SHOT for her very own!  (Continental US only, please.)

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