Sunday, September 09, 2007

FinDaBoo :: Motifs & Sagging Middles

We are over halfway through the FinDaBoo year. So those of you who began this journey with us in January, are you over halfway through your book? If not, I may be able to help find out why, and how to get moving again...

The first three chapters are a blast. Right? Most people who say "one day I'm gonna write a book!" stop about there. The ideas have been flowing, the prose singing, the characters orating like crazy and then you type Chapter Four and... Nothing.

For suddenly all that wonderful exposition and fun and excitement has hit a point where it needs a point. A book can't run on witty prose alone. It needs a spine, a reason for being, something you are trying to say. So what is it that you are trying to say?

Now might be a good time to take a break and go back to the beginning and find out what that thing is. With highlighter in hand if you work on paper, or the highlight button in sight if you are working in Word, get ready to look for certain things that can pull you through to the next stage.


This is one of my favourites. Wikipedia calls a motif: a recurring fragment, theme or pattern in a creative work. A recurring element that has symbolic significance in the story. Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes. The motif can be an idea, an object, a place, or a statement.

The discovery of a motif or two in one's story can be a magical thing. I'm sure many more organised writers design these things from the begining. For me they seem to occur organically, which means they can easily be lost within the prose unless I go looking for them.

Do you have any recurring motifs? Any themes or cultural references you keep karking back to? Any one liners that you threw in there for fun that suddenly have resonance? A harbinger of good news or bad? Something that sums up your leads' mottos in life? An undercurrent or thread in a secondary story that balances with that of the main story? Find it, and make note. It will help you move things forward I promise!

In my last Harlequin Romance I found the motif of Shakespeare's Henry V. The hero accidentally quoted the play which got my heroine all excited as she had a double English lit major. I googled the play to find out where the quote came from (I was clever enough to remember the reference but not the exact page!!! Gimme a break!) It turned out he'd quoted from the proposal scene at the end. See magic! Now how could that not become a running theme through the book? This is a romance remember.

From there ... my hero’s house gained a massive library that he loved trawling as a kid (mostly because he loved pushing himself around on the ten foot ladder on wheels mind you ;)). And while rediscovering the library he stumbled upon a copy of Henry V and while reading the proposal scene he discovered amazing things about himself, his place in the world, and what he has to offer a woman. His feelings about his life and about the heroine come into clearer focus because of it. The play even comes back at the end of the novel helping round things out very nicely.

Without the discovery of this motif, those later scenes would not have evolved. And with them, ideas for new scenes, scenes that would add depth, and echoes, and reverberation felt throughout the book sprang up like crazy.

Presents author Trish Morey and I had a grand discussion about such things a while back. She said that she loves it when those lines or moments appear at the begining of a book and you have no idea what they mean, or what they will allude to later on, and suddenly when you’re three quarters of the way through the book you realize that that one moment, that one line has such an important resonance it could almost be the fulcrum from which the whole book balances!

Or words to that effect ;).

See if you can find any throwaway lines that can be weaved through the story to give it meat and depth. Highlight them all in one colour. Make notes on any ideas that spring from them.

Then type Chapter Four and see what happens next!

Ally's second Modern Extra Sensual novel, STEAMY SURRENDER is in the UK! This is the one with the sexy Italian hero who owns his own string of gelatarias. Could it get any better? Yuh-huh! Add in a beautiful cabin in the snow, designer duds for our heroine and a sidetrip to Paris and life's a dream.

See more in an excerpt here, or better yet, go out and buy the thing!

Happy Birthday Lil Pink Guy from your friends:

"Best thing about this year? The friends. Without a single doubt. I love that there are so many of us out there that think these little romance books are cool. I love that we have a place we can all drool over men on monday's in the name of research. I love that some days there are posts on topics I knew NOTHING about. And I love seeing that Lil pink dancing guy get out waaayyyy more than I do. So thanks Lil guy - for all the new friends and a place I'm proud to be a part of. It's a much brighter place in the cave these days ~ Happy Birthday Pink Hearters one and all! You all ROCK!." xxx Trish Wylie

Are you in to try and win tonnes of goodies with The PINK HEART SOCIETY TREASURE HUNT???

Today's Birthday Present for the Lil Pink Dancing Guy can be found at Heidi Rice's Blog...


  1. I discover motifs sometimes, usually when I've written the draft of the story and want to polish it and there they are and I go, 'Ooooh, I see that now'. As a reader I enjoy discovering them in stories, too.


  2. Excellent point, Ally. I have been banging my head against the very beginning of my current book for a while. Later stuff was fine, but the beginning needed the "perfect" line to get into it.

    I suddenly realized when I was re-reading a thread on the eharlequin Presents section that something there resonated with what I was doing in the book. And all of a sudden, the right line came -- and with it, a way into the book and a theme that will echo throughout it (though not, dare I hope, with the overkill that sometimes accompanies an early discovery of a theme. I will try to resist the temptation to stuff it in every third page, using a "less is more" philosophy and the knowledge that my readers are smart enough to get the point without me jamming it into their ribs every five seconds.

    Your guy and his library sound fantastic. Looking forward to him!


  3. Bookmarking this one for near-future reference. I'm 50k words into my current wip and heading into the homestretch. After I'm done, I'm going to pull out my highlighter and go motif-hunting. Thanks!