CRAFT MATTERS: Keywords, Metadata, Core Story, & Favorite Tropes

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about keywords and metadata, which essentially brought me to analyzing my core story and favorite tropes. In Atlanta, at RWA#13, Bella Andre, Courtney Milan, and Liliana Hart all spent a portion of the time talking about keywords and metadata. Each one emphasized the importance of getting those keywords right so that your readers can find you. These women have found astounding success as indie authors. First of all, let’s get this out of the way, each of these women are fabulous story-tellers. If they couldn’t tell a great story that held together, it wouldn’t matter what you called it or how you tagged it, people wouldn’t read it. However, beyond that, these women have found a key to success in getting their books in front of readers who want to read the kind of story they’re telling.

Enemies to Lovers

Megiddo Mark Novel Final CoverSo I began to think about what kind of story I tell. What are the keywords I’d use to describe each of the books I’ve written and indie published? First thing that came to mind is enemies-to-lovers. Many of my books–both my paranormal romances (indie published) and my contemporary romances (soon to be published both traditionally and indie)–are stories where the hero and heroine start out as enemies or opponents. During the course of the story, they must learn to work together, and in the process, they fall in love. The Megiddo Mark (first indie published as a serialized novel in four parts, now released as a single novel) is an enemies-to-lovers story. So is Pompeii Reawakened, its sequel and a continuation of The Megiddo Series where Sienna and Kane get their own story. Even To Have & To Hold, the first in my dragon shifter series, is an enemies-to-lovers story, which is harder because the couple is married. But still, the trope is there, if a bit twisted.

Two Dogs Fighting Over The Same Bone

The second trope I noticed as part of the core story of many of my books is the two-dogs-fighting-over-the-same-bone convention. In this scenario, the hero and the heroine are fighting over something–usually something physical–that they both want or must have for very good reasons.

TH&TH FINAL ThumbThe Megiddo Mark is clearly a two-dogs story, as is Pompeii. While To Have & To Hold and From This Day Forward (the second dragon shifters story released in late August or early September) don’t focus on the two-dog-one-bone convention, there is a suspense subplot where the hero and heroine must vie for an object that the villain is after. So, truly, those two stories also fall into that camp.FTDF_Final Thumb

Even my contemporary romances (Essence, out in the spring 2014, and Out of Bounds, out in October) are clearly stories where the hero and the heroine are fighting over a bone. In the case of Essence, the hero and heroine are fighting over a piece of land. In Out of Bounds, they’re fighting over the discovery and exposure of a secret. Even in the contemporary romance I’m currently writing, working title Every Heart Sings, the hero and heroine duke it out over the career of a rising musician. In every case, the two protagonists have a stake in this “bone.”

Beauty and The Beast

courtsey of

courtsey of

All of my stories except one (so far) are beauty and the beast stories or have elements of this story line. There’s something appealing to me about pairing a character who is monstrous (or believes he or she is) with a character who offers unconditional love. In every case, that supposed monster is tamed or healed by the love of a good protagonist. If you take that story line even a step further, it becomes the-bad-boy-redeemed trope, which is totally the focal point of Pompeii Reawakened.

Woman in Jeopardy

PR_1667x2500_72dpi_Final_Kindle - SmallFinally, I think most of my stories have at their core, a story of the woman in jeopardy. This trope definitely encompasses The Megiddo Mark, Pompeii Reawakened, To Have & To Hold, and From This Day Forward, which all contain a strong suspense subplot. However, even my contemporary romances contain an element of the woman-in-jeopardy scenario. In Essence, it’s the heroine’s livelihood that’s at stake. Same with Out of Bounds, it’s the heroine’s good reputation and career as an Olympic athlete that’s hanging in the balance.

So, if you’re a writer, what are the keywords or tropes you’d use to describe your stories? Do you have favorites that you are drawn to?

As a reader, what conventional story is your favorite type of story to read?


CRAFT MATTERS: Lessons from The Way, Way Back–Heart & Arc

The Way, Way BackI had heard nothing about this movie when I stepped into the theater. A friend wanted to go and I was up for a night out. I ended up absolutely loving The Way, Way Back. It felt like the perfect story. So I tried to figure out why I loved this story so much and it came down to two things for me: Heart & Arc.

First off, the writer made us care about the protagonist right away by giving us a male father figure who was picking on him. We immediately had empathy for Duncan, the protagonist. And as the story began to unfold, we saw that he was a good kid who cares about others & clearly cares about his mom and dad, who have divorced and are pursuing other relationships.

AP FILM REVIEW THE WAY WAY BACK A ENTDuncan’s awkwardly shy. What 14-year-old isn’t? He walks with his shoulders hunched and his chin down. Self-esteem isn’t his strong suit at the beginning of the movie. And is it any wonder why? His mom and dad recently divorced, and both are pushing their son off, making him feel like he’s not wanted. Duncan doesn’t belong, even among his own family.

The Way Way Back Owen

So he starts to wander away during the day, go explore town. He’s encouraged, at his first meeting with Owen, the true hero of this movie, to break out of the mold, disregard patterns, and find his own way while playing a game of PAC Man. And that’s what this coming of age movie is all about–a young boy who has been beaten up by life gaining the strength and courage he needs to stand up and find his own way.

The family or community Duncan discovers when he gets away from his summer house is wonderfully quirky and they accept him just as he is, but they also challenge him to grow, to move out of his comfort zone, to take chances, and to become a man. These characters bring the comedic relief in this heart-wrenching tale. Owen and his band of employees are hilarious. They’re an island of misfits themselves–adults who never grew up; a virtual colony of lost boys amid an aging water park.The Way Way Back Characters 3

The Way, Way Back is an amazing story of heart and growth and healing. It shows us what happens when a character is unwilling to change (the mom’s boyfriend) and what possibilities lay ahead when you’re willing to grow and change (Owen & Duncan & Duncan’s mom).

It was a simple story really–a boy who must adjust to the break-up of his family. But it had so much heart and soul that it became a living breathing intricately interwoven morality tale in an age where kids can often suffer the most from broken marriages.

The Way Way Back On A ScaleWhat I learned best from this movie is the importance of heart–touching those emotional heart strings, telling a story that matters to people and giving them characters who matter to them–and the necessity for your characters to arc. Just about every one of the characters in this story had a growth arc–except the antagonist. There’s a lesson buried in there for writers. Don’t consign your secondary characters to emotional ground zero, where they have nowhere to go. Let them grow. Let them arc. Your story will be richer for it. And your readers will care about all of them, not just the protagonist. And that will bring them back for your next story and your next.

If you have not seen it, do. You won’t be sorry!

Did you see The Way, Way Back? What did you love about it? If not, what other movies out there have impacted you and made you feel like you’d just experienced the perfect story?