Readers' Favorite

April 24, 2013

Rose Gordon: You want to write outside the box, then step outside the box!

People like books that are different. Books that don't fall in line with the norm or can't be easily confused for another story. There needs to be something unique, fun, or memorable about your story or it becomes easy to forget or just one of many.

But how can you do that? Isn't there an old saying, “There's nothing new under the sun?”

Yes, and while that's true, and there will never be a story that is truly unique in every aspect, as a writer and storyteller, we have to make it as memorable and unique as possible.

Great, so how do you do that?

Simple: Experience the story.

When I wrote my first historical romance, I didn't know how to dance. More specifically, I didn't know how to do the waltz.

My husband and I were low on funds and had even less time so we pushed everything out of the kitchen and dining area then went to YouTube for dance lessons. We both watched the video and repeated the count: one, two three, one, two three, back, side, together, back, side, together...

Easy. We clasped hands like the people in the video said to, then started to move. We moved one foot, then the other, then tripped and ended up in a tangled mess on the floor. We stood up and tried again without any better results. It took us about an hour to make six steps in a row, or two full counts, without tripping.

Did this help with my book? You bet it did. It's helped with several, actually. I started out only wanting to learn the basic steps, how you stand and where to move. What I learned instead is just how easy it is to step on someone's toe while trying to concentrate!

In another book I wrote titled, Her Imperfect Groom, I had two characters having a duel with swords. Helpful husband that I have brought some dowels into the living room for us to have a duel and choreograph the scene. It was fun and informative.

For the sake of “research” I've done all sorts of strange things:

  • consumed stale biscuits and lemonade so sour it made my eyes water
  • held a slimy, wiggly fish with my bare hands
  • tipped a canoe
  • attempted to paint, knowing I'd have to hang it up in my home afterwards...
  • ridden in a horse-drawn carriage
  • ridden a horse
  • stayed up to watch an eclipse
  • set up a croquet course in my backyard and played
  • recorded my moves while playing chess
  • learned basic woodcarving
  • taken a bath in a bathhouse
  • visited and toured an old-south plantation
  • walked through a fort that was built in the early 1800s
  • spent the day wearing a Scottish gown
  • spent the day wearing a Regency morning dress
  • watched (in person) as someone blew glass
  • held an old-fashioned tea party where I played the hostess and had to pour like the ladies in my books

There are many, many other things I've done that might seem strange; and yet, I think certain scenes in some of my books are better for having done them. Your imagination can only go so far, and while it might be just enough to describe the event in your book, think of how much richer your description will be if you're able to describe being in the front row seat at a professional basketball game if you've actually done it or at a Taylor Swift concert or wherever your book takes you. (As a disclaimer: murder, arson, assault and battery, or any other topic that is illegal or can cause harm to you or someone else should be left exclusively to your imagination!)

Some writers, and I've been guilty of this, too, are so concerned with finishing this book and writing the next to help build a backlist or boost sales or reach a deadline that they don't take time to experience the story; but you know, your book is only as strong as experience and if you're writing it just to be finishing it and not because you love the story and you're pouring your own love and experience into the pages, readers will know that to. After having eleven books published I can tell a pattern: the books that I poured more of myself into and let myself have fun writing are my best sellers. The ones where I felt rushed and pushed to finish just so it'd be done, are the ones that don't sell well and worst of all, those are the ones that even my loyal fans never pick as favorites.

Do your readers, and more importantly, do yourself a favor, get off your buns and out from behind the computer and experience what it is that your characters are experiencing. I'm willing to bet your book will be all the better for it.

About the Author:

USA Today Bestselling and Award Winning Author Rose Gordon writes unusually unusual historical romances that have been known to include scarred heroes, feisty heroines, marriage-producing scandals, far too much scheming, naughty literature and always a sweet happily-ever-after. When not escaping to another world via reading or writing a book, she spends her time chasing two young boys around the house, being hunted by wild animals, or sitting on the swing in the backyard where she has to use her arms as shields to deflect projectiles AKA: balls, water balloons, sticks, pinecones, and anything else one of her boys picks up to hurl at his brother who just happens to be hiding behind her.
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  1. What a fun blogpost! I've tipped a canoe before, but not in the name of research ... nope, that was just me being a doofus.

    And I love the thought of the kitchen dance lessons.

  2. You're too funny Rose. I would love to do all the strange things you've done in name of research. You will get a better feel and understanding of how it's like for your characters.

  3. That is soo Cool Rose that you have done so much to step in your characters shoes :) What an interesting read.

  4. Alison, thank so much. I've tipped once or twice just because I was just being me, too. LOL

    Ki, that's my thought. Doing those things helped me be more "in touch" with what the character(s) experienced.

    Crystal, I'm glad you enjoyed reading about my experiences.

  5. Ok I want to know where you went to hold an old fashion tea party and learn how to pour like they did back in the day.

    1. I held one at my house. LOL

      I also go to High Tea whenever I can talk my husband into it.