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Friday, September 3, 2010

Our Guest: Kris Kennedy

Our guest today is author Kris Kennedy. Wife, mom and psychotherapist, Kris writes sexy, adventure-filled historical romances. Her current release, THE IRISH WARRIOR, won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical Romance in 2008. Her next book, DEFIANT, comes out May 2011 from Pocket Books.

Irrevocability

I believe this is one of the essential elements of good fiction. There are other elements to the stories that ‘grab’ us, but one of the main reasons fiction moves us is because characters do things we often back away from in real life: being irrevocable. Doing the thing that can’t be undone. Ringing the bell that can’t be unrung.

And doing it with actions that matter. In other words, I could spit on the sidewalk, and I can’t take that back, but what changes as a result? What consequences ensue? None and nothing. In our stories, though, characters say and do things that have consequences. They move into the After, and can’t ever go back to Before.

Irrevocable means it matters, and it means you’re committed. In for the long haul. The act, however unconsidered it might have been, is now binding.

For good or ill, that’s one of the most exciting parts of reading and writing fiction.

It’s part of the reason why the characters in novels don’t do the mundane tasks of their lives on stage. Things like cleaning the house don’t matter, in terms of Story. (Did you hear that? Just tell your family cleaning the toilet doesn’t have a fundamental turning point within, so you’re giving it up entirely. :-) ) Most of the mundane tasks of daily life are revocable. Nothing ‘turns’ on them. You could take them back, and no one would know or care. Nothing is fundamentally different as a result. They’re forgettable.

They never make a difference.

(In fact, cleaning is the the antithesis of irrevocable. At least in my house.)

You can walk away from a clean OR a dirty toilet. That is . . . unless you found a diamond ring resting there, after you’d pushed back the hair from your sweaty forehead with a forearm and knelt to scrub your 20th toilet of the week. And then you saw it. Sparkling. A diamond ring. Diamond rings don’t grow in toilet bowls, so that means someone lost it. Or tossed it. And you found it. And your rent is a month overdue.

NOW you have a story. Now you have a protagonist. Someone with a choice to make.

Make the right ones and you have a hero. Or a heroine.

In all our ‘keeper’ books, one of the things we generally find is characters actively getting themselves deeper and deeper into worse and worse trouble, particularly with the hero/heroine, and there’s simply no backing out. Nothing they do can be reversed.

Sometimes this is hard for us as authors. We like our heroes and heroines. We know their histories, their full potential and their pathetic pitfalls. We love them. Or at least really like them.

In any event, we want them to have a happy life. We don’t want them to be thrown to the wolves. To feel despair. To have Dark Nights of the Soul. To say ‘no’ when it’d be safer to say ‘okay, fine.’ To walk the plank. But we’ll do it.

For the reader.

Because in the end, we’re storytellers at heart. And while we might love our characters, we have to love Story more. We have to make our heroes and heroines walk through the fire. Happy, easy things happening to nice, good people, all of which can be taken back at the first sign of discomfort, is not drama.

Drama means conflict. And that means being committed. Doing, at least once, something that cannot be undone, ever.

Check out the books on your ‘keeper’ shelves. I’ll bet you can find at places the characters made irrevocable, un-take-back-able choices. Decisions that, even if done in the spur of the moment --especially if done in the spur of the moment!-- pushed them closer to the dark edge of What They Known, straight off the cliff into peril and danger and their own worst fears. Usually right in the hero’s (or heroine’s) arms.

Come share a moment of irrevocable choice in a book you’re reading or have read. A classic or an unknown.

And to the writers out there, what about the story you’re writing? Have an irrevocable choices? Unconsidered acts w/ real consequences that are un-take-back-able? What is irrevocably different after that choice, and why do you think it makes the story better?

I’m giving away a copy of my latest release, THE IRISH WARRIOR, to someone who gives a great example of irrevocability in romance fiction!

The Lady Scribes would like to thank Kris Kennedy for blogging for us today. Stop by her website http://kriskennedy.net to say Hi, sign up for the newsletter, get excerpts and all the latest news!

14 comments:

  1. What a fantastic blog! I love this concept of irrevocability. Here's my example from The Hunger Games, which is YA with romantic elements. When Katniss decides to take her sister's place in the Hunger Games, it sets everything in motion, and she can never go back to her simple, anonymous life again. It also put her permanently out of sync with Gale (her boyfriend) and makes her romance with Peeta almost inevitable.

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  2. Kris, your books are on my keeper shelf, and I'm excited for the next one. Heck, if I could jump into my Delorean and turn it to May 2011, I would. LOL

    I have troubles sometime being harsh to my characters, so I loved your line that "we have to love Story more". That really resonated. I'm going to keep that in mind while working on my WIP.

    As for an example of irrevocability (whew, that word almost got the best of me!) -- I'll go with Kresley Cole's newest, DEMON FROM THE DARK. The heroine has to betray the hero, because she's trying to protect a child -- the choice is a tough one, and gets worse as she falls for the hero. It kept me turning the pages like crazy, even knowing there was an HEA. :)

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  3. What a great blog, Kris. I wholeheartedly agree that choice and consequences are what makes a story a STORY. My mind is sluggish this morning, but the example that comes to mind is from Nobody's Angel by Karen Robards (it was one of the first romances I read). The heroine decides to buy an indentured servant to help around the farm. Simple decision, one made every day in the colonies. But when she brings home a thoroughly pissed off, dispossessed earl, her simple solution destroys the nice little life she made for herself.

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  4. Kris,
    Terrific post. A great reminder to make every scene and action--count.
    I'm sorry I'm not coming up with an example, but I'm going to look for your book next time I'm at borders.

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  5. Kris, thanks so much for joining us today. I just recently re-read the Harry Potter series, and it is absolutely filled with irrevocable choices. One from the final installment that really stands out? Harry finally knows that Voldemort is hunting the Elder Wand, and he could go to try to thwart him in that search. Instead, he realizes that what he needs to do is continue to seek and destroy the horcruxes, so he chooses not to act, therefore allowing Voldemort to obtain the wand he (Voldemort) believes will ultimately destroy Harry.

    This is a great point for all writers to remember. If they can take their actions back, if they can undo them and it won't matter to anyone, then it certainly won't matter to readers.

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  6. Ladies~
    Aren't you all terrific!! What fabulous examples of consequential, irrevocable choices. I'm so impressed.

    And that said, Mary, you and I are cut from the same cloth--I have a hard time coming up with examples of first names if I'm put on the spot. :-)


    Clarissa~ Thanks so much for having me by!! What a great example of someone 'taking the plunge', and knowing it as they do it. I am fairly ashamed, but haven't read HUNGER GAMES yet. You motivate me. :-)

    Donna~ Aw, thanks :-) And so good to see you here! As far as being brutal with your characters' hearts, all I can say is: I understand. I have so many manuscripts where I let the world be far too nice.

    What a great example from Kresley Cole's most recent!! And it makes me think about how part of this Irrevocability element involves *setting up* the situation wherein a tough choice can/has to be made.

    Seems obvious, but it's really important, and I wonder if this isn't where sometimes we go wrong: we aren't setting up the right choices for our h/h. We set up the Black Moment, of course, but make everything up to that point go like dominoes falling. Inevitable rather than irrevocable. Not that they're exclusive: inevitable is often central to the irrevocable choice, but not vice versa. And 'the next natural thing' to happen isn't always the *best* next thing to happen.

    LOL Clearly I love to talk Story. So glad to do it with you ladies!

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  7. Keena~
    What a great example. I think what I like so much about it is that in this case, the choice-maker, the heroine, has no idea of how irrevocable and life-altering her choice will be.

    There's all kinds of irrevocable, consequential choices. The one made in haste, due to strong emotion or expediency. The one made in ignorance, not knowing what's to come. The one where there's the *teeeniest* inkling of the stakes or consequences, usually ignored or brushed aside. And then the ones done in full knowing, often with a 'damn-the-torpedoes' type approach, because the consequences of NOT doing the action seem worse--for the moment.

    Your description of the set-up to Nobody's Angel, Keena, just sold Karen a book. :-) I hadn't read this one of hers yet, and I loved your synopsis. Thanks!

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  8. Catherine~
    Yes, yes! What a great example from Harry Potter! Oh, the heart-wrench of that choice, once we know the consequences. It's one of those choices where *nothing* is a good choice, and you simply have to make the best one you can, in that moment, for the very best reasons, knowing you're not releasing the butterflies as you do it. (metaphorically speaking :-) ) Those the most painful choices, and that's why they're the ones that let the heroes and heroines shine.

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  9. What a great blog and I love any good adventure story, Kris. I'm going to have to pick yours up and check it out! They don't call me Miss Adventure here for nothing LOL.

    I'm currently reading Amazonia by James Rollins, fabulous adventure thriller and the main character Nathan Rand's parents were both swallowed up by the dangers of the Amazon jungle. When a member of his father's crew is found alive four years after their disappearance, Nate must make a choice to return to the jungle that killed his parents and finally learn exactly what happened or not. I cannot recommend this book enough if you love action and adventure. I cannot put this thing down.

    Excellent blog and it really puts into perspective that we cannot be nice to our characters if we want to keep our readers. Thanks for joining us here on Lady Scribes, Kris!!

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  10. Kris, what a wonderful blog - and very informative. Thank you! I love finding ways to get my characters into trouble as well. Love it!! Maybe too much... lol

    Thanks again for a great blog!

    ~Marie~

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  11. Melissa Dawn~
    I'm taking your Rollin's suggestion. I love action/adventure-y stories! I also greatly appreciate a recommendation, b/c these type stories often fall flat for me about 1/2- 3/4 of the way through, when I've seen all the 'car chases' ( the metaphorical variety :-) ) and explosions, but am not getting and the emotional stakes. I'm eager to check this one out.

    If you do get IRISH, I hope you love it, and be sure to let me know!

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  12. Marie~
    I'm so pleased the blog felt useful! And I'm very glad to hear your characters suffer. :-)

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  13. Great post!

    In C. J. Henderson's "Brooklyn Knight", summer intern Bridget was told by her boss Piers Knight to look for a telephone and call in a suspected robbery in the museum. She didn't find one so instead of venturing further afield, she returned to the museum, just in time to see her boss fly, deflect the bullets from the bad guys, and the bad guys splatter to pieces. Her understanding of her world was turned upside down because magic was real and what she had thought to be true previously might not be.

    cories119[at]yahoo.com

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  14. "irrevocability"...great word! Reminds me of Donald Maass's advice to have your characters take chances and say extreme things out loud that most of us are too scared to do in real life.

    I can't think of an example right now either, other than maybe Claire walking through the standing stones in Outlander..... but, like you, just hearing the set-up for Karen Robards makes me want to run to buy that book, and also the Kresley Cole.

    Irrevocable choices are fascinating, and make us want to read....

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