Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing lessons learned from REBELLIOUS HEART


I'm counting down to the release of The Boy Who Loved Fire on January 28th! You can mark it as Want To Read on Goodreads here. Please stay tuned to this blog and on my Facebook Author Page for updates :)

And now, on to the writing lessons I learned from Rebellious Heart. I'm a big fan of bestselling author Jody Hedlund's books, and I can honestly say this story was my fave. Danger, petticoats, and romance, oh my! Here's a brief description of the book from Jody's website:

In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she's ever wanted, except one thing: an education. Because she's a female, higher learning has been closed to her but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She's determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Ben Ross grew up a farmer's son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn't see how he'll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he's drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna's decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben's growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice.

And now the writing lessons I learned from this amazing inspirational romance (Alert! Read no further if you don't want to know any plot points!):

  • Opening scenes can do triple duty: In this case, 1) a man is found guilty of murder, 2) character reveal—Susanna shows compassion for the convicted man, and 3) introduces love interest, Benjamin Ross (Hedlund is great at introducing the love interest early). There's lots going in in the opening pages; no word is wasted.
  • Layered conflict: this story takes place pre-revolutionary war. We have a murderer on the loose, British soldiers roaming the countryside looking for traitors, a love interest involved in the forbidden Caucus Club, and we have the temptation to break the law in order to help a poor, indentured servant girl. Layers and layers here, which keeps the reader on her toes.
  • Character conflict from the start: Susanna is a well-bred lady from a prominent family. Benjamin Ross is the son of a farmer who sold land to pay for Ben's Harvard education. There's no way this couple can be together. Which leads me to…
  • Bind the couple together: Susanna and Ben share a love of books. They also conspire to help an indentured servant. Even though they can't be "together," they're forced together by circumstances. It's organic because of who these characters are.
  • Write in scenes: I've mentioned in previous posts that Hedlund is an expert at this, but it bears repeating. Scenes are not written as this happened, then this happened the next day, etc. Hedlund jumps ahead to the scene that matters. Any necessary details from the lapse in time are filled in.
  • Use setting details to set the mood: Rebellious Heart takes place in a Massachusetts seaside village. It's warm and sunny during a lighter moment between Susanna and Ben. It grows gloomy and cold as the story tension mounts. Hedlund also uses wonderful analogies that refer to the sea, which further solidifies the story world.
Fun fact: Rebellious Heart was based on the love story between John Adams—the first vice president and second president of the United States—and his wife Abigail. I adored this story before knowing that, and loved it even more once I learned that little nugget of truth. If you love love, and if you love historical novels, I'd highly recommend this book.

What do you think of these lessons learned? Do you use any of these devices when writing your own books? Anything you'd like to add? Please share!

21 comments:

  1. I bound my main characters together in my second book. One of them didn't want to be bounded either, which made it amusing. I do need to improve on using the setting to set the mood though.

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    1. Alex, a reluctantly bound character…the best kind!

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  2. Ooh, I'm loving what you mentioned after "Write in scenes". That is perfectly worded; easy to understand. Love it!

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    1. Sheri, learning this from Jody changed the way I write. Seriously.

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  3. Love when you learn so much for the books you're reading and enjoying. Jody's book sounds fantastic.

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    1. Natalie, the book really is a joy to read. And I can't help but learn from other writers!

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  4. It does sound fantastic and I need to look into her in my tbr piles. I learn so much from her blogs, I'm sure her books will be the same.

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    1. Traci, the writing style from her blog is similar to that in her books. Succinct and soothing, if that makes sense.

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  5. This books sounds incredible! I can't wait to read it!

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    1. Saumya, if you read it I hope you enjoy it! I loved it.

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  6. This looks great! Reminds me of an Ann Renaldi novel- and I love Ann Rinaldi! :)

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    1. Leandra, I'm so glad you mentioned Ann Rinaldi. I've never read any of her books. Thanks!

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  7. John and Abigail - I'm so in. It sounds wonderful.

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    1. Leslie, I have a feeling I'll read this again now that I know the John & Abigail connection. It's like an entertaining history lesson :)

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  8. That sounds like a great book and I love when you do these lessons learned :)

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    1. Thanks, Marcy! It's a fun way to learn, that's for sure :)

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  9. I'm definitely going to have to read this. I love Jody Hedlund's blog, but I've never read any of her books. And I could use some inspiration for a quick witted MC. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  10. Madeline, if you enjoy Jody's blog I have a feeling you'll enjoy her books!

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  11. I just finished Writing the Breakout Novel and so many of the things you took from this book were discussed in that craft book. I kind of love this!

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  12. Looks good and since I'm ready John Adam's bio right now, the period intrigues me! Super writing lesson, Julie.

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