Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Writing lessons learned from LOVE UNEXPECTED


I recently finished another wonderful book by Jody Hedlund--Love Unexpected. In my opinion, there are so many great writing lessons to learn from Hedlund's fiction. I'll share some of them below. But first, about Love Unexpected (from Amazon.com):

All Emma Chambers ever wanted was a home, but when her steamboat sinks just outside Presque Isle, she's left destitute and with no place to stay.

An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town. He's just lost his wife and is having a difficult time caring for his child. So a traveling preacher gets the idea that the keeper and Emma might be the answer to each other's dilemma. After a hasty marriage, she finds herself heading to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger. Nothing in her aimless life, though, has prepared her for parenting a rambunctious toddler, as well as managing a household. 

Emma soon suspects Patrick may be hiding something from her, and then she hears a disturbing rumor about the circumstances surrounding his late wife's death. It seems as if her wish for a home and family of her own could end up leading her once more into turbulent waters.

Here are some writing lessons I learned from this inspirational romance (Alert! If you haven't yet read this story, and don't want to know any plot points, come back to this post once you've finished the book):

  • Open with action: we hear this all the time, right? But Hedlund does this so well. The opening pages include pirates, a shipwreck, and a rescue at sea. Bam! It also reveals the bond between Emma and her brother, as well as the greed and cruelty of pirates.
  • Bring on the desperation: both Emma and Patrick are desperate. She's desperate for a home. He's desperate for a helping hand. Their desperation pushes them together and makes them consider a hasty wedding, even though they've just met.
  • Shady past adds intrigue: Patrick admits he has a criminal past, but the reader isn't aware of what he's done. Emma once turned a blind eye to her late father's wrongdoings. Both characters have something to hide. It adds a layer of darkness and intrigue that make the characters more interesting.
  • Play up the inner demons: Patrick carries a lot of baggage and is now trying to live a Godly life. Story circumstances add conflict and dredge up the past, which create a reformed man we can root for.
  • Hurt the ones they love: betrayal is so much more powerful when it's between people who love and trust each other. Emma doesn't intend to betray Patrick, but she does. This hurts him deeply--much more than if the villain had betrayed him. This betrayal adds another layer of emotion to the story.
  • Decisive moment that shows character: at one point in the story, Patrick must decide whether or not to help a bad person. He weighs this decision carefully in a "What would Jesus do?" moment. His decision sets up series of harmful events, and shows his true character.
Have you seen these writing lessons in books you've read? Have you used them in your own fiction? Have you read Love Unexpected? Anything you'd like to add? Please share!

12 comments:

  1. Past baggage can add so much to a story. It's often part of what drives it.

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    1. Alex, so true. And when the baggage is a mystery until later in the story, it keeps me glued to the pages, trying to figure out what it is!

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  2. Great tips. I love all the action on the first page. I'll need to work on that in my current project.

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    1. Natalie, me too! I tell ya, some writers (like Hedlund) make it look easy, but we all know it's difficult. But she pulls it off every single time. It's awesome.

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    1. Dez! I agree. It's perfect for the story

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  4. I have to agree with all of this. And one of my favorite things to do is open with action. It's a sure-fire way to hook a reader. ;)

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  5. Great breakdown of the important elements in a story. Sounds very intriguing.

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  6. I love it when a book leaves you considering the aspects that make it awesome! In fact, that's why I read as much as I do--to make this aspects become second nature, something I expect in my own work. I'm with you 100% on the pointers. =)

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  7. All great lessons, Julie, and thanks for laying them out so clearly.
    I really was captured by that cover.

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  8. I have not read Love Unexpected- but it sounds great. I love the cover and the story line seems intriguing. I am curious about the secret her new husband is hiding. Thanks for sharing. Can't wait to read this.
    ~Jess

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  9. Great lessons. I never really thought about "Hurting the ones you love" as one, but when I thought about it, both my WIPs have that element in them. It's always fun to have that introspective discovery!

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