Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Behind the Book: Three Things Writers Can Learn from Liar's Moon, Part I

If you are here for the giveaway, scroll on down!
If you are here because you're interested in the $2.99 e-book of
StarCrossed, yay you! Click here for details about where to buy it.
And if you are here for writing craft stuff, read on.

Three Things Writers Can Learn from Liar's Moon by Elizabeth C. Bunce

1. Know What Sort of Story You're Writing.

This was Elizabeth’s and my third book together, after the Morris Award-winning A Curse Dark as Gold and the acclaimed StarCrossed. It was also her third mystery novel. But we had a significant advantage in approaching Liar’s Moon editorially: We knew it was a mystery novel from the beginning!

You see, if either one of us had had to describe Curse or StarCrossed early on, we would have called them historical fantasy. They had magic, they were each rooted in a sense of a specific time period and place (though both exist in fantasy versions of that place), and most of the historical details were accurate to that time and place. But in the course of working on both books, we realized that while the clothing on these books was most definitely historical fantasy, the skeletons beneath them were Mystery plots -- where our heroine needed to uncover a piece of information -- twined with Conflict plots, as forces or people worked to keep that information from her.

And this changed our approach to both books, because mysteries require so much advance setup: the creation of a coherent backstory that established the thing that’s a mystery to our heroine; the laying-in of the clues; scenes dramatizing the discovery of those clues; red herrings, and the demolition of those herrings; the creation of obstacles both passive (a giant castle to be searched, say) and active (a relative who wants to keep the information hidden); a climax dramatizing the revelation of the answer . . . all paced properly and carefully interwoven with the other plotlines. And as a result, we had to go back and invent new scenes, hide new clues, even add or delete other plot threads to give those central structuring Mysteries their proper weight. This is all part of the novelist’s job, of course, and Elizabeth pulled it off beautifully in both books. But we definitely experienced small but significant moments of brain-shift when we said: “Oh yes: Mysteries”

Liar’s Moon was by far the easiest editorial process of the three books so far, partly because we always knew it was a mystery novel: Digger’s friend Durrel Decath has been imprisoned for murdering his wife Talth, so Digger sets out to prove his innocence, which also involves proving someone else’s guilt. These questions spring up straightaway:

  • When and how did Talth die?
  • If that method of death requires skill or particular equipment (in Liar’s Moon’s case, it’s a rare poison called Tincture of the Moon), who has access to that skill or equipment?
  • Who did she interact with before she died?
  • When and by whom was she found?
  • Who might want Talth dead?
  • Why would they want Talth dead?
  • Who could attest to her relationships with these people? 
  • What was Durrel's relationship with Talth in particular?
  • Is he an innocent bystander, or is he being framed? If the latter, why?
  • Is anyone hiding anything? (Answer in this book’s case: Oh hells yes.)
So by the end of Chapter 2, Digger has about thirty things to do for her investigation, and the game’s afoot, and the action in the novel is flying forward. And that is why mysteries are so useful in novels, and worth all the complications involved in setting them up:  because the payoff in terms of intriguing the reader and making things happen is so huge and immediate.

Lesson for Writers: Once you have the story of the book down, figure out what the underlying skeleton of your plot is, and rethink your book accordingly. An easy way to determine the nature of that skeleton is to look at the climax. . . . To immodestly quote a formula from Second Sight:
  • If your story’s climax involves a big fight and someone wins and someone loses, that’s a Conflict.
  • If it involves a piece of information being revealed, that’s a Mystery.
  • And if two characters get together, or the character can achieve something they haven’t been able to before—that’s probably a Lack plot.
On Friday, Part II in this series: How to make a murder matter.

And now: GIVEAWAY!

I wrote earlier about the terrific deal we’re offering on the digital version of StarCrossed, which runs through the end of the month. But there is no time like the present to get the word out about it! To that end, I’m having a giveaway here, with the chance to win a signed hardcover set of BOTH StarCrossed and Liar’s Moon, OR a signed paperback copy of Second Sight . . . and I’m offering five prizes in total, so your odds are very good! To enter:

If you’re on Twitter, retweet this message between now and 11:59 p.m. next Wednesday, December 14:
Elizabeth Bunce’s STARCROSSED is now $2.99 on e-book—RT for the chance to win a hardcover + LIAR'S MOON! @chavelaque
Or you can post about this on your blog or LJ (with a link back to this blog post) and leave the link to your post in the comments below, also by 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday the 14th. Or both! Each individual tweet or blog post counts as a new entry, so each one increases your chances. (They’re like tesserae in the Hunger Games!) (A link on Twitter to YOUR blog post does not count toward the giveaway, though.) Once all the comments and RTs are in, I’ll pick three names out of a hat and announce the winner on the 16th.

So to do this legal-style:
  1. How to Enter via Twitter: Using your Twitter account, follow @chavelaque and then re-tweet my original tweet of “Elizabeth Bunce’s STARCROSSED is now $2.99 on e-book—RT for the chance to win a hardcover + LIAR'S MOON! @chavelaque” Please note that the phrase “@chavelaque” MUST be in your message or your entry will not be counted. Tweets must be retweeted between 12/7/11, 9 am EST and 12/14/11, 11:59 pm EST (the “Entry Period”). You can tweet as many times as you like in the Entry Period.
  2. How to Enter via Blog/LJ: Post about the $2.99 sale or this giveaway on your blog or unlocked LJ, then leave a link to your post in the comments below. Your post MUST include a link to this post. Also, you MUST leave your own link in the comments on this post between 12/7/11, 9 am EST and 12/14/11, 11:59 pm EST or your entry will not be counted. Post as many times as you like during the Entry Period.
  3. The Prizes: Three (3) winners will each receive one (1) hardcover copy of both StarCrossed and Liar’s Moon (Approximate Retail Value $35.98). Two (2) winners will each receive (1) copy of Second Sight (Approximate Retail Value $16.99). Everyone will receive my undying gratitude.
Thank you for participating, and I hope you win!


  1. Okay, I twitted (twittered?) about the deal and did a blog post ( Can't wait to read Liar's Moon!

  2. I tweeted your message (@Lindsay_Mead). I'm going to do a blog post, but I don't have time today. I'll make sure to come back and leave a comment when I do. Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. Tweeted about it here!!/WanderinDreamr/status/144577795631226880

  4. Okay, that was an easy tweet to do! Will bring back the blog post link tomorrow!


  5. I like the story of Liar Moon,. It's pretty interesting and thrilling to read.. I would definitely twit this..

    Harry Potter Movies

  6. So here is the link to your post about the giveaway:

    So, um, it takes a couple paragraphs or more to get to the actual giveaway, but I thought I'd build a little tension. You know, ramp up the stakes before I got to the climax. ;-)

  7. I read about your giveaway on Cathy C. Hall's blog and popped right over to check it out.

    After reading your rules here I'm a bit confused about the Twitter date--November 14? Does that mean I have more time to Christmas shop?

  8. Ah, good call, Irishoma! Fixed.

  9. Thanks for the giveaway! I tweeted and posted about it on my blog here:

  10. Alrighty then! It's done. Thanks for this giveaway. BTW, do you know my friend Cathy C. Hall has been through a tremendous experience trying to get a copy of Second Sight? Just saying. :-)

  11. Ok I'm here to put in my final total before the giveaway ends.

    6 Tweets (@Lindsay_Mead)
    1 blog post

    Grand Total: 7 entries

    I hope I did this right. Oh I want a signed Starcrossed and Liar's Moon so bad!! Thanks so much for the contest! :D