Monday, September 21, 2009

Storyteller Tips 1: Call for Paranormal Romance Writers

Welcome to the official blog for Cliffhanger Books, a short story anthology publisher. My name is Evelyn Welle, and I am one of the editors. I was born to write and earned a degree in English and journalism. As a meticulous writer, editor and proofreader, I’ll provide tips for fiction writers, announcements for readers and news for both.

My initial four-part Storyteller Tips series focuses on content and style pointers for our prospective authors. This will give you an inside look at the story types we’re seeking. I share my well-honed advice with all submitting writers. If you’re a seasoned wordsmith like I am, you probably don’t need coaching on the basics. But your story will have a greater chance of acceptance when you follow these guidelines.

Short Story Submissions
If you have a flair for writing dark and edgy paranormal romance, Cliffhanger Books wants to hear from you. We’re seeking new, previously unpublished short stories for inclusion in Paramourtal, our upcoming anthology. Truly original love stories will combine unique, well-defined and emotionally complex characters with paranormal happenings.

Submissions are open to all U.S. and international new and published writers age 18 and up. Only stories written in English are eligible. Authors should be familiar with this popular genre as well as current trends in characterization, point of view, story structure, plotting and style. Check future blogs in this series for tips on these story elements.

Unique Variety
Writing and reading paranormal romance is captivating because the possibilities are endless, so be creative. We’re looking for a variety of paranormal character types and writing tones. Make one character an otherworldly, magical, immortal, ghostly, undead or shape-shifting entity. Send us page-turners that are dark, ominous, foreboding, eerie, creepy, intriguing, mysterious, suspenseful, haunting, thrillers, heartwarming or even funny.

Make Your Story Stand Out
• Give us an innovative take on an established paranormal character type.
• Create an unfamiliar, fantasy or even a realistic setting.
• Approach your love story from a fresh angle or motivation.
• Write with a unique voice.
• Hook fans in with an imaginative and perplexing plot that keeps them engaged until the end.
• Use supernatural entities and happenings to enhance the plot and explore phenomena beyond the scope of traditional romance.
• Evolve the romantic couple through a strong story line that takes readers on a startling and unpredictable journey.

Find Out More
You may have an appropriate tale hidden away that you can adapt quickly to our submission and formatting guidelines. Or read them over at, and begin writing today. If we select your story for publication, we may make content and style comments for you to revise. But we’re not conducting a writing workshop, so please submit a tight, impeccable manuscript. Then email your submission as an attachment to by midnight Nov. 1, 2009. Despite an intriguing synopsis of an imaginative story idea, we’re likely to reject a manuscript if you format it improperly, disregarded our content/style guidelines and/or proofread and correct it inadequately. So familiarize yourself with what we want, and then send your best work.

What’s Next?
Read part two of my Storyteller Tips blog: Characters and POV.

Keep checking this blog and the Cliffhanger Books website for more details, selected stories, publication dates and future
anthologies in this and other genres.

Storyteller Tips 2: Characters and POV

This is the second installment in my writers’ guidelines for Cliffhanger Books. If you’re a submitting author, reviewing my characterization and POV tips will help you write your paranormal romance short story for our upcoming Paramourtal anthology. Adhering to these storytelling principles will increase your chance of acceptance.

Lovers and Other Characters
The appeal of paranormal romance is the irresistible temptation of forbidden love, so invent distinctive characters who struggle to unite in unusual ways. You may feature any combination of these character types. At least one member of the main romantic couple may be paranormal, possess supernatural powers or appear to be otherworldly. A paranormal entity may use magical, metaphysical, immortal, etc. talents and ways to coax the couple to find love or make their union a challenge.

We want a variety of character categories including witches, warlocks, sorcerers, psychics, ghosts, spirits, vampires, werewolves, etc. But do your research so their appearances, powers and paraphernalia are credible and consistent. Or invent your own mysterious creature with bizarre abilities.

Focus on the main couple and perhaps a paranormal entity if one of the lovers isn’t. Drop them into any setting and time period. Limit the number of minor characters to a few if needed. Give all characters specific and consistent personality traits, strengths, flaws, motivations and speech patterns to make them come alive.

Point of View
Your entire story may be in one character’s point of view (third or first person). Or you may switch the POV from one character to another, but use only one per scene. Don’t include multiple characters’ thoughts in the same scene (head hopping). A POV character may guess what others are thinking or feeling from facial expressions, gestures, actions and reactions. Only describe a character’s physical appearance when in another’s POV. Make the point of view character an active participant — not a narrator who’s an observer (third-person omniscient). Avoid long flashbacks that stall the story from moving forward. Each POV character reveals feelings, emotions and introspective thoughts. Express all senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste and sometimes ESP.

Use dialogue to further your story and characterizations. Limit idle chitchat unless it reveals a character’s personality. Focus mainly on plot-related conversation. Except for some professions, social stations and formal situations, most people talk in contractions. Keep the dialogue realistic and appropriate for each character. A contemporary rural Texas farm hand who dropped out of school wouldn’t talk or think like a 1940-era New York college professor or a medieval English princess who’s a witch. Read your story aloud to be sure dialogue sounds natural and your writing flows well.

Naming People and Places
After you think up character names and the title of your story, Google them. Change anything that already belongs to famous people or fiction. If you use names of real locations, you must be accurate in your descriptions. Or create a fictional setting, and enjoy the freedom to be inventive. But search fictional cities and named places to make sure they don’t exist. If anything does, change it to something unique.

What’s Next?
Read part three of my Storyteller Tips blog: Story Structure and Plot.

Keep checking this blog and the Cliffhanger Books website for more details, selected stories, publication dates and future
anthologies in this and other genres.

Storyteller Tips 3: Story Structure and Plot

Constructing Your Tale
The third blog in my writers’ guidelines for Cliffhanger Books focuses on short story form. If you’re a submitting author, this overview will help you write your paranormal romance manuscript for our upcoming
Paramourtal anthology. Though customized for this genre, these basic tips apply to all fiction writing for us and other publishers as well.

Plotting Points

A concise, well-structured paranormal romance draws the reader in, compelling an emotional investment in the characters’ dilemmas and outcome. You will need to keep the time frame brief for the limited length of a short story. Follow basic structure by including a beginning, conflict, climax or crisis and resolution or turning point.

Introduce the main characters early by starting with dialogue or action instead of description. But have a balance of those three elements throughout your story. Use the first sentence or paragraph to set the mood and hook the reader’s interest.

In a romance, internal conflicts plague both the hero and heroine. The challenge is overcoming real or imagined reasons why neither can be with the other. Each also has an external conflict involving the situation that brought them together. Avoid a convoluted plot where their meeting and interaction seem forced.

The hero and heroine face and triumph over internal conflicts. Add a crisis or climax that makes each willing to give up something for the other. Each experiences some form of character growth to rise above their differences and enjoy a life together.

We may be called Cliffhanger Books, but we want stories that end — not ones that stop unfinished. By the end, readers want to know how the situation or characters changed and/or what obstacles they’ve overcome. Unexpected twists add shock value and depth if believable. But be sure to reveal any secrets and tie up all questions, problems and loose ends for a satisfying conclusion.

Show; Don’t Tell

Reveal everything through the “Show; Don’t Tell” rule of writing. Show the character’s reaction (how she looked or behaved anxiously through fidgeting, pacing, etc.) instead of telling us, “She was anxious.” Rather than summarizing a character’s personality or background, reveal it through thoughts, observations and dialogue. Only include elements and details that are integral to the plot. Show how characters evolve by the end of your story.

What’s Next?

Read part four of my Storyteller Tips blog: Style and Grammar.

Keep checking this blog and the Cliffhanger Books website for more details, selected stories, publication dates and future
anthologies in this and other genres.

Storyteller Tips 4: Style and Grammar

Writing Right
This is the final entry in Cliffhanger Books’ four-part writing series. If you’re a submitting author, it will help your short story conform to our standards. Sloppy style, grammar, syntax and punctuation can cancel out an otherwise intriguing story’s value. I’m a very picky copy editor, so following these rules will make your polished manuscript require fewer changes. That will improve your chance of acceptance in our upcoming anthologies as well as other publishers’ books. You’ll even find out why it and there are the two most misused words in the English language. Avoid these frequent mistakes to enhance your writing style today.

Pesky Style and Grammar Rules
In addition to enthralling ideas, well-written and edited stories follow basic grammar principles. While many style variations exist, Cliffhanger Books will follow those listed below for consistency throughout our anthologies. Correct typos, improper usage and passive voice before submission. MS Word will check spelling, grammar, style and punctuation, but so should you because it may be wrong. Ignore suggested changes if you know better or I’ve instructed otherwise.

• In most cases, put dialogue, actions, observations and thoughts in separate paragraphs.
• Write in complete sentences as a rule except for some one-word or brief dialogue/thoughts and occasionally for emphasis. You may interrupt dialogue/thoughts or leave them unfinished if you end the sentence by inserting the symbol special character Ellipsis with a final period or the Em Dash.
• Alter the stilted pattern of starting subsequent sentences and paragraphs with the same word.
• Avoid run-on sentences by splitting. You may start sentences with And or But when informality is appropriate.
• The English language features so many wonderful words, why repeat the same ones? Use synonyms for variety.
• Spell out all words including numbers, states and anything else you might abbreviate.

• Use correct grammar unless a character’s educational level or social station calls for inept expression, syntax, slang or regional dialect.
• Refrain from repeating the same sentence structure. Alternate patterns for better flow. Use a subject-verb-object sequence for one sentence. Follow it with a dependent clause-independent clause separated by a comma.
• Make passive voice active. Change “She was watched by the man” to “The man watched her.”
• Use it only as a pronoun with an antecedent as in: “She liked the music. It moved her.” But if
it doesn’t mean anything, rewrite. Change “It was cold” to: “The temperature was cold.” I know people talk this way. But with a little practice, you can break this bad habit by being specific.
There describes a place. If it doesn’t, revise.
Replace There was music playing with Music was playing. Delete the unnecessary words and start with the subject. Change “There were too many choices” to “She had too many choices.” Everyone else may use there inappropriately, but you can avoid that pitfall by being explicit.
• Avoid be verbs. Replace them with vivid action verbs.
• Watch out for misplaced modifiers and split infinitives. Change “He cautiously eyed her” to “He eyed her cautiously” and “She began to heartily laugh” to “She began to laugh heartily.”

• Use just one space, not two, between sentences in a paragraph.
• If you separate one character’s dialogue into two paragraphs, omit the close quote from the first paragraph.
• Place commas and periods inside quotation marks.
• A comma doesn’t belong before the last and in a series or between dependent clauses.
• Use a comma between independent clauses (each has a subject and a verb).
• If you insert the symbol special character Ellipsis at the end of a sentence, add a final period.
• Insert the symbol special character Em Dash to separate thoughts instead of using one or two hyphens.

What’s Next?
If you’ve read my four-part Storyteller Tips and the Cliffhanger Books submission and formatting guidelines on our website, you’re ready to create your original tale. When you’re done, refer to our submission instructions at And remember, your story must reach us by midnight Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009.

Keep checking this blog and the Cliffhanger Books website for more details, selected stories, publication dates and future anthologies in this and other genres.