I'm pleased to welcome author Heidi Belleau to the blog. Heidi, along with her partner in crime, Violetta Vane, writes M/M Romance stories that are often gritty an very real. Since they work as a team, I asked them to tell me a bit about how they work and their experience as co-writers. The result is this interesting and insightful post that gives us a glimpse into the creation of a co-written scene. Enjoy!
Anatomy of a Co-written Scene
by Heidi Belleau
Violetta and I are often asked about how we co-write. Do we trade-off scenes, do we roleplay, do we email back and forth, do we each take a chapter? Our reply is always the same: we write simultaneously in google docs, even down to working on the same sentence at the same time. It's a hard thing to visualize, I imagine, so we've come up with a little exercise to try and show you what we mean. The following is a short scene fromHawaiian Gothic. The green areas are Violetta's writing, the purple are mine. This is also an edited version, so there's input from our Loose Id editor, Venessa Giunta, here as well, but we haven't colour-coded what she influenced. Hopefully this gives you a sense of our process!
Much of the time, when you see a little bit of one colour in the middle of a block of the other, that's one of us editing the other's words. Sometimes, one of us is finishing the other's sentence, as well. Sometimes we trade off paragraphs, and other times, we'll write whole scenes solo with only minimal input from the other person.
One thing you might notice is that much of the Hawaiian pidgin dialogue here is in Violetta's green. This is because I haven't had as much exposure to that dialect of English as Violetta, so she often wrote those bits or incorporated that vocabulary into dialogue I'd already written. Conversely, when we were working on our upcoming novel The Druid Stone I wrote most of the Irish English (since I'm quite familiar with it as a dialect), until Violetta had an ear for it and could write it herself. It's a very intuitive process from start to finish, which really comes down to knowing our limits, knowing what our co-writer is good at, being able to let someone edit your writing as you go, and trading off when it best suits the story.
The scene I've chosen to explore here is a pretty evenly shared scene, which I think highlights many of the issues I've raised above.
He hovered free for a fraction of second until the wave brought its punishment crashing down. The brutal giant fist pushed him far below the roiling surface, down to the dark and quiet. With just enough oxygen in his lungs to keep from panic, he waited, drifting, feet floating skyward, until the fury above him was spent.
He flipped, then, and broke the surface into the world of the living, full of sun and spray and roaring noise, grabbed his board and paddled for shore.
"Saw you get air, brah," said Kalani. He was standing in the shallows, holding back for now. He didn't reach out to slap Ori on the shoulder, and his smile seemed more reserved than usual.
"Wasn't worth it." Ori shook his head. He'd dropped in too late.
"We're going to the North Shore tomorrow for da kine wave. Me and Noelani and Ryan and maybe one of his cousins. You coming?"
"I've got a thing tomorrow." He swallowed the lump in his throat. He needed fresh water. "An army recruiter thing. He's got a contract to show me."
"Oh." Kalani's face closed off, and he hugged his board to his side.
"Well I—" Ori floundered. That familiar urge to make Kalani happy all the time welled up in him, and he scrambled to add, "I haven't made any decisions on it yet. I dunno, maybe I won't see him at all. I haven't made up my mind. Just wanna keep my options open, right?"
Give me a reason to stay, he wished he could beg, and then felt guilty. Shouldn't friendship, days spent on the North Shore in the surf, be reason enough? Ori was so selfish.
"You should just go," Kalani said, a strange hurt in his voice. "Don't want to disappoint your old man. Gotta get a Purple Heart or else you're junk, right? Don't let me hold you back. Give 'em." He tucked his board under his arm and slogged back toward the shore. At the last minute, he turned, eyes squinting against the sunlight—or at least, that's what Ori consoled himself with. "So what, right? You go, see the world, be a big hero, I'll still be here when you get back. Right here."
Ori looked down into the water, studying its foam and swirl as if he could read the pattern of his future there. He dug his toes into the cold, clean sand. "Yeah." He looked up again. "Hey, I think Noelani's waving at you."
Kalani went to her.
For Ori Reyes, coming home to Hawaii is hell. His Army Ranger career ended in dishonorable discharge, a prison term and disgrace in the eyes of his family. As for his childhood friend Kalani—well, Kalani could never love him back, not the way Ori wanted to be loved. And it's too late for Ori to tell Kalani how he really feels, because Kalani's in a coma that all the doctors say is terminal.
Then Kalani shows up to welcome him home.
Even though Kalani's body is unresponsive, his spirit roams free, and for the first time he's able to reveal the true depth of his feelings for Ori. They set out to solve the mystery of Kalani's dark family history, a journey of redemption that leads deep into the ancient Hawaiian spirit world. For Ori, taking on monstrous ghost-guardians is easier than facing the hardest choice of all: that he might have to let Kalani go.