Writers Bloggers – Create a Blog

March 5, 2008 at 7:57 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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I started writing because I loved to read.  It was with equal parts admiration (How do they do it?) and disdain (I could do it better) that I crossed the threshold from reader to writer.  What did I find on the other side?  To my dismay, not a mob of eager agents or publishers clamoring to sell my book.  Instead I found a crowd of cynics:  aspiring authors who had been burned by con artists.  I was burned too, (moderately singed), and so I can certainly understand the need to guard your most precious treasure.

Not your book.

Your HOPE.

You can sell your book, whether self published, e-published or traditionally published, but the key is to SELL your book. Even before it is published, you want to generate buzz about yourself and your work.  You can do this if you create a blog and drive traffic to your site.    

Your blog should be relevant and meaningful to you and to your prospective audience.  Believe it or not even writers lose interested in writing if the topic is boring to them.  I couldn’t write a blog about car maintenance, even if my main character is a super hero welding a wrench.  It may tie into my book, but it has no long term appeal to me as a writer.  Subjects that interest me are Writing, True Crime, Reading, Self Help (motivation, setting goals, positive thinking) and Reality TV.  If it’s relevant to my work as a writer, I’ll post it on Fictionway.  I never run out of things to write about because this interests me.  My target audiences for my books are mystery, suspense and crime readers.   And if they’re like me, they’re also curious about the process of writing. 

Once you know the theme of your blog, you will need to drive traffic to your site.  A good way to do this is to post articles that provide good information and directs your readers to your blog.  Simple right?  The only trick is knowing where to place your articles so you get the most exposure.  There are lots of sites that allow you to post articles with links back to your site, including: Squidoo, HubPages and PeopleFuel.  Some allow revenue sharing, which is icing on the cake.  Explore these different sites and find a few (yes a few) that are easy to use and build links to your site. Without spreading yourself too thin you want to have links back to your web site from multiple sources.    How thin is too thin?   

You should probably try to write 3-4 articles a week for placement outside of your own blog.  You don’t need to add fresh content every week, but it will help you build a readership.  That is in addition to your own blog, which should have a minimum of 1-2 articles a week. This is where you want the bulk of your information.  I started with a couple of WordPress Blogs and then PeopleFuel.  This is enough for me.  There is a lot of information available for creating a blog, optimizing search engines (SEO), targeting key words and creating links. This is just a way to start and I’m sure you’ll get more proficient with time. 

Don’t give up hope.  You dreamed of writing a book, and you achieved it.  You dream of selling your book and you will achieve that too. It just takes belief, perseverance and plenty of patience.

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Poltergeists

February 19, 2008 at 7:36 pm | Posted in Ideas | Leave a comment
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Noises and movements caused by ghost, tied to the earthly plane, terrify some and enthrall others.   

Eerily reminiscent of The Shining, a novel by Stephen King, about a haunted hotel, John Stone’s Inn located in Ashland Massachusetts, seems to be the home of a spectral resident. A young girl has been heard, singing, bouncing a ball, or dancing in the hallways. During renovations, locked doors were opened and lights were turned on and off.  Some staff members claim to have seen evidence of the playful poltergeist, levitating cigarettes or blowing out candles. Unlike the apparitions associated with hauntings, poltergeists are phenomena of real life physical activities; noises, vibrations or movements.   

The Walker family moved into a farmhouse and the children immediate sensed a presence.  Local stories told of the former owner haunting the house after he was murdered on the property. Phenomena such as footsteps, faucets, lights or TV turning on and off.  The spirit seemed to have its own agenda, playfully hiding things and helpfully opening locked doors.   

Ghosts have been captured in photographs as orbs or misty cloud.    

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Children and adolescents can be magnets for poltergeist activity.   

“Poltergeist activity tends to occur around a single person called an agent or a focus.  Foci are often, but not limited to, pubescent children.” (1) 

Experts don’t agree on the reason for this attraction, but some believe it may be the emotional state of the witness.    Skeptics think that the phenomena may be prank, perpetuated by the child themselves.  There maybe mundane explanations for many of the experiences; noisy plumbing, wind creating vibration or the opening and closing of gates and doors.  This doesn’t seem possible in the case of Hanna, as described by her mother:

Hanna, who had a wrought iron canopy bed, was hanging on to the post and levitating in mid-air! She was holding on for her dear life. Black shadows flying around the room quickly gathered and flew out of the window. (Normally, this window needed something to prop it open, but it was staying open by itself.) When the shadows flew out the window, the window crashed shut and Hanna slammed down to her bed. “ (2)

Country singer Bobby Mackey, opened a night club in 1978, and since that time employees and customers have felt a malevolent spirit.  Shortly after renovations began, Bobby’s wife Janet says she was attacked by the spirit when a ladder scuttled across the floor and nearly fell on Janet.  She heard voices demanding that she leave the building and felt hands pushing her down the steps.  Other witnesses report a song playing on the juke box, even though it was unplugged at the time. The Chief of security once heard loud voices in an argument behind the stage. When he went to investigate, there was no one there.  A customer was attacked by a trash can flying across the room. He turned to confront his attacker and saw a man in turn of the century clothing.  He felt as though he were suffocating and fainted.  Mackey tried to squash the ghost rumors, but with so many different stories, he eventually brought in a psychic to communicate with the spirits.  Echo Bodine is a clairvoyant who can see and hear spirits. Echo reported seeing a young woman who committed suicide in the building, Johanna. Scott and Alonso killed Pearl, burying her body on the property and both men were hung for the murder. All three remain in the building.  Echo also feels more evil seeping from a well in the basement. Echo performed a cleansing to exorcise the building of the spirits willing to transcend to the other side. 

“Poltergeists might simply exist, like the “elementals” described by occultists. Another version posits that poltergeists originate after a person dies in a powerful rage at the time of death. According to yet another opinion, ghosts and poltergeists are “recordings.” When there is a powerful emotion, sometimes at death and sometimes not, a recording is believed to be “embedded” in a place or, somehow, in the “fabric of time” itself. This recording will continue to play over and over again until the energy embedded disperses.” (1) Advances are being made with instrumentation used to investigate poltergeist activities, so one day the scientific community may be able to prove the phenomena truly exist.  Dr Colman  hopes one day to prove the existence of poltergeist activity through research and documented evidence.   We may never know the source of the poltergeist energy, but researches must keep an open mind about whether or not the energy exists.  Poltergeist is a genuine experiences, whether they are created in the mind or in some other realm of reality.   

1. Wikipedia: Poltergeist, Updated April 2007, Retrieved December 2007

2. Wagner, Stephen:  Poltergeist Levitation; About .com, Retrieved December 2007

Dean Koontz

February 7, 2008 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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Dean Koontz has long been one of my favorite authors.  I have accompanied him on his journey from shocking horror master to supernatural guru.  At times the path was messy with blood and gore and at other times, inspiring. Over time,  his work has become increasingly formulaic: 2 parts ordinary hero thrust into a hopeless situation fighting omnipotent villains, 1 part supernatural activity, 1 part faithful companion and a dash of spirituality.   While the recipe has created plenty of tasty treats: Odd Thomas, The Good Guy and The Husband, are all somewhat bland in their predictability.   Whispers Dean Koontz

 

 

Koontz is a wonderful writer. He is a master of language, commanding words to create breathtaking images or heart thumping scenes.  Similar to Stephen King, Koontz creates flesh and bone characters, so well developed they feel like friends, family or lovers.  His protagonists are flawed yet brave, loners yet likeable, reluctant yet forced to take action.

 

“Anyway, only a fool or a madman goes looking for adventure in picturesque Moonlight Bay, which is simultaneously one of the quietest and most dangerous communities on the planet. Here, if you stand in one place long enough, a lifetime’s worth of adventure will find you.” Seize the Night

 

 

Koontz’s break through novel was Whispers published in 1980. The main character, Hilary Thomas, is repeatedly attacked by Bruno Frye, even after he is killed.  Hilary represents the classic Koontz heroine: brave, alone and victorious.

The Servants of Twilight, published in 1988, is a fan favorite. The story is about a mother, Christine Scavello, who must protect her son from crazed cult members who believe her child is the Anti Christ.

 

His work became noticeably darker, beginning in 1991, with Hideaway.  Hatch Harrison was clinically dead for eighty minutes and was brought back to life by a pioneering doctor.  He begins to have violent visions of a serial killer, called Vassago. Other works published in the 90’s feature sadistic killers: Intensity, Dragon Tears and Tick Tock. By the late 1997, Koontz began to explore characters with diabilities. Chris Snow is featured in a trilogy of books beginning with Fear Nothing. Snow suffers from the rare disease called XP (xeroderma pigmentosum); he is allergic to sunlight. Supporting characters may have Down’s syndrome, they may be agoraphobic or blind.

 

“The girl stamped her left foot on the ground, causing the leg brace to rattle softly. She raised her left hand, which proved to be deformed: The little finger and the ring finger were fused into a single misshapen digit that was connected by a thick web of tissue to a gnarled and stubby middle finger.” One Door Away From Heaven

 

While the human characters are important to the story, there is often a canine character who steals the spot light.  Koontz is an animal lover.  His friend Trixie, a golden retriever, graced several book jackets, co authored a few books and even provided a pseudonym to which Koontz published.

Dogs played a prominent role in many of his works, including: Fear Nothing, Seize the Night, The Taking, Watchers, Dark Rivers of the Heart, Dragon Tears and One Door Away from Heaven.

“The dog also knew what the ringing meant. He padded out of the shadows into the candle glow, and stared sorrowfully at me. Unlike the others of his kind, he will hold any man’s or woman’s gaze as long as he is interested. Animals usually stare directly at us only briefly – then look away as though unnerved by something they see in the human eyes. Perhaps Orson sees what other dogs see, and perhaps he, too, is disturbed by it, but he is not intimidated.He is a strange dog. But he is my dog, my steadfast friend, and I love him.”   Fear Nothing

None was more prominently featured then Nikki, a rescued golden in The Darkest Evening of the Year.  I was disappointed by the book, finding the plot and character development lacking. The book is also burdened by Koontz’s own political and social agendas. Of all his works, I still love Lightning the most.  Published in 1988, the story was inventive, surprising and romantic.  The most important moments in Laura Shane’s life have been punctuated with lightening, which happens to coincide with the appearance of a stranger.

Anne Rice

February 5, 2008 at 5:05 am | Posted in Writers Write | 5 Comments
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Anne Rice is an author who has become a cult figure in the vampire subculture.  She transformed the image of vampires for a generation of readers, from mysteriously foreign to conflicted, seductive characters.  Born in New Orleans, a city rich with diverse religions and superstitious beliefs, Anne grew up Catholic.  She was fascinated with the symbolism of the church.  Anne’s mother struggled with alcoholism which created a sense of dread for the children, never knowing if she would be “sick”.  Her mother died when Anne was fourteen and a year later her father remarried and moved the family to Dallas.    

 

 Anne wrote stories from a young age.  She explored ideas that conflicted with her strict religious upbringing, so she left the church.  At 19 she went to San Francisco, lured by the promise of an artistic, hip community.   She married Stan Rice in 1961 and moved to Texas, but they were back in San Francisco a year later. They had their first child, Michele in 1966.   Michele at 4 years old was diagnosed with leukemia and she died two years later.  During Michele’s illness the couple turned to alcohol to cope. 

After Michele’s death, Anne’s alcoholism took over her life and drove the couple further and further apart. Anne went to Texas to stay with Stan’s family and six weeks later she returned for a fresh start with her husband.  In late 1973, she returned to her work. She began with a short story, Interview with The Vampire.  At the end of five weeks she transformed Interview into a novel.  The manuscript was rejected repeatedly, but finally in 1975 it was bought for $12,000.  The film rights sold months later and then paperback rights soon after.    

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The intense sexuality, homosexual undertones and philosophical questions were different than anything on the market at the time.  It was met with critical distain and luke warm success.  She gave birth to her second child, Christopher,  in 1978.    The money she received from the sell of Interview allowed Anne to write full time.  She and Stan quit drinking and Anne published three erotic novels under a pseudonym.   She also wrote a sequel to Interview, “The Vampire Lastat” which reached the best sellers list within two weeks.  The San Fransisco writing community shunned her and disregarded her success.  

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In 1988 “The Queen of the Damned” was published. It was the third installment of the vampire chronicles.  The family moved to New Orleans.  Rice was inspired and wrote “The Witching Hour”.  Rice’s fans are diverse, from disenfranchised teens to suburban mothers. Anne played a role of gothic queen, wearing costumes and arriving in a coffin to book signing events. By 1993, Rice had written 15 books.

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Her first book, Interview with The Vampire was being made into a movie, with Tom Cruise in the lead role.  Rice didn’t approve of the casting choice, but when the movie was released, she recanted her doubts.  She continued to write prolifically, releasing nearly a book a year.   

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In 1998, Anne fell into a mysterious coma. She was diagnosed with diabetes and had to slow down her frenetic pace.      

Stephen King

February 1, 2008 at 7:06 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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When asked why he became a writer, Stephen King responded: “The answer to that is fairly simple-there was nothing else I was made to do. I was made to write stories and I love to write stories. That’s why I do it. I really can’t imagine doing anything else and I can’t imagine not doing what I do.” (1)

Stephen King

 

His father, Donald, sold vacuums door to door and his mother Ruth, stayed home to care for her two boys, David and Stephen.  In 1950, Donald abandoned the family and Ruth was forced to work two or three jobs to support her family.  David and Stephen would stay home, reading mysteries and horror comic books.  Ruth would tell her children stories to keep them entertained.  The small family enjoyed reading and their home was full of books.  The children also published their own newspaper, to which Steve would contribute movie and book reviews. 

Stephen enjoyed horror movies and television shows, never showing the fear.  Instead, he would write about the things that frightened him and submitted his stories to magazines.  He collected rejection letters, but he remained persistent until he his first manuscript was published. 

I was a Teenage Grave Robber was the first story to be published in 1965 by Comics Review.  In college, Stephen continued to write, including a column in the student newspaper; a comic serialized western and novels.  He not only aspired to be a writer, he actually did it.  The Glass Floor was the first story published for which he received payment. 

Stephen and Tabitha met at school, had a daughter Naomi and were married after graduation. They were poor and working odd jobs to support their small family.   King continued to write, feeling this would be his ticket out of poverty.    By the time Joseph, the King’s second child, was born, King was working as a teacher and submitted stories to adult magazines.  The income from the stories barely covered expenses.   

Bill Thompson an editor at Double Day, agreed to publish Carrie, with a $2500 advance.  

Carrie Stephen King

The soft back version garnered a $400,000 paycheck for publishing rights, of which King received half, and he was able to devote himself to writing full time.   For the first time in his life, Stephen King was able to indulge himself, so he bought a Cadillac. Otherwise, he kept his feet firmly on the ground and his butt firmly in his seat, writing 1500 words a day.  He was inspired by the day to day events of his life in a small town.  

 According to King I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it’s seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question ‘What if?’ ‘What if’ is always the key question.” (1) 

His second novel Salem’s Lot was published by Doubleday. 

Salem’s Lot Stephen King

 The Shining was inspired by a family get away to the Stanley Hotel.  During their stay, King began to work on a story about a boy with paranormal powers and his drunken father.   “In On Writing, King admits that at this time he was often drunk and was even intoxicated while delivering his mother’s eulogy. He states he was the basis for The Shining’s alcoholic father, though he would not admit it (even to himself) for several years.” (2) The movie Carrie was released in 1976 and it was a box office winner.  Stephen King, the author, was well known and in demand, but his privacy was the high price he paid. 

 The Dead Zone was almost autobiographical of King’s struggle to protect his private life.   “As the best-selling novelist in the world, and the most financially successful horror writer in history, King is an American horror icon of the highest order. King’s books and characters encompass primary fears in such an iconic manner that his stories have become synonymous with certain key genre ideas.”(2)

 Pet Cemetery was also inspired by real events in King’s life.  His family rented a home near a busy road which was treacherous.  Neighborhood pets were frequently killed and buried behind the King’s home. The King’s youngest child was also nearly killed and in order to cope with the fear, Stephen wrote about it, but the subject was so terrifying he put it away for four years. 

The Stand, King’s fourth novel, is a classic story of good versus evil. According to King “I never said this to anybody because it sounds so goddamned pretentious, but I wanted to do The Lord of the Rings with an American background…The more I thought about this particular Gordian Knot, the more I thought, “Suppose you cut right through the middle of it. Suppose everybody died except maybe a certain percentage of the world’s population – then there’d be enough oil!” I began to embroider on the idea – the empty towns, the sand dunes.” (3) 

Between 1980 and 1984, King wrote fourteen novels, as well as, poems, short stories and plays.  Literary critics often called Stephen King a hack. However, with growing popularity and rich, diverse stories, he gained respect.  By the late 1980’s he had published 30 books, 16 of which were made into movies: including Misery, Dolores Claiborne, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile all critically acclaimed. 

The Green Mile

1. Stephenking.com, FAQs, Retreived December 20072. Wikipedia, Stephen King, , Retreived December 20073. Wikipedia, Interview with Abe Peck, College Papers,Rolling Stone, 1980.

Secret Brotherhood of Freemasons

February 1, 2008 at 3:09 pm | Posted in Ideas | Leave a comment
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In 1773, the Boston Tea Party was a protest against heavy British taxes.  Many scholars believe the Masons were involved in the plan, including Paul Revere and Joseph Warren.  Men who didn’t belong to polite society were welcomed to Masonary Brotherhood; Ben Franklin, John Hancock, George Washington and nearly half of the solders of the Revolutionary War were members.   

 “After the Revolution, the American Freemason lodges broke from their British forebears and reorganized under state Grand Lodges. Although these lodges were never centralized under any formal authority, they recognized each other as mutual fraternities. Two different forms of Masonry came to exist in America—the Scottish Rite (following English traditions), and the York Rite (following French traditions). “ 1 

The brotherhood claimed to be a divinely blessed guardian of democracy. Shrouded in secrecy and symbology, many of which dated back to mason trade guilds.  A square, a compass, the Bible became the symbols of an enlightened life.   

“Masons should “square their actions by the square of virtue” and to learn to “circumscribe their desires and keep their passions within due bounds toward all mankind”. However, as Freemasonry is non-dogmatic, there is no general interpretation for these symbols (or any Masonic symbol) that is used by Freemasonry as a whole.” 2 

Lodges accepted members who were not stone masons and the focused on ethical and spiritual ideals of the day.    The society created elaborate rituals and imaginative history.  Public monuments were christened with Masonic ceremonies offering corn meal and wine.   

By 1826, members occupied political offices.  A disgruntled Mason, William Morgan, planned to publish a book that would expose many of the Mason’s secrets.  In retaliation, ominous threats were printed in the newspaper, Morgan was arrested and his home ransacked.  He was released from jail, led away by a group of men and presumed dead. The community was appalled by the abduction and demanded justice.  Twenty six Masons were arrested and tried as murderers and accomplices, however in every case the trial judge was a Freemason.   The conspiracy to protect criminals had a powerful public backlash.  Opposition of the order spread throughout the country.   

Similar to the Knights of Templar, Masons were undone by their secrecy and rituals.  Once admired for their spiritual enlightenment, Masons were suspected of satanic worship.  Citizens voted for anti-Mason candidates, independent of Republican or Democratic parties.  

In 1850s the New FreeMasons made a comeback by distancing themselves from the previous order.  They became a social brotherhood rather than the guardians of Democracy and focused on charitable activities rather than politics.

  1.  Watson, Stephanie: How Freemasons Work, Retrieved January 2008.2.  Freemasonry, Wikipedia, Retrieved January 2008.

Look Back to Plan Ahead

January 30, 2008 at 7:47 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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Have you ever heard the saying about the definition of insanity?  Insanity is doing the same over and expecting different results.  I have many times, usually from well meaning motivational gurus who encourage change. We can become so focused on what doesn’t work we may overlook what does.

Just for the sake of this dialogue, let’s assume that everyone has succeeded at some time in their life, at least once. There may be a thousand failures, but there is at least one success.  If the past is the best predicator of the future, rather than looking back on a thousand failures (that’s depressing!) look back on that one success   

What worked?    

I was successful in landing a job.  How did I do that?             

 – I prepared for the interview.  The interviewer told me the interview would be a conducted as an informational interview. These are especially stressful because you’re put on the spot to answer questions that exhibit your skills, like “Tell me about a time you successfully dealt with an irate customer.”  Knowing I’d be faced with these types of questions I wrote a list of accomplishments that I could use for my real world examples.  I then prepared several questions which I thought might be asked, such as “Give me an example of when you were able to lead a difficult individual.” I wrote the questions on index cards and had my husband and kids “interview” me.               

 – I imagined a positive outcome.  I added my new job title and start date to my resume. They didn’t know it yet, but the job was already mine! I visualized the interview; my relaxed demeanor, professional appearance, ready answers and witty banter.  My hands may not have been as steady or my wit as witty as I imagined; but I was much more relaxed having a positive expectation of the interview.             

  – I presented myself to make a good impression, but I was also authentic.  I didn’t try to hide my nerves, but acknowledged them.  I paused to give myself time to think of my answers.  I thanked them for their time and maybe even gushed in my enthusiasm to make a good impression.  No matter how much I want to appear cool, collected and in complete control; my façade would crumble after a few days on the new job.  It’s better they know I’m human right from the start.  In this one example of success in my life, I can see what works for me:  

            Preparation

            Practice

            Positive Visualization

            Presentation

Once you define what works for you, think of how you’ll apply the same strategies in areas where you may have failed in the past.   For example, I was unsuccessful at selling a manuscript.             

 – I wasn’t fully prepared.  When an agent asked what made my book different, I couldn’t think of an answer.  If I couldn’t sell my book, how could I expect someone else to?  I vowed to be prepared in the future.  I read dozens of books on the subject of finding an agent or publisher. I researched the market, identified my audience and my competition.  Why would someone choose my book over Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell or Jonathon Kellerman? I had to know the answer to this question and believe it!           

   – Next, I practiced the fine art of convincing others.  You guessed it, my hubby and kids again. While they’re not the toughest judges in the world, I found that the more times I said “My book features a strong heroine unlike any other in the mystery genre. She is a working mother, conflicted with the demands of work and family, yet dedicated to both.” the stronger I felt about it.              

 – It was easy for me to imagine a big fat advance for my manuscript. I imagined what it would be like to be a best selling writer.   I posted a list of the NY Times Bestsellers and replaced the #1 selection with my book’s title.  I wrote a million dollar check to myself so I could get used to seeing that many zeros in my bank account.              

 – Presentation was absolutely critical to my success. I hired an outside editing firm to ensure my manuscript was in tip top shape before I sent one query letter.  I had my query letter, story synopsis, chapter synopsis, sample chapters and resume ready to mail at a moment’s notice.  

There’s no “one size fits all” formula of success. Take the time to look back in order to succeed in the future.

Hearing Your Voice

January 27, 2008 at 7:31 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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Having your own voice in your writing is critical to your future success. Writers who are able to express their unique view of the world carve a niche for themselves in a crowded marketplace. To find your voice, begin by asking yourself what it is you wish to say.

Writing is about communication.  You are delivering a message regardless of the manner in which you choose to present it.  You may want to write an article on National Health Care; a personal essay about a special relationship; or a short story about cloning in the future.   After you have identified the message you want to communicate, you need to know the audience for whom the message is intended. The best way to understand your audience is to be a member of it.  In other words, if you read horror novels, you should write in the same genre, since you already know your audience. 

Genre is a category of book, whether mystery & crime, suspense & horror, romance, or Sci Fi & Fantasy, the lines may blur, but there are unique characteristics of each.   

Mystery & Crime includes stories of police, private detective or forensic investigations. The stories may be fictional or true crime. As defined by Genrelist “Fictional stories, usually realistic, about a mysterious event which is not explained or a crime that is not solved until the end of the story to keep the reader in suspense.” 

Suspense & horror includes supernatural thrillers, paranormal and the occult.  According to Wikipedia, “Historically, the cause of the “horror” experience has often been the intrusion of an evil —- or, occasionally, misunderstood —- supernatural element into everyday human experience. Since the 1960s, any work of fiction with a morbid, gruesome, surreal, or exceptionally suspenseful or frightening theme has come to be called “horror”. Horror fiction often overlaps science fiction or fantasy, all three of which categories are sometimes placed under the umbrella classification speculative fiction. See also supernatural fiction.” (2) 

Romance can cross any genre, it may be historical, present day or futuristic, but at its core it is a love story. Sci Fi contains “futuristic technology; a blend of scientific fact and fictional elements” whereas Fantasy “contains elements that are NOT realistic, such as talking animals, magical powers, etc. Make-believe is what this genre is all about.” (1)  

There is another voice to consider before you begin; to voice telling the story or Point of View.  Point of View may be first person, second person or third person. First person is the most intimate and limiting POV.Second person is the least common POV usually reserved for non fiction works.Third person may be less intimate, but it allows more flexibility to the author. The person telling the story is a character of the story. Their perspective will influence the reader’s perception of the story, so you should choose wisely. The character’s voice, traits and opinions are not your own, so resist inserting too much of your own      

1. Genrelist: What in the world is Realistic Fiction?

Show AND Tell

January 25, 2008 at 12:33 am | Posted in Writers Write | 4 Comments
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As a writer, I’m sure you’ve heard the mantra “Show Don’t Tell.”  I’ve struggled with this for years: after all, a writer’s medium is words, their canvas a blank page and their art a story worth telling. Last year I took a creative writing class and it finally “clicked” for me.  A writer must “Show and Tell” combining descriptive language to convey emotion and develop character, as well as, action to move the story forward. 

You can not reasonably “Show” everything or the narrative will be bogged down with minutia.  You can not “Tell” everything or the narrative may be detached and read like a textbook.  Only you can decide how much is enough and where the story or characters benefit from showing or telling. The mix is where the magic happens.  I can’t give you a recipe with precise measures of showing and telling.  A great deal depends on what you’re  planning to dish up, a gory horror story ala Stephen King will probably have more showing whereas a tough talking PI will tell it like is. 

Here are a few examples that may help you find the right mix for you.

Telling Showing
He was mad. His mouth clamped shut, lips drawn in a bloodless gash.
She was a shy girl, who blushed whenever Charlie passed by.  She could feel her cheeks burning with embarrassment.  She ducked her head so Charlie wouldn’t notice the affect he had on her.
He was out of shape. He heaved and puffed climbing a single flight of stairs.  His face was covered with white blossoms of oxygen deprived cells.
Mary was sad when her father died. Tears swelled and rolled from her eyes unchecked. She couldn’t breathe for the weight of grief sitting on her chest.  The world disappeared for a moment as she realized she was truly and forever alone.
He said quietly. He whispered.  He muttered.
The door squeaked. The sound was at once familiar and frightening; an un-oiled hinge that betrayed those who entered. Someone else was in the room with her.
She was nervous. Her fingers tapped a steady rhythm.

Do the following exercise to reinforce your habit of showing.

1.  Did you know that only 7% of communication occurs through words?  55% of the communication consists of body language and 38% is expressed through tone of voice. As a writer, you’re limited to how much you can convey, but your characters AREN’T.  Your characters are still interacting (presumably) and communication through body language and tone of voice. Let those “clues” guide your audience.   It will be more satisfying if they can discover a character for themselves.

            – How does a person look if they’re happy? 

 

            – How does a person look when they’re annoyed? Angry? Disappointed?

 

            – How does a person act when they are ashamed? Guilty? Regretful?

 

            – How does a person act when they are confident? Shy? Outgoing?

 

            – How does a dumb person look? What about a smart person?

 

 

 

 

 Ok, this is a bit of a trick question but you need to challenge your stereotypes. You may not even know you have them but they’ll show up wherever you’ve copped out on character development.  Do you recognize any of these characters in your work?

A. A Country Bumpkin – Also shows up as a good ole’ boy; a hillbilly; a hayseed or a redneck

B. The Gold Digger

C. Hooker with a heart of gold – Really anyone with a heart of gold should be avoided – bad boys included.

D.  The Workaholic – Also shows up as the Type A, anal retentive; an ambitious corporate climber; the slimy “Yes” man or the greedy Banker/CEO/Executive.

2.  What do emotions feel like in your body?  Avoid clichés, those overused phrases that don’t describe how YOU feel.  Think about a time when you really felt the emotion and remember the physiological symptoms that occurred. 

For example, if I think about anxiety, I would remember my palms were sweaty; my heart was beating so hard I could see it thumping in my chest and hear it inside my head, dun-da, dun-da, dun-da;  I felt disassociated from my body and everything was happening in slow motion….

            – What does sad feel like? 

            – What does fear feel like?

            – What does love feel like?

 

3.  Assume your reader doesn’t know the meaning of an adjective; how would you convey your meaning?   Try to describe the following with the underlined adjective, without inserting another adjective.

            – The pillow was fluffy.

            – She smiled sadly.

            – He greeted her warmly.

 

 

 

I hope this has helped you. Remember you don’t have to show everything, just enough to take your audience on a journey with you, rather then dragging them along.  

 

(1) Dick Mooney, Often, actions really do speak louder than words. Knoxville, TN: ACA Communicator, 2002 

Asylum

January 6, 2008 at 10:41 pm | Posted in Ideas | Leave a comment
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Patton State Hospital is a maximum security facility for the criminally insane. The patients have committed heinous crimes, but were found “Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.”  According to How Stuff Works (January 2008) 

“Mental illness at the time of the offense is a prerequisite for a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity ruling, but legal insanity is not simply a judgment of whether or not a person has a mental illness…someone is found to be legally insane if he or she meets one of three conditions:

1.       Because of a mental disorder, the defendant did not understand that what he or she was doing was illegal.

2.       Because of a mental disorder, the defendant did not know what he or she was doing.

3.       Because of a mental disorder, the defendant was compelled to commit the crime by an irresistible force.” 

Patients are treated with anti psychotic drugs and psychotherapy, so one day they may return to society. With medication, patients usually improve immediately.  Mental illness is a disease and it must be consistently treated or relapse can occur.  Unfortunately, patients often go off of their medications when left on their own, because they don’t think they are necessary, or they don’t like the side effects. 

Nearly 90% of those released from Patten will commit another crime. Many of the inmates suffer from Paranoid Schizophrenia and their crimes usually occur because they are immersed in delusions.  They attack others to protect themselves from imagined dangers. Usually family members or friends are in the greatest danger, however, anyone they meet can be perceived as a threat, no matter how innocent or brief the encounter. 

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