Monday, 25 August 2014

Are Your Characters Making You Insane or Inventive?

Two articles in the Guardian this week about voices and creativity, and the recent death of Robin Williams, made me think of the worlds inside my head. (If you want, you can read the articles yourself, here and here.) 

The first article discussed the voices Virginia Woolf heard and how it made her feel:

"I feel I have gone too far this time to come back again. It is just as it was the first time, I am always hearing voices, and I know I shant get over it now … I have fought against it, but I can't any longer, Virginia."

That was something she wrote to her sister just before she killed herself. She would write a novel to quell the voices and as soon as she was finished, a new set a voices came. She couldn't deal with it anymore. 

The woman was a literary genius but the voices made her insane.

The second article talked about the characters and voices heard by the great Charles Dickens. For him, the characters were so real, it was as if he was just overhearing what the characters were saying and writing it down.

Dickens wrote to his friend John Forster: "when I sit down to my book, some beneficent power shows it all to me, and tempts me to be interested, and I don't invent it – really do not – but see it, and write it down".

Dickens took those voices, accepted them and created like mad. His novels are proof that the characters inside the writer's head are sometimes so real we just stand back, watch and record.

Not every writer deals with the characters or voices in the same way. Perhaps some writers don't hear the characters speak to them at all. But, it should make us think. 

How do the voices come to you? Do they sometimes make you insane or foster your creativity?


Sources: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/21/hilary-mantel-virginia-woolf-inner-voices?CMP=twt_gu

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/22/charles-dickens-hearing-voices-created-his-novels?CMP=twt_gu

Photo credit: pvillarrubia / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Monday, 18 August 2014

4 Things NOT To Do When Writing Mysteries

(1) Introduce your murderer as soon as possible but not at the same point in every novel. I love TV shows like Castle or Elementary but seriously, you make it so easy to know who the killer is. A) It's the guest star paid the most money or B) it's the person interviewed and dismissed early on.  Lee Lofland, who reviews the TV show Castle on his blog, and he says he can always guess the killer because it's the character they bring in early, ask a few questions, and dismiss.  Don't make the same mistake when writing your mystery novel. While it's important to introduce your murderer relatively early in the story, it shouldn't be obvious.

(2) Don't make your characters do stupid things. Turn on the bloody lights and leave the house! Why are you going into the basement in a nightdress with only a poker?

(3) Seriously, have your character tell someone where they're going. How much time would it take to send a tweet or text message? How often do you hear a detective say: "There's something important I have to do or check out." And then, what a shock, they're alone and in trouble.

(4) Just tell them on the phone already. Ever seen this: The detective receives a phone call from someone who says that they have an important clue but can't divulge it over the phone. Come over at once. So the detective arrives only to find the caller dead on the floor. I know it prolongs the suspense and the length of the novel but why can't you just tell them on the phone. 

What are your peeves when it comes to detective/mystery/thriller novels?

Photo: komehachi888 /Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Monday, 11 August 2014

Carol Kilgore says Use Your Imagination!

I'm excited to welcome Carol Kilgore! Her mystery novels are full of intrigue, adventure and, of course, love. Read to the end because there's a chance to win

a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

-------------------------------------

Thanks so much, Clarissa, for hosting me while I’m out and about talking about my upcoming novel, Secrets of Honor.

When I was just beginning to write the book, I had an opportunity to talk to someone with authority in the intelligence community. My biggest fear was that, without finding a lot of details on current operations to research, which is a good thing, I would inadvertently stumble upon and write about something that gave away the farm, so to speak.

The person I spoke with said not to worry. If I could think of something, it was almost certain someone else had thought of it, too. Or would shortly. After hearing her words, I felt free to let my imagination play.

Even so, my left brain keeps telling me that if I have accidentally written the truth, Agents in Black will come calling.

My right brain says, “No worries. We can do this. Trust me.”

So I trusted.

Because my stories are set in the real world, I have to follow real world rules. I can’t have pink grass called mallomere or invisible guns (yet). Because I write crime fiction, I also have to follow certain procedures so that when the villain is caught, his or her case wouldn’t be dismissed – my good guys have to play by the rules.

But in this story, I was free to create a few gadgets and mess with those good-guy rules a little. It was fun!

I think my gadgets could exist – and maybe they do. Would the rules for agents be relaxed in certain situations? I have no way of knowing – that particular question went unanswered in the conversation with my contact. But since I thought of it….

How I’m I to know if I created a real secret gadget? Or fictionalized an actual incident?

If I did, the Agents in Black will come calling soon enough.

Trust me.

BLURB

By the end of a long evening working as a special set of eyes for the presidential security detail, all Kat Marengo wants is to kick off her shoes and stash two not-really-stolen rings in a secure spot. Plus, maybe sleep with Dave Krizak. No, make that definitely sleep with Dave Krizak. The next morning, she wishes her new top priorities were so simple.

As an operative for a covert agency buried in the depths of the Department of Homeland Security, Kat is asked to participate in a matter of life or death—locate a kidnapped girl believed to be held in Corpus Christi, Texas. Since the person doing the asking is the wife of the president and the girl is the daughter of her dearest friend, it’s hard to say no.

Kat and Dave quickly learn the real stakes are higher than they or the first lady believed and will require more than any of them bargained for.

The kicker? They have twenty-four hours to find the girl—or the matter of life or death will become more than a possibility.

INVITATION

This summer I began a contest on my website – http://www.carolkilgore.net/contest/. Each month, a different author will give away the prize. Some months it may be an ebook, some months swag, some a signed print book, or any combination of those. This month, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner.

The contest is simple. There's a photo and a tiny story beginning with a question at the end. All you have to do is complete the short form and answer the question. The answer can be one word or you may add to the story beginning – the choice is yours.

You're invited to enter. Click on over and answer the question about the photo. I can't wait to see your answer!

Besides my website, you can also connect with me here:
Under the Tiki Hut blog:  http://www.underthetikihut.blogspot.com
Website with Monthly Contest: http://www.carolkilgore.net

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Backstory: Who do you think you are?

I really enjoy watching the series Who Do You Think You Are? Basically, celebrities go on a journey to trace their ancestors and usually find interesting relatives in their past. As I was watching an episode yesterday, it occurred to me that I was watching a lot of backstory. And the backstory was interesting.

What made the celebrity's backstory interesting to watch and how can we apply it to our writing?

(1) If we love the celebrity, we want to learn everything about them, including their history. What does that mean for writers? Well, if our readers love our characters, they'll be more willing to find out about their past.

(2) Not everything is revealed. I'm sure the amount of information uncovered during the celebrity's journey is immense. The viewer doesn't get all that information. Often what is released is how the ancestor's career choices or family situation matches the celebrity's. What does that mean for the writer? Make the backstory relevant. Only release backstory relevant to the character and the story.

(3) The celebrity travels a lot, and we see their reactions. We are taken to the places the ancestor's lived. We see their houses, their workplaces, their art. Then we see the celebrity's reaction to the revelations. Writers can do the same thing, we can add backstory, but make sure you break it up with present day reactions. 

How do you add backstory?

Monday, 21 July 2014

The 2 Words Every Writer Should Use

I was stuck. I thought I had the whole book planned out but then I just couldn't write it.

What happened?

I wasn't feeling the story anymore. Perhaps I had watched the movie (this for me is when the story--every scene--plays out in my head like a movie) too many times. Had I become bored with the story?

For a long time I believed this to be so because I couldn't find another reason. But then it hit me, what I had done was ruin my own story. I had given myself a story too depressing to write. In the manuscript I had created a beautiful love story between two characters and then the mystery writer in me emerged and killed off one of them. I took away my happy ending. The spark was gone until I pulled out the writer's secret weapon, the two words that open up a portal of creativity:

What if...

I thought, what if I created another love story? What if the survivor fell in love with someone else? What if the murder victim had actually survived the attack? I ideas, the words, the drive to write came back.

And don't wait until you're blocked to use these words. Constantly ask yourself what if... Don't be afraid to go to extremes. Go wild. Having to contemplate a scenario will only improve your creative skill.

What about you? How often to you use the "What if..." card? Has it sparked your creativity?

Photo source: Lori Greig /Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Monday, 14 July 2014

Guest Post: 5 of the Best Coded Mysteries


Today I'm visiting Carol Kilgore's blog to discuss five of the best coded mysteries. I've created a code based on the Sherlock Holmes Dancing Men story. If you solve it, you receive a free copy of my book.

Visit me there.

*Note: I've had to enable comment moderation due to an increase in spam. I hope it doesn't complicate your lives too much.

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Best Classes of Mysteries

Good Monday Morning! I was away last week--a day after my novel went on sale--on a personal emergency trip to Mexico City. But, I'm back and eager to get back to my writing and blogging routine.

Did you know that there are three classes of mystery?

(1) Fair-Play Whodunnit: We play along with the detective, solve the crime as the main character does.

In 1928, the writer Father Ronald Knox created a "Ten Commandments" of plot devices (Knox's Decalogue) that more or less codified the rules of the Fair-play whodunnit:
  1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow. 
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course. 
  3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable, and such a passage may only be in a house or building for which it is appropriate by age or purpose. 
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end. 
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story. (I don't know why this rule exists.)
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right. 
  7. The detective must not himself commit the crime. (I think Agatha Christie broke this rule.) 
  8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader. 
  9. The stupid friend of the detective, the "Watson", must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader. 
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them. 
Example of a Fair-Play Mystery: Pretty much any Golden Age novel. Agatha Christie is a great fair-play mystery writer.

(2) The Clueless Mystery: We just have to read along because the writer doesn't provide enough clues for us to solve the mystery.

Example of a Clueless Mystery: Right from the beginning in A Study In Scarlet, despite Holmes describing the murderer's appearance and even how he got to the scene of the crime in detail from the clues in the room, nobody even slightly resembling the murderer turns up until the last chapter of the London-based narrative.

(3) The Reverse Whodunnit: We know who did and how it was done. We just have to read to the end to see if justice is served or if the criminal gets away with the perfect crime.

Example of a Reverse Whodunnit: Red Dragon and its sequel, The Silence of the Lambs. In both of them, we know fairly early on who the killer is, and learn more details as the FBI protagonists figure out the mystery.

What is your favorite type of mystery? What examples do you have of that type?

Source: TV Tropes
Photo credit: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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