Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Stuck in the maze between beginning and ending?

            Your idea for a story is brilliant. Original. You begin your novel, excited about the project, then it happens—you get mired in the middle. Sound familiar?
That’s where I am in my third novel, going down in quicksand with no save in sight! Recently I read some great advice: when stuck in the middle of your novel, go ahead and work on the end. Okay . . . Did that. The middle remains an endless sea of ideas, twists, and surprises for the reader. I feel like I’m going in circles. What to do now?
I look to my shelf of how-to books on writing and basket of Writer’s Digest magazines, all screaming advice. Some of the best suggestions:
1.     Go back to the beginning and work on your characters’ evolution.
2.     Plan conflict resolution for your main characters. And for the crime, if writing a mystery, thriller or suspense novel.
3.     Go over all of your clues (or subplots) and make sure they are all relevant. Add any that are needed, keeping them as subtle as possible.
4.     Work toward tying up loose ends. Start with one and move on from there.
5.     Have the end planned? Work on it a bit, then go back and see if it inspired you to work toward it!
6.     When all else fails, do something! Edit what you’ve written or develop an outline for your book. Outlining is a tedious task, but will have the effect of bringing it all together in your mind and encourage you to keep moving.
7.     Plan your final action scene. As a reader, I like them to be neither  too short or too long. A dragged out climax will send your reader rushing to the end. Also, one of my least favorite endings is when the killer (usually at gunpoint one way or the other) tells the protagonist every detail of his/her crimes. Boring. Find a more creative way to wrap things up.

Dear readers,
I hope these suggestions are helpful. Putting them together has me eager to go back to my writing! I’m getting over a lingering case of the flu and need to get my physical and my writerly mojos back!
Thank you for stopping in and for all your wonderful comments. If you have any other ideas for tackling the middle, please share with us.
Have a wonderful weekend,


Wednesday, May 8, 2013


What a Character!!

Can your characters please all readers?

            Long before I became an author, I was a reader. Have been since I got my first library card at age 8. Now I write books too, but still make time to read. I read 1-2 books a week. Suspense is my genre of choice, and as a suspense reader, I’ve become weary of female protagonists who are all beautiful, have perfect bodies, and either bright green or orchid eyes and male protagonists who are all tall, handsome, athletic, and have every woman they meet willing to drop their panties for them. Sound familiar?
            So when I wrote my second suspense novel, Relative Malice, I created a female detective who wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous, had weight issues, doubts about her femininity, and didn’t even have a boyfriend! Shocking, right?  When the reviews began coming in, I smugly sat back and collected their praise for this character. Then I got this one:
AND, why oh why do these self-published authors always portray female law enforcement officers as being so masculine! Even the name, Kendall so all the men can call her Kenny, is masculine. I've known and worked with many females in law enforcement and while, yes, some of them are gay, many of them are not! They wear make up, they're married, they have children. Oy, and every darn one of these chicks jog! Can you say cliche?
 I wanted to develop a character we could all identify with. Kendall is not gay, and during the course of the book, evolves into a woman comfortable with her femininity and male attention.
            I share this with you to illustrate the impossibility of drafting a character everyone will adore. A lot of advice is given to writers to find their “target audience.” In my case, the majority of my readers loved Kendall. 
            John Locke advises independent authors they only need to satisfy their target audience. And he’s right! I have to keep reminding myself of that and not waste time whining about the inevitable handful of one and two-star reviews.
            What I’ve learned about character creation:
1.     Characters need to have individuality. If you must have a beautiful protagonist, give her a foible or two that we can identify with. Perfection is boring.
2.     If your main character is gorgeous, either male or female, be sure not everyone he or she meets wants to hop in bed with them. At least have a few exceptions to their charms.
3.     Readers like variety when it comes to characters. Mix it up! In my first novel, all of my main characters were good looking. When my writer’s group pointed that out to me, I toned their looks down a bit.
4.     This is probably fodder for an entire book, but try to watch your characters' dialogue to be sure they don’t all sound alike. This isn’t easy, but can be as simple as a small difference in the usage of slang, swear words or cliché’s.

Dear readers,
What do you love in a character? Perfection or reality? One of my favorite characters is an FBI agent, Will Trent, Karin Slaughter’s damaged hero, who suffers from a severe case of dyslexia and manages to live with it and still maintain his career. I think the characters we love the most are the ones with imperfections.  I know I do.
The doggie with the big smile is a Staffordhire Terrier, a very loving, happy breed. This one happens to look a lot like my dog, who is half Staffie and half lab. I've never seen her smile quite that big!
Have a great week everyone, and enjoy the spring weather,