Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mystery vs. Suspense

                      Mystery vs. Suspense – Immediately related or twelve-times removed?

The answer requires defining the two genres. Although the two are related, they are more like shirttail cousins than brother and sister. The main difference is perspective. Both deal with a crisis event to hook the reader and keep the plot moving, but the storytelling approach is completely different.

A famous actor is murdered in Chapter One. In a mystery the rest of the story would center on two things: discovering who committed the act and the person or persons responsible for solving the crime. A good mystery writer often spends his time setting up suspects and clues, revealing little until the end of the story.

 A suspense story creates drama before the crisis event occurs. For a good suspense story to work, what’s at stake is generally stated at the beginning of the story, and often the reader knows important details such as the who, why, and when, early on. The suspense writer must create tension by inserting a strong protagonist and developing inventive story paths that avert a certain outcome. Unlike a mystery writer, he can write from the point-of-view of the antagonist, pitting him against the protagonist throughout the story.

While the above outlines the traditional confines of the two genres, as an avid suspense reader I have to say not all books categorized as suspense fit the definition exactly, as do their mystery counterparts; there is frequently a lot of overlap between the two genres.

Today’s Indie writers have a whole new realm of genre freedoms not always available to the author who chooses a more traditional publishing route. And we are seeing the birth of more and more cross-genre novels, which gives readers a much wider selection of novels to choose from, and has the added bonus for writers of seducing a new generation of readers to their stories.

Dear readers,
Thanks for visiting my blog. I love reading suspense. My first novel, She’s Not There was written as suspense but also has elements of mystery. Which do you prefer? I find the traditional mystery plot not as satisfying as suspense or a combination thereof, but that is what makes the new wave of crossover genres so compelling—it offers so much more variety to readers.
Please take time to let us know your preferences! I’d love to hear from you.

Note – Some of the above is taken from Simon Wood’s article, “9 Tricks to Writing Suspense Fiction."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Prologues and Epilogues


      To have or not to have, that is the question

Last week a member of my writer’s group asked the rest of us if we thought the novel he was working on needed a prologue. The answer was unanimous—no.  The other question he raised was if a book had a prologue, did that mean it required an epilogue? That question also got a unanimous, negative response—one does not necessitate the use of the other. Epilogues, like prologues, are done at the whim of the author.
            As a reader I like prologues. The ones I don’t like are italicized and make it difficult for me to tell how far back in time they’re going, if at all. I hate prologues that involve a dream sequence, or long dream narratives anywhere in the book unless they’re short and meaningful to the storyline.  But that’s my own taste as a reader.
            Epilogues? I love epilogues. They’re very satisfying to readers like myself who enjoy knowing how the characters fared after the mystery is unraveled. Prologues and epilogues are most common in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre. If you’re writing in one of these genres, a prologue gives you the chance to begin your story twice, at two different points. But adding a prologue can work for or against your story.

Before adding a prologue, ask yourself three questions:
 -  Do you really need a prologue?
-  What do you need the prologue to do for the story?
-  Will it get the job done for you?

The prologue needs to be an integral part of the novel by offering the reader a compelling hook that will propel him into the first chapter. The prologue generally takes place in a different timeline from the rest of the novel. This timeline needs to be made clear in the prologue and again in the first chapter.
            Advice from the pros is most often against using a prologue. Before including one in your novel, I’d advise doing some research first, and again I’d suggest adding Don’t Murder Your Mystery, by Chris Roerden, to your how-to library. The entire first chapter is devoted to the use of prologues.

Dear Readers,
I hope all of you had a nice Mother’s Day. I’d like to hear from everyone on the topic of prologues. Readers, do you like them? Writers, do you use them? If not, why?  How about the use of italics? I find reading italicized sections annoying, so when I write I try to avoid using italics for lengthy sections. Any suggestions on how to set something apart from the rest of the story without them?
As always, I look forward to your input.
Have a happy and healthy week,

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tribute to Special Mothers

Dedicated to A Special Group of Mothers

My memories of Mother’s day as a child are filled with orchid corsages, hidden presents bought with small change saved from our allowances, and three-generation, family dinners. Everyone went to mass where all the mothers proudly displayed their floral d├ęcor. I miss my mother on Mother’s Day.
When she died three years ago, I cried at her funeral for all the memories her death evoked, but while my mother played an important role in my life, her role wasn’t always a positive one.  People like myself, whose relationship with this important woman in their life was less than Hallmark-card perfect, will be nostalgic today, remembering the good times, leaving the others locked away like old love-letters hidden in the attic. Since I won’t be reminiscing about my own mother, I’d like to write a tribute to the woman who raised my oldest son.
At sixteen, I was a child having a child. I gave my baby up for adoption. My parents took charge of all the arrangements, and adoption felt like my only choice. For eighteen years after giving him up, I worried about him and daydreamed about the if only—if only I had kept him. I looked for faces in the crowd of boys his age, wondering if he looked anything like I imagined.
I am one of the fortunate women who met and got to know the child I gave up when I was too young to take care of him.
            Before his eighteenth birthday, I contacted he adoption agency, requesting that I wanted to be on record as open to meeting my son. When they called me months later to say his adoptive parents would give him my name when he turned eighteen, I was thrilled. More months went by and I did not hear from him. I was frantic, fearing it would never happen. Then I got a call from his mother, who along with his father, drove hours to meet me. They brought me dozens of photos of him and assured me that their son would contact me when he was ready. And he did.
            Today, more than thirty years later, he and I stay in touch by phone and visit at least once or twice a year. His mother is a wonderful woman who raised him to be a kind, giving person. She remains a good friend and daily email buddy.
            I’d like to take this opportunity to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who have lovingly and selflessly raised an adopted child. And to all women like myself who’ve had to give up a child, I hope someday you’ll be as blessed as I have been to have my son and his parents be a part my life.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ranting, Raving, Reviews!

Ranting, Raving, Reviews!

Readers, do you leave reviews for the books you read?
There’s no way around it; your reviews can make or break the success of an independent author’s novel.  Getting reviews is a major hurdle for a new novel.
            I don’t believe readers realize how important they are in a novel’s fate. All the advertising in the world, even expensive reviews by professionals, cannot replace the value of good reviews by the readers themselves.
            So readers, get busy and support your favorite reads!
Where to leave reviews:
            Amazon, Smashwords, or any site where the book is sold. They all have places to leave a review. Goodreads is an excellent place to leave a review, as are any of the many sites that promote books.
Don’t know what to say?
1.     You don’t have to write an entire synopsis of the story. A few sentences say it all: How much you enjoyed the book, the characters, the ending.
2.     Don’t worry about being or not being a wordsmith. Say it simply, and in your own words as if telling a friend about the book.
3.     Be careful not to reveal too much of the story line. If you absolutely hated the ending, don’t explain why! But if you find you have to talk about the storyline or ending, I've just learned that some reviewers add a large "SPOILER ALERT" notice above the review. Something to keep in mind when reviewing, especially if your reviews tend to be lengthy.
4.     If there was something you didn’t like, explain why. Not everyone has problems with the same things, e.g. endings that close with a question.

Dear Readers,
            Reviews are precious gems to authors. If you get in the habit of leaving them, you will be making authors very happy, which will encourage them to write more books for you. Keep reading!
Have a happy and healthy week,