Tag Archives: control

Jun 17

Historical Fiction Writer Ellen Brazer Visits with Mike Angley

MA: I’m joined today by author Ellen Brazer. Before getting published, Ellen did just about everything but write. She was in business. She worked for the State of Israel, and she was involved with the community. She actually did not begin to write seriously until she was in her forties. So tell us, Ellen, with no real writing background, how was it that you came to pen novels?

EB: I was waiting for some medical test results to come back. I was extremely successful in business when I was very young and while waiting for that phone call I asked myself what mountain had I yet to climb. The answer for me was writing a book. I have a dear friend who is a Pulitzer Prize winner. When I wrote my first draft of Hearts of Fire I pressed the Caps Lock key on the computer and wrote the entire first draft in capital letters with almost no punctuation. It was my writing friend who said, there is something here and you must keep going. That first book took me 10 years to write. The manuscript went from under the bed to the closet and then back under the bed again. A doctor friend took it on a ski vacation and he was the one that finally got me to become serious about getting the book published.

MA: I can’t even imagine going more than a full sentence with the Caps Lock Key on! Tell us about what you write.

EB: I write historical fiction. Let me tell you about Clouds Across the Sun. Before the end of WWII, Hitler charged a group of his most trusted and brilliant comrades with a mission—educate your progeny and then elevate them to positions of power throughout the world. Steeped in fact and impeccably researched, Clouds Across the Sun is the story of just one of these children.

From Naples, Florida, New York City, and Washington D.C., to Israel and then the killing grounds of Vilnius, Poland (Lithuania) this story is one of great romance, discovery, redemption, and enlightenment as Jotto Wells unravels the intrigue surrounding a plan to take over the government of the United States.

MA: How did you develop your characters? Was there a great deal of research involved into the lives of people from this era?

EB: I am not sure as writers that we develop our characters. I think they are born to the page and then they develop us. Whenever I have a new character I find myself sitting back and watching their personality emerge. Sometimes I have to rein them in when it feels like they are doing something out of character but most of the time they are in control of me. In Clouds Across the Sun I have more than one protagonist and I was always amazed that they each had their own distinct voice.

MA: More than one protagonist? Tell us about one of them.

EB: I will focus on Jo for this question. She is very independent and self-assured. As the first woman Senator from New York she is intelligent and opinionated. Her greatest weakness is that she falls prey to her family’s influence over her.

MA: Any unique antagonists, other than the obvious?

EB: I think I do bad guys really well and in this book there are some really evil people. When creating an antagonist in the Holocaust time period it is challenging to show all sides of the personality. My antagonist is a Nazi doctor from the Concentration Camps. We see him as a dangerous monster but we also see him as a loving father. The danger is constant when he comes to America after the war with one goal: placing someone under his influence as President of the United States

MA: Do your novels ever fool people into thinking more of the fiction is actual fact?

EB: I write historical fiction that is so based in fact that when people finish my book they tell me that they are chilled and always ask themselves: Could this happen? Is it happening? I talk about IBM, The Red Cross, Hitler and Henry Ford’s close friendship and how the U.S. allowed thousands of known Nazis into the U.S. in exchange for information about our new enemy, Russia.

MA: Interesting…so what’s next?

EB: I am writing an historical novel that takes place in the year 135 of the Common Era. It was a time period when the Jews believed that Shimon Bar Kockba was the Messiah. Following him, they managed to defeat Rome and for a three year period Israel was under the control of the Jews. And So It Was Written is the story of two brothers, one who becomes a famous physician in Rome and the other becomes a commander in the Jewish army. There are some very unique and controversial elements to this book that I am keeping close to the vest so stayed tuned. I am in the process of rewriting and I hope to be finished within the year.

MA: Well thank you, Ellen. I encourage everyone to visit Ellen’s website for more information: http://ellenbrazer.com/Home_Page.html Read More

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May 20

Sylvia Ramsey, Author of “An Underground Jewell,” Visits with Mike Angley

MA: Folks, help me welcome today’s guest-blogger, Sylvia Ramsey. Growing up in a rural area of Missouri and being the child of a father born in 1898, she feels that her interpretation of life spans several generations. This influence can be recognized in both her poetry and her short stories. She has experienced life at many levels. One of her most prized possessions is a personal letter that was written to her by Rosemary A. Thurber giving her permission to adapt her father’s short story “The Last Clock” to be used for Readers Theatre.

Sylvia is presently a Communications professor and the Academic Resource Center Coordinator at GMC Community College in Martinez, GA. She describes herself as a determined scrapper who will wrench all the very best from life that she is capable of conquering. Her philosophy of life is reflected in her poems. “Armor For Survival” and “A Tired Vagabond.” More about the author can be found on her website or on the authors den website. http://www.authorsden.com/sylvialramsey1.
Her novel, An Underground Jewell, was a labor of love. She explains, “The ideas for stories all come from my life experiences and knowledge I have gained along the way. The book, An Underground Jewell, spawned from a short story that was written about a Christmas Eve in the distant future when life on earth had changed drastically. That story was written in 1989.

Where did the idea for the novel come from?

SR: The idea to create a novel originated because I let imagination loose to wonder about the possibilities of this story. I first began by creating a character who would write the story, and the reason why she wrote it. At that point, I began to develop other characters and a plot. I finally began writing the book. At one point, I had to stop writing because my husband became very ill, and I became his caregiver. At the same time, I was diagnosed with T3 bladder cancer. To add to the delay, my computer crashed and I had to start over. I was lucky that I had part of it printed out. After my husband died, I began writing again. Finally, 20 years later, it was finished and published. “ An Underground Jewell and my other two books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

MA: How did you develop the character of your protagonist?

SR: Elizabeth Jewell is a very unusual woman in many ways. My best friend says that she is me, but I think her character has the traits of both my mother and paternal grandmother. Both of these ladies were strong and independent. I do not think either one of them would have left their future up to fate, because they never did. Elizabeth is like them, she sees a threat and does what she needs to do to help clear herself of the accusation. I can see where my friend would identify with me because I share some of the same traits. I wanted her to be unique in her world, and have enough foresight to see things around her that others may not see. She is intelligent enough to know that she needed help to clear herself, and because of her connections, she knew who to ask to help. There are several heroes in the novel, and there are many mysteries to solve other than clearing Elizabeth’s name. Some are solved along the way, and others are not revealed until the end. I have had people remark that I have revealed the outcome in my description, but they are only getting privy to the story on the surface, because it is much more complex than that.

MA: So who is your antagonist in the story?

SR: The “bad guys” are members of a group who have aspirations to control the society of the Western world. They have managed to infiltrate various agencies of our government to do so. Their underlying motive is control. They have an excellent understand of how language influences thinking and perceptual reality, so they have launched a long-term scheme to achieve their goal to control the people’s perception of reality.

MA: When did you start writing?
SR: I began writing when I was nine years old. I was the reporter for our 4-H club, and a new reporter at the local paper took me under his wing. He encouraged me to write feature article in addition to community news. By the age of twelve- years-old, I was getting bylines and a small paycheck each month. I have been writing something ever since. I do not remember thinking, “I want to be a writer”. It was just a part of who I am, and what I do.
I am always writing something, but not as a “profession”. I do a lot of writing at the college, blogging, and on my Facebook page. Currently, I am doing a blog series on Living with Bladder Cancer for the Healthy Women website. I am a sixteen-year bladder cancer survivor, and even though it is ranked fifth in prevalence over all, ranked fourth in males and as prevalent as cervical cancer but deadlier in women, it is very underserved. There is little awareness in the public sector, and even the medical community as a whole is basically under educated. I have a new blog that I just launched, Thoughtful Reflections, on which I hope to feature a variety of people in the field related to the publishing world.
MA: What type of professional writing do you do?
SR: In the everyday world at my “job”, I write lesson plans, reports and various types of writing that is done within the field of higher education. I have had research articles published in professional journals. In the mass media area, I have written news and feature articles for newspapers and magazines. In the creative realm, my love is poetry. Over one hundred of my poems have been published in literary journals. In 2004, my first book of poetry, Pulse Points of a Woman’s World, was published; in 2009 my first novel, An Underground Jewell, and in December of 2110, my first children’s book, Merchild Land was published.
MA: What projects are you working on now or plan for the future?
SR: There is a novel in the works that is a fantasy titled the Dark Crystals of Miradirth, and a collection of short stories titled, Squirrel Tales. I have several web pages, a blog (Thoughtful Reflections – http://wwwthouhtfulreflections.blogspot.com/), and a Facebook page called Ramsey’s Sacrificial Metaphor. I hope to do many more articles on bladder cancer as well as a collection of survivor stories. As far as An Underground Jewell is concerned, I have thought about doing another book that features the main character, but right now, I have other stories to tell.
MA: Sylvia, thanks very much for blogging with me today. I want my readers to know a few things about Sylvia, some of which she’s mentioned in passing, above. Sylvia is a 16-year survivor of bladder cancer, and looks at the experience as another learning peak in life. She is very much aware that even though this is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, it is very much underserved. She serves as the Vice-President of the American Bladder Cancer Society because she knows how important to provide support to those who have experienced this cancer, and how important it is to create more awareness around the world. That is why all of her royalties go to the American Bladder Cancer Society, www.bladdercancersupport.org. In March of this year, she sent them checks for close to $600 from her book sales. Her books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Read More

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May 04

Oh! This is a Tough Subject! “Facing Rejection,” an Article by Mary Deal

Facing Rejection
by
Mary Deal

No one likes rejection, but rejection is just a word – a word on which too many writers place too much emphasis.

When you understand the process of submissions and rejection, that word will hurt less if at all. You’ll see it as just another step in your progress.

The process includes you wearing your fingertips down to nubs as you get your prose written. Before you send your submission, what you need to know is that many factors become involved in acceptance or rejection. Here are only a few:

1) Did you follow the Guidelines perfectly?

Every publisher has different guidelines because they all have varying publishing formats and processes, from the type of story they accept to the format in which they require you to submit. Do you know how to switch your story from a .doc (in Word) to .rtf (rich text format)?

So you have followed all the guidelines? Next…

2) Did you read a copy of the magazine or some of the publisher’s novels or books to understand the type of stories they accept?

Are you submitting blindly, thinking your plot is so good they will accept it? No matter how good your story, someone else has written a better one.

3) Another factor may be the mood of the person on the receiving end.

You have no control over that, but if your story doesn’t ring bells with a literary agent or editor, no matter how good, you’ll get a rejection. The agent or editor could have recently been slapped with a divorce suit, or suffers from PMS that day. You have no control and human frailties do play a part in the process.

4) Have you submitted your manuscript all over the place, especially when guidelines call for “no simultaneous submissions,” and irritated a bunch of professionals you had hoped to impress?

Agents and editors all know one another. They talk. They tell each other of their negative experiences. Once someone associates your name with a really negative experience – C’est la vie!

5) Did you meet the deadline?

Did you wait till the last possible moment to submit? Most editors will choose favorites from the early entries because they can’t depend on what’s coming in with the slug of last minute arrivals. That’s not to say they won’t change their minds when a late arrival is so good they feel compelled to share it.

People find themselves in a rush when they wait till the last minute to finish their manuscripts. When they do, it’s thrown together haphazardly. An agent or editor can’t be blamed for picking favorites early. I believe all stories get read, but it would be difficult to displace a favorite. Submit early. Show you are ready to do business.

These are just some of the reasons for rejection, both in your control and out. If you know the process and still feel depressed over a rejection, your issues are not with the word “rejection” but, perhaps, you feel you’re being slighted. That just isn’t so.

I keep records of all my submissions, acceptances, and rejections. You should do that from the beginning. I have so many rejections that, knowing the process, rejections bounce off. My response is, “Hmmm… didn’t fit in that agent. I’ll try this new one.” That’s all the thought I give to it. That’s if I followed all the guidelines correctly.

Agents may send rejections, but editors won’t tell you if you followed the guidelines. You’ll just get a standard rejection. Sometimes it’s a form letter on their office memo; other times they may hand write a note on your cover letter and return it. In the case of magazines, you may never hear from them again, maybe not even get a rejection, just… nothing. But times are changing.

One of my biggest lessons of rejection was that I forgot to transfer my manuscript into .rtf format. I sent it in .doc. I knew I’d not hear from that editor again. I submitted the story elsewhere and got it accepted. To this day, I have never heard from the first editor, nor will I send a follow-up email since the story was accepted elsewhere. The first magazine was my first and greatly favored choice. I paid for my mistake.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Dec 17

All the Way from the UK, Mike Angley Welcomes Author Ian Barker

MA: All the way from the UK, please help me welcome today’s guest-blogger, Ian Barker! Ian has always dabbled in writing since leaving school. However, he spent almost 20 years working in IT before he discovered that writing about computers was easier than fixing them. He is now editor of PC Utilities magazine and lives and works in Greater Manchester, UK. Fallen Star is his début novel. Tell us more about your background.
IB: I was a voracious reader as a kid and have always been interested in writing. I repressed this for quite a long time, however, and it expressed itself in the odd comic poem for birthday cards but not much else. It was only once I’d turned 40 that I started to take writing more seriously and that led me to combining career and interest and getting a job on a computer magazine. The idea of writing a novel came around the same time. Maybe it comes of a desire to leave something permanent behind.
MA: Why did you choose to write novels, and not poetry?
IB: I’m not sure you ever choose to write novels. The call of the story simply becomes too strong to resist. I’d done the usual thing of writing a semi-autobiographical first novel and consigning it to the bottom drawer. The initial idea for Fallen Star I thought might make an interesting short story but it quickly turned into something bigger.
MA: Tell us about Fallen Star.
IB: It’s about the shallowness of celebrity culture, the price of fame and how, almost inevitably, we find ourselves living in the shadow of our parents and often repeating their mistakes. It’s an adult/young adult crossover – the protagonist is 21 – and at its heart it’s a love story.
Karl has been a member of a boy band since leaving school and at 21 knows no other life. When another band member dies of a drug overdose he’s forced to readjust to real life. To further complicate things he falls in love with Lizzie, but she’s the daughter of an IRA terrorist and that makes her someone Karl’s ex-soldier father is bound to hate.
All of that might sound a bit grim but there’s a lot of comedy in the book. Although it’s been described as a modern day morality tale it doesn’t hit you over the head with a message, it’s an entertaining, fun read.
MA: Where did the idea for the story come from?
IB: Appropriately enough the idea came from watching a reality TV show. Around 2003 the BBC ran a series called Fame Academy with a group of would-be pop stars trained and forced each week to ‘sing for survival’ to stay on the show. It was around the time that digital TV began to take off and this was one of the first shows to have live ‘round the clock feeds. I started to think about what would happen if you reversed the situation – what if you removed someone’s fame when they were at their peak? The story grew from there.
The terrorism angle came later but I think it adds an extra dimension to the book and makes it more relevant to today’s world.

MA: How hard did you find it to write the two main characters?
IB: I found Karl relatively easy to write. I don’t think men ever grow up much beyond the age of eighteen anyway! It was much more difficult to get inside the head of a 25-year-old woman for Lizzie’s parts. I was constantly hounding female writer friends to read sections and tell me if they rang true.
MA: How does the hero’s develop through the book?
IB: A key part of the book is Karl’s growth as a character. At the start he’s shallow, immature and somewhat vain, the world has always come to him. That made for a tricky first few chapters as in the beginning he’s not especially likeable. As the story progresses he comes to realise that he must take responsibility for his own actions and take control of his own life. He also finds that he has more in common with his father than he ever thought possible.
MA: Does Fallen Star have its own unique bad guy?
IB: Not in the usual melodramatic sense. Patrick, the closest the book gets to a bad guy character, is dishonest rather than outright bad. He’s also a rather peripheral character. His impact is felt in its effect on other characters but he only actually appears in a few scenes.
The real villain here is the way that terrorism affects people’s lives even one generation removed.
MA: Did any of your real-life experiences influence the plot?
IB: In terms of the main plot points no, but as always there are certain incidents and conversations that are rooted in things that have happened to me or to friends. There are also the inevitable snippets of overheard conversations and such.
MA: Beyond this novel what are your future writing plans?
IB: I’m working on a sequel which picks up Fallen Star’s characters a few years on from where this book ends. I don’t see it turning into a long series, however, there probably won’t be a third book on this theme. I’d like to revisit the idea of my bottom drawer novel. I think the premise – a coming of age tale set in the mid 1970s – still works but I know that I could write it much better now. One of Fallen Star’s characters does appear as his younger self in my original version though so it wouldn’t be a complete break.
MA: Would you do it again?
Yes. Writing a novel and getting it published is a long and often frustrating experience but you only appreciate that when you’ve tried it. If I’d known at the start what I know now I might have done a few things differently but it wouldn’t have stopped me.
MA: Ian, thanks for traveling so far to visit with me today (wink). I recommend my readers check out Ian Barker’s website for more information about him and his novel: www.iandavidbarker.co.uk.
Read More

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Dec 08

“Preparing Your Manuscript for an Agent” by Mary Deal

Preparing Your Manuscript for an Agent

by

Mary Deal

Being aware of what agents look for will help you prepare the type of manuscript they will read. Keep in mind, these same rules apply once you have an agent and the manuscript is being sent out to publishing house editors.

All agents hope to find that one manuscript that is unique above all the others. It’s been said that all stories have been told. What makes them different is each individual writer’s slant on the topic, providing they have written a solid story.

When an agent begins to read, after years of experience, they are keen to grammar flaws. This is one area that could cause an agent or editor to reject a manuscript without consideration of any of its other merits.

Too, how long is your manuscript? Paper books presently should be 60,000 to 80,000 words. Anything more than that, since it’s the requirement, the agent will believe the writer too verbose, lacking control over their adjectives and adverbs and overall sentence structure.

With the advent of hand-held readers, entire books are now converted to ebooks. There may or may not be word count restrictions. Still, your story must be good to merit the higher-end costs of ebooks as well.

If the agent or editor reads on, they do so with one motivation. They need to decide if this book, when published, will sell enough to make back their commission and any advance royalty paid to the writer. And still, the book must make a profit for the publishing house beyond that point.

The agent or editor will also be judging the writer’s overall presentation. Is it neat? Was the cover letter professional? Did it follow standard form? Did the writer seem to know what he or she talked about. What they look for is how you, the writer will perform after the book is published. Are you going to be difficult to work with? Are you going to go out of your way to make this book a success? Or do you believe that’s the publisher’s duty?

Professionals know immediately if they want to spend the time to read all the way through. They are also concerned if a reader will want to spend hours with the story and author. They scrutinize to see if the writer’s descriptions are fresh and different. What the agent looks for is individual voice. It was once enough to say “the trees had greened up after the last heavy rain;” another to say “the morning sun reflected in the raindrops on the new green leaves and made the trees sparkle.” Your voice shows in how you describe scenes and action. Your description must be different than anything else you’ve read.

An agent is keenly aware whether or not they will turn from the first page to the second. Agents read thousands of stories. They know by the end of the first page if the book will stack up against others in the same genre.

Have you written characters that an agent will appreciate? Your characters must stand out from all the rest. For character development, see my articles Faces and Quirks and Character Sketches. Everyone, from agent, to editor to publisher to avid reader must like your characters. Make them likeable or make them the kind of characters we love to hate, but make them memorable.

The overall plot must be about something the characters need to attain or obtain. They must want it desperately or the reader simply will not care enough to follow the character through whatever conflict arises.

Not only in nonfiction but in fiction as well, your facts must be right. In nonfiction it can be no other way. If you wish to make your fiction true to life, which helps the reader suspend reality and keep reading, get your facts straight too.

Dialogue moves the story. It must be written in such a manner that enhances the character’s personality. Dialogue exchanges between characters must propel the story. Ordinary conversation is never written into books. It is boring and says nothing really. Consider this:

“Good morning, John.”

“Good morning, Jim. What’s on the agenda today?”

“Guess we’re supposed to take the plane out for a test run today.”

They went to leave immediately.

Or this:

“Morning, John,” Jim said, rushing in. He thumbed toward the sky. “Let’s get upstairs before the boss sees the plane still sitting on the tarmac.”

Ordinary conversation has no place in good writing. Dialogue and beats move the action. Oh yes, see my article titled Let the Dialogue Speak.

The above could easily be included in the instruction we’ve all heard: Show, Don’t Tell. Simply, what this means is that the reader must see the action happening. Dialogue promotes action. Any time the writer begins to tell what a person thinks, how they interact with others, that should raise a red flag in the writer’s mind. See the two examples above? The first version contains dead dialogue and stalls the action. The second example not only contains dialogue that moves the story, but shows us what these two people are doing. Shows, doesn’t tell.

* * *

Most of the information in this article applies to both agents and editors. You must find an agent before you can approach a publishing house editor. The agent does that for you. In rare instances I’ve heard about someone submitting directly to an editor, but it usually turns out to be a small start up publishing house. If you wish to approach the big houses, get an agent.

To help you find an agent, try the site which does not charge a fee. In my experience they have been totally reputable:

http://agentquery.com

The agents listed on this site tell you what types of manuscripts they will accept and in which genres. It’s very thorough.

http://www.writersmarket.com

These are the people who publish those real thick volumes about everything you need to know as a writer. The book is expensive. However, if you sign up for their online edition, you get new listings and updates as new information come in all year long.

You can double check the credibility of an agent or editor you wish to contact by finding them on Preditors and Editors at:

http://pred-ed.com/

Preditors and Editors tell you who is legitimate and who is a scam. Yes, there are scam artists in the writing industry. You knew that, right?

I’m sure other sites have additional information but these are great places to begin your search.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Oct 20

“Character Arc” by Mary Deal

Writing a great character arc happens when using descriptive writing. Your writing objectives should include interesting story people who are never stagnant but change as the story progresses. These changes are known as the character arc.
Knowing the story you wish to write, some pre-planning is advisable. You’ve written character sketches. You’ve plotted the story line. You should be able to detect how your characters evolve as the plot proceeds. You will begin to understand the evolution story people experience as you begin to flesh out the details.
A character arc is the overall view of how a character changed from the beginning of the tale till the ending. When you read other books, try to perceive, even pin point, the evolution the main character goes through and how they end up changed at the ending. This applies to all characters, but at least your main character requires a character arc. Approach the overall view of the arc with the intention to put your story people through some experiences that will change them.
An example might be the cop who has tried for years to solve a cold case and whose efforts are pooh-poohed for trying to wring something more out of dead-end clues. The story begins with him worn out from years of stale clues and no new leads. About ready to give up like others investigators have, still he persists and then discovers something overlooked by all others. He can’t reveal his clue for fear of exposing people who could thwart his efforts. He tries desperately to solve the crime on his own.
In this scenario, the character arc begins with the cop, worn down, and ready to face the fact the case may never be solved. The arc evolves when he finds an overlooked clue. This is where the writer should employ descriptive writing to enhance what happens to change this cop. He’s found new motivation. The next step in the character arc is the determination he shows to get the crime solved. He’s got a new reason to come to work every day.
After he solves the crime, he is vindicated. He’s definitely a new man. The writer can make this new man an egocentric braggart or can make him humble yet full of self-confidence with a new respect from his fellow officers. You can write a character arc that may have the character end poorly or magnanimously, but changed. It’s all in the descriptive writing and what the writer wishes to accomplish with the story.
Another example is, perhaps, the main character is a stodgy matriarch whose control of her extended family never waivers. In the story, she believes something to be true. The story action then proceeds to show her changing her viewpoints. She becomes a better person for understanding in spite of her mistaken beliefs. Her status in the family doesn’t change. Her character arc is depicted when she changes her viewpoint and determines to be more open-minded and better informed. Her emotional or psychological growth arc becomes the character arc of the story; all the while her position in the family is maintained.
The character arc does not apply only to actions taken but to thoughts and beliefs as well, even if the character does nothing physically but stand her ground in the hierarchy.
Focusing on the character arc upholds the conflict or tension of the story overall. What the character experiences on an inner level affects them on the outer level and is what contributes to the story overall.
Know your writing objectives, or story purpose, and best define them with descriptive writing. Most character arcs are shown through emotional or psychological process, but the character changes can come about through physical actions that further show the inner workings of the character’s mind set. Read More

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Oct 13

“Forensic Evidence in Plots” (A Subject Near and Dear to my Heart!) by Mary Deal

Forensic Evidence in Plots

Forensic science could kill your story.

With forensic evidence being able to convict a perpetrator on as little as a millimeter of hair fiber, for example, plots of stories and films could be brought to an end too abruptly. Too, explaining the forensic evidence and showing how it affects the outcome could take over any plot.

When a subplot takes over and becomes the action, this is to lose control of your story. It is important that the main plot hold the most interesting, the most critical action. Then, no matter how contorted a subplot, it will only serve to enhance the main plot. True, too, any twist or turn in a subplot must enhance the main plot action. It cannot be included only to enhance the subplot. There is a risk here of having your subplot become a story unto itself and distract from the purpose it should serve. Any action in a subplot must feed into but not be greater than the main action.

A perfect example of a subplot nearly taking over can be found in the movie, Witness, (1985). The good cop, John Book, discovers fellow officer, McFee, has committed a murder. When John Book discloses this to his boss, Schaeffer, he soon learns Schaeffer is just as corrupt. The bad cops are selling off confiscated drugs. Once found out, both Schaeffer and McFee want to kill John Book.

This is a simple subplot that adds to and is intrinsic to complicating the action of the main plot. This subplot of clandestine activities within the police department blocks the hero from accomplishing his goal of bringing the perpetrator to justice and heightens tension in the story. So, too, does the fact that John Book needs to hide out and heal while yet another person turns him in.

Considering Pamela Wallace won an Oscar for co-writing the script for Witness, how many times can such good cop/bad cop plots be done? If some cops are to be the bad guys in scripts, after the impact that Witness made in films, bad cop plots began taking more drastic turns.

In a thriller I started writing a few years ago, soon after I completed the rough draft of the manuscript, an explosion in forensic science occurred and my story immediately became outdated. A year of work had to be shelved. But my plot is so unique! I kept saying. I had to find a way to save it. I did. To this day, it is still a unique story.

The murders and arson I conjured in my original story could today be easily solved. How could I learn enough about forensic science in order to thwart its proving effects in my plot and still keep the action running?

Then I read, You Can Write a Movie, also written by Pamela Wallace. Finally, I hit upon a way to get around forensic science without myself having to become a forensic scientist.

In Witness, Wallace had crooked cops tampering with evidence. I have crooked cops in my mystery too. However, I could not be satisfied with simply adding crooked cops into the mix. It seemed all too convenient and way overdone in films. But not if you throw into the melee a radical group who just happens to get their kicks from wrongdoing.

In my story, I wanted to convolute the subplot way past the point of simplicity and yet not have it threaten to take over the main plot, as it almost does in Witness. My story has a subplot of not just crooked cops but a group of social renegades as well. But as I said, this was not enough for me. I have further complicated my plot with a hierarchy within the group of bad guys—and girls—all trying to out-do or eliminate one another in order to rise in stature. Then, so as not to distort from the main plot action, anything this group does enhances or thwarts the heroine from accomplishing her goal to help bring the proper person to justice.

While a certain amount of evidence is a must in order to redirect the finger of guilt toward the real perpetrator, my plot becomes complicated when evidence disappears. People within the wicked hierarchy fall or rise to power dependent upon who loses and finds and uses said evidence to climb another rung on the proverbial ladder. While all this is going on, an innocent inmate moves perilously closer to a date with lethal injection.

Ultimately, you cannot get away from using forensic evidence, but if there is no evidence to test, or if it is found and lost again, this heightens the excitement of your plot. If your story lacks excitement or is too easily solved, interrupt the pathway that connects the dots. Maybe kill off the only person who knows about the smoking gun. Let corroboration be found later on. There is no way to get around the fact that forensic science can solve most crimes these days, but only if there is evidentiary proof to test.

While no forensic evidence was needed to solve the murder in Witness, the complications that arose and blocked John Book from accomplishing his goal made for an exciting story. However, you must complicate your story to delay the final scene that forensic science can prematurely bring about. Make your plot as contorted as possible. Because of the splash Witness made by using the simple subplot of good cop/bad cop, chances are, another serious story of this type won’t fly because that kind of plot is simple and would have to be better than Witness. You must complicate your plot and learn something about the forensic information your story needs. The writer need not learn about all forensic science, only as much as must be used to enhance that one plot; enough to hide the true facts from being found too soon.

NOTE: The novel that Mary mentioned writing in this article is her new thriller, Down to the Needle, which was recently released. Read More

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Apr 21

“Never an End” Another Great Mary Deal Writing Article

Most writing is seldom perfect; not a line of poetry, nor a short story, and certainly not book length prose either.

When you’ve submitted a manuscript that keeps getting rejected, quite a few reasons exist to explain why this happens. Perhaps you sent it to the wrong publisher. Maybe the editor was in a bad mood and your plot didn’t sit well with their emotions that day, wrong word count, wrong theme, and on and on.

The reasons manuscripts get rejected are too numerous to mention, and the writer cannot control much of it. Except for making sure what they send out is written the best that it can be.

If you’ve studied a lot about the mechanics of writing, you’ll find an error or two in whatever you read. You’ll be able to identify areas of the prose that could have been written better. Since you can’t change what’s already published, can’t change anyone’s work but your own, apply your educated eye to your own writing. Read through and edit your work each time you send it out. Make at least one correction or improvement. Make any changes you notice that could have been included but missed the first time around.

This may be an arduous practice to apply to book length manuscripts, so care must be taken before the final draft to assure you’ve got it right; before you print those many hundred pages or burn that DVD and send them off thinking they are perfect.

As you write more, you learn more and hone your skills. Each time you read through the prose you’ve already written, bring it up to your current level of expertise before sending it out again. That one change might be the correction that gets the story accepted.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Mar 12

Former Air Force OSI Special Agent And Current Author John T. Miller Sleuths In To The Child Finder Trilogy

I am very honored to have as my guest today, a fellow former Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) Special Agent John (“Jack”) T. Miller. Jack is not only a former OSI agent, but he’s also an accomplished writer.

He served in the US Army (three years) and the USAF (eighteen years), before retiring in 1975 as an E-8, Senior Master Sergeant. So let me do the math…this means Jack entered the military before I was even born, but I won’t tease him too much!

Jack has had a long career serving the law enforcement community. He worked for the Clark County, Nevada, District Attorney’s office surveilling Organized Crime figures. He also went undercover with the FBI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept conducting long term stings against street thieves and burglars. He served with the Nevada State Gaming Control Board (GCB) as an enforcement agent and retired from there in 1988 as a Senior Agent. During those years he was an expert witness in state and federal courts in cheating cases. Not to be outdone, he worked part-time in casino surveillance (Eye in the Sky) at three different casinos and part-time as a contractor to the US Army conducting surveillance on civilian trucking companies hauling sensitive military equipment and ammunition. Jack fully retired in 2002. Let me personally thank you for your service to our country, to the Air Force OSI, and to the law enforcement community. Read More

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