Tag Archives: hair

Dec 07

“Repetition Offends Your Reader” Let Me Repeat, Okay, You Get the Point! Another Writing Advice Article By Mary Deal

When descriptive words are used repetitively in writing, it makes the reader wonder why they have to be told something they’ve already learned earlier in the story. Repetition can kill your reader’s interest. Read More

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Jun 08

Details! Details! “Unseen Background Details” by Mary Deal

Unseen Background Details
by
Mary Deal

As a writer, you may find that TV characters can be emotionally flat time and again. What sets them apart, even what gets the viewer to like them, is that we can see them. We see their facial expressions and how they react to other people and occurrences. We see their actions, which express motivations and emotion. We see the background scenery and how they act and react in such a setting.

What we see on TV or in a film is exactly what many writers fail to include in their stories. What we see in a picture doesn’t have to be explained because we see it. When writing our stories and books, we have to describe most of this for the reader.

A simplified example: If the reader doesn’t know the character is caught out in a rainstorm, how will the reader know anything except that the character is walking down a street?

We must describe the setting. If it was raining, don’t stop there.

Was it a thunderstorm or simply sprinkling?

Did the character get caught without a raincoat and umbrella?

Was the sky dark, or was the sun shining through the rain?

Was the wind blowing?

Who else was nearby and how did they react to the rain?

We writers have to include in our written works anything that might otherwise be seen when viewing the same scene on TV or in a film. Yet, we cannot over-do the details by stopping the story and describing the background.

Every detail necessary should be woven into the action. Which do you prefer?

The sky was dark. Lightning lit up the distance sky. Thunder rolled. The wind was fierce. It bent her umbrella backwards. She discarded it. Rain pelted down. She wore a raincoat but was still caught in the rain.

Or this:

When lightning flashed and thunder rolled again and the deluge came, she grabbed the collar of her raincoat, drew it up around her neck, and began running. Her umbrella bent backwards as the wind tore it from her hands. Her hair hung in loose wet ringlets as water streamed off the ends and ran down inside the coat. How did she ever let herself get caught alone on a dark street with wind strong enough to blow her over the side of the bridge? And why had that dark sedan slowed its speed to keep pace directly behind her?

The rule is never to stop the story to describe the background or scene, but to include the surroundings among the action performed by each character and as it affects that character.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. 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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Jun 25

Police Psychologist and Author, Dr. Ellen Kirschman, Goes On the Clock at the Child Finder Trilogy

My very special guest today is Dr. Ellen Kirschman of Redwood City, California. Dr. Kirschman is a licensed clinical psychologist who has specialized in police and public safety since 1978. She is the author of two books I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need To Know-Revised (Guilford, 2007) and I Love a Firefighter: What the Family Needs to Know (Guilford, 2004).

Dr. Kirschman is a member of the psychological services section of the International Association of Police Chiefs, the police, public safety subdivision of Division 18 of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology, the International Law Enforcement Trainers Association, the Public Safety Writers Association, and Mystery Writers of America. She has published more than a dozen articles and book chapters about police stress, the psychology of recovering from critical incidents, and strategies for consultation to organizational issues in law enforcement. Her essay “Bare Butts and Bare Souls” was included in the anthology What Would Sipowicz Do? Race, Rights and Redemption in NYPD Blue (Ben Bella, 2004). She and Dr. Lorraine Greene are co-developers of policefamilies.com, named web site of the month by the American Psychological Association.

She provides psychological consultation and peer support training to many local and federal public safety agencies, police, fire and probation. She was co-facilitator of the Trauma Team Training Institute for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from1996-2008.

Dr. Kirschman has appeared on a number of national radio and television programs. She has been an invited guest at four national conferences on police psychology sponsored by the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit. She is listed in Who’s Who in American Women and was once named Woman of Distinction by the Police Chief’s Spouses Worldwide.

Dr. Kirschman currently devotes her time to training and public speaking, including guest lectures at the Hong Kong Police Department and the Singapore Police Force. She volunteers at the West Coast Post Trauma Retreat, a peer-driven, clinically guided retreat for first responders with PTSD. Read More

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Jun 02

“Character Sketches” Explained in Great Detail in Mary Deal’s Article on the Child Finder Trilogy

In order to flesh out a character it’s a good idea to make lists of attributes for each character. However thorough, you must then write scenes to fit each character. That is, each scene that you write when this character appears should reveal what you planned for him or her when you made your list.

Of course as the story develops, any character may take on a different persona than you first imagined. That’s not a problem. Amending the original sketch will suffice, keeping in mind how the new character image affects all the other characters and the story overall.

I’ve always been interested in how characters are set up in stories. However, it’s no longer good enough to list features and attributes in paragraph or outline form, which seems like we’re looking at a person from head to toe and describing what we see. That’s vital, but characters do something while they act out who they are. Sometimes one thing they do can set up the reader’s impression of them for the entire story. Read More

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Apr 28

Mary Deal Writes about “Breaking Stereotypes” on the Child Finder Trilogy

Our culture and habits are deeply engrained. When we writers create characters, we usually know the basics of their personalities before we begin to write. We have a feel for the type of person that would fit the plot. In fleshing out those who people our stories, we give them jobs, family, myriad habits, and quirks. We assign stations in life, perhaps borrowed from people we know, or from history itself. We are careful to make them interesting and, hopefully, memorable. Therein lays one of the pitfalls that can dull the excitement of a plot instead of helping it to sing. I found a perfect example of this in my own writing. Read More

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Mar 10

“Building a Story” By Mary Deal On The Child Finder Trilogy

A friend of mine—I’ll call her Judy—had written a novel and was in the process of sending it out to literary agents seeking representation. She and I knew that first-time authors typically needed to have two or more completed manuscripts in hand. Publishers do not make large profits on an unknown writer’s first book but on subsequent publications. Money is spent on publicity for the first book, to establish a reputation for an author and build readership. With these aspects already established, on subsequent books, larger profits are realized. Too, publishers were more apt to believe that a writer was capable of turning out numbers of books if they did so of their own volition. Read More

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Feb 10

“Faces, Quirks, & Personality” An Article By Mary Deal On The Child Finder Trilogy

Only twenty basic faces or facial structures exist throughout the world. I read this somewhere and it caused me to look deeper at the characters about which I both read and write. Fortunately, many variations of these twenty faces exist.

One story I read described the heroine as a raven-haired beauty with emerald eyes. Usually we draw upon personal memories of people who resemble these descriptions. That one caused me to imagine a stately woman with black hair, green eyes and a milky complexion. Read More

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