Tag Archives: stop

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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Jan 28

Scientist-Turned-Novelist Paul Guthrie Joins Mike Angley Today

MA: My guest-blogger today is Paul Guthrie. Paul – or Dr. Guthrie – is a scientist by training and vocation. He received a BA in Physics from Cornell University, followed by a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Massachusetts. After graduation, Paul went to work for NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD. His work was primarily in the development of computer models to simulate the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere in order to understand ozone depletion and climate change. After thirteen years he left NASA and joined a consulting firm in San Rafael CA, working mainly on air pollution issues for the EPA. By then he was irrevocably committed to the use of computers and the development of software. In 1999 he left the environmental field entirely and became involved in developing software for biotechnology and medical applications, which he continues to do part time. Starting in 2002, however, Paul decided to pursue another interest, that of writing fiction. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, still married to the same person after thirty-seven years. We have two grown children.

Now that’s a fascinating biography you have, Paul. I am curious about how you found an interest in fiction with so much science in your life.

PG: I’m a scientist, with degrees in physics and astronomy. Working on issues like climate change, I was part of the collision of science, where truth (even approximate truth) is an ultimate goal, with politics, where truth is irrelevant. And I like to read. I‘ve read lots of fantasy and SF over the years, from classic “hard” SF to Tolkien, Eddings, Jordan, Martin, Stephenson, Gibson…the list goes on and on. I also like technology thrillers, like early Tom Clancy and early Michael Crichton.

MA: It’s good to have a wide breadth of interests, but how did you end up writing fiction, and why novels?

PG: My teachers always said I was a good writer, back before I chose a career in science and technology. In 2002 the medical imaging startup where I was working ran out of money and went belly up. Writing seemed like a good way to keep my mind occupied until something else turned up. Something else never did. Why novels…the form is long enough to really explore characters and story. You can say a lot of things in a novel.

MA: Tell us about your novel.

PG: “The Wrong God” crosses genres a bit. It involves something that looks like magic, elements of science fiction, some real science, politics and religion. Here’s the pitch:
Since the beginnings of history people have believed in magic, but California science writer Andy Taggart is not one of them. Until the day that John Chalk, his old friend from grad school, makes a ballpoint pen rise to stand on end – untouched. From that moment Andy is caught up in John’s mystery. Is this an illusion or is it new physics? Why can John do things that other people can’t – things that will mark him in some eyes as a worker of miracles? And why does John think someone is watching him?

Someone is watching. Wendell Murchison is possibly the most powerful man in America. He controls wealth, his own cable news network, an army of evangelical political operatives, and the President of the United States, but he wants more. From the new America of terrorist sleeper cells, detention camps and legalized torture he sees a path to levels of power not seen since the Inquisition. He would make a new all-out war of religion; all he needs is a leader – the New Prophet, John Chalk. Whether John believes or not.

When John refuses and disappears, Andy is left to face an adversary who will offer bribes, publish lies, send goon squads to beat him, whatever it takes to force him to betray John. Under constant surveillance and unsure who he can trust, Andy can’t stand alone; he has to find John. But even together, what can they do against Murchison? Levitating pens won’t stop him and there’s no point in hoping for miracles if you don’t believe in anybody’s gods.

Actually, it all grew out of a single observation. Traditional epic fantasy often involves ancient magic, with a venerable sage or a sacred book to explain the magic. My question was, how did the book get written? Who were the poor bastards who first discovered magic and had to figure out how it worked without killing themselves? Since I assumed (naturally) that they would approach it like scientists, the story became contemporary.

MA: That sounds intriguing, and it contains many of the same elements I enjoy reading about and writing with my own work. Tell us how you developed Andy’s character.

PG: Andy is kind of an almost-scientist. He has the training, but he isn’t entirely part of that world, the way John is. Andy can see the ambiguities in John’s discovery. I tend to like stories of ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges, so he had to be somewhat unheroic.

MA: Andy’s strengths? Weaknesses?

PG: Strengths…determination, loyalty, intelligence, humility, his love for his girlfriend, Rachel.
Weaknesses…fear, self-doubt, a little envy.

MA: It sounds like this Murchison guy is pretty devious…your antagonist, I assume?

PG: Oh yeah. I spent a lot of time on Wendell Murchison. My wife kept asking for more backstory. I kind of saw him as an amalgam of the kinds of people who have been involved at the intersection of great wealth, political propaganda, and the religious right.

MA: I almost hesitate to ask if any real-life experiences made their way into your story, especially given you hard science background.

PG: I guess the main influences were knowing how physicists think and approach problems, and experience watching scientists collide with politics. One other thing isn’t really central to the plot, but I’m a student and player of Taiko, the big Japanese drums. I gave that to Andy so I could try to describe it.

MA: I spent many years in Japan and always enjoyed Taiko drum performances, so I can relate to that character aspect (and a good thing you gave that to your hero!). So what’s next?
PG: I’m working on another novel that is still an untitled work in progress. It’s unrelated, more of a straight-ahead technology/political thriller. Beyond that I have notes for two more books to continue the story of “The Wrong God.”

MA: Thanks, Paul! You have a great blend of real science colliding with fiction in your work. I like the confluence of the two. For my readers, please check out Paul’s website: http://www.thewronggod.com Read More

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Sep 03

All the Way from Australia Comes Romantic Comedy Author, Sylvia Massara to Guest with Mike Angley

MA: Today’s guest flew in all the way from Australia…seriously, just to be on my blog . Sylvia Massara has been writing since her early teens. She has written in a variety of genres, from stage plays to screenplays to novels. Since she can remember, she’s loved immersing herself in a world filled with characters of her own creation—so it only seemed natural that she would become a writer. But before she became a writer, Sylvia had a career in Human Resources and she also ‘tinkered’ in her other love – acting. For a full bio on Sylvia, please visit her website: www.sylviamassara.com
Tell us more about what you did before becoming a writer.
SM: Prior to embarking on my writing career, I spent many years in the corporate world being a HR Manager, a Trainer/Lecturer, and most recently a Business Consultant. Having said this, my true love has always been acting. I can remember wanting to be an actress since the age of 5. I was in lots of school productions, and later in amateur theatre. I also did a stint (when I was in between jobs) as an extra in some Aussie soapies, where I rubbed shoulders with actresses such as Melissa George and Isla Fisher, whom I believe made a bit of a name for themselves in the US. I was also in TV commercials and a couple of documentaries.
MA: I can see how your acting and creative beginnings brought you to writing fiction.
SM: Well, I always lived my life in what you might call a ‘world of make believe’. Even now I do this. Ever since I can remember I always caught myself day dreaming; and I usually run several plots through my head at any given time. So I guess it was natural for me to progress to a career as a writer. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager and I always loved it.
MA: Tell us how this daydreaming resulted in your new novel.
SM: ‘The Other Boyfriend’, which I have just released in ebook format, is a quirky romantic comedy in the style of ‘Bridget Jones’. My heroine is a little bit scheming, trying to get her man by any means possible, but she’s also naïve and rather impulsive in her approach – and this is what gets her into trouble. The whole premise of the story is that she’s in love with a guy who is already in a relationship (albeit a relationship that has been platonic for many years), and Sarah, the heroine, comes up with the idea to find a ‘boyfriend’ for her man’s partner. All Sarah wants is to get this woman out of her life and she’ll pretty much stop at nothing in order to do it. Sarah’s best friend comes to the rescue by suggesting a male friend of hers – a so-called ‘lady killer’ – to romance the other woman away from Sarah’s man, and Sarah goes along with it. What she doesn’t expect is that she finds herself inexplicably attracted to her ‘partner in crime’ or ‘the other boyfriend’ as he’s dubbed in the story, and suddenly her world is turned upside down.
I’d say this book is ‘chick lit’ or ‘romance’, if you’d like to call it that. But I’ve had feedback from several male readers, and they loved it. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill love story. It’s more a story filled with a bit of scheming, plenty of humor, witty dialogue, some wacky characters and a few very unexpected turn of events.
MA: I must confess I don’t know the chick lit or romance sub-genres well. How did you go about crafting Sarah’s character?
SM: I have to say that I was inspired to write this story because Sarah is based on a life experience of mine. Of course, the whole story is highly fictionalized. But the love triangle, betrayal and the lessons Sarah learns along the way are similar to what I (and probably millions of other women out there) went through. And, I have to add, that Sarah has just turned 40 in the story, so she’s not your typical ‘perfect female’ romance character. She’s a mature woman full of flaws, trying to capture as much time as possible before it’s all too late. She wants to have it all: everlasting love, a family and a business before the big M catches up with her (the big M being menopause).
MA: (Smiling, wiping brow). I got that. What are Sarah’s strengths and weaknesses?
SM: Sarah is determined, if anything, to go after her dream, but she’s also vulnerable and rather naïve. The positive thing about her is that she is able to face harsh reality when things don’t turn out as she’d planned, and she is able to acknowledge that she didn’t act in the most honorable way in relation to her man’s partner. Ultimately, however, Sarah learns a few good lessons, and she comes out of her situation a stronger and more mature woman who is ready for a serious kind of love and commitment.
MA: Who’s the bad guy – there has to be one!
SM: There is. Jeffrey is the guy Sarah is trying to land. He is the one who leads her to believe that he’s no longer interested in his partner, Moira. He’s the one who keeps Sarah trying to do a balancing act. Half the time she doesn’t know whether he’s serious or not; whether he loves her or not. And there are other things Sarah doesn’t know about Jeffrey … until it’s too late. But I won’t say anymore or I’ll give the story away. Let’s just say that Jeffrey is the ‘super rat’ or ‘the charming bastard’ of the story
MA: I know you mentioned there are some elements of your own personal life in the story, if not every woman’s story. Did I get that right?
SM: The answer is YES. I already said that Sarah’s situation reflects something of what happened to me (and to many other women out there). Of course, all the characters are fictional, as is the storyline, but I guess you could say that there are little things in this story that were inspired by real life events.
MA: So what’s next?
SM: Towards the end of August, 2010, I will be releasing a totally different novel to this one, entitled ‘The Soul Bearers’. This one a life drama, inspired by true life events. It’s a story about courage, friendship and unconditional love. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, really. So I advise having a box of tissues on hand.
I’m also in the process of planning my third book. This one will once again be a quirky romantic comedy, only this time the main character will feature in future stories.
MA: You have been an entertaining guest, and it’s not often that I blush during an interview. Is there anything you’d like my readers to know as we close?
SM: Both ‘The Other Boyfriend’ and ‘The Soul Bearers’ are available from Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu. In the next two months or so the books will also be available on paperback. I’ll be keeping readers up to date through my blog: www.sylviamassara.com.
Read More

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Sep 30

Mike Angley Guest-Blogs about Child Finder on the Writing Mommies Blog (as a writing daddy)

I’m honored to have been invited as a guest-blogger on the Writing Mommies blog. The site is run by four great ladies: Angela Atkinson, Alyssa Ast, Kat Foust, and Kerrie McLoughlin…all stay-at-home moms and writers. It was a nice to share my experiences about writing, life, and my USAF career with them and their readers. Read More

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