Posts Tagged ‘craft of writing’

Writing a synopsis…the ugliest baking you’ll ever do!

Yeah. There are fun parts to writing…the plotting, the moment when you get that INCREDIBLE IDEA, the research, getting a peek at the new bookcover. Then there are those moments which are just about as much fun as crawling through thorn bushes in your birthday suit. The most wretched task for this writer is whipping up that synopsis. This is a process by which you take an amazing idea, strip it of all the art and charm and whap it out there in all its ugly horror for your editor. Oh, and you have to do this while somehow showing you are a master of your craft. Sigh. Here’s a video to describe the process.

So what part of your job or chore list would you be happy never tackling again? Do tell!

What hooks you (or unhooks you) in a novel?

Dog reading

Hooks are those naughty little things writers put early on in the book (sometimes the first sentence even) that drag you into their story whether you like it or not. Diabolical! These are the devices that keep us reading into the wee hours which is why I can’t read a Harlen Coban novel right before bed. I had an interesting conversation recently about what suspense readers want. Fast paced action right from the get go? Check! Relentless twists and turns? Check! Lots of explanation and backstory? No way!

Here’s the writer’s dilemma. If you drop people right into the action from sentence one, what reason do they have to care about the protagonist? Yes, the plot may be interesting enough to keep the pages turning, but how should we weave in enough to make the characters rich, three dimensional and empathetic, those qualities that will keep a reader engaged? Therein lies the biggest challenge for the suspense writer, it seems to me. Weave in enough back story to bring the characters to life, but not so much that you slow down the action. Give us real danger and constant peril, but slow it down ever so gently in some places to do some fleshing out of those poor endangered protagonists.

So how to you feel, readers and writers? Do you find the balance between action and character building to be satisfactory in most suspense books? Who are some authors you like that manage this balance well? Last day to be entered in the Starbuck’s drawing for tomorrow. How did it get to be JUNE?

Write what you know, or write who you are?

pencilsI’ve blogged before about the ‘write what you know’ myth. I think it’s vastly more interesting to write what you want to know, about places that you want to explore, choices that you will never be forced to make, than what you’ve actually experienced. That said, it’s extremely important in my humble opinion, to write “who you are.” That doesn’t mean my characters will all be slightly nutty third grade teachers, mommies, writers and wives. It does mean that my best work will spring from the essence of who I am deep down or who I’m struggling to become. I recently read an interview with Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone detective series. Of protag Kinsey Millhone Grafton said, “I think of us as one soul in two bodies…” That is not to say that Grafton lives a double life as a ruthless detective plodding her way through an alphabet of crimes, but her work echoes the struggles and vulnerabilities she experienced as the child of two alcoholics one of whom would commit suicide.  The real life facts differ from the fictional ones, but the true “soul” if you will of an author can be found somewhere, deep down in their work.

My first book was a cozy mystery, funny, quirky and oddball (which, by the way, probably describes me more than I’d care to admit.) The protag, Ruth Budge, though in a completely different stage of life than I was at the time, having temporarily lost herself when her husband died. She was born of a time when I lost myself too, to depression surrounding the birth of my first child. It was a deep well from which I could not extricate myself and the time which should have held the greatest joy was instead a time when I couldn’t recognize my own face in the mirror. I think the subsequent fourteen novels (of various series) all reflect that fear of losing one’s way and the courage it requires to forgive yourself for the wandering, a notion I still struggle with fifteen years later. I didn’t talk about it for a long time, I wrote about it, explored it and examined it, through the lives of my fictional characters. I guess I still do.

Do you see yourself in any fictional characters you’ve encountered? Do certain authors resonate with you because of your own life experiences? Would love to hear your thoughts.