Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Visualize The Scene

 You know it's hard sometimes to get into writing and, for me anyway, it's hard sometimes to stop writing. When it's hard to get into writing, it's usually (occasionally I just don't feel like it or I feel crappy or I'm distracted but these aren't all that often) because I don't know where I'm going or I'm not excited about writing the scene I'm going to write. 

This is bad on many levels: both quality and quantity of words.

One thing you need to do is be excited about writing the scene that you're writing. If you aren't, go on to another scene. But maybe you aren't because you just haven't thought it through, haven't dug deeper into it for the cool parts. Do this before you start writing. Try to visualize the scene the night before when you're lying in bed or that morning while you're showering or doing your morning exercise or taking the dog out or whatever...Visualize. For me, writing a scene is often using the camera of the mind, the camera being words since I'm a fiction writer. So visualizing that scene, no matter how sketchy the visualization is, helps me get excited about it.

Give it a try.

Also, have a wonderful holiday. Hope you get to do what you love during these Covid holiday times.

By the by, gentle reader, I'm discounting my books (the self published ones; the publishers won't let me touch pricing the ones that are trad published) to 0.99 and 0.00 for the first Poe Detective Novel. Also, the Poe Detective boxed set is free in KU, so if you want to have them all in one package you can read them there.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, December 17, 2021

The difference between Mystery and Suspense (according to Alfred Hitchcock)


Hitchcock said he seldom made mysteries—maybe just once. He made movies that relied on suspense. I remember Elmore Leonard, in an interview, saying something similar. Everyone called him a writer of mysteries. He said he'd never written a mystery. He wrote suspense. Of course both Hitchcock and Leonard were artists, great stylists, but they both used suspense to keep their audiences (watchers and readers) engaged.

A mystery is a puzzle, an intellectual experience. The reader is given given clues and puts the clues together and solves the puzzle. The key is that the characters, at least some of them, know more than the watcher or the reader. If you have a detective, the reader or watcher, solves the mystery with the detective. Suspense is more of an emotional ride. In suspense the watcher or the reader knows more than the characters. If you're writing multiple POV's this is easier to pull off. I notice Leonard often uses multiple POVs. You give the reader more information and then you create suspense by putting characters in situations. For example, Sal is going to murder his wife because she's cheating on him. We know he's going to do it in the bedroom when she's asleep. The reader has to watch her stay up late watching a movie, has to watch her take a sleeping pill etc...We're unsure Sal will go through with it...You get the idea. You could make all kinds of things happen to cause more suspense etc...but the main idea is this simple: you use the information you give the reader to create suspense.

Hitchcock explains why having a bomb go off under a table, surprising the audience, is the wrong move. To create emotional suspense, to get the audience working for you, you need to let the audience know there's a bomb about to go off under the table. Then have five people sit there and have a conversation about what they did last night. That's suspense. I'd add, the audience will care because people are empathetic (with a few exceptions) even if they don't know the characters. Check out the video below to hear this idea in Hitchcock's own words.


Thursday, December 9, 2021

Characters Need Motivations—make them real

 My characters get very cranky when I try to make them do things because of plot. Worse than rebellious teens. They will mess things up just to get back at me. They will lead me in all the wrong directions. Solution: you need to give characters real motivations for what they do, say, think. 


Too many formulas tell you to have your characters do things at specific places in the novel in order to follow a certain plot strategy. It just doesn’t work in my opinion.


You tell a character she has to act a certain way on page 33 because 3 is a lucky number, and if you have two 3’s well, double the luck, and you’ll for sure write a bestseller.  

Your character says “I wouldn’t act that way.”

You say, “I need you to because I’ve been told you need to on page 33.”

So after some argument she does. Then she falls into an identity crisis. Then she acts out or shuts down. This has a domino effect on your other characters and story. Things go wrong. Very wrong.


Your characters aren’t going to seem real because they’re doing the wrong things at the wrong time and your story is going to seem forced because it goes in the wrong direction at several turns and pretty soon you’re lost in the swamp.


You know where I’m going  with this.


It’s not a pretty ending.




Work on plot, always. Story is important. But be true to your characters. Give them clear motivations. Readers will read even if they’re reading about terrible characters doing terrible things if the readers feel like they’re doing them out of real motivations.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

We Need Silence As Writers—from a glass half-empty optimist


Be The Dog https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09MVB9LZ2/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Be+the+Dog+yansky&qid=1638409356&sr=8-1

has over a hundred and thirty mini-lessons on the art and craft of novel writing 

(along with bits of inspiration because writing is tough and we all need a little encouragement). 

I’ve got a lot of ideas about how to write novels and how to help beginning writers and even more seasoned ones write them. I’d like to help you along your writer road if I can.

Another sample mini-lesson below.


                         We Need Silence As Writers. 

I’m not talking about the silence of a room to work in or a space to work at though that’s certainly nice. Some people do need that, too. I’m not one of them. I can work anywhere: in an airport or coffee house or restaurant or hotel room. I prefer the relative silence of my house, but I don’t need it.

But I still need silence.

I need to find that place of calm within me. I have to silence all the voices. And there are a lot of them. Sometimes it’s voices telling me that I need to do this or that. I have so much to do and I shouldn’t be trying to squeeze in writing. Sometimes it’s a problem I’m worrying over. It could have to do with work or with a relationship or one of the animals or…you get the idea. A worry. Sometimes it’s critical voices saying I can’t write about this or a voice saying that no one will want to read my manuscript. Someone told me that 85% of what we worry about won’t ever be a problem. My answer to that was, “That worries me. What about the other 15 percent?” I’m a glass half-empty optimist. 

But back to my point—there are voices that will interfere with your writing. Voices of doubt, voices of criticism, voices of everyday problems. You have to find a way to silence them before you can get to the place you need to go as a writer to write. It’s a place of silence within you where the voices of your stories can be heard and written.