The Plot Thickens by Karen Vaughan

Stories are either character driven or plot driven. Some writers will argue that there can be a bit of both.

This is good when there are rich characters and a good plot to carry them. My plots are usually quirky and most people who have read my books will know they are humorous but we have covered that already.

I have had plots where victims have been dropped on living room floors, face down in a bowl of cereal after being beaten over the head and in Daytona dead a car is the weapon of choice.

A good plot can be picked from either the headlines or ones imagination. I haven’t pulled one out of the headlines yet as most of them have been done by others or it’s just a subject I won’t touch with a ten foot pole.

I prefer to write things using people in my life as models or some experience I have had. I also take requests. For example my gay character Lou (Laura’s ex) had the same name as a friend’s ex-husband. At the time of her impending divorce she requested that I kill her hubby in a book but I didn’t want to have a second Lou so I just knocked off the gay man.  I revisited the premise of using a car as an instrument of death since Stephen Kings Christine. The time had come for the plot to be revisited.

I love revenge plots where some ones karmic mac truck is set to kick butt and justice is served but in DEAD COMIC STANDING some very funny people die before the killer gets what is coming to him.

So the next time you are looking for a good plot for a story think outside the box.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 7, Interior Monologue by B.Y. Rogers

One of the greatest gifts of literature is that it allows for the expression of unexpressed thoughts: interior monologue…allowing your readers to see what your character is thinking is a powerful, intimate way to establish that character’s personality.

Constant interruptions are just as annoying on the page as they are in life, and this writer (from an example in the book, which you need to purchase anyway) has interrupted her dialogue with interior monologue over and over again.

So how do you know you’ve gone too far with interior monologue? (See answer on page 118)

It is also possible to have too little interior monologue.

(A one page example of dialogue, between a husband and wife, without any interior dialogue, then:) But her (the character in the example) exhaustion and intimidation need to be present in the scene as well as in the context. She doesn’t stop feeling these things while she is on the phone with him. Because she’s too intimidated to confront him, the writer can’t show her feelings in dialogue. It would be difficult to work Nia’s specific feelings into emotionally weighted descriptions without breaking up the rhythm of the dialogue.

So what’s the right amount of interior monologue? (See answer on page 122)

(Throughout the book, there are several cartoons to emphasis a point. In this chapter, there is one that I found especially humorous. In the single panel, we see two women, sitting at a table, in a very sparse room. The caption reads exactly as follows: “So far all her dreams have not come true but she wants high romance and a baby while her husband want to be, and is, a very successful broker, who takes graduate courses at night and wants no baby and at the same time she has more or less recovered from being in love with the well-digger who dug her well, which is good since he is married with three children and is a drug addict and an alcoholic and he claims he’s dying, although there are no signs of this and she says once she finds an outlet for her unrequited love she will lose eighty-five pounds. I enjoyed that sentence.” (Get it?)

(Oh, here is a great one:) It’s rarely a good idea to have your characters mumble to themselves or speak under their breath.

How to handle your interior monologue depends almost entirely on your narrative distance. (I am still trying to wrap my mind around ‘narrative distance’. I will work on it more the second time I go through this book.)

Thinker attributions. Whenever you’re writing from a single point of view-as you will be ninety percent of the time-you can simply jettison thinker attributions.

Another technique for setting off interior monologue sharply is to write in the first person (often with italics) when you narrative is in third…Effective as this technique can be in letting readers into your character’s head, be careful not to use it too often=

Interior dialogue can easily become a gimmick, and if overused it can make your characters seem as if they have multiple-personality disorder.

Generations of hacks have used italics to punch up otherwise weak dialogue…frequent italics have come to signal weak writing. (In other words, don’t use italics.)

How do you set off your interior dialogue when you’re writing with narrative intimacy? (See answer on page 128)

(I failed to mention that this book is the 2nd Edition. I needed to clarify this so you understand the final paragraph.)

We have noticed since the first edition of this book came out that a lot of writers have taken our advice about showing and telling too much to heart. The result has sometimes been sterile writing, consisting mostly of bare-bones descriptions and skeletal dialogue. Yet fiction allow for marvelous richness and depth, and nowhere more so than through interior monologue. You have to be careful not to go overboard, but interior monologue gives you opportunity to invite your readers into your characters minds, sometimes with stunning effect.

You Call Me Al by Una Tiers

What’s in a Name?
In 1986, Paul Simon wrote You Can Call me Al. Writers often build a platform that includes a distinct name, known as Pen Names.
Pen names (nom de plume) have been used for centuries. Some create distinct identities to avoid confusion when an author writes both fiction and non-fiction or if an author writes in more than one genre. They can separate two parts of a career such as writing and editing, or fiction writing and law. One of the allures about a pen name is that it may keep people guessing about your identity and generate a little internet buzz.
Some authors write under a pseudonym for anonymity, to stand out with an unusual name or to avoid confusion with other authors who have similar names. Others write under a pen name to avoid repercussions much like the witness protection program. In the past, female authors wrote under gender neutral or male names or an initial to disguise their first name, all for the sake of acceptability.
At least one author has used two or more pen names to have multiple articles published in the same magazine issue. Another author writes under different names since he writes more than one novel a year and thinks people will not buy two books from the same author in one year.
Do you write smoldering erotica with heaving bosoms? Want the neighbors to know? Many writers use their legal name along with their pen name to maintain their followers and to bring in new ones with a name that is sculptured for fiction writing.
Pointers on selecting a pen name include using the early letters of the alphabet to and getting close in spelling to a famous author. Names that fit a genre are another point of pen names: Lana Loving, Amber Asp, Derk Alleys or Sky Cubes. Names at the start of the alphabet and those with one or two syllables seem to be preferred. Try the names out in the beta stage to see how they sound to friends and your writing group. Check existing website availability.
Places to find ideas for pen names include my favorite: obituaries and of course the internet. Once you have your pen name, start branding and use it in your website, social networking and book sites. You are working on a clean slate.
Famous writers with pen names include Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain); Jean Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere); Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell) and Esther Friedman (Ann Landers).
Discussion: If you are choosing a pen name, please tell us the two main reasons you did. Thank you.
A special thanks go out the authors in WriteMindsAuthors Group. They are a hardworking dedicated group.
Una Tiers is the pen name for an attorney in Chicago who writes about corruption in the courts. Her debut mystery, Judge vs Nuts has a female sleuth, Fiona Gavelle, and has been described as a humorcide, a traditional mystery, a cozy and a legal mystery.

To Pantz Or Not To Pantz by Karen Vaughan

To pantz or not to pantz

That is the question.

Whether it is nobler to suffer

The pains of outlining

Or fly by the seat of your pants

And write whats in your head

I have tried to outline stories that I write but I usually abandon the effort as it causes extreme anxiety.

I basically just go with what the characters say they want.  If that sounds schitzy then I am in the company of many authors who choose to go with the flow.

There is always the great debate between writers who will argue for organization and outlining or just letting it fly off the top of ones head.

I am arguing on the pantzing side of the argument.

I sat down to write DEAD ON ARRIVAL seven years ago. It was based on a warped dream I had. How do you outline a dream? You can’t, not really. Sure you can write down ideas based on the dream to flesh it out.

I find outlining makes me a slave to a rigid story. It doesn’t allow the characters to speak if the writer is not open minded in the plotting of the story.

I don’t get stuck if I let the characters drive the bus. They know what they want.
I also ask people who have read my series to let me use them or aspects of their personalities or I ask them for ideas for plots too.

I started as a pantser and I will end as one. I plot as I go and create and change as I go.

In Daytona Dead I changed one character from a bad-ass crooked cop who was totally unlikeable to someone who suddenly grew a spine and a conscience at the same time.

This wasn’t planned. The character basically stood up and told me he didn’t want to be a jerk anymore so I listened to him.

In the Midst of Madness by Dellani Oakes

Finding time to write is something every author deals with.  Some of us have more time to devote to it than others, but still find that life intrudes.  I just spent the month of November taking the National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge.  While it’s invigorating to test my writing abilities, it also tests my patience.

For those of you who have never heard of NaNoWriMo, I’ll explain.  The participants make the personal commitment to write a 50,000 word novel beginning November 1st  and ending November 30th at midnight.  There are no money prizes, no one reads the novel but you, it doesn’t even have to be perfect, it just has to be done.  For this, you get a caffeine addiction, sleep deprivation, frazzled nerves,  numb fingers, a nifty little logo to put on your web site, a printable certificate and the satisfaction of knowing that despite everything, you persevered!

It’s amazing how quickly life intrudes when I set a goal like this for myself.  Everyone in the household becomes “needy”, particularly my twelve year old son.  Things he could do for himself suddenly take on far more importance, meaning that Mom has to get up and take care of it.  The phone becomes my enemy.  I can go for weeks at a time when the phone won’t ring, but once the November challenge begins, it rings all the time.  I’m not being paranoid, I kept track!  The week before NaNo began, I had a total of five phone calls in a week – one of which was for me.  As of November 1st, I had at least that many a day – and most of them for me.

Meals are another thing that interfere.  Deciding what to fix becomes a major decision that I usually leave to the last minute.  Grocery shopping becomes a task that eats into my writing time, irritating me further.  When I get home, the actual preparation is the most annoying because it’s accompanied by complaints about the meal.

NaNoWriMo is not the only time that these things are problematic, I simply use that as an example.  During any given day, the precious moments I have to get the ideas out of my head and into written form, are limited.  I don’t know about other authors, but my family fails to recognize that what I am doing is actually “work”.  To them, it’s Mom sitting at the computer – again.  Old hat, since ninety percent of my free time is at the computer.  If I’m not writing, I’m reading what I wrote and editing it with a mixture of brutality and care.  The words, “I’m working”, don’t make much of an impression on three hungry boys.

Somehow, in the midst of all this madness, I find enough time to get things done.  The precious words get faithfully added to the text even as my eyes cross and my head hits the keyboard.  Life, though it interferes, is what I draw from to fill my books with lively conversation, anecdotes and action.  So, though I may resent the interruptions, I welcome them, because it shows me that I am a part of life, not set apart – and that is truly a writer’s richest resource.

A Few Of My Favorite Guys by Karina Gioertz

When it comes to writing, developing the characters is easily one of my favorite things. It’s right up there with the storyline…okay, maybe it even beats that. I like the building of relationships and figuring out the quirky details that make them who they are. I love listening to the conversations they have and imagining their thoughts and reactions to things. These characters aren’t just strangers in a book to me, they’re my imaginary friends, the voices in my head and the inhabitants of my day dreams. They are privie to the most intimate parts of me, much like I am to theirs.

Now, you might think that being a woman myself, I prefer to write women, but you’d be wrong. I like writing men. Women are fun, too, but they’re easy. I know women…I get women…Men, not so much. Which is precisely why I enjoy writing male characters as much as I do. In MY world, where I’M in charge, Men make sense to me. I can comprehend how they think and I get how they feel. I UNDERSTAND them. The fact that this is due to my molding them to be exactly who and what I want and need them to be, does not escape me.

Anyway, I thought that since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, it might be a good time to highlight some of the men in my life, so here goes ~

I specifically did not create a lead male character in Country Girls because I wanted to write a story for women about women, that did not involve some sort of romantic happily ever after. It wasn’t easy, especially once I introduced Shawn to the girls. It was all I could do to marry him off quickly to keep him from falling for Eli…and her falling for him in turn. It would have been so natural. Him being the strong and silent type (for the most part…he knows how to stand his ground when necessary) with that abundant amount of patience, while she’s self-destructive and reckless at times and in such desperate need of a safe set of arms to run into…oh right, Eli would never lean on a man like that. Oh well.

So, since I denied myself the guy in Country Girls, I made up for it in Lucky In Love by writing three! There was Gabe – funny, attractive and always flirtatious, but a tad immature. This meant that he was always up for a good time but wasn’t ready to be serious. A great quality to find in a man when you’re not looking for commitment, or too afraid of finding it…

And who wouldn’t love Jason? Handsome and kind. Confident and slightly cocky, but in an utterly adorable way. He could easily be boyfriend material…or best friend material…or both?

Last but certainly not least, there’s Noah.The player/ bad boy and my personal favorite…what can I say, I have the worst taste in men.

After Lucky, I moved on to Blood Bound…not much for romance here, but I did kinda love me some Scott…

My most recent guy is Lindsay, and while he’s way too young for me (I decided to take a stab at writing YA) he’s still at the top of my list. He’s got a dash of every one of my favorite guys in him. He’s dependable and shows up for those he cares about like Scott.  He doesn’t always go out with the classiest of gals like Noah. He’s kind and considerate like Jason. Funny like Gabe. And, he’s even got some of that charming patience that Shawn posseses…all in all, I’d say he could make one girl (or many readers) very happy someday :)

On that note ~ Happy Valentine’s Day  ♥

Fine Line Between Sex And Porn by Karen Vaughan

I am still trying to work my way around this subject. I am kind of antsy about going overboard in my love scenes so I err on the side of caution as my significant other squirms at smut in my books.  Sex sells right? How much is too much? Is it the degree of description that makes a scene border on pornography or is it the frequency of sex in a book that may turn people off?
If you’re writing romance or romantic suspense, the intensity of sex can be higher than a straight mystery. People are expecting steam and the more the better. I love a good romance and scenes that will send the reader to a cold shower but when they start talking really dirty and describing a lot using graphic language the writer might have gone too far if it sounds like it belongs in Penthouse or Hustler.
Sometimes its better to err on the side of caution and submit something tame. The publisher will tell you if you need to ramp it up a bit or take it down a notch depending on the genre. Your readers will let you know what they want as well as I was told my stories could be steamier for their tastes.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 6, How It Sounds by B.Y. Rogers

Guilty! Guilty as charged. Don’t look now but those are my hands in the guillotine (Please Ma, blindfold me first!). And they deserve their grim fate for the sins they have committed. After reading the next chapter in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, I am in abject despair. I have so much to correct in my writing. Time to get on it.

Chapter 6 – See How It Sounds

The problem with dialogue is, more often than not, with the dialogue itself rather than with the mechanics.

There are some mechanical techniques you can use when self editing that will cure one of the most common reason for flat dialogue: formality. (Buy the book to find out!)

The simplest  way to make your dialogue less formal is to use more contractions. (This one crucified me to the wall. When I wrote The Sin of Certainty. I was not even thinking about this. I just wrote. Then, one of my proofreaders (thanks Bob) pointed out to me that I NEVER used a contraction. Not in the dialogue, not in the narrative. I hadn’t even thought of it, it never crossed my mind that I was writing so formally. It wasn’t intentional but it was there. There is another technique mentioned but again, you have to get the book.)

Check to make sure you aren’t trying to shoehorn information into the dialogue that doesn’t belong there. (I like this. Dialogue is a great way to sneak in hints about a character’s past or a setup for a future event, but only if that information is useful to the scene.)

You don’t want your characters to speak more fully formed thoughts than they normally would, just so you can get in some information to your readers.

Weed out fancy polysyllabic words.(Guilty, at least at one time. A friend of mine once told me to dumb down my narrative, that I was using too many words that most readers will not be familiar with. My retort was that most people have already dumbed down their vocabulary and they should read the dictionary and not be so lazy. He was right, but I still think people are lazy and like water, they take path of least resistance when it comes to vocabulary. (Yes, I know ‘dumbed’ is not a word.))

Have your characters misunderstand one another once in a while. (This one gave me pause. I think I unwittingly attempted this with Rose and Mayor Brower in The Sin of Certainty. When I revisit that book, after I am finished blogging on this self editing theme, I am going to work on that relationship because Rose’s misunderstanding of Mayor Brower’s past is a key element and I think I can improve it. Okay, I know I can improve it.)

Good dialogue isn’t an exact transcription of the way people talk but is more an artifice, a literary device that mimics real speech.

Bring your ear into play. (Buy the book. There is several pages about this concept and worth the cost of the book.)

(Okay, this next point is very challenging, to me at least, and I am as guilty as anyone. Because of this single point, I have much to do with my previous writing. I do not think that I have that much dialogue to correct but I know it is there. I took the lazy way out and didn’t even know I was being lazy.)

(The section begins with a passage from Huckleberry Finn.) Beginning novelists, even today are often tempted to write dialect-whether it be southern black or Bronx Italian or Locust Valley lockjaw-using a lot of trick spellings and lexical gimmicks. It is the easy way out. (I discussed this with my wife. This is the very reason she stopped reading Huckleberry Finn. It was way too difficult to understand the dialogue.)

When you use an unusual spelling, you are bound to draw the reader’s attention away from the dialogue and onto the means of getting it across.  (I think there is room, albeit extremely limited, for unusual spelling, but when it is as thick as Mark Twain’s depiction of southern black speech, when it makes the reader stop and decipher what is being said, then it is too much.)

So how do you get a character’s geographical or education or social background across? (For the answer, see page 110)

It takes courage to write like this, but it is worth the risk.

Explanations, -ly adverbs, oddball verbs of speech, trick spellings-these can’t really help your dialogue. They take the place of good dialogue rather than help create it.  Accept no substitutes.

What Happened to the Cat? by Dellani Oakes

My husband is a detail oriented person. As a medical professional, he has to be. It amazes me, however, what details his analytical, scientific mind will latch onto when he reads my novels. He’ll read the entire story and start demanding clarification. Some of it I’ve thought of, other things I make up, glad of my improv experience, because I honestly hadn’t gone there.

It’s not unusual for me to make up some BS answer out of thin air just to get him to quit asking. Sometimes, if the subject really interests him, he’ll expand on it to the point where I’d pay real money just to get him to shut up.

Often, these sessions are helpful, clarifying those nebulous ideas that I hadn’t fully considered. A typical exchange:

 

“Have you thought about <insert random weird concept>?” He asks me.

“The readers don’t need to know that,” I reply, somewhat miffed.

“But it’s interesting. You could….”

“Yes, maybe, but why? It’s not the least bit important. Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Ask about the most unimportant elements?”

“I don’t do that. Now, what about…?”

 

He’s gradually learning not to ask what I’m working on because ninety percent of the time it’s something I haven’t told him about. I shuffle projects and might work on a dozen different stories in a week. I love the fact that he’s interested, but I don’t always want to stop what I’m doing and explain what the book is about.

Once, in a weak moment, I told him about one of my unpublished novels where the psychotic ex-wife of the hero breaks into the heroine’s apartment, shaves her cat and duct tapes it to the hood of his car. Yes, it’s messed up, but the neighbors find the cat a short time later, call the police and take the cat to the vet. I mention in passing that the cat is at the vet’s and he’s fine. I read the passage to him, pleased with how well it came together.

 

NEW AT LOVE

 

“Someone broke into your place, Mandy.”

“My – what?”

Pale and shaking, she leaned against Derrick for support. He and Jasper helped her sit on the bench just inside the entry way.

“Why? What did they do in there?”

“They took your cat,” Jasper said quietly.

“What? Muse? Where is he? Is he okay?”

“Yeah. He’s okay. We sent him to the vet. Someone shaved him and taped him to the hood of Derrick’s car.”

“My car? Why the hell would they do that?”

“I was hoping you could tell me.”

 

Apparently, there wasn’t enough information for my husband. “What happened to the cat?” He asked when I got to the end of my explanation.

“What? Which cat?”

“Amanda’s cat, Muse. What happened to him?”

“He’s at the vet’s. I said that. He’s fine.”

“But you don’t mention him again.”

“So? You don’t even like cats. Why are you worried about the cat?”

“I was curious.”

“Forget the cat. He’s fine!”

“Whatever you say, baby.” There’s a long pause, to the point where I’m busy again and have forgotten about the conversation. “You really need to clear that up.”

“Clear what up?”

“The part about the cat….”

 

The point I’m making is that little details, things we forget about or think are inconsequential, can bother our readers if left unresolved. My husband, who positively loathes cats, was worried about Muse to the point that it detracted from the climax of the story. So I gave him a little more to help satisfy him

 

NEW AT LOVE

 

When Amanda opened the cat carrier door, Muse came out. He looked hopelessly thin in his shaven state, but rubbed against Derrick as happily as ever. Amanda looked inside the carrier.

“Where’s your friend?” She asked Muse.

The cat, as if he understood her, went to his carrier, nosing at the door, mewing softly. An answering mew came from inside the carrier.

“He made a friend at the vet’s. They were both traumatized and the little one latched onto Muse. He protected her, wasn’t that sweet?”

She reached into the carrier, gently pulling out a small, scrawny white cat with blue eyes.

“She’s beautiful, Amanda. What did you name her?”

“Aphrodite. I couldn’t resist.”

Muse hopped into Derrick’s lap as he lounged on the couch with Amanda snuggled next to him. Aphrodite leaped prettily into her lap, turned three times and settled into a comfortable mound of white fur.

 

I’m not suggesting that every reader is quite so easily misdirected as my husband, but some are. Those are the people we have to satisfy by tying up the loose ends. Make sure the subplots are resolved. Give enough of an explanation that it sticks with the reader. Keep distractions to a minimum so that the thread of the story isn’t lost along the way. A few moments spent on housekeeping will prevent the inevitable question: “What happened to the cat?”

Writing Adventures…by Karina Gioertz

At the beginning of last year I had only just begun my journey into the world of self-publishing and being an Indie Author. Up until that point I hadn’t ever really considered myself an Author of any kind. Mostly my focus had been on writing screenplays and dreaming of the day when I would see my words come to life on the big screen. Writing an entire book, well that seemed like a rather ambitious undertaking. However, after a meek attempt at getting my scripts out there I had to face facts. While I may be a fairly decent writer I am a horrible sales person. Not only am I awkward and uncomfortable when it comes to selling myself as a writer, I also loathe doing it. Basically I would just like be able to write and then magically have people find my work…

The first book I wrote (Welcome To The Half Orphan Club) and self-published was nonfiction and it was nearly twenty years in the making. My mother had self-published her own version of the events following my father’s death shortly before, so she was there to guide me through what turned out to be an incredibly easy process. It was then that I realized, I didn’t need to go around knocking on doors I hadn’t been invited to in the first place…I could open my own doors.

It wasn’t long after, that I decided to pull out some of my scripts and turn them into novels. It took me a while at first to find my groove, but once I got started I stayed pretty busy. Now that last year has coming to an end and a new year has begun, I’ve completed four novels and am working with the fifth.

It’s been exciting watching the reviews come in and hearing from complete strangers that they enjoy my work. In a way, this year has been all about writing and having people magically find my work. Sure, I’ve had to learn my share on marketing, but it’s been more about letting people know that my books exist rather than trying to convince anyone to buy them.

Writing has always been an adventure for me. Imaginary fun that filled the empty spaces…but the adventure isn’t only on paper. It’s part of my life (which is now the life of an Author – eek!), and I for one, kinda love it ;)