Tag Archive for: Craft

A Story is Feelings

by Sparkle Abbey

One of the many advantages of a
writing team is that you always have someone to talk books with. While we tend
to read the same types of books, we don’t always read the same authors, so our
chats are a great way to discover the-book-you-didn’t-know-you-needed-to-read.

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova
from Pexels

During one of our hours-long book
conversations, the topic of award-winning books came up. There was one book that
we had both recently read, that we agreed was really well written, had a great
plot, good twist, interesting characters, but left us. . . .unfulfilled. After
a deep dive into what we loved about it, we realized that neither of us had become
one hundred percent invested in any of the main characters. Anita likes to call
that “imprinting.” By that, she means the character whose emotional story
is being told is firmly impressed into her mind in a way that she strongly
connects with them.

Don’t misunderstand, that bestseller,
award-winning book we were discussing it’s NOT a bad book. We’re still talking
about it. We’re just talking about the plot twists and the great writing. But
for us, it wasn’t a book that either of us devoured, willing to stay up all
night to finish knowing we’d be blurry-eyed, and sleep-deprived the next day.
So why not?

The conversation turned to an
excellent craft book (who doesn’t love a great book on writing?)


by our dear friend,
Cheryl St. John, called Writing
With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and
Compelling Novel
.
 If you’re a
writer and have not read this book, read it. It will change the way you write. One
of the many amazing takeaways from Cheryl’s book is found on the first page of
the introduction. Cheryl writes, “Probably the most important concept I’ve
taken away from any book on writing is from Dwight V. Swain’s
Techniques of the
Selling Writer
: A story is feelings.”

So much power in four words. A.
Story. Is. Feelings.

Emotions come from the inner
conflict, the fight within the characters themselves. When done well, those
feeling are strategically woven throughout the story in a way that the reader can
“imprint” on the character. As the reader we must know what happens next because
we’re emotionally invested in the characters—good, bad, or fatally flawed—and
the story those characters are telling.

That’s what we were missing. We didn’t
know which character to imprint on, so we didn’t connect to any of the characters
on a deeper level. A great lesson for us to apply to our writing. Also, it
reminded us that it’s probably time to reread
Writing With Emotion, Tension,
and Conflict
.

If you’ve recently read a book that
kept you up all night, tell us about it in the comments. We want to know!

Sparkle Abbey is
actually two people, 
Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the
national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as
well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder.
(But don’t tell the other neighbors.) 

They love to hear from readers and
can be found on Facebook, and Twitter their favorite social media sites. Also, if you want
to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the SparkleAbbey.com website.

The Path Through the Forest of Words

 by Bethany Maines

Writing is both hard and easy.  Like a lot of things,
it’s a relatively simple process that is accessible to just about
everyone.  Sit, type, repeat, and you’ve got a book.  Also like a lot
of things, doing it well is something that takes years of practice and
refinement. And the better you do it, the less the effort is apparent. Good
writer’s make writing seem easy. From the effortless flow of a sentence to the
way the plot of a book doesn’t strain to contain it’s characters, but seems to
come directly from the characters themselves. But what can elevate clunky
sentences to art?

I’ll be giving a guest lecture in a few months to some high-school
students on the topic of writing a mystery.  I love connecting with kids
and I’m really looking forward to this class, but it got me thinking about how
to teach such a thing.  I’ve been known to teach a variety of things—how
to write action scenes, karate, how to pee in the woods. According to my
daughter, who was four at the time, that last one is not my strongest topic.
But like any skill, there are ways to breakdown each skill and pass on that
recipe to the next person. Even if some small children don’t want to listen to
you, not peeing on your underwear is still an achievable goal.  As is
writing a mystery.  But can I teach someone how to write a good
mystery?  

As I have pondered the ins-and-outs of good writing and mystery’s and
teaching I’ve come to the conclusion and I don’t think I can teach someone how
to write well.  I can teach someone how to be competent and I can give
them an entire toolbox of tips and tricks, but I think in the end the only
person that can make a writer write well is… the writer. I think that it
really comes down to the practice and ambition of the writer to push themselves
beyond craftsmanship and into art.

I hope I’m on the path to art as I wander through the
forests of words, but I have to admit that on some days, the best I can say is
that I didn’t pee on my underwear.

Writer Update: The Lost Heir – The Deveraux Legacy
prequel novella is now available! Catch up on all the Deveraux family dirt.

Aʟʟ Rᴇᴛᴀɪʟᴇʀs ʜᴛᴛᴘs//ʙᴏᴏᴋs2ʀᴇᴀᴅ.ᴄᴏᴍ/LsHᴇɪʀ

👑👊👑

𝑺𝒐𝒎𝒆 𝒔𝒆𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒕𝒔 𝒘𝒐𝒏𝒕 𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒚 𝒉𝒊𝒅𝒅𝒆𝒏.

Jackson Deveraux was orphaned, abandoned and imprisoned, but
life is about to hand him a second chance and a new family. Eleanor Deveraux
lost her children in a plane crash and she’s in danger of losing her
grandchildren to the Deveraux Legacy of drugs, abuse and secrets, but life is
about to hand her Jackson. When Eleanor discovers an illegitimate grandson in
prison for armed-robbery she grits her teeth and does her duty—she gets him
out. But being out of prison doesn’t instantly make Jackson part of the family.
And as Jackson and his cousins struggle to find common ground, Eleanor steers
Jackson away from befriending her other grandchildren. She only needs Jackson
to keep them out of trouble—not be their friend. But Jackson and Dominique, the
youngest Deveraux cousin, have other plans and, as his first Christmas as
Deveraux arrives, Jackson sets himself on the path to fixing the Deveraux clan
and getting the family he’s always wanted.

 **

Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

 

 

How to Craft a Mystery

by Bethany Maines
Step One:  Read the paper and/or listen to your weird uncle
to learn about strange ways people have died recently.  This usually involves blurting out something
like “ooh, another dead body!” while snatching up the paper in the middle of
the busy hour at a coffee shop. 
Bonus Points: If
someone shuffles away from you at the coffee shop, collect an additional 20 Murderer Alert points!
Step Two: Having
decided on your method of death it’s time for research! Start googling all
sorts of things that will help you cover up your crime.  Also, go on a vacation to the place that you
plan on putting your dead body. 
Bonus Points: If
you can say “This is a good place to kill someone!” in an aggressively cheerful
manner to the person at the tourist bureau who just wants to help, collect an
additional 20 Walking Sociopath points!
Step Three: Sit
down and write the book.  This is the
boring bit, but it does come with fun voices in your head to talk to.
Bonus Points: If
you finish the manuscript, collect an additional 20 I Have No Life points!
Step Four:  Realize that there is a plot-hole in your
book and go back to step three.
Bonus Points: If
you don’t become an alcoholic, collect an additional 20 At Least I’m Not an Asshole Like Hemingway points!
Step Five: Get
your book back from the editor and give back your Hemingway points while you
try to get over the stupid, stupid, stupid edits.
Bonus Points: Look,
you’ve got a complete book at this points, you shouldn’t need stupid bonus
points, but hey, if that’s what keeps you going, then take 5 I Need a Cookie points.
Step Six: Release
the book into the wild and realize that you are a winner!
An Unfamiliar Sea will be available on 1.21.20
Tish Yearly just opened a wedding venue on Orcas Island in
Washington State and one of her employees just drowned in four inches of water.
Now it’s up to Tish and her grandfather Tobias Yearly, the 79-year-old ex-CIA
agent and current private investigator, to find out who could have wanted the
sweet waitress dead. 

AN UNFAMILIAR SEA:
PRE-ORDER NOW! 











**

Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel.
You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Three Little Words and why not to use them

There are so many blogs with excellent advice on structure and character. I cannot hope to offer anything new or exciting or insightful. Besides, the way I plot a book is so simple that a first-grader could do it.
There are fewer posts about actual words and how to string them together. I, for one, could have benefited from reading that kind of post when I sat and wrote the first few lines of my first (truly awful) manuscript.
Beginning writers are often told, “Show don’t tell.” Hopefully, I’m not the only one who heard that. Someone else raise their hand. Please.
But what exactly does “show don’t tell” mean? Chekhov demanded, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” 
Stephen King famously noted, “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”
I have neither Chekhov’s gravitas nor King’s sales; what I do have is three little words that I avoid whenever possible.
IT is not my friend. IT is lazy. IT is vague. IT can be boring.
I wanted the package and he gave it to me.
He lifted the beautifully wrapped box with the tips of his fingers, as if pink was a disease, as if frilly might be catching. I snatched my prize from his hands.
TO can be your friend. Or not.
He gave the box to Ann. Perfectly fine.
He decided to give the box to Ann. Not fine. Another not-fine example? He lifted his fingers to touch her cheek. Another? He tried to put the box in her hands but she backed away.
When TO follows a verb—he tried to, wanted to, liked to, meant to—the sentence is most likely telling not showing.
AS, when used as a conjunction, can be problematic.
As he put the box in my hands, my fingers tingled.
As he told me his secret, I rubbed my hands together and swallowed a smile.
In essence, AS says, “this is what he was doing while I was doing that.” Telling.
He put the box in my hands. My fingers tingled and I yanked on the bow.
He whispered the secret. A juicy one. I rubbed my hands together and swallowed a smile.
Watch out for those three little words, edit them out before writing the best two little words—The End.
Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions. 

On writing

Most
authors have a book—or part of a book—that they don’t talk about much. The
project that refused to take wings. The practice manuscript. The story that wrote
itself into a corner. The manuscript lurking
under the bed with the dust lions.
I
have two failures to launch.
The
first is set in the 1920s and was to be a romance between newspaper columnist Tinsley Ledbetter and bootlegger Nick Woodfield.
I
did an inordinate amount of research on the 1920s (I love research. It’s a
rabbit hole that can lure me away from almost anything). I adored the heroine.
I didn’t adore the book. I put it aside.
Fast
forward three plus years.
I
recently looked at Tinsley’s adventures with the idea that she didn’t need
Nick. What she needed was to solve mysteries. 
The
years when Tinsley languished, abandoned and almost forgotten, on a hard-drive
changed my writing.
Before: She forced a laugh. It sounded brittle,
like it might break into hysteria if anyone poked at it, so she hurried to wave
the sound away with a flip of her slim fingers.
After: She forced a laugh. It
sounded brittle, as if it might break into hysteria if anyone poked at it. That
wouldn’t do. She waved the splintery sound away.
The
first change—I used a preposition when I needed a conjunction. Like it might break should have been as if it might break. An easy fix.
The
second change – I added a sentence. That
wouldn’t do.
It gives the reader a peek at Tinsley’s thoughts.
The
third change – I deleted
so she hurried to wave. Why? It’s telling. I told the reader about
Tinsley’s intent. It’s better to show her actually doing something. Namely,
waving.
The fourth
change – I added splintery and
deleted slim fingers from the last sentence. Why? Splintery describes a sound.
Slim described Tinsley’s fingers. The problem? In theory we’re in Tinsley’s
head, would she describe her fingers?

I’m not sure if
Tinsley will emerge from that old hard-drive behind. If she does, I have loads
of work to do.

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions. 

Her next book, Clouds in my Coffee, releases on May 10th.