Tag Archive for: writing craft

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Blotter Fodder: “To Save Herself, She Bit the Cop on the Leg

to Go for Ideas When You Are Stuck

by Kathleen Kaska

Need an idea for a short story, blog post,
or a novel? Check out the newspapers. I don’t necessarily mean the front page.
In our town, the most entertaining reading comes from police blotters. The
reports are a wellspring of ideas for writers. Some are written
tongue-in-cheek, and I can imagine the fun police officers must have in
crafting them. 

Recently, the police in a nearby city
uncovered a murder-for-hire plot by an inmate in the county jail who was
enlisting the help of a fellow inmate to murder the man responsible for the first
guy’s incarceration. These were the instructions he gave to the would-be
killer: “Wet him with gasoline; dry him with a match.” That’s a pretty good
line; right out of a Mickey Spillane novel. If this guy ever went straight, he
might make it as a pulp fiction writer.

Or how about this one? A few weeks ago, the
police in my quiet, little town were called to a motel where a woman insisted
they arrest her. She was hiding out from her ex-husband and current boyfriend
who, according to the woman, were plotting to kill her. The cops explained they
could not fulfill her wish because she hadn’t committed a crime. With a
that’s-what-you-think attitude, she began pounding on the windshield of the
squad car. When one of the officers tried to restrain her, she bit him on the
leg. At least for the next few days, the woman had the protection she’d

And another: A guy was shoplifting at
Safeway. When the cops arrived to question him, he made his getaway on a
motorized shopping cart, which he drove down the middle of Commercial Avenue.
The shoplifter received applause from the bystanders who cheered him on as if
he were the Grand Marshall of a parade.

And one more: Several people complained
about a homeless man who was causing a ruckus in a downtown square. The police
arrived and realized the man was arguing and shouting profanities at someone
only he could see. The cops told him to apologize to his imaginary friend. He

End of story.

This is an excerpt from my book, Does Anyone Have a Catharsis Handy? Five-Minute
Writing Tips

Kathleen Kaska is the author of The
Sherlock Holmes Quiz Book
(Rowman & Littlefield Publishing
Group). She is the founder of The Dogs in the Nighttime: Holmes Society of
Anacortes, Washington, a scion of The Baker Street Irregulars. Kathleen writes
the awarding-winning Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Kate Caraway
Mystery Series. Her passion for birds led to the publication The
Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story
. Kathleen’s
collection of blog posts, Do You Have a Catharsis Handy?
Five-Minute Writing Tips
 won the Chanticleer International
Book Award in the non-fiction Instruction and Insights category.

Go to her website and sign up for her newsletter. Look for
her bi-monthly blog: “Growing Up Catholic in a Small Texas Town” because
sometimes you just have to laugh.






New Year, New Decade, New Direction

by AB Plum

Welcome to the New Year, a New
Decade, and a New Direction

No writer’s block here. 

Gazillions of potential blog topics cry for the
Stiletto Gang’s “insights” over the next 365 days. This year, the
Gang has decided to add a new subject: the craft of writing fiction. We expect to
learn a lot from each other. We hope you’ll learn a lot about what goes into
writing word after word after word to evoke an emotional connection between
writer and reader.

Wednesday of each month

Look for a new craft post the first Wednesday of the

I’m up first—sort of like the first baby born each New

characters but names …

For me, the quintessential element of all stories is
characters (not necessarily human). We could do twelve months on developing
fictional characters, but I’m going with names—a subset, really, of that fictional

Also, I’m sort of a names nut. I collect unusual names—from
fiction, celebrities, and movies—pop culture at large. Magnus, The REal McCoy,
Risa, Ryn, Pierce, Detective Nick Ketchum, Bo “Peep”, The Stoned
Wall, and Lavender comprise some of the characters I’ve introduced in various of my
books. Here are a few basic ideas that drive me in finding the
“right” name: 

Names bring characters alive.
I have never written a novel or a short story for
which I didn’t have the main character’s name before
I started writing. Knowing that vital information adds dimension to other
aspects of that character I’ll introduce to readers almost from page one of the
novel. Examples of what a character’s name reveals to me: inner drive, personality,
goals, past secrets, childhood, disappointments, celebrations, etc.
of the best examples of characters whose names fit, IMO, appear in
Gone with the Wind.

O’Hara and Rhett Butler leap off the page when we meet them. The meaning of her
name is obvious (to native English speakers). His Old English name means
“small stream.”

stream” for a force of nature? Scarlett for a woman whose reputation as a
flirt grows worse throughout the novel.
You decide if the names fit the characters.
Names connote animals, places,
position, status, ethnicity, and more.
Wolf, Paris, Judge, Yuri.
I’m still waiting for a character to step
forward for whom I can use Wolf. I know the character type, but I’ve yet to
meet the specific fictional bearer of the name.
Names reflect culture, time, power,
ambiguity, certainty, subtlety and quirkiness

Octavia, Charity, Reina, Madison, Moxie
Crimefighter, Eulalia, Audio Science
I’d love to tell a story featuring a character
named Audio Science (the first-born son of actress Shannyn Sossaman). Maybe he
and Moxie in a romance?
Names reinforce gender, family,
history, religion, values, trends, imagination.
Caesar, Murphy, Napoleon, Lourdes, Peace,
Hannah, Pilot Inspectkor
Pilot Insectkor apparently comes from an indie
song and definitely sparks my imagination. I am still waiting for the right
character to claim the moniker.
Deciding on a name for a character—especially
for the Main Character(s)—is like naming a child. Making the name meaningful is
my first criterion in choosing a handle.

Risa, the heroine in my romantic comedy Prince
of Frogs,
means smile in Spanish. A pediatrician, she’s never met a kid she
didn’t like. Her smile is so big and genuine that her patients never cry when
she gives them their shots.
Nicknames and pet names can add depth,
complexity and insight to a character.
Risa enters the world with a mop of orange-red
The nurses tie a big pink bow on top of her head and present her to her mother with a flourish, proclaiming: La Ti Da! From then on she’s called La Ti Da because she’s so full of life, energy, and joy.
A few of my favorite names for fictional
characters include:
Elvis Cole (Robert Crais)
Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich)
Spenser (Robert Parker)
Temptation, OH (J. Crusie)
Chili Pepper (E. Leonard)
Scarlett O’Hara (M. Mitchell)
Sookie Stackhouse (C. Harris)
Hannibal Lector (Thomas Harris)
What about you—what are some of your favorite characters’
names? Any you hate?

Check back on Wednesday, February 5th
for the next blog on Writing Craft.

AB Plum, aka
Barbara Plum grew up in Southern Missouri. She knew she was in trouble
whenever her mother used her first and middle names in one breath. All three
names (usually yelled) meant a potential time-out until age 21. Her love of
names may have begun with her first puppy, Pickle Puss. Later, ThatCat and
YourCat became favorite felines.
Check out her
dark psychological thrillers and riveting mysteries :  https://abplum.com/
In the mood
for mood for paranormal or contemporary romance:    https://barbaraplumauthor.com/

Actions Speak Much, Much Louder Than Words

I picked up a new craft book (aren’t all
authors addicted to improving their craft?) that has me excited about writing
again. Part of my funk over the winter had been that writing seemed yet another
job – with a long list of Must Do tasks – and like most of you, I had too many
balls in the air already.
I wanted to buckle down and just write the damn
book. I actually had people contact me and ask when the next in the Holly
Price/ So About series would release—which should make me feel happy rather
than pressured. Right?
Anyway, I stumbled over two books titled The
90-Day Novel
Okay then! 90-days! Score! (Is this where
I admit it takes me a year to write a novel?)
The first craft book was a disappointment. It
contained a very summarized rehash of things we’ve all heard a million times.
Set your turning points, make the index cards, park your butt and go.
The other one, by Alan Watt, hit the note I
needed to hear. Step back and consider the possibilities, he recommended. What if…? 

What are you afraid of? Your heroine probably has the same fears. Can you work
with that? Lots (and lots) of 5 minute writing drills occurred during the first
week, but none of it needed to appear directly in the book. I was encouraged to
scribble images, scenes, scene-lets, ideas, whatever. No pressure, because
nobody was going to read or critique it. It was playing with words, which I
hadn’t done in ages. It was diving into what I was passionate about—and how
that drives my story. 
And through the process, the dilemma, which is
the root perception cause of the
problem (which is what your protag thinks
she’s trying to solve) evolves. I realized “trust” is the emotion I needed to
tap into and now, everything else is falling into place. The conflicts between
all my characters really come down to that one, very basic emotion. Trust is
crucial for a relationship. All relationships. Relationships between friends,
family, lovers.
Trust is what happens when actions speak much,
much louder than words. You can’t make
someone trust you. From Holly’s perspective, when others’ actions are
undermining her trust in them, going with what she believes is the right thing to
do will show others she’s trustworthy—and hopefully won’t get her killed. 
I started this craft book adventure in
connection with my own 100×100 challenge (a friend who’s 300 days in inspired
me). The 100×100 challenge is to write at least 100 words every day for 100
days. Three weeks into in, I’ve filled half a spiral notebook. And the scenes,
plot, and subplots are coming into focus. 
your writing going this summer?

Perkins is currently working on Book Two in the Holly Price/So About series. So
About the Money
was blessed by readers and booksellers with the Award of
Excellence – Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. 

A spin-off in that
series, Malbec Mayhem features one of the secondary characters and is available