Nuggets for May

Patricia Wrede writes one of my favorite blogs. She's had a couple of very good posts lately.
This one about giving depth to your characters is a good reminder to look for missed opportunities.
This one is about following "the rules" off a cliff.

Liv is always generous about sharing what she's figured out.
How to Make your Readers Cry: Anatomy of a Death Scene
She's also got some good tips for creating emotional depth

The Graveyard shift has a fabulous post about how cops watch for lies.
 I Know You're Lying

If you have a character (anything from an MC to a walk on), it's always good to know the cop culture so their appearance will ring true. These two posts from Margaret Taylor will help.
I Have Your Back
Cop Awareness

The Scop has an interesting blog about withholding secrets from the reader.

Romance University has a great post about 10 Ways to Create Vivid, Compelling Characters

DP Lyle, MD always has interesting posts. Planning to stage murder? Using drugs to knock out a character? Want to know about strangulation. This is for you.

Thursday Writing Quote ~ Anais Nin

The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say. - Anais Nin

Has Your Story's Emotional Momentum Stalled?

So I've been reading Karen Marie Moning's fever series. Great series, BTW. I recommend it highly. It's also teaching me things about how NOT to drag out tension.

The first four books are fabulous. I devoured them like I'd win the lottery if I finished and the size of the pot was based on how fast I could read them. Then I got into book 5 (Shadowfever). Almost 600 pages. For the most part, still good. Big climax looming on the horizon. And yet... I'm getting impatient with it.

Here's the thing. Mac, our heroine, is having an identity crisis. Turns out she's not who she always thought she was. She may in fact be the worst thing that could possibly happen to the world. So says the prophecy. She may actually be the source of the world's current ills. Or not. But the evidence is mounting. And mounting. And mounting. And mounting.

Yeah, okay. I get it. Let's get on with the damned story.

But wait... Shouldn't I be sitting on the edge of my seat? Isn't this what all the writing wisdom says, to keep ratcheting up the threat? Yeah, it does. Except this is the same threat over and over. Mac's been fretting about this for awhile. More evidence comes in. Mac frets. Another layer of evidence is added. Mac frets. The evidence gets still stronger. Mac frets. One possible out gets closed, making the worst all the more likely. Mac frets some more. All the angsty fretting starts to feel very been there, done that.

I'm bored with it already.

A terrible thing to say about a series that is, in so many ways, utterly fabulous.

So what's going wrong for me? It's not like things aren't happening. They are. Big things. Things that move the story forward. Is it that there's too much fretting in between those events? 

Well, yes. And no.

The first four books contain a lot that's unexplained, but that's okay. All good books are part mystery.  The Fever series has mysteries galore. Who killed Mac's sister? Why can Mac see through Fairy glamor? Why are parts of Dublin disappearing off the maps and from people's memories? Who is Jericho Barrons? What is Jericho Barrons? (Besides hotter than hell.) We read to discover the answers to those mysteries.

Through the first four books, progress was made toward figuring out those answers. Each small clue was intriguing enough to keep me savoring them. If Mac fretted in those books, I didn't notice. So why now? Is it because Mac has stopped looking for the answers? She has a possible answer to one of the important questions: Who is she? It's not an answer she likes, so instead of trying to find answers, she's now in denial, looking for reasons why the answer isn't true. I think that's okay. It's a valid character response, but it also feels like a roadblock. Wallowing in denial kills the story's emotional momentum.

I find I don't care as much about the story events if the emotional momentum is stalled. I think everything else could be resolved, but I still wouldn't care until the emotional pacing starts moving forward again.

So yes, emotional momentum is one more thing to worry about. Like good story telling isn't a big enough balancing act. But at least knowing it's an issue give us a shot at getting it right.

And yes, book five eventually recovers it's momentum, so I still recommend the series. 

Thursday Writing Quote ~ Ernest Hemingway

When asked what was the most difficult thing about writing, Ernest Hemingway answered:  "Getting the words right."

Thunder and Lightning - A review

Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft
by Natalie Goldberg

I haven't read this author's previous writing books, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within or Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, so I can't compare this book to those. I'd heard of Writing Down the Bones and was mildly curious about it, so when Thunder and Lightning came my way, I was happy to give it a read.

The book has some glowing reviews on Amazon, so obviously it appeals to some people. I'm just not one of them. In spite of the implication of the subtitle, this is more memoir that craft book. Not that there aren't insights into writing here, but they are, in my opinion, few and far between. One observations Goldman makes that struck me is:

I never wanted to write to my grandmother and grandfather. They were my audience my whole childhood, not a beat off. I spoke in the moment and they listened. No gap. Maybe it's the gap, the feeling that someone isn't listening, doesn't get it, has half heard us, that compels us to write and explain. That's why we turn around and speak to our past, as if others can hear us now, as if we can finally hear ourselves and catch our fleeting lives.

While this idea catches at me, it's not vital to know this to be a writer, and that's what I found throughout the book. None of this was vital. It's all very Zen. If that works for you, you may love this. It may be just the inspiration you need. If you're looking for practical advice though, look elsewhere.

Thursday Writing Quote ~ Josh Billings

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment. - Josh Billings