Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Character action/reaction

When reading contest entries and critiquing new writers' work, I've learned that one of the most difficult things for a writer to perfect in a story is the character's action/reaction. Often the character may react before something happens. Or not react to a situation the way the reader expected.
How does a reader get an expectation of reaction? Motivation. As writers we put characters in situations and give them motivation. Even villains must be motivated to act badly. The hero/heroine/protagonist must react in a manner consistent with their motivation. The reader will fling a book faster than you can say, "...but she acted that way because of something I haven't told you yet." A reader creates your story in their mind based on the character's motivations, goals and conflicts. The ones you put on the page--not the ones that you have in your head. Having a character react out of, well, character, is like listening to someone sing off-key. It is a sure sign that the writer needs to work on their craft.
How can you prevent your writing from sounding off-key? Get out of your head and into your character's. Imagine you are your hero-with all his goals, motivations and conflicts- and you walk into a situation just like the one you are writing. What would you do? How would you react?
As a writer I love this part. I have time to think of snappy come backs or cool actions. In real life there is no do-over. In real life, I usually think of something I should have said or done hours or even days later. But as a writer I can ensure my characters give the best reactions to good and bad situations. I have the time to think of some action or witty dialog that will make the reader fall in love with my character. Yes, this takes time. There is no personality chart, no horoscope or middle child/oldest child chart. There is only you acting out your character as written-not as you want to be written. Would they really say this? Would they really do this? If they must, then you have to go back and motivate it.
Take the time to play pretend. Get into your character's head and before you know it your actions and reactions will ring true.
What tips do you know that will help create "real" actions and reactions?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sept Book Review by Ted

In keeping with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I am reviewing "The Eleventh Day" by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan.
It is very hard for me to try to be objective with this book, because my subjective side keeps turning up. I ask your forgiveness, but you see as I approach my 72nd birthday, I find that I have not lived a day when there was not a war, police action, revolution or military _______________ ( you put in the word (incursion, action, undertaking etc.) I was born about 3 weeks after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, and I won't bore you with the list, but I doubt that there will not be something in Somalia, Lybia, Iraq, or Afganastan going on on December 30th.
This book deals with the heroes of Flight 93. In some ways they were neglected in the massive news coverage of 9/11 both on the day it happened and the 10th anniversary. Yet they were the only ones who consciously were able to do something about this attack on America.
This is a well-written account of the high-jacking and the action of the people on this flight that saved our capitol and foiled the success of the mission of terror. The beauty of the account is that it deals with the individuals ( 14 ) who managed to call their loved one and give them a verbal report of what was going on and what they were doing to stop it. Somehow the 3000+ casualties of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon are for most of us a group of nameless/faceless individauls. We do not know what they thought, or said, or much else. These 3 dozen passangers and crew come to life more easily as we can almost hear them on the cell phones that they used to contact their families. Individuals who are quoted and explain what is happening and what they are trying to do.
If you can stand to take the time to put a face on 9/11 and want to know more about this group, I can not think of a better piece of work than this book.
It is interesting, intriguing, and will hold you attention.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I'm at Bouchercon

This week I will be in St. Louis at Bouchercon. Here is the link: http://bouchercon2011.com. I'm a first timer at this conference but I've been told it is a lot of laid back fun. I'm looking forward to meeting readers and writers. I will tweet about the experience. Follow me at www.twitter.com/nancyjparra or @nancyjparra.
A full report will be on this blog next Tuesday. Have a safe and fun week. Cheers~

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thoughts on the Zombie Apocalypse


(in voodoo)
the body of a dead person given the semblance of life,but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usuallyfor some evil purpose.
the supernatural force itself.

For the last year or so there has been a strong trend toward zombie stories in books, articles, movies, jokes and conventions. There is even a Facebook status game of who will help you or hurt you when the zombie apocalypse comes. Why?
I was never quite sure why until I was doing research on serial killers for a thriller idea I have. There in the book the author spoke about serial killers who kill the poor, homeless, and/or prostitutes. These killers are less interesting to the general public because--as long as we aren't poor, homeless, drug abusers or prostitutes--we feel safe. But serial killers who go after pretty college coeds or suburban housewives are far less accepted and the public will stay on the police until they are caught. Why? Because, the author said, the poor, the homeless, drug abusers, prostitutes, immigrants are all considered the other--the living dead.
That thought made me stop. In these hard economic times with the unemployed competing with the under-employed creating a true jobless rate of close to 16 percent, the numbers of poor and homeless are the highest we've seen since the great depression. Which means subconsciously we know that while we go about our lives more and more people are joining the ranks of the undead. We can feel it in the number of unsold empty homes in our neighborhoods. In fact our next door neighbors just abandoned their big, beautiful, four bedroom, four-story home with granite counter tops. These are two working upper-middle-class people who live right next door to me. We don't know where they went. Are they living in a hotel now? With family? In their car?Whatever happened they may have now fallen into the ranks of the social undead. Kind of a creepy thought, isn't it?
I'm not saying things won't turn around economically. I'm not getting into politics. I like to study human nature and found it interesting that trends in story telling mirror current social happenings. That Middle America fears it will fall into the ranks of the living dead- and those fears translate into fiction.
So, what will be the next trend? Ideas?