Tag Archives: Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Second Wind Authors

Torture Your Characters

“Torture your characters more,” she told me after we talked for fifteen minutes about the book I’d just finished writing.

More? I thought. Torture her more?! I’d already done some irreparable damage to her physically, and mentally she was a total mess, I thought. What more could I realistically do to this poor character. People don’t go through that much torture in so short a time, not in real life…

But, the thing is, they do.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but we live in a horribly broken world. People, good people, are tortured every day by disease, accidents, relationships, good decisions, bad decisions, inevitable decisions…

They say it never just rains, and clichés are cliché for a reason, aren’t they?

I was reminded of that this week. Through conversations with new people, but then it struck home when someone I love, someone dear to my heart, was dealt more torture than I thought fair for one person. From cars dying suddenly to fights with insurance agents she was already battling with the trials of being a new mom and then suddenly she found herself unexpectedly rushing to the emergency room with a close family member…and honestly, that’s not even the half of it. They’ve had enough torture to fill the pages for days to come.

So why on Earth would people want us to torture our characters then? Aren’t they sick of that from their own lives? They experience it themselves—why live through it with characters too?

I thought about this, and concluded that characters who experience life difficulties remind us of two things:

  • We are not alone in our pain.
  • Things always get better after the rain.

In the midst of pain, it is so easy to forget that there are others who share our burdens, sorrows, and even our experiences. There are those who DO know what we are going through and CAN give us hope. Sometimes we aren’t willing to hear that from our friends, so fiction can help—at least until we are ready to go back to our real world again.

Both of these lessons are hard to hold on to when you are going through the fire yourself, but when you’ve connected to a favorite character whose gone through the flames and come out on the other side refined, and not burned, it helps us remember that we can too.

So go ahead, writers, torture your characters. And readers, remember, it’s going to be OK.


Ashley Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow, a Christian Romance which can be purchased at Second Wind Publishing or Amazon. Follow Ashley on twitter @amcarmichael13 and Facebook.

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Creating a Believable Science-Fiction Environment by Dellani Oakes

When introducing a new planet, the author needs to keep several things in mind:

What’s the scale?

Is it bigger than Earth?
Smaller than Mercury?

What is the climate like?

Temperature, rainfall, etc.
What sort of atmosphere has it got?
Will they need survival suits, oxygen, etc?
Is it a verdant, lovely place, hot and dry or cold and unrelenting?

How many moons or suns?

Distance from the sun?

Is it capable of sustaining human life?

Is it completely hostile to humans?

What is the indigenous population like?

Are they sentient?
Deadly?
Welcoming?
Ignorant of outer space?
Are they humanoid?
Do they look like giant cats, bugs or leeches?
What is their home environment?
Can they vocalize or are they telepathic?

How do your characters get from Point A to Point B?

What sort of vehicles are there?
Do they have to travel by horse (or planet’s equivalent)?
Must they walk?
Are there well maintained roads?
Do the vehicles need roads?
What’s the terrain like?

What is your level of technology? Not all futuristic worlds are the same. One need only watch TV shows or movies to see the vast differences in approach.

Is yours a post apocalyptic world (Resident Evil, Book of Eli,    Planet of the Apes)?
Are machines in charge (Terminator)?
Is it a more utopian society (Star Trek)?
Is it highly technical or more rustic (Firefly, Farscape)?
Are the characters at war (Battlestar Galactica)?

Social strata:

Is there slavery?
Are all inhabitants given equal rights?
How does the indigenous population regard humans?
Are there classes or casts? Is it possible to advance?
Is it a monarchy? Democracy? Dictatorship? Communist society? Anarchy? Religious fanatic? Autocracy? Something completely different and unique to them?

Not all of these characteristics need to be mentioned in your story to make it believable. The author must know what kind of environment the characters are in. How they react to their environment or how it acts upon them can make a huge difference in a story. Characters will not behave the same way in a jungle that they will in the frozen wasteland. If the space is confined, that makes a difference too.

Place rules and adhere to them. If you say the sky is purple, the grass is blue and water is pink, then don’t violate that later. If you’re going to get this off kilter, though, have a ready explanation for it. Some readers will question when the setting is too bizarre. Your readers must be willing to suspend their disbelief and embrace their new environment. Don’t make the mistake of creating a setting so odd that it makes the readers focus on that instead of the action.

***

This article is anthoNovel Writing Tips and Techniqueslogized in the Second Wind Publishing book: NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING, which was the 100th book released by Second Wind.

“As someone who constantly evaluates novels for publication, I was astonished at the breadth and clarity of the wonderful advice contained in this handbook. It addresses concerns as grand as plot development and as simple but essential as formatting your submission. It offers crucial advice on literary topics ranging from character development to the description of action. Virtually every subject that is of great concern to publishers — and therefore to authors — is covered in this clear, humorous and enormously useful guide.” –Mike Simpson, Chief Editor of Second Wind Publishing

***

(Dellani Oakes is the author of Lone Wolf and Shakazhan. Both science fiction novels are published by Second Wind Publishing).

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How To End a Story by Lazarus Barnhill

What about a good ending? Here are the final paragraphs of Charlie Cherry’s Ninth Step, a work that will be coming out in the spring of 2014 from Second Wind:

Susan answered the door, barefoot and wearing the clothes she had worn to school that morning, her shirttail out.

“Charlie!”

“Hi.”

“Uh—did you—did you find her?”

“Yep.” He nodded. “I did.”

“Are you—did she—”

He shook his head. “She’s remarried.”

“Oh.” She tried not to show the relief that spread across her face. “What about Sloan? What about, you know, your amends?”

“Well,” he said slowly, “I can tell you all about all that. But that’s not really the reason I came back.”

Susan slouched against the doorframe. There was a hint of anger in her voice. “Just looking for a cheap place to spend the night?”

“Not really.” He looked over his shoulder at the Mazda. “You have a week-and-a-half off beginning now, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she replied cautiously.

“Well, I got my doings done and I’ve still got the better part of two weeks myself. I have a few hundred bucks just burning a hole in my pocket, and I was wondering if you’d like to go down to San Antone and walk the river with me.”

For a moment she hovered in the doorway. She stepped toward him and leaned forward, looping her arms around his neck and pressing her lips to his.

She breathed at length and said, “Do you want to leave in the morning?”

“Well look. We kind of rushed into things last night. Surely we can slow down and do thing a little more romantically.”

Her expression was curious. “More romantic than last night? Like how?”

“Well, let’s go pack your stuff, and I’ll take you for a moonlight ride with the top open on my rocket. We’ll cruise on down to this barbeque house I found in Dallas. Best pecan pie I’ve had in fifteen years.”

She was smiling, her arms a swing and her face moving gently a few inches beneath his. “Then what?”

“Well, then we’ll drive on down the road ‘til we find just the perfect spot to spend the night.”

“Salado.”

He shrugged. “Wherever you want, darlin’.”

They kissed, a deep, sweet kiss. He straightened.

“Come on now. I’ll help you.”

She turned and went inside. He watched her graceful steps. “Pack light. I imagine I’ll be picking you out a few things. How do you suppose you’d look in one of those white senorita dresses?”

“A senorita with freckles?”

“I love freckles. . . . Susan?”

“Yes?”

“How do you feel about stepchildren?”

Before we talk about what’s right (I hope) with the passage above, let’s talk about what can go wrong with the ending of a story. If we put our heart’s blood into writing a manuscript, we need to make sure we don’t bleed out before we reach the end of the story.

First, there is no “happily ever after” if we are writing for adults. In this sense, Margaret Mitchell did a better job of ending Gone with the Wind than Shakespeare did with Hamlet. At the bittersweet ending of GWTW, Scarlett is torn with grief and guilt, and yet clinging to hope. The story has come to an end, but the reader is left yearning for more. Indeed readers immediately and constantly clamored for a sequel. There could never be a sequel to Hamlet—everybody was dead. Killing off your main characters is often (as demonstrated by the current most popular male romance author) just another way of not having to deal with the complexity of human life. Hollywood movies, of course, are the land of “happily-ever-after-pat-ending-where-the-good-prevail-and-the-bad-get-what-they-have-coming.” But if you decide your story is going to be more real-to-life than a Hollywood blockbuster, you as an author have to decide to give your readers what the story allows you to give them.

In the passage above from Charlie, I give my readers multiple resolutions to several issues the main character faced throughout the story: what became of the girl he loved and was violently separated from in high school; what will he do to the vicious adult who beat him mercilessly when he was a teenager; what will happen between him and the girl who secretly loved him in his youth? In each case the result was not what the reader might have suspected. My intention is that the reader find the ending surprising, hopeful, plausible, uplifting and fun.

Another huge, disappointing mistake authors make is that the ending does not live up to the buildup of the narrative. There is a famous horror author who does a splendid job of building suspense and anticipation throughout his overly long novels, only to have them fall flat time and again because of really lame endings. Your ending has to be as big as the story that precedes it. When readers hear Charlie, above, promise Susan he’s going to tell her what happened to him that day, they know that she will be astonished—just as they were surprised—to hear what he found out in the previous few hours.

Finally, leave your readers wanting more. All of the major questions and issues Charlie Cherry faced at the beginning of his story have been resolved by the end, but the resolution is intended to make the reader want to know what happened next in the characters’ lives. I’m not suggesting that you leave yourself an opening for a sequel—although books do sell better if they are part of a series. Rather I’m saying that you want your readers, after they finish that last line, to keep wondering what will become of these characters they’ve come to know, with whom they’ve experienced adventures.

So a good ending 1) is plausible, realistic and complete enough to satisfy all the main themes of the story without solving all the world’s problems, 2) has an ending that is as big and satisfying in its resolution as the story that precedes it, and 3) leaves your readers brooding about the characters and events and feeling sorry that the story has ended.

And that, I think, is a good place to end the essay.

***

This article is anthoNovel Writing Tips and Techniqueslogized in the Second Wind Publishing book: NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING, which was the 100th book released by Second Wind.

“As someone who constantly evaluates novels for publication, I was astonished at the breadth and clarity of the wonderful advice contained in this handbook. It addresses concerns as grand as plot development and as simple but essential as formatting your submission. It offers crucial advice on literary topics ranging from character development to the description of action. Virtually every subject that is of great concern to publishers — and therefore to authors — is covered in this clear, humorous and enormously useful guide.” –Mike Simpson, Chief Editor of Second Wind Publishing

***

Lazarus Barnhill is the author of Lacey Took a Holiday, The Medicine People, and Come Home to Me, Child (with Sally Jones).

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How To Begin a Story by Lazarus Barnhill

Novels, novellas and short stories are very distinct literary forms. O. Henry’s short story The Gift of the Magi is hugely different in its construction from Tolstoy’s War and Peace. One would be tempted to say that, as different types of literature, they have virtually nothing in common.

The longest epic and the shortest tale, however, can have two enormously important things in common: they can engage the reader from the beginning and they can leave the reader satisfied but wanting more at the end. In this brief essay I’d like to share my ideas about what makes workable beginnings and endings. I think these ideas are universal in that they apply to creative fiction regardless of its genre, setting or length.

A key idea expressed to me repeatedly by the folks at Second Wind is that my story should grab and hold the attention of the reader from the very first line. As one of the editors expressed it to me, the first line should seduce the reader deeply into the narrative. I’ve been told that a good example of this is the first line of my novel Lacey Took a Holiday:

She woke up realizing she had been sleeping in a bed smaller and softer than the one in which she made her living, and that she was wearing the sort of flannel nightgown she hadn’t worn since she was a little girl.

What’s good about this sentence? It begins a story with no build up (back story). Another way this is described is in media res (“in the middle of things”). Speaking for myself, I find that introductions, forwards, preludes, prologues or whatever you want to call them tend to slow down the process of a story. True, there are a lot of great novels with prologues (Brad Stratton’s White Lies is one; so is Nicole Bennett’s Ghost Mountain. These two novels, however, each use their prologue to describe a crime and they do so with no back story whatever. In this they are exceptions that prove the rule).

In the text above, the reader immediately knows something about the character being described, the setting and even a little of the history of the character. An author should be able to weave back story into the narrative as it moves along. By the bottom of the first page, the reader knows a lot more about the woman being described, but not because the author has blatantly explained it. I have found that readers will be quite attentive and sleuth out the things they want to know about your characters, which will further draw them into the story.

This leads to the concept I call “introductory mystery”: the beginning paragraphs of a story, regardless of its length, deposit curiosity in the mind of the reader so that she/he will be drawn along into the narrative at least long enough to discover why a character said something or reacted in a certain manner. One example of this appears in the opening pages of Come Home to Me, Child, the crime/mystery novel I co-authored with Sally Jones. Within half a page the main character, Elaine, is interrupted and overwhelmed by her new neighbor, Police Chief Larry Daughtry. As the narrative continues after Daughtry abruptly walks away, Elaine asks Tim Starling, her contractor, to explain this intrusive man with whom he has long been acquainted:

“What about the chief?”

“He went into the Marines. Became a military policeman or shore patrol—whatever they call ‘em. Did three or four hitches and came back to work in law enforcement around here. He started as a Cochran County deputy and, about five years ago when the chief’s spot came open in Veil, he was the natural choice. I guess.”

“He seemed happier to see you than you were to see him.”

Starling chuckled. “I always thought Larry was a kind of a thug. He bullied me. Not that he was the only one.” He began to stretch his tape measure along the yard. “It’s the divine right of football players to torment band guys.”

Although the contractor’s explanation satisfies the introductory mystery of what sort of person has just barged into Elaine’s life, the story proceeds to plant more elements to hook the reader’s curiosity: why does the officer know so very much about her family; why is he so interested in her recent medical problems; and why is the police chief so interested in Elaine’s plan to move her gazebo twenty feet across the yard? These seeds of mystery blossom through the course of the narrative in ways intended to gratify the reader’s curiosity, but also to draw him/her ever deeper into the story.

As the police chief in his oppressive manner reveals to Elaine just how much he knows about her and her family, the reader is also learning the back story of what brought the main character to this place at this time and what is happening in her life. If, as an author, you can keep the pacing and dialogue smooth and natural—allow subject matter to emerge as it would in the flow of normal conversation—the narrative will give ample opportunity to simultaneously reveal the back story of the characters even as you develop them and their relationships.

So a good beginning 1) seduces the reader further into the story, 2) begins with narrative at the expense of back story, 3) plants elements of mystery in the reader’s mind—some to be quickly revealed even as seeds of greater mystery are planted, and 4) reveals back story through the narrative process so as to introduce the reader to the characters without impeding the process of the story itself.

***

This article is anthoNovel Writing Tips and Techniqueslogized in the Second Wind Publishing book: NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING, which was the 100th book released by Second Wind.

“As someone who constantly evaluates novels for publication, I was astonished at the breadth and clarity of the wonderful advice contained in this handbook. It addresses concerns as grand as plot development and as simple but essential as formatting your submission. It offers crucial advice on literary topics ranging from character development to the description of action. Virtually every subject that is of great concern to publishers — and therefore to authors — is covered in this clear, humorous and enormously useful guide.” –Mike Simpson, Chief Editor of Second Wind Publishing

***

Lazarus Barnhill is the author of Lacey Took a Holiday, The Medicine People, and Come Home to Me, Child (with Sally Jones).

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Weather

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

IMPLEMENTING WEATHER AND ATMOSPHERE

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

Atmosphere is a captivating way to introduce a scene. Try featuring weather to enhance the tone for a setting.

During one of the last chapters of STACCATO, Nicholas confronts the man he always thought of as his closest friends—who turns out to be the co-conspirator in the death of his love. The end of the scene takes place outside the morgue. A storm is brewing in the North Carolina night:

“Why? Nicholas shouted. “Tell me, you bastard. Why did this happen?”

Sampte kept his chin tucked to his chest, refusing to look at Nicholas.

A flash of lightning lit the area, halting all action for a moment. A deafening crack, followed by a train-like rumble resounded through the trees.

When Sampte raised his head, Nicholas searched the man’s eyes for any clues. Instead, he recognized the flat, resolved gaze, rivaling a look only Alexander could brandish.

To Nicholas, Sampte’s silence seemed louder than the thunder.

In SNARE the implication of a storm is introduced when Steven Hawk takes in a vision as he arrives in Taos, New Mexico. The danger for Katina remains and he has no idea what he will encounter in the days ahead:

As the vehicle approached the airport exit, Hawk noticed a massive billowing white cloud high in the air that encompassed a third of his vision. The formation reminded him of a natural Hiroshima bomb mushroom. He hoped the duality of beauty versus tragedy wasn’t an omen of what was to come and pushed aside the troublesome thought.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Settings & Mood

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Captivating Settings

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

MOOD TO CONVEY SURROUNDINGS

At the top of chapter 22 in STACCATO the lead investigators witness the surroundings where Nicholas’s vehicle is found:

Hawk and Stiles arrived to a scene bathed in generator-driven white-blue spotlights. County vehicles were parked on U.S. Highway 74, resembling a young boy’s scattered toys. The cruisers’ revolving red and blue lights added to the eerie glow.

One hundred yards below the roadway, officers milled about on the muddy bank of the Nantahala River. They searched the area around the crushed vehicle, barely recognizable as a black Porsche. The sports car sat precariously on the riverbank, suspended by a cable attached to the rear of a tow truck.

White-capped ripples rushed past, glinting in the moon’s light. It had been hours since the Porsche had been discovered, but the scene still buzzed with activity.

This is an example of mood conveyed within setting at the top of chapter 57 in SNARE:

Hawk’s shoulder throbbed. Shooting pains that ripped to the bone brought tears to his eyes. The smell of fresh coffee and baking pie would normally be inviting, but instead, his stomach churned in a cataclysm of nerves. Every sound seemed amplified. Even the clock over the stove ticked louder than he thought possible.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Foreshadowing

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Foreshadowing

By
Nancy A. Niles
Author of:

Vendetta: A Deadly Win

Foreshadowing is one of those techniques that seem to come naturally and effortlessly to most writers. It is something that happens often in real, everyday life and can be blatantly obvious or so subtle that it can easily be overlooked.

Foreshadowing has been described as being hints of what’s to come. These hints can be delivered by the author through narrative. They can be spoken by the characters. They can take the form of thoughts in the POV character’s mind. They can be symbolic. They can come through the sense of smell, the sense of sight and hearing. Usually a writer’s imagination is the limit when it comes to foreshadowing.

Verbal Foreshadowing is when the hint is said through dialogue such as one character asking the other if so and so still carries a gun, or as subtle as asking if so and so is still taking medication. These examples leave the reader wondering if that character is going to shoot someone or wondering what would happen if he/she stopped taking the medication, or if the medication could somehow make her/him change in some way, maybe become violent, or at the very least, unpredictable. The reader then expects something to happen from this foreshadowing and it cranks up the suspense. These gems can be interspersed throughout the novel to bring interest and a bit of intrigue to the story.

Foreshadowing Through Inappropriate Responses. This is done through having one or more characters react to stimuli in an inappropriate manner, such as, in a fearful situation, the character, instead of showing fear shows amusement. What is going on? Has the character set up the other character for a downfall? Has the character been scared into insanity? This type of foreshadowing tells the reader that more is going on and prepares them for the unexpected.

Foreshadowing Through Thoughts in the main character’s mind can give hints of what may be coming. Such as, “I wondered where he had been. Some said he’d been away on a vacation. But I could never find out where exactly he’d gone. Camp Fed? Or the Good Shepherd Home For The Silly? Wherever he’d gone he seemed to have gotten a new lease on life. He seemed more determined, more purposeful, as though he had plans. But for what? Revenge? Did he have murder on his mind or was my imagination working overtime?” Well, you get the point. The main  character can lead the reader anywhere through her thoughts and a little paranoia is always called for especially in the PI genre.

Foreshadowing Through a Character’s Fears is closely related to foreshadowing through the character’s thoughts. However, the fear factor makes the foreshadowing more ominous. And again, in the PI genre the detective is usually cynical and expecting the worst, not believing anyone or anything.

Symbolic or Paranormal Foreshadowing can be something that the main character brings to the reader’s attention. In the horror genre I’ve noticed many times the author will tell the reader of legends surrounding certain animals. Such as, crows are the harbinger of death. They supposedly carry the dead person’s spirit to the other side. And then lo and behold a flock of crows appears just as the main character is setting out on her journey. Or make it one crow who is hunched on a fence post, its beady obsidian eyes tracking the main character. In that instance, less is definitely more. Actually, the author can make up their own legends and feed them into the story. Or the more subtle approach could be an icy touch of wind on the back of the main character’s neck when they look into the eyes of the antagonist.

Which leads me to another type of foreshadowing: Bodily Reactions in Foreshadowing. Who hasn’t read a book where a chill goes down the spine of the main character, or the main character experiences a shortness of breath at the mention of a name? It is both a subtle type of foreshadowing and also rather obvious. It tells the reader to be warned, something is not quite right, and who among us has never felt a chill at certain times that turned out to be a warning?

Foreshadowing Through Smell, Sight and Hearing. This is also called setting the stage, or using setting as character. In the PI genre the setting is usually as haunting as the haunted main character. The PI is in the streets that teem with the smell of fear, violence and decay. You just know the main character is in an unsafe place and violence is expected. Sounds of people fighting, guns going off, etc., also foreshadow danger. Smell can let the reader know someone is smoking marijuana, or the stink of whisky, or even the copper smell of blood can lead the reader to expect certain things to come.

This is a great way to foreshadow. Especially with the sense of smell since smell is so closely connected to memory. The author can have the main character smell bodies being burned and then find out that it isn’t bodies, but it’s the Fourth of July and there are barbecues happening. The main character interpreted the smell from a memory that still haunts him of the Vietnam War and witnessing people being burned alive. This type of foreshadowing gives the reader a window into the main character’s mind and past experiences. It can foreshadow a tenuous grip on reality and make the reader nervous for the main character.

Foreshadowing Using the Weather and Dreams, Or Through Finding Something Out Of Place. An impending storm or natural disaster is a good way to foreshadow a possible upcoming suspenseful event. Dreams can warn the main character and the reader of something coming and finding an article out of place can foreshadow mischief. And who among us hasn’t seen that solitary shoe out of place on the highway and wondered what happened to the owner?

I’m sure there are many more ways to foreshadow. In my novel Vendetta: A Deadly Win I used foreshadowing throughout the book.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Organizational Tools

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Organizational Tools: Name Charts

By
Coco Ihle
Author of:
She Had to Know

As a reader, quite often I find in my hurry to get into a new book, I race over character names and then get confused later about who is doing what. When character’s names start with the same letter, the confusion is compounded. I’ve had to discipline myself to take my time learning the names as they are introduced, thus avoiding backtracking. My reading experience is also enhanced by investing my thoughts in these people from the start.

As a writer, I decided to make it as easy as possible for readers to meet my characters in a way they would remember. To accomplish this, I introduced married people as a couple, gave some distinguished description for the lone individuals and made sure names were not similar. I also wrote out a background profile for characters who appeared, both major and minor. That way, their names fit their personalities and thus are easier to recall for the reader.

A really handy tool I used early on was a chart I made, divided into two vertical columns. The left heading read: “First Names of Characters.” The right, “Last Names of Characters.” I started with the letters of the alphabet on the extreme left, A-Z down the page and did the same for the right column. Next to the alphabet letters I filled in my character names, first names in the left column and last in the right column. This gave me a visual of what letters I used for my names. It’s quite easy to repeat letters unconsciously and this is an easy way to catch those repetitions. I had to change character names as a result of this exercise, but it has eliminated problems for my readers. I even included page numbers (in parenthesis) next to a name of a lesser used character in order to find him/her later when rewriting or editing.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Interior and Exterior Settings

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Interior and Exterior Settings

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

BE CONCISE IN DESCRIBING INTERIOR SETTINGS

Let the reader become comfortable. Show them the room or area your characters will inhabit. For instance, in SNARE, the reader learns quite a lot the first time we meet Katina’s nemesis, her father who has just been released after seventeen years in prison after killing her mother:

In a flophouse off 37th Street, Karl Brandt lay on the thin mattress in his third-story room studying a discolored splotch on the ceiling. The quiet made him uneasy and restless. Muffled street sounds urged him from the bed. He wrenched the window open and sat on the radiator beneath the glass to watch the strangers below. Accustomed to seeing only prisoners’ orange jumpsuits or correctional officers’ bland uniforms, he still had difficulty taking in the brightly colored clothing of the passersby.

 

In STACCATO, this is what the unofficial mortician of Swain County, North Carolina, finds in his morgue:

Once inside the morgue, he wedged a straight-back chair under the knob. He flipped on the light switch and the fluorescents hummed and flickered, then bathed the room in its flat, blue light. Henri’s mouth dropped open. He froze, gaping in disbelief. Six, black plastic-covered bundles seemed to swallow the light.

TAKE YOUR READER “THERE” WITH EXTERIOR SETTINGS

 You have the opportunity as a writer to take readers where they may have never visited before. This is a perfect way to show exactly what you wish to convey.

In SNARE, Hawk experiences Katina’s upbringing when he sees the traditional structures on the Taos Pueblo Indian reservation:

Two massive structures bookended a narrow creek. He counted five stories of staggered, uneven rooflines covered in more of the smooth mud, the levels stacked on top of each other like twin rectangular tiered cakes. Doors the color of turquoise marked openings in the walls.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Captivating Settings

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Captivating Settings

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

One of the most important elements for any writer is to establish a “voice”—one that is recognizable, and somewhat expected by the reader as you continue to present more works. The ideal way to imprint your particular voice, cadence, tempo, tone is by setting your scenes. Once you truly place the reader at the location, whether it is a city, neighborhood, store or house, they become comfortable and willing to take the journey with the characters you present.

I write psychological suspense thrillers, therefore ominous settings are crucial in my novels. In this chapter you will find examples from STACCATO and SNARE to give you an idea of my personal writing voice when it comes to settings.

It is important to put the reader at ease and to give them a visual at the beginning of each chapter, especially the first time the location is presented.

The first scene of STACCATO, our hero, the twenty-year-old world-class pianist Nicholas Kalman discovers his father’s journal hidden away in the music room of the mentor who has raised him for a decade:

Compelled by the words, he found it impossible to re-shelve the book, or to dismiss the pages as utter fiction. He wondered what the written implications meant for him. Reading his father’s recollections, he had fallen under their spell. His father warned of the seductive elements to be cautious of—things that had already ensnared Nicholas.

Looking around, he recognized what his father had described as cunning manipulations of deceiving comfort: first edition books exhibited within walnut cases surrounding him in a ritualistic circle, the ebony Steinway grand piano that sat regally upon a platform in the middle of the music room, exactly as the writings stated. The details even noted how flames from the fireplace bathed the Pakistani rug in an amber glow.

In the introduction scene, first pages of SNARE, we meet eight-year-old Katina Salvo and within a few paragraphs discover the life she is burdened with in 1995:

She wished for a radio or record player, anything that might drown out the sounds. She wondered how long this fight would last. There had been so many in the past few weeks. They seemed to get worse each time.

Streaked ivory wallpaper peeled near the heat register in the cramped bedroom, furnished only with a twin-sized bed and scuffed desk. The room displayed none of the comforts the few kids she knew took for granted. A tattered, handmade quilt, passed down from her father’s mother, offered the only color in the room. Its unraveling edge brushed against the frayed braided rug on the floor.

Both of these examples provide setting information for the reader, and the details show insights to what have formed these characters as people.

Every element you introduce must be used somewhere within the novel you are writing. Think of this as foreshadowing what will come. Make certain that each prop (such as furniture) introduced is instrumental and will be used later in the novel. The point is not to introduce anything that will not be useful to the reader. Be careful of “info-dumping” when it comes to creating your settings.

For instance in SNARE, this is the description of the stage where Katina Salvo will perform live for the first time—where chaos soon ensues:

Stage lights were now set for a mere amber glow and soon she could make out a knot of people near the stage opening at the farthest end of the wings. As she moved to them, she noticed someone had closed the main curtain and she realized the effect would add to the mystery. It would also provide a much more dramatic entrance than if the drape were already open.

In STACCATO, Nicholas’s nemesis, Alexander Boden, is described in the setting Nicholas always thought of as home, where terror now reigns. This passage is described within the journal by Nicholas’s father that the son has discovered adds to the suspense that follows:

Lips holding an easy smile. Clothes flawless and crisp, shoes polished like mirrors, cufflinks gleaming in tailored shirts. The cane tapping.

Tap. Tap. Tap. You hear it approaching, but you can’t escape.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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