I had so much fun last weekend! Letting me tell you all about it…
(Previously posted on Austin Mystery Writers)
Last Saturday I attended a writer’s workshop at Book People, sponsored by Mystery People and the Austin chapter of Sisters In Crime. I honestly didn’t think I’d learn much new. But I was wrong. *Note- Between classes we had drawings for giveaways like books and tote bags!
It started with George Wier speaking about writing action scenes. He’s literally a pro at this. Just read any of his books. (www.billtravismysteries.com) It wasn’t about how to describe a blow-by-blow fistfight. It was more about how to add tension to a scene, how to make it move along. I don’t know about you, but I like bullet points. So I’ll share my notes in that manner.
- Before you can add action, you must put the reader in the moment. They won’t follow anything if they aren’t there. To accomplish this, describe the lay of the land and the surroundings.
- What are the results of the action? There should be consequences or the reader won’t care.
- The scene must have a beginning, middle, and end.
- Don’t describe things in terms of time. (aka- three hours later). Believe it or not, that doesn’t do anything for the reader. Time isn’t as tangible as distance. “They walked down a flight of stairs.” Is much easier for the reader to see and instantly understand.
- Perception is everything. Use all the senses. Have your characters be aware of their breathing, their surroundings, sounds, pain, everything.
The idea of writing about distance instead of time interests me. All of the things listed above make sense, but the idea that the reader can intuitively understand distance better than the concept of time is fascinating.
Scott Montgomery of Book People recommended the book, The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. He said it was a good example of what Wier was talking about.
Cutting up between classes. Friend and author Billy Kring dropped by. He’s trying to distract me while George Wier looks on.
The guys behaving for Terry’s talk.
Next at the workshop was Terry Shames. She gave us many tips on how to writing compelling settings. And she should know. She does an excellent job of describing the Texas town where her Samuel Craddock series takes place. (www.terryshames.com) I came away with the concept of interior settings and exterior settings. No, not what a living room looks like, interior as in what’s going on inside a character. (More bullet points!)
- Treat your scenes as characters.
- The way to make your story interesting is to show how the interior setting (of characters) intersect with the exterior setting. How would someone from a Texas ranch interact with the people and setting of New York city? How would that same person act in their own hometown?
- The devil is in the details. Immerse the reader in the setting. You don’t have to do an information dump. (Please don’t.) But you can provide things like smells and sounds.
- If you aren’t familiar with a place, research it. Talk to people who know the place.
- Above all, know how your characters would interact with the setting. Someone who almost drowned would have a different reaction to falling in the water than someone who is an Olympic swimmer. So Know Your Characters!
- Every scene should try to have-
- Physical description of setting
- Physical description of characters
- Internal thinking
- Internal physical descriptions.
- A good rhythm of a scene would be: 2/1/2, 4/3/5, 6/2/1. Try it and see what happens.
Brent and James. Looking forward to reading their books.
After lunch we gathered for the last class about collaboration. Brent Douglass and James Dennis, two of the three authors who make up the persona of Miles Arecenaux (www.milesarceneaux.com), led a funny discussion on their journey of collaborative writing. They started their first book back in the days before email. Thank goodness the days of mailing a manuscript back and forth are gone. Thank you email! So what are their tips?
- Don’t be afraid to be honest with each other. Actually, they said to be brutally honest. Treat each other like siblings.
- Play up to your partners’ strengths. You are different people with different experiences. You that to your advantage.
- Work to maintain “one voice” for your book. It will get easier with practice but it will also take many edits to achieve this.
- Defer to people with experience. (Again, take advantage of your partner’s strengths.)
- It helps to build accountability. If you know that you’re expected to get your part done by a certain time and the others are counting on you, you better do it.
- Broadcast gratitude. Not only show gratitude to your partners, show gratitude to other writers.
(Collaborating sounds interesting. I think I’d like to take a stab at that just for fun.)
The last event was a panel discussion that was very informal. It was about publishing, marketing, and networking. Honestly, I was so caught up in listening, I forgot to take notes! All the speakers were charming, personable, and informative. It was worth every moment that I was there.
Gale Albright helped put it all together and did the raffle.
George answering questions between classes.
Terry and Scott
I’d like to say thank you to Book People and Scott Montgomery of Mystery People for hosting us!
Posted in Event and tagged Austin Mystery Writers, Billy Kring, Book People, Brent Douglass, Gale Albright, George Wier, James Dennis, Laura Oles, Miles Areceneaux, Mystery People, Samuel Craddock, Scott Montgomery, Terry Shames by VP with .
The other day I had the “privilege” of sitting at the DPS office (DMV to most folks) and got to do one of my favorite things, people watch. The DPS office is one of the best places to see folks from all walks of society- men, women, immigrants, teens, and the elite. (Although, I don’t think I saw any high society types that day.)
And as I surreptitiously watched from the corners of my eyes (Do you think they thought I was creepy?) I came to a conclusion. You can’t really judge a person by what they wear, what hairstyle they have, or even their body language.
Why? I saw two guys who were dressed similar, looked about the same age, both even leaned against the wall in the same manner, but they gave off very different vibes. I couldn’t put my finger on it for a while. What made them different? And then I realized, it was the eyes. The guy who gave off a “danger” vibe wasn’t frowning, grimacing or pressing his lips together. He wasn’t wringing his hands like a villain in a penny dreadful. There was no sign of animosity on his face, but his made me want to stay away from him. The other young man had several tattoos, but his eyes were kind. It was fascinating.
At that moment I thanked my “lizard brain” for the eons of evolution that gave me the ability to pick up on potential danger.
I believe it’s a part of our makeup that we tend to ignore in our modern “polite” society. How many times on the news have your heard people say, “I was picking up a weird vibe. I don’t know why, but I knew something just wasn’t right about that person. I wish I had listened.” I think this is particularly true when it comes to women. We’re taught to be nice to everyone. Please follow your instincts!
Don’t worry, no major drama happened. No one knew I was watching. But in the future I think I’ll be paying more attention to the eyes. Maybe the proverb is right, maybe they really are windows to our souls.
Have you ever had a moment when your gut was telling you of danger? I’d love to hear your story.
Posted in Observations and tagged crazy eyes, danger, Gilt Ridden by VP with .
I’m so pleased about this that I had to include this news in a post!
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a part of the Writer Unboxed family. I’m not a contributor but I work behind the scenes on the website and the Facebook page. So needless to say I’ve made some close friends in the past few years.
WU just celebrated its tenth year as a top-rated blog for writers. Those years have been filled with good advice and personal connections with other writers in a way that’s hard to describe. It’s such a wonderful and uplifting group, perhaps “soulful” best describes it.
So a book filled with the advice from the contributors has to be good. I can’t wait! You can read more about it at Writer Unboxed. WU Anthology
Posted in Writing by VP with .
Or also known as-
Yes, I Know There Are A Lot Of Snakes In My Novel, But That’s How Many There Really Were
(I think I’ll stick to the first title, it’s shorter.)
(Warning: if reading about snakes or killing snakes bothers you, don’t read further.)
So the critiques from my betas for Gilt Ridden are trickling in. (Actually, they’re all in. I’m just being pokey about getting through them.) And the comments are pretty much what I thought they’d be. Which makes me happy. It means that what I was feeling about the writing is what readers felt too.
And as with any novel that has some moments based on real events, there is a balancing act between showing the true facts and writing what is best for the story. While writing the scenes in which my main character is either killing rattlesnakes or searching for them, I knew the reader would be getting tired of it. But that’s what life on our ranch was really like.
Looking for snakes and killing them was my hobby. It was an ever-present task. Even doing a visual sweep inside of the house was a part of the ritual. When we moved to the ranch, our son was only 3, so the danger of a rattlesnake was very real. And the nearest hospital was a 30 minute drive away. By the time we moved away six years later, I had killed over 200 rattlers. They had become such a part of our lives, if a day went by and I hadn’t found one, it seemed like a boring day.
Some people have asked me, “Why did you stay out there? I would have moved!”
Well, have you seen those ghost stories where the family can’t move because every cent they had went into the house? That was us when we first got there. We had no other option. At least we didn’t have to do an exorcism. Shovels and shotguns worked just fine.
One of the reasons I felt compelled to include so many snake “interactions” in the story is because I was trying to show the world what living in West Texas was really like. Whenever I tell people some of the things that happened, they say, “You have to put that in a book!” Well, I tried and while I was writing I knew people wouldn’t believe it. It’s just too much for some folks, I guess.
So I’ll be revising the book.
I also want to tell you a comment someone said to me. (paraphrased) “I’m having trouble with a couple of scenes because Kay’s background isn’t the same as yours. She’s not exactly like you.”
My response, “I’m boring. I had to make Kay more interesting. That’s why it’s called ‘fiction’.”
I must add that when I let myself be free of, “What would I have have done? What really happened?”, the story was much easier to write. I had to remind myself that it isn’t a memoir, it’s fiction. I hope this doesn’t come across like I’m mad. Far from it, I’m grateful to my beta readers! I just thought I’d use this platform to share with you what life was like out there and how reality isn’t necessarily what’s best for the story.
Too many snakes for you? You should have tried living there.
The most active day, 18 snakes.
Posted in Writing by VP with .
Today I interviewed Gale Albright on Austin Mystery Writers. Click on the link and see what she has to say. 🙂
AMW Author Highlight- Gale Albright
Posted in Interview by VP with .
Are we looking dignified at our table?
Today I joined Austin Mystery Writers members Kathy Waller and Gale Albright at the Hutto Library for the first annual Local Author and Artist Reception.
Waiting for the crowd!
It was a lot of fun and they rolled out the red carpet for us. Paula, one of the librarians, is so nice and enthusiastic. She made us all feel special.
Paula had crazy boots too!
This was the first book selling “event” I’ve ever been to.
I made some keychains.
We sold a few copies of Murder on Wheels and it was fun meeting the other participants.
We’re bandying about the notion of doing another anthology. So stay tuned!
For now we’re having fun promoting and hawking MOW.
What do you mean you haven’t bought a copy? Buy one! Or else…
Posted in Event and tagged Austin Mystery Writers, Gale Albright, Kathy Waller by VP with .
Today it was my turn to post on Austin Mystery Writers. I interviewed fellow member, Patric Sanders. I tell you, he’s had one interesting life!
Click here to connect to Austin Mystery Writers for the details!
Posted in Interview by VP with .