Friday, July 30, 2010
Take it away, W.S.! Wait a minute! You're not W.S.!
Mitch Malone here. I’m subbing for W.S. Gager. She has her hands full trying to promote my latest escapade in A Case of Accidental Intersection. She wanted to do something long and boring on creating great dialogue. I had to put a stop to that. I’m also the best one to talk about listening to what people say and how they say it. You’ve got to have good dialogue if you are trying to show character. Stilted exchanges will kill the pace and tempo of a book. I’m an expert at dialogue on account of the fact that I quote people in my newspapers stories and when you do that, you see how people have different nuances to their speech.
Take politicians. I don’t cover them unless I have to but when I do, their quotes or dialogue in a book is smooth with flowery language. Of course they never say anything but they use a lot of words to do it. Lot of that this election year.
Now in my first big story, A Case of Infatuation, there was a kid named Joey. He never spoke in complete sentences, never more than a couple of words at a time unless he was excited and then they were all strung together and you couldn’t make any sense out of them.
If I were to quote either one of them in a news story and I did Elsie because she was the witness to one horrific accident between a sports car and a cement truck, you have to get the words precisely as they said them or they can claim they are misquoted or worse yet, your reader gets pulled out of your story because it just doesn’t sound right.
So, you heard it here from Mitch Malone, get into the head of your character and make sure your dialogue fits their personality.
(Lauren here.) Purchase either of W.S. Gager's Mitch Malone Mysteries at:
Robbins’ Booklist, Greenville
Country Squire Pharmacy, Fremont
Barnes & Noble, Norton Shores & Grand Rapids area stores
Schuyler’s Books, Grand Rapids
If you would like to contact W.S. Gager, you can do so at:
Facebook keyword: wsgager
Thank you, W.S. Gager, and Mitch, for stopping by today. We all look forward to reading about your big story in the The Case of Accidental Intersection!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Back when my hair was naturally blond and my idea of dieting was only three scoops of chocolate ice cream drowning in hot fudge sauce instead of four, I went through a stage where I wanted to be an actress.
I was pretty, had been in quite a few plays, and thought I had some potential to go professional at some point. Toward the end of this period, I confided to my acting coach that I dreamed of playing Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, to which she responded with a hearty—and cruel—laugh. “You have a lot of living to do before you can ever play Blanche DuBois, dear.”
My translation: “Don’t give up your day job, child. You ain’t got the talent.”
So I went back to the school paper and never set foot on the stage again except when they called “Author! Author!” for a murder mystery I had written.
At that stage of my life I was a naïve teenager living at home with my mother. I didn’t drink and I didn’t smoke. The character I had dreamed of portraying on the stage was an aging alcoholic Southern belle who lived in a state of perpetual panic about her fading beauty. Her life was completely at the other end of the spectrum from mine. How could I even begin to comprehend the depths of this character in order to portray her convincingly?
I came to realize the source of that coach’s laughter recently when the opportunity presented itself for me to take a gun class. I jumped at the chance for a couple of reasons:
- I thought it would be fun, and it was;
- As the author of murder mysteries in which my main characters regularly carry and shoot guns, I believed it would be good research to find out about these weapons.
I looked down at this thing in my hand and thought: I could kill someone with this.
The weapon wasn’t as heavy as I had expected, but it sure looked scary to me. I went up to the range and when the instructor called out, “Threat!” (He didn’t call out “Fire” because we were to shoot at our leisure, not on command.) I pulled the trigger and emptied the gun of six rounds.
No one was as surprised as I was when I hit the center of the target with almost every shot. I was good!
As I examined the target and all the holes that I had put in it, I looked down at the gun in my hand and felt a sense of power: I could kill someone with this.
Since I write murder mysteries, it goes without saying that people get killed in my books. Detectives with guns go after the bad guys, and bad guys with guns go after the good guys. Even though most murder mystery authors don’t really carry badges and guns and shoot real bullets at real bad guys (but many have), it doesn’t hurt to get out there and take a short walk in their shoes, even if only for play, in order to bring something authentic to the page.
By the time the instructor upgraded me to a 9 millimeter semi-automatic, I was able to put myself in the mind of Archie Monday when a murder suspect attempts to intimidate her in It’s Murder, My Son. As I aimed at the target with the same weapon I had her use, I envisioned the suspect in my sites. I was now present in the scene in a way I hadn’t been before.
I don’t think my acting coach meant that I had to become a lush in order to play Blanche DuBois. She probably meant that I should stay out after midnight at least one night in order to have something to draw on. Even the most talented actor with the vastest imagination can’t put himself in the character of a cat if he’s never even seen one. How can you write about a broken heart if your heart has never been broken? You can’t just imagine how it feels.
Many writers, I’m included, are introverts. They are most content when they’re home alone writing away on an intoxicating wave of imagination. But eventually that wave will come in. Imagination can take a writer only so far. Without some basis of reality to stand on they’re going to sink to the bottom.
That reality comes from getting out of the writer’s studio and collecting a stockpile of life experiences to store away and feed the imagination, even if only to draw upon it at a later time in another project further down the road.
So, put away that laptop. Brush your teeth. Take a gun class! Go bungee jumping or sky diving (that’s another blog post for a later time!). Go out into the world and do some living—then write about it!
Saturday, July 3, 2010
She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America.
What inspired a mystery writer to pen a ghostly love story. Is there any mystery in it?
The inspiration for Lingering Spirit is the inspiration behind my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novels. My son-in-law was a 15 year veteran of a police department and transferred to a mountain community to become a deputy sheriff. When he was a new officer he came to my house after his shift and would tell me all his adventures. He even took me on a ride-along once. His mother was not in his life and his father was gone. He treated us like his parents and my husband and I loved him like a son. Six months after his transfer, he was killed in the line of duty leaving our daughter a widow with three young sons. Though Lingering Spirit has its roots in the truth, the story and the characters are fiction. I think writing this book was part of my grieving process.
As to whether there is any mystery in Lingering Spirit, the answer is no.
Speaking of ghosts, I would love to know more about your Christian horror books. How did you come about writing Christian horror? What is Christian horror?
I wrote three Christian horror. I've always loved really scary movies, especially those with the devil in them, and often thought if only the hero or heroine was Christian, they'd have a better chance. So I decided to write a horror novel with a Christian hero and then two with Christian heroines. My definition of Christian horror, is really scary but with Christian elements. I probably will never write another because when I sent them out to publishers, the main stream publishers said they were really good, but far too Christian for their audiences and the Christian publishers also liked my writing but said they were far too scary for their audience. I did find small publishers for all three but the market just wasn't there.
Did you start out writing Christian horror and move on to mysteries, or was it the other way around? Is there a dividing line between the two genres, or do you find yourself blending the two?
My first published works were two historical family sagas with lots of romance--they were based on the genealogy of both sides of my family.
When I was through with those, I thought about what I should write next. Since I loved mysteries, I decided to try my hand at one. The Astral Gift, a mystery with a touch of the supernatural, was the first and it has had three different publishers. Now, I'm the only one who has copies. From there I went on to use what my son-in-law inspired, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series about a small police department on the California coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara. The latest is An Axe to Grind from Oak Tree Press. There is no supernatural aspects in that series.
When we moved from the coast to the foothills of the Sierra, I began writing the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series about a Native American resident deputy who is often called upon to solve crimes that involve Indians or the nearby Indian reservation. The latest in that series is Dispel the Mist. Those books have a lot of Indian legends and mysticism. In Dispel the Mist, Tempe has an encounter with a Big Foot-like creature on the reservation, called The Hairy Man.
To find out more about Marilyn Meredith be sure to visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com