On Building Suspense and Creating Tension

Hi Folks, I recently listened to a 6-week classic workshop from WMG Publishing titled “Adding Suspense.” It was a useful workshop, but it became much more useful once I subsitituted “tension” for “suspense” as the instructor, Dean Wesley Smith, spoke. The substitution enabled me to separate the suspense that is an aspect of fiction from the suspense that is the old genre (think Alfred Hitchcock) and that morphed into the modern thriller genre. Suspense remains also … Read more

Cycling vs. Editing or Revising, Revisited

Hey folks, I was handed this post on a silver platter by a commenter back in April over on my Daily Journal. Huh. I almost wrote “on the proverbial silver platter,” but to my knowledge there is no silver platter mentioned in Proverbs. Anyway, the commenter wrote “Cycling requires a tremendous amount of trust from the creative side. That you’re not going to meddle with the story unnecessarily….” I omitted much of her comment, but she … Read more

Writing Action Scenes

Hey Folks, I’ve wanted to write a post on this for awhile now, and it’s finally time. This post results directly from a high-action scene, a fight scene, I wrote back in April in my crime/action-adventure/thriller novel Blackwell Ops 5: Georgette Tilden. It was probably the best high-action scene I’d ever written, at least up to that point. This isn’t so much a “how-to” as a “how-I-do-it” post. All of this will go to my individual … Read more

Turning a “Story Prompt” into a Story Idea

Hi Folks, From Reedsy’s Writing Prompts newsletter (as I write this back in early March), “You’re a professional cleaner and the beginning of spring is always your busiest time.” This is for their current short story contest, but it could also easily be a premise for a novel. Here’s what sprang to mind for me: First, define “cleaner.” It might be a person who cleans houses and businesses for a living (as intended). It might also … Read more

What We Love vs. What We Profess to Love: A Parable

Hey folks, Characters have a great deal to teach us. A thought struck me this morning as I considered a character, a genderless writer whose once often-professed passion was writing. The character-writer’s productivity used to bear that out. Now, though, not so much. At first, s/he was turning out new work at an alarming pace. Then s/he listened to some outside comments and decided to pull down and rework some of the stories s/he’d published. S/he … Read more

Human Traits and Human Parts

Hey Folks, Awhile back, I received an email from a long-time friend who’s also a professional writer. In his email, he wondered whether sometimes (maybe) it’s all right for writers to assign human traits to human parts: e.g., “His nose pressed up against the window” or “Her legs raced down the street” or “His eyes flew around the document.” Things like that. The short answer is, No, it isn’t. I mean, you’re the writer and the … Read more

The Importance of Paragraphs

Hi Folks, While glancing over the internet awhile back for items of interest, I checked in on a blog I’d saved in my bookmarks but hadn’t looked at recently. When I save one in my bookmarks, it’s because I hope it will provide valuable, or at least valid, information. A writer posed this implied question: I have trouble trying to figure out when to begin and end paragraphs and when to have dialogue included in the … Read more

Writing Off Into the Dark, Take 2

Hi Folks, I did a post on Writing Off Into the Dark here some time back. Then recently (as I write this) I got into an email discussion with a fellow novelist who also writes off into the dark. The upshot was, he wondered whether maybe — when a character does something that’s unexpected and out of character — it’s all right or even necessary to create a history for that character that would explain the … Read more

On Readers’ “Taste” and Writers’ Ability

Hey folks, Recently I engaged in a disagreement with a bestselling writer who is also a mentor of sorts. The disagreement had to do with whether, when a reader is ejected from a story because of a fake detail or other inanity, that is the result of the reader’s taste. I argued that it’s the fault of the writer. I do understand my mentor’s point. If something simply isn’t to your taste as a reader, there’s … Read more

Pet Peeves That Matter

Hey folks, Pet peeves — you know, those little flaws and inanities that grind away on the nerves and cause me to close novels and put them in the Goodwill box? They’re horrible. Mostly because they keep me from continuing to read what otherwise might be a good story. I don’t look for problems while I’m reading. I just read for pleasure. Like any other reader, when I buy a book, I automatically suspend my sense … Read more