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Suspense Or Mystery 101

When I began to write romantic suspense, I tossed out several reams of paper. Why?  Because no matter how I tried I couldn’t keep my villain hidden. He kept voicing his POV and writing his own chapters. I nearly ripped my hair out by the roots fighting with him to stay silent. Then I read a wonderful book, How To Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat.  Ms.Wheat set me straight and confirmed what my villain was telling me all along.

Is there a Who-dun-it in suspense? Of course there is. When the villain is revealed, among a few other elements, that makes suspense different from mystery. In a mystery, an act of violence begins the story, but most times the action is set off stage. The reader is invited into the dilemma and introduced to an already seasoned hero who solves the crime logically and through scientific methods. There is a small circle of suspects, clues and red herrings. Information is withheld from the reader and the said reader is kept in the dark two steps behind. The hero grows very little during the story. The story is all about who killed X? The villain is not exposed until the last scene and the end result for the reader is an intellectual satisfaction.

A suspense novel starts on even keel, showing the everyday life our hero or heroine. Then BAM, a nightmare occurs.

 

Excerpt from His Witness To Evil:

Stephanie masked her sigh of exertion while lifting the Coleman cooler she’d borrowed for their trip. She lugged the container to her old SUV. She knew how her son felt. She wished she had the money to take them away on exciting excursions like their friends had this summer. To places like Disney World, but she couldn’t even afford a day trip to Hershey Park, America’s chocolate capital. Em’s special diet, because of her allergies, took up a third of her take-home pay. After paying the mortgage, utilities, car insurance and miscellaneous expenses, she was lucky to save a few dollars a week.

She chewed on her bottom lip. Hopefully, next week Bobby and his friends would be off on new adventures, their summer vacations a distant memory.

The howl of a diesel engine jerked Stephanie from her musing. The squeal of brakes, crushing metal and shattering glass made her spin around.

Other basics of a suspense: All action is on stage. The protagonists’ world expansions. There are surprises. The villain can be revealed to the reader immediately and can have a POV.

Yeah! This made my villain happy. Information is given to the reader but withheld from the heroes. In other words, we know what could happen if the wrong path is taken by our hero.  The reader sits on the edge of her seat, screaming at the heroine and hero not to go there.

 

Excerpt from His Witness To Evil:

“I don’t want to kill no kids, Victor.” Mac danced in place ready to dodge Victor’s wrath.

“You will do as I say,” Victor snapped.

She looked at the dead driver. His lifeless stare pleaded to her for justice.

“Don’t trust her,” Sheriff Morse ordered, turning his gun on her.

Stephanie refused to flinch under Morse’s scrutiny.

Gene moved in front of her. “Frank, what the hell are you doing? You’ve known Stephanie all her life.”

“There is too much at stake, Gene. She saw me kill that guy. I’m not going to jail.” Morse’s tongue skimmed his lips. “Why the hell are you trying to protect her anyway? You two have been fightin’ like junkyard dogs for years. You complain every day she’s milking you dry. This is your chance to be rid of your mistakes.”

“Steph was never a mistake to me,” Gene’s voice rose in response. Then it softened. “I was hers.”

Tears threatened to blur her vision and she blinked them away. She squeezed Gene’s arm and glanced at her ex-husband’s profile. He remained focused.

“Touching,” Victor said. “But, sorry, no. They must die here.”

 

The suspense story is all about the hero or heroine prevailing. Emotional satisfaction is what the reader gets from a suspense novel. And since I write romantic suspense, love also must be found.

 

Excerpt from His Witness to Evil:

After a week, her touch was familiar. His heart melted. He grabbed her hand, holding her in place as he turned and smiled down on her. Her nipples pushed against her white T-shirt. He gently brushed a knuckle across one peak. “No. It was hell without you.”

“Mmmm. Same here.” She pulled back and lifted his arm around her, curling into him.  Looking out over the lake, she sighed. “I could stay here forever, if you’d let me.”

“I wish we could.” He gathered her closer and kissed the top of her head. “But eventually Bobby and Em would have to go to school.”

“I could home school.” Her chuckle was strained.

He felt her pain. He smiled while his heart wrenched. He would like nothing more than to forget about the world and stay here with her and the kids. But they couldn’t. “Sooner or later Ben will call. We’ll have to go back.”

“I know.”

Steph moved away. A cold void took her place.

She drifted to the other porch column. Leaning against it, she folded her arms across her chest. Her lips pressed together as if she was forming the right words behind them. “I know I said that our time together here was going to be enough to last me a lifetime, but—” Tears brimmed her lids. “I was wrong.  A lifetime won’t be enough.”

 

John stepped toward her. “I don’t know what—”

“I know, you don’t know how we can be together. So, Ben will call. We’ll go back, and I’ll identify Victor. You’ll toss him in jail and throw away the key. You’ll drive off in pursuit of the next bad guy and me…Well, I’ll go home and wonder where you are. Wonder if what I felt was love.”

The woman knew how to make a guy feel like a heel.

John pulled her into his arms. She buried her head in his chest and cried softly against him. He kissed her head and smoothed her hair. “Steph, I didn’t think I’d ever love again,” he whispered softly, cupping her chin and tilting her face up until she looked at him. “Like a bomb, you dropped into my life. Every defense I’d put up to protect myself from ever being hurt again came tumbling down. You opened up my heart. As much as you don’t want to live without me, I don’t want to live without you. I love you.”

He kissed her gently. Her arms wrapped around him and held on.  “Somehow, we’ll figure this out. I promise.”

Evil’s Witness, now titled His Witness To Evil, was my 2009 Golden Heart Entry and Golden Leaf Winner.  To learn about my more recent releases please visit my website www.autumnjordon.com  Don’t forget to join my newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

No part of this post may be copied or reproduced without the expressed permission of the author, Autumn Jordon.

 

MY DRYWALL HAS A HOLE IN IT!

I was going to title this blog ‘I’m pissed’ but it’s not about me being pissed as a writer but more so as a reader who recently mentally threw a digital book I bought for $5.99 against the wall. Why? Because the author totally, blatantly portrayed the book to be romantic suspense and she stated that even though there was a love triangle involved and there was sex, it was not erotica. COUGH Right? As romantic suspense fan she hooked me with the first chapter, but after that… hmmm The only thing that hadn’t happened in the bedroom, kitchen, living room, bathroom during the first 40% of book was that the donkey didn’t show up to bring in a new element into the trios tryst. I didn’t finish the book.

I’m sure the situation she created happens or has happened somewhere in the world throughout the centuries, and she is writing fiction after all, but to sell the work for what it is not in my opinion is wrong.

Did I return the book? No. Maybe I should’ve, but I learned a valuable lesson from this author and for that I’ll let her keep the royalty she earned by making the sell.  Will I buy from her again? Even though her writing was top notch, I will not. She lost my trust, not through her writing but through her marketing of the book.

In any genre, there are element degrees: comedy, suspense, drama, mystery, fantasy, love, sex, etc.  The writer’s voice is her style in using the different elements in different degrees. Unfortunately, the cyber book shelves, just as the brick and mortar books shelves only allow us to classify our books in a general genre. It’s only through our marketing that we can let our readers know of the sub-genres and sub-subgenres the work could be classified.  

I write a light comedy contemporary romance series that I tell my readers is written in Hallmark Holiday movie tone. In doing so, I believe I’m letting my readers know the level of sexual tension and the degree of comedy and drama they can expect. The first book in the series, PERFECT, which is a Christmas romance, was given a one-star review shortly after its release because the reader believed for some reason that it was a Christian book. I felt bad that I hadn’t specifically written out that it was not a Christian Romance, but I never said it was.

Writing blurbs and marketing material is hard.

I also write romantic suspense and romantic mystery. I try very hard in writing all of my blurbs to let the readers know if they are getting more of a suspense with their romance or they’re getting more of a mystery. Or if the story is more suspense/mystery with romantic elements. Again, even though, I’ve tried to be up-front, some readers will flat out review the works as failing to meet their idea of the perfect romantic suspense or romantic mystery. All I can say is I tried and the 99.99% of the readers who’ve reviewed my works tell me I’ve done okay in marketing my books.

Do you believe the publisher’s and/or the indie author’s has a responsibility to convey to the best of their ability what genre or sub-genre their work falls into?   Have you purchased a book only to learn it’s not want the author led you to believe it to be?  Have you returned books for the reason, never to buy from the author again?

 

Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby who has a new release out titled PERFECT FALL. Learn more about her and her work at www.autumnjordon.com and join her newsletter AJ Revealed

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I Hate You

Okay. I bet the second you read my blog title an ex-significant other popped into your mind and you’re recalling what it was about him or her that caused conflict between the two of you and ended the bond.  Think back to the turning point in your relationship.

Was it something he did or didn’t do?

While eating out, did he/she always pick at the dinner you ordered because he decided yours looked or tasted better than the dinner he ordered?

Did he/she always leave the television on when leaving the house or apartment?

Did he/she never wash or clean out his car? And was happy to have a backseat filled with garbage?

Did they constantly make promises and always had an excuse for not keeping them?

Or was it something he/she said?

Like beginning every sentence with “Hummm”

Or “I told you to…”

Did he/she never let you finish your sentence?

Or did it seem the relationship was all about them?

You always went out with his/her friends but not with yours?

You attended all of his ball games but he/she always found an excuse to miss your book signings.

She/He always wants sex with the lights off and never in the afternoon.

Or were there outside influences that strained the relationship?

He/she hated your dog, or cat.

Her/his family always had to be consulted concerning decisions that should be made by the two of you. Or the family interfered on their own.

His/her job took priority over everything.

Maybe there was a habit at first you thought was kind of cute but then it became really annoying.

He called every one of his buddies MAN.

While in the shower, he sang his version of We Are The Champions, inserting I am instead of we are.

He always swiped a cookie or veggie from the tray you just finished making for a party.

He always wore the same ratty shirt on the weekends.

I’m sure many of you could add more really great examples.

My point in listing all these examples is that they are character flaws and by giving your characters a flaw, your reader will connect with them and identify with your hero or heroine’s reaction. And that is what you want as a writer—a connection with the reader.

Perfect characters are boring characters.

Think about your favorite sitcom. One of mine is Everybody Loves Raymond.  Every character in that show is memorable. All have huge flaws.

Raymond, of course, is lazy when it comes to helping with the children and around the house. He loves golf and sex and would do about anything to have more time doing both, including telling his white lies.

Deborah, his wife, her flaw in my book, is she puts up with Raymond. But she can also be admired for sticking it out with the guy.

Robert, Raymond’s older, much taller brother, is insecurity about being second in line to his baby brother. And he has this freakish way of touching his chin when eating.

And Marie and Frank, Ray’s parents… well there isn’t enough room on this blog to list all of their faults.

The only characters who seem perfect are Ray’s and Deborah’s three children.  GRIN. Kids are always perfect!

In my 2009 Golden Heart entry, Evil’s Witness now titled His Witness To Evil, my hero, John, a FBI agent, is very curt. He is a loner with deep wounds. John wears a tiny rubber band around his ring finger and constantly snaps it. This works the heroine, Stephanie’s nerves. She is the target of a Mafia lord and under a lot of stress, so this little repeated action becomes the catalyst for her to express anger over her situation. It also does something else. When Steph blows her top and she presses John about it, she learns of his internal conflict. It reminds him of his daughter who was murdered out of revenge against him.

 

Now let’s go back to the lists above. I’m going to pick a few and show an example what conflict and emotion can be developed from the trait, flaw or habit.

A) Leaves the television on. Perfect internal conflict. Character was abandoned. Afraid to come home to an empty house.

B) Hmmm.. Heroine yells, “Hmmm. That is all you ever say to me. You never share what you’re thinking.”

Hero thinks, I really don’t want to do Thanksgiving at the grandfather’s house again, especially this year when it’s going to be the old man’s last.  I’ve lost enough this year.

C) Sex in the afternoon:

“I’ll get these reports to Mr. Gillings right away.” Marcy tapped the papers into a uniform pile, surprised Bill had agreed to all of her terms.

“You have time.” He stood and second later she heard the door lock clink.

“What are you doing?” Her nervous chuckle echoed off the walls of her office as he walked toward her. It was Saturday and there was no one in the building. “I told you, I’m not going to have sex with you.”

“If you want my support, you will.’”

Marcy’s heel landed home, in his nut patch.

How’s that for conflict?

I know you’re all avid readers. Do you have an example of a character with a flaw you’ve read you’d like to share?

 

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Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. You can join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com or follow her on Facebook and Tweeter.

How Do You Find Your Characters

Many years ago, I was like a shaky legged fawn stepping into the world of writing. I had written before, for myself and for my school newspapers, but this new world was totally different and scary as hell. I knew if I was going to survive I would need a strong man by my side so I began my search for the man I knew whose name was Hudson Alan Mitchel.

I searched every store, every street corner, and every office I entered, but I was always disappointed. Yes, there were plenty of men in all those places but none were Hudson.

This went on for months, during which time I began to write his story. It came to me like I was listening to his dreamy baritone voice over the radio. (Yes, at that time there was no podcasts or You Tube channels). Taking long walks and listening to him like we were connected by our cell phones, I learned what he liked and didn’t like. I discovered all of his dreams from childhood and on. I felt his angst over the burdens and problems he carried as a major league ball player. I became aware of whom he trusted and who would put a knife in his back because of his fame. And he revealed to me his most personal desires. He wanted a woman just like me. (Yes, when he told me that, it was a sigh worthy moment.) But sadly, I was blissfully married to my own hero and being the decent guy he was Hudson said he would always be my friend.

But I didn’t have an idea of what he looked like. I knew his heart but not his face.

He assured me that we would meet and soon.

I wanted to meet Hudson so much, face to face, and touch his cheek and let him know that I would do anything to find the woman of his dreams for him. I wanted him as happy as I was. Then, I thought why not start the search for Hudson’s dream woman right away. It would be so great to be the one to orchestrate their cute-meet.

One sunny afternoon, I sat on my patio, flipping through a catalog when Sileen Wright caught my eye. She had long, nutmeg brown hair and dark eyes like I did, but she had a cute button nose like Sandy Bullock and a body I’d need to exercise like ten hours a day for a year to achieve. But physical beauty wasn’t all Sileen had going on for her. Her smile reflected her warm heart and her witty sense of humor. She had a look that told you exactly how she was feeling.

I felt privileged when she told me about her family and her dreams to work for NASBO (National Association of Small Business Owners). However, I picked up on the sadness when she spoke about those dreams. She hid the sadness quickly and I didn’t pry. I knew who could help her figure out her problems­~the man who I trusted. They were perfect for each other.

Maybe a month after, Sileen and I met, I attended my first big writer’s conference at Penn State’s main campus. For three days, I learned more about the craft from great writers such as Merline Lovelace. ~I love Merline’s work and not because she gave me such great advice. Her writing is wonderful.~ Anyway, my critique partners and I stopped at a local café and while we enjoyed Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (I know, I know about the Creamery now!) Hudson appeared. It was love at first sight. Yes, I mean me. But at last, remember I was married. So, it was love at first sight for Sileen and Hudson and their story took off in my imagination.

After years, their story is now going out into the world and you all are among the first to know how Sileen and Hudson’s love affair started.  Perfect Fall is up on all venues for a preorder price of $.99 now.  It will release in four short weeks on July 18, 2017 at $4.99. Grab your copy today and if you feel like sharing the information with your friends, please do!

 

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To me the story is all about characters. Finding a picture of my characters and interviewing them is usually how I begin to learn the direction and theme of my stories. Where do you start? Do you just dive into write and learn about them as you go?  Do you use character charts?

 

 

Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. She loves writing both contemporary romance filled with chuckles and romantic suspense/mystery meant to keep you on the edge of your seat, guessing. Visit her website www.autumnjordon.com for information on all her works and to join her newsletter.

The Latest Comments

  • Bev Pettersen: What great advice and in just three words. Thanks, Addison!
  • Addison Fox: D – I love your positive personality!!! NEVER change!! 🙂 xo
  • Darynda Jones: Such fantastic advice, Addison! Sometimes it’s hard to assume positive intent, but the only one...
  • Addison Fox: It’s true, Tracy. Positive focus really is the best choice! What struck me was how applicable this...
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