Friday, August 20, 2021

Characters' Habits or Favorite Words

My latest novel, a mystery, set in the North Woods of Wisconsin

I don't recall any of my characters having favorite words, but they do have unique ways of speaking.  For example, in Murder in the North Woods, the Reverend Josie, an Episcopal priest, likes to pepper  her speech with French words and expressions.  It often stymies some of the folks in the small town who have not had the benefit of Josie's education 

In the same novel, the character of Daryl, who descends from Kentucky folks who settled in this area of the North Woods long ago, speaks a dialect that may still have the speech of  some of his ancestors. 


In Chased By Death, my woman-in-jeopardy novel, Lotto, the drug lord of a boutique cartel, swears a lot, in Spanish, or course. Really a lot.  Somehow, in another language, it doesn't sound so bad.  It would be interesting  to play against the stereotype and have a bad character who never says a bad word. This might be a tad unbelievable.  The drug lord by the way, faints at the sight of blood. His henchman, El Tigre, doesn't swear in front of women.  El Tigre is a conflicted character.  He has no doubt killed dozens of people, but he is desperate to find money to send his wife (who has cancer) to the best doctors in the U.S.  No matter how bad my characters are, I always give them their humanity.

Internal monologues differ from spoken speech, and that gives the author a chance to play around with how different characters think rather than speak. Honora, the main character's sister, is a snarky not-very-nice woman we wouldn't want to spend time with in real life, but her speech sounds perfectly normal, and she keeps her thoughts to herself, but of course, the reader knows them.  

Last example:  


In World of Mirrors, there is a very bad Englishman, Putnam.  He speaks in an abrupt voice, hates smart women, and likes violence.  BUT, he has a literary side.  In a bar one night,he learns that another character's dog has disappeared.  He actually thinks he knows what happened (he does not).  He adopts the speech about the "nose", which drives Cyrano de Bergerac bonkers, but substitutes all manner of puns about the word "dog."  And her refuses to shut up. So we discover that Putnam has a literary bent, the least likely character.  It is always fun to play against the stereotype, which one can do with speech. 

My characters do not necessarily have favorite words, but they do have ways of expressing themselves that are unique to their characters. 

As always, my fellow bloggers will have interesting things to say about this equally interesting topic.  Read on! 

Anne Stenhouse

Skye Taylor

Victoria Chatham

Connie Vines

Diane Bator

Beverley Bateman

Dr. Bob Rich

Fiona McGier

Helena Fairfax

Rhobin Courtright


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Plot Failures? They Happen and You Can Overcome Them

In your writing how do you recognize and overcome plot problems or failures? 

Right now I've got a lulu of a plot failure.  The novel (set in 1953)  began as a mystery and is ending as a failed romance. Genre issues.  But wait!  This is just half the book.  In the second half (set in present day) these issues are dealt with.  The missing piece of the murder will be solved and the romance, while still tragic, will have some closure as well.  I actually thought this out this morning when I was still half-asleep and noodling over the plot. I think plot before falling asleep at night and when awakening in the morning.  For me, that's the best time.  

Writer's Block is an example of plot problems or failure.  When you realize this, then you can fix the story.  It took me a while to learn this.  Sometimes it takes time  to realize where the problem is. Your writing group may help, or reading about plot problems.  Author Walter Mosely has excellent advice on plots and writing:He has a master class:  Learn fiction and storytelling.

When writing  mystery or suspense, as I do, there is a saying when you are stuck:  Have a man with a gun come through the door.  This is really a metaphor for having something unexpected and exciting happen.  I have just finished reading a stunning novel, All For Nothing about World War II set in East Prussia. The author (Walter Kempowski) continually has surprises (not usually pleasant) for the reader.  He has the metaphorical man with a gun come through the door and the story still has logic and continuity. I recommend this book.  

When you're stuck with a plot: Step back.Analyze. Imagine. Read. Re-write.

Sounds simple.  But we writers know plot problems are always a bugaboo.  Onward! 

I am a little late with this post.  These excellent writers will have something interesting to say about the subject, and plenty solutions will present themselves. 


Marci Baun

Skye Taylor

Connie Vines

Diane Bator

Beverley Bateman

Dr. Bob Rich 

 Rhobin L Courtright