If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our October Author Interviews--10/4 Wendy Tyson, 10/11 Marilyn Levinson, 10/18 Earl Javorski, 10/25 Linda Lovely. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


October Saturday Guest Bloggers: 10/7 Mark Bacon, 10/14 Elaine Orr, 10/21 WWK's Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/28 Kait Carson, and E. B. Davis 10/31 to fill out our fifth Tuesday.


WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla! Look for Carla's blog this month to find out the winner.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Monday, January 14, 2013

It's All In The Details




 I’ve inadvertently analyzed three of my favorite authors. Normally, I don’t analyze what I read. Reading is my diversion from reality. Considering the tragedy last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I have good reason. These authors’ books grabbed me to an extent that when I read their first-in-series, I was hooked. Reading through an author’s series in a short time-span facilitates study. The strengths and weaknesses of their writing become focused. All books must have a good plot, fast pacing and interesting characters. But these authors’ strengths have a commonality—details. I found that the details drew me into a relationship with the main character and set the tone.

Details are written in spurts and show:
·      Intimacy (how the main character thinks and feels showing his priorities/values)
·      Insight (reactions)
·      Backstory (history and experience)
·      Attitudes (conclusions)

The main character, Raine, in one of Donna Ball’s series trains rescue dogs in the mountains of North Carolina. Raine’s dismayed reaction at having to shake hands with a man she just observed picking his nose shows that she values good hygiene and consideration of others. Raine doubts her ability to train her rescue dog and simultaneously doubts the dog’s character. Is it her own or the dog’s fault? This self-doubt erodes her relationship with the dog until the police uncover evidence revealing that the dog did not ramble at an undisciplined whim—her self-doubt and lack of faith in the dog were wrong. She learns to trust her dog(s) and notes their reactions so much that the reader comes to know who is knocking on the door because of the dogs’ individualized reactions to recurring characters, another detail. Raine compares her reactions to the dogs’ reactions knowing that their senses are more acute than her own, which increases her skill as an investigator.

Ball connects the reader to the setting when Raine remembers growing up in the mountains, seeing their beauty and also acknowledging their dangers. In doing so, Ball provides backstory in small spurts that adds to the MC’s experience and increases her professional credibility as a search and rescue victim tracker. It’s a great hook because it initiates the MC’s involvement in cases. Even though her job doesn’t involve investigation, she follows the trail until the case is solved showing that it isn’t only the dog who must have talent.

Leo Waterman’s name is a source of conflict for G. M. Ford’s main character. Leo’s dead father, a ghost of a character (not literally), haunts him. His love/hate relationship with his father is the premise of the series. Leo’s clothing reflects this conflict. In disgust, he throws out a pair of worn flip-flops, which indicates a concession to his father, who was a snappy dresser and a legendary city politician/crook. Leo uses his old man’s personnel, who are now societal misfits, for justice instead of self-enhancement and increased power. His name opens doors at times, but in his heart he despises who and what his father represents. Ford uses Leo’s senses to show backstory. When another character’s breath smells of Sen-Sens, it takes him back to another time and place, allowing the past to emerge. Ford’s descriptions of settings through Leo’s eyes put attitude on that place in one instance by describing a car to that of a depraved Christmas ornament. His reaction to characters reveals his history with the character or reminds him of someone like the character tainting his perception and provides a reason as to why he is glad or wary.  Ford also shows Leo’s sense of humor, a favorite of mine, through observation. When a car is parked in a particularly inappropriate place, Leo observes that the driver’s lack of foresight would make a UPS driver blush.       

Maggie Barbieri’s main character, Alison Bergeron, also takes issue with clothing. Hers is one of frustration, which she overcomes by borrowing her wealthy BF’s wardrobe. But what Alison obsesses with is thinking, an appropriate trait for a college English professor. Most of the time, she concludes that she must be dense because with the same information she comes to a different conclusion than others. Barbieri details Alison’s comparisons as Alison wonders if she suffers from illogical thinking. What Alison doesn’t do is assume. She defines the elements of equations better than others, which enables her to solve the mystery. These details about thinking could drive the reader neurotic, but Barbieri solves that problem through Alison’s martini-drinking habit taking her mind off her obsession. The details Barbieri includes test Alison’s hypothesis proving that there is nothing illogical about her thinking. Alison is brilliant. 

What are my conclusions about employing details? Details make for interesting reading if the plot isn’t lost or delayed in their showing. They must be inserted while furthering the plot. But, writers must be consistent in their use. If a character values good hygiene, she must wash her hands before cooking. When there are contradictions to established traits, they must be explained. It’s nitpicking, but adds credibility to the character. If not, the reader’s trust is blown. Any one detail may not add up to a plot point, but in sum they can provide for a character-driven story, full of rich details that connect the reader to the main character establishing a relationship that the reader wants to continue.

As a writer, it is that relationship that I want to foster. As a reader, I’ve connected to each main character. I’ve caught up to these authors now and must await their next releases, a disappointing situation for me. I hope that in understanding their use of detail, I might push my writing to a new level. I can only hope that in the future readers also will be disappointed when my next book-in-series has yet to be released—my dream.

Have you found other ways that authors use detail? What technique do you use to establish a relationship between your readers and the main character?

15 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I haven’t read any of these authors, but I did meet GM Ford at a writers’ conference a number of years ago.

He and his significant other (can’t remember if they’re married) Skye Moody taught a course on the Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler’s approach to narrative structure, which is the first time I had run across those ideas.

They were both interesting people to talk with over drinks later on.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

GM Ford must be an interesting person. Although he writes a very different book, I think of him as the American Ian Rankin.

Gloria Alden said...

I haven't read these authors, but they're ones to consider. I agree with your take on being consistent with how characters talk and act throughout the book.

Polly Iyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Polly Iyer said...

As writers, it's important to "create" your character/s, whether in a stand-alone or in a series. Readers want to relate, they want the characters to be human and identifiable. That may take the form of a physical action--a constant rubbing of the neck when the character is thinking, etc.; a speech pattern, something, anything that sets that character apart. Readers visualize those things when they're reading, and that character lifts off the page and becomes real. We hope. The worst thing a reader can say to me about one of my books is "I couldn't relate to the main character." Ugh! I pull the pillow over my face--only for a second, though.

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, Gloria, I consider all of them to be terrific reads. GM Ford is not cozy, the other two are more so. But I like the realness of GM Ford (and his sense of humor).

E. B. Davis said...

That happened to me just the other day, Polly. I tried a new author, wanted to like the book--but--I just couldn't relate to the main character. I put it down after 25 pages. Everything you say is true for the MC, but when you commented on characteristics that make a character distinctive, it also reminded me that secondary characters may especially need to be set apart if they play a pivotal role in the book.

I finished a book yesterday in which the villain was identified by name, and I had no idea who the character was--she was buried in the first few chapters and made no impression on me. I'm reading the denouement, and I'm thinking who is this villain and why don't I have a clue?

BTW--good luck with your new release!

Polly Iyer said...

E.B., I'm big on secondary characters. In fact, it will be a guest blog post for me in the near future. A book can't rely on the main characters any more than a movie can. That's why there are supporting role categories. Strong secondary characters often "make" the book memorable, and in a series, they give the books depth. Writers often forget those characters and a reader wonders why they're there if they're not developed.

E. B. Davis said...

Gayle Carline has a character that she thought would be a one-off one, but readers liked him so much she now has him as the MC's sidekick!

Where will you be blogging, Polly?

Polly Iyer said...

Secondary Characters will be on 1/23 for Leslie Ann Sartor's anindieadventure. On 3/11 I'll be writing about my reaction to someone else's blog that prompted me to write a comment post. That's for Debra Goldstein's "It's Not Always a Mystery." The last one is for a blog in England. No date set for that one, but it will be titled, Horror is Personal. I don't know how you guys do one blog a week. You're all great!

E. B. Davis said...

Thanks for letting us know, Polly.

Kara Cerise said...

E.B., you made a great point that details must be used in a way that furthers the plot. I think it's an art to be able to choose the right amount of details and their correct placement to connect readers to characters without burying the plot. As the saying goes, "The genius is in the details."

Warren Bull said...

Sue Grafton is a stickler for accurate details. So are Nancy Pickard, Carolyn Hart and many other popular authors. One of the quickest ways to turn me off as a reader to have inaccuracies in the details.

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, Kara. Nothing like having the author wax poetic about a point that has very little to do with the plot--unless that character happens to be Monk--then every idiosyncrasy becomes important. Sometimes it only takes one line to give the reader the link and the characteristic you need to get the character's low-down on the clue--they observed something, felt something, knew something--it is important--the reader will remember--and then the author links it all up at the end! A masterpiece. Well--at least I'm noticing, whether or not I actually do it is another thing!

E. B. Davis said...

I agree, Warren. I was reading a mystery about a chef who supplies low calorie meals to clients. Not once did the chef washing her hands! The author didn't make cleanliness a particular characteristic of the chef--but really--a professional chef would know better--plus she had a dog. She never washed her hands in the entire book. Needless to say, I was appalled! Not having the cleanliness characteristic bothered me.