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

April Interviews

4/1 Jennifer Chow, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue
4/8 John Gaspard
4/15 Art Taylor, The Boy Detective & The Summer of '74
4/22 Maggie Toussaint, Seas the Day
4/29 Grace Topping, Staging Wars

Saturday Guest Bloggers
4/4 Sasscer Hill
4/18 Jackie Green

WWK Bloggers:
4/11 Paula Gail Benson
4/25 Kait Carson


WWK is proud of our four Agatha nominees. Kaye George for Best Short Story--not her first time to be nominated, Connie Berry and Grace Topping for Best First Mystery Novel (wish they weren't having to compete against each other), and Annette Dashofy for Best Contemporary Novel--her fifth nomination!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Kaye George's first novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Revenge is Sweet, will be released on March 10th. Look for the interview here on March 11.

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, will be released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here on April 29th.

Don't miss Shari Randall's "The Queen of Christmas" available on at Amazon. Shari's holiday story for WWK was too long so she published it for our enjoyment. It's available for 99 cents or on Kindle Unlimited for free!

KM Rockwood's "The Society" and "To Die A Free Man; the Story of Joseph Bowers" are included in the BOULD Awards Anthology, which was released on November 19. KM won second place with a cash prize for "The Society." Congratulations, KM! Kaye George's "Meeting on the Funicular" is also in this anthology, which can be bought for 99 cents on Kindle until November 30.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!


Monday, October 16, 2017

Following a Character into a Book

by Linda Rodriguez

Lately, I’ve been intensely writing a new book. That’s a fairly common thing around here. Several times a year I follow a character into a short story or book. After the first draft is finished, I still refer to the much more I know about that character from writing that first draft as I revise and edit and edit, still following those characters as I chip away whatever doesn’t matter to them or what doesn’t fit. In a way, you could say that I spend most of my professional time chasing after characters, and you’d be correct.

Some people have the idea that plot is the be-all and end-all of the mystery writer, but I see it as story. I can write a book based on a clever plot with all kinds of surprises and twists, but if the reader doesn’t care about the characters or if the actions taking place don’t ring true for the characters, it’s no good. And yes, I know there are books like this that are published and sometimes very successful, but I still think it’s really story we need in the mystery, a story where the actions rise organically out of the characters and their motivations, where we care about the characters and what they’re trying to do because we know why it’s so important to them to succeed in their attempts.

When I’m looking for story, I start with character. As I start to know that character better, she or he leads me directly into story. A nice complex, twisty narrative with surprises and suspense comes from following all the major characters as they lead me on their path toward their goals in the story and come into conflict with each other or help each other or, sometimes, both.

When I run into problems with story as I’m writing a book, I go back to the characters involved with the aspect of the story that’s giving me a hard time. I sit down and have them write their situation, feelings, and problems with the story’s direction in first person as if they were writing diary entries or letters to me to tell me why they won’t do what I think they should do. Always I find that there’s something I’ve overlooked with that (those) character(s). I’ve been trying to steer the plot in a direction that’s false to the character(s), and I have to learn more about each character in order to find out the direction the story needs to go.

I’ve always been glad I take the time to do this, even as I whine about taking that time in the middle of a book with a deadline facing me. Often it leads to big changes—once I even had to change the villain into a possible love interest—but it always makes for a stronger, more vital story. And that’s what I’m after.

Right now, I’m chasing another set of characters into a book that I’ve tentatively set up to go one way, but I know that, as I get deeper into this story following these characters, I may find we’ve gone a different way into a whole different and much richer story. It’s the ultimate adventure, following a character into a book.

Linda Rodriguez's Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, are her newest books. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, will appear January 17, 2018. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—and her books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com


Kait said...

Plotting the Character Driving Novel is one of the three books that live on my desk when I'm writing. A good plot is important to a story, but if the character's integrity is compromised in the telling, the story is unsatisfying.

Jim Jackson said...

I also force characters to write down what they are thinking as they approach the story I will write—or think I will write. As you say, sometimes they have a very different perspective on what is going on, or they have secrets they have not yet shared with me, and that new knowledge (to me—they knew it) changes the story.

And in one of those timing coincidences, this is today's lesson in the online course I am teaching, Revision and Self-Editing!

~ Jim

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

The little yellow book lives on top of my work-in-progress.

Warren Bull said...

I agree that characters define the mystery. I pop them into deep doodoo and they have to figure out how to escape.

Anonymous said...

So true! If I don't care about the characters and feel connected to them, all the action is just noise, like the action sequences in too many dramas. Continue to stalk those elusive characters for us. I can hardly wait to join the journey. <3

Linda Rodriguez said...

Kait, I'm so happy you've found it helpful. I do believe a character's motivation for plot actions absolutely has to stay true to that character's essence or the book is damaged.

Linda Rodriguez said...

What serendipity, Jim! Yes, making you characters talk to you on paper is absolutely a key technique.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Oh, Margaret, you're so kind!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Warren, they will do it, too, won't they?

Linda Rodriguez said...

Mary, I think that's the way most great readers feel. They don't just want action--they want the story to make emotional and logistical sense.

Gloria Alden said...

My characters are very important to me, too. I always create a bio for each new character I add, and the ones from the beginning of my series have an in depth bio. I've changed my murderers more than once. In one book when I'd already decided the older teenage boy would be the murder and why, I decided I couldn't let him be the killer and found someone else. Another time when a teenage boy was the murderer and he was a rather obnoxious kid, but when he confessed to the police chief in front of his parents, the reader could see that they were responsible for his behavior. Sometimes I get tears when decent people turned to murder, not so much for them, but for their families who have to deal with a loved one who committed a murder. My characters become quite real to me, and I hear from those who enjoy my series that they feel the same way. Many times my characters end up saying things I didn't plan on. It's as if they just take over the book.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Yes, Gloria, good characters develop a life of their own.

Elizabeth D said...

Slightly off topic, but I am so happy there's going to be a new Skeet book!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Elizabeth, I'm glad you feel that way! Thanks!