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

June Interviews

6/02 Terrie Moran, Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond

6/09 Connie Berry, The Art of Betrayal

6/16 Kathleen Kalb, A Final Finale or A Fatal First Night

6/23 Jackie Layton, Bag of Bones: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery

6/30 Mary Keliikoa, Denied

Saturday WWK Bloggers

6/12 Jennifer J. Chow

6/26 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

6/05 Samantha Downing

6/19 Lynn Johanson


E. B. Davis's "The Pearl Necklace" will appear in the new SinC Guppy anthology The Fish That Got Away to be released in July by Wildside Press. The anthology was edited by Linda Rodriguez. It will be released on June 21st.

Paula Gail Benson's monologue "Beloved Husband," from the perspective of Norton Baskin the second husband of Marjorie Kinan Rawlings (who wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek), appears in the Red Penguin Collection's An Empty Stage (released March 28, 2021).

Martha Reed's "Death by GPS" will appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Suspense Magazine, which will be released in the second week of April. Congratulations, Martha!

Susan Van Kirk has a new audiobook, A Death at Tippitt Pond, that will be released this month. Marry in Haste will be released in May by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, as will Death Takes No Bribes in September. Congratulations, Susan.

Congratulations to Martha Reed. Her short story, "The Honor Thief" was chosen for the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology, This Time For Sure. Hank Phillippi Ryan will edit the volume, which will be released in August at the time of the convention.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Killer Weeds," appears in the January 20 edition of Texas Gardener's Seeds: From Our Garden to Yours. Congratulations, Margaret, who, if you follow Facebook know, is a superb gardener herself!

Congratulations to Paula Gail Benson whose "Reputation or Soul" has been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!


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!