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!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

What television taught me about writing, by Kait Carson

There’s a benefit to coming late to popular television shows. If they are available on streaming networks, you can watch them at your own pace, or all in a sitting. I admit, I came late to the Downton Abbey craze. About two years late. But hey, at least I arrived.

When I finally arrived at the Abbey door, I expected good television. PBS is famous for period pieces. Downton Abbey is no exception. Once past the famous dog’s bum opening, I was pulled right into pre-WWI Yorkshire. Yum. The opulence of the setting was offset and made human by the behavior of characters. I don’t think there was any poorly acted part in the entire series. Well, maybe Shirley MacLaine’s Mrs. Levinson was a bit over the top, but then, she was American so we forgave her. In fact, even with a degree in history, she was the only stereotype I spotted.

By episode two—which I admit I watched right after episode one—I was enthralled. The enchantment never ended. As you can guess, I binged, and the binging taught me a lot. Not only about how much I enjoyed Downton Abbey, but about writing in general. There is something to be said for a writer having a full-on, multi-year episode visual binge. It lays bare the entire series, triumphs and warts. To paraphrase General Pritchard in 12-O’Clock High, you get it with the bark on.

The first thing that stood out to me about Downton Abbey was that the characters listened to each other. I know they were reciting a script, but they listened, left time for the first speaker to finish while the demeanor of the listener was clearly attentive to the words. The habit struck me first because it is so different to how conversations take place today. Not just the digital distraction aspect, but because with rare exceptions, the listener seems more intent on thinking up their next comment! Perhaps in a slower time, listening intently was usual. I can’t say, but it struck me as something would benefit my writing.  What a great glimpse into personality. An engaged character can tilt a head, make eye contact, consider before responding. Other characters demonstrate indifference with one eye on the cell phone and the other on the door.

Season three was a lesson in pacing. Writers are admonished to keep the action flowing, but to remember to give the reader a break. I keep a plus/minus chart to help me with this. If a scene ends on a big bang, a respite is needed both to let the reader catch their breath and to let the characters emotionally adjust. In Downton Abbey season three was a rollercoaster of higher climbs and massive drops. The viewer never got a rest, and it was exhausting. So much so, that I wondered if I could make it through to the fourth season. I did, and I later discovered that the actors were signed to three-year contracts. Some were ready to move on and so, constant…drama.

In the way of well-crafted mysteries, especially serial mysteries, the last season was a time of closure. All the storylines wrapped nicely in the last show. We were left in a comfortable place, feeling that all would come right for the Abbey in the future. As 1925 drew to a close and 1926 opened, the Crawley family had been through a lot and the viewer was happy to rejoice with them in the way it all turned out. For the time being. Like any good mystery writer, the series writers left the door open to a return to the Abbey. For every answered question their remained a tail. A thread that if the writers elected to tug would open the door to another season. The viewers were satisfied, but the ending did not slam the doors, merely closed them gently with the thought that a light breeze would open them wide.

Writers, do you watch shows with an author’s eyes?
Readers, do you see the potential in endings?


Jim Jackson said...

I readily admit to the value of watching television for insight into modern conventions. However, I’d rather read a book. It wasn’t always that way, but as many people do as they age, I find myself concentrating on the things I enjoy the most to the exclusion of stuff that is just okay from my perspective.

Kait said...

In most cases, I agree with you, Jim. PBS brings something special to the table though in historicals. It is unusual to find them putting a foot wrong and the lack of commercials allows uninterrupted immersion in the era.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

We're binge-watching George Gently DVD's from the library. Martin Shaw brings incredible depth to his north of England police inspector character. And the clothes and music from the sixties are hilarious.

I've analyzed Gently's character arc and learned how to plot using a minimum of characters. I've learned how to use historical events (coal strikes) to shape a plot. I've learned how to use body language to make a character three-dimensional.

Now that we're nearing the end, I've learned how to use a main character's secret to heighten tension.

Grace Topping said...

As a fan of mysteries and now that I've written one, I've become very analytical about what happens in the story. As my husband and I watch a PBS mystery, I point out things to him that I think have relevance to the plot and then predict who I think the murderer was. Frequently I'm right. I've learned to be fair with the reader and plant clues, but to bury them with other material so they don't stand out.

Warren Bull said...

I used to love "Justified" from a writing POV.

Kait said...

Margaret - I have to check out George Gently, I am often accused of a cast of thousands and I would love pointers on narrowing the standing field. Sounds like you binge with an ulterior motive, too! I wish I still had my Landlubbers - and my Pucci....sigh. Never lucky enough to own a Quant.

Kait said...

Exactly, Grace! Sometimes it seems to be easier to learn from a visual medium and a condensed one. There's too much opportunity to lose a bit of a thread in a novel when sleep finally overtakes. In a movie, the entire arc is all of a piece.

Kait said...

OK, Warren, we're not letting you off that easily. Dish. What's Justified?

E. B. Davis said...

The way you are watching, is the only way I will watch TV. Regular shows on the networks bore me. The commercials drag out the plots, which are too often bogus. We are watching the Murdock Mysteries on Hulu right now. Murdock is set in Canada during the late 1800s--early 1900s. Murdock is scientifically advanced using and creating crime scene techniques to catch killers. The pathologist is a woman of equal acumen. Their boss is a good old, Irishman who loves his drink despite the new-age teetotalers. It's a lot of fun, but is also graphic. I think you would enjoy it, Kait.

KM Rockwood said...

I don't watch much TV, but I recognize the similarities (and differences) to written work. In many ways, a good story is a good story, whether presented as written, shown in a visual manner, or told by a skilled storyteller.

Kait said...

Sounds great, E.B. I will have to check it out - we don't get Hulu, but I suspect it will show up elsewhere after a respectful period of time! Amazon is a likely culprit. I agree we didn't have "tv" for years, only signed on to DISH this year when the price dropped so low. The only thing we watch is the weather channel and I do admit to an HGVT addiction. Other than that, it's Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Murdock sounds familiar--did it originate elsewhere?

Kait said...

So true, KM. Do you find that it is easier to see certain things in a visual medium? I was surprised to discover it was for me. I wasn't prone to binging, this was a first, now, bring it on!

Shari Randall said...

Oh, how I loved Downton, especially the early ones, before my favorite character (Lady Sybil) died. I, too, found Season three's pace frenetic, and now it makes sense since they had to tidy up story lines before the actors left.
I feel sorry for my husband when we watch mystery tv shows, because if something strikes me I go "A ha!" and he goes, "what? what? wait, don't tell me!" Watching tv while thinking like a writer can spoil the fun, so I try not to.
We love Father Brown and Murder in Paradise (only the first couple of seasons - if you binge watch Paradise avoid the episode descriptions - there are huge spoilers in them).

Gloria Alden said...

Like Jim, I'd rather read a book than watch TV anymore although I did buy a new one today. I loved the Downton Abby series and hated it when they ended. When I do watch TV it's mostly PBS. I like the Father Brown shows although most of them are reruns, but since one night a month I go to one of my book clubs I miss it. I bought a book by the author of Father Brown at a book store while on vacation that dealt with old books. I've been slowly reading a short Father Brown story at a time upstairs when I go to bed. There have been a few mystery series on PBS I liked, too. I like PBS because of the very few commercials and the good shows.