Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Character Arc

In Thrillers particularly, the changes in character arc can be buried if the author isn't vigilant. Many times, characters get lost beneath all the external drama and action that's enveloping the reader. The point of having conflict and tension is for the main character(s) to strengthen and grow as a result of the challenges they face. As an author, I use internal monologue to add emotional conflict and internal challenge to offset external activity. Readers are more interested in internal conflict than external conflict.

In page turning Thrillers, when you think things can't get worse, they do. I'll give you an example from the film, The Mission. If you haven't seen the movie, rent it, and watch the climb scene.

Robert De Niro plays Rodrigo Mendoza, a slave trader who kills his own brother for sleeping with his fiancee. For his sins, Rodrigo accompanies the Jesuits on a trek to visit the Guarani people above the Igazu Falls. He serves as their slave. In the pouring rain, Rodrigo carries all the Jesuits' equipment up the side of the Falls. He receives no help. When you think he's made the top, he slips down and must start his climb again. Even though he says nothing, the viewers can hear his Internal Monologue in his face, his body, and anguished cries. He reaches the top with all the Jesuit's things. The Jesuits pick up their packs, and Rodrigo finds redemption.

But the focus is not the rain, the mountain, or the Jesuits. The focus is the human struggle. The man, Rodrigo, has overcome. This is what makes a Thriller. A writer's job is to go and do likewise.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Giving Characters Life

In my last two posts, we talked about how to create the world of the novel and the unique tension that drives the story. Now we are ready to develop characters. Authors breathe life into their characters before dropping them into their role in the novel. They do this because, once you drop the main and supporting characters into their new world, you lose some control. Come on now. You know it's true. Don't your characters take on a mind of their own once you release them?

So knowing this can be a problem, develop them beforehand. That way you know the life they've led and who they are. I do this with the protagonist, the antagonist, and one or two other supporting roles to a lesser extent. I ask myself: What was their childhood like, their family life, and their self-image in their teens? Who are they now: married, single, successful, a failure, wealthy or poor? How do they feel about who they are now? What do they believe about the world around them?

I'm not God! But . . . in the spirit realm of my mind, I am God to them at this point. I will not vary their back story once I drop them into their new world. However, once dropped, they will argue, disobey, and question me, just as I do with my God. Characters surprise their creators by going off in directions than planned. Many times, your characters are right to do so, and isn't that fun in an insane kind of way. If I've planned correctly, I know where I'm starting. I know where I'm going. I know how to get there. My characters become co-authors within the scenes they're in, adding nuances I hadn't planned.

Authors disagree about things like appearance, readers do as well. A multi-published author friend asked me if I knew what his main character looked like. I didn't, and I'd read several of his books staring that character. "I never describe him," he said. "I'd rather the reader develop his own idea of what he looks like." This worked for him. I'm less secure. I show my characters through the eyes of others and the internal monologues of the characters themselves. To this another friend of mine replies, "Whatever works."

Next time, I'll talk about character arc and motivation that stem from crises and tension. But now it's time for shameless marketing. Here is the link to the Room 1515 YouTube video.

Here are the links to purchase.





Thursday, April 5, 2012

Create the Conflict Before You Write the Novel

Is the world of your next novel rock solid? You've picked the time frame. You've chosen your locations and tailor-made them to set the mood--dark, romantic, challenging, adventurous. You're dying to parachute your characters into the fray. Don't. Not yet.

Now decide what beliefs and past histories drive your characters and hence drive the plot. Ever read novels where the bad guys have no redeeming features and the good guys are Dudley Do-Rights, where the good guys always beat the bad guys and you know who to cheer for. The real world is not this way. The more conflicted people and events are the better your novel will be.

Example: In Room 1515, I don't have a true protagonist. I created an anti-heroine, a flawed woman pursuing the enemies of her country, but dissolution sets in when she questions the tactics of her mentors. I don't have a true antagonist. I abandoned the archetypal villain for one who is sympathetic and even likable while being ruthless. Complex characters hold readers interest.

A question from a recent interview asked, "What makes Room 1515 unique when compared to other novels about power-brokers taking over the world." My answer is that in Room 1515 the motive of the villain is noble. He believes humanity will destroy the earth. Greed is keeping nations from tackling the problem of global warming and pollution, and there isn't time to reason with selfish idiots anymore. He'll do anything necessary to rule the world and save it.

Authors need to establish a twist that is different to make their book unique and interesting. Do it before you drop your characters into a battle they're not ready for. We'll talk about dropping them in next time.

I write thrillers, not mysteries. I've been asked, "What is the difference?" I agree good Mystery, Suspense, Thriller novels have aspects of all three. For me, mysteries lean toward the 'who-done-it?' Thrillers lean toward the 'how are they doing it, and how do we stop them?' Suspense to me is tension throughout the novel. If the problem is bad, it's going to get worse. When it does get worse, prepare for the tornado.

Now for shameless marketing. Watch my Room1515 YouTube video to see if you like it.

To buy the book, go to:





Monday, April 2, 2012

Creating the World of Your Novel

Writing fiction presents complications for both new and experienced writers. The first occurs when developing the world of your novel. For me, creating a book starts with building a tension-packed world full of pitfalls, danger, and valuable aspirations in which characters take form and develop.

Before I wrote
Room 1515, I designed the world in which the story takes place. This world is a near future world, no more than five years from now. The major action takes place in Washington, D.C. and Great Britain, London primarily. The details of the locations where events take place, the physical building structures and surrounding areas, have to appear real, yet subtly altered. Why, because our society constantly changes our physical surroundings to fit the mood of its citizens. So an author must add a new hotel here and a new transit system there.

This world has a political environment that is recognizable, yet futuristic by a few years. In Room 1515's time period, the E.U. fears the Muslim world is on the verge of overrunning Europe, and the United States has a president who is removing all United States troops from foreign countries, leaving Europe defenseless. In addition, the top .0001 percent are manipulating the financial markets. They have the capability to bankrupt any nation in an instant.

This concept is not new. Many novels incorporate parts of this stereotype world. Why, because military, financial, and unseen fears are natural tension builders. Plus, many see this scenario as highly plausible. The challenge is to make my story standout as unique. An author must be careful to remember the changes they made to their world's new setting. Human nature tends to remember what we see and forget what we dreamed. Example: An author closes Lafayette Park in Chapter 3 due to a waterline break--the dream. Then five chapters later, we search out a website picture of Lafayette Park, and write in a character walking in the same area we closed in Chapter 3. When you design your world, document all the changes.

Notice I set my story in Washington D.C. and London. I believe thrillers should be set where stuff really does happen--and in places readers find interesting.

The final act of creating the world of your novel is a grabber, a second dilemma. The second dilemma must have major consequences if not resolved. This dilemma must be something all sides in the conflict want to solve. Important, the sides involved must not agree on how to solve this problem. In Room 1515, the dilemma is man's ongoing destruction of the earth.

Enough for now. Next time I'll deal with dropping your characters into your world.

Here are the links to view Room 1515's video and buy my book.