Category Archives: writing

Ways to introduce minor characters in your novel-part one

Every tale needs a protagonist and antagonist, a hero and villain, a good guy and bad guy. But a tale also needs minor characters, maybe just a character in a barbershop, something to divert or give a change of pace, a set-up for what is to come. Consider this scene for my work-in-progress. My lead character, the good guy, is investigating a murder in a small town in 1927. He goes to a barbershop to get a haircut, one in which he will learn something from the barber that will help him in his search for what happened. But we might want to delay that a bit because you don’t want to cut to the chase, you want to give credence to everyday life. So here is a scene where I introduce a minor character.

When the second man got out of his chair and paid Delfare, the proprietor of the shop, I was told I was next. I looked at the man sitting by the window, about 5’8” with a bald head, maybe about thirty. He was wearing Levi’s, a green wool shirt with red suspenders keeping his Levi’s in place, his large blubbery gut sagging over the top of the Levi’s, covering his crotch like giant padding. He had to sit straight, his feet spread to accommodate what seemed to be emergent fat.

“Oh Hargrove don’t mind, do you Grover?” Grover shrugged his blubber.

“Grover is a fixture here aren’t you? He got in the way of a falling tree, thumped him on the head real good. Grover can’t work anymore. He gets bored, comes in here to partake of town talk. He gets bored every day, don’t you Groves?” Grover sighed.

The scene creates verisimilitude, it delays the heart of the scene, and every tale needs sidebars and small little diversions. And this seemingly innocuous character could play a pivotal scene later.  After all, he is hanging around a barbershop, hearing all sorts of gossip and rumors. It could be this innocuous character could play a big part later. And this is one way to set up the reader for what comes later, for they already know about Grover Hargrove.

You won’t find Grover in Silent Murder, but you will find my protagonist and what happened before he got to this small town.

 

coyotemoon_silentmurder

 

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Admiring Melville’s Bartelby while dealing with depression

My favorite fictional character when I was studying literature in college was Bartelby, the Scrivener. Before college my favorite TV character was Maynard G. Krebs. Everyone is apprehensive of the future, especially college students, wondering first if they can make it through school and then where they will end up in the job market. And my view of work was similar to Krebs, as played by Bob Denver as seen here in a clip from “The Many Affairs of Dobie Gillis.” Work indeed; it is scary. Which brings me back to Bartelby.

Bartelby is not a beatnik like Maynard, and his aversion to work is also different. In the short story Bartelby has lost his job due to administrative change and now finds himself working in law office as a scrivener, a scribe, who is hired to copy legal documents. On his third day on the job when told by his boss what he wanted Bartelby to do, my hero Bartelby said “I prefer not to.”

And what employee in a dead end job does not want to say that. He said the line with calmness and matter-of-factness. He did not defy in hostility, he simply with great sadness said, “I prefer not to.” And he got away with it. Bartelby became a fixture in the office, a mournful, sad presence, often looking out the window at a brick wall. In fact it turned out he ended up living in the office, much to the surprise of his boss. Day after day, “I prefer not to.” Sadly Bartelby was forced to leave, his presence became not intolerable, but embarrassing. Bartelby ended up in the Dead Letter Department of the post office, but I shall not reveal the ending.

From time to time when I lived in the real world with a real job I would say to my boss, “I prefer not to.” For some reason it never worked. I guess I never ran into a boss like Bartelby. I either received a stare in return or laughter, or “I don’t care, do it anyway.” Preferring not to do something is valid, but not caring is a bad attitude. Though maybe that is the Bartelby within me speaking.

Maynard had an aversion to work because it was unhip, uncool, and it was . . .well it was work. I had the same aversion in my youth. Today like Bartelby, as I look at a blank page in Word, attempting to write the next word, the next sentence, the next paragraph of my new novel, my mind says, “I prefer not to.”

Bartelby fell into an existential trap, but I deal with dysthymia or melancholy, depending on which counselor or therapist I listen to, but I think both forms of depression overlap, blend, merge, and swirl into each other. I took medication for a few years, but it had side effects and given the choice, I “prefer not to” take pills.

It has been suggested that the narrator of “Bartelby” is mask for Melville and that Bartelby is a darker side of the writer Melville. If that is true then both must have been depressed, but if you get enough literary critics together they will debate, argue and interpret the story in diverse ways. I just like a guy who says, “I prefer not to” when asked to work.

After I publish this blog I may or may not write, or work on my new, yet to be online website. I will see what I prefer to do, if anything.

Meanwhile in this e-book of supernatural short stories for $2.99  you will find two more literary characters, Frankenstein and his monster, created by Mary Shelley, and reimagined by yours truly in an alternate ending.

coyotemoon_cemetaryb

 

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What a writer should never throw away-no matter what

The following is a story that takes place in the 19th century and you are to guess what it has to do with a murder mystery I am writing set in 1927. I was doing some research for my novel and ran across the story in a file cabinet at a museum.

The story goes that an Indian woman and a white man hired a wagon and driver at a livery stable. They had the driver take them to a specific location that is outside of town. The driver noted that they carried two bags of tools. The white man told the driver to return at four in the afternoon to pick them up. This the driver did. He noticed when he returned the two bags of tools were gone, but the Indian girl and white man each had a heavy suitcase with them. It was thought the Indian girl knew about some treasure that was somewhere nearby where they were dropped off and she got the white man to help her. Neither were known in the town and neither were seen again. So what does this have to do with a murder mystery set in 1927?

Nothing. At least on the surface.

But a writer should not dismiss anything, no matter how remote it is to your story. I kept the story in my notes, then in writing a chapter I realized how I could use  it. My murder mystery began, interestingly enough, where the Indian girl and white man were dropped off. It was Ford’s Prairie. In my mystery a woman’s head was found on top of a grave leaning on the tombstone at the Ford’s Prairie cemetery.

So I had a local from the community relate this old tale from the 1800’s to my amateur detective. The reason is that it could be a red herring, to make the reader think the two stories might be related. Then again there just might be a connection. Doesn’t matter. The point is never ignore what you find while researching. It may seem unrelated to what you are working on, but you might be able to use it. As a researcher you are mining for nuggets and what you think is fool’s gold could be more useful than you think.

This e-novel has already been researched and is found on that Amazon place, not the jungle; that is another story.

coyotemoon_silentmurder

 

 

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How to prepare to write- for tomorrow

If you want to  get your writing off to a good start today then you should have prepared yesterday. In the e-Book I am currently working on I finished chapter three with Pamela slowly opening a door to an abandoned shack deeps in the woods. What is on the other side of the door?

I was wondering the same thing when I finished chapter three and was done for the day having written nearly 2,000 words.

So I wondered what will happen next, what do I write about tomorrow? Rather than do nothing but shutdown my computer for the day, I decided to make notes for tomorrow. That way I do not waste time wondering what happens next when I sit down to write tomorrow. I am facing two options. One, somebody or something is inside, or two, nothing happens. Sometimes nothing is good because the reader is expecting something. I already have a car by the side of the road; the car owned by a character Pamela and two others are looking for, thus the reason they go to this shack wondering if he, Dennis by name, is in the shack, and whether he is alive or dead.

It matters not whether he is there or not, the idea is to decide which, then what the characters decide to do with what they know, for there is always something to be learned even if Dennis is not there. But I won’t tell you what, that is not the point.

It is about preparing for the next day and you do this by deciding what you want the characters to do, or what you want to have happen. You only have to make quick little reminder notes, something simple, something to trigger your thinking and writing. So when tomorrow arrives and you read your notes, then you are off and running.

I currently have finished chapter three and have no idea what happens next, so I must leave you and make my notes.

On my Amazon page I have finished e-books. Here is one filled with wonderful paranormal horror stories. It has two four star reviews.

Cemetery_Tales_and_other_PhantasmsA-351x597

 

 

 

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Are readers dictating e-Book prices

Everyone wants a good deal, especially if something is free and e-Readers may be dictating the future of e-Books. There are many sites devoted to getting cheap if not free books. I will not list them all, they are easy to find with Google magic. I subscribe to Book Bub and I can select what type of books I am interested in and everyday in my inbox are books, some for 99 cents, some for free. Some are $2.99-what to they think I am a millionaire. Being an avid reader and bargain consumer I love it. The cheap ones I mean.

Book Bub is one of the best and I don’t want to know how many sites like them are out there. As an indie e-book author on Amazon I am afraid to find out. But we just might be on the forefront of change, as who will spend $3.99 for an e-Book, especially by an unknown, when they can pick and choose great buys, some from famous authors by signing up for a newsletter, a newsletter that, in essence, does the search for you.

The original prices for my books were $2.99 because that is what everyone said at the time. It became the standard. Of course one must always wonder who THEY are. Are they The Hardly Enlightened Yahoos. It was, however, the prevailing accepted price. Then someone said it should be $3.99 because if you value your work, believe you have written good stories, then you should be paid accordingly to distance yourself from those $2.99 folk.

I thought about it, then changed the price. I did not notice any significant downturn in sales so kept it at the higher price. At some point I thought of reverting to the original price during a sluggish sales period, but I then read a blog that said once you raise the price it is not a good idea to go back as the readers who paid the higher price may feel cheated. It made sense, but I have to come to the opinion it doesn’t matter. In the end you must do what you feel is best, not what others say or think, no matter if you believe they-remember them- make sense.

But will it now make a difference? Is $2.99 now too high a price with so many savvy readers paying 99 cents, at the most $1.99 for quality books. There is a proliferation of sales and cheap e-Books, and the smart reader knows this and loves it. In the future indie authors may be squeezed out of the market  just as they are squeezed out from traditional publishing. I have no illusions of being a best selling writer, but a steady income  of mad money would be nice.

So what to do? This year I will advertise more, and I may revert to my old price (still percolating in my sub-human brain), but all of us Indie e-Book authors are facing important questions, none of which have to do with plot and structure.

On my Amazon page you will find my books at $3.99. Buy now before the price drops.

 

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The different madness of actors and writers

Actors and writers are the yin and yang of creativity. Neither are normal, nobody in the creative arts is normal; normal people get normal jobs, have normal families, and do normal things. Creative people are neurotic, they see things normal people see, but don’t think about until writers and actors remind them, then if the norm agree with what the creators see, they applaud, if they don’t agree, the reviews are bad.

Actors, like writers are introverted, but they approach creativity from a different angle. Actors need to be in the limelight, to have that klieg light shine upon them, hiding behind a character (one the writer creates), to escape who they are, be something they would like to be, at least for that play, movie, or TV show. No normal person wants to play dress up with makeup and prance around on a stage or movie set. It is said, even by many actors, that acting is unmanly, embarrassing in a way. Most actors prefer the stage because at the end of the play they hear applause. They get that immediate reaction; they like me-wait, no-they love me, I am accepted. My acting experience is limited. I remember only the panic attack before going on, and the laughter (it was intended). I remember little else. I didn’t like the feeling. It was not my element. 

The introverted writer, like the actor, hides his true self, not behind a character, but behind the words themselves. The writer is in the story somewhere, maybe everywhere, maybe here and there, behind or underneath the words; he is there lurking around. But he is far removed from the spotlight; allergic to lime, he is far from the immediacy of the audience, safe at his desk.

Both actors and writers are storytellers. The actor tells the story of his character, how he views things, by word, deed, or action. The writer tells his story using all the characters, seeing the whole, while the actor seeing primarily his role in the story. Both are drawn to ‘the word’ as actors look at the words they will speak and decide how to interpret the words, how the words will be used, revealed, spoken; the writer simply the architect builds layers of action, thought, conflict, and ideas though there is nothing really ‘simple’ about it.

 It could be said that actors take a bigger risk by being center stage, baring their soul to the audience, and while there is some truth to that, if the play or film doesn’t work they can blame the writer. Writers have nobody to blame.

 

coyotemoon_silentmurder

Here are some words to examine.

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The strange birth of Otis Oglethorpe

The birth of Otis came not from a woman, and not in the usual method. He sprang from my brain cells. You see, Otis is a fictional character and following is how he got his name.

The story takes place in 1927, so using a name common to contemporary times won’t work. As a writer you need to search and find a name that resonates with the time period. I could use a common name, ones used decade after decade like Tom, Dick, and Harry, but those names are kind of boring-sorry guys, nothing personal. If this were a King Arthur era tale, those names, of course, would not do. You see what I am getting at, so the first name that came to mind was Otis. To me it sounds like a laborer from another time period, or perhaps a farmer; Otis is not a name I hear much anymore.

I needed a last name and could not think of one, until that is, I sat down to watch a football game on television and the Nano-second I sat down, the name Oglethorpe sprung full blown into my consciousness. I had to go to my room and jot the name down, otherwise I would forget, and then I returned to the NFL.

There are many ways to name a character. If you are of the literate mind, you can name a character to reference something critics and those ‘in the know’ will pick up on; for example naming a willful adult male Sawyer after the Mark Twain boy named Tom. Often the references are quite obtuse, referencing a Greek or Roman God, something from Norse myth, or a stray cat.

If say you want to have character who is cold-hearted, the last name could be Winter; if you want a character who has a happy disposition, Sunny would work as a caricature for a female, but something more even keel would be Sonny, for both male of female. There was a famous NFL quarterback named Sonny Jorgensen, so the name works for a male as well. The name can fit the character of the character.

There are many things to keep in mind for a character, such as nationality, the sound of the name, and even length should come into play. To me Otis Oglethorpe has a rhythm to it, it flows off the tongue despite the awkward looking last name.

In my novel in progress this is how he is introduced in a first draft, no doubt to be revised:

“Otis Oglethorpe, about thirty with a lived in face, waded into the Skookumchuck River and washed the blood from his hands. Nothing he could do about the bloody sleeves, but he sank his arms to the elbows into the clear water anyway and scrubbed them, hoping to wash the blood away.

He thought about stealing a boat at Gig Harbor or there about, but decided to take the long way, driving from Shelton up towards Bremerton, before turning right and heading south through Key Peninsula until he reached Home. Many people honed in on Home, a beacon to the wayward thinkers of the world, the originators, the oddballs, the free thinkers, the loonies, and perhaps, a hideout for those on the run. He walked back to his dirty, dinged up Ford and drove off.”

Cut to a man finding a head on a grave. I think it fair to say readers will immediately suspect Otis of murder. But is he? Or just a red herring? That is a matter for another blog.

coyotemoon_silentmurder

 Otis does not appear in “Silent Murder” but the man looking for him is. You can find the e-book at Amazon

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