Tag Archives: writing tips

Ways to introduce minor characters in your novel-part two

In my previous post I wrote how to introduce a minor character into your story. We met Grover in a barbershop. He was 5’8″, bald, wore a green wool shirt, red suspenders and Levi’s with a massive gut sagging down over his pants. He did not say a word in the scene, yet I am confident readers would remember Grover Hargrove. He was introduced in chapter two.

Now I am writing chapter four and it is time to bring forth Grover. Here is what happens when we see Grover a second time.

I looked across the street and my eye caught a man watching us. He wore a green wool shirt, red suspenders over Levi’s and a massive gut drooping over his pants. It was Grover Hargrove, the man hit in the head by a falling tree, that I saw in the barbershop.

Evy noticed me looking at Grover. “Who’s that honey?”

Clancy turned her head at Grover, standing on other side of the street as motionless as a statue. Clancy waved and yelled, “You hoo.” As if poked by a cattle prod, Grover jolted to alertness, the statue come to life, and he quickly waddled away.

Now the reason I wrote the description of Grover when Chet sees him is to identify him in a way that the reader will recall-oh that guy. I did the same thing in the first paragraph in this post for those who read the previous post-oh yeah, that guy.

But Grover walks away. The reason is that now the reader knows he will factor in the story. Why was Grover watching them? Is he a bad guy? What is he up to? Is he mentally impaired because of the head injury? It is a nice plot device to make a mystery of someone, or two, within a mystery. It keeps the reader turning pages, clicking enter for next page, or tapping, clicking, to find out about Grover and what he will do or say next. 

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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.

 

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Let the reader be unaware while being aware

In a previous blog I talked about ending a chapter in my book with a character named Pamela slowly opening the door to a shack deep in the woods. A writer always hopes to end a chapter leaving something that makes the reader start the next chapter, always a good idea because it prevents the reader from raiding the refrigerator or cupboards for comfort food while reading your comfort story. You kids out there-eat healthy snacks.

There are two good methods for this. One is to pick up where you left off and this I did at the beginning of the next chapter. You keep the action and story moving.

But there is another method and that will frustrate the reader-and in this case it is a good thing. And that is to delay what the reader expects is going to happen. At the end of the chapter in which we find out what is in the shack, three characters are deciding what to do with new information they learned that clouds the murder investigation they are working on.

This time I do not pick up where I left off, but begin the next chapter with what would be termed in film language as a jump cut. I cut to a conversation with an unknown person telling a story. But who? After whoever tells a lengthy story one of the three characters from the previous chapter asks a question of the unknown narrator of the story. So the chapter begins with a story and reader has no idea who is talking. Only after the three characters ask questions of the storyteller do they find out who he is and how they came together for the conversation.

Good writing gets the reader to the point where they must know what happens next-keeps them away from cookies and such you know-and cutting the chapter with a cliffhanger is one way, and beginning a chapter with something unexpected that keeps the reader reading to find out what is going on is another.

If you can do this trick with seamless precision the reader is unaware of what you are doing-and if they do they are glad you know what you are doing- and they are aware they must keep reading.

The following e-book has no chapters just short stories, but I think you will keep reading them. It is here at Amazon

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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.

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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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Writers are liars

Let me be specific. While non-fiction writers and journalists sometimes make errors in research, get their facts wrong, or shade their story to suit their bias, overt or otherwise, I am talking fiction writers. They are all liars.

Their is no Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer. No Sherlock Holmes or James Bond. There was no Ahab chasing a whale (didn’t he have something better to do?) and there is no Count Dracula with a neck fetish. All lies. None of it is true.

Jane Austen lied to you, as did Mark Twain, and yes even contemporary writers like Thomas Pynchon, Gillian Flynn, Roberto Bolano, Umberto Eco, Paula Hawkins, and every other writer in the entire history of literature. Al liars.

So why do we read these insidious devils who have trampled on one of the ten commandments? I think lying is one, but I’m not sure, I don’t pay attention to most of the commandments; but if it isn’t a commandment it should be. And while we are at it, there is nothing wrong with looking at my neighbors wife. Touching is out, but looking should be okay.

We read these liars, to get back to the point, because in reading these lies we see truth. For within the lies are emotional truths we recognize as our own; the experience we see that happens with the characters we recognize as our experience, even if the action is crazy. We might not be astronauts, but the feelings they have, the experience they have we can identify with. We can empathize.

Unlike Ahab, I will not chase a whale. I get seasick. But I understand his motivation; I know why he goes on the insane hunt. I will not venture to Dracula’s castle (yes there is one) for I have heard rumors about him and know to stay away from people who avoid the sun. I also know to use garlic and carry a cross. This is what happens when you believe the lie. It becomes real, you see.

So if you want to be a writer who wants to tell the truth of the world, then start writing lies. We all do. And it works.

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Don’t think when writing, instead see

The worst thing a writer can do is think. First, it is a waste of brain cells, and second, thinking gets in the way of creativity. Call it Zen. Ray Bradbury did in his book “Zen and the Art of Writing.” He says what other writers have said and when more than one tell you it is so, and you can verify by your experience, you know they are correct.

I have experienced it many times, none more so, then when I wrote 2,700 words in three hours.

When writing you visualize in your cinematic brain what is happening in the scene. As a writer you know every scene has a purpose, a beginning, middle, and an end, or at least a hanging chad type of ending, one that leads the reader to the next scene, because they can’t put the book down, not yet anyway, got to keep reading, because there is that chad hanging on and the need to find out what that chad means.

Example: I wrote a scene where three people come across a car they were looking for, the car of someone who is missing. The car is on an isolated road. They follow the dirt road in a misty rain, the road overgrown with weeds, hardly, if ever used. (since I write on the fly, I have no idea where they are going). But as they go down the road, I see the road in my cinematic brain. I see the rain- and see it is misty, so I write that it is misty. I see the weeds, I see the tall grass, and I describe what I am looking at. I see the bear in the middle of the road. I see the bear raise up and let loose a tree shaking, knee buckling growl.

What happens then is not important (hanging chad), at least to the point I am making. A writer sees and writes what he sees, and what he sees is shaped into a story. So don’t think, sit back and visualize and then report what is going on, what is being said. At the end of the day-or days, you will have a story.

The hanging chad resolved: one of the three, a woman raised in an area where bears would be encountered, knew how to shout and yell to scare the bear off. They then come upon a weather beaten old shack that they approach slowly; the woman who scared off the bear slowly turns the knob on the front door. (another hanging chad)

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