Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In The Digital Age - Write What You Please

I teach a novel writing course through our local continuing education department, and one of the first things I try and get across to students is to write what you love. Or better, write the type of book you want to read. Without embarrassment or shame. Love horror or sci-fi? Crazy over paranormal romance? You should write it and not be embarrassed about your chosen topics.

The indie revolution and the rise of Amazon has allowed authors to pretty much write what they want. No longer are we bound by traditional publishing contracts that ask for more of the same type of book. You can write a paranormal romance and switch gears on the next book. Maybe make it flesh-eating zombies. Or pirates in outer space. Whatever you choose to write, put it out there. Be bold. Here's what I told my students:

1.  Don't pay attention to people who belittle or laugh at what you write. You might get some snide remarks. I know I have. They don't like horror, or sci-fi (or your chosen genre)? Hell with them. Keep writing. Be a writing tank, rolling over objectives and crushing word counts.

2. You do your best writing - I think - when you're passionate about the subject. Lively, juiced-up prose and stories are born when the writer loves their genre.

3. Write to entertain yourself. Think about your favorite novels or movies. Pick them apart. What about them - structure and storytelling wise - kept you hooked? Shoot for those types of things in your stories. Write those big scenes, those killer one-liners. Create that character that you and the reader will fall in love with. There's nothing wrong with writing to entertain. Go big.

4. Pay attention to the market, but don't write specifically for it. There's no bestselling formula, or any guarantee that if you write in a popular genre, you'll have success.

Has anyone experienced naysayers, those people who look down on your chosen genre? How did you deal with it? Does it slow you down, or do you keep on rolling?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Central Casting - Where Do Characters Come From?

Recently one of my writing students asked me if I ever use real people in my books. The answer is yes. And no.

The bad guys in my most recent novel, THE HOLLOW, are ruthless. Soulless killing machines that look only to up the body count. Two of them are entirely fictional. The third, Andrew Cort, was partially inspired by an inmate I saw on MSNBC's Lockup.  The inmate that inspired Cort was similar in physical appearance to my character: huge, heavily muscled, tattooed.  What made the guy so damned scary was his eyes. Pale blue and cold, I don't imagine anyone could look him in the eye and not flinch.

On the show, when it came time for him to leave the cell, the inmate refused. It took around six guards and a blast of pepper spray to subdue the man. I give anyone who works in corrections all the respect in the world. Don't know how they do it.

I visualized Cort looking much like the inmate and gave him a backstory. Along with a nasty disposition and a penchant for cutting people up.

I'd recommend Lockup for anyone writing thrillers and crime novels. It offers a fascinating look into the minds and actions of inmates.

For additional research and inspiration, I'd also try Tru TV's Crime Library. 

What provides the inspiration for your fictional characters?

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