Thursday, August 17, 2017

Setting as a Character

by Linda Thorne

I’ve been reading a lot about setting as a character and the subject has piqued my curiosity. Setting was extremely important to me in my debut novel, Just Another Termination, which is set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The reason I kept my timeline for my book in pre-Katrina time is because Hurricane Katrina hit prior to its publication and destroyed many of the places and landmarks I had described in detail. It was going to take a major overhaul to bring the book up to date. It would also be impossible to do for years because that’s how long it took to rebuild much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. My solution was to leave the timeframe of my book back in late 2004 through early 2005 and let my entire series run in the past. It starts prior to Katrina with Katrina hitting at the end of my second book (a work-in-progress) and then the third book will drop into post-Katrina time starting in late 2005. My entire planned Judy Kenagy mystery series will always run behind current time.

Then I started hearing the term, “Setting as a character” and thought, Hey, I’ve got tons of descriptions of settings in my book. Could I call my settings characters? The answer turned out to be no. Setting as a character is a lot deeper and more complex than just a good description of a place. I believe such settings would be found more often in literary books and not so much in commercial works like mine.

From what I’ve read, when setting becomes a character it also becomes some sort of metaphor, which I’m not sure I totally understand. What I do understand is how the setting felt when I watched the movie, The Shining with Jack Nicholson. A few years afterward, my family and I had lunch at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado where the movie was filmed. I could picture Jack Nicholson walking around each and every corner. I did not read the book, but something tells me Stephen King did just as good of a job transforming the inside of that hotel in the mountains just outside of Denver into the character that it was in the movie. Some other examples of books I’ve heard of where this technique is used are: On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings, and the bayou in Athol Dickson’s River Rising.

Do any of you have a simple way to describe how you’d detect setting as a character in a book or do you have some examples you’ve found in your reading?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

There Are Rights and Then There Are Rights...

by Janis Patterson

Early this year I was talking with a dear friend of mine, a very successful romance writer who is so successful that she has her own Kindle World. For those who don’t know what KW is, it’s sort of a legitimized fan fiction scheme. A world is based on a popular book/series. People who want to write in that world can – as long as they follow certain contractual restrictions. If accepted by a Kindle committee, the book will be published, with half the income going to the original author. A different concept, but so far, so good.

To a point.

As I said, I was talking with my friend and we agreed that it would be a fun thing for me to come play in her world. She’s a multi-NYT, USA bestseller, so it would have been good for me. I wrote a book – and had a marvelous time doing it, as her fictional world is set in one of my favorite places in the real world, so it was sort of like a mini-vacation. Then, while finishing the book, I thought I should take another look at the KW rules before submitting, as I had only glanced at them before.

What a shock. Copied from the KW ‘how it works’ page :

You will own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that you create and include in your work, and the World Licensor will retain the copyright to all of the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you grant Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all of the original elements you include in that story for the term of copyright. This means that your story and all of the new elements must stay within the applicable World, and you can use only this platform to write about them(Emphasis mine.)

Whaaaat? You own the copyright, but grant them exclusive license to the story and ALL original elements in your story for the life of the copyright? (That is 75 years after your death, in case you didn’t know.) And if you want to write more using those characters they not only have to be exclusive to Amazon, but to KW? Worse still, if Amazon decides to end KW, or pull your book from the canon, your characters and original elements are still under their control. They can vanish from public view forever and contractually you can’t do a thing about it.

Amazon goes on to say :  

We recommend that you do not incorporate an original character or elements unless you want them to become an exclusive part of that World. In short, Kindle Worlds is a place to be creative and explore a popular World, but anything you create will become part of that World. (Emphasis mine.)

And, to be fair, they do say :
If this is not right for you, Amazon has many platforms (including Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace) for writers who want to be creative with original ideas but do not want their work under this kind of license.

What I don’t understand is why would anyone give away their rights for what is pretty much perpetuity like this? Especially for just HALF of the royalties? Amazon even says bluntly that no rights will be reverted before the end of copyright. Period. I know there has been a trend lately among traditional publishers to hold on to (sometimes to the point of refusing to return them no matter what the contract says) or demand longer terms on rights, but I find this is incredible.

Needless to say, I called my friend and said that I would not be putting anything into her world, that I could not simply give away my rights like that. I do intend to publish the book, but I was very careful to scrub it of any reference to her world or her characters, except for the physical location, which actually exists and has been used in books for at least a century. I offered to send her a manuscript copy so that she could be sure that there was no overlap with her work, but she most graciously said it wasn’t necessary. (We have been friends for many years…)

So while I can only goggle at anyone who would simply hand over the rights to their characters and ideas as well as their right to publish anywhere they want, such a rights confiscation apparently is not illegal. The writer has to submit and sign of their own free will, which makes the contract (however unfair I regard it) valid. I don’t have the right to order anyone not to accept such an arrangement (not that they would listen to me) because it’s their business, not mine. All I can do is beg everyone to read the FAQs and the contracts very carefully and make sure they completely understand just what they are signing away and for how long. Then I would remind them that they should do the same with every contract offered them, no matter from whom it comes. If there is the slightest question, they should turn to their agent (if they have one) or talk with an intellectual property lawyer. Or both.

Unfortunately the publishing world – like the world of movies and TV – is just brimming with sharks waiting to gobble up the creativity of the na├»ve. You the writers are the only ones who can protect yourselves and your creations. Make sure that any choice you make is a good one.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Presentations and the Like

At one of the library visits I did, another author came and wanted to see what I did because she had her first library presentation coming up.

This latest set of library visits, the attendance hasn't been all that great, though a few have shown up. One visit, it was one person--but it happened to be someone I hadn't seen for ages, so we had fun talking and yes, she bought books.

But here is what I do. First I find out why the people came--are they interested in writing or reading. If it's reading, I ask questions about what they like to read, and some questions about them, and maybe the town they live in.

It it's writing, I ask them what they are writing or want to write and let them ask me any questions they might have.

And of course, I tell about my books, often what gave me the idea to write them. The process has worked well for me.

Recently I did a presentation for a writing group about writing mysteries. Because a lot of the time was taken up by their meeting and another guest who had a lot to say about an upcoming conference, I cut what I was going to say about mysteries short. I'd given out a hand-out with lots of information so instead of going over it, we planned a mystery together.

I've done that several times for all ages and it's lot of fun. We decide upon who/what the following will be:

The detective/sleuth and sidekick.
The victim--why this person might have been killed.
Murder weapon or method of murder
Suspects--and why they are suspects. (I like to have at least four)

The audience comes up with various ideas and then vote on them.

I certainly engaged everyone and I kept their attention.

Authors, what have you done for a presentation that worked really well?
Readers, what kind of a presentation have you really enjoyed?


Blurry photo, but you get the idea. Though you can't tell the room was pretty full.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Raising the Stakes as a Writer

Make Mine Mystery

August  5, 2017
Linda Lee Kane
Raising the Stakes as a Writer
To keep readers turning pages, what do you do as a writer? I try to keep raising the characters’ stakes. This means every line must add tension and conflict to the story. 
So how does a writer build suspense while the story unfolds? The answer is in every line of the story. To ensure a tight, high-stakes scene, use the characters’ fears and weaknesses against him or her. In the Black Madonna I used Luci’s panic attacks which not only forced her to struggle, but also to face an inner and outer antagonist. Know the character’s story goal or problem, then I showed how difficult that quest is through r her weaknesses.
Here’s a few tips to help raise critical stakes.
Caught in the Crucible
Are the characters caught in the middle of a goal, either mentally or physically, in which both refuse to release the hold? The crucible is greater than the characters’ desires, and neither is willing to give it up.
Choices and Doubts
Think about yourself. Have you ever given up on a goal or decided the challenge wasn’t worth the trouble? Considered quitting? Given up for a while? I know I have. I want my characters to mirror my emotions, and I want them to overcome their fears to succeed.
Consider the choices confronting your character. Have her choose between two rights. Which one? Why? Are you still looking for more conflict? Force your character to choose between two wrongs. Imagine the guilt, the responsibility, the consequences, and the circumstances surrounding her dilemma. Make her life messy, with the story line and characters believable, but bigger than life.
Chapter hooks are as vital to the story as the hook in the beginning. End each scene with high stakes, an outer or inner struggle that spins with emotion. You’ll keep the reader up all night turning page after page to discover what happens next.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Importance of Having a Life Beyond Writing

The first Tuesday of August snuck up on me, so quickly I'm going to write about what came to mind.

Though being a writer can take over your life what with all the plotting, writing, getting published and the promotion that must follow, it also important that you take time for yourself.

The most important reason is to keep you refreshed. You should do things on a regular basis that you enjoy. For me, it's spending time with family and friends, taking in a movie in a theater now and then, going on short vacations, and reading. It really doesn't matter what you do, just that whatever it is is something you like.

Another big reason to have a life beyond writing, is to experience new things, to meet new people, all of this can bring a freshness to your writing. Being with others and listening to their stories can give you ideas for new plots.

This happened to me while out to breakfast with friends, weekly occurrence.. The husband and wife have had various jobs and have told us about many of their experiences along the way. One of these tales gave me the idea for my coming Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, A Cold Murder.

Once I began writing the story, at the next breakfast and a couple more, I asked lots of questions. No, the story is not exactly what they told me about, no one was murdered, but they related enough interesting facts and details to help move the fictional story along.

A Cold Murder will make it's appearance sometime this month.

What do you enjoy doing that refreshes your body and mind?


One of my favorite places to visit--Morro Bay--and it gave me lots of ideas for another Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Not as it Seems.