Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Haunted Book 4: The Ghost Miner’s Treasure

In honor of Halloween, I'm making the Kindle e-book version of my children's novel, The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, FREE today (October 30-31). This is book 4 of my Haunted series originally published by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. Book 4 can be read on its own. It's a spooky comedy/mystery suitable for ages 8+.

Haunted Book 4: The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, by Chris Eboch

Jon and Tania are traveling with the ghost hunter TV show again, this time to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, where the ghost of an old miner is still looking for his lost mine. The siblings want to help him move on—but to help him resolve the problem keeping him here, they’ll have to find the mine. And even then, the old ghost may be having too much fun to leave! It’s a good thing Tania can see and talk to him, because the kids will need his help to survive the rigors of a mule train through the desert, a flash flood, and a suspicious treasure hunter who wants the gold mine for himself.

FREE for Kindle Oct. 31:

If you stop by to pick up a copy, I appreciate "Likes" for the book's page or agreeing with the tag words (scroll down and click in each box, or simply paste the following list after "Your Tags": Ghosts, ghost story, mystery, adventure, gold miner, middle grade, action, spooky, paranormal, ghost hunters, children's horror, ghost stories for children, Arizona fiction ) 

Here's chapter 1:

“Many dangers you face on this quest. Many trials.” The old woman leaned over the table. A wisp of gray hair escaped from her bun and hung in her face. Light streaked through the dirty windows, making craggy shadows in her wrinkles. She stared down at the sticks and bones she’d tossed on the table, her mouth moving silently.
My stepfather, Bruce, stood across the table from her, leaning forward intently. She looked up at him and spoke. “What you seek is not easily found. There are those who would stand in your way. But you also have helpers.”
She looked around at the rest of us. I thought her eyes rested on my sister, Tania, as she said, “Some good luck.”
Her eyes met mine. “Some bad luck.”
I shivered. Did she mean I would have bad luck? Or that I was the bad luck?
“What do you advise?” Bruce asked.
The old woman shrugged. “You will go. You will do what must be done. It is meant to be.” Her eyes met mine again, intently. “But be careful whom you trust.” Cold crept up my spine, though the room was hot and stuffy.
Bruce leaned forward and asked a question. Mom shifted restlessly and took a step toward him. I glanced at Maggie, the pretty production assistant. She met my look and rolled her eyes.
My breath exploded out. It wasn’t really a laugh; I just hadn’t realized I’d been forgetting to breathe. I grinned at Maggie, suddenly lighter. I’d gotten caught up in the atmosphere of the dark room and the spooky old lady. But Maggie had reminded me that I didn’t believe in fortune-tellers. Bad luck happened, sure, but no old woman could predict it ahead of time.
Of course, a year earlier I hadn’t believed in ghosts, either. Things had changed when my sister and I started traveling with Haunted, the ghost investigation TV show run by my mom and stepfather. I hadn’t yet seen a ghost, but my sister had. I hadn’t believed her at first, but I’d changed my mind after seeing her possessed, and all the other strange things we had faced.
Still, believing in ghosts didn’t mean I had to believe everything. I didn’t even know why we were talking to this fortune-teller. During the filming of the last show, Tania and I had proven that Madame Natasha, Bruce’s “psychic” guest star, was a fake. In the process, we’d accidentally made Bruce look like a fool and hurt the show’s reputation. We’d learned our lesson there, and Bruce had sworn off psychics. But here we were.
Maggie touched my arm and bobbed her head toward the door. I nodded and followed her, Tania at my side. We paused outside, blinking in the bright sun. Maggie’s dark curls tumbled around her shoulders. Tania looked small and washed out next to her.
Maggie shook her head. “You’d think he’d have learned by now.”
“She’s different than Madame Natasha. More....” Tania bit her lip and looked back toward the door.
“Sincere?” Maggie asked.
“Creepy,” I suggested. “I mean, Madame N was a creep, but this woman is just spooky.”
“She does seem to believe what she’s saying,” Maggie said, “which is more than I can say for Madame Natasha.” She shrugged. “But what did she really say? Good luck, bad luck, nothing that can be proven or disproved. It’s generally a fair bet that some things will go right and some will go wrong. And of course a ghost won’t be found easily. We have yet to prove they even exist!”
I nodded, glad Maggie hadn’t noticed the fortune teller looking at me when she mentioned bad luck. Maybe it didn’t mean anything after all.
I wanted to smack myself. Of course it didn’t mean anything! I’d already decided that. If I wasn’t careful, I was going to turn superstitious.
“At least Bruce isn’t planning to use her on the show,” Maggie said. “He can’t stop himself from wanting to believe, but he’ll be more careful about keeping the show scientific.”
I nodded. I actually felt sorry for Bruce. It was hard to know what to believe. Sometimes I wished I could just believe the things I wanted to believe and not worry about it. But life is more complicated than that.
“So, can we look around the town while they finish?” Tania asked.
Maggie glanced left and right. The town of Vulture had one main dirt street, a few hundred yards long, and not much else. You couldn’t even drive through the town; you had to park in a lot by the entrance. A big wooden water tank and a windmill stood on top of the hill. Across the highway, a cluster of weird rock towers rose up in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains.
“I don’t see how you can possibly get in trouble.” Maggie winked. “Though who knows, you’ve surprised me before. Go ahead, I’ll tell your mom. I’m sure we’ll find you.”
The old wooden buildings had been turned into stores, with a bakery, fudge shop, antique store, and a “general store” that sold T-shirts and postcards. “Some ghost town,” I said. “I thought ghost towns were supposed to be abandoned. This looks more like a tourist trap.”
“It really was an old frontier town, though,” Tania said. “In the 1800s. Maggie was telling me about it. I guess nobody lives here now, they just come in to run the stores. And on summer weekends and holidays they do shows. You know, guys dress up as gunfighters and have shootouts in the street.”
We looked at each other and shrugged. Maybe that would have sounded fun once, but now it seemed like kid stuff. We’d had a lot more excitement in our lives than watching grownups play-act and fire blank guns.
“Well, where do you want to start looking for the real ghost?” I asked.
Tania tipped her head to one side. “It wouldn’t take long to search the whole town. But first let’s think about what we know about him.” She closed her eyes. “Jacob Waltz was born in Germany around 1810. He came to America about 1840 and headed west. He tried gold-mining in California before winding up here in Arizona in 1862.”
She opened her eyes again, and I took over the story. “In 1869 he came into town with a sack of ore, almost pure gold. He went straight to the saloon, bought drinks for everyone, and bragged about the mine he’d found in the mountains. The newspapers picked up the story. For the next two years, Waltz lived off that gold and didn’t set foot in the mountains. He was probably afraid someone would follow him and find his mine.”
Tania nodded. “But when his gold ran out, he went back to the mountains with a burro to carry his riches. Two months later, he was back in town—empty-handed. He couldn’t find the mine again. He spent the next five years looking for it, with no luck. He died at sixty-six, penniless, in rags, half starved. Some said he went crazy.”
She looked sad, so I quickly said, “What’s the most logical place to look for an elderly ghost trying to drown his sorrows over losing his gold mine?”
We glanced down the street and looked at each other. Simultaneously, we said, “The saloon.”

Friday, October 26, 2012

How to Write Vivid Scenes 3: Cause and Effect

I've been talking about writing vivid scenes, an important part of keeping suspense and tension up throughout your novel. Let's finish up our discussion on scenes with the rest of an essay adapted from my writing craft book, Advanced Plotting-- looking at cause and effect.

Cause and Effect

One of the ironies of writing fiction is that fiction has to be more realistic than real life. In real life, things often seem to happen for no reason. In fiction, that comes across as unbelievable. We expect stories to follow a logical pattern, where a clear action causes a reasonable reaction. In other words, cause and effect.

The late Jack M. Bickham explored this pattern in Scene & Structure, from Writer’s Digest Books. He noted that every cause should have an effect, and vice versa. This goes beyond the major plot action and includes a character’s internal reaction. When action is followed by action with no internal reaction, we don’t understand the character’s motives. At best, the action starts to feel flat and unimportant, because we are simply watching a character go through the motions without emotion. At worst, the character’s actions are unbelievable or confusing.

In Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore(Perigee Books), Elizabeth Lyon suggests using this pattern: stimulus—reaction/emotion—thoughts—action.
  • Something happens to your main character (the stimulus);
  • You show his emotional reaction, perhaps through dialog, an exclamation, gesture, expression, or physical sensation;
  • He thinks about the situation and makes a decision on what to do next;
  • Finally, he acts on that decision.

This lets us see clearly how and why a character is reacting. The sequence may take one sentence or several pages, so long as we see the character’s emotional and intellectual reaction, leading to a decision.

Bickham offered these suggestions for building strong scenes showing proper cause and effect:

The stimulus must be external—something that affects one of the five senses, such as action or dialog that could be seen or heard.

The response should also be partly external. In other words, after the character’s emotional response, she should say or do something. (Even deciding to say nothing leads to a reaction we can see, as the character turns away or stares at the stimulus or whatever.)

The response should immediately follow the stimulus. Wait too long and the reader will lose track of the original stimulus, or else wonder why the character waited five minutes before reacting.

Be sure you word things in the proper order. If you show the reaction before the action, it’s confusing: “Lisa hurried toward the door, hearing pounding.” For a second or two, we don’t know why she’s hurrying toward the door. In fact, we get the impression that Lisa started for the door before she heard the pounding. Instead, place the stimulus first: “Pounding rattled the door. Lisa hurried toward it.”

If the response is not obviously logical, you must explain it, usually with the responding character’s feelings/thoughts placed between the stimulus and the response. Here’s an example where the response is not immediately logical:

Knocking rattled the door. (Stimulus)
Lisa waited, staring at the door. (Action)

Why is she waiting? Does she expect someone to just walk in, even though they are knocking? Is she afraid? Is this not her house? To clarify, include the reaction:

Knocking rattled the door. (Stimulus)
Lisa jumped. (Physical Reaction) It was after midnight and she wasn’t expecting anyone. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe they’d go away. (Thoughts)
She waited, staring at the door. (Responsive Action)

In some cases the response may be logical and obvious without including thoughts and emotions in between. For example, if character A throws a ball and character B raises a hand to catch it, we don’t need to hear character B thinking, “There’s a ball coming at me. I had better catch it.” But don’t assume your audience can always read between the lines. Often as authors we know why our characters behave the way they do, so we assume others will understand and we don’t put the reaction and thoughts on the page. This can lead to confusion.

In one manuscript I critiqued, the character heard mysterious voices. I assumed they were ghosts, but the narrator never identified them that way. Did he think they were something else? Did he think he was going crazy? Had he not yet decided? I couldn’t tell. The author may have assumed the cause of the voices was obvious, so she didn’t need to explain the character’s reaction. But it just left me wondering if I was missing something—or if the character was. Err on the side of showing your character’s thoughts.

Link your scenes together with scene questions and make sure you’re including all four parts of the scene—stimulus, reaction/emotion, thoughts, and action—and you’ll have vivid, believable scenes building a dramatic story.
 Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer: you’ve finished a few stories, read books and articles on writing, taken some classes, attended conferences. But you still struggle with plot, or suspect that your plotting needs work.
Advanced Plotting can help.
Buy Advanced Plottingfor $9.99 in paperback or as a $4.99 e-book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or in various e-book formats from Smashwords.

Friday, October 19, 2012

How to Write Vivid Scenes part 2

Last week I talked about how to write vivid scenes by focusing on action and dialogue (not summary) and by including conflict. Now let's explore how to link those scenes for the best dramatic impact.

Connecting Scenes

Each scene is a mini-story, with its own climax. Each scene should lead to the next and drive the story forward, so all scenes connect and ultimately drive toward the final story climax.

A work of fiction has one big story question—essentially, will this main character achieve his or her goal? For example, in my children’s historical fiction novel The Eyes of Pharaoh, the main character hunts for her missing friend. The story question is, “Will Seshta find Reya?” In The Well of Sacrifice, the story question is, “Will Eveningstar be able to save her city and herself from the evil high priest?”

In Rattled (written as Kris Bock), the big story question is, “Will Erin find the treasure before the bad guys do?” There may also be secondary questions, such as, “Will Erin find love with the sexy helicopter pilot?” but one main question drives the plot.

Throughout the work of fiction, the main character works toward that story goal during a series of scenes, each of which has a shorter-term scene goal. For example, in Erin’s attempt to find the treasure, she and her best friend Camie must get out to the desert without the bad guys following; they must find a petroglyph map; and they must locate the cave.

You should be able to express each scene goal as a clear, specific question, such as, “Will Erin and Camie get out of town without being followed?” If you can’t figure out your main character’s goal in a scene, you may have an unnecessary scene or a character who is behaving in an unnatural way.

Yes, No, Maybe

Scene questions can be answered in four ways: Yes, No, Yes but…, and No and furthermore…. 

If the answer is “Yes,” then the character has achieved his or her scene goal and you have a happy character. That’s fine if we already know that the character has more challenges ahead, but you should still end the chapter with the character looking toward the next goal, to maintain tension and reader interest. For example, in my mystery/suspense novel What We Found (written as Kris Bock), one chapter ends when the heroine has successfully fought back against someone who was harassing her. But she realizes that the person is probably not the murderer, so a killer is still out there.

Truly happy scene endings usually don’t have much conflict, so save that for the last scene.

If the answer to the scene question is “No,” then the character has to try something else to achieve that goal. That provides conflict, but it’s essentially the same conflict you already had. Too many examples of the character trying and failing to achieve the same goal, with no change, will get dull.

An answer of “Yes, but…” provides a twist to increase tension. Maybe a character can get what she wants, but with strings attached. This forces the character to choose between two things important to her or to make a moral choice, a great source of conflict. Or maybe she achieves her goal but it turns out to make things worse or add new complications. For example, in Rattled, the bad guys show up in the desert while Erin and Camie are looking for the lost treasure cave. The scene question becomes, “Will Erin escape?” This is answered with, “Yes, but they’ve captured Camie,” which leads to a new set of problems.

“No, and furthermore…” is another strong option because it adds additional hurdles—time is running out or your character has a new obstacle. It makes the situation worse, which creates even greater conflict. In Whispers in the Dark (written as Kris Bock), one scene question is, “Will Kylie be able to notify the police in time to stop the criminals from escaping?” When this is answered with, “No, and furthermore they come back and capture her,” the stakes are increased dramatically.

One way or another, the scene should end with a clear answer to the original question. Ideally that answer makes things worse. The next scene should open with a new specific scene goal (or occasionally the same one repeated) and probably a review of the main story goal. Here’s an example from The Eyes of Pharaoh:

     Scene question: “Will Seshta find Reya at the army barracks?”
     Answer: “No, and furthermore, she thinks the general lied to her, so Reya may be in danger.”
     Next scene: “Can Seshta spy on the general to find out the truth, which may lead her to Reya?”

Over the course of a novel, each end-of-scene failure should get the main character into worse trouble, leading to a dramatic final struggle.

Next week: Using Cause and Effect

In Advanced Plotting, you’ll get two dozen essays like this one on the craft of writing, plus a detailed explanation of the Plot Outline Exercise, a powerful tool to identify and fix plot weaknesses in your manuscripts. Buy Advanced Plottingfor $9.99 in paperback or as a $4.99 e-book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or in various e-book formats from Smashwords.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rebecca Dahlke on getting the word out

Today's guest post  by Rebecca Dahlke addresses one of the great challenges in publishing, whether traditional or indie – getting the word out about your books. Here's Rebecca:

In 2010, I started an e-newsletter for mystery and suspense authors. It ran, free of charge to the authors, until December 2011.  I decided to let it go because: 1) authors just weren't with me on how effective this kind of advertising could be, and 2) I had my own books to write.

So I put the website in mothballs, but kept the Facebook site; the yahoo group (which is where authors meet to talk about promotion, and readers come to see what authors are talking about); the Goodreads group for Indie and small press promotion; and a Twitter account.

Since then I have put four mysteries up on Amazon/Kindle, and because I understood that my books are a product, I also began a six-month quest for the best, and most effective, form of advertising.

The results were exciting!  I discovered that with a combination of inexpensive paid and free promotion, I could sell more books. I thought the results of this were interesting enough to share. I put together a 7 page handout and spoke on this subject with my local Sisters in Crime chapter in Tucson. The handout was necessary because I had a lot of powerful information to share, but also I cautioned my grateful listeners with the following: The only thing I could guarantee about this information was that some of it would change.

That was in June 2012, and sure enough, things did change. One of the sites I listed as smart and creative bit the dust, and another site, Digital Books Today, has taken a giant leap after only 18 months in the business.  Eighteen months? Gee, All Mystery e-newsletter started before DBT… so that meant… but wait! There's more!

In a 2012  e-mail from the founder of Digital Books Today, Anthony Wessel  says, and I quote: "Traffic on our Sites: March: 8,000, June 16,000" and in their "The Top 100 Best Free Kindle Books List: November 2011: 600+ and June 2012- 10,000+ with 38,000 click outs to books on Amazon."

Obviously authors had finally seen the light and were using paid book marketing as part of a successful campaign to sell books. I know, because I was using them too, and the results have been gratifying—except I had one complaint: As a mystery writer, all of the promotion sites had mystery squished in between vampire and memoir.

It didn't take me but a nano-second to see that All Mystery e-newsletter's time had finally come. I ticked off the obstacles for resurrecting this e-newsletter against the fact that it might take some time to gain momentum. Then realized I already had all of my requirements for a good promotion site: I still had my list of readers from last year's e-newsletter, and I had a Facebook page, Yahoo and Goodreads groups, and Twitter with a small army of Re-Tweet pals.

September 1st I sent out the first weekly e-newsletter  accompanied with additional author posts at Facebook and Twitter that would continue throughout the week.

Sound interesting?

Here are links to All Mystery e-newsletter places:

Twitter handle: @allmysterynews

Last but not least, for those of you who would like a copy of that 7 page handout for both free and paid promotions for authors, send me an e-mail with "promotion handout" in the subject line and I'll send you a PDF copy. E-mail:

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to Write Vivid Scenes

Last week I shared a guest essay on keeping suspense in your writing. One of the basic building blocks of fiction is the scene, and a well-written scene can contribute to maintaining tension in the story.

In fiction writing, a scene is a single incident or event. However, a summary of the event is not a scene. Scenes are written out in detail, shown, not told, so we see, hear, and feel the action. They often have dialog, thoughts, feelings, and sensory description, as well as action.

A scene ends when that sequence of events is over. A story or novel is, almost always, built of multiple linked scenes. Usually the next scene jumps to a new time or place, and it may change the viewpoint character.

Think in terms of a play: The curtain rises on people in a specific situation. The action unfolds as characters move and speak. The curtain falls, usually at a dramatic moment. Repeat as necessary until you’ve told the whole story.

So how do you write a scene?

  • Place a character—usually your main character—in the scene.
  • Give that character a problem.
  • Add other characters to the scene as needed to create drama.
  • Start when the action starts—don’t warm up on the reader’s time.
  • What does your main character think, say, and do?
  • What do the other characters do or say?
  • How does your main character react?
  • What happens next? Repeat the sequence of actions and reactions, escalating tension.
  • Built to a dramatic climax.
  • End the scene, ideally with conflict remaining. Give the reader some sense of what might happen next—the character’s next goal or challenge—to drive the plot forward toward the next scene. Don’t ramble on after the dramatic ending, and don’t end in the middle of nothing happening.

Scene endings may or may not coincide with chapter endings. Some authors like to use cliffhanger chapter endings in the middle of a scene and finish the scene at the start of the next chapter. They then use written transitions (later that night, a few days later, when he had finished, etc.) or an extra blank line to indicate a break between scenes within a chapter. (You'll find my essays on cliffhangers by clicking on the "cliffhanger" link in the list to the right.)

A scene can do several things, among them:

  • Advance the plot.
  • Advance subplots.
  • Reveal characters (their personalities and/or their motives).
  • Set the scene.
  • Share important information.
  • Explore the theme.

Ideally, a scene will do multiple things. It may not be able to do everything listed above, but it should do two or three of those things, if possible. It should always, always, advance the plot. Try to avoid having any scene that only reveals character, sets the scene, or explores the theme, unless it’s a very short scene, less than a page. Find a way to do those things while also advancing the plot.

A scene often includes a range of emotions as a character works towards a goal, suffers setbacks, and ultimately succeeds or fails. But some scenes may have one mood predominate. In that case, try to follow with a scene that has a different mood. Follow an action scene with a romantic interlude, a happy scene with a sad or frightening one, a tense scene with a more relaxed one to give the reader a break.

Don’t rush through a scene—use more description in scenes with the most drama, to increase tension by making the reader wait a bit to find out what happens. Important and dramatic events should be written out in detail, but occasionally you may want to briefly summarize in order to move the story forward. For example, if we already know what happened, we don’t need to hear one character telling another what happened. Avoid that repetition by simply telling us that character A explained the situation to character B.

Avoid scenes that repeat previous scenes, showing another example of the same action or information. Your readers are smart enough to get things without being hit over the head with multiple examples. If you show one scene of a drunk threatening his wife, and you do it well, we’ll get it. We don’t need to see five examples of the same thing. Focus on writing one fantastic scene and trust your reader to understand the characters and their relationship. For every scene, ask: Is this vital for my plot or characters? How does it advance plot and reveal character? If I cut the scene, would I lose anything?

Next week: Connecting Scenes

 Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer: you’ve finished a few stories, read books and articles on writing, taken some classes, attended conferences. But you still struggle with plot, or suspect that your plotting needs work.
Advanced Plotting can help.
Buy Advanced Plottingfor $9.99 in paperback or as a $4.99 e-book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or in various e-book formats from Smashwords.

Friday, October 5, 2012

On the Edge of Your Seat: Creating Suspense, by Sophie Masson

Part of keeping your reader’s attention throughout your novel is creating suspense, regardless of your novel’s genre. Here’s an excerpt from an essay in Advanced Plotting by guest author Sophie Masson:

On the Edge of Your Seat: Creating Suspense

Suspense is what keeps a reader reading—wanting to know what happens. The suspense can be of all kinds, from wanting to know who the baddie is in a thriller to wanting to know whether the heroine is going to choose Mr. A or Mr. B as her love interest, to—well, just about anything, really! Creating and maintaining suspense is important in any kind of story or novel; it is especially so in the kinds of genres that are built around suspense: mysteries, thrillers, spy stories, fantasy. Here are some of my tips, honed over years of writing in many of those genres!

First of all, to create suspense you need:

Some background information.
But incomplete knowledge.

That is, from the beginning the author needs to already have something set up—to let the reader know something about a character and their situation, or the suspense won’t happen—you have to care what happens for suspense to occur in the reader’s mind.

You can build towards that or start immediately with a suspenseful mysterious beginning, but there must not be too many clues as to what might happen or the suspense will fizzle out before it’s had a chance to happen. You need instead to build up the tension carefully, making the reader think that something is one way when it’s another. But at the same time you can’t play dirty tricks on them—you shouldn’t for instance at the climax suddenly produce a character that wasn’t there before—either in person or mentioned—as the villain, or the reader has a right to feel ripped off.

In my detective novel The Case of the Diamond Shadow, for instance, the true villain is hidden behind a smokescreen of red herrings—but is there all along. It’s just that nobody even thinks of them in connection with the crime!

Character is very important in suspense. I think that plot itself, the driving machine of a story, is really at heart the unfolding of interaction between characters, good and bad. That is what creates situations and fuels tension. So you need to feel strongly for your characters especially the one or ones from whose point of view the action is viewed from, but also the others with whom they interact. If the characters feel real to your readers, then they will see when someone is acting out of character—and that will immediately set up suspense. Or say your main character trusts someone—really trusts them—and little by little they begin to change their minds, to suspect they’re up to no good—excellent suspense too.

Sophie Masson has published more than 50 novels internationally since 1990, mainly for children and young adults. A bilingual French and English speaker, raised mostly in Australia, she has a master’s degree in French and English literature. Her most recent novel to be published in the USA, The Madman of Venice (Random House), was written for middle school children, grades ~6-10 and her recent historical novel, The Hunt for Ned Kelly (Scholastic Australia) won the prestigious Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature in the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

See the complete essay and two dozen more in Advanced Plotting, plus a detailed explanation of the Plot Outline Exercise, a powerful tool to identify and fix plot weaknesses in your manuscripts. Buy Advanced Plottingfor $9.99 in paperback or as a $4.99 e-book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or in various e-book formats from Smashwords.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Writing the Male Point of View, with Chris Redding

Today's guest is romantic suspense author Chris Redding. In any of the romance subgenres, male-female relationships are important. But creating realistic male characters is important for all forms of writing. (I've heard editors and agents say that children's or teen books written by women often have unrealistic boy characters.) Here's Chris to explore communication differences between men and women:

This is an excerpt from my lecture on Communication in my workshop: Show Up Naked: Writing the Male Point of View. 

Men are lecturers. They are used to giving out information and expecting people (especially women) to listen to what they have to say. Ever been with a guy who just went on and on? He has no idea that you lost interest about five minutes ago.
        He’s lecturing. He assumes that because you are quiet that you are interested.
        Imagine your hero begin to do this and your strong heroine getting up in his face about it. Conflict!
        Often, even if the woman adds something to the conversation, the man does not pick up on those facts. He will keep going on his own track of the conversation. These situations can start out on an even keel, but then the man takes over. This (and I hate to keep harping on this) is because it puts them at a higher status. They are the information giver. They have something that the other person supposedly wants. Women, in seeking rapport, tend to downplay their expertise. Men are quite willing to take center stage.
        But a strong heroine, especially one in a dangerous situation is less likely to worry about rapport. She’s worried about getting out of the situation. She isn’t going to fall back on creating connections. She wants to create an escape.
        I teach CPR and I find this with a lot of the male instructors. They automatically take over or become lead instructor. And I’m a pretty strong personality so they don’t really get away with it.
        Deborah Tannen in You Just Don’t Understand talks about how different conversations are with men and women in terms of what she does for living. Specifically she talks about social functions.

        My experience is that if I mention the kind of work I do to women, they usually ask me about it. When I tell them abut conversational style or gender differences, they offer their own experiences to support the patterns I describe.
        But when I announce my line of work to men, many give me a lecture on language – for example, about how people, especially teenagers, misuse language nowadays. Others challenge me, for example questioning me about my research methods. Many others change the subject to something they know more about.

        Psychologist H. M. Leet-Pellegrini wanted to discover which was more important to determining who would act in a “dominant” manner, those of a certain gender or those who have expertise in a subject. She set up pairs to discuss TV violence’s affect on children. The pairs were either two men, two women or one of each. In some cases, one of the partners was an expert on the subject. The experts definitely talked more, but the male experts talked more than the female experts.
        Non-expert women gave more support to their partners regardless of whether that partner was an expert or not. Men who were not experts on the subject were less likely to give support to the women who were the expert. In fact even if a woman was an expert she tended to give supportive statements to the non-expert man.
        When an expert man talked to a non-expert woman, he tended to control the conversation, though if he was talking to another man, expert or not, he was less likely to control the ending of the conversation.
        In other words, when a man has expertise he isn’t challenged about it by a woman, but will be by a man.
        It all goes back to jockeying for status. To do that the man must challenge the authority.

Chris Redding lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, one dog and three rabbits. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in Journalism.  When not writing she works for her local hospital in the Emergency Services Department. She has been writing for thirteen years and has five books published.

What if your past comes back to haunt you?

Chelsea James, captain of the Biggin Hill First Aid Squad, has had ten years to mend a broken heart and forget about the man who’d left her hurt and bewildered. Ten years to get her life on track. But fate has other plans.

Fire Inspector Jake Campbell, back in town after a decade, investigates a string of arsons, only to discover they are connected to the same arsons he’d been accused of long ago. Now his past has come back to haunt him, and Chelsea is part of that past.

Together, Chelsea and Jake must join forces to defeat their mutual enemy. Only then can they hope to rekindle the flames of passion. But before they can do that, Chelsea must learn to trust again. Their lives could depend on it.