Archive for the 'Suspense' Category

An interview with two Vermont Authors: Chris Tebbetts (1st Case, Little Brown) and Margot Harrison (The Glare, Little Brown).  

This week we have two Write the Book Prompts, thanks to the generosity of my guests. Margot suggests that if you have a character-- perhaps an antagonist or a supporting character you’re not doing justice to because you don’t understand what is motivating them--do some free writing from the point of view of that character and have them explain themselves: give their backstory and explain why they are doing what they are doing in the story and what feelings are driving them. 

Chris suggests a warm up exercise: people balk at this, but end up enjoying it. Write a passage using only words of four letters or less. The artful writing that you can come up with under that duress can be very satisfying. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Ann Dávila Cardinal, whose latest supernatural YA thriller  is Category Five (Tor Teen). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Ann Dávila Cardinal. She says that it’s not a prompt, exactly, but an exercise in encouragement:

Get three smallish pieces of paper. 

1) On the first one, write down your short term writing goals, say for the next week. Even day by day. It can be to write 1,000 words, or finish a chapter of revision, or journal everyday for a week. 

2) On the second, write down your goal for the year. Send out a certain number of submissions, finish a full draft, pull together a poetry chapbook. Whatever that looks like for you.

3) And finally, on the third, write down your long term writing goals. To be a published writer, to teach writing, to publish a book a year or every other year, to build a writing life. 

Put the first one somewhere you will see it every day. When the week is over, look at it, and access how you did. Adjust your goals for next week accordingly. The second one, put it away somewhere nearby, but not in immediate sight. Somewhere you will find it over the next year and be reminded, a jewelry box, in a book you look at a couple of times a year, in the tool box. For the third one, Ann recommends doing what Dr. Tererai Trent suggests in her book The Awakened Woman, and "plant your dreams." Either in a garden or a pot you then use for a plant, or even a park. Visit the place you planted your dreams as often as you need to, but trust that you are creating "intentional rootedness." If this is too "woo woo" for you, says Ann, don't worry about planting it, write down your three levels of goals and work towards them. Period. The point is, build that writing life your way.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Author and NY Times "Dark Matters" Columnist Danielle Trussoni, whose new novel is The Ancestor (William Morrow).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Danielle Trussoni, who also suggested it in a recent workshop. In a discussion of dialogue and character, Danielle suggested that her students have one of their characters, perhaps an elusive character who's hard to pin down, write an autobiographical letter of introduction to the student, to the author. Danielle says this can be a helpful way to find the voice of the character and learn more about who that person is.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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An interview with Alma Katsu, whose latest is The Deep (Putnam).

For this episode's Write the Book Prompt, I'd like to reiterate Alma Katsu's advice about research. Narrow your focus before delving in too deeply. Keep it manageable, for you and your readers.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview with Sharon Cameron, author most recently of The Light in Hidden Places (Scholastic Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Sharon Cameron, who finds the availability of online oral histories fascinating and invaluable as she works. She suggested, as an exercise, finding oral histories--immigrant stories, personal experiences from wars, and interviews--on youtube or in university collections, among other places. Listen and, if you’re lucky, watch these oral histories and create a story out of what you learn. Overlay your own creativity atop these stories. She warns that this is simply a good exercise, and it’s important to choose the right stories to tell, if you plan to take them public. Use this exercise to stretch your writing muscle. Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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A conversation with the author Kathleen Donohoe, whose latest is Ghosts of the Missing (Mariner), a novel that follows the mysterious disappearance of a twelve-year-old girl during a town parade.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Kathleen Donohoe. Open a favorite poetry collection to a random page, write the first line of the poem you see there, and let that be the starting point for your writing session. Kathleen finds that, even if that first line can't stay ultimately, this can be an excellent way into new work. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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The TW Wood Gallery was the venue for a recent panel discussion with three former Write the Book guests about their work writing horror, mystery, and suspense. Miciah Bay Gault, Jennifer McMahon, and Susan Z. Ritz shared their thoughts about the craft of scary stories, and I had the honor of moderating their discussion. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider a fear, an incident, and a mode of resolution. I’m going to offer ten of each of these for you to match up and work with as you like. (You'll see that incidents might also be resolutions in a few cases...)  See what comes - maybe something scary! Good luck with your work in the coming week and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

FEAR

INCIDENT

RESOLUTION

Animals or insects

Aggression

Chemical Resolution

Darkness

Conversation

Conversation/Emotional Confrontation

Fire

Entrapment 

Hiding

Ghosts

Legal Action

Noise

Illness

Prolonged Strife or Conflict

Running Away

Madness

Solitude

Scientific Innovation

A Category of People: Men or Women or Children

Surprise

Silence

Responsibility

Temptation

Surrender

Thieves

Threat

Trickery

Weather

Trickery

Violence

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Interview from 2013 with Australian Author Poppy Gee. We discussed her novel, Bay of Fires (Reagan Arthur; Back Bay Books subsequently published the paperback.)

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider Poppy Gee’s character, Sarah, whose reckless behavior has cost her so much. Write about someone’s reckless behavior. Depending on who your character is, reckless might look very mild or outrageous. How does it affect the person’s experience and life? What might come next as a result?

Good luck with your work in the coming week and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Miciah Bay Gault, whose debut novel is Goodnight Stranger (Park Row Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to try your hand at the exercise that brought Miciah to find the first line of Goodnight Stranger, a trick that was suggested to her by former WTB guest Juliana Baggott: Try summing up your novel in the first sentence, and see what happens.

When she was the editor of the journal Hunger Mountain, Miciah set the authors of one issue this task, which comes from a famous Ray Bradbury exercise for generating ideas: "jot lists, without thinking too hard, of the things that represent the writer’s deepest interests, preoccupations, desires, fears, obsessions." This original exercise can be found in Bradbury's essay "Run Fast, Stand Still, Or, The Thing at the Top of the Stairs, or, New Ghosts from Old Minds" in his book Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. So that can be a second Prompt this week. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Susan Z. Ritz, whose debut novel is A Dream to Die For (SheWrites Press).

In our live in-studio conversation, Susan generously shared the following, which is now this week's Write the Book Prompt: 

Pick up a box of buttons or bows or pieces of jewelry and choose two that are somehow different from each other. Think about the people who might wear or use these things. Write a scene where they meet somewhere - perhaps a café or park - and hold a conversation that begins: "Where were you last night?" Susan says her students have found this exercise to be a great avenue into scene, dialogue, and character. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author J.P. Choquette, whose latest is Let The Dead Rest

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by J.P. Choquette. It has helped her to use the "fifteen-minute method" of writing, rather than trying to squeeze her productive time into the "fringe hours of the day." Set a timer for 15 minutes, and write until the alarm rings. You'll get work done, and you'll feel a real sense of accomplishment. 

I'll just add that a variation of this exercise, "The Pomodoro Technique," splits work into short segments, separated by breaks. I've had a lot of success with this approach, as well.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Evan Fallenberg, author, translator and faculty co-director of the Vermont College of Fine Arts International MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation. His new novel is The Parting Gift (The Other Press)

One of the reviews of The Parting Gift suggests that it compels us “to confront the parts of ourselves we’d rather not look at.” This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to do just that. Write something that will compel a reader to confront something that he or she would rather not.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Suspense novelist David Bell, whose latest is Somebody's Daughter (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt concerns part of the conversation you just heard with David Bell. We discussed writing conflict, and the fact that even the best relationships are likely to have some conflict. Some of that centers on regular, every-day problems. As David said during our interview, these might be “money problems or kid problems or work problems.” Sometimes marriage is just about getting through those kinds of daily issues together. This week, write a scene of small conflict. Something that might occur in any marriage or relationship, even a healthy one. Consider what causes the conflict, what each person’s position is, why those positions might be at odds, even if the ultimate goals are perhaps the same. Maybe two parents are concerned about a child’s lack of interest in school. Mom wants her daughter to do more extracurricular activities, while Dad feels she needs tutoring and a real focus on homework. Both agree they want her to be happier and more successful at school, both have her best interest in mind. But they argue over the best approach. What small issues might crop up to cause a disagreement in your scene? Keep the dialogue moving, and don’t forget to describe the scene as it would look to your narrator in that moment. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Michael Kardos, author of Bluff, published by The Mysterious Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Michael Kardos. Take a hobby, something that you do and that maybe you know a lot about, and write a scene in which a character is doing that thing--your hobby--but it is not the point of the scene. It makes for more interesting possibilities in plot and execution. Your expertise (special knowledge, tools or implements, technical information) will come through and lend authority to the entire scene.  

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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English journalist, broadcaster and novelist Elizabeth Day, whose new novel is The Party (Little Brown).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by something Elizabeth Day said in our interview. Have a look at the details in a scene you are perhaps struggling with, and see if there are words that can come out, or one aspect of detail. Ask yourself, how would this sentence read if I just took out this word, or that embellishment? Often, as Elizabeth said in our interview, it’s the most cliched word. Think of it as taking off a jangly, loud golden bracelet.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Bestselling novelist Dean Koontz, whose new book, The Silent Corner (Bantam) marks the start of his new suspense series, featuring FBI agent gone rogue, Jane Hawk.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the conversation you just heard with Dean Koontz. Early in Dean’s new book, the reader encounters this definition of the term Silent Corner: “Those who are truly off the grid and cannot be tracked by any technology, yet are able to move about freely and use the Internet, are said to be in the silent corner.” Think about how much of our activity is tracked;  ATM and debit cards, credit cards, GPS technology, security cameras, and smart phones are all eminently capable of tracking our actions and movements.

How do you feel about that? Does it make you feel at risk, or safe? Write a short story, an essay, or a poem using your reaction to this phenomenon as a starting point.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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