27
May

Three Elements For a Great Reader Experience

– Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary

A reader wants to feel she is personally experiencing or observing the events in the story, therefore, the  author must write the story in such a way to allow the reader to experience the story in this manner.  So, have you ever wondered why you've read some books that create this feeling and others that are just...ok?   To successfully create such a scene, it must include the following three elements.

  1. What does the character see? (The setting seen through the character’s POV)
  2. What does the character think or feel? (How does the current situation personally affect him?)
  3. What does the character say or do about the situation? (Dialogue or action, or both.) I will use a condensed/edited scene from my latest novel, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary to illustrate.

What does he see? Setting: Black Cat watched as a woman wearing dark glasses and a large black hat that shaded her face crept through the gate. Rosebush stickers on the fence caught at her sleeve. She paused, unhooked the thorns and then, tip-toed down the sidewalk toward the house.

Black Cat lowered his ears and crept past the corner of the house. What was she up to? His gaze swept toward the Wisteria vines where Angel’s golden tail swished back and forth beneath the hanging purple flowers. Angel!

What does he think (or feel?) Perhaps this woman intended to steal something from the front porch. He crept closer. It was his duty to protect the family’s belongings. He could almost see tomorrow's front page headlines in the Fern Lake Gazette. Plucky Local Cat Foils Attempted Grand Larceny. Despite overwhelming odds, the daring and plucky feline protected his master’s valuable rhododendron plant from the clutches of a 200 lb. female assailant determined to…so forth and so on…Maybe his photo…

The portly woman dashed the last few steps up the sidewalk, leaned down, and yanked Angel by her tail, out from under the bush.

Meow!

What does he say or do? Dialogue or Action: Black Cat raced across the lawn. Angel! He leaped at the woman’s arm, teeth bared. The woman jerked away. His fangs caught the edge of her sleeve and ripped through the material. Having missed to connect with her arm, he tumbled to the grass with a shriek. “Brett! Brett! Help! Help!

The thief waddled down the sidewalk with Angel, desperately thrashing against her hip. Still grasping the thrashing cat, with one hand, the woman struggled to open the front gate . “Stop fighting me, you little…”

Not my Angel… Black Cat sprinted through the gate, leaped over the hood of the car, and scrambled around the open car door.

Once she reached her door, the woman flung Angel onto the passenger seat, and flopped into the driver’s seat. Before she could slam the door shut, Black Cat leaped into her lap. She grabbed her purse and struck at his head, knocking him sideways. His head struck the dials on the radio and he fell to the floor, momentarily stunned. As though through a haze, he heard Brett yelling. Angel huddled on the front passenger seat, her nails clinging to the vinyl seat, frozen with fright, mewing pathetically, Black Cat! Black Cat!

****

 

To learn what happens next, you can purchase Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary for $3.99 at Amazon https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s

Let me know your thoughts regarding this writing process. What thoughts to you have regarding how authors create a more satisfying read?

3
Mar

Advice on How to Write a Short Story

The ideal short story contains the following elements: A compelling title, interesting characters, an unusual setting, an intriguing goal or situation, and a good conclusion, perhaps with a twist.

Suppose there were two short stories in a magazine. Both stories are about women who have an unexpected event occur in their lives. Which of the two titles below would get the most readers?

The Mall Purse (A housewife finds a purse at the mall)

The Abandoned Baby on the Doorstep (Fortune Teller finds baby)

Although the housewife may have a fascinating tale of how she reunites the purse with the owner, unless we added the words, “bloodstained purse” to the title, it is likely that the most read would be the one about the character with a diverse job, setting and situation. The reader would want to know–what exactly does the fortune teller do with a baby left on her doorstep? If she’s a real fortune teller, shouldn’t she have known the baby would be there? And, for that matter, wouldn’t she know who left it on her doorstep in the first place. Just sayin’…

Once an unusual character, setting and goal are chosen, an author begins the body of the story. He must identify the main character, the problem he faces, a conflict or two along the way that threatens his solving the problem, and the solution, all within the limit of 1000 to 2500 words. There is no room for backstory, character development, personalities, subplots, red herrings, and minor conflicts along the way, misdirection of the culprit, conflicted romance, or intrigue. All those story details can only be explored in a novel.

From time to time, it is helpful for authors of full length novels to enter contests and submission requests for stories of limited word counts. Without the luxury of75- 80,000+ words to ‘make it work,’ the author must make the short story compelling, outline the problem and bring about a convincing solution in short order. The process or writing a limited word story sharpens and challenges an author to make each word count, yet tell a story with a fun plot and a satisfying conclusion, in a very limited space.

My book of short stories, All Things Cat, includes 21 short stories, all related in some way to a cat. I’ve incorporated both past and present times, unusual locations, situations and circumstances. Some stories are self-narrated BY the cat. Some are stories from my personal experiences, but most are fiction based on ideas taken from holidays, story prompts, contest submissions, and even a couple excerpted scenes from my full-length novels. I’ve introduced witches, poker players, burglars, and members of the First Family, to name but a few. I’ve tried to incorporate all the aspects of a good short story into each tale.

When an author of full length novels publishes a short story, we demonstration our storytelling abilities, style, and writing skills. Like tasting samples at the grocery store, in hopes the customer will buy the product. With a short story, the author hopes to encourage the reader to travel on another journey with the characters we create in our full length novels. My main goal is to share my make believe world, and bring a bit of fun and laughter into the reader’s life. Hope you’ll travel this journey with me.

All Things Cat is available in e-book at Amazon for $2.99. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak. What a fun book for the cat lover or as a gift for the cat lover in your life.

 

24
Mar

The Sure-Fire Cozy Mystery Template

Let’s pretend for a minute, we’re an author considering writing a new cozy mystery series. What is the secret of a successful cozy mystery series? After careful analysis of numerous successful cozy mystery series,’ we begin to notice a certain template to the storyline of each novel.

If we follow this template of success, our story should begin with a beautiful, blonde, female sleuth, recently divorced with, or without child. She must have a dog or a cat to capture the hearts of animal lovers. The pet doesn’t have to solve crimes, but it helps. Her sweetheart, (who likely resists a committed relationship) is connected to an inept police department, which gives her access to official information and documents generally withheld from the public. She must have a quirky friend, either of another race, gender or combination there-of.

She also needs an unusual profession or hobby. The best jobs or hobbies have already been snagged by other popular mystery series’. These include book store owners, catering services, dog groomers, travel agents, writers, pet sitters, private detectives, cruise ship directors, bakeries, college professors, librarians, etc.

For any hope of a successful series, she’ll need a career that hasn’t been done to death, but one that gives her access to plenty of potential murder victims or crimes. It is a series, remember? She will need lots of suspects. In the end she must succumb to temptation and make terrible judgment choices and at the last moment be rescued by her boyfriend.

We begin the cozy mystery template. Let’s have our potential sleuth own her own septic tank truck giving her access to plenty of overflowing back yards where she is able to spot various, nefarious ‘going’s-on’.
The lady septic pumper-outer and her quirky sidekick find a body in the pump house. Proceed to red herrings, unrequited love, and suspicious characters. Sadly, all have alibis.

Toss in some plumbing trivia, stopped up toilets, (a humorous scene or two involving overflowing toilets, or embarrassing bathroom scenes) and move right on to the climax where our heroine agrees to meet the Home Depot plumbing salesman in the plumbing warehouse, but neglects to tell anyone where she’s going. This is vital to any cozy mystery, a must-be-included situation.

The killer-plumbing salesman strings her up to the rafters, because she’s ‘flushed him out.’ Her death is imminent. However, her dog (or cat, raccoon or gerbil), tracking her scent, leads her detective boyfriend, having finally realized his true commitment to her, to the warehouse.

He arrives just in the nick of time. The killer is apprehended, every toilet is unstopped, and the heroine rides off into the sunset in her sewer truck.

This is a sure-fire formula to a red-hot New York best seller. Several folks have suggested I write this novel, and, stay tuned, I just might do it.

Check out my already published books on Amazon:

Black Cat’s Legacy, Thumper pursues a cold case murder. http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, Thumper goes to Texas and confronts an embezzling attorney. http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, Black Cat and his companion are left behind following an MVA... http://tinyurl.com/y6vhncq

Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot, Eccentric Mrs. Odboddy encounters Nazi spies and conspiracies on every hand. http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

Mrs. Odboddy-Undercover Courier, Mr. O carries ‘secret documents’ by train to President Roosevelt. http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb

Mrs. Odboddy-And Then There was a Tiger, Falsely accused, Agnes seeks the missing war bond money. https://tinyurl.com/v96qhuv

All Things Cat, Twenty-one short stories about cats. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htaj

http://www.mindcandymysteries.com

3
Jul

How to write a Best-Selling Mystery Novel


There is a simple template for how to write a best selling mystery novel.
The Plot

Chapter one must have a hook that compels the reader to keep turning pages. Perhaps it’s a hard-boiled detective bringing the killer to justice, or a romance with the boy next door. Along the way, you’ll laugh or cry, be scared or surprised, along with the hero. When the story ends, you hope there’s a sequel because you want to spend more time with the characters.

Conflict

A compelling story must have something that prevents the main character from easily fulfilling his goal–conflict! If the CIA agent catches the villain on page one, there is no adventure. If the girl’s heart is broken in the first chapter, where is the romance? If someone isn’t looking for the lost puppy, he’s just a puppy.

Supporting Characters

Besides the intriguing main characters, a good story has compelling supporting characters. They are the friends, relatives, or even the protagonist’s pet–someone to interact with the main character. They may provide the conflict or help bring about a resolution, as in my Black Cat Mysteries, where Black Cat aids in solving mysteries.

Beginning-Middle-End

A good book has an exciting beginning, a compelling middle, and a satisfying end. The beginning of the story jumps into an event that convinces the reader to travel this journey with the main character. A mystery to solve, a romantic conflict or a specific goal must be revealed within the first few pages to keep the reader turning pages.

The middle is the crux of the story, where the character struggles to overcome the obstacles, but events go from bad to worse, and when all seems lost, we come to the exciting conclusion. The reader leaves laundry in the dryer and dishes in the sink to see how our hero solves the problem.

The ending must tie up all the loose strings, solve all the puzzles and reach a conclusion that is acceptable to the reader. Did you ever read a 300 page novel and the main character dies on the last page. You want to heave the book against the wall!

The Satisfying Conclusion

In a satisfying conclusion, the hero gets the girl, the killer is revealed, the interplanetary six-headed monster is relieved of at least two of his heads, or the puppy finds a home. The conclusion leaves the reader satisfied and wanting to buy the sequel.

The Right Editor

Now, the nuts and bolts: An author needs a good editor to look for spelling errors, poor punctuation, poorly written sentences or scenes that don’t make sense. She suggests corrections in a constructive manner to help the reader becomes one with the protagonist or at least travel alongside the hero.

The Book Cover

The book cover is snappy, good looking, brightly colored with an easily read title and intriguing picture, which suggests the story line. The appealing cover tempts the potential buyer to read the summary on the back and then, to buy the book. Mission accomplished.

That’s all there is to writing a best seller. Easy-peasy, right?

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