Thursday, February 24, 2011

N is for Narrative

This week I am very pleased to present guest blogger Fiona McGier who will tell us a bit about Narrative.

Narrative: the art or practice of narration
Narration: the act of narrating
Narrate: knowing, akin to Latin, recite the details of a story.
So a narrative is a story that is told. No judgment, no arguing about whether or not it is a fiction or non-fiction story...just a story. We are all narrators of narratives.

Mom: What did you do at school today?
Kid: Well, I didn't like the book we were reading in class so...
A narrative.

Two good friends having lunch:
So, what's been going on in your life?
Well let me tell you...
A narrative.

Since we are authors, the only difference is that our narratives are told via the written word, and not usually in person, unless we are lucky enough to be invited to do a reading and book-signing somewhere. But most will be told our narratives by the act of reading our words. And the only judgment that will matter is whether or not the reader enjoys the story that is being told. The onus is on us to tell a good narrative, one that will capture the reader's interest and make them shut the book saying, Damn, that was good! I wonder what else this author has written.

What are the elements of a good narrative? How do you engage your reader so that your story comes alive, the characters become real people, and what has existed only in your brain, now can take on life in someone else's imagination?

First of all, a narrative has to tell a story that engages the reader, and the way to do that is to reach into the heart and mind of the reader and make her care about your characters. One of the best ways to do that is to incorporate some kind of lesson about life into the story, so the reader will identify with what is being learned by the hero and heroine.

The characters themselves must be interesting people also. Enough background information needs to be presented gradually, so that the reader will enjoy reading about the changes that occur in the personalities of the protagonists as they face the various experiences in the narrative. The reader must be drawn to care about what happens to the characters, so the details of the narrative will be eagerly consumed.

Another factor to consider is that of wish-fulfillment, since what we write is fiction, and many readers are looking to experience vicariously something they might never actually have to, or want to face. I will probably never meet a shape-shifter or a vampire, but I like to read about them. I can't ever be a young career woman again, but I enjoy reading about someone else's adventures in life, especially their romances.


In Secret Love, the narrative is about a female government agent, a spy, who has long ago learned to play by the rules that state that no emotions are allowed to interfere with the job. She has taught herself to not feel anything, and it has kept her alive. What happens when she meets a man who insinuates himself into her core, reaching into her long-impervious emotions, to make her fall in love with him? If emotions are dangerous, love can be deadly.

Buy Secret Love at: Whiskey Creek Press

Fiona McGier is a very busy happily-married woman who works multiple jobs to help with the college costs for her 4 young adult children. In her "spare" time she tirelessly promotes her books, which include her Reyes Family Romances series about a large Hispanic family, and her paranormal short stories which have appeared on various sites. She had a new book come out in January, has finished the edits on one to come out in April, and has just signed a contract for another erotic romance. She stays up very late at night to write the stories that swirl around in her head until she writes them. She hopes you enjoy reading them as much as she enjoys writing them.

Find out more at:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

I've been honored by author Sandra Cox with the Stylish Blogger Award. I am supposed to post a link back to Sandra's blog.

And I’m supposed tell you seven secrets about myself. Oh, boy. I’m not sure I have seven secrets. Here goes:

1. I have a secret desire to speak Italian.
2. I worked as a semi-professional folk musician for ten years. (Semi-professional means I played for the love of the music, not the money.)
3. I once bought a car for $50.00 and ran it for two years.
4. I got over my fear of heights by taking a hot air balloon ride over Sedona, Arizona.
5. I talk to my cat as if she is another person, and sometimes I wait for an answer.
6. I harbor the dream of winning the lottery, buying a big, old house on the eastern shore, and opening a writer’s retreat.
7. I almost got married once, but then realized it was probably more important that I breathe.

Now, I get to nominate other bloggers for the honor.

My nominees are: Kimberley Dehn/Kept by Cats…Writer Interrupted and Lynn Romaine/Women Writers Underground.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

M is for...?

This week I'm very pleased to welcome award winning, multi-published mystery and suspense author Billie Williams.


M is for ?

According to Sue Grafton in her Alphabet Series, it is for Malice, but it appears to be for money. As she works her way through the alphabet hungry fans await her next novel and her next and …What will she do when she finishes the alphabet? That's only twenty-six novels. Surely she has more than those in her idea file?

Will Grafton switch like Janet Evanovich and begin another series while she's immersed in her alphabet series. The numbers game for Evanovich certainly could go on longer than the alphabet, but she's preparing a new path in case Stephanie Plum or one of her other characters leaves her high and dry or fans tire of her mis-adventures.

Series authors are faced with a myriad of interesting choices. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tried to murder off Hercule Poirot, because he was tired of writing him, he was inundated by furious fans complaints. "How dare he?" Apparently, fans rule and he brought Hercule back from the edge. As an author you have to judge if you have the passion to carry one with your much loved character or like the famed Quarterback – Bret Favre—hang it up while fans still care.

Careers, accidental sleuths are two of my choices. Like numbers they could go on forever. M is for murder. When M is for Mystery, mayhem, and money, but Money Isn't Everything, as CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) Mary March discovers in one of my mystery novels by the same name.

Exploring characters brings me to career choices, which brings me to who this character might need to help out of a bad situation…sometimes it's the protagonist's own problem, but not always. In the modern mystery M is usually for murder. The why could be greed, revenge, or something esoteric as an imagined affront, perhaps.

Another prolific author who doesn't really write series, but utilizes the same main characters for protagonist and helpers for every case—except villain and victims she connects her stories by the 'body' of evidence, literally. Patricia Cornwell uses the human body of the victim or victims and what a villain could leave behind. She peels away the layers of evidence like a cook peeling apart a head of cabbage for cabbage roll ups (pigs in the blanket to some) one leaf/layer at a time. Still in every one of her novels M equals murder. Albeit, of a different sort with a myriad of different clues. Who could have guessed your body could reveal so much about you in life and in death.

M is for "Murder She Wrote," Jessica Fletcher, aka, Angela Lansbury, similarly, never tells the same tale twice, but always through her sleuth—the endearing Ms. Fletcher with her helpers such as the Doc or the Sheriff, but, nonetheless, different. Did you know her books, also titled Murder She Wrote, are authored by—not Angela Lansbury as you might expect, but Jessica Fletcher. Why? Name recognition perhaps. When fans from her television series look for her books they think Jessica not Angela.

When we think of Patricia Cornwell we may think of Kay Scarpetta, but not necessarily expect her to be an author as she plays a forensic pathologist where Jessica Fletcher plays author/teacher. Surely, when we think "Rizzoli and Isles," the television show, we don't think of Tess Gerritsen and Lisa Gardner though they are the authors who created them.

The mystery is a different sort of venue for an author. Name recognition could easily be for the character rather than author. It could even be the cat from The Cat Who…series by Lillian Jackson Braun, who at 95, penned her latest The Cat Who Had 60 Whisker's, and seems to be losing her fan base. Is it time for her to give up the craft they question…I say if she is still writing at 95 then her books are a collector's item and a tribute to her spunk and rectitude. Amazon is promoting her next book to be published in the year 2025. That's seventeen years from now and you can pre-order it. Would anyone? Will Braun be writing it or one of her relatives? As with the Light In The Attic Series – by VC Andrews, the stories never were as good, never kept the fan base VC originally collected. The question will always be, will the next be as good as the original author's without her/his input?

I doubt the next well-knit project of Debbie McComber would face similar dissention, but you never know, because M certainly is for mystery when it comes to fan based loyalty. Mystery writers deal with a very quixotic population. Intelligent and discerning, they want a good mystery whether it's about murder or myth.

Coming March 1

Billie A Williams is author of July Heat available March 1, 2011 and an award-winning, multi-published, author of more than 30 mystery and suspense novels. She also writes poetry and non-fiction. She has four highly acclaimed non-fiction books on the art and craft of writing creatively, and will soon have one on writing the mystery (Whodunit? A Mystery Writer's Primer) available for purchase. Find out more about the author, join her unique Mystery Novel of the Month Book Club or take her 10-week writing class on line, by going to her websites at or

Thursday, February 10, 2011

L is for Layering

This week, our next stop on the Writer's Alphabet blog brings us to L - for Layering. I want to welcome fellow author and good friend, Kimberley Dehn.

Layering brings depth, drama, conflict and surprise to a simple, straight forward plot that, without twists and turns, will bore your reader: a cardinal sin!

Layering means constructing your story in stages, bringing first-draft, one-dimensional characters to life; splashing color across your scenery. Layering connects scenes and subplots, and gives cohesion to your character’s goals, motivations and conflicts as the plot thickens. It strengthens your story by slowly peeling away the apple skin to reveal the core hides a rare diamond. Layering divulges your mousy banker’s wife character wears red lingerie and gets a thrill from shoplifting. It exposes the body lying beneath an award-winning garden.

How you layer your story is unique to each author. For me, after I’ve sketched out each chapter with plot, scenes, characters and conflicts all doing what I want them to do, I then begin my second draft. Revision is layering. I look at my plot and think, how can I complicate this simple idea? I know more about my characters in the second draft than I did in the first, so when I revise my plot I also revise my characters to have them connect and enhance one another; to add depth and diversity.

In my first draft my bankers wife accompanied her ambitious husband to a company picnic at the home of his employer, the bank president, but I did nothing more with her. In my second draft, I have her steal a pretty bracelet. My initial intention is to cause her husband grief when he finds out. But then I realize I can have her wear that bracelet to a garden club event where one of the members recognizes the bracelet as belonging to her sister who is rumored to have run away with her married lover. The bracelet is a one-of-a-kind valuable heirloom; something her sister is never without. Her sister is missing. The woman demands to know how the banker’s wife got the bracelet, which puts the banker’s wife in a bad position as she stole the bracelet from inside the bank president’s house. Hm!

My first draft sketched my kleptomaniac banker’s wife as a chink in her ambitious husband’s armor, but through layering I realized her petty theft thrills were an ideal catalyst to unearth a murder and the desperate actions of the murderer hiding in plain sight.

Layering is also done with descriptions to enable your reader to see your fictional world in living color. It daubs in the five senses (my own characters rarely breathe before my final draft). Stilted dialogue is massaged to sound natural and also to define each character. Foreshadowing is blended in, alluding to in the first chapter what will be revealed in act three.

If I’m working on a complicated plot, I will take each subplot one at a time and follow it through the entire story, looking for ways to enhance the other plot threads. Layering in stages also helps you to balance a scene originally written with excessive narrative, dialogue or description. Layering applies not only to adding to strengthen your story, but also subtracting. Tweaking. Cutting away the excess to hone your plot and characters into the essential of what is necessary to tell your story without a single word more.

Things to consider when you layer:

Scenes: each scene must serve a purpose. If it reads more like an information dump, take it apart and weave the information into other, stronger scenes. Also, is your scene visible in that your reader is able to see what your character sees?

Characters: do the primary characters have solid goals, motivations and conflicts? Are they interconnected and conflicted to build strength? Give your secondary characters something important to do. A waitress serving your character can also innocently reveal a vital clue. Do your characters possess five senses? When they sip that latte, will your reader taste the vanilla flavoring? Will a revolving overhead fan give the character a chill, or waft a familiar perfume into their nostrils that may reveal a clue?

Layering is an essential part of bringing your story to life. Plot arcs are defined. Character flaws are revealed. The stage is set and the plot thickens!

~ * ~

Kimberley Dehn’s debut novel, SOUTHERN EXPOSURE, a romantic comedy, finaled for a 2009 EPIC e-Book Award and acquired several pre-published awards for best novel. “I love offbeat comedy and sassy dialogue. If you’re looking for a poignant story steeped in true to life…you won’t find it under my name. I want my readers to suspend belief and just have a laugh out loud good time.”

Kim is also the creator of The Character Interview, and Launching the Novel workshop, and has written numerous articles for novice writers. She also wrote book reviews for Romance Forever magazine. Besides her addiction to storytelling, Kim enjoys photography (check out the shadow ‘cleavage’ on my book cover), traveling, and is a passionate animal lover who is determined to save the world, one kitty at a time.

Kim is currently putting the finishing touches on layering her latest comedy. Stay tuned!

Valentine Blogging

I'll be blogging on Saturday, February 12 at The Long and Short Reviews and Goddess Fish Party Promotions Pavilion. Please drop by and join me and the other authors for a fun chat. Click on the graphic to follow the link.

To visit Long and Short of It, click here:

To visit Goddess Fish Pavilion, click here:

Hope to see you.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

K is for Killing...Off Characters

This week I welcome author K.D. Pitner who talks about how we authors go about killing off characters.

K is for Killing… Off Characters!

Last night, like every Tuesday, I fired up my laptop and tuned my TV to one of my guilty pleasures. As I listened to the introduction of 1000 Ways to Die, I began to think about the many possibilities that could be used to get rid of one of my new characters. He had become rather tiresome, you see. He was neurotic, arrogant, and generally unpleasant. I have tried to find story paths that will grant him a few more pages of life but in reality, I didn’t have the desire to save his poor pitiful soul. Truth be told, he really wasn’t helping further my plot anymore. I gotta whack him.

Now that I had made that decision, I was left with the how, when, where, and why of carrying out my nefarious plan. Poor guy. He never saw it coming.
First I looked at why I was killing him off. As I said, he wasn’t helping further my story line. He had begun to grate on my nerves in that way that only a tired character can. As an added bonus, he had character traits that I could see in myself. His death would not be a senseless one after all! By killing this character off, I could maybe, just maybe, smite those character traits that I loathe in my own personality.

While I am almost always happy and was raised never to be arrogant because there is always someone out there better (my mother’s words), I am hopelessly neurotic. If a situation has the remote possibility of having a bad outcome, I can worry myself into seeing at least ten different paths to get there. The sad thing is that this particular skill only got worse after I had children. It had to be stopped!

As I wrote, keeping in mind that this character’s life was in my hands or, rather, my words, the questions of where and when came almost too easily. My problem was the how. How was I going to off this guy and make it believable yet interesting? I had a million different methods at my disposal but none of them felt right. Lost in the thought of how I was going to make this character take that long dirt nap, I glanced at my TV.

When I get into a good groove while writing, a nuclear bomb could go off beside me and I would not notice. I had been so focused on the scene I was crafting that I had not been paying attention to my show. As I looked at the TV, I saw a gentleman who, through his own stupidity (most of the scenarios on 1,000 Ways to Die are based on stupidity so I am not intentionally being harsh), met the most interesting and realistically probable death I had ever seen. It was perfect!

I had answered all my questions. I began writing and, a few pages later, my character met his maker. It shouldn’t be that easy. I mean, he had a life. In the little universe I created, he had friends and enemies. He had family. He had passions and desires and plans for the future – a future I took away from him. Great! Now I had guilt!

So why did I do it? Why did I rob this character of his future? The easy answer is because I could. I held that power! He was a pawn in my tiny created reality and I could smite him or grant him his deepest, darkest wishes with a few strokes of the keys on my keyboard. Yet the reality was this character had served his purpose.

Every author has their own method for creating their characters and for plotting their demise. Some are grand and well thought out methods while others, like mine, are simple. I kill the characters that have aspects of me I want to conquer – lust, greed, gluttony, naivety, etc. – and that no longer serve my storyline. The important thing to keep in mind is how this death going to further the story. Can your story be told without that particular character dying? If so, why is that character’s death important? Has their story line died out? What if that character lived? How would the story go from there? Answer these questions. Examine the motivations. Then, once you have done everything you’ve read about on how to craft (and kill) characters, find your own method – that one that works for you. You will craft a more believable story and your readers will devour it and return to see what new and inventive realities you have created!

~ * ~

Bio: K.D. Pitner lives in the beautiful, scenic Tennessee Valley with her husband and two children. From the age of two, K.D. entertained family members with her stories, often explaining the intricacies of Heaven and how she came to be here on earth with her parents.

Her first novel, Darker Shades of Midnight, is due to be released August 2011 by Champagne Books.

When not writing, she also enjoys gardening, playing the piano and violin, and doting over her four- legged babies. She is the human mother of a very co-dependent kitten (Ernie) named after one of her favorite authors, Ernest Hemmingway.

On the rare occasion that she has free time, she loves to catch up on the most recent vampire movies and novels. She is a "True Blood" fan and never misses an episode.

In addition to her website at, you can contact K.D. directly via email at