Tag Archives: authors

Character Observers in Crime Fiction by Lisa Ciarfella

girl-1238520_640

Well it’s a pleasure and an honor to be asked back to NoWastedInk.com once again as guest blogger. Wendy’s asked me to chime in on my choice of the writing craft, so we’re talking about character observers in crime-fiction, the ones who help the sleuths solve the crimes and how they can help when writing in backstory.  It was Author Margot Kinberg’s latest blog post, “I Am the Observer Who is Observing* — at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist https://margotkinberg.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/ that got me thinking on all this…

So, how can the observer characters in crime-fiction help us write better backstory into our novels? In Kinberg’s post, she likens writers to those people in life who tend to be natural observers, hanging back and taking it all in. I tend to be like this, and I think most good authors probably are. In fact, we often like nothing better than to sit in open air cafe’s, pretending to be reading or writing on our laptops when really, we’re zeroed in on other people’s juicy conversations, stealing our next tantalizing idea for a story. Observers in our crime fiction stories do this a lot; nothing escapes these people.

As Kinberg points out, if you’ve ever read Agatha Christie, you know her main man Poirot is always looking to interview the observers in the room, and that these types are ultimately the best source for detectives and cops wanting to solve crimes. Likewise, if you’ve ever watched FX’s Criminal Minds or any of BBC’s Masterpiece mystery shows, you know that observers are often more helpful than any physical evidence found on the scene since they can point the crime solvers in the right direction when the evidence can only say so much!

“Observers often have a very interesting perspective, because they stand back and notice everything… Observers can give valuable information on what they’ve seen. And their perspectives can give the detective a sense of what a group of people is like So, it’s little wonder that we see them so often in crime fiction.” Kinberg

woman-looking-through-binoculars_1187-1049
Photo by Pam Evans

What intrigued me the most in Kinberg’s post was her mention of author Louise Penny’s book, Still Life. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list now. According to Kinberg, the victim, Jane Neal, seems to be the observer, albeit from after the grave. She helps the cops by letting them know she’d known things, a lot of things, that other people in town just may have wished she hadn’t! And that very fact, helped seal her doom!

Now since I’m writing up a novel where the victim chimes in after the deadly deed, this intrigues me! Especially as a way of dealing with a character’s backstory. Backstory is so challenging to write. It engrosses us as authors as we create our characters, and it can be all consuming if we let it. After all, it’s so easy to get caught up in the how and the why of our main players and lose sight of the most important part of the story, the action! Action is where it’s at for the readers, and if there’s too much backstory and too little movement, the story can fall fabulously flat!

And we all want to avoid that dreaded dumping scenario, right? The one where the reader becomes barraged with info. overload in one fell swoop! Or, as renowned crime fiction author Les Edgerton like to call it, doing “The Rubber Ducky” (http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/rubber-ducky.):

“The “Rubber Ducky” is Paddy Chayevsky’s term for when the hero or villain, at a lull in the action, explains that he is the way he is because his mother took away his rubber ducky when he was three…Always a nice scene… And totally unnecessary … It usually comes from not trusting the reader’s or viewer’s intelligence to “get it” ….

toy-1474138_640

…if all you’re trying to do is give your hero more emotional depth, for the sake of emotional depth, without integrating his back-story into your story, you run the risk of awakening the dread Ducky.” Edgerton

I don’t know how my attempt at incorporating my vic from beyond the grave will turn out, but it seems like going back in time and letting my victim tell some of the tale from an observer standpoint is a great way to deal- in her back-story without awakening that dreaded RD! 

I’m giving it my best shot anyway. Could make my tale so much more present for the reader, involving them intimately in the life of my vic by hearing her own voice relay her rough-ride. Much better her than me! And as author, I so want to get out of my character’s way and let them do the heavy lifting!

lisa ciarfella headshot Lisa’s a recent MFA graduate from California State University, Long Beach. She writes darkly tainted, noir style prose where bad things happen to bad people and not so bad people get caught up in the madness. In 2018, her fiction was featured at http://www.outofthegutteronline.com, Near to the Knuckle.uk, and at Short Mystery Fiction Society’s  https://shortmystery.blogspot.com/2018, as part of theirMay short story month’ series.

You can also find her work at PulpMetalmagazine.com, Nowastedink.com, Ashedit.com, StudentHealth101.com and other places.

By night Lisa’s currently cranking out more short stories and her first crime fiction novel, doggedly pursuing the game! By day, she shepherds high school kids with their daily grind, and on the weekends, likes throwing Frisbees around the beach with her pups and catching ball games.

Find her on Facebook at @lisajohnljc, or on her blog, at Ciarfella’s Fiction Corner

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

no-wasted-ink-writers-links-logo

Happy Monday!  It is time for another batch of links that would prove useful to writers and readers of fiction.  I’ve stayed mainly on topic this week.  There are plenty of general writing tip articles to read, along with a few related to writing science fiction.  Enjoy!

Building Characters Layer by Layer

Five Things Your Editor Hates About You

A Need for Speed

Forget Your Muse

Wax On, Wax Off: 5 Areas To Polish Before Submitting A Manuscript

The Difference Between Editing and Revising a Novel

I AM NOT A GATEKEEPER

My three decades at Disney taught me not to fear automation

THE SURPRISING STORIES BEHIND THE PEN NAMES OF 10 FAMOUS AUTHORS

How to Live in a Dystopian Fiction

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

no-wasted-ink-writers-links-logo

Welcome to another Monday of writer’s links. This week I got out of my comfort zone and explored a bunch of new blogs and authors.  I found plenty of interesting articles out there.  I hope you’ll enjoy them.

A Road to Publication

ON WRITING: HOW TO WRITE A BOOK – PART ONE – THE IDEA

Who is Science Fiction For?

Why I Don’t Have a Degree

Bigger on the Inside

Characters development and personality traits

Critique Groups – 8 Good Reasons to Love

Journey of Words

Where do you get your ideas from?

Older British Accents Actually Sounded More Like Americans Speak Today

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

no-wasted-ink-writers-links-logo

Welcome back to No Wasted Ink Writers Links.  This week I have featured articles about marketing your books, general writing tips, and a little about poetry that might tickle your fancy.  Enjoy!

“I Was Brought Into this World to be Abandoned” — Mary Shelley Gives Us the Heroine She Was

The Priority Parallax: Everything is Not as Important as It Appears

How to Convey an Established Relationship Quickly

Healthy Writer Tips: Managing Stress, Anxiety And Burnout

Four Pillars Linking Character to Plot

Selling Out: Going Wide or Going Exclusive to Amazon

5 Steps to Ensure Your Novel is a Bestseller in its Genre

How to Perform (Not Just Read) Your Work in Front of Audiences

Literary Devices: Exploring Anaphora Through the Poetry of Walt Whitman

Pen Names

Author Interview: Lisanne Harrington

I met Author Lisanne Harrington at a book signing event.  She is a lovely lady and a fine author.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

My name is Lisanne Harrington. After nearly twenty years as a paralegal, I staged a coup and left the straight-laced corporate world behind forever. I now pander to my muse, a sarcastic little so-and-so. Only copious amounts of Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper and hamburgers will get him to fill my head with stories of serial killers, werewolves, and the things that live under your bed.

When not writing, I love to watch reruns of Gilmore Girls (although I hated the movies), horror movies like Young Frankenstein and Fido, and true crime shows. I like scary clowns, coffee with flavored creamer, and hot, salty French fries. Lots and lots of French fries.

When not hanging with “The Girls,” I write paranormal mysteries and murder mysteries.

I live in SoCal with my husband and rowdy, always-has-to-have-the-last-word Miniature Pinscher, Fiona.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve always been a big reader, so it just seemed a natural transition to writing. I started with short stories as a small child and co-wrote my first novel when I was 11. It then progressed from there and has become a part of me. When not writing, I feel incomplete.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

To me, being a writer is a little different than being an author. Like I said above, I’ve always been a writer, but I didn’t consider myself an actual author until my first book, Moonspell, was accepted for publication sometime in the beginning of 2015.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

The one that has recently been published wraps up my Wolf Creek Mystery Series. Moon Shadows continues the story of James Manarro, who wakes up to a strange world in which nothing makes sense. As if it isn’t bad enough that a werewolf had stocked the town of Wolf Creek and James had to kill it, or that James is dealing with very real teen issues, now the whole world is silent, and everyone—his parents, neighbors, and friends—seems to have disappeared. Then he hears a voice, one he can’t possibly hear because it belongs to his best friend, Riff, who has been dead for over three years, killed by the first werewolf to attack the town. But when James runs out to find Riff, he is plunged into a world of darkness filled with monsters determined to kill him once and for all.

The one I’m working on right now started out as a killer clown story but has morphed into a tale about an ancient Chinese mythological creature that appears every 44 years to terrorize a town.

What inspired you to write this book?

The Wolf Creek Mysteries were originally conceived as a trilogy, so Moon Shadows is the third installment. It picks up right where Book 2, Moon Watch, leaves off, and is really a continuation of that storyline.

The one I’m writing now has a protagonist based on my bestie, who wanted to be put into one of my books, and coincidentally, is the same one I co-wrote my first novel with. We’ve been friends over 50 years! She’s half Chinese, and her father immigrated from China when he was 14 and alone, and I used that as the stepping off point. While researching some elements of a killer clown story based on all the evil clown sightings from a few years ago, I came across this particular beast and knew I just had to write about it. I’m saving the killer clown story for later. 

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Titles are generally difficult for me, so I leave them until the novel is complete. Since Moon Shadows has an eerie, shadowy fog shrouding the town, it seemed only natural when I was done to have shadows in the title, so in keeping with the “Moon” theme, this one was easy.

As for the Chinese mythological creature, we’ll just have to wait and see what it calls itself…

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The entire trilogy explores the world, how we see ourselves, how others perceive us, and how we are all similar and go through many of the same experiences.

In my current WIP, I’m sure there will be some sort of message, but since I’m only a few chapters in, only time will tell what it might be.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Bentley Little really knows how to weave a terrifying tale based on normal people and events, surrounded by true elements of horror. Stephen King writes wonderfully three-dimensional characters that could very well be your friends and neighbors.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

New York Times bestselling author Bonnie Hearn Hill was my first online writing teacher and has since become a friend. She helped me fill my toolbox with all the things I need to write a good story and weave in a mystery or two along the way. Her students have all been filleted by her critiques, which she gives honestly but with love and a sincere desire to help.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Forget about writing what you know. That’s not necessary now that research on the Internet is so readily available. Read everything you can, especially in the genre you write. Know the tropes and stereotypes and try to stay away from them if you can. If not, you need a unique spin on them. Sharpen the tools you have and always always always explore new ways to grow as a writer.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Just that I hope they enjoy my stories and will check out my Wolf Creek Mysteries series. Also, there’s a Monster blog on my website, if they’re interested.

Be sure to look for my upcoming murder mystery, Murder in the Family (no creatures involved), and my newest horror story, Gravelings, both due out in 2018. And check out my Chinese beast story sometime after that!

Also, I would love to hear from them. They can contact me at wolfcreek.projects@gmail.com.

Lisanne Harrington
Southern California

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE
FACEBOOK

The Wolf Creek Mystery Series

Publisher:  Black Opal Books

AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE
BLACK OPAL BOOKS