Writing Wednesday – Birthergate! or Using Breaking News in Your Plot

So it’s official. I mean, it was official before, but now it’s officially official. Our president can still be our president. Wow, the power of a piece of paper. Especially when several of those pieces of paper are put together to form your bestseller, right?

This week, Writing Wednesday (where we talk about all things writing) becomes “What if?” Wednesday. Let’s take the aforementioned birth certificate that had so many people’s panties in a twist. While there was never a question in my mind about Obama’s citizenship, “what if” it was a fake document? What if he had been born in Kenya in a private ceremony, or in some small village and only a few people knew about it? What would someone whose powerful position in life would be stripped from him if one of those people talked? What would that person do to keep them quiet? 

Now let’s take it out a step further, or rather backtrack the story to this point about the president not wanting this secret to come out and only a few people know about it in a remote village in Africa. Now, we need a protagonist, perhaps a strong female character. Let’s make her a doctor in Africa trying to save the world as she works with Doctors without Borders. She is working in this village when assassins come in to slaughter everyone for apparently no reason. She narrowly escapes with her life, but she notices something strange, the assassins are white. She notices something else, they use American military terms (she dated an Army Ranger). She decides to begin her own investigation into the incident, which is blamed on a warring tribe in the area, and decides to visit the one person that got out of the village many years before. He himself is a doctor living in America and has a different name that the one he grew up with. She knows this because his grandmother was very upset that he changed his name and basically denounced his association to the village once he made it in America. She goes to visit this man but doesn’t know she’s been followed. Soon, the two of them are on the run and trying to figure out what it is that makes people want to kill them. 

See what a little Breaking News can turn into when you apply “What if?”

Have your own “What if?” about the Obama birth certificate uproar? Or any other “What if’s” for What if Wednesday? To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author. Bestselling author Sandra Brown recently had this to say about Mark’s latest novel, The Brink: “[The Brink] is a hell of a read. The chemistry between [the main characters] Danny and Sydney is terrific. The action sequences were heart-pounding, and I was left feeling that you have a sequel in mind!” Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at www.markfadden.com.

BREAKING NEWS!!! The Brink is now available as an eBook for Amazon.com Kindle  for only $2.99

Mystery Monday – Patterns of Horror

 

Sometimes, one person really can make a difference. Sometimes, all it takes is one pair of eyes to see something everyone else is missing.

In 2004, a Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation analyst discovered something remarkable, and horrific: the bodies of murdered women were being dumped along the Interstate 40 corridor in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi. The pattern was then disclosed to members of the FBI’s ViCAP (Violent  Criminal Apprehension Program) and, after determining that there were similar patterns across the nation, it was determined that over a 30 years period, more than 500 murders fit this new pattern. While not all 500+ murders could be attributed to one person, this data blew a big hole in the long believed notion by the FBI, profilers and other experts that serial killers hunted in small geographic areas. Several of the suspects that allegedly committed these crimes were long haul truckers who, according to the FBI’s Highway Serial Killings webpage, were never caught because ” the mobile nature of the offenders, the unsafe lifestyles of the victims, the significant distances and multiple jurisdictions involved, and the scarcity of witnesses or forensic evidence can make these cases tough to solve.”

So, why does a story like this one matter to us writers? Well, you’re a writer, use your imagination!

Comments? To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author. Bestselling author Sandra Brown recently had this to say about Mark’s latest novel, The Brink: “[The Brink] is a hell of a read. The chemistry between [the main characters] Danny and Sydney is terrific. The action sequences were heart-pounding, and I was left feeling that you have a sequel in mind!” Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at www.markfadden.com.

BREAKING NEWS!!! The Brink is now available as an eBook for Amazon.com Kindle  for only $2.99

A little show and tell

For this Publishing PFriday, (can I get a shout out for PFlugerville, Texas!!!) I wanted to tell everyone about a cool marketing tool that you might not be aware of. According to YouTube, YouTube gets 2.5 billion views A DAY!!! So, that means that as writers who typically have next to nothing for our marketing budget it’s all about creating time, not buying time. What do I mean by that? Check out this viral video hit about the swagger wagon. They took one of the most uncool things and made it cool. Now, reading has always had a sort of “nerd-esque” quality to it. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “How can we make reading cool, and how can we show it on YouTube?”

I was listening to a wecast yesterday on bnet.com on Live Webcast: YouTube as the New Campfire: Creative Storytelling in the Digital Age (caveat empor: you may have to be a bnet member to download the webcast) and they mentioned YouTube’s Show and Tell channel, which is, “.Home of the most creative marketing executions on YouTube! Check out examples of great interactive, viral, homepage, and brand channel campaigns.” Check it out for some inspiration.

So, what viral videos do you want to make? How can you leverage YouTube to market your next blockbuster? To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author. Bestselling author Sandra Brown recently had this to say about Mark’s latest novel, The Brink: “[The Brink] is a hell of a read. The chemistry between [the main characters] Danny and Sydney is terrific. The action sequences were heart-pounding, and I was left feeling that you have a sequel in mind!” Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at www.markfadden.com.

BREAKING NEWS!!! The Brink is now available as an eBook for Amazon.com Kindle  for only $2.99!

How much can you trust Google?

 

Good Writing Wednesday to you all! On Wednesdays, we talk all things writing, including use (and overuse of) similes, character development, plotlines, subplot lines and, in today’s example, research.

As writers, perhaps the most time-saving device that was ever created for us is the Internet. Whenever we imagine our characters slogging through a sewer system or crossing a river pulling a decrepit wooden ferry on a rope line, we don’t have to actually go there. Chances are, someone, somewhere has done that very thing. Chances are also very high that if it’s cool enough, they took a picture of it, wrote a few things about what makes it so cool and posted that information somewhere on the web for us to find with a few keystrokes.

Another goldmine for us writers is using the web to make our characters speak in languages that we don’t know. Case in point, I used Google translate tool to have my heroine in my latest thriller, The Brink, speak French. She was French and spoke in her mother tongue on occasion throughout the book. I not only translated what she was saying from English to French, but once I got the French, I translated it back to English to make sure it was correct.

Well, I met with a book club over the weekend that reviewed the book and one of the ladies was a French major in college. While she said that the words were technically correct, they hadn’t been conjugated correctly. In other words, the French I used was supposed to be conversational, but it was grammatically incorrect.

So, what do we learn from this? Is Google evil and does it want to trip us writers up that use their translator? No. The takeaway here is that machines are still machines. They will give us the correct translation, but the correct translation doesn’t always fit in with the words that surround it or the conversation that is being spoken. So, while Google and the web are priceless research tools, it still pays to call up a living, breathing person who knows the language you are trying to use and ask them if what you are using is correct. You can always repay their assistance by mentioning them on the acknowledgement page. Très bonne!

Ever have a case when you’ve relied upon research you found on the web, only to be told it is incorrect? To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author. Bestselling author Sandra Brown recently had this to say about Mark’s latest novel, The Brink: “[The Brink] is a hell of a read. The chemistry between [the main characters] Danny and Sydney is terrific. The action sequences were heart-pounding, and I was left feeling that you have a sequel in mind!” Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at www.markfadden.com.

BREAKING NEWS!!! The Brink is now available as an eBook for Amazon.com Kindle  for only $2.99!

When reality really is stranger than fiction

 

Work didn’t allow me to catch AMC’s The Killing last night, so I thought I’d turn to another source of inspiration on this Mystery Monday… the news.

Reading the newspaper and keeping up to speed on current events is an excellent way to help either formulate a plot for our next page-turner, develop a good character or two, or to help get us unstuck from a case of writer’s block. Case in point, the current Long Island serial killer case. It has everything that a good mystery or thriller would: gruesome murders (several of the bodies have been dismembered), sex (many of the victims were prostitutes), and potential twists (with the body count now at 10, authorities believe there may be more than one killer. There is also a theory that the killer is a law enforcement official). Due to the sheer scope of the investigation and the terrain (they are dealing with thick underbrush that the cadaver dogs can’t get through), officials are using helicopters equipped with GPS to locate areas of interest. 

First, let me say that these hideous murders are beyond tragic for both the family members and friends of the victim. As writers, we can never forget that a murder reported in the news is also a tragedy that has ripped apart someone else’s life. That said, when I’ve followed cases like these, it has inspired my writing, every time. Architects look to other buildings for inspiration. As mystery and thriller writers, our inspiration must come from the dark side of humanity. It is what it is.

So, what say you, dear friends of the pen? Will the LI serial killer case inspire you? Is it too gruesome to follow? Are there other cases that you’ve come across that have inspired or are just too grotesque to even allow into your brain? 

To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author. Bestselling author Sandra Brown recently had this to say about Mark’s latest novel, The Brink: “[The Brink] is a hell of a read. The chemistry between [the main characters] Danny and Sydney is terrific. The action sequences were heart-pounding, and I was left feeling that you have a sequel in mind!” Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at www.markfadden.com.

BREAKING NEWS!!! The Brink is now available as an eBook for Amazon.com Kindle  for only $2.99!

What is work for writers?

I’ve been following the blog “Pimp My Novel” for a while and Eric’s inside view of the publishing industry is truly insightful. His latest posting entitled “Schedule, Schedule, Schedule” is a fantastic reminder about how to carve up our daily schedule in order to work. His posting also got me thinking, what exactly is work when it comes to writing? Is it the “butt-in-chair” time, or is it any time you are thinking about your project?

I tend to think of my writing work as the latter. One of the ways that I think about my stories is by doing something else. I can’t just sit in the chair to think about untying all the knots of my plot twists and character development. My mind works best when I’m doing something active and not too taxing on the old noggin so I can concentrate on the story. My two favorites are walking or running and shooting hoops by myself. I’m far from being a doctor, but I think it has to do with the exercise allowing more blood to reach the brain, thus stimulating the creative centers. Sounds like a plausible scenario, right? As I’m trying to work out all the plot points for my new manuscript, The Campaign, (which is an old book that I’m re-working) the exercise helps me unwind the story every time it sticks.

And that’s a second point I’d like to bring up. In Pimp My Novel, Eric talks about the “need to be willing to revise.” I totally agree with him, but as I’m working out the plot on the basketball court or the jogging trail, instead of beginning the book too soon and then going back and having to revise the plot with new plot points or corrections, that’s less time I need to spend on revising. Like a fine wine (or even the 8 buck chuck that I like) plots tend to get better the longer we let them age. I don’t think we need to sit in the chair just to prove that we’ve done something. You’re also working when you are letting your story marinate in your mind while you drain a few buckets  from downtown.

What about you? Do you have to sit in the chair to feel like you’re working? Do you think about your plots when you’re doing something else? To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author. Bestselling author Sandra Brown recently had this to say about Mark’s latest novel, The Brink: “[The Brink] is a hell of a read. The chemistry between [the main characters] Danny and Sydney is terrific. The action sequences were heart-pounding, and I was left feeling that you have a sequel in mind!” Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at www.markfadden.com.

TV, thou art my muse (for the moment)

Again, dear friends, we find ourselves knee-deep in another Mystery Monday. I sincerely hope everyone had a restful weekend and got to spend at least a few hours doing something for yourself. I took a two-hour long bike ride Sunday afternoon and I used that “me time” to unwind a few plot hiccups in a novel I’m currently working on. Exercise always seems to work out the mental kinks.

Speaking of kinks, we all know that most of the time, for writers, TV is our worst enemy. It pulls us away from what we should be doing, like writing, or working on the website, or doing research, or a myriad of other productive things.

But something strange happened on the way through the 400 channels of crap that clogs my cable system. I came across the 2nd installment of AMC’s The Killing last night, and it was fantastic. Why? Because unlike CSI or L&O (both of which I do like) the crime isn’t solved in an hour (actually, 40 minutes when you take into account the commercials) by people who look like they’re on a break from the Vanity Fair cover shoot using forensic tools of which Buck Rogers would be envious. On a more serious note, the fact that these shows race through their cases so fast, could, as David Martindale wrote in a recent Fort Worth Star Telegram article, “desensitize us to violent crime.” Why? I’ll quote Mireille Enos, who plays lead investigator Sarah Linden on The Killing for the answer: “I think the outcome of the accelerated pace is that the victim becomes this nameless, faceless persona that the audience really doesn’t care very much about.”

I tend to agree with Enos’s statement, especially when it comes to the deep anguish displayed every time the camera is on the parents of the murder victim in the show. I won’t ruin it for you, but there was this one scene in last night’s episode where the mother nearly does something unthinkable. As a parent, I was on the verge of tears as I watched, all the time thinking, “How in the world could I survive what those parents are going through?” Whenever I write a scene about the grief a parent must feel when they lose a child, I will recall that scene.

If there was ever a TV show that could be a muse and has the ability to touch the same depths that a novel can, probing every ripple caused by a singular event, The Killing, so far, is the top contender. By watching the show, it’s reminded me that:

1. It’s okay to have a lot going on. While having a lot of characters not doing very much is not a good idea, showing a few, central characters that have a lot going on makes them more realistic.

2. Along that vein, Detective Stephen Holder in The Killing wouldn’t win any ethical or moral awards for his police work. While I find him almost repulsive at times , he does what he feels is necessary to get the job done. The actor Joel Kinnaman, who plays Holder, does an excellent job giving us this “scruffy angel”, especially when that character is juxtaposed against the slick councilman played by Billy Campbell who might just be a devil in Armani. By showing the many sides to both characters, the actors make them all that more human, relatable and, most importantly, watchable. If the main facet of good storytelling is creating compelling characters, one not need to look any further than The Killing to study some very well-developed characters. Besides, when was the last time watching TV could be counted as research?

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author. Bestselling author Sandra Brown recently had this to say about Mark’s latest novel, The Brink: “[The Brink] is a hell of a read. The chemistry between [the main characters] Danny and Sydney is terrific. The action sequences were heart-pounding, and I was left feeling that you have a sequel in mind!” Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at www.markfadden.com.

A place where everyone could know your name

 

It’s here! Finally! Publishing PFriday! This is the day when we discuss all things related to the publishing industry. Today, I thought it would be cool to talk about meetup.com. Meetup.com is, “the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.

Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.” (cited from their website)

There are literally THOUSANDS of groups on meetup with topics that range from Craft Beer Fans of North Texas to biking to movies (those are three subjects that I happen to like). And guess who else is on meetup? Writers and readers!

In the Dallas Fort Worth area, I’ve contacted over 20 book clubs and have scheduled appearances with 4 of them so far. Each group averages between 15-20 members, so that’s around 60-80 books sold, and more importantly, 60-80 new fans (hopefully) that will be asked what they did this week by their friends some time in the near future. “My book club met and the author came to the meeting!” Now, in a perfect world, the 80’s-Heather-Locklear-shampoo-commercial-phenomenon takes hold and those friends tell 2 friends, and they tell 2 friends and so on and so on until Boom! You’re staring at John Grisham and Stephen King type sales numbers. And it all started with you typing in “book clubs” in your meetup search engine and contacting a few organizers of those clubs.

So take a few minutes this weekend and check out meetup.com. Here’s to you building your readership one fan at a time. And here’s to an awesome weekend. Mine is about to begin with a ice-cold Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA, perhaps the best beer I’ve ever tasted. Cheers!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author. Bestselling author Sandra Brown recently had this to say about Mark’s latest novel, The Brink: “[The Brink] is a hell of a read. The chemistry between [the main characters] Danny and Sydney is terrific. The action sequences were heart-pounding, and I was left feeling that you have a sequel in mind!” Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at www.markfadden.com.

Where do you go to for writing help?

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to live in a bookshelf? That way, we could just lay a page of “Writing for Dummies” over us when we go to sleep and the writing help we need would magically be absorbed in our brains through some kind of osmosis. BTW, this is a picture of the Kansas City Public Library. Cool, huh?

So, dear friends, and fellow scribblers, on this Writing Wednesday, I ask y’all: Where do you go for help with your writing? Do you, in fact, head to your local library to check out books on the craft? Do you take the occasional continuing education class on creative writing? Do you belong to a critique group? Attend an annual conference? Ply your muse with promises of fanciful things?

I have done several things to help with my writing. I hired an editor, Mark Graham, of Mark Graham Communications, to act as a sort of “writing coach” when it came time to edit my latest thriller, The Brink. The difference his impact made on my writing was monumental. Not only did he help me cut about 200 pages from the manuscript, but that exercise helped me tighten up my writing. I’ve also taken continuing education classes on subjects such as dialogue and suspense. While I have yet to find the time in my schedule to attend a regular critique group, I did attend this year’s DFW Writers Conference and gain tons of knowledge, not so much on the craft of writing, but the marketing side using social media (which is just as important for our writing careers).

Perhaps the most unconventional thing I do to get writing help is to ask my readers what they disliked most about the book. While out promoting The Brink, I’ve made several appearances at book clubs and I simply ask the question, “What didn’t you like about it?” To a person, the biggest problem was the introduction of so many characters right up front. Some people even had to make a list to keep them all straight. That is definitely something I will watch out for with future books.

But back to you. Where do you go for help? Have an example of how that has helped you? To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author. Bestselling author Sandra Brown recently had this to say about Mark’s latest novel, The Brink: “[The Brink] is a hell of a read. The chemistry between [the main characters] Danny and Sydney is terrific. The action sequences were heart-pounding, and I was left feeling that you have a sequel in mind!” Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at www.markfadden.com.

Are you living in a “Castle” or want to make a “Killing?”

For this Mystery Monday, let’s talk about TV. You can’t turn on the TV without stumbling across some version of Law & Order. There are something like 147 new detective shows on each season; ok, that’s a bit much, but many new shows that come on every season are cop shows. One that just debuted last night on AMC is “The Killing.” I read a review in my local Sunday paper about it, and just the basic description of it made me want to watch it. Why? Two reasons. First,  the set up was that the lead detective, who’s a female, is on her last day of work in Seattle before moving to California when she’s handed this kidnapping case that turns into a homicide. I wanted to see how they would do that clichéd set-up (see the movie Seven for perhaps the greatest example of it) Second, another cliché is that Seattle is a dreary place that’s filled with gray days and murky nights. I wanted to see if The Killing would give Seattle the justice it deserves as a setting that has more to offer than rain.

After watching the two-hour premiere, I can tell you that I’m hooked. The reason? The same reason I like ABC’s Castle. Again, there’s two reasons. One, the characters. Although the characters in Castle are more jovial and, while they are chasing killers and other bad people, it seems that everything is alright in their lives, the characters in The Killing are hardened, like they have this shell around them and they will not let any emotion crack it (or any amount of rain penetrate it).  But while the characters of the two shows couldn’t be more different, the second reason I like both shows is for the way both shows illustrate how the police take the steps to solve their cases. Again, the two shows are diametrically different here. In Castle, no matter the amount of twists, the killer is caught and the case is wrapped up with a nice bow and given to us at the end of each hour.  With The Killing, the story behind the one case will take an entire season to tell. But unlike the CSI shows, these two illustrate good old-fashioned detective work, and both are great studies for us mystery and thriller writers to help us continually craft our work.

What about you? Are you a Castle fan? Are you going to keep watching The Killing for the entire season to find out who the killer is? To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com