Friday, May 18, 2012

Fiction Fridays

So... it was suggested to my by a very smart and resourceful friend that I start posting some of my work for you all to read, and hopefully, enjoy on a regular basis.

For those of you who are wondering, this is not part of the book that my agent will be taking to BEA next month, but rather a project I've been kicking around but haven't really spent a lot of time on. Thanks for reading...



            Mave McKinnon was a know-it-all. Literally. They’d tested her in the sixth grade, thought maybe she was some sort of Einstein. Turned out she wasn’t a genius.
She was a savant.
She remembered everything. If she read it, saw it or heard it, then she knew it. And not only did she know it—she understood it. Forever. There was no formal name for what she was. No explanation for why she could do the things she could do and that was just fine by her. Truth be told, she didn’t really care, didn’t need to understand. All she needed to understand was it made her money.
It was a favorite pastime at The Black Irish Pub—Stump Mave. Impossible, at least for the beer-swilling gits that crowded around her bar. Not once in her six years of building yards of Guinness and pouring shots of Jameson did one of them ever ask her a question she couldn’t answer.
It was a point of pride for most of her regulars. For years now, they’d been pushing through the door, the first words out of their mouths—“Alright Mave McKinnon, prepare to be bested.” For the tourists, she was akin to the bearded lady or that guy with a third leg sticking out of his ass. She was a sideshow. A freak. With the regulars it was all for fun. With the tourists it was straight-up business.
 Three questions. If they stumped her on even one, she paid their bar tab. If she got all three they paid double. Those were the stakes. Usually.
Mave eyed the guy across the bar while mixing a whisky sour. This one was different. This one had trust-fund baby written all over him. They’d been at it for nearly an hour now. Him looking up ridiculous questions on his iphone. Her answering them faster than he could spit them out. He kept losing and every time he’d pull out another stack of bills and say, “Double or nothing.” Yeah, this one was different, alright. This one didn’t want his tab cleared.
He wanted a kiss.
            “Mavie, love—have a heart.” Her Uncle Dan leaned against the bar. She looked at him, at his weathered face and twinkly blue eyes, and couldn’t help but smile. He was the best man she’d ever known and she felt herself bend a bit. “The boy’s completely bolloxed,” he said under his breath while he pulled a Guinness. “Give him a peck on the cheek and call him a cab.”
            The guy was completely hammered and he was young, though not much younger than her. The kind of asshole that wore pink polo shirts and Puka shells and had the balls to order a Corona in an Irish pub. The way he watched her, she knew he wouldn’t be satisfied with a simple peck on the cheek.
            The thick stack of Jacksons on the bar told her two things. That Pink Polo didn’t know when to quit and that she was about three seconds away from being able to pay her electric bill on time for once. She looked up at her uncle which was a mistake, because she went from bending to caving in the blink of one twinkly blue eye. Who needed light to see by, anyway? “Okay, okay—”
            “Hey, Sweet-tits—you gonna answer the question or stand there and jaw with Pops all night,” Pink Polo sneered at her and threw a drunken high-five at his friend.
            She felt her uncle stiffen, watched his hand squeeze the yard glass he held, hard enough to crack it. She laid a hand on his arm and smiled up at him. “Can I kick his ass now?”
            He dropped a kiss on top of her head and took the whiskey sour out of her hand. “Hurt him, Mavie. Hurt him real good.”
            That was all the encouragement she needed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A lot less talk and a little more action...

Holly wrote:
What I want to have happen in my story is to gather a task force to investigate the murders going on around town. Of course, the killer will be on the task force, so he can monitor what they know, throw them off track, etc. Should I kill off another attorney now? Maybe a female this time? I think I need to get Ollie out to the jail to see Araceli, but there’s no action there. Maybe I should have the murder happen in another jurisdiction, so Ollie & her buds aren’t in the middle of it, again?
I’m having a hard time getting this thing moving—it seems that most of the danger and tension that comes to Ollie is in her head. Maybe I do need to kill some more people so the task force is established sooner. However she’s involved in it (whether she’s on it, or just friends with people who are) it will become apparent to the killer that she is a threat to him, and of course he’s going to go after her. Maybe I’m just taking too long getting there?
Maybe Ollie needs to do some research & discover some old murders that fit the pattern? Bring it to the attention of Merc her mentor, so the TF is established soon?
Thank you, as always, for your invaluable help...

Hi, Holly ~

Murder? Did you say you want to murder someone? Several someones??  CHA-CHING!!
No, seriously—a good rule of thumb when writing a thriller is: when things get slow—kill someone.
How this stacks is, you’ve got two sisters—Ollie and Araceli. Araceli stands accused of their father’s murder and it’s up to Ollie to prove her innocent…
A task force would only be formed if:
1) There are several murders, or:
2) The victim was extremely high profile, either due to media coverage or importance within the community.
I think you can cover that by killing off some high profile defense attorneys and or a judge (I’d kill ‘em all, but I’m stabby that way). Your killer needs to go on a spree of sorts—two or three victims in as many days—this will whip the community into a frenzy, making the task force a viable option.
But… and I’m sure you’ve thought of this:

1)      Once these murders start popping up, it’s going to become clear that Araceli is innocent and she’ll be released, thus solving Ollie’s surface problem.

2)      Ollie would never be allowed within a country mile of this task force if her sister is the suspected murderer.
One way to avoid all this is to make these new murders totally different from Ollie’s father’s. Have them die violently or publicly (or both) so that when the task force is formed, no one is including her father’s death in the line-up. They have Araceli all sewn up and since it’s a completely different case, Ollie can work the task force. From within the task force, she can view case files of other victims and note some sort of pattern that only she can see, and how it relates to her father’s murder.  Ollie will start to investigate on her own because any correlation between the TF murders and her father’s will get her kicked off the task force, thus ending the flow of information she needs to solve the case. As she digs, she uncovers a sting of similar murders across the country and starts to connect them all via this magical pattern (don’t worry, I have faith in you!) only she can see. When Ollie feels like she’s compiled enough info to make her case, she brings her findings to the table and get shot down but since the killer is on the task force, he’ll know just how close she is and try to kill her before she can expose him.
I know that Ollie happens to be in possession of some information that she took from her father’s apartment. What if there is something on it that the killer wants? Maybe she’s “mugged” in the parking garage at work( the killer attacked her to try to get the thumb drive but she doesn’t have it on her.) Maybe she lands in the hospital but checks herself out early to recuperate at home and the killer breaks into her house while she’s there. Maybe she goes back to her father’s to dig for more info and the killer breaks in while she’s there… there is plenty of opportunity for danger here, Holly—you just got to make it happen! J

Thanks for the question, Holly and I hope I helped!


Got a plot problem?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Putting Words In People's Mouths...

I've touched on this subject in other posts, but felt it bared mentioning again, since it happens to be a favorite of mine:


I love to write dialogue. This is where we get to bring our characters to life. Show the world who they are. Expose their inner most secrets and deepest, darkest thoughts... and maybe some of our own along the way. But it's important to get it right--I can't stress this enough.
I can't think of anything more cringe-worthy than wooden, stuffy dialogue. Except maybe making your character say something that is totally out of character.
These are people you created. You breathed life into them. Gave them purpose... so, why would you want to make them say stupid things?
It's imperative that you first figure out who your character is. Are they shy? A bit dull? A smart ass? A raving lunatic? Once you've figured that out, build them a life, even one that reaches beyond the confines of your story.
In my book, The First, my male lead is named Michael. He isn't my protag but he's important enough that I had a this burning need to figure out who he was, so I wrote his life. All of it. Once I sort of revealed to myself the kind of guy I wanted him to be, hearing his voice was surprisingly easy. There has never been a question of, "would he say something like that?" because I knew everything there was to know about him. Sound crazy?
You'd be surprised how many people sit down to write a short story or a novel without fully understanding the characters they're trying to write. Doing so will cause you nothing but trouble... not to mention create confusion and distrust in your reader. So that's rule # 1:

Figure out who your characters are before you go putting words in their mouths.

This will not only effect what they'd say, but also how they would say it and allow you to create a well rounded, totally believable character that your reader will not only understand, but empathize with.

Rule # 2:

Study language.

Not English. Language. The way people talk. Real people. Most people have their own verbal short hand that is unique to them. Very few people that are not British royalty actually speak in complete sentences on a consistent basis. The next time you go out for drinks with friends or spend an afternoon at the mall (may God have mercy on your soul), listen to the conversations around you and you'll see what I mean.

Rule # 3:

Watch Movies.

Huh? Yes, watch movies. Today, my husband blasted me for wanting a television in my writing office. I told him it served a very important function, and it does. Movies are the best way I know to get a feel for the rhythm of speech. The back and forth of dialogue between characters. If you're writing a thriller--that's what you watch. If you're writing a romance, watch one of those. Really pay attention to the way the characters within the story interact with each other. Give it a try, you'll see what I mean.

Got a plot problem?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Joy of Multiple Personalities...

Brock writes:

Hi Maegan,

I have a question about the use of point of view. Is it permissible to have a fluctuating point of view within a story? How about within a chapter? Don't worry I won't ask about within a paragraph or sentence. Can this be employed to heighten tension or does it evoke a tension of a different kind, the one where your reader fires the book across the room?

Finding the right POV through which to tell your story can be hard. Which do I use—first person? Close third? Omniscient third? Some say it depends on the story, but I tend to disagree. A writer needs to choose the POV that they feel most comfortable with—one that fits their voice and style.
Personally, I like a close third. This POV allows freedom (as opposed to a first person—too limiting for me) while making it possible to really focus in on your most important characters.
In my novel, The First, I employ three POVs—my protagonist, second lead, and antagonist—and I fluctuate between the three frequently. I feel that this makes for a well rounded story, offering different perspectives while allowing room to build suspense within the novel. I switch POVs within chapters, but never the same paragraph or sentence. This causes too much confusion for the reader and will get your book tossed across the room.
By employing multiple POVs, I was able to create cliffhangers—I could leave my protag in peril while fleshing out other aspects of the story through my other characters. When I introduced my antagonist’s POV (which I used sparingly), I was able to establish him firmly in the reader’s mind and leave them wondering when he’d be back. It makes for a faster paced novel, several things are happening at once and it works to pull your reader in, but…
You had to know there was a but, right?
But, it can be tricky. Never switch POVs, just for the sake of switching—there has to be a reason. To create tension. To showcase a different aspect of the story. To further the plot. These are all legit reasons to employ multiple POVs—any other reason will just piss your reader off.
Some things to consider:
1)      When employing multiple POVs, 2-3 max works best.
2)      Make sure these POVs have something to offer. Don’t choose your protagonist, his mother and the guy that works at the corner market. The characters you choose should have something to offer the story and as such, your reader.
3)      Although some might disagree, I think it’s important to start your novel off with your protag’s POV. This firmly establishes who your story is about. 

I hope this answers your question, Brock and thanks for reading!

got a question? hit me up: