Monday, June 24, 2013

Plot Doc to the Rescue!

Holly says:

Maegan ~

I’ve done it this time. I’m my own protagonist. I’m up a tree. I’m in a corner. There is no way out. I’m screwed. Heeelllppp!!! Here’s my deal: I need to fix some stuff throughout my book, giving my protag a major case & having her comment/work on it throughout. I sort of alluded to that a while back, didn’t follow up so well. So how do I weave that in? Do I go back & write it in now, or just draw a line in the sand & tell people to pretend it’s there? 2) I left last time that Todd is on the way to Ollie’s. What the frick happens when Todd gets there? He’s got some ‘splainin’ to do as to why he ditched her for dinner, but we’re not going there yet, he’s going to dodge that & she’s going to leave it alone for now. Does he get derailed going over there? He gets called out on something? Or, he comes over? What did Araceli tell him? I’m thinking that perhaps she was dating a cop.  Araceli probably makes some snide comment about Todd being Ollie’s squeeze & how stupid it is to date cops or something, and Todd gleans from that. Or maybe not even that—just that she was dating someone right before this happened, and Todd thinks there might be something to it. Or… something else? Any ideas? As always, thank you in advance for your guidance. You are, quite simply, awesome! 

Hi, Holly!

Let me see if I can help... for those who are reading, I'm going to give a little plot synopsis to get them up to speed:

Ollie (our female protag) is an assistant DA and the daughter of a disgraced and disbarred lawyer... who just happens to be a register sex offender. When her father, with whom she hasn't had contact with in years, is viciously murdered and her estranged sister is arrested for the crime, Ollie wants to believe she's innocent. It's only when other defense attorneys, all of whom are were able to win high-profile cases, start turning up dead that she knows for sure. In order to save her sister, Ollie must find and stop a relentless killer who will stop at nothing to see that justice is served.

Okay. I'm going to address your questions/issues, point by point:

1) I think that giving Ollie s high-profile sex crime case is a great idea! It works for two reason: It will tie in with her issues with her father and if you play it right, will go a long way toward developing her story-worthy problem (coming to terms with what her father did). It will also give us a direct line to the killer... Ollie's opposing counsel could be on the killer's hit list. What if it happens to be a really good friend she met in college, or a former lover (this would be a GREAT complication)--that way the stakes are raised for her even higher. I'd go back and do an extensive re-write if I were you to add these things in--sooner is always better than later.

2) Todd (A cop and Ollie's long lost boyfriend who's made a very unexpected and unsettling re-appearance) will make a fantastic red herring! His sudden re-appearance in Ollie's life, in the mists of all these killings, should make her (and the reader) questions his motives and innocence. Thinking that Todd might be involved in some way (even if he's not) will up the stakes for Ollie even further, especially if she still has feelings for him. 

When he arrives at her house, there needs to be tension between them. His standing her up for dinner should bring all their old issues roaring to the surface for Ollie and she needs to hit him with some pretty hard questions (where have you been for the past five years? why did you come back? what do you want with me now? What did you talk with my sister about?) and his answers need to be vague enough to raise her, and our, suspicions... and then when the tension is at it's peak, he needs to get called away. If he leaves her house under murky circumstances, this will further our suspicions and his status as a possible suspect in Ollie's mind. Of course the questions pertaining to her sister and the case should take precedent over the one pertaining to their personal entanglement. Your story problem should always be the most important  thing on the page. Once it's established, nothing should derail your protag from solving it.

3) the idea of having Araceli (Ollie's sister) involved with a cop is a good one... just don't reveal which one just yet because this could potentially end up being a major clue into who your killer is and you want to save that revelation until the very last possible second. Reveal it in stages. When Todd asked her why she was in town the day of her father's murder, she could tell him that she was "visiting a friend" but she could say it in such a way that alluds to whatever is going on between her and her "friend" is more than just lunch and shopping. Then we can see Ollie pursue this angle... and then she's the one to discover Araceli's "friend" is a cop. Once you roll a "plot rock" down hill, it should never stop moving, gaining speed and mass until it's no longer a rock--it's a boulder and once we reach our climax, it slams into your protag with the force of wrecking ball. It destroys everything. Maybe even find out that Araceli is involved in her father's murder after all (either by choice, coercion or unwittingly). This would be a HUGE twist, finding out that after everything Ollie went through to prove her sister's innocence, that she actually was guilty to some degree. This would ultimately destroy Ollie... but in the aftermath, allow her the find the strength and resolve to finally achieve her story-worthy problem, which is forgiveness. Through forgiving her sister, she'll find the same for her father and finally be able to put her anger to rest and truly move on.

I really hope this helps, Holly! This sounds like a fantastic story you're telling! Keep me informed--I can't wait to see where your story take us.

Are you stuck on your plot? Don't know what your next story step should be? Got your protag backed into a corner with no way out? Give me a shout, I think I can help! Just go to my website: and click on the "CONTACT" icon. I'd be happy to answer your questions on my blog.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Guest Blog!

Today, I have the distinct pleasure of appearing over at Lois Winston's blog! I talk about where I got my inspiration for CARVED...

I hope you check it out!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Devil in the Details

By: Maegan Beaumont

He rolled up the make-shift tarp he’d laid out on the kitchen floor and placed it in a trash bag along with the dress. Undiluted, he poured the ammonia onto the kitchen floor and chair. While ammonia didn’t destroy DNA, any evidence gathered there would be corrupted by the chemical and rendered useless. The ammonia was strong-smelling, so he opened a few windows for ventilation. The early afternoon breeze made the chore of cleaning up his mess almost pleasant.

—Carved in Darkness

It took me nearly three weeks to write this paragraph. It wasn't writers’ block or a computer crash that bogged me down—it was my almost obsessive need for accuracy.

And it wasn't just this passage I nitpicked. It was the entire novel. I scoured the internet. I read books. I logged onto forensic forums. I emailed cops and asked them what I’m sure they thought were inane and possibly dangerous questions. I spent what felt like an entire summer in handcuffs because I was trying to teach myself how to pick my way out of them. After cutting myself in a kitchen mishap, I soaked the wound in salt water (If you've read CARVED, then you understand the significance). I've even gone so far as to have a very distraught friend of mine drive me around in the trunk of her car... all so I could be sure that what I was writing was as close to the truth as I could get it. Don’t get me wrong, I ask my readers to suspend disbelief on a regular basis but I can do so because I know one simple rule: 
The most effective lies are found buried in the truth.  

So, yes... I do lie. I do make stuff up, I write fiction, after all... but readers are smart.  They know things, because they read, and they don’t like it when a writer is too lazy to do their research. I know this because as a reader, I feel exactly the same way. I don’t mind being lied to as long as I know the writer took the time and made the effort to make me believe the lie.

The key to great fiction isn't writing what you know--it's writing what you can make others believe that you know, and that takes work. Hours of research. Reading and reaching out to people who can lend authenticity to my writing, but when a reader asks me if I've ever tortured someone (yes, someone really asked me that... and the answer is no) or a reviewer mentions how impressive my attention to detail is, I know it's worth it.

So, my question is: How important is accuracy in writing to you? How do you feel about shoddy research? How do you feel about writers who don't take their research seriously?

"Prepare to be overwhelmed by the tension and moodiness that permeates this edgy thriller. Beaumont’s ability to keep the twists coming even when the answer seems obvious is quite potent."
 ~ Library Journal

Maegan Beaumont is the author of Midnight Ink's Carved in Darkness, book one in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series, on sale now.