Wednesday, April 23, 2014

LAYERING AS YOU GO - PART TWO: Revealing Emotion in Body Language & Facial Expression

In Part One (Click here) I shared how I personally like to layer my manuscript “as I go” — periodically pausing throughout the writing rather than facing the immensity of a bare bones manuscript after typing “The End.” I highlighted a number points that layering may involve, including providing body movement and facial expression, authenticating the setting, weaving in internal dialogue and “voice” for deep point of view, etc.
So this month let’s take a deeper look at one of those points.
LAYERING: Revealing Emotion in Body Language and Facial Expression
Very few of us, even when talking on the phone, stand rigidly with our hands at our sides and our facial muscles immobile. This week when you’re at the airport, church, mall or in the grocery store line...pause and take a good look around you. Really observe. You’ll see a variety of expressions and body language that, for the most part, clearly communicate what’s going on in someone’s head.
Stop and think...what is it about the man who sat down across from you that tells you he just received bad news?
Or the teen standing in the checkout line at the discount store...what is it about her that clues you in that she wants to be anywhere but with her mom?
Or the woman holding hands with her grade school twins as they cross the church’s parking lot...what communicates to you that things have not gone well that morning?
Think about how you would describe their body movement and expressions. Did the man merely sit down in the vinyl chair? Or did he slowly lower himself, shoulders slumped? Did the teen simply stand beside her mother, or did she turn slightly away, eyes downcast, jaw clenched, arms crossed? Did the woman just walk across the parking lot with her children, or were her high heels clicking sharply on the pavement, her eyes focused ahead, the twins scampering to keep up as she marched along? 

On a daily basis we “interpret” so much of what goes on around us based solely on body language and expressions. As writers, we want our readers to be able to “see” emotions, to “read” a character’s mind and not always name, label or explicitly state what is going on internally.
- She looked angry.
- He felt afraid.
- She didn’t want to go.
There is nothing inherently wrong with naming an emotion. There are times when it’s necessary and appropriate to do so. Anti-naming “purists” sometimes go crazy with the red pen on things like this when judging contests, but the important lesson here is to not always name the emotion, recognizing that the more you enable the reader to “see” inside a character, the more they will feel and be drawn deeper into the story.
In Myra Johnson’sWhisper Goodbye,” she could have said “Mary was afraid to open the slip of paper. But instead she wrote: Fingers trembling, Mary unfolded the slip of paper.
In Pam Hillman’sClaiming Mariah,” she could have said “She looked nervously at the angry man.” But instead, she wrote: She moistened her lips, her gaze drawn to the clenched tightness of his jaw.
In Sandra Leesmith’sThe Price of Victory,” she could said “Ralph was happy to get the money.”  But she wrote: Ralph whisked the envelope of cash out of her hands and danced a jig around the van.
In my “Pine Country Cowboy” I could have said “He looked amused,” but I wrote: He briefly dipped his head in acknowledgment, a smile twitching at his lips.
. please pick one of the situations highlighted below and, in the comments section, see how you can take a bare bones description and briefly layer it with body language and facial expressions--without “naming” the emotion or resorting to dialogue or internal dialogue.
- A little boy appeared in the doorway. (Let’s make him...afraid.)
- The little boy appeared in the doorway. (This time he’s...overjoyed.)
- The woman looked up at the man. (Let’s make love with him!)
- The woman looked up at the man. (He’s said something that offended her.)
- The man opened the door. (He’s late for a date.)
- The man opened the door. (He doesn’t want to go where he’s having to go.)
So, please pick a few of these “prompts” and have some fun today!
Next month we’ll take a closer look at another element of layering.

If you’d like to be entered in a drawing for a copy of my April Love Inspired release, “Pine Country Cowboy,” please mention it in the comments section, then check our Weekend Edition for the winner announcement!
Glynna Kaye’s debut book “Dreaming of Home” was a finalist in the ACFW Carol and Maggie awards, as well as a first place winner of the “Booksellers Best” and “Beacon” awards. Her 4 1/2 star “At Home In His Heart” was chosen as a Reviewers Choice finalist by national magazine RT Book Reviews. “Pine Country Cowboy,” her seventh Love Inspired book (and the sixth set in the mountain country of Arizona), is available now—and “High Country Holiday” releases in November!
No Place Like Home. Abby Diaz longs to reestablish a relationship with her father, so she heads to Canyon Springs, her Arizona hometown, with a painful past she can’t share with anyone. But then she’s needed to care for her young nephew. The little boy takes a shine to a happy-go-lucky cowboy, a handsome man who’s everything Abby can never have. The more time she spends with Brett, the more she realizes he’s harboring a heartache of his own. As she works on repairing family ties with her father, Abby knows that opening up to Brett is key to forging a new future...together.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Hello Seekerville,

Sandra here.

Did everyone have a wonderful and blessed Easter?

I have Chocolate Velvet coffee in the pot ready to enjoy. I have a beautiful platter of spring fruit, sliced and ready to nibble on. Also, the baker here in the RV park I'm in, bakes the most delicious cinnamon rolls. I had him bake up a separate batch for us. 

photo from used with permission

Have you ever thought of setting to deepen your character? I tend to use setting a lot in my stories, but I didn't consciously think I was doing so to deepen character, until I went to Mary Buckham's workshop at the Desert Dreams conference earlier this month.  She did an excellent job in showing us how to do that with her examples and demonstrations.

I was so impressed, that I am giving away to a commenter today, a  Kindle copy of one of her craft books on how to deepen character with setting, Writing Active Setting.

Mary Buckham is a bestselling ABA author who writes Thrillers and Urban Fantasy so some of her examples could be graphic, but her method of showing you how to use setting is powerful and a must read.  

What she does is take a simple statement of description and then show you how she would write it to show character.

In LOVE'S PROMISES the setting of Lake Tahoe is not only important in the plot, but is a great setting to show characters as well.

Purchased by Stone Lily Design -  used with permission 

For example in LOVE’S PROMISES, I could write.

Monica stood on the deck watching the sailboat go by. She leaned over the rail and looked into the clear water of Lake Tahoe.  

In LOVE'S PROMISES the setting of Lake Tahoe is not only important in the plot, but is a great setting to show characters as well.  But look how we can involve that same setting to show Monica’s emotions and deepen her character.

Monica glanced at the sailboat skidding across the crystal blue water of Lake Tahoe and leaned against the railing of the redwood deck that hung over the cliff. Thirty feet below, water lapped against the granite stones, a rhythmic sound which normally would have soothed her. Not today. She tapped her foot impatiently and rolled her eyes. 

Can you see how using the five senses help use the setting to show deeper characterization? The sailboat is skidding across the water and the water lapped against the granite stones. The strong active verbs show her restless impatience. We hear the water lapping and the sailboat is skidding across the water.

Here is another example where we see Monica’s property:  We could simply write: Monica drove her Jeep Cherokee up the road. She saw his Bronco. Why was he here early? She saw him across the creek. 

However, if we add emotion and senses the setting of her property deepens the characters and we see their reaction to each other.

Shifting her Jeep Cherokee into gear, Monica worked her way up the steep road skirting her property. She needed to grade an easier drive into the place. She sighed. Another set of permits. 
She crested the hill and spotted a Bronco with government license plates parked at the end of the road. Her heart quickened. What was his motive for coming early? 
Automatically, she set the brakes, released her seat belt, and swung out of the high vehicle. Before her legs touched ground, she searched the area. Linsey wasn’t in the Bronco nor in the near vicinity. Biting her lip, Monica headed for the creek. “Morning.” His shout caught her up short.
She searched the dense brush downstream and saw movement on the other side of the gurgling water. He stepped from out of a clump of brush and crossed the stream looking like an ad from a sports magazine. Disconcerted by her reaction, Monica waited for him instead of meeting him halfway. 

The rough road brings frustration. We crest a hill and spot the Bronco. She asks what his motive for coming early. We see the dense brush and hear gurgling water as she looks for the direction of the sound of his voice. This setting shows off her reaction to seeing the handsome planner again.

In this scene Greg and his friend approach the famous Fanette Island, but instead of an elaborate description, we see the reactions to seeing Monica and her friends. Before this scene, Monica’s friends were in a speedboat showing Monica a beach and had almost ran into Greg and his friend on their sailboat. Sailboats have the right of way and Greg’s friend was rightfully annoyed.

“Do you see what I see?” Carl hollered from the bow where he was trimming the jib sail. 
Greg looked in the direction where Carl pointed. Docked at Fannette Island—or as the locals called it, the Tea House Island—was the boat that had almost run them down. Greg intended to sail past it until he spotted the redhead standing in the stern. His heart picked up speed. Monica Scott. 
“Hang on,” he shouted as he quickly came about. 
“You going to land there?” Anticipation sounded in Carl’s voice. 
Greg nodded. “Forget revenge, buddy. I’ve got other motives for landing.” 
Carl stared at Greg and then at the shore. He whistled through his teeth. 
Greg watched her hand an ice chest to the man on shore. Evidently he’d been piloting the boat. Were they involved with each other? Another woman appeared and, with relief, he recognized who they were. The couple he’d seen her with at the South Shore Club. 
He tacked closer to shore. Monica noticed him then. He waved and had to chuckle at the look of surprise on the faces of all three of them. Monica grinned. Good. She recognized the humor in the situation. 

I didn’t do this as well as Mary Buckham does, but I think you get the idea.  You can not only see the sailboat approaching Fannette Island, but you feel their emotions. You also see that a situation becomes a source of humor which is characteristic of our hero.

photo by Michael on wikimedia used with permission

Julie Lessman sent me a couple samples of her writing that uses setting to show character development.

Excitement pulsed in her veins like the bay beneath the keel. Heart swelling with pride, she watched Bram straddle the tiller, so incredibly solid and male and tall. He emanated a strength that swirled heat in her belly as much as the wind swirled the waves, and when he tossed a grin over his shoulder, her heart soared along with the sea gulls overhead. “Alcatraz at your service, milady,” he shouted, sandy hair lashing in the breeze like a tawny-haired pirate who had truly pirated her heart. She clapped her hands in delight as the island loomed with its Cape Cod lighthouse, rising from the sea like some sinister presence growing before their eyes.

Can you see the ship, the San Francisco Bay and the island of Alcatraz? But you are also seeing the hero and learning some of his characteristics as she compares them to the setting.

In another scene, Julie shows character in the setting.

Marcy stood at Mrs. Gerson’s kitchen window, in bleak harmony with the rivulets of water that slithered down the pane. It was a slow and steady rain, endless weeping from a gray and dismal sky, and Marcy felt a kinship with it. It showed no signs of letting up, much like the grief in her heart over the loss of her husband. A silent mourning over a spouse who was still very much alive, but whose love was as cold and dead as any corpse.

Can’t you feel Marcy’s  grief as the rivulets of water slither down the pane?

We also have some great articles in our archives with more examples of how to use setting to deepen your story.  Scroll down  the list on the right to the word Settings and several posts will appear.

The first article that appears is written by me and describes how I used setting in LOVE'S REFUGE and other books I wrote.

Janet Dean  wrote Setting Isn't Just Time and Place.  Janet does an excellent job in using her settings in her historical novels. She explains many examples in Courting the Doctors Daughter.

Can any of you give examples of how you used the setting to deepen your character? Please put it in the comments and you'll be in for a drawing to win Mary Buckham's book.

The craft book is obviously for writers. I know we have a lot of readers aboard also, so I have a surprise for you also.  Kindle version of LOVE'S PROMISES is free today on Amazon.

And please all of you join me on my blog tour.  It has been so much fun. The bloggers have been excited about featuring LOVE'S PROMISES and have asked some really fun and interesting questions.   If you are just starting the tour today, no worries, it isn't too late to check them out.  Just click on the button below and travel with us on a fun blog tour.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Hazards of that Ticking Clock

Janet here. Stories often have deadlines, a ticking clock that pushes characters to pursue their goals with a sense of urgency. In a suspense novel, the hero might be racing against the clock to find his sister before she dies at her kidnapper’s hand. Of course not all ticking clocks have life and death stakes. But if that ticking clock is connected to your characters’ goals—what they want and pursue throughout the novel—then that deadline is vital to the characters and the readers.

In my historical novel The Bride Wore Spurs, heroine Hannah’s goal is to run the family ranch. When events make it abundantly clear that the ranch hands won’t listen to her, she is forced into a marriage of convenience with neighboring rancher Matt. The wedding will take place in three days. That short time frame ups the tension. Hannah must get her mother’s wedding dress altered and endure the startled reaction of others, all the while grieving her father’s failing health and the lack of love between her and Matt. With this short time period till the wedding, the heroine and I had no problem keeping track of the days.

But I did lose track once.

In my novella, “The Last Minute Bride,” Brides of the West, Elise and David are estranged but must join forces to provide a lovely reception for their best friends’ wedding in two weeks. All the while Elise is hurting by what she believes is David’s betrayal. As I wrote the novella, I had no problem keeping track of the days, but during revisions, I reordered some scenes, easy to do with cut and paste. The problem—I somehow missed that in the new version of the story I’d messed up the passage of days. I was able to fix the discrepancies during editorial revisions. Still, that blunder unnerved me.
Since that experience, when writing a story with a specific deadline, I’m very aware of the importance of keeping track of the passage of time. So how do I make sure I get it right? And don't have the crazy urge to rid the story of that ticking clock?

                                 Eliminate Ticking Clock Hazards with a story outline

As I write, I like to outline my story, giving the briefest mention of what happens in each scene of each chapter. The outline is invaluable when my story has a ticking clock. I not only list the scenes in each of the chapters and the briefest mention of events, but I also add in large bold font the date and day the scenes take place. I may have more than one scene or even more than one chapter under that date. If a scene doesn't take place for a day or more, then I must be careful to include them in the passage of time. At the end of writing the draft—or my version of a draft, which is never rough or fast—I’ll have a complete outline of the book.

This outline is a great resource for me. As I write, the outline allows me to check facts like a minor character’s description or the name of the hero’s dog without having to scroll through the manuscript. I find this handier than the Find feature in Word.

Some may find the idea of dividing your story into chapters as you write bazaar, especially if you don’t write linearly. Still, you do create scenes and if your story has a ticking clock, you can decide what date those scenes should fall under. If you like to skip around writing scenes, beware that writing out of sequence is another potential hazard of the ticking clock.

In my current manuscript heroine Carly must have a bridal gown and trousseau made in three weeks, the date of her customer’s wedding. If the deadline is vague, then keeping track of the days and weeks might not matter, but in this case, the deadline is specific and reputation of her business is at stake. Try not to create a deadline merely to add pressure to the characters and up the emotion. Deadlines should force characters to take actions that forward the plot. Everything that happens in your story should forward the plot.

Here’s a peek at the opening of my story’s outline. Notice I give only enough details to trigger the scene in my mind. I don't list every event. For example before Carly looks for the deed in Chapter Three, she puts her son to bed. No need to remind myself of that little detail. Scenes may be in the same chapter but take place on different days. I add any information to the outline that I might want to check like minor character or store names.  

Tuesday, March 1, 1898
Chapter 1: Carly buries Max. 

Friday, April 1, 1898
Nate visits Carly’s shop. Sister Anna has deed won in a poker game by Anna’s dead husband Walt. Carly faints. Nate promises 6-year-old Henry he’ll help his mother.
Chapter 2: Carly won’t give up shop without a fight. Nate agrees to make livery repairs in exchange for Morris Mood’s empty house out back. Stray mutt.
Chapter 3: Carly questions Sheriff Truitt about legalities of shop ownership. Is told the Circuit Judge must rule. Lester and Lloyd Harders in jail. Carly searches house for deed and fails.

Saturday, April 2, 1898
Nate moves Anna. Visit cemetery on way.
Chapter 4: Carly gets Vivian Schwartz’s big bridal order for April 22 wedding in 20 days. Nate returns with Anna. Carly hires Anna.
Chapter 5: Nate moves Anna and stray dog she names Maizie into house. Carly and Henry bring food. At Stuffle Emporium Nate asks about outlaw Shifty Stogsdill.

Monday, April 4, 1898

You get the idea. I keep the outline open as I write and add to it as I go or soon afterward while events are fresh in my mind. Note that I had no Sunday scene, but the dated outline ensures I won’t lose track of the ticking clock, even when I skip days.

When I first used this outline technique, I added page numbers of the chapters but then was always changing them. I don’t need page numbers to find what I need when I use the Bookmark and Find features on Word. 

                              Eliminate Ticking Clock Hazards with Scene Headers.

If the idea of an outline still makes you nauseous, but you have a ticking clock in your story, you might want to consider adding the date at the top of the page before you write a scene. If you add the point of view character’s goal, you've given yourself a nifty guide for writing the scene. For example, Monday, April 12, ten days till the wedding, Carly hopes for no interruption so she can… That helps me stay on track with the scene's goal and time frame.

To learn more about the importance of scene goals for your characters, click my post here.

Not that we want to show that ticking clock by starting scenes with the day of the week as if writing in a journal.To make a ticking clock an effective tool, writers should show characters scrambling to meet that deadline in the story itself. Make readers worry by planting roadblocks that stymie progress and raise the stakes. Start scenes with a hook and bring that information in during the action.   

              Eliminate Ticking Clock hazards with a  Historical Calendar 
Historical writers must make sure the days of the week jive with the year of their story. If the aforementioned wedding takes place on April 22, 1898, then I’d better know what day that falls on. It’s super easy to check the old calendar online. These calendars show what day holidays fall on and even identify the phase of the moon. If you want a romantic full moon in your historical, you can make sure that’s feasible.

For breakfast I brought yummy store-bought goodies. None of the “Use by” dates has expired so the donuts, muffins and pastries meet my freshness ticking clock. My goal. LOL

Have you written a story with a ticking clock? If so, please share how you keep track of the passing of time. 

As a reader do you enjoy stories with ticking clocks? 

Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Weekend Edition

Easter greetings from all of us in Seekerville.

We Have Winners

 Please send us an email to claim your prize. ( See our legal page for any questions.

 Winner of last weekend's mystery box of books is Wilani Wahl.

Monday, Love Inspired author Missy Tippens brought you "Backstory: Where to Draw the Line." Winner of the first five pages with backstory in mind is Sherida Stewart.

What do dragons, time machines, and God have in common?  Dawn Ford was in Seekerville on Tuesday with her post, "Speculating on Speculative Fiction." Winner of a $25 Amazon gift card is Amy Campbell.

Wednesday Debby Giusti hosted humorous mystery author Larissa Reinhart, who discussed "How to Cozy Up a Cozy Mystery," in her blog post. Larissa writes the Cherry Tucker Mystery series and graciously donated one of her books in e-format to a lucky winner of the drawing. Debby Giusti added a second drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card. Larissa's winner for the digital book is S. Trietsch, and Debby's winner for the gift card is Jana Vanderslice. Congrats, ladies!


Thursday Cheryl St.John shared about how to keep your story moving forward--Everything that happens in your story, every piece of information learned, every obstacle faced, every conversation, should propel the story toward the conclusion. Winner of one Kindle copy of any book of Cheryl's books is KAV.

Love Inspired author Tina Radcliffe shared "Five Things I Learned About Writing From Jack Reacher," on Friday. Jack's drink of choice is black coffee. (Shaken not stirred.) Where did the name REACHER came from? The author's wife suggested that if his books didn't sell he could be a reacher in the grocery store since he is so tall. Winner of an Amazon gift card is Debra Marvin and winner of a Starbucks gift card is Piper Huguley.  

Next Week in Seekerville

Monday: Love Inspired Historical author Janet Dean is your hostess today. She'll chat about the "Hazards of Ticking Clocks" and share tips for keeping track of story deadlines. Janet will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to someone leaving a comment.

Tuesday: Sandra Leesmith will discuss "Using Setting to Deepen Your Character." She learned several exciting techniques at the Desert Rose conference and will order Writing An Active Setting  by Mary Buckham for one lucky winner.

Wednesday: Seeker Glynna Kaye brings us “Layering As You Go: Part 2,” which will take a closer look at some of the elements of layering touched on in Part 1. There are THREE chances to win a copy of Glynna’s April Love Inspired release, Pine Country Cowboy!

Thursday: Seeker Cara Lynn James is your hostess with her post, "Making Unlikable Characters Likable." She's giving away a $10 gift certificate to Starbucks to one lucky commenter.

Friday: Join award-winning author Siri Mitchell when she discusses "The Fine Art of Making Stuff Up,” a must for every novelist who reaches a point where gaps begin to appear between research and the story. What you do about them can make the difference between a compelling tale and a self-conscious apology. Learn the whens, whys, and hows of "making stuff up and win one of two giveaways of Siri’s latest books, Love Comes Calling and The Miracle Thief.  

 Seeker Sightings

From Audra Harders: My gift to you this Easter weekend. Second Chance Ranch is #free Saturday and Sunday on Amazon. Download it to your Kindle or Kindle app and share the gift with your friends. Tell everyone you know they reeaaallllly need to read this book!!!! 

And join Audra on Friday, April 25 as she shares her family favorite Cheesecake recipe on An Indie Adventure.

Join Sandra Leesmith this week on her blog tour that features her new release LOVE'S PROMISES. Begin the tour at Seasons of Humility on Monday and find the schedule for exciting interviews that feature Sandra's research for this novel, the marvelous Lake Tahoe setting, and don't miss the interviews of the hero and heroine. There is also a fun surprise rafflecopter gift featured during the week. The tour runs Monday, April 21 to Friday, April 25.

Beginning today, Mary Connealy is publishing a novella in thirteen installments, twice a week, leading up to the release of Stuck Together, June 3rd. Closer Than Brothers is how the Trouble in Texas heroes met in Andersonville Prison. It's not really a story, just a string of scenes showing them meeting, fighting at each other's sides,  helping each other through the nightmare that was Andersonville.We begin with Vince.

Chapter One is up now at

Debby Giusti will attend Barbara Vey's Reader Appreciation Luncheon on SAT, April 26, in Milwaukee!
She'll bring back lots of picture to share.

On Wednesday April 16, Ruth Logan Herne sneaked out of her rabbit hole and had a wonderful time talking with the Hilton Readers Group. The ladies invited her to do two of her favorite things: Eat and Talk!!! 

Random News & Information

Many thanks to those who contributed links this week! 

Night Class Info Here.

  Seekerville congratulates the Christy Award Nominees!  How the nominees are determined: here.

Baker Publishing to Acquire Regal Books (PW)

Nominate Your Favorite BLOG at the TCBN Blog of the Month Nominations. (Shameless Seekerville Self Promo!) (TCBN)

Book Expo America to Hold Book Start-up Pitch Contest (DBW)

How To Market Your Book To The Locals – Four Secrets (The Future of Ink)

No pressure Speedbo writers. But you have approximately 12 days to submit your polished pages for the Perfect Pitch Contest!~

The Art of Creating Memorable Villains Whatever Your Genre (Writer Unboxed)

Ways to Publish and Sell Your eBook: INFOGRAPHIC (GalleyCat)

The Trailer to Authors Anonymous! (Movie Maniacs)

Colorado House Passes Sales Tax Fairness Bill (ABA)

That's it! Have a blessed weekend.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Five Things I Learned About Writing from Jack Reacher

 We shared an interesting article by Forbes Magazine in the Weekend Edition a few weeks ago:

The Strongest Brand in Publishing is....

"Lee Child's Jack Reacher series has the largest reader loyalty of any best-selling author today." 

When Child was interviewed for the magazine he credited the following with the strong branding:

Consistency: Jack Reacher can be counted on to be the same character in each book.

Authenticity:  " the art of narrative authenticity is culling details that are authentic from the larger pool of those that might be merely accurate."

Uniqueness: The series is like none other, filling a previous hole in the market.

When I picked up my first Jack Reacher novel I had no expectations. In fact, I don't read many, if any, books with a single male protagonist, so I suppose I had negative expectations.

My response was hugely unexpected. I read through 16 books in four weeks (I didn't read the two prequel novels or the singles).  It became an obsessive experience.

There were several occasions when, after I finished a book, I paused, a little annoyed at plot contrivances. BUT--that was after the book was finished or if during the actual devouring of the book, it certainly didn't keep me from completing the book.

Child had done his job. I was pulled into the world he created and I empathized and cared enough about Jack Reacher to read to the end.

Being a writer, naturally I sought to analyze how Child does this.

First let me say that I recognize that in Seekerville our audience is comprised of CBA authors and readers. The Jack Reacher series are thrillers, with very little or no use of graphic language. They have violence depicted, and they do have adult content in some of the books (none in the movie). So whether you read them or not there is still a vast amount of learning to be found in analyzing the writing.

Here's the trailer for Jack Reacher

Do not  be confused. Jack Reacher is NOT Tom Cruise. We'll save that discussion for last.

Now let's get down to the nitty gritty. Here are the five things I learned about writing by reading Lee Child's Jack Reacher series.  I learned how these writing techniques are done by a pro and you can too!

1. Empathy

I've often (okay, possibly ad nauseum) quoted Michael Hauge. Identification with the protagonist equals empathy. You make the reader identify with the character in the following ways:

1. Make the character the victim of some undeserved misfortune.
2. Put the character in jeopardy. 
3. Make the character likeable.
4. Make the character funny.
5. Make the character powerful.

Hauge recommends using two of these characteristics. Jack Reacher embodies all five of them. 

He's alone in the world. Each book is a Jack Reacher in jeopardy book, and we are not only rooting for him but worrying about him.

Jack is likeable, funny (with a self-deprecating, dry sense of humor) and powerful.
  • His mouth was set in a wry smile that was halfway between patient and exasperated.
  •    "When in doubt, turn left."

  •  Reacher was six feet and five inches tall and had hands the size of supermarket chickens,... 

 Characters like Jack Reacher are anti-hero archetypes, no different than Robin Hood, Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry) or Spiderman. They are flawed heroes, vigilantes, doing for humanity what we don't dare do ourselves. Child calls him an over-dog.

2. Goal -motivation- conflict.

There is never any doubt in a Lee Child book what the GMC is and you don't have to wait very long for the GMC to be unveiled. There is no subtle hint, it's in your face, explosive GMC and every single time Reacher is willing to risk everything to achieve his goal no matter what stands in his way. That's what makes the books so powerful. 

As Hauge says,"If your hero isn't putting everything on the line to get what he wants, WE DON'T CARE!"

A Writer's Digest article quoting thriller writer Gary Braver, says this on how to write a thriller:

 "There are only three themes in all of literature: death and rebirth ; the hero slaying a dragon to restore the world to normalcy ; and the quest to make life better . Know which theme fits your story. 

..make clear what your protagonist wants and what he fears.  There are two quests: Stopping the bad stuff form happening  and dealing with the character’s baggage.

 Isn't this applicable to  romance as well?

3. Urgency 

"Urgency pushes the plot and the pace."-Debra Dixon (GMC)

Urgency is tied to motivation.  It creates a finish line and one that is so easily defined it sets the pace for the protagonist who is willing to (as Dixon says) "act against his own best interest" in order to get there.

Not only that, but this well defined urgency is what makes readers stay up and read obsessively and ignore their own best interest to finish the book.

Can you FEEL the urgency in these Child novel blurbs?

A bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.
 Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed—but so is the woman he’ll risk his life to save.- 61 Hours.

Four people in a car, hoping to make Chicago by morning. One man driving, another telling stories that don’t add up. A woman in the back, silent and worried. And a hitchhiker with a broken nose. An hour behind them, the FBI descends on an old pumping station where a man was stabbed to death—the knife work professional, the killers nowhere to be seen.

All Jack Reacher wanted was a ride to Virginia. All he did was stick out his thumb. But he soon discovers he has hitched more than a ride. He has tied himself to a massive conspiracy, in which nothing is what it seems, and nobody is telling the truth.- A Wanted Man.

4. Character Driven versus Plot Driven

"Character-driven: When something about the character's essential self leads to a particular action or event in the story. Plot-driven: When a character takes a particular action so that the result is a particular plot point." - Alicia Rasley

Or from Indie Tips Film making:

 "In a character driven story, if you change one thing about the smallest character the dynamic of the whole story changes. If you were to remove the main character from the story, there would not be a story left to tell." 

 "A plot driven story is one where the plot defines who a character is. The call to action still exists despite a change in character."

Most of us write character driven stories.

Lee Child writes a perfect blend of both. 

 5. Details 

 Possibly one of my favorite things about Lee Child books is his unique blend of showing and telling and his attention to details,  and his phraseology. 

 "The shaved snow on the street was part bright white powder and part ice crystals. They shone and glittered in the moonlight." -61 Hours

"I could feel the storm boiling up overhead. The air was like soup. It was pitch dark. About midnight, the storm broke. Heavy drops the size of quarters spattered the leaves around me." -Killing Floor

"Two minutes later the phone rang. An old-fashioned instrument. The slow peal of a mechanical bell, a low sonorous sound, doleful and not at all urgent."- Worth Dying For

"He kept the car at a nothing-to-hide seventy miles an hour and touched the CD button on the dash. Got a blast of mid-period Sheryl Crow in return, which he didn't mind at all. He stayed with it. Every day is a winding road, Sheryl told him. I know, he thought. Tell me about it."-One Shot

 I'm really running out of time and space, though not enthusiasm. A word for you suspense writers... If you want to learn tight, fast, action packed pacing.. read a Lee Child book.

Now let's talk Jack. 

Box Office Case Study: Why "Jack Reader Couldn't Muscle Through Anti-Tom Cruise Outcry

"A vocal outcry erupted among Reacher diehards the moment Hollywood’s 5’ 7” Top Gun expressed an interest in playing the 6’5” taciturn anti-hero – a hulking ex-military-cop-turned-vigilante, defined by his ability to overpower and intimidate by virtue of his size and cold-blooded determination to mete out justice at all costs."


Who is Jack (None) Reacher?

 Born: October 29, 1960

Army brat. Mother is French. 

All family deceased including his brother Joe, formerly with the U.S. Treasury Department.

Reacher is former Army MP, rank of Major.

Left the Army after 13 years. 

A drifter, he chooses to stay off the grid.

Has an expired passport for ID, a debit card and carries cash and a travel tooth brush. Does not carry a change of clothes. 

 Physical description: 

 A man of abnormal size and strength, he is six foot-five, with a 50-inch barrel chest, and weighs approximately 220 to 250 pounds-all muscle.  Has dirty blonde hair and winter cold, blue eyes. Needs to eat ten thousand calories and two gallons of water a day just to stay level. Note the aforementioned hands the size of chickens.

Not agile, he is a methodical and well-trained fighter. Also a military marksman.

Has a mental alarm clock.

I ask that Tom Cruise?

Reacher-isms for the true Reacher fan:

"Hit them fast, hit them hard, and hit them a lot."

"Always move on and never look back. Never do the same thing twice."

"Look, don't see; listen, don't hear. The more you engage, the longer you survive."

"If you're constantly looking down at your phone, you're not looking at the world around you."

"Tune in to your circadian rhythms to set your personal internal alarm clock."

"Your silence will make your opponent want to babble."

"We're making an omelette here...we're going to have to break some eggs."

From Jack Reacher Rules by Lee Child

If I've made you consider being a Jack Reacher fan, here's info on his upcoming release:

 Personal  by Lee Child

September 2014

Someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president but failed to kill him. The suspected sniper has serious skills and is a hard man to find. Reacher tracked him down once and put him in jail. Now he's asked to hunt him again, and put him away permanently.

 Tracking the shooter will take Reacher from France to England after a killer with a treacherous vendetta. He'll need to uncover who did the hiring and what's behind the assassination attempt before executing his orders

Read an excerpt here.

Now today, being my hosting day, I have two giveaways.

1. If you can guess (wrong or right) how the author came up with the name Reacher, your name goes in a drawing for an Amazon gift card. Certainly enough to buy a Jack Reacher book on Kindle.

2. And if you guess Jack's favorite beverage-your choices: Vodka, coffee or milk,your name goes in a drawing for a Starbucks card. Wrong or right, you're in if you guess.