DRAMA–The Old And New Genre

Drama. It’s what life is made of. It’s the ins and outs of everyday life.  And as in real life, drama can be found in Westerns, Mysteries, Thrillers, Romance, and all other kinds of fiction. Part of our current language is the use of the word ‘drama’ to describe reactions to events. We hear about Drama Queens, and people who just can’t handle all that ‘drama.’

But without drama, there is no life. Drama is about the aches and pains, the growing, the fighting, the search for self, the search for peace. Authors and most people in the business might call it goal, motivation and conflict. Whole books have been dedicated to teaching us how to make sure our writing feels like real life. It’s a writer’s job to evoke emotions from readers, to make them sympathetic to, or afraid of, our characters and their situations.

My favorite kind of drama is psychological drama, which is defined as what goes on in our  heads, how we think and feel about what’s happening. And my favorite characters to write are the ones with psychological problems. Those who were molested, beaten, raped, or killed, and those who molest, beat, rape and kill. I like to write about people who are very flawed, who are damaged. My readers want to know what makes ‘those’ people tick, what drama they have gone through. What do they think and feel? What can they possibly tell themselves that makes it okay to hurt others? Do they understand the consequences of their actions? Or do they just not care?

I watched a child  molester as he passed by a very young girl, maybe six or seven years old. She wore a bikini. He leered at her and said, “She knows exactly what she’s doing, shaking her butt and prissing around.”  I’ve never forgotten that. He was of the firm belief that all females knew the power they held over men, and used it. He really believed that little girl was teasing him, though it was obvious that she was totally unaware of his presence. If you are a reader of my fiction, you will no doubt run into this character someday.

But characters don’t have to be that sick, to evoke a response from readers. If you’re an author, remember the flaws, the parts of real people that we sometimes detest, as well as the parts of them that we feel great compassion for. Use drama in your writing to bring the reader into the story, their emotions rising and falling as they get to know your characters. Readers love all that drama.

Welcome Guest Blogger Author Judith Marshall

Today we have a guest blogger, author Judith Marshall, with an intersting article on writing badly. Enjoy.

Take it away, Judith!

Give Yourself Permission to Write Badly

When I look back at the first draft of my novel, “Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever,” I’m appalled. How could I expect to interest an agent or publisher in this drivel? But while I was pounding out the words, I didn’t know it was bad. I only knew I had something to say.

For all you aspiring writers out there, I want you to know that it’s okay to write badly. It’s okay not to have an MFA in writing or even any knowledge of the craft. The main thing is to get it down from beginning to end. Why? Because writing is about revision. There will be plenty of time to correct mistakes, beef up the plot and hone your characters later.

But first you must silence your inner critic; that voice that keeps telling you your writing is crap. This voice does not like to be ignored. She wants you to be precise, to choose just the right word, to use the proper punctuation. She wants you to be inspired, prolific and brilliant. Wouldn’t that be nice? But if you wait for that to happen, you’ll be staring at a blank computer screen most days.

If you want to be a writer, you have to start somewhere, and most often it begins with writing badly. Writing badly is the first step toward producing anything worthwhile.

Thanks, Judith. You hit the nail on the head.

Below is a great photo of Judith, with a cover shot, and you can contact Judith at http://www.judithmarshall.net

Arg! What’s Up With The Colons: Already?


I’ve been reading a long list of new books by authors who have asked for reviews. I think every book so far has had tons of colons and semi-colons. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if anyone knew how to use them. I find sentences with comas and semi-colons. Or semi-colons instead of a period. Or colons between two statements that are barely related to each other.

I’m of the school that says colons and semi-colons should be left for scientific papers and instruction manuals. Okay, I know everyone is free to use their own judgment when it comes to their own writing. But really…if you’re going to use punctuation, could you at least learn how to do it correctly?

 I will be judging entries in the Daphne writing contest soon. I hope the entrants aren’t in love with colons and semi-colons. Or, at least, if they use them, they know how to do it correctly. I never mark down an entry for doing things I don’t do. But I do mark down if the writer isn’t using punctuation correctly.

 C’mon, ladies and gentlemen, if you’re writing fiction, in any POV except omniscient, you are deep in the minds of the characters. Do your characters really think in language that needs colons and semi-colons? Every time you use any word, punctuation, or writing technique that is unfamiliar to your readers, we stop and try to figure it out. Why is there a colon here? Why is this sentence in question form, but without a question mark? Why is there a semi-colon in the middle of this sentence?

Try this exercise. Grab a paper and pen, and just sit around and listen to people talk. Don’t copy down what they say, but put the punctuation on the paper. If someone hesitates during a sentence put an ellipsis on your paper… or a comma,

Are you hearing anything that sounds like it needs colons and semi-colons to make you understand the relationship between the statements?

Sure, a hundred years ago, colons and semi-colons were everywhere. In fiction, as well as every other kind of writing. But then writing changed. We learned about using shorter paragraphs, showing more white space and making chapters shorter to encourage the reader to read one more page, or one more chapter. We learned that deep POV helps the reader connect with the character, to feel what the character feels. We learned to write in a different voice for each character, so the reader could really see the difference in the way characters, think, talk and act. Now could we please make the leap from the use of fancy punctuation to the use of punctuation that allows the reader to stay in the character’s head, and not get caught up in possible meanings of simple sentences?

It’s crazy making to be reading along, enjoying a story, when suddenly something pops up and you say to yourself, “Why did the author do that?”  And it’s even crazier making when the author didn’t know how to it correctly. Which is why I’m CRAZY! Okay, I’m just slightly off. But if I have to read one more fiction book filled with colons and semi-colons, I may go right off the deep end. And you wouldn’t want to be responsible for that, would you?


Upcoming Blog Tour

I’m finally going to take the plunge and actually take a tour of several blogs, promoting my debut novel, Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery. To that end I’m looking for a few more blogsters who would be willing to host me oh their blogs. I’m looking to fill these dates: Jan 23rd through 25th.

The tour starts January 16th and I’ll be announcing the route soon!

Characters Run Amuck: What do you do when a character takes over and develops a mind of her own?

This article is part of the Rolling Mystery Blog Tours Ink blog hop for Monday, December 12, 2011. For other articles on this subject, see the list of other participants below the article.

And now for my article: Characters Run Amuck

Have you ever had a character hijack your story and run with it? I hate it when that happens.  In my debut novel, Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery,  there is a character named Gemini Taylor who likes to be in charge. She kept trying to become the lead and push all the other characters out of the way. I can’t count how many pages she stole before I finally got her under control.

I think maybe this comes from being able to identify with the character. We see ourselves in that character and want her to succeed, and so we let her get away with stuff that no one else can. But ultimately, the writer has to make a decision and take back control. My way of handling it is to go ahead and write all those pages the character demands, then pick the best of the writing and put the rest in a folder to save for later, just in case. I find this works for me because I’m not eliminating the words, nor refusing to let the character speak.

I try to keep in mind the fact that I created this character, and ultimately, she is part of me. I must let her speak, but I don’t have to let her make the final decisions. I have a friend who is a writer. She told me that while she was writing a book that had a minor character in it, that character started visiting her and bugging her to write a book where he was the lead. She explained to him that in the next book, he would be the lead, but this book had to be finished first. That seemed to work for her.

Yes, we both sound a little nuts, but after all, aren’t most writers a little off? I mean, really, what kind of person can think up this stuff, create people out of thin air and make you believe they are real, and their stories are real? We sit for hours day dreaming, planning, creating, until we have the right people, in the right circumstances, to entice readers to spend hours with those people and care about their story. And don’t tell anyone, but some of us are…uh…wacko.

Take me for instance. I love to get into the heads of serial killers, rapists, molesters, and assorted fiends. I can live there for a long time. That can’t be the sign of a normal well-adjusted person, can it?

For another article on this subject, please visit: 

Kathleen Kaska at http://kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com

#Point of View and The Writer’s View

I’ve been working on a literary romance and it’s driving me crazy. The plan is to write from the points of view of each of the two main characters–hero and heroine in the normal vernacular, though I don’t think these labels fit so well. Both characters are doctors, specialists.

I want to write in first person present for one, and third person past tense for the other. I know this will probably be hard to sell, because it’s not the ‘normal’ way. But I have a very good reason for doing it this way, and I think when I finally get it sold, it will be a big hit. I have a deep belief in this story.

My current publisher doesn’t publish this kind of work, and I have agreed to write book two of the Trey Fontaine Mystery  trilogy, so working on this is postponed, though it fills my mind at times.  But I’m wondering how other writers deal with this process of deciding when to fulfill the vision of the story, and when to do what you know editors and agents want.

Laptop vs. Desktop

I’ve wrestled with this issue for years. I started with a desktop, but I couldn’t take it with me and by the time I got home I was too exhausted to really use it for writing.
Then I got a laptop, which was great for carrying around, though back then they were a lot heavier than nowadays. But I found I did not like getting online with it. And then there was the issue of repairs. My laptop lost a key and I quickly learned that there was no way to repair it. It was cheaper to buy a new one.
Again I bought a desktop, knowing I could always get another keyboard, or monitor, or whatever, if something broke. But I was very uncomfortable at the desk. I bought a great ergonomic chair, which helped, but the desk would only fit in the living room, and I didn’t usually spend a lot of time there. So I bought a laptop.
Now I have a desktop at my desk, which sits in my bedroom. And I have a laptop. The desktop is for online research and communication. I rarely use it to write. I use the laptop for writing only. I have a great lap desk I made to my own specifications and when I have weeks where I just can’t sit in the chair, I can do some writing on my laptop.
A few years back I met a very famous writer who did a speech at a conference. She talked about how she had an invisible disability that had made her bedridden for a year, and it just happened to be a year when she’d just signed a contract for book two in a series. Her hubby bought her a laptop and she would work in tiny increments in bed. She managed to make her deadline, and also worked on her health, which eventually helped her get up and get somewhat better.
I love that I have both a desktop and a laptop. Both get used. I never have to worry about viruses that will destroy my work because my laptop is never connected to the net. And I know that I have a way to get in touch with other writers, teachers, and friends via my desktop. It’s the best of both worlds. I hope I never have to pick just one.
I’d love to hear about the experiences of others. What do you think?