You bet they do! Authors know what buttons to push.
By ‘what buttons to push’ I mean what buttons do authors use to manipulate (yep, being honest) their readers’ emotions, to get them on side with the characters in their books. For example, perhaps the author creates unlikeable, evil antagonists and emphasizes the sterling qualities of his protagonists.
The most obvious ploy is the ticking clock. It not only lends urgency but it yanks the reader along at a rush, keeping him intrigued.
Then there’s characterization. Of course in this dynamic world, what worked ten years ago may not have the same appeal in 2014. The innocent 1960s virgin, so prevalent in romances of that time, would drive a reader from 2014 to drink. We are much more cynical, well-informed and downright demanding than we were then. Historically though, some classics retain their appeal because they are much more than the sum of their characters’ emotions. To Kill A Mockingbird’s racial tensions are still not outmoded today, and that lazy description of the syrupy south’s inbred attitudes is not far from the truth in some out-of-the-way places. And that is why books like these are classics. They endure not just because of the characters in the books but because of the settings and historical attitudes. And Harper Lee manipulated the readers’ emotions. Think of the way she pushes Scout’s lack of desire to be a ‘lady’ so that the reader is on Scout’s side.
Perhaps today’s writers manipulate the readers in more subtle ways. What of Dick Francis’s heroes who are often of the working class up against a criminal upper class or just up against class bigotry where he is on the outside looking in? Dick Francis does that so well that even if the protagonist is not your usual Everyman, the reader is still very much on his side. That’s right. The modern protagonist need not be a perfect hero as he has been in novels and movies of the past. Some have patchy backgrounds and they’ve made mistakes.
There’s Lee Child’s Jack Reacher who thrums a string in every male heart. They all want to be Jack with his freedom and lack of possessions but with an innate sense of responsibility. And of course Jack has been in the military and knows how to handle himself in vicious situations. Every man’s dream. There are a lot of wannabe Jacks out there. And Lee knows how to manipulate those readers.
Tami Hoag’s heroines are believably imperfect. They make mistakes and have hang-ups that readers can empathise with and they frequently have to form alliances with people they don’t trust. There’s that little brush of reality that lends credence to the stories.
So…empathy and sympathy are the buttons. And the harder those buttons are pushed by authors and movie makers, the more a reader/viewer becomes invested in the characters. We need to see how the protagonists get themselves out of a bind, or if the evil antagonists get their come-uppance. And the best books of all are where you know darned well that the author is pushing your buttons, but you just don’t care. The book is so good! ~Vonnie Vonnie Hughes
is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.
Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.
All of Vonnie’s books are available on Musa Publishing
Learn more about Vonnie Hughes
on her website
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Guess the Plot
1. When retired chemist Roger Gusty begins converting his farts into ghosts, his love affair with octagenarian heiress Madeleine Crinkly takes a disturbing new turn. Set in a crumbling mansion, this hair-raising tale literally stinks.
2. Dolores knows she's going to die. That's because she's a Mysta, or "Mystic Sista," one of a sisterhood of urban psychics. Her daughter Rosalie is having trouble accepting the inevitable, so the Mystas take her on a road trip. Psychic revelations ensue.
3. Supermodel "Mysta" starts having memories of a past life as a Valkyrie warrior goddess. Then her friend Kieran declares that he's actually an ancient warrior. Kieran's brother, a Navy SEAL shows up, and both brothers want Mysta. But can she figure out which one of them is possessed by a demon who wants to wreak havoc on mankind?
4. Mystie, a Bostonian with a secret, finally achieves her lifelong dream of becoming a parochial school teacher. But her new career is in jeopardy when her nosy students figure out that Mystie is actually a Mysta.
5. Evil Elf Lysander Farklebean finds true love in a fog when the vaporite maiden Mysta helps him navigate to the Ivy Isle, thereby escaping the clutches of the angry King Comytell, father of the spiteful Princess Pearly, who wants Lysander's head on a platter, because he snatched the golden virginity she was keeping in the cupboard. But how long can the new happiness last?
6. In a nearly empty strip mall, the only occupied storefront is for a laser-tag arena, Mysta. Not much happens there, until smoldering corpses drilled with neat, cauterized holes start piling up in the parking lot.
7. Mysta is the fad of the moment only no one can agree what exactly it is: A drink? A drug? A celebrity? Only Pansy knows it's an invasion from another dimension where mind control satellites, death rays, and fate controlled by astrology are real.
Dear Evil Editor
An attack by a jilted rock star-turned-stalker nearly kills Supermodel Mysta. After surgery to repair her crushed larynx, she’s sure the drugs [The drugs? "Her painkillers" or whatever would be more specific.] are causing memories of a past life as Myst, Valkyrie warrior goddess.
Until she displays paranormal powers related to this previous existence. ["Until" suggests that she stops believing the drugs are causing memories of a past life as a Valkyrie warrior goddess when she displays paranormal powers. I would expect these powers to confirm that she has goddess DNA.] [Also, what are her powers?]
The assault reunites her with old friend, Kieran Sigard, [Change his name to Koren Sierkegaard.] who assures [her] he is her prior love, the warrior Sigvarðr. [Did he just find this out, or has he been keeping it from her? Did she tell him about her memories before<
In answering a question posed by a reader, I felt this worth sharing with a lot of readers and possibly of interest to many a writer:
Dear Joe et al --- There are too many variables to gain a simple answer to your reflections and questions regarding why an authur chooses to do a series rather than a "series" of stand-a-lone titles. I will give it a stab at some sort of answer(s), and you will see some of the variables and reasons why an author does a stand-alone and why he or she does a series.
First - money. A series is often bought in a crop of two, four, etc. books that have as yet to be written. Publishers seek out characters strong enough to shoulder multiple storylines...plots. Multiple plots to challenge a character or ensemble.
Character + Plots - plots are easy if an author truly establishes what I call a fully-realized character. Take the notion to TV's Star Trek or any TV drama with continuing character or ensemble, say Law & Order, for instance and the situation is thus: We writers establish the bedrock character traits of our principal characters first, as is done with HOUSE, The Sopranos, etc., and once well established, we know what a Jim Kirk, Captain of the Starship Enterprise is all about and capable of. Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke fame - once we know what kind of character we are dealing with, what we have in hand, then we can "attack" that character which is exactly what we do as novelists and storytellers.
Obstacles vs. Goals - We then go about the business of throwing curve balls, brick-a-brack, stormes, obstacles at him--whoever she may be. We know what character X is capable of in the first story established, so now what is he capable of if we perhaps double the threat? My one 11-book series is a model of this type of writing, and each can stand alone, yes....I work to make that so, but in order of 1 to 11 the reader gets all facets and all exploits in the order the character got them.
Love that characters - Writers do fall in love with certain of their characters and without prompting of a contract or a publisher's blessing, they often want to keep exploring the nature of one or more characters, asking WHAT IF Jessica or Alastair or Kirk or Tony or Matt Dillon is put into this position...what if given this to problem to solve (or medical mystery to solve - House). What size hoop to jump through? What will the character do and how will readers react to her being relocated to say Hawaii or London or some back bayou outside of New Orleans? What if I could get Alastair Ransom aboard the good ship Titanic on a clear April night in 1912?
There are as many reasons to continue with a character as one has storylines or obstacles to throw in front of him her. Often a publisher will stop paying for a series--effectively END an author's series way before the author is finished making life hell for said character. Long before the author is DONE...leaving the author wishing to explore the complexities of a James T. Kirk or a given medical examiner or detective.
Back to Money - When a publisheer's balance sheet says a character or series is over...when this fate occurs and you hold a wake for the series character rather than a book signing, the series typically is dead in the publishing waters, and the author has nowhere to place a new story. No placment, no sell, no money said character is making! Comes back to money and the author's time.
New Life for Dead Characters or Series - However, now with the advent of Indie publishing, the Indie author, thanks again to Kindle technology and Amazon cajunas, we who wish to continue on with a "dead" series can do so at our pleasure. No wake necessary. Rather a RESURRECTION is in order....
As I have done already and am continuing to do--I resurrect out of print books and therefore "dead" characters. In other words my four-book series called EDGE or my trilogy with Ransom, or
By: Terry Lee Wilde
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Okay, now you know I write urban fantasy, right? So some of it is pretend. Right? So we're going to pretend. While writing my wolf series, I shared pictures of real wolves on an Easter egg hunt. They had fun eating the colorful eggs.
But can you imagine finding pictures of a jaguar eating Easter eggs?
So here's as close to it as I could get. :) Just squeeze your eyes tighter, click your heels twice and repeat after me, the stripes on this tiger are spots on a jaguar, and the rock he is inspecting is one huge Easter egg.
There. And if we concentrated hard enough...we'd have it!
The one already ate the whopping big Easter egg, didn't share with the other, and he's ticked off.
And that's my story and I'm sticking to it! But wait, everyone can see something different in a story. What do you see???
By: Morgan Mandel,
Today I'm happy to host Jean Henry Mead, a delightful mystery writer and Internet friend.
|Jean Henry Mead|
Jean Henry Mead is a mystery/suspense and western historical novelist. She's also an award-winning photojournalist. One of her fortes is interviewing writers, actors, politicians, artists and ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things. She began her writing career as a California news reporter/editor/photographer,first in Central California and later in San Diego. Mead later transferred to Casper, Wyoming, to serve as a staff writer for the statewide newspaper. While there she served as editor of In Wyoming Magazine and two small presses. She also freelanced for other magazines, both domestic and abroad, among them the Denver Post.. Her first book was published in 1982. She's since published fourteen novels and nonfiction books.
You can reach Jean at http://www.jeanhenrymead.com/Writing with Humor
by Jean Henry Mead
I’m not a comedian but I’ve found that adding humor to my books increases sales. In fact, I’ve received several reviews stating that the reviewer hoped I would add more humor in my next novel. A Village Shattered takes place in a central California retirement village where Sew and So club members are dying alphabetically. Nothing humorous about that, but I added a couple of quirky characters to the mix: a love starved widow and a rednecked cassanova, which not only makes it a fun read but enjoyable to write.
The second book in my Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series is Dairy of Murder, which takes on a more series tone when Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, two widows traveling in their motorhome, learn that Dana’s sister has died and her husband claims it was suicide. Dana knows her sister Georgi, a mystery writer, would never take her own life, so she and her friend Sarah set out to prove it was murder. Along the way they stumble over more bodies and a vicious drug gang. The only humor comes from Sarah’s dialogue and reviewers complained that it wasn’t as funny as A Village Shattered.
My first novel, Escape on the Wind, republished twice and retitled Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, was probably my most humorous as well as my best selling novel to date. It features a kidnapped young heiress, Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, and a little known member of the gang, Tom “Peep O’Day, an alcoholic horse thief who nearly takes over the plot because he was so much fun to write about. Good-natured and bungling, he causes the gang to botch the Belle Fourche bank robbery.
I added humor to my first, recently released children’s novel, Mystery of Spider Mountain, as well as the second, The Ghost of Crimson Dawn, which I’m currently writing. I’ve also added humor to my nonfiction books. Casper Country: Wyoming’s Heartland, was researched by spending two years behind a microfilm machine reading 97-years’ worth of newspapers, dating from 1889. I’ll never do that again, but I found some funny incidents to add to the centennial history book, which was eventually used as a textbook at Casper College.
One of the things I remember was an article about three young boys stealing w
Title: Caller IDAuthor: Rachelle ChristensenSeries: Stands Alone but is a Companion to Wrong NumberPublisher: Cedar FortReleased: March 13, 2012Website: http://www.rachellejchristensen.com/
When twenty-three-year-old Courtney Beckham, the privileged daughter of a highly successful land developer, is abducted in the mountains near her home, FBI Agent Jason Edwards investigates the ten-million-dollar ransom and turns up more than just a kidnapping crime.
And when Courtney catches a glimpse of the caller ID in her kidnapper’s home, what she sees sends ice through her veins. Even if she escapes her captors, something much more dangerous lies ahead.
From the author who brought you Wrong Number comes another story featuring Agent Jason Edwards that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Caller ID is great romantic suspense. The story-line was fast paced and kept me guessing. We find out who is behind the kidnapping fairly early on but I wasn't expecting it to be who it was. Even though we know who the bad guy is there are still lots of twists and turns in the story right up until the end.
Caller ID stands alone but one of the main characters Jason Edwards was in Rachelle's first book Wrong Number. I enjoyed Caller ID enough that I decided I wanted to see what happened to Jason in Wrong Number so it is my next read.
Caller ID definitely made me a Rachelle Christensen fan. I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.
Rating: 4.5 Stars - Highly Recommend
Source: From publisher for review
Author Website: http://www.rachellejchristensen.com/
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rachellechristensenauthor
Publisher Blog http://www.cedarfortbooks.com/
Publisher Facebook https://www.facebook.com/cedarfortbooks
Publisher Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/cedarfortbooks
"To celebrate the release of CALLER ID, Rachelle is hosting a contest for a new Ultra Flip Video Camcorder (4GB memory, Records 120 minutes Value $149.99) and other great prizes. You can enter to win between now and April 14, 2012. Winners will be announced and notified April 16, 2012.
For how to enter: http://rachellewrites.blogspot.com/p/ultra-flip-video-contest.html
American Football Coach - Tony Dungy in progress. Sketch on A4 paper using 2B pencil. :)
Just received word The Wild Rose Press wishes to contract Deidre's Secret, a teen paranormal romantic suspense. When Deidre Roux begins having premonitions of danger, watch out! But can she convince her new friend, Mark Cummings, to believe that she truly sees a world of danger headed their way before it's too late?
Coming soon, Deidre's Secret, The Wilde Rose Press!
~~~FOR WRITERS: I'm offering my 3-D Characterization online workshop again...details at: http://www.terryspear.com/id14.html
Sign up now for the course that will begin April 1-28. I give 3 lessons per week, plus mini-lessons in between. :)~~
Terry Lee Wilde, The Vampire...In My Dreams
Guess the Plot
1. To Kill a Sparrow, To Kill an Albatross, and To Kill a Dodo were all flops. Sooner or later, Harper Street will just have to face it: she's a cheap imitation.
2. From where I lie, I've seen them all-dames, dolls, dicks, devils. On one end it's the sticks, the other, the docks. In between it's penthouses and parks, slums and schools, churches and chopshops. I'm more than just a slab of asphalt: I'm Harper Street, and this is my story.
3. Mandy drives her Hummer to the Harper Street Mall to shop for shoes, but her heel & buckle man is none other than Dwight Lopez, undercover super-spy, who suddenly needs to borrow Mandy's car and lipstick to flee assassins so he can stop the Tinker, a deranged mastermind with a nuclear device in a shoebox.
4. Once the realm of the wealthy elite, Harper Street has fallen on hard times--which is why I've chosen it as my personal hunting grounds. I'm Geoff Van Der Plaz, the sexiest, most ruthless vampire of them all.
5. Who is killing the homeless? I'm Addy. I run the shelter, and I've fallen for one of the homeless guys, but that's the least of my problems. The cops think I'm the obsessed serial killer behind all the grisly murders committed lately, here on . . . Harper Street.
6. Everything gets strange when we move to the mansion on Harper Street and Tyrone digs in the backyard and finds bones. Ramona convinces him we can make it a tourist attraction. She'll sell tickets and tee shirts. And all I need to do is train the ghost.
I have recently finished a 90,000 word romantic thriller titled Harper Street, for which I am seeking representation.
Tucson celebutante Addy Harper gave up her carefree lifestyle when a drunk-driving accident caused the death of a good friend. Ten years later, her former friends would hardly recognize her – she’s the hardworking director of the Harper Street Shelter, named after her deceased father.
Along with funding the shelter before he died, Ben Harper also left Addy one half of his multi-million dollar empire – If she could stay out of trouble for ten years. He left the other half to her brother, Paul Harper, on the same condition.
When a series of grisly murders is uncovered among the street people of Tucson, all signs point to Addy’s involvement in a complicated insurance scam where death means a nice, meaty payoff. But Tucson homicide detective Renner Cole isn’t so sure. He’s gone undercover at the shelter to try and dig up solid evidence on the real killer, and he’s seen the woman Addy Harper has become: hardworking, spirited, and generous. As a matter of fact, she’s just the kind of woman he’s been looking for – if he can keep her off of death row.
When Addy finds out that her newest resident is really an undercover cop, she’s furious and hurt that she's been lied to. [Now you tell me you're not a homeless guy? Now that I've fallen head over heels in love with you?! Bastard!] She liked RC, with all his crazy talk about walking the perimeter and his invisible buddy Frank. [Frank should be an invisible animal of some sort, but not a rabbit, which has been done to death. Maybe an ostrich.] But when the smoke clears, she realizes that Renner Cole is the only thing standing between her and a serial killer who's out to prove her guilt - permanently. [That word makes me think death, but I don't see how her death proves her guilt. And how does she know the serial killer is out to get her?]
Along the way to tracking down a killer and clearing her name, Addy realizes that she’s finally found the one man brave enough, caring enough, and tough enough to steal her heart. [RC's invisible buddy.]
I would be glad to send you a sample chapter, or the manuscript, at your request. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to facilitate your consideration.
Very nice. Whether or not you want to slip in the answer to a question or two, it should get a positive response from someone.
Is killing homeless guys really enough of a no-no to cost Addy her inheritance?
Are there other specific suspects, or is it just a matter of Addy or anyone else?
As they don't usually put you on death row for running an insurance scam, I assume they suspect Addy is the serial killer. You'd think someone running a shelter would have an alibi for some of the murders.
Obviously Addy's brother is the serial killer. It's refreshing to see a query whose author isn't afraid to give away the surprise ending.
By: Morgan Mandel,
This excerpt continues right after my excerpt at Make Mine Mystery
, so if you wish you can hop over there and read that one first, but don't forget to come back here.
Here it is -
“That son of a bitch.” Dade heaved Jensen’s book onto the chair in his office. It bounced off the black leather edge and landed open on the floor.
He glared at the offending present. His partner wouldn’t admit it, but the mystery writer was after her. Danger rang loud and clear in Jensen’s autograph.
When it came to book smarts, Julie ranked high in her class. Unfortunately, she was a kindergartener around guys and would be easy pickings. She didn’t realize how sexy she looked with her wispy blonde hair, long legs and kissable mouth.
“He won’t get away with it,” Dade muttered.
Since grammar school, he’d acted as Julie’s protector, steering the scum away from her, as well as his sister, Avery, another looker. Only the few and the brave had dared approach them.
Avery had recently found her soul-mate, a fellow reporter. Dade wanted that for Julie, but his gut told him Jensen wasn’t the one.
“Radison’s on line five,” Nora Hampton, his efficient secretary, cut in on the intercom. He glanced at the digital clock on the phone. Half past eight, the start of the office day.
“Get rid of him. Hold my calls.”
“Whatever you say, Mr. Donovan.”
He gritted his teeth and jammed the files into his briefcase. Three trials ahead and every one of them a mountain to climb on bare feet. Well, that suited him just fine. He was itching for a good fight. Watch out world.
Julie turned as she was heading out the door. “Come on, birthday boy. Get moving.”
He took in her appearance with approval. Her flyaway blonde hair made her look fragile, but that was a facade. The true indicator proved to be her navy blue suit, with the crisp white blouse turned back at the neck.
A Madonna-like smile lit up her face, but this Madonna balanced a briefcase, not a baby. A twinge of guilt hit him. Maybe he had protected her too well. Julie was thirty. By her age, many women were married with kids instead of facing a daily work grind, carrying heavy case loads and wearing power suits.
As they stepped into the elevator, she flashed him a nervous smile. He squeezed Julie’s free hand to reassure her. He wished he could rid her of her claustrophobia, but that battle she must face alone.
They darted into the modern octagonal shaped glass building known as the Thompson Center. As usual, Julie bit her lip as the elevator sped upward to the eighth floor. Once at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, attorneys milled about the open area, networking and exchanging rumors and sports scores. As they headed toward their respective hearing rooms, the slim-mustached Barabat, in a tailored gray suit, brushed past Dade and Julie with a perfunctory remark. “Well if it isn’t Dade the Devil and his Avenging Angel.”
“Your ass is grass, dude,” Dade hissed back. “You don’t have a leg to stand on.”
Julie flashed a stern look. “I can fight my own battles, thank you. The counselor will learn his lesson soon enough.”
Dade smiled widely. “You’re so right.”
They stopped at the door to one of the small courtrooms. Dade wished he could join Julie inside, but only in
By: Rob Walker,
Robert W. Walker’s Psych 101 Questions -- Over time, I have considered these 10 questions that delve into the relationship between psychology and writing the novel, and being a novelist. In other words, what has psychology got to do with imagination and creating whole worlds populated with people out of ink marks on a page? The following questions and answers delve into the psychology of the author himself, and eventually will also ask about the psychology of characters an author creates: This is Psych 101 for Authors and readers interested in the craft and creative impulse.
Q#2 -- How does 'abnormal behavior' enter into the realm of creative writing and fiction?
Answer: Have you read any one of my books? OK...risky word phrase this 'abnormal behavior' as you have to ask then what is 'normal' behavior in a species that 'won' out as the meat eater of all the great apes? Authors are forever dealing with perceptions of what is right and what is wrong, what is good, what is evil, and the common error of taking things at face value. Is writing and painting and creating 'abnormal' in itself since, like actors, all artists have to be driven and obsessed to become a player in this field? This question may be too complex to answer here, but let's keep exploring.
Appearance is seldom what it seems in a novel, especially a mystery or suspense or thriller. Societal norms are taken to task. Since I write about murder and often times serial murder, murder is my stock and trade, my INC. This means 'abnormal behavior' is my bread and butter but once removed as I have killed no one except on a stage. My evil antagonists are always into aberrant and sickening words and actions; what he says, thinks, and does is who he or she is (see Final Edge for the worst female killer in all the history of books! Laurelie Blodgett). Such characters are motivated by sick fantasies, mania, fear, psychological disorders, obsessions, phobias, actual physical deformities, actual illnesses just as are Shakespeare's worst villainous scum like Iago. They are motivated often by 'abnormal' beliefs, but often such 'abnormal' beliefs come out of popular cultural beliefs, legends, even religion as in anti-religious behavior on a grand scale. Some sick beliefs have a foothold in historical fact about mankind--as in cannibalistic behavior, perhaps even necrophilia--sex with the dead. Certainly there are enough scatologically disgusting elements about mankind and his history to provide fodder for many, many an aberrant behavior or belief system or 'nutty' fantasy, desire, want, goal.
I don't have to mention Stephen King and Anne Rice made a killing on abnormal behavior, do I? Still there is a fine line at work here. Abnormal can slip over into caricature and unintended funnies in the blink of a Cyclop's eye if one is not careful. How far from the 'norm' can our 'abnormal' Grandma Grimwood go before she becomes a twisted Dickensian comical granny?
In books about psychotics, sociopaths, organized and disorganized killers of every stripe there is great latitude in defining abnormal, but in all cases the sociopathic monster has to have its\his\her roots in humanity and where we've come from...from the primitive lizard brain to the present...roots are sunk deep. This is why the abnormal among us, in the end, are human after all. Humanity swings a wide arc across the rainbow from purity to the unspeakably vile and no author can turn away and not see this if the story demands it. Those who do turn a blind eye to the absolute end of the spectrum, the deepest rung in the pit miss an entire part of the human condition and it's like being color blind, missing an entire spectrum of the rainbow itself.
OK...believe it or not. Am sorry as I had promised Abnormal Behavior. Will have to hold on that...Pavlov chewed my notes. Will get to it. Meanwhile, next Friday right here I will take up Question #3 which is: How does 'health and stress' play a role in fiction writing?
Catch my new