Today we have a guest post from mystery writer J.D. Frost. Regular readers of this blog will recognize J.D. as a loyal reader and commenter. J.D. is currently working on at least two, and despite my constant entreatries, he does not at the moment have a website or blog I can point you to read. I was thrilled when I read his guest post submission because he shares a lot of wisdom in it. So here you go:
by J.D. Frost
Television is more addictive than potato chips ever pretended to be. For a while we didn’t watch ours. I put it in the spare bedroom, nailed the door shut and taped black plastic film over the opening. You know how it creeps around the edges of the door, like that incessant fog in those late-night monster flicks. You can’t be too careful.
But somehow my wife saw an episode of Bones and, to my horror, she liked it! When Christmas 2012 came around, instead of an electric hand vac, I bought her DVDs of the first season. Now every night at ten—more regular than most things in my life—we watch an episode on her computer. We are now on season five.
At first, determined not to let those Hollywood tricksters take the edge off my piercing intellect (clearing throat), I only cast a sideways glance at the screen. I might as well have been staring at a swinging watch, for the show soon had me under its spell. That left me wondering how to elicit that same wide-eyed concentration from my readers. I flipped on my analytical switch and came up with a list.
♦Make your characters strong. Temperance Brennan, aka Bones, longs for a world ruled purely by science. Underneath, she is very fragile, but that is a side she steadfastly guards. Booth, her FBI sidekick, is a rock of reliability. He has a sense of humor, but is also quick with a gun and a business attitude when needed. Angela is socially wise; Hodgins is quick to anger, a bit insecure because of his small stature. As episodes progress, nuances emerge but the gist of each character is carved in stone.
♦Write in scenes. Charlotte has suggested this many times. When I think of scene in Bones, I think of locale: the crime scene, the lab, the Royal Diner.…
♦Write scenes within the scenes. After the remains are found, the arrival of Temperance and Booth is a scene within the scene. As they approach the body, they banter about something totally unrelated to the deceased. Keep in mind that though the location may be exotic and very busy, what we are really interested in is what they say.
♦Conflict—doesn’t every writer’s cousin talk about the importance of this? A famous writer, whose name I can’t recall, once said: Everybody wants something. A doorman wishes to leave early. A cook hopes his diners enjoy their food. The desires of each character influence how they interact with the major players. To generate sizzle put two major characters on a colision course.
Don’t feel too guilty about digging your TV out of the spare bedroom. If your partner screams at you, demanding to know why you aren’t writing, trying to earn that 7¢ ebook royalty, tell them it’s research.
J.D. Frost is a mystery writer from near the Rocket City.
Image by angelrravelor from everystockphoto.