Monday, November 23, 2015

Villain Vanquished

All writers have a different style – some are plotters, some write by the seats of their pants, some work with a combo of the above or their very own construct. It doesn’t matter how the author creates, but what the author creates – and what the writer creates is a story filled with characters we root for and against.

There is a great deal of information available about heroes – alpha or beta, romantic or hard-boiled. Is he tall, athletic and handsome, or do the ladies adore his geekiness?

Our favorite heroines are generally smart, funny, and accomplished. But then again, there are the Stephanie Plums of the world, too! She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s klutzy!

But villains – where do the villains come from? Are they archetypes, constructs from our days of hearing fairy tales and myths? Are they the product of nightmares or do we pick our boss’ least appealing characteristics and make them bigger than life? Do we build him or her from people we read or hear about in the news? In documentaries? Or are they only a product of the writer's fertile imagination?

As far back as man has created, the villain has been a crucial component of the storyteller’s craft. The villain – or villainess, as the case may be – creates a great deal of stress and angst for our lovely hero and heroine. The villain will thwart them at every turn for a while, and then their brilliance, bravery and moxie will shine as the villain is conquered.

What was our bad guy’s fatal flaw – hubris, stupidity, inexperience? Whatever it is, it brings him down in the end.

And isn’t that what we all want – to see justice done, the villain stopped and our hero or heroine win the day?

Who is your favorite fictional villain and why?

Libby McKinmer
Romance with an edge
Find me on Facebook, Twitter & Goodreads

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Conflict & Tension -- It Makes a Mystery Work

There is an essential need to up the ante in a mystery – your reader expects it. It's part of what you've promised as a writer of a mystery. If there’s a murder, is there the threat of a second or a third? Could the investigator be at risk? Someone near and dear to him or her? If there isn’t the threat of a murder, could it be that the villain will “get away” with his or her plan? What effect will that have on the hero, the investigator or innocent bystanders? You want your readers to keep turning the pages, wanting to know what's going to happen next…and you want them to really be cheering on the hero/heroine. 

The author must increase the conflict and tension to have a satisfying denouement that the reader can believe in and be happy about. We can have conflict between characters if the investigator and the villain come face-to-face. Or the villain and another victim. Or the investigator and authorities, if the detective isn’t law enforcement.

How dark are the woods?
Writers can also increase the tension in a story with setting and atmosphere. A dark, deserted urban setting is much more intimidating than a peaceful country trail on a sunny day with dozens of hikers around. A dwelling with no power versus a homey bed & breakfast with a grandmotherly owner. A storm (whether wind, rain or snow) versus the perfect sunny day with puffy clouds. A cute cuddly kitten is much less tension-inducing than a hungry lion or tiger.

I find it a “fun” part of the process to increase the tension and conflict – maybe because there are so many options.

What makes you keep reading a mystery title?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Welcome Guest Marilyn Meredith

Please welcome guest blogger Marilyn Meredith today as she discusses the heritage of her wonderful heroine Tempe Crabtree. You can also learn a bit about the newest Tempe mystery -- Not As It Seems.  Marilyn shares with us some info about Tempe and her heritage that plays such an important part in her series.

How Important is it that Tempe Crabtree is Indian?

I wrote three books that I thought were about Tempe before I realized that the fact she was an Indian had no importance at all to the story.  (The books were changed to totally different books with new characters and settings.)

In the fourth book, which became the prequel, Tempe’s Native American heritage began to emerge. Because Tempe wasn’t raised as an Indian, the only reference she had besides her appearance, were the stories told to her by her grandmother. Her lack of knowledge about being an Indian is pointed out by Nick Two John.  He becomes her mentor and introduces her to the legends and spiritual side of being a native person in many of the books.

Every mystery has something to do with Tempe being an Indian, whether it is about customs of the Bear Creek tribe, legends that have been passed down through the years, or spiritual rituals that Tempe uses to help solve a crime.

The fact that Tempe is married to a non-Indian who is also a Christian pastor has added some conflict to an otherwise loving marriage.

Tempe being an Indian has been an important fact in each book, and in most cases has created or added to the plot. I’ve been able to find quotes by different Indians that have given me titles for a few books. Some of the legends have added to the plots in the stories.

Though the tribe Tempe belongs to is fictional, I borrow a lot from the Tule River tribe which is nearby.  The Bear Creek reservation is much like the Tule River Reservation, and the imaginary tribe Tempe belongs to is part of the Yokuts.

In the latest mystery, “Not as it Seems,” Tempe is affected by the appearance of spirits of Chumash and Salinan Indians of the past.

If Tempe weren’t Indian, the series would have ended long ago.

--Marilyn Meredith

Not as It Seems Blurb:

Tempe and Hutch travel to Morro Bay for son Blair’s wedding, but when the maid-of-honor disappears, Tempe tries to find her. The search is complicated by ghosts and Native spirits.

Character Naming Contest:       

Once again, I’ll name a character after the person who leaves a comment on the most blogs.
Tomorrow I’ll be stopping by Marja McGraw’s  and talking about promotion—a necessary evil, or is it?


Marilyn Meredith now lives in the foothills of the Southern Sierra, about 1000 feet lower than Tempe’s Bear Creek, but much resembles the fictional town and surroundings. She has nearly 40 books published, mostly mysteries. Besides writing, she loves to give presentations to writers’ groups. She’s on the board of the Public Safety Writers Association, and a member of Mystery Writers of America and three chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter.