ACTION PACKED SCENES

911DR - 2BAll of us are risk-takers. Just getting out of bed in the morning sets us on the road to making hundreds of decisions each day. What a character eats and wears aren’t very interesting unless they’re enjoying exotic foods in faraway places. No one really cares if the character brushes her teeth, we just assume she has. A reader wants to experience life by living vicariously through the activities of others.

Choices have consequences. Our characters get themselves into terrible predicaments. It’s those crises readers like. They experience being stalked by a madman or chased by zombies from the comfort of a Barcalounger. Driving too fast, mountain hiking without bear spray, driving while drunk, aerobatic flying, firing someone and getting pregnant are all potentially dangerous common experiences from choices made and sometimes regretted. When characters get themselves into dangerous situations the events must be realistic.

We like to read exciting books about complex characters who keep us awake long after the lights should be out. How do we write action scenes about risks and make them compelling? Conflict drives a story. The character is often in deep trouble because of poor choices that carry risk to lives, safety, lovers, finances, family or world. If you are writing an action scene, reading how other great authors do it can save you time and angst.

The event must be appropriate to your genre and characters. Accuracy is also important. If you are writing a gun scene and have never fired a weapon, research online and handling the type of weapon used in the scene along with interviewing a reliable shooter will make your scene more accurate and believable. If, on the other hand, you’re writing a memoir, you have the emotion, circumstances and scene embedded in your brain forever, but can you write it effectively?

Be sure the scene reveals your character accurately? Having someone critique your work is important to assure validity and readability. Being factually correct is essential in nonfiction. In fiction, we just make it up, but this doesn’t mean you don’t have to be accurate. Each of us has expertise in varied areas and when scenes are factually incorrect, readers will notice, and reviews may be negative.

If you have questions about specific aspects of your scene, ask another writer with expertise in the area, or interview someone in that field. My history of flying, marksmanship, and practicing ER medicine frequently generates questions from authors who are writing related scenes. A law enforcement crime scene evaluation course I took has proven valuable when writing about investigation processes.

Here are a few thoughts on constructing action scenes:

  • Remember, each scene has a beginning, middle and end.
  • Building tension with conflict begins with simmering emotion that accelerates and foreshadows the event. Include mood and setting.
  • Action verbs are key to sweeping a reader into the scene. Example: He ran quickly… is not nearly as effective as: He bolted through….
  • Clarify the characters’ needs and emotions. What is at stake? What if she/he loses?
  • Use time-lapse to intensify the scene. Is time running out?
  • Be sure actions are shown and dialogue is short. Intensify a visual of emotion by few words and a descriptive action. Examples: He yelled, “You can’t go. Please stay. I love you so much.” More effective: He pulled her back in an embrace. “Marry me.”

 Take some risks in your writing, join a critique group. Contact Authors of the Flathead.org to join a group of writers helping writers.

Be safe and enjoy life.

Happy Thanksgiving from my yard to yours.

6027.cropped Turkey

Betty Kuffel

Dr. Kuffel’s books on Amazon

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May Book News

may 2018

Cookie CrumblesLESLIE BUDEWITZ: I’m just back from Malice Domestic, the convention celebrating the traditional mystery, held every year just outside Washington, D.C. It’s a long weekend of fun, friends, and books — the Guest of Honor was Louise Penny, the great Canadian writer, and Nancy Pickard, the first elected president of Sisters in Crime, received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Any fans of Vera — the books by Ann Cleeves or the BBC series? Actress Brenda Blethyn, who plays the smart, crusty homicide detective, was also a special guest.

And it was a thrill to see my June release, AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, the 5th Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, in readers’ hands, thanks to my publisher, Midnight Ink, who made early copies available in the dealers’ room. Conference goers also received complimentary copies of the May-June issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, which includes my historical short story, All God’s Sparrows, set in Montana Territory in 1885 and featuring one of Montana’s most fascinating historical figures. Early response to both book and story was terrific.

And now, I’m getting ready for my upcoming book launch. Join me Saturday, June 9, from 4-6, for a book launch party at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center, in the village. The staff are calling it “Christmas in June,” and there will be cookies!

Happy reading!

My Inner-Children Have Issues

Sis. McCaffrey    By Janice McCaffrey

In my early teen years I envisioned myself as a best-selling author of “THE great American novel” until . . .

Mrs. Foster’s 8th grade English class when we were assigned to write a descriptive paragraph. My imagination took over and I penned what I thought a fabulous portrayal of a Regency Era carriage.

The next day, expecting an A+, I sat at my desk straight backed and proud. Then Mrs. Foster handed my paper to me and instead of an A+ there was a huge red D; the paragraph riddled with red ü marks. In that horrifying moment, my writing career ended. I never received explanations for the check marks. And pretty much saw grammar and good writing over my head and out of reach. Yes, I could identify and properly use the basics: subjects, predicates, nouns, adjectives, verbs, and past, present and future tenses, but never grasped the finer points.

But then I’ve never been a quitter. So as a young mother with an infant I signed up for a fiction writing correspondence course. Yes, the one advertised in match books. I didn’t like following the formulas taught and eventually one instructor told me that before you can be a novelist you needed something to say. Obviously, I didn’t have anything to say.

very few years, I’d try again; receiving rejection letters from popular magazines (i.e. Redbook, my Bible of womanhood).

Then, as life would have it, in my retirement I found a good friend who just happened to be a published author. It took a few years of her encouragement, but I’m back to my early writing goal. My friend is my mentor, critique partner, and . . . a retired English teacher.

Now when she gives my papers back to me there are no red checks or grades and, in fact, there are often comments about good ideas, writing or scenes. But every now and then I hear “You have a dangling participle.” And there I am sitting in Mrs. Foster’s class holding that D paper. My mind freezes.

Then my 10-year-old inner-child comes to the rescue with humor erupting with, “Who the heck made up these words?” We laugh. She tries to explain in a way I can understand as I attempt to calm my inner- 8th grader. I go home, study grammatical rules and lingo and rewrite.

After several of these interactions, my friend loaned me Arcade Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto. I found the explanation of the word participle: “Greek – shares or partaker. Latin to English: Capture or participate.” An online dictionary says: “a participle is a word formed from a verb and used as an adjective or a noun. In English participles can also be used to make compound verb forms.”

And you’ve guessed it, my 8th grader’s brain froze and my 10-year-old shouted, “Who the h— thought this stuff up? My inner-children continue their habits whenever they hear grammatical terms, but thank Heavens I have a patient friend and mentor who parents these headstrong children with kindness and humor.

Thank you, my friend!

 

Allhallowtide

Capture

by Janice McCaffrey

Today is Halloween, the evening vigil before All Hallows Day. The day set aside to honor Saints, known and unknown, who have gone before us. November 2nd is All Soul’s Day said to be the commemoration of all the faithful departed. These three days together are  known as Allhallowtide. As lovers of reading this week we’d think of authors we revere. Depending on our favorite genre: Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark Twain, Austen, Poe, the Bronte sisters, Agatha Christie, Jules Verne, Shelly and Byron, just to name a few.

But this month’s book club selection is Gutenberg’s Apprentice a novel by Alix Christie. gutenburg-in-copper

Yes, I remember learning about Gutenberg and his Bible back in some high school history class, but I didn’t understand the genius of the accomplishment or its implications.

 

By fifty-seven years of age, Johannes Gutenberg, a German merchant 

gutenburg-type turned black smith and gold smith, figured out how to forge combinations of metals that could be carved into letters.

Then he built a contraption that used those metal letters smeared with thick ink to print an entire page of words. gutenberg-bible

Until then scribes wrote by hand with quill whatever written word folks had.

Then with a grandiose or inspired idea he decided to print the entire Bible. It took three years (1452-1455) of intense, arduous work, but introduced the printing press to the world. The following year his partner/investor won a lawsuit which took Gutenberg’s workshop and printing press from him and left him bankrupt.

Gutenberg’s greatest accomplishment the beginning of equality in reading led to versions of smaller printers; typewriters like this Underwood of 1895.

underwood

Our universal keyboard of today was created in 1873 by Christopher L. Sholes, a Milwaukee newspaperman, poet, and part time inventor. He called it the QWERTY keyboard.

Guilty of taking my computer and keyboard for granted and complaining about slow internet connections, this Allhallowtide I will venerate Master Gutenberg for his vision and determination. Along with Peter Schoeffer, his apprentice, who went on to become a master printer and the first publisher. And I won’t forget all those imaginative, innovative folks who followed to bring the gift of mass-produced books to the world and me.

 

September Book News

writer cartoon

Killing Thyme (final)LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Writing a little every day — that’s the writer’s motto. KILLING THYME, the third book in my Spice Shop Mysteries set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, will be out October 4, so I’m busy with book launch fun, and of course, working on the next book. I’ll be in New Orleans for Bouchercon, the annual mystery convention, Sept 15-18, and that’s when I turn over the presidency of Sisters in Crime, the international writers’ organization, to another wonderful writer, though I’ll remain on the board for another year. Back home, the Montana Book Festival runs Sept 20-25 in downtown Missoula; on Friday, Sept 23, at 2:00, I’ll be part of a panel discussion called “Delicious Words: Writing About Food,” with several other fiction writers, poets, and essayists, and a cookbook author! And October 1-2 is the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell; I’ll be speaking and teaching both days.

P.S.: The ebook of ASSAULT & PEPPER, the first Spice Shop book, is on sale online for 1.99, and the paperback of GUILTY AS CINNAMON, the second entry, is on sale for 7.19! Here’s the Amazon link, but you can get the sale prices at B&N and Kobo, too!

I hope to see you some thyme — er, time — soon!

***

     BIGFOOT RETURNS!!          By Nan McKenzie

bigfoot

He’s back!  Bigfoot is back in the Montana mountains in all his stinky, huge, scary glory!  He returns to connect with his champion, Zoe Zahn, along with Sam Hill, Darcy and George, Valli and Rauol, and Montana Governor Judy Harris!

The second and last of the Bigfoot stories has Zoe back at the beautiful round cabin, where Bigfoot finds her.  She does her best to keep him safe from all the crazies who want to kill and “study” him.

Bigfoot has a girlfriend, Helga, and she pops out a baby, Helgette, with Zoe’s help.  Another beast, Ssshhhrrrmmm is lonely, and wants Helga for his own, which causes huge fights between him and Bigfoot.

Zoe makes her way back into the mountains several times, is attacked by wolves, and Bigfoot carries her high to a big cave.

She sets up protests, argues with the angry sheriff, publishes her first Bigfoot book (which becomes a huge success), and makes a lot of cabin improvements.

Impressive tiny Zoe makes her way through all the pitfalls and problems with panache, humor, and a fierce protection of the strange, frightening monsters in the woods.

Now available on Amazon and Kindle, soon to be in print.