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Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 18: Tension

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month eighteen:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 18: Tension

My editor recently read the first 20,000 words of a novel I’m writing called BONE FIRE. BONE FIRE is set circa 6000 B.C. in Eastern Europe near the Danube River’s famed “Iron Gates,” and 20,000 words comprise approximately 1/5 of the novel. To my delight, she liked what I’ve written so far, and, even better, she also designated where I should ramp up the tension. Advice like that is absolutely golden to a novelist, because tension is what grabs readers and pulls them into the story.

IMG_0444 As a novelist, my goal is to entice readers into my story and keep them there. Achieving that depends on a number of factors, but let’s assume that my reader loves my chosen genre, that she wants to escape into a novel, and she has time away from distractions and life’s mundane chores. If that is the case, then the pulling-in and the keeping-there depends mainly on my storytelling skills. Yikes! That’s a little scary, but not quite so scary if I remind myself that I can use a relatively simple writing device to help make my story more captivating.

And that writing device is…?

Tension! (Give yourself a gold star if you already knew because you read the title of this post.)

All right, I can hear you say, “Aw come on, Sue. Tension is NOT simple.”

Well, maybe not simple, and maybe not even easy, but definitely a skill that almost any writer can learn. I like to visualize tension as a ladder my readers ascend. Step by step they climb toward the high point or climax of the novel.

Through the years, I’ve found a variety of ways to tighten the tension, lift my story, and entice my readers to take that next step up.

1. Internal conflict. (See Writing the Third Dimension, Part 16: “Conflicted.”)

2. External conflict. (See Writing the Third Dimension, Part 17: “Curses Foiled Again.”)

3. Small mysteries. (Why is the main character afraid of cats? Who is that man watching from the shadows?)

4. Large mysteries. (Who killed John Doe?)

5. The use of short, quick paragraphs or sentences. (These will make the reader read more quickly and up-pace the tempo in a subtle way.)

6. Unexpected emotional responses from the characters. (When John gives Mary the new car, she becomes angry. The reader was expecting her to celebrate.)

7. Confrontation between characters through dialogue or physical action.

8. An unexpected turn or detour in the main plot line.

9. A teaser at the end of a chapter that makes the reader want to continue to the next chapter. (I’ll discuss how to write teasers in my August post.)

10. A poor decision made by one of the characters.

11. An undercurrent of foreshadowing about what may happen next. (Subtle is the by-word here.)

12. Heartache moments.

13. Moments of small victory when your point-of-view character conquers the odds to succeed.

14. A change in the rhythm of your words. (I’m referring here to actual word choices. If your chosen “voice” for the novel is flowery, you might choose to write a short section in very succinct and harsh-sounding words. Or vice versa. Let your ears be the judge of how well this works. Read your rhythm changes out loud to check their effectiveness.)

15. A first kiss or any romantic meeting.

16. Rescue and the need for rescue.

17. Pain. Physical, mental, emotional. (Be sure you present this as a “showing” event. You shouldn’t tell your reader, “Joe was in agony.”  Show the reader that Joe is suffering through his words, actions, and angst.)

18. Cutting unnecessary wordiness. (Especially awkward words like wordiness!)

How do you ramp up the tension in your novels or stories? Share with us!

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back August 28, 2014, for part 19.

Book Review: Dreamlander – by K. M. Weiland

DreamlanderBook: Dreamlander
Author: K. M. Weiland
Publisher: PenForASword
Date: January 14, 2014
Genre: epic fantasy
Pages: 546
Price: Kindle under $4; paper $12.96
My Rating: a fully engaging fantastical journey

 

Have you ever been so affected by a book it sticks with you for days after you’ve read the last page? Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland had that effect on me.

Have you ever wakened from a dream that seemed so real it felt as if you were really there? The residue of it stays with you? The memory of it keeps recurring?  Have you ever wondered which is more real – where you are or where you were in your dream?

Chris Redston’s recurring dream was sure to kill him if he didn’t hurry and wake up! Who was that woman warning him to not cross the worlds? Why was she so desperately trying to convince him to not come over? What a ridiculous dream! He felt as if he were losing his mind. Then he discovered the note taped to his window, the note warning him about his dreams; but he had told no one about them!

This story grabbed my interest from its very beginning and did not, would not, let me go. It’s filled with suspense, action, drama, believable emotion of the characters, danger, hope, battles, and so much more. The main character has to deal with his dysfunctional father’s problems by day and then at night … those crazy dreams. Then things get really complicated for him when he learns he is a Gifted who holds the balance of both worlds in his hands. He is drawn into the battle between good and evil – and the reader is taken on a fantastical journey.

K.M. Weiland created a parallel world with such detail and believability the reader is challenged to consider the possibilities. To say Dreamlander is a good read is an understatement. If any reader can set aside the tangible and get hold of the visuals presented by K.M. Weiland, there is an amazing adventure waiting to be enjoyed.

Dreamlander by K. M. Weiland is a BRAG Medallion winner and was a finalist for the 2014 National Indie Excellence Award in the Writing and Publishing category.

 You can find Dreamlander listed on my Buy The Book! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

How Not to Get Happily Published

Originally posted on Liz Burton's Portable Soup:

Education Concept. Read Books Sign.Now that what used to be sneered at as vanity publishing has been embraced by the mainstream, one thing that has been lost in all of the discussions that have gone before is that there are other options besides the two that have been the center of attention for all this time. By that, I refer to a fair number of digital presses that operate using the best elements of traditional publishing while adjusting their processes and their relationships with authors so that the end result is to everyone’s benefit.

However, all too often, writers who are interested in doing all the work of publishing themselves but who, for whatever reason, aren’t all that interested in seeking the attention of the Big Five have some misconceptions about how the digital publishing industry does business. Some of this is in the form of myths I will attempt to clear up.

If…

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Book Review: Don’t Dare a Dame (Maggie Sullivan Mysteries) – by M. Ruth Myers

Don't Dare a DameBook: Don’t Dare a Dame (Maggie Sullivan Mysteries book 3)
Author: M. Ruth Myers
Publisher: Tuesday House 
Date: November 7, 2013
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 359
Price: $13.99 paperback; Kindle under $4.00
My rating: a great sleuth novel with a smart lady PI
 
 

Don’t Dare a Dame by M. Ruth Myers was fun to read. This is a sleuth novel that pulled me in, involved me without my realizing it, although I was thinking about the story when I couldn’t be reading it.

This is a mystery told in the voice of private investigator, Maggie Sullivan, who has intelligence, heart, courage, and determination. She takes the reader on a delightful journey – tense at times, loaded with clues and hints and glorious details and trails and situations. And surprises. And drama.

Set in the 1930′s to 1940′s, Don’t Dare a Dame starts with Maggie saying: Two old maids who wanted to hire me had asked me to tea, so I’d treated my nails to a fresh coat of raspberry pink and put on a hat that matched and a Smith & Wesson that didn’t. This shows the reader right away that here is a woman who likes looking like a woman but who takes her job seriously and is ready to do business at any time.

Maggie finds herself investigating the decades-old disappearance of a man, unsure if she will find anything at all regarding that mystery since she suspects all clues would likely be gone by then. Through her curiosity, compassion, determination, and her skill as a private eye, she uncovers more than she first imagined could be connected. In so doing, she upsets some respected people and endangers not only herself but her clients.

Don’t Dare a Dame by M. Ruth Myers is a good story that keeps the reader interested. There’s some swearing but it is not over the top.

Don’t Dare a Dame is the third book in the Maggie Sullivan mysteries. If this is the genre you enjoy, judging by this volume it would be well worth your while to read the whole series.

You can find Don’t Dare a Dame listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

An exciting New Page on my blog, “Buy the Book!”

As the title of this post indicates, I have prepared a new page on my blog … BUY THE BOOK! … and I’m excited about it!  Why? you may ask.  Well, because the new page, which you can visit by clicking on it in the menu above,  is set up to help in promoting the books I review.

On that page I have listed the books you can also find under the menu heading BOOK REVIEWS, but on the new page I have linked to where you can purchase the books on Amazon – both Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. As long as they are listed on Amazon these links will be good. I’m hoping this will help you to easily find the title you’ve just read about here before you forget about it in the busyness of your day. If you are anything like me you will wonder later .. what was the name of that book I wanted? 

So, please, go now and check out the new page, the one called BUY THE BOOK! And I would really appreciate if you let me know what you think of it. Thanks!  :)

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: Lust, Money & Murder – by Mike Wells

Lust, Money & MurderBook: Lust, Money & Murder: Book 1
Author: Mike Wells
Publisher: Mike Wells
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Date: January 18, 2014
Genre: thriller, suspense
Pages: 107 
Price: Under $3.00, digital;  may still be free
My rating: a good start to a three-part book
 
 

Lust, Money & Murder is not a title I would ordinarily select, but the author requested reviews in exchange for the ARC.

Lust, Money & Murder is really a teaser. It is part one of three parts that make up a complete book; therefore, this volume is short and didn’t take long to read.

The author, Mike Wells, grabs the reader’s attention in the prologue, but then there is no connection with the rest of the story; perhaps that comes later. Some things are somewhat contradictory, such as this: Elaine looked down at it, unable to move. She abruptly rose. Later in the story, the man Elaine is falling for is somewhat cool toward her but then …. well, that changes abruptly, too.

Lust, Money & Murder takes the reader through Elaine’s life from a little girl doted on by her father, to a coming-of-age young woman. She becomes super focused, though, on her libido, and does some crazy things for a crazier reason. Later, she applies herself to her future goal and becomes highly regarded in her chosen field – chosen for the purpose of revenge – through which she meets the rather secretive man she thinks she can truly love.

Even though there are sections that could have been delved into more to extend the read, and the story could have benefited from more editing and development, Lust, Money & Murder is a good start. The groaner is the last line, which ended up being a cliffhanger mid-scene. (If you are tempted to get part one, please don’t spoil it for yourself by reading the end first!) The continuation is in book two, and since there are three parts it is likely the same thing happens at the end of book two as a lead-in to book three. Apparently, together they make one complete novel.

If you enjoy reading suspense, thrillers, espionage, you may enjoy Lust, Money & Murder, book 1, by Mike Wells, and want to purchase books 2 and 3 to continue the story.

You can find Lust, Money & Murder, book 1 listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

 

 

Arthur, the unwelcome visitor

Have you ever had the experience of a visitor who came uninvited and left not a moment too soon?

Have you tolerated the overbearing presence of that visitor knowing it was a limited stay?

Have you had major clean-up after the visitor finally left?

Arthur … Hurricane for some, but tropical storm for us here in Nova Scotia, was just such a visitor. Some areas were a week without power after that visit, some still have serious damage to clean up.

At my house we had no storm damage, but here is what it looked like at my dad’s after Arthur left.

downed hummingbird vine.This is the hummingbird vine that grows up against the two-storey house all the way to the roof. The trellis was pushed over by the ferocious wind and the vine was damaged so had to be cut to half its height once it was hoisted back up into place. 

downed hummingbird vine2It had fallen into the lower driveway, blocking it.

This vine will be covered in gorgeous red trumpet blooms the hummingbirds love to feed from in the summer.

 

wrecked mapleThis is the side of the house on the upper driveway. The huge maple trees, one in particular, took quite a beating.

The driveway was totally blocked until my husband, and my cousin who happened along, sawed the heavy limbs and got the wood out of there.

wrecked maple2You can see the limbs from one tree hung up on  the tree next to it.

Dad and I heard the crashing of the limbs when they were being torn off the tree.

 

top of tree downI apologize for the poor quality of this photo which I took through the screened window overlooking the driveway at the back of the house. What you see there is the top of the tree in the above image. The wind had snapped it off and driven it over the roof and onto the driveway at the far corner of the house. The thing about that is I’d had Meyya (my Schnoodle pup) out awhile before and I am very thankful we were not out when that happened because it probably would have hit us.

Arthur was a blustery, noisy, destructive visitor. Fortunately, his stay was a short one because, unfortunately, the impact of that stay was longer.

Every season has its wonder, its beauty, and its hazards. Even so, I love it here in Nova Scotia.

What do you contend with where you live? What about where you live keeps you there?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)