Stop the Presses: How Journalism Helps Authors

reporterWhen at a loss for something new to write about on the art of writing, the ever-encouraging K.S. Brooks suggested to me that I should discuss the art of research for writers. She’s impressed by the fact I’m, apparently, the last person on earth who still goes to a library to do research (lest you think I’m the only one who patronizes the library, I will point out there are many individuals at my local branch – mostly homeless people trying to stay out of the cold or kids with laptops who like the free wifi).

Anyway, I’m not sure how much I have to say about techniques of research when it comes to writing, particularly for those interested in writing fiction. But what I can speak to is how my penchant for thorough research – primarily for my non-fiction writing but also to get certain facts straight in fiction as well – comes from a background in journalism. I think it was the author Tom Wolfe who noted that the best thing any aspiring novelist could do for his craft would be to spend a few years working as a journalist. Wolfe’s belief was that the world, when examined up close through the eyes of a professional observer, held a plethora of interesting stories, individuals and small details which could serve you the rest of your life in creating “fiction” that would ring true. While I’m not recommending anyone become a journalist (unless you’re prepared to make sub-minimum wage) I do think many of the skills one picks up as a reporter of non-fiction events can be transferred over to the realm of fiction writing. Continue reading “Stop the Presses: How Journalism Helps Authors”

What Makes a Good YA Novel?

Melissa Pearl with Students at St. Kents
Melissa Pearl with Students at St. Kents

In no way would I consider myself an expert on writing. However, I have been studying and practicing the craft for well over a decade and my fifth book is about to be released in November, so I do feel slightly entitled to share the knowledge I have gleaned so far.

I was asked to write this post on what makes a good young adult novel. I have come up with a few suggestions of what I think are some of the necessary elements needed in a book written specifically for this audience.

First, and foremost, like with any good novel, you need a well-constructed story filled with diverse characters the reader can relate to.

Once you have this foundation, you may then need to think about what makes a story more YA than other books. Continue reading “What Makes a Good YA Novel?”

Writing the National Security Thriller: Verisimilitude by James Bruno

Bestselling Author James Bruno
Bestselling Author James Bruno

Two ingredients are essential for writing a successful novel: good writing and knowledge of the subject matter. Just as a murder mystery reads better when the detective work and forensics reflect true life, so is it with national security thrillers. These include spy, political and military thrillers.

Verisimilitude: Separating the Plausible from the B.S.

What separates the outstanding national security thrillers from the rest of the pack is verisimilitude: creating characters, situations and plots that closely resemble the real thing. The worst thrillers are the ones where the author simply fabricates how a spy/political actor/soldier operates. That is not to say that the latter don’t become bestsellers. They often do. The authors of thrillers lacking in verisimilitude succeed by spinning a good yarn for which readers are willing to suspend big-time disbelief. Ian Fleming’s James Bond is a case in point. Wonderful entertainment. Totally divorced from the real world. Continue reading “Writing the National Security Thriller: Verisimilitude by James Bruno”

Inside the Mind of a Killer: Researching your Antagonist

Author DV Berkom

So there I was, minding my own business writing one of those truly twisted novels that grabs hold of you and has to come out when I came to the killer’s debut. I’d never attempted to write a character quite so creepy and wasn’t relishing that first passage. In fact, I continually wrote around him, putting off the scene until I felt I could do justice to him instead of creating a killer cliché. Yes, I could have abandoned the effort and gone on to something else, but a disturbing dream I’d had several months prior provided the inspiration for the story and I felt compelled to follow it through.

How do you write a fresh psychopath? Readers today have been clubbed over the head with serial killers (pardon the pun) to the point that it’s become a joke in many literary agencies and publishing houses. The only way I could think to do it was to go to my default: research. Continue reading “Inside the Mind of a Killer: Researching your Antagonist”

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